King FerdinandLetter to the Taino/Arawak Indians around 1500

In the name of King Ferdinand and Juana, his daughter, Queen of Castile and Leon, etc., conquerors of barbarian nations, we notify you as best we can that our Lord God Eternal created Heaven and earth and a man and woman from whom we all descend for all times and all over the world. In the 5,000 years since creation the multitude of these generations caused men to divide and establish kingdoms in various parts of the world, among whom God chose St. Peter as leader of mankind, regardless of their law, sect or belief. He seated St. Peter in Rome as the best place from which to rule the world but he allowed him to establish his seat in all parts of the world and rule all people, whether Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles or any other sect. He was named Pope, which means admirable and greatest father, governor of all men. Those who lived at that time obeyed St. Peter as Lord and superior King of the universe, and so did their descendants obey his successors and so on to the end of time.

The late Pope gave these islands and mainland of the ocean and the contents hereof to the above-mentioned King and Queen, as is certified in writing and you may see the documents if you should so desire. Therefore, Their Highnesses are lords and masters of this land; they were acknowledged as such when this notice was posted, and were and are being served willingly and without resistance; then, their religious envoys were acknowledged and obeyed without delay, and all subjects unconditionally and of their own free will became Christians and thus they remain. Their Highnesses received their allegiance with joy and benignity and decreed that they be treated in this spirit like good and loyal vassals and you are under the obligation to do the same.

Therefore, we request that you understand this text, deliberate on its contents within a reasonable time, and recognize the Church and its highest priest, the Pope, as rulers of the universe, and in their name the King and Queen of Spain as rulers of this land, allowing the religious fathers to preach our holy Faith to you. You own compliance as a duty to the King and we in his name will receive you with love and charity, respecting your freedom and that of your wives and sons and your rights of possession and we shall not compel you to baptism unless you, informed of the Truth, wish to convert to our holy Catholic Faith as almost all your neighbors have done in other islands, in exchange for which Their Highnesses bestow many privileges and exemptions upon you. Should you fail to comply, or delay maliciously in so doing, we assure you that with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and of Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals. And we declare you guilty of resulting deaths and injuries, exempting Their Highnesses of such guilt as well as ourselves and the gentlemen who accompany us. We hereby request that legal signatures be af fixed to this text and pray those present to bear witness for us, etc


Amerigo Vespucci
Letter to Pier Soderini,
Gonfalonier of the Republic of Florence


