Henry Harrisse.

The diplomatic history of America : its first chapter 1452-1493-1494 online

. (page 6 of 11)
Online LibraryHenry HarrisseThe diplomatic history of America : its first chapter 1452-1493-1494 → online text (page 6 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Islands, and it became a serious matter
to know with certainty whether they
lay within or without the space granted
by the Treaty of Tordesillas to the
Portuguese Crown, as the Line of De
marcation was intended to encircle the
entire globe. Hence a conflict which
the two rival nations endeavoured to
settle in 1523-1524, by what is called
the Badajoz Junta.

This new phase of the controversy
will form the subject of the Second
Chapter of our " Diplomatic History."
But we are constrained to anticipate some

136 The Diplomatic History

of its details in order to account for the
position assigned to the dividing Line
in the Spanish maps and charts of the
time which have come down to us.

We do not possess, unfortunately, for
that period, a theoretical treatise, like
Enciso s "Suma," to determine the basis
on which Spanish maps were constructed
between 1518 and I524. 143 For the five
years following, we can only interrogate
the " Pareceres," or scientific opinions
presented to the Junta on behalf of

The first was delivered April 13,
1524, by Fernando Columbus, the ille
gitimate son of the great navigator, and
leading member of the commission.

He commences by declaring that,
above all, it was necessary to determine
the size of the globe, the length of the
league, and how many Spanish leagues
of four miles constitute a degree. But
that being a most difficult thing to ascer
tain, a choice should be made between
the difta of cosmographers. In accord-

of America 137

ance with that suggestion, he proposes
to reject the opinion current on the sub
ject in the time of Aristotle, as well as
the opinions of Strabo, Macrobius,
Eratosthenes, Maximus and Ptolemy.
The estimate which must be adopted,
he says, is that of "Tebit, Almeon and
Alfragan, which was followed by Pedro
de Aliaco, Juan de Pecan, and Chris
topher Columbus, as shown in many of
his writings ; all of whom give to each
degree 5 6 miles and , equal to 1 4 leagues
and f of a mile, and assign to the globe
a circumference of 5,100 leagues."

Fernando then confesses that the geo
detic results thus obtained will have to
be verified by taking the longitudes.
To that effecl:, he proposes five different
methods, 144 a majority of which are, for
reliance, on a par with those advocated
by Sebastian Cabot. 145

No vote was taken on that proposition,
which we have quoted simply to show
the opinion advanced by the leading
member of the Junta. It is now neces-

138 The Diplomatic History

sary to set forth and discuss the basis
upon which the scientific experts 146 of
Spain at Badajoz intended to settle the
question of the Demarcation Line.

On the proposition of Thomas Duran,
Sebastian Cabot and Juan Vespuccius,

i st. The degree was to be considered
equal to \j\ leagues, embracing 62^
miles. 147

2nd. The league contained 4 miles,
one mile contained 8 stades, and there
were 500 stades to a degree 148 " accord
ing to Ptolemy." 149

3rd. The starting meridian of the 370
leagues westward was to be the centre
of the island of Sant Antonio (the eastern
most of the Cape Verde Islands). 150

4th. These 370 leagues in that paral
lel were calculated to be equal to 22
degrees and nearly 9 miles. 151

These measurements we find to
give to their globe a circumference of
38,759,728 metres, which is 3i-thou-
sandths less than the real circumference
of the earth (viz., 40,000,000 metres).

of America 139

On the basis adopted by those cosmo-
graphers, the Line of Demarcation would
cut the north coast of South America, on
their sphere, in 47 17 west of Green
wich. That is two miles east of Atalaya
Point, which is the eastern point of
Salinas Bay, about 45 miles east of the
entrance of the Rio Para, and about 210
miles west of the entrance of the Rio

But on our sphere their calculations
for the location of the Line would
correspond with 46 36 west of Green
wich. That is, it cuts the north coast
of Brazil in Priatinga Bay from 80 to 90
miles east of the entrance of the Rio
Para, and about 1 60 miles west of the
entrance of the Rio Maranhao.

