The Claim of a Right of Christian Domination

What has been typically called “The Doctrine of Discovery” is, in my view, more accurately named “The Doctrine of Christian Domination.” The idea of “discovery” is only relevant in the sense of the monarchs of Christendom endeavoring to locate lands that were as yet unknown to the Christian world. Once lands matching that description were located by sailing across the ocean, the representatives of that particular monarch were instructed to conduct some ritual to symbolically claim a right of domination over that geographical location, whether it be by holding a handful of foreign soil, breaking a branch, sprinkling some water, waving a sword, or what have you.

In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, recounted some of that strange history, and examined what the court called the “right of discovery.” Marshall said that the “right of discovery” was well-illustrated by the royal commission that England’s King Henry VII gave to John Cabot and his sons. That commission instructed the Cabots to “seek out, discover, and find, whatsoever isles, countries, and provinces of the heathens and infidels that before this time have been unknown to all Christian people.”

In other words, the Cabots were told to go searching for lands where heathens and infidels were living, and once having arrived there to immediately assert a Christian right of domination over those peoples and their non-Christian lands. The U.S. Supreme Court called this claim of a right of domination “ultimate dominion.” Most people fail to realize that the word “dominion” is derived from the Latin idea of domination.