Francisco De Vitoria

c.1486-1546. Spanish Dominican theologian and philosopher. Born at Vitoria in the Basque country, he joined the Dominicans in 1504 and later studied at the University of Paris, where he encountered Nominalism and Renaissance humanism. From 1523 to 1526 he lectured in theology at Gregorian College, Valladolid, and from 1526 till his death held the prime chair of theology at Salamanca. Though he made original contributions in politico-legal theory, he himself published nothing, and his ideas are to be found in the summaries of his classroom lectures posthumously published. Most famous are De Indis, De Iure Belli, and De Potestate Civili. Following Aristotle,* he saw that man must live in an organized society, but argued for the independence, self-sufficiency, and sovereignty of a local state whose power lies in the body politic, and whose purpose is to promote the common good and protect its citizens. The sovereign local state is in turn part of an international society. In dealing with the governance of this international society Vitoria pioneered the ideas, later developed by Suárez,* which form the basis of international law. There is a natural “law of nations” (jus gentium) which must legally govern the international community. Building upon these politico-juridical ideas, Vitoria developed his most famous position-a staunch advocacy of the rights of the New World Indians, and severe criticism of Spanish exploitation.

Studies in Spanish by C. Barcía Trelles (1928); L.G. Alonso Getino (1930); V. Beltrán de Heredia (1939); A. Truyol Serra (1946); and S. Lissarague (1947). ET of selections of his theological lectures was published by H.F. Wright (1917). See also H.F. Wright, Vitoria and the State (1932), and B. Hamilton, Political Thought in Sixteenth-Century Spain (1963).