Francisco de Vitoria

(1486 - 1546)

  Scholastic era theologian, philosopher, and professor, in Renaissance Spain. 


          Vitoria's series of three lectures, delivered in 1548 at the University of Salamanca and titled "On the Indians Lately Discovered," was the first serious challenge to Crusading-era papal authority over 'savages peoples' encountered in distant lands.  Vitoria argued that the sovereignty of native people existed as a condition that preceded their discovery by agents of European monarchs.  In order to substantiate such a radical departure from status quo convention, Vitoria developed three dramatically new ideas, and each of these was eventually grafted onto the enlightenment-era legal doctrines codified by Grotius and Vattel.  Most important, Vitoria asserted that Indians possess natural legal rights as free and rational peoples, and because they were free and rational, their sovereignty was inherent in the natural-law conditions that existed prior to their 'discovery' by European explorers.  (Click here for more on the man who laid the legal groundwork for Indian law in the Americas