European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648

By Frances Gardiner Davenport | Go to book overview

9.
Treaty between Spain and Portugal concluded at Tordesillas, June 7, 1494. Ratification by Spain, July 2, 1494. [Ratification by Portugal, September 5, 1494.]

INTRODUCTION.

In the negotiations begun at Barcelona in the middle of August, 1493,1 Spain insisted that just as her navigators would refrain from visiting the regions reserved to Portugal--which Spain described as the Madeiras, Azores, Cape Verde, and other islands discovered prior to 1479, and the region from the Canaries down towards Guinea--so the Portuguese must keep away from Spain's discoveries.2 No agreement, however, could be reached, because, as the Spanish sovereigns wrote to Columbus, the Portuguese ambassadors were not informed as to what belonged to Spain.3 Accordingly, in November, 1493, a magnificent embassy, headed by Garcia de Carvajal, brother of the Spanish ambassador in Rome, and Pedro de Ayala, was despatched to the Portuguese court; but it accomplished nothing. In March, 1494, the Portuguese commissioners, Ruy de Sousa, João de Sousa, his son, and Ayres de Almada, treated directly with the Spanish sovereigns in Medina del Campo. Portugal felt aggrieved by the papal bull,4 which designated as the eastern limit of the Spanish demarcation a meridian only one hundred leagues west of the Azores or Cape Verde Islands. As their ships were continually sailing to these islands, the Portuguese considered the limits too narrow. They therefore wished another meridian to be agreed on, farther to the west, half-way between the Cape Verde Islands and the lands discovered by Columbus.5 King John "was certain that within those limits famous lands and things must be found." This new line of demarcation was agreed to by Ferdinand and Isabella, and on June 7, at Tordesillas

____________________
1
See introduction to Doc. 8.
2
Zurita, Historia, lib. I., c. 25.
3
"Porque ellos no vienen informados de lo que es nuestro." Navarrete, Viages, tom. II., no. 71, p. 108.
4
Doc. 7.
5
Zurita, op. cit., lib. I., c. 29, ff. 35, 36. Harrisse suggests that the Portuguese had in view the acquisition of those islands in the northwest Atlantic fancifully displayed on the maps of Fra Mauro and other early cartographers. Discovery of North America ( 1892), pp. 57, 58. The voyages of Gaspar Corte-Real to the northwest lend some support to this suggestion but, according to Las Casas, the southwest was the special region in which at this time King John hoped to discover new lands. J. E. Olson and E. G. Bourne , Northmen, Columbus, and Cabot ( 1906), p. 326. There are a number of indications that both Spaniards and Portuguese coveted particularly the south Atlantic.

-84-

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