The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX.
DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE COURTS OF SPAIN AND
PORTUGAL WITH RESPECT TO THE NEW DISCOVERIES.

[ 1493.]

The anxiety of the Spanish monarchy for the speedy departure of the expedition was heightened by the proceedings of the court of Portugal. John II. had unfortunately among his councillors certain politicians of that short-sighted class, who mistake craft for wisdom. By adopting their perfidious policy he had lost the New World when it was an object of honorable enterprise; in compliance with their advice, he now sought to retrieve it by stratagem. He had accordingly prepared a large armament, the avowed object of which was an expedition to Africa, but its real destination to seize upon the newly-discovered countries. To lull suspicion, Don Ruy de Sande was sent ambassador to the Spanish court, requesting permission to procure certain prohibited articles from Spain for this African voyage. He required also that the Spanish sovereigns should forbid their subjects to fish beyond Cape Bojador, until the possessions of the two nations should be properly defined. The discovery of Columbus, the real object of solicitude, was treated as an incidental affair. The manner of his arrival and reception in Portugal was mentioned; the congratulations of King John on the happy result of his voyage; his satisfaction at finding that the admiral had been instructed to steer westward from the Canary Islands, and his hope that the Castilian sovereigns would continue to enjoin a similar track on their navigators—all to the south of those islands being granted by papal bull to the crown of Portugal. He concluded by intimating the entire confidence of King John, that should any of the newly-discovered islands appertain by right to Portugal, the matter would be adjusted in that spirit of amity which existed between the two crowns.

Ferdinand was too wary a politician to be easily deceived. He had received early intelligence of the real designs of King John, and before the arrival of his ambassador had himself dispatched Don Lope de Herrera to the Portuguese court, furnished with double instructions, and with two letters of widely opposite

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