The Badajoz Junta, as is well known,
failed to come to an agreement owing
to the Portuguese experts, who could
not overcome this dilemma : If the Line
was pushed more to the west, Portugal
would gain a greater part of Brazil ;
but she might lose all rights over the

140 The Diplomatic History

Moluccas, as the Line, of course, had to
be carried to the other hemisphere as

Finally, a treaty was signed at Sara-
gossa, April 15, 1529, which fixed a
line of demarcation 17, or 297 leagues,
east of the Molucca Islands, regardless
of all the consequences of such a com
putation, as nothing was said concern
ing the location of the Line in the New
World. If the circle had been logically
carried out, the dividing meridian would
have cut the north coast of the South
American continent on their sphere in
35 40 west of Greenwich, and on our
own in 34 34 west of Greenwich ; 152
that is, in the open sea, 13 miles east of
Cape Branco, thus excluding Portugal
from any and all parts of the South
American continent.

But, as the matter stood, Spain and
Portugal remained, regarding the loca
tion of the Line in America, precisely
where they were on the day when the
Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494.

of America 141



FROM what precedes, historians should
bear in mind that the various positions
assigned to the Demarcation Line in all
the Spanish maps of the sixteenth cen
tury are not based upon further con
cessions on the part of Spain, or fresh
compromises with Portugal. This is
shown particularly by the Ribeiro plani
spheres, which, although dated 1529,
state explicitly that they were drawn
" in conformity with the Treaty of Tor-
desillas of I494," 153 and yet locate the
line in a place different from that which
should result from the geodetic data of
Ferrer and of Enciso.

The different locations, therefore, have
no other basis than the opinions or theories

142 The Diplomatic History

of cosmographers, endorsed, doubtless,
by the Casa de Contratacion. Even in
admitting that the Spanish scientists
extracted their geographical tracings,
longitudes and latitudes from the Padron
General^ these cosmographical assertions
being ex parte^ so to speak, can be in
voked only to show the interpretation of
Spain on the subject when the maps
were made, and their value, therefore,
is merely historical.

The earliest Spanish maps known
which exhibit the dividing meridian are,
in the order of dates, the following


(A) The Mantua Planisphere 1525^

(B) The Laurentiana I525 156
(c) The Anonymous Weimar

Planisphere . . . . 1527

(D) The Ribeiro of the Propo-

ganda I529 158

(E) The Ribeiro of Weimar . 1 529 159

(F) The Propaganda Anony

mous Mappamundi . I529 160

(G) Wolfenbuttel B. . . . 1530^

of America 143

These are all derived from the same
prototype, which, from their origin, 162
we believe to have been the " Padron
Real " or " General."

In all of these, the geographical con
figuration of the north coast of South
America is identical. That is, it ex
hibits, as already said, the features ap
pertaining to the Amazona, but errone
ously transferred to the Maranhao, whilst
no large river is depicted to the west of
the latter for a considerable distance.

As to the Demarcation Line, it cuts
the coast at the north across a locality
called therein " Furna grande " (the
large cove), which is depicted without
any fluvial characteristics. At the south
the Line passes through Cape Santa
Maria. Leaving out the latter datum,
which is an impossibility, we find that
Ribeiro s "Furna grande" is situate 18
west of his Cape San Roque, and on his
parallel of 5 south latitude. A practical
method of ascertaining where in reality
Ribeiro intended to locate the Line of

144 ^"^ Diplomatic History

Demarcation would be to transfer his
geographical delineations to a modern
map, if they were not so vague and so
inexaft in that part of the coast. Our
impression, however, is that his " Furna
grande " corresponds with the western
mouth of the Amazona, in about 48 30 ,
on our sphere.


of America 145



IT is now known that as far back as
1508, the Spanish government ordered
the construction of a model chart, called
" Padron Real," and afterwards " Padron
General." It was to be clothed with an
official charafter, and no pilot in Spain
was permitted to use any other 164 when
sailing to the West Indies and American

With the progress of geography and
navigation, that map was found to be
unreliable, and Fernando Columbus and
Diego Ribeiro were commissioned in
1 526 165 to construct a new one. Ribeiro
died in 1533 without having accom
plished his task. 166

On May 20, 1535, Queen Isabella, a<5t-
ing as regent in the absence of her husband,

