CHAPTER I. THE DAWN OF DISCOVERY
It may be thought that, if the Portuguese had really found a great new land to the southward of the spice islands, they would be proud of the achievement and would proclaim it to the world. But, on the contrary, their policy was to conceal the whereabouts and the resources of the countries which they discovered. They desired to secure for their own profit the whole of the trade with the East. Especially were they suspicious of the Spaniards, their neighbours in Europe, their rivals in oversea empire. The Portuguese being the first to discover the sea-route to the east round the Cape of Good Hope, and the Spaniards being the first to discover the way to America across the Atlantic, both realized that their interests would be bound to clash. Where was to be the dividing line between their respective spheres of operation? Pope Alexander VI settled their differences in 1493 by appropriating to the Portuguese all the discoveries to the east of a certain meridian, whilst the Spaniards were to take all that lay to the westward of that line. A little later the two nations voluntarily agreed to an amendment of the Pope's award, and fixed upon a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands as the line separating their two dominions.
But, while this line drawn through the Atlantic did very well before the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the agreement needed readjustment after Magellan sailed out of the Atlantic into the Pacific. The Moluccas were regarded as a very valuable possession on account of the spices yielded by them. The Portuguese, who had discovered these islands in 1512, contended that they were theirs. The Spaniards, however, contended that the Moluccas were on the western side of the line of partition; they were, urged the King of Spain, 'in his part of those countries which pertained unto him according to the Pope's bull.' Consequently there was 'great contention and strife between the Spaniards and the Portugals about the spicery and division of the Indies.' King John of Portugal, records a contemporary Spaniard, 'what of stoutness of mind and what for grief, was puffed up with anger, as were also the rest of the Portugals, storming as though they would have plucked down the sky with their hands, not a little fearing lest they should lose the trade of spices if the Spaniards should once put in their foot.' After much dispute the King of Spain and the King of Portugal each married the other's sister, 'whereat this matter waxed cold.' The Portuguese kept the Moluccas and paid a sum of money to the Spanish King for the dropping of his claim to them; whereat, says the Spanish chronicler, 'some marvelled, others were sorry, and all held their peace.' But the Spanish traders did not acknowledge that their rights had been surrendered by this amicable financial and nuptial bargain between the two kings, though it was for the moment expedient for them to hold their peace.
In view of these disputes between the rivals as to the possession of lands in the Pacific, and as the agreement of the kings did not imply any principle of permanent settlement by the two nations concerning this part of the globe, it was clearly in the interest of the Portuguese, if they did discover Australia, to publish nothing about it. The Spaniards would have had quite as good a claim to this country as to the Moluccas, and would have insisted that the sum which the Portuguese had paid on account of those islands by no means covered the large country to the south. The dispute about the Moluccas was ended in 1529, and the map comprehending 'Jave la Grande' is dated 1542. If, between those two dates, the Portuguese became aware of the existence of a large area of new country, was there not good reason for their suppressing what they knew? Indeed, no Portuguese map is known to exist showing any country in the vicinity of Australia. The 1542 map is of French origin. though the French had no navigators of their own on voyages of this kind so early. How the French cartographer procured his data we do not know; ingenious guesses have been made, but we cannot depend upon them.
Apart from their jealousy of the Spaniards, the Portuguese pursued the general policy of keeping secret their charts and sailing directions. They did not want to have people of other nations interfering in the trade of the Orient. A pilot or other person who gave to a foreigner information concerning the route taken by Portuguese ships on the voyage to the East Indies was liable to be punished by being put to death. We cannot wonder, then, that the history of Portuguese activity in Australasian waters is obscure.
Not until 1606 do we reach certain ground. In that year both Dutch and Spanish vessels were voyaging within sight of the Australian coast; and here at last we get in touch with people whom we know by name, and with first-hand contemporary documentary evidence which we can read and analyse.