Doctrine of Discovery

Paus Nicolaas V
Paus Nicolaas V

“The discovery doctrine, also called doctrine of discovery, is a concept of public international law that was promulgated by the Catholic Church and European monarchies in order to legitimize the colonization and evangelization of lands outside Europe. Between the mid-fifteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, this idea allowed European entities to seize lands inhabited by Indigenous peoples under the guise of “discovering new land”, meaning land not inhabited by Christians. The Doctrine of Discovery emerged during the Age of Exploration. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas, which authorized Portugal to conquer non-Christians and consign them to “perpetual servitude”. His successors issued several bulls confirming or expanding the Portuguese right to subjugate non-European peoples in newly explored territories. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the Bulls of Donation justifying Spain’s claims to the lands visited by Christopher Columbus in his expeditions of 1492 and later. Portugal ignored the Papal Bull, and in 1494, the two countries concluded the Treaty of Tordesillas, which essentially divided the world unknown to the rest of Europe between them. In 1506, Pope Julius II ratified the Treaty of Tordesillas between the Portuguese and the Spanish by issuing the bull “ea quae pro bono pacis” and turning the line of Tordesillas into a “papal line of demarcation”.”

“The kingdoms of France and England also used the Doctrine of Discovery to justify their claims on the New World, while refusing to recognize a Spanish-Portuguese duopoly in colonial affairs, with Francis I of France notably saying that he wanted to see the “testament of Adam” that divided the world between Portugal and Spain. Leo X and Clement VII accepted the French view and argued that the previous bulls in favor of Spain and Portugal did not apply to those lands, such as New France, explored and discovered by other nations. When colonial disputes arose between Christian nations, especially when two nations claimed to have discovered the same territory, the Pope would be consulted and requested to arbitrate the dispute. Following the English reformation and the break from Rome, England refused to recognize Papal bulls concerning the partition of the world as binding but retained the Doctrine of Discovery. The papal position evolved over time: in 1537, Pope Paul III issued the Bull Sublimis Deus which forbids the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (called “Indians of the West and the South”) and all other people. It states that the “Indians” are fully rational human beings who have rights to freedom and private property, even if they are not Christian.” (Wiki)

PresoulThe Doctrine of Discovery is a legal principle that was used by European colonizers to justify their claim to land that was already inhabited by indigenous peoples. The doctrine was based on the idea that the European explorers were the first todiscover the land, and therefore had the right to claim it as their own. This doctrine was used to justify the displacement of indigenous peoples, as well as the exploitation and abuse of their land and resources. The Doctrine of Discovery is a controversial and contested legal principle, and its continued use has been criticized by many as a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. The Doctrine of Discovery has its origins in the 15th century when the European colonizers first arrived in the Americas. The doctrine was first codified in the Papal Bull of 1493, which was issued by Pope Alexander VI. The bull granted the Spanish crown the right to claim any land that had not been previously claimed by another Christian sovereign. This doctrine was later adopted by other European colonizers and used to justify their own claims to land in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The Doctrine of Discovery has been heavily criticized by indigenous peoples and their allies. Critics argue that the doctrine is a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and that it has been used to justify the displacement and exploitation of these peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007, includes a provision that states that the doctrine islegally invalid and morally reprehensible“. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that called on member states to take measures to repudiate the doctrine. Despite these resolutions, the doctrine continues to be used by some states to justify their claims to land and resources. The Doctrine of Discovery is a controversial and contested legal principle. Its continued use has been criticized by many as a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. However, the doctrine continues to be used by some states to justify their claims to land and resources.” (TEWAI)
References:

1. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (2007). Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
2. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 65/198. (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/65/198
3. Papal Bull of 1493. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/15th_century/bulls.asp
4. The Doctrine of Discovery. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/DoctrineofDiscovery
5. Indigenous Peoples Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/IPeoplesIndex.aspx

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