146 The Diplomatic History

Charles V., ordered Fernando Columbus
to proceed at once with the work. The
probability is that upon receiving the
royal order, he direted Alonso de Chaves
who, since 1528, was Pilot and Cosmo-
grapher to His Majesty, and Master
Map-maker, to activate the undertaking,
in conjunction, however, with his col
leagues of the Casa de Contratacion. 167

At the present stage of the discussion
it is important to ascertain where the
divisional line was placed in that map.
Unfortunately this document has long
since disappeared. But we possess a
description written by Oviedo, the of
ficial Chronicler of the Indies, which
may enable us to retrace its delineations
and nomenclature. Yet the critic, before
availing himself of these geographical
details, must bear in mind that although
Oviedo wrote his description with the
map of Chaves before him, he made
use of other data, among which should
be noted the information conveyed to
him verbally by Alonso de Santa Cruz.

of America 147

Further, the chapter of the " Historia
General de las Indias " containing that
description was not written until 1548,
and it is certain from Oviedo s references
to the exploration of the Amazona river
by Francisco de Orellana in 1541-42,
that he has likewise used statements
made by that courageous adventurer.
These various elements, far from weaken
ing the authority of Oviedo in that re
spect, rather enhance it.

The first characteristic of the map of
Chaves is that its nomenclature, as set
forth by Oviedo for the north coast of
South America, differs materially from
the lists in the Weimar maps and in
their derivatives for a number of years.

From Cape St. Augustine westwards
along the coast, Oviedo inscribes thirty
names, 168 the last of which is the " Rio
Maranon," intended not for the Maran-
hao, but for the real Maranon, formerly
called Rio de la Mar Dulce, and now the
Amazona, as is easily seen from his de
scription, viz. :

148 The Diplomatic History

"The Cape of Slaves [Cabo de Esclavos]
lies at the extremity of the mouth of the
Rio Marahon, which does not enter the
sea by one arm only, as will be shown
further on where there is a description
of the voyage made over it by Francisco
de Orellana. The waters of that river
rush into the sea with great impetuosity,
and at a distance of ten or twelve leagues
in the sea fresh water is still found. The
river there has two principal branches ;
the easternmost is called the River of
the Nativity [Rio de Navidad], whilst
the westernmost branch retains the
proper name of Maranon. . . . That
river is very remarkable and pointed
out in cosmographical representations,
on account of its size. From Cape St.
Augustine to the river Maranon there
are three hundred and fifty-eight leagues,
more or less. That estuary, one of the
most noticeable things created by God
in the world, was called once the Sea of
Fresh Water." 169

As to the Line of Demarcation, Oviedo-

of America 149

states positively that it cuts the north
coast of South America, at a point which
he calls " Punta de Humos " The Point
of Smoke, or of fogs. 170

To ascertain the relative latitude of
that locality, it is necessary to give
Oviedo s nomenclature, with the dis
tances assigned by him to every cape,
commencing with Cape St. Augustine,
and ranging the coast westwards, viz. :

From Cape St. Augustine

to Cape Primero . . 50 leagues.
From Cape Primero to

Cape del Pla9el ... 20
From Cape del Pla9el to

Rio de S. Miguel . . 30
From Rio de S. Miguel to

Cape Blanco .... 55
From Cape Blanco to Punta

del Palmar .... 40
From Punta del Palmar to

Punta de Humos 80

From Punta de Humos to

the real Maranon . . 83

150 The Diplomatic History

The total of these leagues is 358 for
the distance from Cape St. Augustine
to the western branch of the Amazona,
and 275 from Cape St. Augustine to
Punta de Humos, which, Oviedo says, is
the locality of the Line of Demarcation.

Although the starting-point in this
computation is Cape St. Augustine, the
distance must not be counted on the
parallel of that cape, for the following
reasons :

Oviedo in his nomenclature states that
the Maranon, or western branch of the
Amazona, lies 358 leagues from Cape
St. Augustine. Now, his leagues are of
171 to an equatorial degree. These
358 leagues, therefore, counting from
Cape St. Augustine (which is in 35
longitude west of Greenwich), would
locate the Amazona on his sphere in
55 36" west of Greenwich, and in
55 39 on our own sphere, which is an
impossibility. We must assume, there
fore, that Oviedo reckoned as following
up the coast from Cape St. Augustine

of America 151

northwardly, then westwardly, at a mean
distance of thirty miles from shore
which method is in keeping with a
number of his measurements.

