The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898/Volume 1/Letter to Juan de Zúñiga


The King: Juan de Zúñiga, knight of the order of Santiago,[1] my servant. I have not hitherto written you of transactions in the negotiations respecting Maluco, to which the most serene and illustrious King of Portugal, my very dear and beloved cousin, sent his ambassadors, as I believed that, our right being so apparent, the treaty would be kept with us, or at least some good method of settlement would be adopted. This the ambassadors have not cared to do, although on our part we have done everything absolutely possible—much more than is usual between princes or relatives. I speak of this because my steadfast wish to preserve forever the kinship and love existing in the past and present between the most serene King and myself has been made manifest by my deeds. I am exceedingly sorry to find that this has been not only of no advantage, but rather, because of the meager results obtained, a disadvantage. And on this account the said ambassadors are returning without having come to any conclusion. By them I write to the said most serene King as you will observe in the copy of the letter enclosed herein.[2] Now because you should be informed of the transactions at this discussion,—both that you might, in our behalf, give a full account thereof to the said most serene King, and that you might discuss the same there [in Lisbon] wherever convenient,—I have determined to put you in possession of the facts in this letter, which are as follows. As soon as the said ambassadors had arrived, and after the letters from the most serene King had been presented to me, and their embassy stated by virtue of our faith in these letters, they requested me to appoint persons with whom they might discuss the questions upon which they were to mediate for their sovereign. I did this immediately, appointing for this purpose certain members of my Council whom I considered the best informed for that particular negotiation, and men of straightforward principles. These men, in company with the aforesaid ambassadors, examined the treaty presented by the latter, which seemed to have been drawn up and authorized by the Catholic King and Queen, my grandparents, and by King Don Manuel, his [King João III] father, of blessed memory. They listened to all the ambassadors had to say, and all together conferred regarding and discussed the questions many times. Afterwards, inasmuch as the said ambassadors besought me to give them a hearing, I did so, the named and others of my Council, whom I had summoned for that purpose, being present. The result of their proposition was to present the said treaty to me and petition that I order the observance thereof, and in consequence thereof, have Maluco surrendered immediately to the said most serene King of Portugal. This they said we were bound to do, by virtue of the said treaty, which contained, they declared, a section whose tenor is as follows.[3]

In this manner they continued to assert that since Maluco had been found by the King of Portugal, we were bound to make petition for and accept it from him, if we claimed it as lying within the bounds of our demarcation, and not to take possession of it by our own authority; and that the King of Portugal being assured of our contention, which they neither denied nor mistrusted might prove correct, was quite prepared to surrender it to us immediately, according to the terms of the said treaty, of which, in the said name, he wished to make use, and they petitioned that we observe the same. And therefore, as being a matter in which all negotiations and conferences were in good faith, both because of the prominence of those engaged in them, and because of the relationship between them, they declared that they had no wish to profit by any other right or allegation, but only to petition that the contents of the said treaty be kept to the letter.

Certain members of our Council, being informed of the matter made answer that my wish and intention had ever been, and still was, to observe the said treaty, and not to violate it in any manner (as in truth is and has ever been so). When this treaty should be examined and understood in the true light of reason, it would be found to be in our favor; and our intention was clearly founded upon it; and especially were we acting in good faith, according to the declaration of the said ambassadors that it was only necessary to examine the tenor of the said treaty and abide by its contents. Furthermore, in the same section, upon which they, in the name of the said most serene King of Portugal, based their contentions, would be found also the declaration, that if the Castilian ships should find any mainland or island in the Ocean Sea, which the said most serene King of Portugal should claim or allege to have been found within the limits of his demarcation, we were bound to surrender it to him immediately; and he could not be ignorant, nor could he claim ignorance of this, since it was all together in one and the same section. Therefore it was quite evident, since Maluco had been and was found by Castilian and not Portuguese ships, as they declared, that we, according to the terms of the same treaty, held it lawfully, at least in the time taken in arriving at and concluding the true determination of demarcation; and the most serene King of Portugal, when he wished anything, must petition for, and ask it from us, and it being found to be in his demarcation, must accept it from us. All the above they said in my name, asserting that whenever it should appear to be as above stated, we should carry into effect and fulfil immediately everything according to the said treaty. They said that Maluco had been found and occupied first, as must be admitted, by our ships—a fact well known everywhere, as we believe you are aware—inasmuch as nothing else was ever heard or known. The present declaration of the ambassadors was a complete innovation, at which, and reasonably, we must express surprise, since the fact was so well known that no one could pretend ignorance of it. And, in proof thereof (to continue the above), our present possession, which had been public and without any opposition by the said most serene King of Portugal, was sufficient. And this possession of ours had been continued with his knowledge, suffrance, and good grace, and had been likewise known and suffered by the most serene King Don Manuel, his father. It was now a cause for surprise, that, in an affair of such moment, after such a long interval, and after two generations had consented to it, the effort of obstruction and hindrance should be made, as if it were a matter that had just arisen. It was declared that whoever heard of it, believed it to be more for the purpose of vexing and annoying us at this time, seeing our necessities and our so just employment against the tyrants of Christendom, [4] than for the purpose of obtaining justice. For until the present we would have been able to have been advised of it, and to have informed ourselves, and therefore we, on our part, possessed the good faith in the observance and understanding of the said treaty, alleged by the said ambassadors.

