A Sephardic Claim to the Territory of Labrador: the de la Penha Land Claim
Dr. Messod Salama Section of Hispanic Studies Department of French and Spanish
Wednesday March 18, 2015 7:00pm
Queen Elizabeth II Library, St. John’s Campus, Memorial University
A case submitted to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland at the beginning of the 20th century and reactivated more recently reveals a longstanding and ongoing claim by descendants of Rodrigo de la Penha, an influential seventeenth century Dutch merchant in the service of William of Orange (1650-1702). In return for de la Penha’s loyalty and financial support during the Glorious Revolution (1688) to this Prince, the territory of Labrador, a vast and uncharted northern region, seemed to have been granted to his descendants at perpetuity. This paper will explore the original background of the claim, the genealogy of the de la Penha family and with documents from the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, the validity of the submission as well as the various legal attempts to receive a recognition of this claim.
In addition, this paper will contextualize the role of de la Penha in the attempt of Dutch politicians and merchants as well as Sephardim to establish a vast network of commercial outports which enabled the Dutch Republics to become a maritime and mercantile world power.