If we count in this way the 275
leagues which he says separate Cape St.
Augustine from the Line of Demarca
tion, that Line according to Oviedo s in
terpretation of the Padron general of
Chaves in 1548, cut the north coast of
the South American continent eighty-
five leagues east of the western mouth
of the Amazona.

The western mouth of the Amazona
(between Caviana Island and the con
tinent) is in 50 15 west of Greenwich.
Eighty-five leagues of 17^ to the equa
torial degree, when carried east of that
meridian lead to 45 17 on our sphere.
This makes the Line of Demarcation
pass through Boa Vista, in Turyassu

1 5 2 The Diplomatic History


Notwithstanding the subsequent Bulls
and treaties between Spain and Portu
gal, all attempts to determine the place
where the Demarcation Line was to pass
in America have been based upon the
stipulations of the Treaty of Tordesillas


The location of this divisional line

has varied according to the notions which
the cosmographers of the times had of
the circumference of the earth and of
the length of the marine league.

But in every instance save one the
Line was fixed east of both mouths of
the Amazona river.

\ Thus do we find that, according to
Jaime Ferrer (1495), the meridian of
the Demarcation Line on his sphere was
in 42 25 west of Greenwich, and on
our sphere in 45 37 , also west of Green

of America 153

\ According to Martin Fernandez de
Enciso (1518), that meridian, on his
sphere^ was in 47 24 west of Green
wich, and on our sphere in 45 38 , also
west of Greenwich.

-^ According to the experts convened
J? at the Badajoz Junta (Duran, Sebastian
Cabot, etc., in 1524), the meridian of
the Line, on their sphere , was in 47 17
west of Greenwich, and on our sphere in
46 36 west of Greenwich.

According to Diego Ribeiro and the
Sevillian Hydrography of the sixteenth
century (1529 usque . . .), the meridian
of the Line, on their sphere^ was in 44 45
west of Greenwich, and on our sphere in
49 45 , east of the western mouth only.
.A Yet, according to Alonso de Chaves
and the Padron General, as interpreted
by Oviedo (1545), the meridian of the
Line on that model chart was in a
longitude seeming to correspond, on
our sphere^ with 45 17 west of Green
wich, which locates the Line east of both
mouths of the Amazona.

154 The Diplomatic History of America

As to the Portuguese cosmographers,
they place the Line, judging from its
position in the Cantino map (1502), in
a longitude apparently corresponding, on
our sphere, with 42 30 west of Green



(1) Page 2. Although Alfonso V. was still king,
Joao II. had governed the kingdom of Portugal since
April 26, 1475, but in the name of his father ("Aft
of Portalegre," Paris National Library ; MSS.
Portug., No. 1 6).

(2) Page 2. "Mas que entendia que en la
capitulacion que habia entre los Reyes [catolicos] y
el que aquella conquista le pertenecia " (Navarrete,
vol. i., p. 164).

(3) ^ a g e 2 - "A cidad d Evora a oito dias de
Setembro de mil et quatro cemtos et setemta et noue
annos.", and not " en la villa de Alcacovas a quatro
dias de Setembro," as Ruy de Pina and his copyists
all say.

In reality what is called the Treaty of 1479, is a
series of treaties signed at different dates and places.
For instance, there is one (Paris Nation. Libr.,
Baluze docs., vol. 160, f. 252-288), very long and
in Spanish : " Dada en la villa de Alcacoues aveinte
e siete de agosto de 1479." It is only the treaty
which settles the marriage between Alfonso, the son

156 Notes

of the prince of Portugal, with the Infanta Isabella
of Castile.

(4) Page 3. "Que he dos cabos de Nam e do
Bojador atee os Yndios inclusivamente, com todos
seus mares ajacentes, ilhas, costas descubertas e por
descobrir " (" Chronica del rey Alfonso V.,"
Lisboa, 1790, 4to, vol. i., cap. ccvi., p. 589.