Further, it could not be denied that Maluco had been found and taken possession of first by us, a fact supposed and proved by our peaceful and uninterrupted possession of it until now; and the contrary not being proved legally, our intention in the past and present is inferred and based upon this possession.

From the above it follows plainly that, inasmuch as we found and took possession of Maluco, and hold and possess it at present, as is quite evident that we do hold and possess it, if the said most serene King of Portugal, our brother, claims it, as being of his conquest and demarcation, he must petition us for it, and his representations proving correct, he must accept it from us. Herein is the said treaty obeyed to the letter, as the said ambassadors petition, and observed with the good faith alleged by them.

And in case anything has been obtained in Maluco, or any information has been acquired concerning Maluco, or any Portuguese has gone thither, or is there now, for the purpose of trade or barter, or for any other cause—none of which are known or believed to be so—it does not follow nor can it be asserted that Maluco was found by ships of the King of Portugal, as is required by the said treaty, and therefore the foregoing being, in fact, outside the terms of the treaty, we are outside of its jurisdiction and obligation.

Furthermore it was declared in our behalf, that, although Maluco had been discovered by ships of the King of Portugal—a thing by no means evident—it could not, on this account, be made to appear evident, or be said that Maluco had been found by him. Neither was the priority of time, on which he based his claims, proved, nor that it was discovered by his ships; for it was evident, that to find required possession, and that which was not taken or possessed could not be said to be found, although seen or discovered.

Leaving out of consideration the decision of the law, even the general opinion which was on my side and which comprehends and binds by virtue of common sense those who recognize no superior, and which all of us were and are bound to follow, pointed to the same thing, and it was proved clearly by the said treaty on which we both founded our pretensions, without any necessity arising of dragging ab extra any other right or allegation; because if he who found land, found it in the other's demarcation, he was bound to surrender it to him, according to the terms of the said treaty, it is evident, and follows plainly, that he who found the land must first hold and possess it, because not holding it he could not surrender it to the other, who petitioned him for it, on the grounds that it had been found within his demarcation. If any thing else should be declared, it was in violation of the terms of the said treaty, which must be understood and fulfilled effectually.

From the above it followed clearly that the finding of which the said treaty speaks, must be understood and is understood effectually. It is expedient to know, by taking and possessing it, that which is found; and consequently the most serene King of Portugal, nor his ships, can, in no manner, be spoken of as having found Maluco at any time, since he did not take possession of it at all, nor holds it now, nor has it in his possession in order that he may surrender it according to the stipulations of the said treaty.

And by this same reasoning it appeared that Maluco was found by us and by our ships, since possession of it was taken and made in our name, holding it and possessing it, as now we hold and possess it, and having power to surrender it, if supplication is made to us. It appearing to fall within the demarcation of the most serene King of Portugal, it follows from this, that supplication must be made to us by him, and if it is found to lie within his demarcation, he must receive it from us, and not we from him, in accordance with the said treaty, which being understood to the letter, as the ambassadors petition, thus proves and determines the question.

It was especially declared that we, in this reasoning, made no request of the King of Portugal. And inasmuch as we were the defendant we neither wished to, nor ought we to have any desire to assume the duties of the plaintiff, because if the King wished anything from us for which he should petition us, we were quite ready to fulfil in entire good faith all the obligations of the said treaty.

