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either at the north or at the south. If
luck would have it that any island or
continent should fall under the Line,
the direction of which should be ascer
tained and marked at the commencement
of such island or continent by the erection
of a tower or by some other suitable sign.
Finally, the Pope was to be requested
to confirm the treaty, and to issue a Bull
reciting its tenor and stipulations. A
noticeable clause is that not only the
contracting parties swear on the Holy
Cross to obey the articles of agreement,
but in case of their violating it, they bind
themselves never to ask the Pope or any
prelate for absolution of such a6t.

8o The Diplomatic History



COLUMBUS was at sea, exploring the West
Indies, when Ferdinand and Isabella rati
fied the Treaty of Tordesillas, which they
communicated to him in a letter sent by
Antonio de Torres, August 16, 1494.
The notification was in these terms :

" As to affairs with Portugal, an
arrangement has been entered into here
with her ambassadors, which seems to us
to be the one which presents least incon
venience. That you may be well and
amply informed regarding the same, we
send you a copy of the stipulations. For
this reason it is not expedient to enlarge
upon it just now, except that we order
and require that the Treaty be respected
in its entirety, and that you cause to have

of America 81

it obeyed in every respeft according to
its tenor. Relatively to the band or limit
which is to be established, as it seems to
us a very difficult thing, requiring much
science and confidence, we wish to know
whether you would not ad; in that re-
sped:, and join those who on the part of
the King of Portugal are to settle the
question. If it should prove too difficult
for you to come, see whether it cannot
be done by your brother, 86 or some other
person. If so, instruct him carefully, in
writing and by word of mouth, as well as
by a sketch, in the best manner possible,
and send him to us by the first caravel.
... At all events, write to us fully what
in your opinion we should know, and
which may promote our service. Ad: in
such a manner that your letters and what
you have to send can be forwarded at
once, so that it may reach us before the
time which we have fixed with the King
of Portugal." 87

The special aid which Their Majesties
requested of Columbus was for the

82 The Diplomatic History

clause of the treaty requiring that
within ten months each party should
dispatch one or two caravels or more,
having on board pilots, astrologers and
mariners, to proceed to the Cape Verde
Islands, and measure off by leagues or
degrees the allotted 370 leagues.

On April 15, 1495, Spain and Por
tugal made a new arrangement, postpon
ing the joint expedition to trace the
Line on the spot, and stipulating that
in the month of July following, the
appointed astrologers, pilots and marin
ers should meet in some place on the
frontier of the two kingdoms, and then
and there discuss and settle (theoretically)
the question of the demarcation line.
This being done, the expedition was to
sail for the purpose of establishing the
limit according to the ruling of those
scientific commissioners, within ten
months after one of the contracting
parties had served notice on the other to
that effeft. 88

Their Catholic Majesties then caused

of America 83

a royal order to be drafted commanding
that meanwhile ("mientras ") the Demar
cation Line should be inscribed in all
sailing charts. 89

Those experts never met, the expedi
tion was not sent, even the order given
to cartographers to trace the boundary
line on maps remained a dead letter, and
nothing more was said about the matter
for at least ten years. 90

Columbus did not return to Spain
until June n, 1496. It is not known
whether he ever replied to Their Ma
jesties letter of August 16, 1494. If he
did, we may rest assured that he pro
tested energetically against the grant of
270 leagues additional which they
made to Portugal by the Treaty of Tor-
desillas. Columbus never assented
to an extension of the boundary line
beyond the 100 leagues set forth in the
Papal Bull of May 4. This is shown
by the fad: that in the entail created
February 22, 1498, four years after the
signing of the treaty, he says :

84 The Diplomatic History

" And it pleased Their Highnesses to
appoint me their Admiral of the Ocean
sea, beyond an imaginary line which
they ordered to be drawn from Pole to
Pole, 100 leagues from the islands of
Cape Verde and those of the Azores ; "
thus ignoring the 270 leagues additional
granted by Spain to Portugal 91 in 1494.

