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Art. IV. – L'America un tempo Spagnuola riguardata

sotto l' Aspetto religioso dall' Epoca del suo Discuoprimento sino al 1843, di MONSIGNORE GAETANO BALUFFI. An

1844, 1845.


The author of this interesting work is at present the successor of our popular Pontiff in the see of Imola, and a member of the College of Cardinals. For several years he fulfilled, with great advantage to religion, the high functions of representative of the Holy See in the republic of Granada, where he procured the recall of the Jesuits to resume their labors in that region, formerly cultivated with great success by the fathers of this illustrious society. Availing himself of such opportunities of research as were afforded him by his position, he indulged his literary taste by reviewing the history of the discovery and settlement of the Spanish possessions, and considering the influence of religion in inspiring the enterprise and remedying the evils caused by the passions of the adventurers. Since his return to the Pontifical court, he has given to the world the fruits of his studies and meditations in the two admirable volumes which, in successive years, have issued from the press of Ancona, and which are creditable to Italy, as well on account of the mechanical execution, as for the spirit and elegance of the composition. In several places he makes favorable mention of our social institutions and ecclesiastical councils, and eulogizes several of the members of our bierarchy, whose acquaintance he formed during a short visit 10 the States on his way to Europe.

The acts of some Popes, who stripped monarchs of their diadems, have been plausibly interpreted as declarations of a forfeiture incurred by the violation of the social compact ; but those which, in high-sounding phraseology, gave to the sovereigns of Portugal and Spain power and dominion over the regions previously unknown, which had been discovered by the adventurous genius of their subjects, or which might afterwards be discovered, have been long regarded as direct and positive assumptions of temporal dominion. Such a conclusion, however, is not necessary to be drawn. A different and perhaps a juster view of them was presented by the celebrated Count Le Maistre, who considered them as no more than authoritative declarations of right, and solemn sanctions interposed at the solicitation of the party interested, with a view to preserve peace between Christian princes, and to prevent conflicting enterprises. Cardinal Baluffi adopts this view, and tacitly vindicates them, whilst he states the end to which the Papal acts were directed. " The Roman Pontiffs, as universal fathers, not because they imagined themselves lords of the material world, but in order to prevent the effusion of Christian blood, found themselves, at the epoch of the discovery of America, in circumstances which rendered it desirable that they should divide the countries, and mark mutual limits to the conquests of the nations that took arms against unknown nations. By their command, ministers of peace were despatched at the same time, not only to proclaim the faith, but to aid and direct the people in the path of duty, so as to establish order and promote the public welfare, the great objects which the Popes always bad in view.”

Alexander the Sixth, whose personal character was not likely to add weight to his official acts, was not the first Pontiff who exercised his authority in determining the rights of sovereigns grounded on discovery, and fixing limits to their ambition. About the year 1438, Eugene the Fourth granted to the Portuguese an exclusive right to all the countries which they might discover from Cape Non to the continent of India ; and the validity of the grant was universally recognized, so that, as Robertson testifies, “all Christian princes were deterred from intruding into those countries which the Portuguese had discovered, or from interrupting the progress of their navigation and

Edward the Sixth of England, on the remonstrance of John the Second of Portugal, prohibited English merchants from opening a trade with the coast of Guinea, because it would be agaiøst the terms of the Papal concession. Whatever may now be thought of such acts, it is clear that they were supported by what was then the public law of Christian nations, and had, at least, all the force that can be derived from general consent. Wheaton, our own distinguished writer on international law, observes, -“As between the Christians themselves, the sovereign Pontiff was the supreme arbiter of conflicting claims. Hence the famous bull'issued by Pope Alexander the Sixth in 1493.”+ Even Prescott remarks : - " This bold stretch of Papal authority, so often ridiculed as chimerical and absurd, was in a measure justified by the

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conquest." *

History of America, Book I. Elements of International Law, Part II. c. IV. p. 210.

event, since it did, in fact, determine the principles on which the vast extent of unappropriated empire in the Eastern and Western hemispheres was ultimately divided between two petty states of Europe."* Mr. Adams himself, in a very singular speech which he delivered in Congress on the Oregon question, admitted the validity of the Papal grant, as supported by general consent and law at that period ; but we must regret that the ex-President did not treat the subject with the gravity that became his age and character. In judging of such documents, we must not consider, in the abstract, what powers were divinely communicated to the fisherman of Galilee ; but we should attend to the social position of his successors, which brought with it an immense accession of temporal influence. An exercise of authority which was sought for by princes, and submitted to by their rivals, must have been widely different from usurpation. Its foundation must have been in right and justice ; and we can see no incongruity in the choice made of the Pontiff as the interpreter of right and umpire in controversy.