After humble reverence and due commendations, etc. It may be that your Magnificence will be surprised by (this conjunction of) my rashness and your customary wisdom, in that I should so absurdly bestir myself to write to your Magnificence the present so-prolix letter: knowing (as I do) that your Magnificence is continually employed in high councils and affairs concerning the good government of this sublime Republic. And will hold me not only presumptuous, but also idly-meddlesome in setting myself to write things, neither suitable to your station, nor entertaining, and written in barbarous style, and outside of every canon of polite literature: but my confidence which I have in your virtues and in the truth of my writing, which are things (that) are not found written neither by the ancients nor by modern writers, as your Magnificence will in the sequel perceive, makes me bold. The chief cause which moved (me) to write to you, was at the request of the present bearer, who is named Benvenuto Benvenuti our Florentine (fellow-citizen), very much, as it is proven, your Magnificence’s servant, and my very good friend: who happening to be here in this city of Lisbon, begged that I should make communication to your Magnificence of the things seen by me in divers regions of the world, by virtue of four voyages which I have made in discovery of new lands: two by order of the king of Castile, King Don Ferrando VI., across the great gulf of the Ocean-sea, towards the west: and the other two by command of the puissant King Don Manuel King of Portugal, towards the south; telling me that your Magnificence would take pleasure thereof, and that herein he hoped to do you service: wherefore I set me to do it: because I am assured that your Magnificence holds me in the number of your servants, remembering that in the time of our youth I was your friend, and now (am your)Amerigo Vespucci servant: and (remembering our) going to hear the rudiments of grammar under the fair example and instruction of the venerable monk friar of Saint Mark Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci: whose counsels and teaching would to God that I had followed: for as saith Petrarch, I should be another man than what I am. Howbeit soever I grieve not: because I have ever taken delight in worthy matters: and although these trifles of mine may not be suitable to your virtues, I will say to you as said Pliny to Mæcenas, you were sometime wont to take pleasure in my prattlings: even though your Magnificence be continuously busied in public affairs, you will take some hour of relaxation to consume a little time in frivolous or amusing things: and as fennel is customarily given atop of delicious viands to fit them for better digestion, so may you, for a relief from your so heavy occupations, order this letter of mine to be read: so that they may withdraw you somewhat from the continual anxiety and assiduous reflection upon public affairs: and if I shall be prolix, I crave pardon, my Magnificent Lord. Your Magnificence shall know that the motive of my coming into his realm of Spain was to traffic in merchandise: and that I pursued this intent about four years: during which I saw and knew the inconstant shiftings of Fortune: and how she kept changing those frail and transitory benefits: and how at one time she holds man on the summit of the wheel, and at another time drives him back from her, and despoils him of what may be called his borrowed riches: so that, knowing the continuous toil which main undergoes to win them, submitting himself to so many anxieties and risks, I resolved to abandon trade, and to fix my aim upon something more praiseworthy and stable: whence it was that I made preparation for going to see part of the world and its wonders: and herefor the time and place presented themselves most opportunely to me: which was that the King Don Ferrando of Castile being about to despatch four ships to discover new lands towards the west, I was chosen by his Highness to go in that fleet to aid in making discovery: and we set out from the port of Cadiz on the 10th day of May 1497, and took our route through the great gulf of the Ocean-sea: in which voyage we were eighteen months (engaged): and discovered much continental land and innumerable islands, and great part of them inhabited: whereas there is no mention made by the ancient writers of them: I believe, because they had no knowledge thereof: for, if I remember well, I have read in some one (of those writers) that he considered that this Ocean-sea was an unpeopled sea: and of this opinion was Dante our poet in the xxvi. chapter of the Inferno, where he feigns the death of Ulysses, in which voyage I beheld things of great wondrousness, as your Magnificence shall understand. As I said above, we left the port of Cadiz four consort ships: and began our voyage in direct course to the Fortunates Isles which are called to-day la gran Canaria, which are situated in the Ocean-sea at the extremity of the inhabited west, (and) set in the third climate: over which the North Pole has an elevation of 27 and a half degrees beyond their horizon note and they are 280 leagues distant from this city of Lisbon, by the wind between mezzo di and libeccio: note where we remained eight days, taking in provision of water, and wood and other necessary things: and from here, having said our prayers, we weighed anchor, and gave the sails to the wind, beginning our course to westward, taking one quarter by southwest: note and so we sailed on till at the end of 37 days we reached a land which we deemed to be a continent: which is distant westwardly from the isles of Canary about a thousand leagues beyond the inhabited region note within the torrid zone: for we found the North Pole at an elevation of 16 degrees above its horizon, note and (it was) westward, according to the shewing of our instruments, 75 degrees from the isles of Canary: whereat we anchored with our ships a league and a half from land; and we put out our boats freighted with men and arms: we made towards the land, and before we reached it, had sight of a great number of people who were going along the shore: by which we were much rejoiced: and we observed that they were a naked race: they shewed themselves to stand in fear of us: I believe (it was) because they saw us clothed and of other appearance (than their own): they all withdrew to a hill, and for whatsoever signals we made to them of peace and of friendliness, they would not come to parley with us: so that, as the night was now coming on, and as the ships were anchored in a dangerous place, being on a rough and shelterless coast, we decided to remove from there the next day, and to go in search of some harbour or bay, where we might place our ships in safety: and we sailed with the maestrale wind, note thus running along the coast with the land ever in sight, continually in our course observing people along the shore: till after having navigated for two days, we found a place sufficiently secure for the ships, and anchored half a league from land, on which we saw a very great number of people: and this same day we put to land with the boats, and sprang on shore full 40 men in good trim: and still the land’s people appeared shy of converse with us, and we were unable to encourage them so much as to make them come to speak with us: and this day we laboured so greatly in giving them of our wares, such as rattles and mirrors, beads, spalline, and other trifles, that some of them took confidence and came to discourse with us: and after having made good friends with them, the night coming on, we took our leave of them and returned to the ships: and the next day when the dawn appeared we saw that there were infinite numbers of people upon the beach, and they had their women and children with them: we went, ashore, and found that they were all laden with their worldly goods note which are suchlike as, in its (proper) place, shall be related: and before we reached the land, many of them jumped into the sea and came swimming to receive us at a bowshot’s length (from the shore), for they are very great swimmers, with as much confidence as if they had for a long time been acquainted with us: and we were pleased with this their confidence. For so much as we learned of their manner of life and customs, it was that they go entirely naked, as well the men as the women…. They are of medium stature, very well proportioned: their flesh is of a colour the verges into red like a lion’s mane: and I believe that if they went clothed, they would be as white as we: they have not any hair upon the body, except the hair of the head which is long and black, and especially in the women, whom it renders handsome: in aspect they are not very good-looking, because they have broad faces, so that they would seem Tartar-like: they let no hair grow on their eyebrows, nor on their eyelids, nor elsewhere, except the hair of the head: for they hold hairiness to be a filthy thing: they are very light footed in walking and in running, as well the men as the women: so that a woman recks nothing of running a league or two, as many times we saw them do: and herein they have a very great advantage over us Christians: they swim (with an expertness) beyond all belief, and the women better than the men: for we have many times found and seen them swimming two leagues out at sea without anything to rest upon. Their arms are bows and arrows very well made, save that (the arrows) are not (tipped) with iron nor any other kind of hard metal: and instead of iron they put animals’ or fishes’ teeth, or a spike of tough wood, with the point hardened by fire: they are sure marksmen, for they hit whatever they aim at: and in some places the women use these bows: they have other weapons, such as fire-hardened spears, and also clubs with knobs, beautifully carved. Warfare is used amongst them, which they carry on against people not of their own language, very cruelly, without granting life to any one, except (to reserve him) for greater suffering. When they go to war, they take their women with them, not that these may fight, but because they carry behind them their worldly goods, for a woman carries on her back for thirty or forty leagues a load which no man could bear: as we have many times seen them do. They are not accustomed to have any Captain, nor do they go in any ordered array, for every one is lord of himself: and the cause of their wars is not for lust of dominion, nor of extending their frontiers, no for inordinate covetousness, but for some ancient enmity which in by-gone times arose amongst them: and when asked why they made war, they knew not any other reason to give than that they did so to avenge the death of their ancestors, or of their parents: these people have neither King, nor Lord, nor do they yield obedience to any one, for they live in their own liberty: and how they be stirred up to go to war is (this) that when the enemies have slain or captured any of them, his oldest kinsman rises up and goes about the highways haranguing them to go with him and avenge the death of such his kinsman: and so are they stirred up by fellow-feeling: they have no judicial system, nor do they punish the ill-doer: nor does the father, nor the mother chastise the children and marvelously (seldom) or never did we see any dispute among them: in their conversation they appear simple, and they are very cunning and acute in that which concerns them: they speak little and in a low tone: they use the same articulations as we, since they form their utterances either with the palate, or with the teeth, or on the lips: note except that they give different names to things. Many are the varieties of tongues: for in every 100 leagues we found a change of language, so that they are not understandable each to the other. The manner of their living is very barbarous, for they do not eat at certain hours, and as often-times as they will: and it is not much of a boon to them note that the will may come more at midnight than by day, for they eat at all hours: and they eat upon the ground without a table-cloth or any other cover, for they have their meats either in earthen basins which they make themselves, or in the halves of pumpkins: they sleep in certain very large nettings made of cotton, suspended in