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PAPAL BULL OF PARTITION-PREPARATIONS FOR A
SECOND VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS.
N the midst of their rejoicings the Spanish
sovereigns lost no time in taking every measure necessary to secure their new ac
quisitions. Although it was supposed that the countries just discovered were part of the territories of the Grand Khan and of other Oriental princes considerably advanced in civiližation, yet there does not appear to have been the least doubt of the right of their Catholic Majesties to take possession of them. During the Crusades a doctrine had been established
among Christian princes extremely favorable to their ambitious designs. According to this they had a right to invade, ravage, and seize upon the territories of all infidel nations under the plea of defeating the enemies of Christ, and extending the sway of his Church on earth. In conformity to the same doctrine the Pope, from his supreme authority over all temporal things, was considered as empowered to dispose of all heathen lands to such potentates as would engage to reduce them to the dominion of the Church, and to propagate the true faith among their benighted inhabitants. It was in virtue of this power that Pope Martin V. and his successors had conceded to the Crown of Portugal all the lands it might discover from Cape Bojador to the Indies; and the Catholic sovereigns, in a treaty concluded in 1479 with the Portuguese monarch, had engaged themselves to respect the territorial rights thus acquired. It was to this treaty that John II. alluded in his conversation with Columbus, wherein he suggested his title to the newly discovered countries.
On the first intelligence received from the Admiral of his success, therefore, the Spanish sovereigns took the immediate precaution to secure the sanction of the Pope. Alexander, VI. had been recently elevated to the Holy
Chair ; a pontiff whom some historians have stigmatized with every vice and crime that could disgrace humanity, but whom all have represented as eminently able and politic. He was a native of Valencia, and being born a subject of the crown of Arragon, it might be inferred, was favorably disposed to Ferdinand; but in certain questions which had come before him, he had already shown a disposition not the most cordial towards the Catholic monarch. At all events, Ferdinand was well aware of his worldly and perfidious character, and endeavored to manage him accordingly. He despatched ambassadors, therefore, to the court of Rome, announcing the new discovery as an extraordinary triumph of the Faith ; and setting forth the great glory and gain which must redound to the Church from the dissemination of Christianity throughout these vast and heathen lands. Care was also taken to state, that the present discovery did not in the least interfere with the possessions ceded by the Holy Chair to Portugal, all of which had been sedulously avoided. Ferdinand, who was at least as politic as he was pious, insinuated a hint at the same time, by which the Pope might perceive that he was determined at all events to maintain his important acquisitions. His ambassadors were instructed to state that, in the opinion of many
learned men, these newly discovered lands having been taken possession of by the Catholic sovereigns their title to the same did not require the papal sanction ; still, as pious princes, obedient to the Holy Chair, they supplicated his Holiness to issue a bull, making a concession of them, and of such others as might be discovered, to the Crown of Castile.
The tidings of the discovery were received, in fact, with great astonishment and no less exultation by the court of Rome.
The Spanish sovereigns had already elevated themselves to high consequence in the eyes of the Church, by their war against the Moors of Spain, which had been considered in the light of a pious crusade; and though richly repaid by the acquisition of the kingdom of Granada, it was thought to entitle them to the gratitude of all Christendom. The present discovery was a still greater achievement; it was the fulfilment of one of the sublime promises to the Church, it was giving to it “the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." No difficulty, therefore, was made in granting what was considered but a modest request for so important a service; though it is probable that the acquiescence of the worldly minded pontiff was quickened by the insinuations of the political monarch.