De Orbe Novo, Volume 1 (of 2) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 449 pages of information about De Orbe Novo, Volume 1 (of 2).


During the reign of King John of Portugal, uncle and predecessor of King Emanuel, now happily reigning, a serious divergence existed between the Portuguese and the Spaniards concerning their discoveries.  The King of Portugal claimed that he alone possessed navigation rights on the ocean, because the Portuguese had been the first since ancient times to put out on the great sea.  The Castilians asserted that everything existing on the earth since God created the world is the common property of mankind, and that it is, therefore, permissible to take possession of any country not already inhabited by Christians.  The discussion on this point was very involved, and it was finally decided to leave it to the arbitration of the Sovereign Pontiff.  Castile was at that time governed by the great Queen Isabella, with whom was associated her husband, for Castile was her marriage portion.  The Queen being cousin to King John of Portugal, an agreement between them was speedily reached.  By mutual consent of both parties concerned, and by virtue of a bull, the Sovereign Pontiff, Alexander VI., under whose pontificate this discussion took place, traced from north to south a line lying one hundred leagues outside the parallel of the Cape Verde Islands.[1] The extreme point of the continent lies on this side of that line and is called Cape San Augustin, and by the terms of the Bull the Castilians are forbidden to land on that extremity of the continent.

[Note 1:  The famous bull marking the respective spheres of discovery and colonisation for Spain and Portugal was given on May 4, 1493.  Its terms were revised by the two states whose claims were finally embodied in the conventions of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, and Setubal, September 4, 1494.]

After collecting the gold given him by the natives of the fertile province of Chamba, Vincent Yanez returned from Cape San Augustin and directed his course towards a lofty mountain chain which he saw on the southern horizon.  He had taken some prisoners in the Gulf of Paria, which, beyond contest, lies in the Spanish dominions.  He conducted them to Hispaniola, where he delivered them to the young Admiral to be instructed in our language, and afterwards to serve as interpreters in the exploration of unknown countries.  Pinzon betook himself to court and petitioned the King for authorisation to assume the title of Governor of the island of San Juan, which is only twenty-five leagues distant from Hispaniola.  He based his claim upon the fact that he had been the first to discover the existence of gold in that island, which we have said in our First Decade was called by the Indians Borrichena.

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