In his will executed at Segovia,
August 25, 1505, and confirmed almost
in articulo mortis^ May 19, 1506, that
description of the Line of Demarca
tion is repeated word for word. Well
may we say, therefore, that Columbus
never recognized the Treaty of Torde-
sillas, which Ferdinand and Isabella
should not have signed without first re
serving his rights under the Capitula
tions of 1492. He lived long enough
to see himself deprived in consequence
of his share of the profits derived from
Brazil, and even from Newfoundland,
which Caspar Corte-Real wantonly in
scribed in his maps as within the trans
atlantic dominions of Portugal.

of America 85



THE first thing to notice in the Treaty
of Tordesillas, is that the Line of De
marcation was fixed 270 leagues further
west than the meridian traced in the
Bull of May 4, and that the 370 leagues
(now being the entire space allotted to
Portugal) were to be counted, not as in
said Bull, from the Azores and Cape
Verde, but from the Cape Verde Islands.
Unfortunately, the treaty failed to state
whether the reckoning was to com
mence with the most easterly, the most
westerly, or the central island in the
archipelago. Since the group extends
in longitude nearly three degrees (22
45 25 25 ), 92 this omission became

86 The Diplomatic History

the source of difficulties between Spain
and Portugal, which, to a certain ex
tent, may be said to exist still. It is
true that by the Treaty of Madrid,
signed January 13, 1750, the two nations
set aside the divisional line of 1 494, and
even resolved that the laying down of
imaginary lines of demarcation should
be entirely renounced ; but only a year
afterwards, February 12, 1761, that
treaty was annulled. 93 ^^**&

The next thing to consider is the diffi
culty of determining with accuracy the
real boundary, or terminal point west
wards of those 370 leagues. If English
or American cosmographers, for instance,
were called upon to-day to fix on a map
the western boundary of the Atlantic
dominions of Portugal, according to the
general terms of the Treaty of Torde-
sillas, the principal difficulty would be
easily removed, because we all agree as
regards the exact circumference of the
globe and precise length of a marine
league, in yards and in metres, from actual

of America 87

measurements, made methodically, and
with perfeft instruments.

But the old cosmographers, for the
period extending from the discovery of
America to the Badajoz Junta (1524),
assign 14^ leagues, 15 leagues, i6f
leagues, 17^ leagues, and even 2i
leagues to a degree on the equator ; owing
chiefly to various estimates of the size of
a degree, and of the dimensions of the
earth. Hence the different locations of
a line of demarcation on nearly all the
maps of the period ; hence too the dis
cussions which yet continue as to its true

It seems to us that the question has
not been considered in its proper light.
The first point to examine should have
been the intention and purpose of the
parties in making the treaty, as well
as the geographical and metrological
notions which they then entertained.
In other words, what must be deter
mined is the character and extent of the
concession which Spain meant to make when,

88 "The Diplomatic History

by the ^Treaty of Tordesillas, she granted
the 270 leagues additional to Portugal, and
what the latter power believed it was

In an investigation of this character
the critic should .interrogate above all
the cosmographers of the end of the
fifteenth century, particularly those
who were consulted by Ferdinand and
Isabella in 1494. Whether their idea
of the length of a league, or of a degree,
or of the circumference of the earth
was, in itself, right or wrong, is of little
moment in the inquiry. If by means of
the data furnished by those experts we
can ascertain what circumference they
ascribed to the earth, the longitude from
which, in their estimation, the 370
leagues were to be counted westwards,
the length of their league, and reduce
their itinerary measures to yards or to
metres, that is sufficient to solve the

We possess, fortunately, the opinion
of the leading expert whose advice was

of America 89

asked on this occasion by the Catholic
Sovereigns and Cardinal Mendoza, and
in whose science they placed the utmost
confidence : Jaime Ferrer, of Blanes, in
Catalonia. 94

So early as August 26, 1493, he was
requested to repair at once to Barce
lona with his mappamundi and cosmo-
graphical instruments. 95 Conferences
were held with his sovereigns, the
details of which, however, have not
reached us. But soon after the Treaty
of Tordesillas had been signed, Fer
dinand and Isabella twice submitted
it to him, and asked his written opinion
relative to the Line of Demarcation.
On January 27, 1495, he sent them in
reply his views on the subject, together
with "a globe and description of the
world on a plane surface, in which could
be seen the two hemispheres." %

On February 28, following, Their
Majesties expressed their thanks, and re
quested him to come to the Court by the
end of May. It was doubtless shortly

90 The Diplomatic History

afterwards that Ferrer drafted the elabor
ate Parer^ wherein he not only gives his
conclusions regarding the value of the
370 leagues, but also the method which
he followed, and the data upon which
he based his calculations.

of America 9 1



WE shall now proceed to quote from
the technical opinion written by Jaime
Ferrer in 1495 at the request of Fer
dinand and Isabella, the data required
to ascertain his geodetic theories, and
how he applied them to the determina
tion of the Line of Demarcation under
the Treaty of Tordesillas.

ist. " The 370 leagues must be
counted from the most central of the
islands in the group of the Cape Verde

2nd. " Each degree in that parallel
(15) comprises 20 leagues and f.