the air: and although this their (fashion of) sleeping may seem uncomfortable, I say that it is sweet to sleep in those (nettings): and we slept better in them than in the counterpanes. They are a people smooth and clean of body, because of so continually washing themselves as they do…. Amongst those people we did not learn that they had any law, nor can they be called Moors nor Jews, and (they are) worse than pagans: because we did not observe that they offered any sacrifice: nor even had they a house of prayer: their manner of living I judge to be Epicurean: their dwellings are in common: and their houses (are) made in the style of huts, but strongly made, and constructed with very large trees, and covered over with palm-leaves, secure against storms and winds: and in some places (they are) of so great breadth and length, that in one single house we found there were 600 souls: and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they change their habitations: and when asked why they did so: (they said it was) because of the soil which, from its filthiness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason: their riches consist of bird’s plumes of many colours, or of rosaries which they make from fishbones, or of white or green stones which they put in their cheeks and in their lips and ears, and of many other things which we in no wise value: they use no trade, they neither buy nor sell. In fine, they live and are contended with that which nature gives them. The wealth that we enjoy in this our Europe and elsewhere, such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other riches, they hold as nothing; and although they have them in their own lands, they do not labour to obtain them, nor do they value them. They are liberal in giving, for it is rarely they deny you anything: and on the other hand, liberal in asking, when they shew themselves your friends…. When they die, they use divers manners of obsequies, and some they bury with water and victuals at their heads: thinking that they shall have (whereof) to eat: they have not nor do they use ceremonies of torches nor of lamentation. In some other places, they use the most barbarous and inhuman burial, which is that when a suffering or infirm (person) is as it were at the last pass of death, his kinsmen carry him into a large forest, and attach one of those nets, of theirs, in which they sleep, to two trees, and then put him in it, and dance around him for a whole day: and when the night comes on they place at his bolster, water with other victuals, so that he may be able to subsist for four or six days: and then they leave him alone and return to the village: and if the sick man helps himself, and eats, and drinks, and survives, he returns to the village, and his (friends) receive him with ceremony: but few are they who escape: without receiving any further visit they die, and that is their sepulture: and they have many other customs which for prolixity are not related. They use in their sicknesses various forms of medicines, note so different from ours that we marvelled how any one escaped: for many times I saw that with a man sick of fever, when it heightened upon him, they bathed him from head to foot with a large quantity of cold water: then they lit a great fire around him, making him turn and turn again every two hours, until they tired him and left him to sleep, and many were (thus) cured: with this they make use of dieting, for they remain three days without eating, and also of blood-letting, but not from the arm, only from the thighs and the loins and the calf of the leg: also they provoke vomiting with their herbs which are put into the mouth: and they use many other remedies which it would be long to relate: they are much vitiated in the phlegm and in the blood because of their food which consists chiefly of roots of herbs, and fruits and fish: they have no seed of wheat nor other grain: and for their ordinary use and feeding, they have a root of a tree, from which they make flour, tolerably good, and they call it Iuca, and another which they call Cazabi, and another Ignami: they eat little flesh except human flesh: for your Magnificence must know that herein they are so inhuman that they outdo every custom (even) of beasts; for they eat all their enemies whom they kill or capture, as well females as males with so much savagery, that (merely) to relate it appears a horrible thing: how much more so to see it, as, infinite times and in many places, it was my hap to see it: and they wondered to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies: and this your Magnificence may take for certain, that their other barbarous customs are such that expression is too weak for the reality: and as in these four voyages I have seen so many things diverse from our customs, I prepared to write a common-place-book which I name LE QUATTRO GIORNATE: in which I have set down the greater part of the things which I saw, sufficiently in detail, so far as my feeble wit has allowed me: which I have not yet published, because I have so ill a taste for my own things that I do not relish those which I have written, notwithstanding that many encourage me to publish it: therein everything will be seen in detail: so that I shall not enlarge further in this chapter: as in the course of the letter we shall come to many other things which are particular: let this suffice for the general. At this beginning, we saw nothing in the land of much profit, except some show of gold: I believe the cause of it was that we did not know the language: but in so far as concerns the situation and condition of the land, it could not be better: we decided to leave that place, and to go further on, continuously coasting the shore: upon which we made frequent descents, and held converse with a great number of people: and at the end of some days we went into a harbour where we underwent very great danger: and it pleased the Holy Ghost to save us: and it was in this wise. We landed in a harbour, where we found a village built like Venice upon the water: there were about 44 large dwellings in the form of huts erected upon very thick piles, and they had their doors or entrances in the style of drawbridges: and from each house one could pass through all, by means of the drawbridges which stretched from house to house: and when the people thereof had seen us, they appeared to be afraid of us, and immediately drew up all the bridges: and while we were looking at this strange action, we saw coming across the sea about 22 canoes, which are a kind of boats of theirs, constructed from a single tree: which came towards our boats, as they had been surprised by our appearance and clothes, and kept wide of us: and thus remaining, we made signals to them that they should approach us, encouraging them will every token of friendliness: and seeing that they did not come, we went to them, and they did not stay for us, but made to the land, and, by signs, told us to wait, and that they should soon return: and they went to a hill in the background, and did not delay long: when they returned, they led with them 16 of their girls, and entered with these into their canoes, and came to the boats: and in each boat they put 4 of the girls. That we marvelled at this behavior your Magnificence can imagine how much, and they placed themselves with their canoes among our boats, coming to speak with us: insomuch that we deemed it a mark of friendliness: and while thus engaged, we beheld a great number of people advance swimming towards us across the sea, who came from the houses: and as they were drawing near to us without any apprehension: just then there appeared at the doors of the houses certain old women, uttering very loud cries and tearing their hair to exhibit grief: whereby they made us suspicious, and we each betook ourselves to arms: and instantly the girls whom we had in the boats, threw themselves into the sea, and the men of the canoes drew away from us, and began with their bows to shoot arrows at us: and those who were swimming each carried a lance held, as covertly as they could, beneath the water: so that, recognizing the treachery, we engaged with them, not merely to defend ourselves, but to attack them vigorously, and we overturned with our boats many of their almadie or canoes, for so they call them, we made a slaughter (of them), and they all flung themselves into the water to swim, leaving their canoes abandoned, with considerable loss on their side, they went swimming away to the shore: there died of them about 15 or 20, and many were left wounded: and of ours 5 were wounded, and all, by the grace of God, escaped (death): we captured two of the girls and two men: and we proceeded to their houses, and entered therein, and in them all we found nothing else than two old women and a sick man: we took away from them many things, but of small value: and we would not burn their houses, because it seemed to us (as though that would be) a burden upon our conscience: and we returned to our boats with five prisoners: and betook ourselves to the ships, and put a pair of irons on the feet of each of the captives, except the little girls: and when the night came on, the two girls and one of the men fled away in the most subtle manner possible: and next day we decided to quit that harbour and go further onwards: we proceeded continuously skirting the coast, (until) we had sight of another tribe distant perhaps some 80 leagues from the former tribe: and we found them very different in speech and customs: we resolved to cast anchor, and went ashore with the boats, and we saw on the beach a great number of people amounting probably to 4000 souls: and when we had reached the shore, they did not stay for us, but betook themselves to flight through the forests, abandoning their things: we jumped on land, and took a pathway that led to the forest: and at the distance of a bow-shot we found their tents, where they had made very large fires, and two (of them) were cooking their victuals, and roasting several animals, and fish of many kinds: where we saw that they were roasting a certain animal which seemed to be a serpent, save that it had not wings, and was in its appearance so loathsome that we marvelled much at its savageness: Thus went we on through their houses, or rather tents, and found many of those serpents alive, and they were tied by the feet and had a cord around their snouts, so that they could not open their mouths, as is done (in Europe) with mastiff-dogs so that they may not bite: they were of such savage aspect that none of us dared to take one away, thinking that they were poisonous: they are of the bigness of a kid, and in length an ell and a half: note their feet are long and thick, and armed with big claws: they have a hard skin, and are of various colours: they have the muzzle and face of a serpent: and from their snouts there rises a crest like a saw which extends along the middle of the back as far as the tip of the tail: in fine we deemed them to be serpents and venomous, and (nevertheless, those people) ate them: we found that they made bread out of little fishes which they took from the sea, first boiling them, (then) pounding them, and making thereof a paste, or bread, and they baked them on the embers: thus did they eat them: we tried it, and found that it was good: they had so many other kinds of eatables, and especially of fruits and roots, that it would be a large matter to describe them in detail: and seeing that the people did not return, we decided not to touch nor take away anything of theirs, so as better to reassure them: and we left in the tents for them many of our things, placed where they should see them, and returned by night to our ships: and the next day, when it was light, we saw on the beach an infinite number of people: and we landed: and although they appeared timorous towards us, they took courage nevertheless to hold converse with us, giving us whatever we asked of them: and shewing themselves very friendly towards us, they told us that those were their dwellings, and that they had come hither for the purpose of fishing: and they begged that we would visit their dwellings and villages, because they desired to receive us as friends: and they engaged in such friendship because of the two captured