American Indian Humanity Essay Research Paper 103000Arguments — страница 2

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confirmed the generic equality of men. In the Apologetica Historia, which is the second or Spanish part of the documentation used by Las Casas before the the debate in Valladolid, Las Casas offered an eloquent statement of the unity of mankind. Las Casas ultimately advanced a program calling for the suppression of the encomienda, liberation of the Indians from all forms of servitude except a small voluntary tribute to the Crown, and the restoration of the ancient Indian states and rulers, the rightful owners of those lands. Over these states the Spanish monarch would preside as “Emperor over many Kings” in order to fulfill his sacred mission of bringing the Indians to the Catholic Faith and the Christian way of life. This was the only Spanish title to the Indies that Las

Casas regarded as legitimate. The Kings’ agents in the performance of this mission would be a small number of model religious men who would cooperate with the native rulers, with the Indians separated from the corrupting and oppressive presence of lay Spaniards. Experience progressively radicalized Las Casas in his tactics as well as his program. Beginning about 1540 he gradually shifted from moralistic tactics of preaching, persuasion, and threatening encomenderos with divine wrath to promoting practical political measures like the New Laws of 1542. Las Casas had collected his notes regarding the Spanish treatment of the Indians, and formed a brief history of the conquest. He read his vivid accounts of the Spanish barbarity to the assembled court of Charles V. This first

version of The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account horrified the royal court. In response to this stunning account, Charles V issued his Leyes Nuevas (New Laws) which forbade Indian slavery and sought to end the encomienda system within a generation by outlawing the transference of encomiendas through family inheritance.2 To help enforce the new laws, Las Casas was named Bishop of Chiapas. The response from the encomenderos was swift and decisive. The conquistadores vented their rage against the dominicans in general and Las Casas in particular. The conquistadores of Peru launched a military revolt against the crown. Las Casas responded to the furry by decreeing that no absolution could be granted to those who still held Indians in encomiendas. Las Casas set up a council

of bishops to deal with those priests who refused to follow his verdict. The encomenderos sent envoys to the king, demanding that the new laws be struck down. The king did not hold his ground and the new laws were retrenched. By the end of 1545, the king ruled that an encomienda could be passed on to an heir. Las Casas had lost a major struggle. He returned to Spain in 1547, this time for good. In Spain, Las Casas faced an even more formidable challenge to his campaign for human rights for the indians. Juan Gines de Sepulveda, one of Spain’s leading humanists and philosophers, sought to publish a treatise on the just cause of war against the Indians based upon their inferior human nature. Sepulveda, even though he had an impressive intellect and powerful friends on the court,

was denied the right to publish his treatise. He chose to challenge his denial through a direct appeal before a jury of wise men, jurists, and theologians; Las Casas was elected to defend the contrary point of view in this oratorical duel. The Council of the Indies recommended that all New World conquests be halted until a decision was reached regarding the status of the Native Americans. The debate took place in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid in 1550.3 Sepulveda, one of the foremost specialists in Aristotelian thought of his time, argued that some people are by nature slaves and some are by nature masters. He based his theory upon Aristotle who in his Politics declared: “Those, therefore, who are as much inferior to others as are the body to the soul and beasts to

men, are by nature slaves…He is by nature slave…who shares in reason to the extent of apprehending it without possessing it.”4 Sepulveda believed that hierarchy, not equality, is the natural state of human society. Inspired by Aristotle’s Politics, he declares that all hierarchies are based on the same principle: “the domination of perfection over imperfection, of force over weakness, of eminent virtue over vice.”5 Sepulveda gives examples of this natural superiority: the body is subject to the soul, matter to form, children to parents, women to men, and slaves to masters. He uses this thought to justify the enslavement of the Indians: “In wisdom, skill, virtue, and humanity, these people are as inferior to the Spaniards as children are to adults and women to men;