Little Bits of History

Treaty of Tordesillas

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 7, 2011

Treaty of Tordesillas map

June 7, 1494: The Treaty of Tordesillas is signed. The treaty divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal. The line of demarcation was set about half way between the islands of Cape Verde, already under Portuguese control, and the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus when he sailed for Spain. The lands to the east of the line were to go to Portugal, and those west of the line would be Spanish.

Lands has been disputed between the two voyaging countries. The Pope was the man in charge of international issues, since Europe was basically under his purview. In 1481, the Pope declared all land south of the Canary Islands would belong to Portugal. Pope Alexander VI was elected in 1493 and he was Spanish-born. He wrote another bull or charter giving more land to Spain. In fact, his letter didn’t even mention Portugal. The 1493 bull gave lands belonging to India to Spain.

Portuguese King John II was not satisfied by this turn of events and so he began to negotiate with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Both countries were eager to possess the land and mining rights to the new lands, even though neither had seen very much of the New World at that point. Spain was granted most of the Americas, but Portugal was given possession of the easternmost part of Brazil since it bulged past the line drawn line.

Where the line was drawn was unclear. The line was to be drawn a specific number of leagues from the Cape Verde Islands. It was not written in degrees and didn’t mention specifically which island was to be used as a starting point. The idea was for the two nations to decide the details between them. They differed in opinions. Even so, the treaty was ratified by Spain on July 2 and by Portugal on September 5. More treaties would follow, further parceling out the globe.

“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.” – Charles de Gaulle

“Weak nations sign treaties; strong ones break them.” – Paul Eldridge

“The best negotiated treaties are but the law of the stronger.” – Vauvenarbues

“Treaties which are not built upon reciprocal benefits are not likely to be of long duration.” – George Washington

Also on this day:
A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama – In 1914 the Panama Canal was found to work.
It’s My Body – In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut was decided.

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