(5) Page 3. " E quaes quer outras ilhas, costas,
terras descubertas e por descubrir, achadas e por
achar ilhas da madeira, porto samto, deserta, todo
las ilhas dos Acores, ilhas das flores e asi as ilhas
do cabo verde e todas las ilhas q se acha ou forem
das ilhas de canaria pera baixo comtra guine porque
todo o q he achado e se achar e comquerir ou des
cobrir emos ditos termos alemdo que ja he achado
ocupado e descuberto fica aos ditos Rei e principe
de Portugal e seus Reinos tiramdo so mete as ilhas
de canaria. .111. lamcarote, palma, ferteuemtura, a
gomera, e fferro, a graciosa, agra canerea, tanarife e
todo las outras ilhas da canaria ganhadas as quaes
fficam aos Reinos de Castela e bem asi na tornara
moestaram ne inquietara quaesquer pesoas que os
ditos tratos de guine, minas, ilhas, costas, terras des
cubertas e por descobrire em nome ou damao dos
ditos senhores Rei e principe " ( <c Capitolos das pazes
amtre os Reis de Castella e de Portugal." Nation.
Libr., MSS. Portug., No. 20, doc. 2, f. 36, redo).

(6) Page 4. "Nee sua Regna super possessione,
et quasi possessione in qua sunt in omnibus com-
merciis, terris et permutationibus, siue Resguatis
Ghuinee, cum suis Mineris seu Aurifodinis, et
quibuscumque aliis Insulis, Littoribus seu Costis,

Notes 157

Maris, Tern s detedlis seu detegendis, inuentis et
inueniendis, Insulis de la Madera, de Portu Sanfto,
et insula deserta, et omnibus Insulis didlis de los
Azores, id est Ancipitrum, et in insulis florum et
etiam in Insulis de Cabo uerde, id est, Promontorio
viridi, et in Insulis, que deinceps inuenientur, ac-
quirentur ab Insulis de Canaria, ultra et citra in
conspe6tu Ghineo, ita quod quicquam est inuentum
uel inuenietur, et acquiretur ultra in dittis ter minis ^
id quod est inventum et deteclum remaneat di6tis
Regi et Principi de Portugallia et suis Regnis,
exceptis duntaxat Insulis de Canaria, Lansarote,
La palma, Forte uentura, La gomera, O ferro, A
gratiosa, Ha gran Canaria, Tanariffe, et omnibus
aliis Insulis de Canaria acquisitisant acquirendis."
We borrow this clause of the Treaty of 1479, anc ^
of the Bull of 1481, which contains it, not from the
latter, but from the Bull Praceha devotionis of
Leo X., November 3, 1514, published in the " Corpo
diplomatico portuguez " j Lisboa, 1862, 4to, vol. i.,
pp. 293-294.

(7) Page 5. St. George of the Gold Mine, on the
coast of Africa.

(8) Page 5. " Respondio el Almirante que no
habia visto la capitulacion ni sabia otra cosa sino que
los Reyes le habian mandado que no fuese a la
mina ni en toda Guinea, y que asi se habia mandado
a pregonar en todos los puertos del Andalucia antes
que para el viage partiese " (Navarrete, loc. cit.].

(9) Page 6. We borrow our extracts from the
text of the Bull of Leo X. of November 3, 1514
("Corpo diplomatico portuguez," vol. i., p. 275).

158 Notes

This Bull of 1452 seems to be, as Mr. Edward
Gaylord Bourne says in his valuable paper : " The
Demarcation line of Alexander VI.," the origin of the
re-establishment in Europe, and, as a consequence,
of the introduction of negro slavery in the New
World : " Illorumque personas in perpetuam ser-
vitutem redigendi . . . concedimus facultatem "
("Yale Review" for May, 1892).