men whom we had with us, as these were their enemies: insomuch that, in view of such importunity on their part, holding a council, we determined that 28 of us Christians in good array should go with them, and in the firm resolve to die if it should be necessary: and after we had been here some three days, we went with them inland: and at three leagues from the coast we came to a village of many people and few houses, for there were no more than nine (of these): where we were received with such and so many barbarous ceremonies that the pen suffices not to write them down: for there were dances, and songs, and lamentations mingled with rejoicing, and great quantities of food: and here we remained the night:… and after having been here that night and half the next day, so great was the number of people who came wondering to behold us that they were beyond counting: and the most aged begged us to go with them to other villages which were further inland, making display of doing us the greatest honour: wherefore we decided to go: and it would be impossible to tell you how much honour they did us: and we went to several villages, so that we were nine days journeying, so that our Christians who had remained with the ships were already apprehensive concerning us: and when we were about 18 leagues in the interior of the land, we resolved to return to the ships: and on our way back, such was the number of people, as well men as women, that came with us as far as the sea, that it was a wondrous thing: and if any of us became weary of the march, they carried us in their nets very refreshingly: and in crossing the rivers, which are many and very large, they passed us over by skilful means so securely that we ran no danger whatever, and many of them came laden with the things which they had given us, which consisted in their sleeping-nets, and very rich feathers, many bows and arrows, innumerable popinjays of divers colours: and others brought with them loads of their household goods, and of animals: but a greater marvel will I tell you, that, when we had to cross a river, he deemed himself lucky who was able to carry us on his back: and when we reached the sea, our boats having arrived, we entered into them: and so great was the struggle which they made to get into our boats, and to come to see our ships, that we marvelled (thereat): and in our boats we took as many of them as we could, and made our way to the ships, and so many (others) came swimming that we found ourselves embarrassed in seeing so many people in the ships, for there were over a thousand persons all naked and unarmed: they were amazed by our (nautical) gear and contrivances, and the size of the ships: and with them there occurred to us a very laughable affair, which was that we decided to fire off some of our great guns, and when the explosion took place, most of them through fear cast themselves (into the sea) to swim, not otherwise than frogs on the margins of a pond, when they see something that frightens them, will jump into the water, just so did those people: and those who remained in the ships were so terrified that we regretted our action: however we reassured them by telling them that with those arms we slew our enemies: and when they had amused themselves in the ships the whole day, we told them to go away because we desired to depart that night, and so separating from us with much friendship and love, they went away to land. Amongst that people and in their land, I knew and beheld so many of their customs and ways of living, that I do not care to enlarge upon them: for Your Magnificence must know that in each of my voyages I have noted the most wonderful things, and I have indited it all in a volume after the manner of a geography: and I entitle it LE QUATTRO GIORNATE: in which work the things are comprised in detail, and as yet there is no copy of it given out, as it is necessary for me to revise it. This land is very populous, and full of inhabitants, and of numberless rivers, (and) animals: few (of which) resemble ours, excepting lions, panthers, stags, pigs, goats, and deer: and even these have some dissimilarities of form: they have no horses nor mules, nor, saving your reverence, asses nor dogs, nor any kind of sheep or oxen: but so numerous are the other animals which they have, and all are savage, and of none do they make use for their service, that they could not be counted. What shall we say of others (such as) birds? which are so numerous, and of so many kinds, and of such various-coloured plumages, that it is a marvel to behold them. The soil is very pleasant and fruitful, full of immense woods and forests: and it is always green, for the foliage never drops off. The fruits are so many that they are numberless and entirely different from ours. This land is within the torrid zone, close to or just under the parallel described by the Tropic of Cancer: where the pole of the horizon has an elevation of 23 degrees, at the extremity of the second climate. note Many tribes came to see us, and wondered at our faces and our whiteness: and they asked us whence we came: and we gave them to understand that we had come from heaven, and that we were going to see the world, and they believed it. In this land we placed baptismal fonts, and an infinite (number of) people were baptised, and they called us in their language Carabi, which means men of great wisdom. We took our departure from that port: and the province is called Lariab: and we navigated along the coast, always in sight of land, until we had run 870 leagues of it, still going in the direction of the maestrale (north-west) making in our course many halts, and holding intercourse with many peoples: and in several places we obtained gold by barter but not much in quantity, for we had done enough in discovering the land and learning that they had gold. We had now been thirteen months on the voyage: and the vessels and the tackling were already much damaged, and the men worn out by fatigue: we decided by general council to haul our ships on land and examine them for the purpose of stanching leaks, as they made much water, and of caulking and tarring them afresh, and (then) returning towards Spain: and when we came to this determination, we were close to a harbour the best in the world: into which we entered with our vessels: where we found an immense number of people: who received us with much friendliness: and on the shore we made a bastion note with our boats and with barrels and casks, and our artillery, which commanded every point: and our ships having been unloaded and lightened, we drew them upon land, and repaired them in everything that was needful: and the land’s people gave us very great assistance: and continually furnished us with their victuals: so that in this port we tasted little of our own, which suited our game well: for the stock of provisions which we had for our return-passage was little and of sorry kind: where (i.e., there) we remained 37 days: and went many times to their villages: where they paid us the greatest honour: and (now) desiring to depart upon our voyage, they made complaint to us how at certain times of the year there came from over the sea to this their land, a race of people very cruel, and enemies of theirs: and (who) by means of treachery or of violence slew many of them, and ate them: and some they made captives, and carried them away to their houses, or country: and how they could scarcely contrive to defend themselves from them, making signs to us that (those) were an island-people and lived out in the sea about a hundred leagues away: and so piteously did they tell us this that we believed them: and we promised to avenge them of so much wrong: and they remained overjoyed herewith: and many of them offered to come along with us, but we did not wish to take them for many reasons, save that we took seven of them, on condition that they should come (i.e., return home) afterwards in (their own) canoes because we did not desire to be obliged to take them back to their country: and they were contented: and so we departed from those people, leaving them very friendly towards us: and having repaired our ships, and sailing for seven days out to sea between northeast and east: and at the end of the seven days we came upon the islands, which were many, some (of them) inhabited, and others deserted: and we anchored at one of them: where we saw a numerous people who called it Iti: and having manned our boats with strong crews, and (taken ammunition for) three cannon-shots in each, we made for land: where we found (assembled) about 400 men, and many women, and all naked like the former (peoples). They were of good bodily presence, and seemed right warlike men: for they were armed with their weapons, which are bows, arrows, and lances: and most of them had square wooden targets: and bore them in such wise that they did not impede the drawing of the bow: and when we had come with our boats to about a bowshot of the land, they all sprang into the water to shoot their arrows at us and to prevent us from leaping upon shore: and they all had their bodies painted of various colours, and (were) plumed with feathers: and the interpreters who were with us told us that when (those) displayed themselves so painted and plumed, it was to betoken that they wanted to fight: and so much did they persist in preventing us from landing, that we were compelled to play with our artillery: and when they heard the explosion, and saw one of them fall dead, they all drew back to the land: wherefore, forming our council, we resolved that 42 of our men should spring on shore, and, if they waited for us, fight them: thus having leaped to land with our weapons, they advanced towards us, and we fought for about an hour, for we had but little advantage of them, except that our arbalasters and gunners killed some of them, and they wounded certain of our men: and this was because they did not stand to receive us within reach of lance-thrust or sword-blow: and so much vigour did we put forth at last, that we came to sword-play, and when they tasted our weapons, they betook themselves to flight through the mountains and the forests, and left us conquerors of the field with many of them dead and a good number wounded: and for that day we’ took no other pains to pursue them, because we were very weary, and we returned to our ships, with so much gladness on the part of the seven men who had come with us that they could not contain themselves (for joy): and when the next day arrived, we beheld coming across the land a great number of people, with signals of battle, continually sounding horns, and various other instruments which they use in their wars: and all (of them) painted and feathered, so that it was a very strange sight to behold them: wherefore all the ships held council, and it was resolved that since this people desired hostility with us, we should proceed to encounter them and try by every means to make them friends: in case they would not have our friendship, that we should treat them as foes, and so many of them as we might be able to capture should all be our slaves: and having armed ourselves as best we could, we advanced towards the shore, and they sought not to hinder us from landing, I believe from fear of the cannons: and we jumped on land, 57 men in four squadrons, each one (consisting of) a captain and his company: and we came to blows with them: and after a long battle (in which) many of them (were) slain, we put them to flight, and pursued them to a village, having made about 250 of them captives, and we burnt the village, and returned to our ships with victory and 250 prisoners, leaving many of them dead and wounded, and of ours there were no more than one killed and 22 wounded, who all escaped (i.e., recovered), God be thanked. We arranged our departure, and seven men, of whom five were wounded, took an island-canoe, and with seven prisoners that we gave them, four women and three men, returned to their (own) country full of gladness, wondering at our strength: and we thereon made sail for Spain with 222 captive slaves: and reached the port of Calis (Cadiz) on the 15th day of October, 1498, where we were well received and sold our slaves. Such is what befell me, most noteworthy, in this my first voyage.