3rd. " It is necessary to count each
degree as equal to 700 stades, 97 according

92 The Diplomatic History

to Strabo, Alfragano, Teodoci, Macrobi, 98
Ambrosi, Euristenes."

4th. " The 370 leagues [counted from
the middle island in the Cape Verde
archipelago] comprise westward 18 de

5th. " Each degree in the Tropics is
equal to 20 leagues and four parts of

6th. " In the equinoctial circle, each
degree is equivalent to 2 1 leagues and J .

7th. "According to Strabo, Alfragano,
Ambrosius, Theodosius, Macrobius, and
Eratosthenes, the circumference of the
earth is 252,000 stades, which 252,000
stades, at the rate of 8 stades per mile,
equal 31,500 miles, which, in counting
4 miles for each league, equal 7,875
leagues." 10

Ferrer s above stated data result in
four different lengths for his league,
viz.: 21^353 ; 2i 1 ,8i3 ; 21*5625; and
2 1*5875 to the degree of the Equator of his
sphere. For reasons given in our notes, 101
we selecl: from among these four valua-

of America 93

tions, 21^875 to his equatorial degree,
upon which to base our calculations.

The probability is that if the scientific
experts of Spain and Portugal had ever
met according to the cedula of April 1 5,
1495, and come to terms, they would
have taken as a basis Ferrer s data, with
the exception of the starting point, which
Portugal would have doubtless insisted
on fixing in the westernmost cape of the
island of San Antonio, making, how
ever, a difference of only a degree and a

As at that time the New World was
supposed to commence with Hispaniola,
in our 70 45 west, leaving a margin of
more than 27 on that parallel before
Portugal could reach the newly-dis
covered regions (no one suspecting
then that south of the Antilles there
was a continent stretching eastwards as
far as 37 longitude), it is likely that
Spain would have yielded the point.

But whether, after accepting the basis,
those experts would have been able to

94 The Diplomatic History

locate with any accuracy the demarca
tion line is another question ! Their
means of reckoning longitudes, always
a very delicate and difficult operation,
even at this day, were so crude and im
perfect, that half a century afterwards
we still see Sebastian Cabot, the Pilot-
Major of Spain, recommend to Philip II.
a method of his own invention for taking
the longitude at sea, which, if ever ap
plied, would have caused errors actually
amounting to sixty degrees, that is, one-
sixth of the circumference of the globe! 102

If now, with the elements furnished
by Ferrer, we reconstruct his sphere,
and insert therein the geographical dis
coveries which were accomplished by
the Spaniards in the five years follow
ing the Treaty of Tordesillas, that is,
the coast-line extending from Cape St.
Augustin to the Gulf of Venezuela, the
result is as follows :

Ferrer s starting meridian is Fogo, in
1 50 latitude, making his league in that
parallel, on his sphere, equal to 20 625.

of America 95

370 of his leagues lead therefore to
a meridian which, on his sphere^ lies
17 31 west of Fogo. Taking, how
ever, his round figure of 1 8, the Line
of Demarcation, according to his esti
mate, would have passed in 42 25
west of Greenwich, on his sphere. That
is, about 75 miles east of the Maranhao,
and 10 miles west of the Rio Parana-
hyba. On the south coast of Brazil, it
would have passed about 23 miles west
of Cape Frio, and 40 miles east of Rio
de Janeiro.

That sphere, naturally, owing to in
accurate dimensions, did not correspond
with the reality of things. Yet it sufficed
to enable the Catholic Sovereigns to form
an idea of the extent of the concession
which they intended to make to Por
tugal in granting to her 370 leagues
(100 + 270) west of the Cape Verde
Islands. It is evident that the liberality
of Ferdinand and Isabella must have
been proportioned to the importance
which they ascribed to their trans-

96 The Diplomatic History

atlantic dominions. Had it been greater
in their estimation, the gift probably
would have been larger ; if smaller, pro
portionally less. Under this aspeft of
the case, it is curious to notice that the
grant intended to be made to Portugal
in 1494 conveyed an extent of country
520 miles in longitude smaller than the
space ascribed to her " by virtue of the
Treaty of Tordesillas," in such charts,
for instance, as those of Diego Ribeiro,
the chief cartographer of Charles V.

