Vitoria, Francisco de

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Vitoria, Francisco de

Francisco de Vitoria was a Spanish theologian, teacher, and defender of the rights of the Native Americans who inhabited the newly discovered continents of North and South America.

Vitoria was born circa 1483 in Vitoria, Álava, Spain. He taught at the University of Valladolid from 1523 until 1526. In that year, he moved to Salamanca, Spain, where he taught theology for the next twenty years.

Vitoria's campaign for the rights of native peoples started in 1532, when he began a series of lectures on that subject. He incorporated the substance of these lectures into a treatise entitled Relecciones De Indis et De iure belli [Readings on the Indians and on the Law of War]. The work not only advocated the case for the Native Americans but also presented basic precepts on the law of nations.

"[Jus gentium] is what natural reason has established among nations."
—Francisco de Vitoria

In his fight for freedom for Native Americans, Vitoria asserted that they owned the territories they inhabited and opposed their compulsory conversion to Christianity. He believed that the Spanish government should establish a ruling system that would benefit, not injure, the native people.

Vitoria believed that an ideal government would receive its authority from the people and would rely on the tenets of Natural Law and reason to enact laws beneficial to all.

Further readings

Anghie, Antony. 1996. "Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law." Social & Legal Studies 5 (September).

Hernandez, Ramon. 1992. "The Internationalization of Francisco de Vitoria and Domingo de Soto." Fordham International Law Journal 15 (summer).

Kennedy, David. 1986. "Primitive Legal Scholarship." Harvard International Law Journal 27 (winter).

Scott, James Brown. 1934. The Spanish Origin of International Law: Francisco de Vitoria and His Law of Nations. Reprint, 2000. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.


Native American Rights.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
VITORIA, Francisco de. Obras de Francisco de Vitoria.
VITORIA, Francisco de, Relectio de potestate civili.
Vitoria, Francisco de (1932-1935), Comentarios a la Secunda Secundae de Santo Tomas, Vicente Beltran de Heredia (ed.), 6 volumenes, Biblioteca de Teologos Espanoles, Salamanca, Asociacion Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid.
Vitoria, Francisco de (1952a), Comentarios al tratado de la Ley (I-IIae, qq.
Vitoria, Francisco de (1960), Obras de Francisco de Vitoria: relecciones teologicas, Teofilo Urdanoz (ed.), Editorial Catolica, Madrid.