The Magna Carta

John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and faithful subjects, greeting.

Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honour of God and the advancement of the holy Church, and for the reform of our realm, by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, bishops; of master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of our lord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of the Knights of the Temple in England), and of the illustrious men William Marshall earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warenne, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerald, Peter Fits Herbert, Hubert de Burgh (seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d’Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshall, John Fitz Hugh, and of other faithful subjects.

1. In the first place we have conceded to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we wish that it be thus observed. This is apparent from the fact that we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English church, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III., before the quarrel arose between us and our barons. This freedom we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs for ever.

2. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs for ever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs for ever:

3. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by military service shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir shall be of full age and owe relief he shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl, 100 pounds for a whole earl’s barony; the heir or heirs of a baron, 100 pounds for a whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100 shillings at most for a whole knight’s fee; and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fiefs.

4. If, however, the heir of any of the aforesaid has been under age and in wardship, let him have his inheritance without relief and without fine when he comes of age.

5. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thus under age, shall take from the land of the heir nothing but reasonable produce, reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction or waste of men or goods; and if we have committed the wardship of the lands of any such minor to the sheriff, or to any other who is responsible to us for its issues, and he has made destruction or waste of what he holds in wardship, we will take of him amends, and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be responsible for the issues to us or to him to whom we shall assign them; and if we have given or sold the wardship of any such land to anyone and he has therein made destruction or waste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be responsible to us in like manner as aforesaid.

6. The guardian moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, shall maintain the houses, parks, fish ponds, stanks, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the revenues of that land; and he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his land, stocked with ploughs and waynage, according as the season of husbandry requires, and the revenues from the land can reasonably support.

7. Heirs shall be married without disparagement. However, before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin.

8. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance. She shall not give anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of that husband. She may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.

9. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to remain without a husband, always provided that she gives assurance not to marry without our consent, if she holds her lands from us, or else without the consent of whatever other lord she from whom she holds her lands.

10. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall seize for any debt any land or rent, so long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt. Nor shall those that pledged sureties for the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor himself is able to satisfy the debt. If the principal debtor fails to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then the sureties shall answer for the debt.  They shall have the lands and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are reimbursed for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show proof that he has discharged his obligations to them.

11. If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, dies before that loan can be repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective from whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into our hands, we will take nothing except the principal sum mentioned in the bond.

12. And if any one die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if any children of the deceased are left underage, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping with the holding of the deceased. The debt shall be paid out of the residue , save the service due to feudal lords. Let debts due to others than Jews be dealt with in similar manner.

13. No scutage nor aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and marrying our eldest daughter one time. For these, only a reasonable aid should be levied. In like manner it shall be done concerning aids from the city of London.

14. And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free customs, by land as well as by water. Furthermore, we decree and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.

15. And for obtaining the common consent of the kingdom concerning the assessment of an aid (other than in the three cases specified above ) or of a scutage, we will cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, individually through our letters. Moreover, all others who are our direct tenants, we will cause a general summons to be made by our sheriffs and bailiffs, for a fixed date (namely, after the expiry of at least forty days) and at a fixed place. In all such letters of summons we will specify the reason of the summons. And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall proceed on the day appointed, according to the counsel of such as are present, although not all who were summoned have come.

16. In future, we not grant to anyone license to take an aid from his own free men, unless to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter. And on each of these occasions, only a reasonable aid shall be levied.

17. No man shall be compelled to do more service for a knight’s fee, or for any other land free-holding, than is due from it.

18. Common pleas shall not follow our court about, but shall be held in some fixed place.

19. Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor, and darrein presentiment shall only be held in their own county courts, in the following manner. We or, should we be out of the kingdom, our chief justice will send two justices to each county four times a year who, along with four knights of each county chosen by that county, shall hold the assize in the county, and on the day and in the meeting place of the county court.

20. If any of the said assizes cannot be held on the day of the county court, let there remain as many of the knights and freeholders, who were present at the county court on that day, as are necessary for the efficient making of judgments, according to whether the business is more or less.

21. A freeman shall only be amerced for a trivial offence in accordance with the seriousness of the offence. For a grave offence, he shall be fined correspondingly, leaving him his contenement.  A merchant will be fined similarly, leaving him his “merchandise”; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, leaving him his wainage—if they have fallen into our mercy. These amercements shall only be imposed by the assessment on oath of reputable local men.

22. Earls and barons shall be amerced only by their peers, and only in proportion with the degree of the offence.

23. A clerk in holy orders shall not be amerced in respect of his lay holding except as previously described; further, his ecclesiastical benefice shall not be taken into account.

24. No vill or person shall be compelled to make bridges at river-banks, except those who from of old were legally bound to do so.

25. No sheriff, constable, coroner, or other royal bailiff, shall hold lawsuits meant be held by the royal justices.

26. All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and trithings shall remain at old rents, and without any increase, except our demesne manors.

27. If any one holding a lay fief from the Crown dies, and our sheriff or bailiff produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt owed to the Crown, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to seize and catalogue chattels found in the lay fief of the deceased, to the value of that debt, as assessed by law-worthy men. Nothing at all shall be removed from there until the debt is fully paid. The residue shall be left to the executors to fulfil the will of the deceased. If there is no debt due to the Crown, all the chattels shall go to the estate of the deceased, except reasonable shares for his wife and children.

28. If any freeman dies intestate, his chattels shall be distributed by his nearest kinsfolk and his friends, under supervision of the church, except that the rights of his debtors shall be maintained.

29. No constable or other royal bailiff shall take corn or other provisions from any man without an immediate cash payment, unless the seller permits postponement of this.

30. No constable shall compel any knight to give money instead of castle-guard, if the knight is willing to undertake the guard himself, or to supply another responsible man to do it, if he cannot do it himself for any reasonable cause. Further, a knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused castle-guard in proportion to the time he was on this service.

31. No sheriff or royal bailiff, or other person, shall take the horses or carts of any freeman for transport duty, except with agreement from the said freeman.

32. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take, for our castles or for any other of our works, wood which is not ours, except with agreement from the owner of that timber.

33. We will not hold the lands of those who have been convicted of felony beyond one year and one day. Then, the lands shall be returned to the lords of those fiefs.

34. Henceforth, all kiddles shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway and throughout all England, except along the sea coast.

35. The writ called praecipe, in the future, shall not be issued to any one regarding any tenement whereby a freeman might lose the right of trial in his own lord’s court.

36. There shall be one measure of wine, of ale and of corn (namely, “the London quarter”) throughout our whole realm. There shall also be one width of cloth (whether dyed, russet, or halberget): that is, two ells within the selvages. Let weights also be standardised similarly.

37. Nothing shall be paid or taken in future for a writ of inquisition of life or limbs.  Instead, it shall be given free of charge, and not denied.

38. If a man holds Crown land by fee-farm, by socage, or by burgage, and also holds land of another lord for knight’s service, we will not have (by reason of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage) the wardship of his heir or of such land he holds of the other lord’s fief . Nor shall we have wardship of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless the fee-farm owes knight’s service. We will not have the wardship of a man’s heir, nor of land that the man holds through knight’s service to someone else, because of any small serjeanty that he may hold from the Crown for the service of providing to us knives, arrows, or the like.

39. In future, no bailiff shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported words, without credible witnesses being produced to support his word.

40. No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any other way harmed. Nor will we [the king] proceed against him, or send others to do so, except according to the lawful sentence of his peers and according to the Common Law.

41. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

42. All merchants may leave or enter England in safety and security. They may stay and travel throughout England by road or by water, free from all illegal tolls, in order to buy and sell according to the ancient and rightful customs. This is except, in time of war, those merchants who are from the land at war with us. And if such merchants are found in our land at the beginning of the war, they shall be detained, without injury to their bodies or goods, until information is received by us (or by our chief justiciar) about in what way are treated our merchants, thence found in the land at war with us . If our men are safe there, the others shall be safe in our land.

43. It shall be lawful in future for any one, keeping loyalty to the Crown, to leave our kingdom and to return safely and securely, by land and by water. This is except in time of war, when men may go, only in the public interest, for some short period. (This excludes, always, those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the realm, natives of any country at war with us, and merchants, who shall be treated as previously stated).