Let us now endeavour to ascertain
where Ferrer s line of demarcation
would fall on our aftual sphere.

Ferrer ascribed to the earth a circum
ference equal to 48,452,040 metres, in
stead of 40,000,000 metres, which is the
adlual measurement. In other words,
Ferrer increased the circumference of
the terrestrial globe by about ^.

Ferrer s 370 leagues, counted on the
parallel of 15 N., amount to 409^960
of our marine leagues of 20 to a degree
of the equator. Taking 24 25 W. for

of America 97

the longitude of Fogo, Ferrer s scientific
notions and inferences result in a
meridian which corresponds on our
sphere with 45 37 W. of Greenwich.
This meridian cuts the north Brazilian
coast on our sphere^ between the bays of
Maracasume and Piracaua, 85 miles
west of the entrance of the Maranhao,
and 120 miles east of the Para river, and
on the south, about 150 miles west of
Rio de Janeiro, and about 25 miles east
of Santos.


98 The Diplomatic History



AT the present juncture, it is important
to ascertain whether Ferrer s estimate
was adhered to when Spain commenced
to trace the divisional line on her maps.
Unfortunately, although mappamundi
and sailing charts were constructed in
great numbers by the cosmographers
and pilots of the Crown, particularly in
the Casa de Contratacion at Seville, we
do not possess any of those Spanish
for the twenty-five years which follo^
the Treaty of Tordesillas, with the ex
ception of the planisphere of Juan de la
Cosa, 103 Columbus s own pilot, and pro
fessor of Hydrography at Cadiz ; but
although constructed so late as 1500, it
omits the Line altogether.

of America 99

Yet the discoveries accomplished in
the New World from the year 1494
certainly required to be indicated. As
it is, the celebrated Basque cartographer
not only depicts the elbow formed by
the north-east coast of the South Ameri
can continent, but he refers to the dis
covery of Brazil by Cabral, the news of
which had just been brought to Portugal
by Caspar de Lemos. Is it that so late
as the year 1500 Spain was not yet con
vinced that, according to the Treaty of
Tordesillas, the Brazilian regions were
within the transatlantic dominions of
Portugal ?

No Portuguese map of the fifteenth
century representing the New World
Tias reached us. But we may take it
for granted that as soon as the discoveries
of Vincente Yanez Pinzon and of Diego
de Lepe made known the projection
eastwards of the South American con
tinent far beyond the longitude of the
easternmost West India island, the Lusi-
tanian cartographers at least marked the

i oo The Diplomatic History

Demarcation Line on their planispheres.
This became absolutely necessary shortly
afterwards, when Pedro Alvarez Cabral,
April 22, 1500, planted the flag of Por
tugal in the Land of Parrots, or of the
True Cross, now called Brazil.

The earliest map known exhibiting
that divisional line is the celebrated
Portuguese mappemonde ordered for
Hercules d Este, Duke of Ferrara, and
which we named after Alberto Cantino,
who caused it to be executed. It is not,
however, an original chart, we do not
possess a single original chart of the time,
but a copy made at Lisbon in 1502,
from a model which has been the proto
type of what we have termed the Lusi-
tano-Germanic Cartography. 104 Thus it
is that nearly all the globes and mappe-
mondes constructed outside of Spain
during the first quarter of the sixteenth
century, and which exhibit the Demar
cation Line, borrow it from the model of
the Cantino map, or from one of its
derivatives. 105

of America 101

When we first reproduced and ana
lyzed that most curious and important
planisphere, in 1883, we endeavoured to
determine its geographical positions ac
cording to the geodetic data afforded by
the map itself. This resulted in placing
the Demarcation Line in that map 480
of its leagues west of the most westerly of
the Cape Verde Islands. Applied to our
admiralty charts, this distance places the
divisional meridian in 57 30 .