Furthermore it was declared that, supposing—which is not at all true—that the King of Portugal had found Maluco first, and that he should claim that we should restore it to him, asserting that he had been despoiled of it by our having taken possession of it on our own authority, when we should have petitioned and received it from him; or alleging that we did not disturb or trouble him in the possession of what he does not have, nor ever had in his possession, it was quite clear that the case was not comprehended in the said treaty. Neither was it provided for nor determined in the treaty, which was not to be extended, nor did extend to more than was expressly mentioned and set down therein, which it did determine. Rather this appeared to be a new case, omitted and unprovided for by the treaty, which must be determined and decided by common sense or common law.

Accordingly, since this matter was outside of the said treaty, we were not bound by the treaty, nor in any other manner to leave our right unexamined, nor was it either reasonable or proper to restore immediately in order to have to petition later, thus making ourselves, contrary to all ideas of equity and good faith, original criminal, prosecutor, or plaintiff; especially as it would be impossible or very difficult to recover what we should restore. For this very reason even the restitution of what was well known to be stolen was deferred by law, until the case of ownership was decided.

Furthermore the right of our ownership and possession was evident because of our just occupation. At least it could not be denied that we had based our intention on common law, according to which newly-found islands and mainlands, belonged to and remain his who occupied and took possession of them first, especially if taken possession of under the apostolic authority, to which—or according to the opinion of others, to the Emperor—it is only conceded to give this power. Since we, the said authorities, possessed these lands more completely than any other, and since the fact of our occupation and possession was quite evident, it followed clearly and conclusively that we ought to be protected in our rule and possession, and that whenever anyone should desire anything from us, he must sue us for it; and in such suit must be the occasion for examining the virtue and strength of the titles, the priority, and the authority of the occupation alleged by each party to the suit.

Meanwhile, and until it should be stated legally before one or the other, and that there ought to be a better right than ours, which we neither knew nor believed, we would base our intention upon common law. Therefore we held and possessed Maluco justly, since our title to acquire dominions therein was and is just and sufficient; and from common law arose, both then and now, our good faith and just intention. Our good faith and the justice of our side was apparent by these and other reasons, by the said treaty in what falls within its scope, and by common law and common sense in what falls outside it, or by all jointly. There was no reason or just cause in what the ambassadors petitioned, as formerly in this matter of possession, Silveira, ambassador of our brother, the most serene King of Portugal, the first to come upon this business, had been given thoroughly to understand. Now inasmuch as my wish has ever been, past and present, to preserve the relationship existing between the said most serene King and myself, and in order that the affection and alliance we have ever had may continue to increase, as is in accordance with our desire and actions regarding this matter, as well as upon everything most intimately connected with it, I commanded the members of our Council to review this question in private, and with care; and I charged them in the strongest possible manner that upon God and their own consciences they should declare to me their opinion. When it had been examined and discussed again thoroughly, all these members agreed, nemine discrepante, that, from everything observed up to the present, we held Maluco rightly. Now because, as you will understand, since all the members of my Council say the same thing, I ought to believe them, and it would neither be honest nor reasonable to disregard their opinion, especially in a matter upon which I acting alone could not nor can be well informed, I commanded that, according to the above, their opinion would be the answer to the said ambassadors, giving them to understand thoroughly the causes and reasons abovesaid, and others, which although clear and evident, the ambassadors would not accept. Rather they continued to persist that Maluco ought to be surrendered to them. They said they had information that Maluco had been found by the King of Portugal, and by his ships. But that information being unauthorized and in the same the witnesses being subjects of the King of Portugal, (you see how much advantage, honor, and increase it is to this nation to succeed in this undertaking), and it being a thing beyond the bounds of reason, and a matter of no credence or damage, we did not permit examination of it; for even though the evidence should prove damaging to the King of Portugal, he could not be compelled to abide by it, as it had not been presented in a regular court of law, nor sufficiently empowered by him. It was a departure from the principal matter of negotiation. And then too the said ambassadors, although other information better than their own was offered on my part, would not accept it, nor would they abide by it. Although, as you see, I ought not to depart from the said treaty, which was the only petition made me by the said ambassadors, they not wishing to stick to the truth, persisted obstinately in so doing, and then it was sufficient to have satisfied themselves as to its full observance.