(10) Page 6. "Per huiusmodi Occeanum Mare
uersus meridionales et orientales plagas nauigari,
illudque nobis occiduis adeo foret incognitum ut
nullam de partium Marum Gentibus certam no-
titiam haberemus credens se maximum in hoc deo
prestare obsequium, si eius opera et industria Mare
ipsum usque ad Indos, qui Christi nomen colere
dicuntur navigabila fieret." " Declaratio, turn soptam
turn reliquam Africam a Promontoriis Baradoc et
Nam ad Ghineam usque, vel etiam ultra ad Antarc-
ticum. . . ." In Mainard s " Bullarium," vol. iii.,
pars iii., p. 70.

(n) Page 7. Humboldt, " Examen Critique,"
vol.i., pp. 331-334.

(12) Page 8. Juan and Ulloa speak of a Bull of
Calixtus of March 15, 1456, confirming the said
Bull of January 8, 1454. We have only found the
Bull Obleftaverunt of September 3 of that year
(Raynaldi, vol. xxix., p. 59), which has nothing to
do with those donations. Raynaldi notes it as :
" Commendati Lusitani ob prompta studia in defend-
are Christiana."

(13) Page 8. "En xxxiij dias pase a las Indias
. . . y luego que legue a las Indias." Our "Christophe

Notes 159

Colomb," vol. i., pp. 420, 426. It is yet the name
which in Spain they give officially to America.

(14) Page 8. " Epistola Christophori Colom : cui
rfetas nostra multuw debet ; de Insulis Indite supra
Gangem nuper inuentis. Ad quas perquirendas
oclauo antea mense auspicijs et acre inuictissimi
Fernandi Hispaniarum Regis missus fuerat: ad
Magnificum dominum Raphaelem Sanxis : eiusdem
serenissimi Regis Tesaurarium missa : quam nobilis
ac litteratus vir Aliander de Cosco ab Hispano
ideomate in latinum conuertit : tertio Kalendas
Maij. M. cccc. xciij. Pontificatus Alexandri Sexti
Anno Primo." Small 4to of 4 unnumbered leaves,
printed in B. L., sine anno aut loco (sed Roma, 1493,
by Stephanus Plannck). For a complete descrip
tion of all the editions of that most valuable pamphlet
published in the fifteenth century see our " Chris-
tophe Colomb et les Academiciens espagnols," Paris,
1894, small in-8, pp. 61-101.

(15) Page 9. "Estecias escribe que estan grande
como toda la otra parte de Asia, y que Onesecrito
dice que es la tercera parte del esfera " (Las Casas,
" Historia de las Indias," lib. i., cap. v. 5 vol. i.,
P. 56).


(16) Page n. Bernaldez, "Reyes Catolicos,"
cap. cxviii., vol. i., p. 369.

(17) Page 11. Las Casas, op. aV., vol. i.,
p. 478.

(18) Page II. "Historic," 1571, cap. xlii., f.

1 60 Notes

34. It is worthy of notice that Oviedo, who was
present when Columbus arrived in Barcelona, gives
no date for that event.

(19) Page 12. " Per piu chiaro, et giusto titolo
delle quali di subito i re Catolici per consiglio dell*
Ammiraglio procacciarono di hauer dal Sommo
Pontefice 1 approbatione, et donatione della con-
quista di tutte le dette Indie " (" Historic," cap. xlii.,
f. 85, verso). Las Casas, lib. i., cap. Ixxix., vol. i.,
p. 482, only paraphrases the above quotation from
the " Historic."

(20) Page 13. Tribaldo di Amerigo de Rossi,
Cl Libro de Conti," between March 25 and 31,
1493, as tne vear at Florence commenced March 25
(Father Ildefonso, " Delizie degli eruditi toscani,"
Florence, 1 770, xxii., p. 28 1 ; Bandini, " Vespucci,"
1 745, p. xxxix).

(21) Page 13. Malipiero, c< Annali Veneti," in
the " Archivio storico italiano," 1 843, vol. vii., p. 3 14.
See our " Christophe Colomb," vol. ii., p. 117,

(22) Page 13. " 1493. A di 18 April fo lettere
di Roma nel legato, con avisi di Portogallo di le
insule havene trovate e barze del re che andoua in
India, e la lettera e data in la caravella sopra 1 ixola
di Canaria, a di 15 fevrer passado" (Marin Sanudo,

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseThe diplomatic history of America : its first chapter 1452-1493-1494 → online text (page 6 of 11)