But if, throwing aside the metrology
of Cantino s cartographer, which is
clearly erroneous, because, as suspedled,
the width of the Atlantic Ocean has
been diminished for cartographical con
venience, we resort only to the con
figurations and legends on the map,
the result is very different. The Line,
therein called Marco dantre Castella et
Portugal^ cuts the north coast of the
South American continent just midway
between a point in the apex of the elbow
corresponding to our Cape St. Roque
and a large estuary, facing which on the

102 The Diplomatic History

high sea we read : " Todo este mar he de
agua dofe" (All this [part of the] sea is
fresh water), and which continues inland
as a river called Rio grande. This can
only be the Rio grande de la mar dulce
of Vincente Yanez Pinzon, discovered in
the two years previous to the making of
Cantino s map. But the Line is much
nearer another large estuary, eastward
from that Rio grande, or Amazona. And
this large estuary, with its river, can only
be the Maranhao, so far as its geo
graphical appearance in that map is

It follows that in the opinion of Portu
guese cartographers, at the beginning of
the sixteenth century, the Line of De
marcation was supposed to pass in about
42 30 on oursphere.

of America 103



THE Line of Demarcation continued to
engross the thoughts of the Spanish
government, as we know that Sebastian
Cabot, Juan Vespuccius and other pilots,
drafted on November 13, 1515, a Pare-
cer on the subjeft. 107 This we have not
been able to discover, and the " Suma,"
or geographical compendium, published
by Martin Fernandez de Enciso at
Seville in 15 18, 108 afforded the first data
for forming an estimate of the opinion
entertained by the Spanish cosmographers
on the subject, at the beginning of the
reign of Charles V. What had been
their geodetic methods and computations
since the time of Ferrer, through what
modifications they passed, and where

1 04 The Diplomatic History

between Cape St. Augustine and the
Puerto de las Higueras, which Enciso says
was the western limit reached in his days,
the Sevillian cartographers inscribed the
Demarcation Line, is a problem yet to
be solved. But something useful will
be attained, if we succeed in ascertaining
the basis on which, after the Treaty of
Tordesillas and before the Badajoz Junta,
they established their calculations. In
this respeft, the work of Enciso, who
was both a learned cosmographer and
traveller in the New World, deserves to
be examined with attention.

The data set forth by Enciso are,
verbatim, as follows :

ist. " The Equator contains in longi
tude three hundred and sixty degrees of
sixteen leagues and a half each. 109

2nd. " As each degree is estimated to
be in length sixteen leagues and a half
and one-sixth, the circumference of the
entire globe is three hundred and sixty
degrees, amounting to six thousand
leagues. .

of America 105

3rd. " From the island of San Thome
to the Port of Higueras, there are one
hundred and seventeen degrees, which
amount to one thousand nine hundred
and fifty leagues. 110

4th. " From Fuego Island to Cape
St. Augustine there are four hundred
leagues, 111 and Cape St. Augustine is in
8 on the other side of the equator."

In the notes appended will be found 112
the reasons and computations on which
we base our interpretation of Enciso s
data, which, geodetically, may be summed
up in these words :

In Enciso s sphere, the value of the
Equatorial degree was 16 leagues, 666,
and the circumference of the earth equal
to 36,91 5,840 metres, against 40,000,000
metres, which is its aftual circumfer

Enciso s equatorial degree contained
18,0498 of his leagues.

The circumference of his sphere is
0,077 smaller than the circumference of
our sphere ; whilst the circumference of

106 The Diplomatic History

Ferrer s sphere was 0,211 greater than
that of our sphere. The difference
between Enciso s and Ferrer s valuation
in this respeft, shows, to a certain extent,
the geodetic progress accomplished in
Spain between the years 1495 and 1518.
It will also serve to explain the position
of the Line of Demarcation in Enciso s
sphere, and why it differs from the
position in Ferrer s.

Enciso places the divisional line 370
of his leagues ( 409^960 of 20 to a
degree) west of Fogo on the parallel of
1 5 on his sphere ; that is, on the latter,
in 47 24 W. of Greenwich (22 59 +

24 25 )-

If we adopt for our sphere the longi
tude of the Line of Demarcation such as
it is determined on Enciso s sphere accord
ing to his own data, as the longitudes
are the same on those two concentric
spheres, this meridian passes on our sphere
444^036 (of our leagues of 20 to a degree)
west of Fogo, and cuts the north coast of
Brazil in Salinas Bay, about thirty-five

of America 107

miles east of the entrance of the Rio
Para, and about 180 miles west of the

But if we determine the Line of
Demarcation of Enciso by predicating
it to be on our sphere as it is on his
own, 370 of his leagues (409^960 of
20 leagues to a degree) west of Fogo,
this Line of Demarcation shall be the
meridian of 45 38 west of Greenwich.
It cuts the north coast of Brazil, in
Maracasume Bay, about 35 miles east of
the entrance of the Rio Para, and about
1 80 miles west of the Maranhao.

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