American Indian Humanity Essay Research Paper 103000Arguments

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American Indian Humanity Essay, Research Paper 10/30/00 Arguments of American Indian Humanity By what right did the Europeans conquer the American Indians, take their land, and subjugate them? There were three arguments: 1) The view propounded by Bartolome de Las Casas, God’s angry man of the sixteenth century. He argued that all men are endowed with natural rights, that the Europeans had no right to enslave the Indians, that according to natural law the Indians were entitled to live as free men, under their own rulers and their own laws. 2) Juan Gines de Sepulveda, the greatest Aristotelian philosopher of the day, relied on the doctrine propounded by Aristotle in his Politics, that some races are inferior to others, that some men are born to slavery. By this reasoning, the

Europeans, a superior race, were justified in enslaving the Indians, an inferior race. Finally, 3) Francisco de Vitoria’s concept of the law of nations, which asserted that all people had certain inherent rights, including possession of a spirit or soul and the capacity for salvation. According to Vitoria, Indians could not be deprived of their possessions unless the Spaniards could advance a just cause for doing so. The importance of these arguments stretch the imagination as each searched for justice in the Indies. As a whole, the arguments forced Spaniards to recognize and act upon the atrocities developing in the Americas. New laws, codes, and rules to treat the Indians as equals were set forth as their notions inspired rulers of Spain to get involved. Also each can be used

as precedents in today’s society. Las Casas’s humility outraged conquistadors across the Indies, yet his basic idea of equality paved the way for future generations. Sepulveda’s intelligence battled for a topic that is still hotly debated today, for his notions serve as a guide for believers in a natural hierarchy. While Vitoria was light-years ahead of his time; his political notions involving minorities are still in use. In 1515, Bartolome de Las Casas pleaded on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. He was accompanied on his voyage by two other Dominican priests, including Antonio de Montesinos, who had been the first to preach the abolitionist message. Las Casas fervent rhetoric inflamed the religious and royal establishment and he quickly earned many

enemies among those who profited from the slave trade. Through sheer force of will alone, he gained audiences with the highest officials of church and state. In 1516, Cardinal Jimenez, the Spanish humanist, sent a commission to the west Indies to investigate abuses against the Indians and correct them. Las Casas was appointed special advisor to the commission, with the title “protector of the Indians.”1 Las Casas soon realized that the commission had little or no interest in attempting to stop the abuse and enslavement of the Indians. His struggle with the commission and the encomenderos only brought greater threats against his life. In 1517, he returned to Spain with a grand plan to liberate the Indians without overthrowing the colonial system. In his discussions with the

encomenderos, some had suggested that they would be willing to give up their Indian slaves if they would be allowed to trade them for African slaves. Las Casas proposed to the court, along with the abolition of Indian slavery, the right of each Spanish colonist to import twelve African slaves. The monarchy liked Las Casas plan and moved full speed to implement Las Casas proposal to extend the African slave trade to the Americas. Though Las Casas later greatly regretted this grave error, the wheels of an ominous machine had been set in motion. One hundred million lives would lie in its wake. Seemingly contradictory, Las Casas argued that no nation or race of men were slaves by nature; mentally deficient individuals were found in every nation, but these mistakes of nature only