44. If any one holding of some escheat (such as the honour of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands and are baronies) dies, his heir shall give only the relief and service to us that he would have done to the baron, if that barony had been in the baron’s hands. We shall hold the escheat in the same manner in which the baron held it.

45. Men who dwell outside the forest henceforth need not come before our justiciars of the forest following a general summons, unless they are named in a plea or are sureties for any person or persons arrested for forest offences.

46. We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs only those who know the law of the realm and who wish to observe it well.

47. All barons who have founded abbeys, for which they hold charters from the kings of England, or for which they have long-standing possession, shall have the custody of them when vacant, as they should have.

48. All forests that have been created in our reign shall forthwith be disafforested, and similar course shall be followed for river-banks that we have made preserves during our reign.

49. All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their officers, river-banks and their wardens, shall immediately be investigated in each county by twelve sworn knights of the same county, chosen by the honest men of the county. The evil customs shall, within forty days of the said inquest, be completely and irrevocably abolished. This is provided always that we first informed, or our justiciar, if we should not be in England.

50. We will immediately restore all hostages and charters, which were delivered to us by Englishmen as security for peace or for faithful service.

51. We will entirely remove from their bailiwicks the kinsmen of Gerard de AthÉe, so that in future they shall have no office in England. The people concerned are Engelard de CigognÉ, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de CigognÉ, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Mark, his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and all their brood.

52. As soon as peace is restored, we will banish from the kingdom all foreign-born knights, cross-bowmen, their attendants, and mercenaries who have come with horses and arms, to the kingdom’s detriment.

53. If, without the lawful judgement of his peers, a man has been dispossessed of his lands, castles, franchises or his rights, or had them removed by us, we will at once restore these to him. If a dispute arises over this, the dispute shall be decided by the judgement of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace. Moreover, in all cases where possessions have been disseised or removed from anyone without the lawful judgement of his peers, by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and which are retained by us (or which are held by others under our warranty), we will have the usual respite period allowed to crusaders, unless a lawsuit has been started or we had ordered an enquiry before we took the cross [as a Crusader]. However, as soon as we return from our expedition, or if by chance we abandon it, we shall immediately grant full justice.

54. We shall have the same respite (and the same manner in rendering justice) concerning the disafforestation or retention of those forests) which Henry our father and Richard our brother afforested, and concerning guardianship of lands under the fief of another (that is, the guardianships we had up to now because of a knight’s fee someone else held from us), and with abbeys founded in fiefs other than our own, in which the lord of the fief claims to have a right. When we return from our expedition, or if we abandon it, we will at once grant full justice to complaints about these things.

55. No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman, for the death of anyone except her husband.

56. All fines rendered to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all amercements made unjustly and against the law of the land, shall be entirely remitted or else the matter settled by the decision of an majority of the five-and-twenty barons (or all of them) mentioned below in the clause for securing the peace. This decision shall be made together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he may wish to bring with him. If the archbishop cannot be present, business shall nevertheless proceed without him. This is provided always that, if any one or more of the twenty-five barons are involved in a similar action, they are removed for this particular judgement and are replaced by others. The replacements will be sworn in as a substitute only for this business, after being selected by the rest of the twenty-five.

57. If we have disseised or removed Welshmen from lands or liberties, or other things, without the lawful judgement of their peers (in England or in Wales), these shall be immediately restored to them. If a dispute arises over this, it shall be determined in the Marches by the judgement of their peers. English law shall apply to land holdings in England, Welsh law to those in Wales, and the law of the Marches to those in the Marches. Welshmen shall the same to us and ours.

58. Further, where a Welshman was deprived or dispossessed of anything, without the lawful judgement of his peers (in England or in Wales), by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and which is retained by us (or which is held by others under our warranty), we will have the usual respite period allowed to crusaders, unless a lawsuit has been started or we had ordered an enquiry before we took the cross [as a Crusader]. However, as soon as we return from our expedition, or if by chance we abandon it, we shall immediately grant full justice according to the laws of Wales and the said regions.

59. We will immediately return the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages of Wales, and the charters handed over to us as security for peace.

60. We will return of the sisters and hostages of Alexander, king of Scotland, his liberties and his rights, in the same manner as we shall do towards our other barons of England, unless it ought to be otherwise according to the charters that we hold from his father William, formerly king of Scotland. This matter shall be determined by the judgement of his peers in our court.

61. Moreover, all these previously described customs and liberties which we have granted shall be maintained in our kingdom as far as it concerns our own relations toward our men. Let these customs and liberties be observed similarly by all of our kingdom, by clergy as well as by laymen, in their relations towards their men.

62. Since for God, for the improvement of our kingdom, and to better allay the discord arisen between us and our barons, we have granted all these concessions, and wishing that the concessions be enjoyed in their entirety with firm endurance (for ever), we give and grant to the barons the following security:

63. Namely, that the barons choose any twenty-five barons of the kingdom they wish, who must with all their might observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter. Then, if we, our chief justiciar, our bailiffs or any of our officials, offend in any respect against any man, or break any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is notified to four of the said twenty-five barons, the four shall come to us—or to our chief justicicar if we are absent from the kingdom—to declare the transgression and petition that we make amends without delay.

64. And if we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, have not corrected the transgression within forty days, reckoned from the day on which the offence was declared to us (or to the chief justice if we are out of the realm), the four barons mentioned before shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons. Together with the community of the whole land, they shall then distrain and distress us in every way possible, namely by seizing castles, lands, possessions and in any other they can (saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children), until redress has been obtain in their opinion. And when amends have been made, they shall obey us as before.

65. Whoever in the country wants to, may take an oath to obey the orders of the twenty-five barons for the execution of all the previously mentioned matters and, with the barons, to distress us to the utmost of his power. We publicly and freely give permission to every one who wishes to take this oath, and we shall never forbid any one from taking it. Indeed, all those in the land who are unwilling to this oath, we shall by our command compel them to swear to it.

66. If any one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is in any other manner incapacitated so the previously mentioned provisions cannot be undertaken, the remaining barons of the twenty-five shall choose another in his place as they think fit, who shall be duly sworn in like the rest.

67. If there is any disagreement amongst the twenty-five barons on any matter presented to them, or if some of them are unwilling or unable to be present, what the majority of those present ordain or command shall be held as fixed and established, exactly as if all twenty-five had consented in this.