The lawfulness of the enterprise of Christian adventurers, who sought to discover unknown countries and subject them to the sovereigns under whose sanction their enterprise was undertaken, may be doubted of; but where the nations discovered are in a barbarous or savage state, it is, we believe, generally conceded by writers on the laws of nations that it is lawful to reduce them, even by force of arms, with a view to put an end to unnatural atrocities, and to introduce civilization. The Gospel is not to be promoted by the aid of the sword, teaching and preaching being the means pointed out by Christ for spreading it throughout the world ; yet, if the enterprise of the Spaniards was justifiable in the common interests of bumanity, it did not cease to be so from the circumstance that ministers of religion accompanied the adventurers with a view to comunicate its saving truths to the conquered nations, and lay the foundations of true civilization, by inculcating its pure and chastening principles. There is, then, nothing in the celebrated bull of Alexander the Sixth which may not be justified by the jurisprudence of his age, and, in the main, by principles still acknowledged. It was designed to convey, in language the most expressive, the fullest title which could be granted, and it was substantially a solemn declaration of rights founded on actual discovery, and an authoritative sanction to future enterprise, given with a view to the peace of Christian nations.

* Ferdinand and Isabella, Vol. II. Chap. XVIII.

We should, however, mistake the spirit of the fifteenth century, were we to suppose that abstract reasoning on principles of jurisprudence, or ambition of discovery, or desire of empire, gave the primary impulse to the great adventure of Columbus. Whatever may have been the weaknesses and vices of men at that time, zeal — sometimes, it may be, not sufficiently temperate — was generally felt for the advancement of religion, and genius and power were enlisted in her service. The idea of discovering unknown regions and nations enkindled the ambition of Columbus, principally because he hoped to introduce to them the preachers of the Gospel, and thus shed the light of Christianity on those who sat in darkness and in the shades of death. The captivating idea of extending the dominion of Christ beyond the waste of waters, to nations who previously had not heard the sweet sound of his saving name, interested many in the project who would otherwise have smiled at it as the dream of fancy. Father Diego Deza, of the order of Friars Preachers, Father John Perez de Marchena, Guardian of the Franciscan Convent of La Rabida in Andalusia, Father Thomas de Torquemada, Inquisitor-General and confessor of Ferdinand, lent their powerful influence to its support,

not from a full conviction of the likelihood of success, but from a feeling that it was worth a trial, where the result might be to communicate to millions the blessings of religion. “ With Isabella,” as Robertson acknowledges, “ zeal for propagating the Christian faith, together with the desire of communicating the knowledge of truth and the consolations of religion to people destitute of spiritual light, were more than ostensible motives for encouraging Columbus to attempt his discoveries."*

The religious spirit of the chief adventurer was manifested in the name of the vessel in which he sailed, in placing himself under the protection of the Virgin-Mother, in the erection of the cross on the ground on which he first landed, and in the name San Salvador, given to the island. He may be said to have taken possession of the newly discovered regions in the name of the King of kings, ere he thought of performing those formal acts which, according to the usage of nations, were necessary to establish the rights of the Spanish sovereign. The hymn of praise which was entoned on this occasion was beautifully expressive of the sovereign dominion of the Deity, as proclaimed by the Church throughout the entire world :- - Te æternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.

* History of America, Book VIII.

... Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur ecclesia."

On the return of Columbus from his first voyage, writing to Raphael Sanzio, the royal treasurer, he gave to God all praise for his success, and dwelt with delight on the glory that would redound to Christ from the union in his worship of so many nations hitherto unknown. Isabella likewise " endeavoured to fulfil her pious purpose, and manifested the most tender concern to secure not only religious instruction, but mild treatment, to that inoffensive race of men." * At the foot of a crucifix she hung the first gold presented to her from the New World, making it a votive offering to Him who gave himself a victim of propitiation for the whole world.

Ferdinand gave the edifying example of standing sponsor for some of the Indians whom Columbus presented at the sacred font, and the nobles imitated the condescension of their sovereign. From all these facts, it is manifest that the discovery of the New World, although justly regarded as one of the most splendid fruits of the inspirations of genius, was still more eminently the result of religious zeal.

The condition of nearly all the Indian tribes discovered by Columbus and subsequent adventurers was most degraded ; and even those that exhibited some appearance of civilization, such as the Mexicans and Peruvians, offered human sacrifices, and practised cannibalism. The flesh of a slave, immolated for the occasion, was dressed up for their religious banquets ; and to feast on the mangled remains of an enemy was necessary for the consummation of the victory gained in the bloody strife. Modesty was necessarily unknown among the naked wanderers, and if the amorous passion did not appear active, it arose from insensibility of character, rather than from any sense of moral propriety. Where marriage was recognized, polygamy prevailed, especially with the chiefs, whose prowess was rewarded by the number of their concubines. So destitute did they appear of moral sense and of spiritual ideas, that Robertson affirms that many of them had no idea of a Supreme Being, although he admits that they all believed in the immortality of the soul.

Baluffi shows the mistake of the bis

* Robertson, ubi supra.

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