But paying no heed to this, nor to the harm ensuing to us in persuading them, on account of my great affection to my cousin, the said most serene King of Portugal, and those causes already declared, proposals were made to the said ambassadors in my behalf, to wit, that it be considered immediately by the court of demarcation, and for this persons be appointed in accordance with the said treaty and the prorogation of it, and within a convenient period, which would not lengthen greatly the business in hand, nor be so short that it would seem that the matter could not be concluded in the time named, and the said declaration and demarcation should be determined. While this was being done, neither he nor I would despatch ships, nor engage in any new undertaking. This would be without hurt to either one of us, so that, if the demarcation was not determined in the time appointed, each one's right would remain and continue fully in force. This expedient, although it was very prejudicial to our evident and peaceful possession to discontinue it by any compact, and withal a compact made with the side opposing us, the ambassadors would scarcely listen to, declaring that they were not empowered by the King of Portugal to discuss any halfway measures. And afterwards, although with great urging on our part they consented to write the latter concerning this question (and they say they did write him concerning it), they gave out that the reply received was in the way of a refusal.

And notwithstanding that it was seen and known that they did not wish to abide by the said treaty, nor to adopt a middle course or any reasonable conclusion, another expedient was proposed by certain members of our Council, to whom I committed the matter, namely, that while the court of demarcation was sitting, as aforesaid, each side should have entire liberty to despatch ships, if he so wished. For by this means the King of Portugal could take no offense, since this expedient was the same for both. Rather, if any harm resulted, it appeared to be against our right, for of our own free will we permitted them to make expeditions, from which would follow the disturbance of our peaceful and continued possession. Upon every point, although they were given the choice between the said expedients, they answered as at first maintaining an obstinate silence and asserting that they were not authorized. Thus by their own decision and choice they left everything to us.

Then because there remained nothing more to attempt, and in order to convince them thoroughly, and that the King of Portugal, our cousin, might know our intention thoroughly, it was proposed to them that since they were not abiding by the treaty upon which they based their pretensions, nor accepted the expedients proposed to them, that they themselves should propose other expedients, so that if they seemed proper (as were those proposed to them), they might be deliberated upon. To this they answered for the third time that they had no authority to discuss halfway measures, but that Maluco should be surrendered to them. Seeing that all these compliments and offers of expedients made to them on my part, which were submissions rather than compliments, rather proved a loss than a gain to the negotiations, they were abandoned, and the question remained as at first. Inform the most serene King of Portugal in regard to these entire proceedings, for it is the truth. And see that he understands fully my wish, which is as above stated to you; and that I have not failed on my part to do all required by the said treaty, nor to consider any proper and reasonable expedient. Advise me fully of all that is done in this matter. Pamplona, December 18, 1523. I the King.[5] [Countersigned by the secretary Cobos. Signature of the chancellor and of Carvajal.]

  1. One of the great military orders of Spain, named for its patron St. James, and founded to protect his shrine at Compostella from incursions by the Moors. It received papal sanction in 1175; in 1476 Ferdinand of Castile became its grand master; thus uniting the order to the crown of Spain.
  2. The letter here mentioned (see Navarrete's Col. de viages, iv, p. 312) expresses Carlos's regret that his negotiations with the Portuguese ambassadors regarding the ownership of the Malucos have been fruitless, and his desire that the difficulties should be amicably adjusted; he refers João to Zúñiga for full details.
  3. Navarrete omits this section. It will be found in the Treaty of Tordesillas.
  4. The Spanish monarch was at this time engaged in his quarrels with François I of France.
  5. In another letter of the same date the Emperor complains to the King of Portugal that the latter's ambassadors have not been willing to abide by the treaty of Tordesillas in their conferences with the Castilian plenipotentiaries, "although our right to those regions discovered and taken possession of by our fleet is fully apparent from the treaties and compacts negotiated over the division of lands and the line of demarcation, and confirmed in the name of each one of us." Neither would they discuss the new propositions submitted to them — "although with some prejudice to our right;" nor would they themselves submit new propositions; consequently they are returning to Portugal without reaching any decision. The letter closes by saying that the Emperor is about to write about the whole affair to his representative, "Juan de Zúñiga, knight of the order of Santiago, residing there [at Lisbon] in our behalf;" and King João is earnestly requested to rest assured of the love and affection of the Spanish monarch.