68. The said twenty-five barons shall swear to faithfully observe all the aforesaid articles and will do all they can to ensure that the articles are observed by others.

69. And we shall procure nothing from any one, either personally or indirectly, whereby any part of these concessions and liberties might be revoked or diminished; and if any such thing has been procured, let it be void and null, and we shall never make use of it ourselves or through someone else.

70. And all the ill-will, hatreds, and bitterness that have arisen between us and our people, clergy and laity, from the date of the quarrel, we have completely forgiven and pardoned to everyone. Moreover, we have fully forgiven and, as far as it concerns us, pardoned all transgressions occasioned by the said quarrel, between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign [1215] and the restoration of peace, to all, both clergy and laymen, and completely forgiven, as far as this applies to us.

Additionally, we have had letters patent drawn up for the barons, over the seals of lord Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, of the lord Henry, archbishop of Dublin, of the bishops mentioned before, and of Master Pandulf. The letters patent concern this security and the concessions previously stated.

Thus, we wish and we firmly ordain that the English church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these previously determined liberties, rights, and concessions, well and in peace, freely and quietly, in their fullness and integrity, for themselves and their heirs, from us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever, as is previously described here.

An oath has been sworn, on the one hand by us and on the other by the barons, that all the aforesaid provisions shall be observed in good faith and without evil intent.

Given under our hand—the above-named and many others being witnesses—in the meadow which is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our reign. [That is 1215—the new regnal year began on 28 May.]



Most High and Mighty Sovereigns,

In obedience to your Highnesses’ commands, and with submission to superior judgment, I will say whatever occurs to me in reference to the colonization and commerce of the Island of Espanola, and of the other islands, both those already discovered and those that may be discovered hereafter.

In the first place, as regards the Island of Espanola: Inasmuch as the number of colonists who desire to go thither amounts to two thousand, owing to the land being safer and better for farming and trading, and because it will serve as a place to which they can return and from which they can carry on trade with the neighboring islands:

1. That in the said island there shall be founded three or four towns, situated in the most convenient places, and that the settlers who are there be assigned to the aforesaid places and towns.

2. That for the better and more speedy colonization of the said island, no one shall have liberty to collect gold in it except those who have taken out colonists’ papers, and have built houses for their abode, in the town in which they are, that they may live united and in greater safety.

3. That each town shall have its alcalde [Mayor] … and its notary public, as is the use and custom in Castile.

4. That there shall be a church, and parish priests or friars to administer the sacraments, to perform divine worship, and for the conversion of the Indians.

5. That none of the colonists shall go to seek gold without a license from the governor or alcalde of the town where he lives; and that he must first take oath to return to the place whence he sets out, for the purpose of registering faithfully all the gold he may have found, and to return once a month, or once a week, as the time may have been set for him, to render account and show the quantity of said gold; and that this shall be written down by the notary before the aIcalde, or, if it seems better, that a friar or priest, deputed for the purpose, shall be also present.

6. That all the gold thus brought in shall be smelted immediately, and stamped with some mark that shall distinguish each town; and that the portion which belongs to your Highnesses shall be weighed, and given and consigned to each alcalde in his own town, and registered by the above-mentioned priest or friar, so that it shall not pass through the hands of only one person, and there shall he no opportunity to conceal the truth.

7. That all gold that may be found without the mark of one of the said towns in the possession of any one who has once registered in accordance with the above order shall be taken as forfeited, and that the accuser shall have one portion of it and your Highnesses the other.

8. That one per centum of all the gold that may be found shall be set aside for building churches and adorning the same, and for the support of the priests or friars belonging to them; and, if it should be thought proper to pay any thing to the alcaldes or notaries for their services, or for ensuring the faithful perforce of their duties, that this amount shall be sent to the governor or treasurer who may be appointed there by your Highnesses.

9. As regards the division of the gold, and the share that ought to be reserved for your Highnesses, this, in my opinion, must be left to the aforesaid governor and treasurer, because it will have to be greater or less according to the quantity of gold that may be found. Or, should it seem preferable, your Highnesses might, for the space of one year, take one half, and the collector the other, and a better arrangement for the division be made afterward.

10. That if the said alcaldes or notaries shall commit or be privy to any fraud, punishment shall be provided, and the same for the colonists who shall not have declared all the gold they have.

11. That in the said island there shall be a treasurer, with a clerk to assist him, who shall receive all the gold belonging to your Highnesses, and the alcaldes and notaries of the towns shall each keep a record of what they deliver to the said treasurer.

12. As, in the eagerness to get gold, every one will wish, naturally, to engage in its search in preference to any other employment, it seems to me that the privilege of going to look for gold ought to be withheld during some portion of each year, that there may be opportunity to have the other business necessary for the island performed.

13. In regard to the discovery of new countries, I think permission should be granted to all that wish to go, and more liberality used in the matter of the fifth, making the tax easier, in some fair way, in order that many may be disposed to go on voyages.

I will now give my opinion about ships going to the said Island of Espanola, and the order that should be maintained; and that is, that the said ships should only be allowed to discharge in one or two ports designated for the purpose, and should register there whatever cargo they bring or unload; and when the time for their departure comes, that they should sail from these same ports, and register all the cargo they take in, that nothing may be concealed.

* In reference to the transportation of gold from the island to Castile, that all of it should be taken on board the ship, both that belonging to your Highnesses and the property of every one else; that it should all be placed in one chest with two locks, with their keys, and that the master of the vessel keep one key and some person selected by the governor and treasurer the other; that there should come with the gold, for a testimony, a list of all that has been put into the said chest, properly marked, so that each owner may receive his own; and that, for the faithful performance of this duty, if any gold whatsoever is found outside of the said chest in any way, be it little or much, it shall be forfeited to your Highnesses.

* That all the ships that come from the said island shall be obliged to make their proper discharge in the port of Cadiz, and that no person shall disembark or other person be permitted to go on board until the ship has been visited by the person or persons deputed for that purpose, in the said city, by your Highnesses, to whom the master shall show all that he carries, and exhibit the manifest of all the cargo, it may be seen and examined if the said ship brings any thing hidden and not known at the time of lading.

* That the chest in which the said gold has been carried shall be opened in the presence of the magistrates of the said city of Cadiz, and of the person deputed for that purpose by your Highnesses, and his own property be given to each owner. –

I beg your Highnesses to hold me in your protection; and I remain, praying our Lord God for your Highnesses’ lives and the increase of much greater States.