American Indian Humanity Essay Research Paper 103000Arguments — страница 3

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there is as great a difference between them as there is between savagery and forbearance, between violence and moderation, almost, I am inclined to say, as between monkeys and men.”6 Sepulveda, who had never been to the Americas, built his three hour defense of the conquest, and the necessity of such, on four basic points. First, the Indians had committed grave sins by the idolatry and their sins against nature.7 Second, the Indians’ “natural rudeness and inferiority” cohered with the Aristotlean notion of natural hierarchy. Third, military conquest was the most effective method of converting the Indians to Christianity. Finally, conquering the Indians made it possible to establish order in their society and protect the weak from domination.8 Sepulveda further stated in

his Democratus Alter the following argument: “As St. Augustine says in epistle 75, the loss of a single soul dead without baptism exceeds in gravity the death of countless victims, even if they were innocent.”9 Sepulveda believes that there is a supreme and universal good in Christian salvation; acquisition of this value transcends that which the individual, itself, regards as the supreme good, i.e., life itself. The salvation of one justifies the enslavement, even the destruction, of thousands.10 Las Casas responded to Sepulveda’s argument by reading for five hours from his treatise Apologetica Historia. He began by distinctly rebutting Aristotle by placing him in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus: “Aristotle, farewell! From Christ, the eternal truth, we have the

commandment ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself’…Although he was a profound philosopher, Aristotle was not worthy to be captured in the chase so that he could come to God through knowledge of true faith.”11 Las Casas advocated the basic human rights of all people: The natural rules and laws and rights of men are common to all nations, Christians and gentiles, and whatever their sect, law, state, color, and condition, without any difference.” 12 He appreciates the Indians as civilized humans with a uniquely religious nature: “Rather, long before they had heard the word Spaniard, they had properly organized states, wisely ordered by excellent laws, religion, and custom.” With Francisco de Vitoria the common law took a decisive leap from the medieval to the modern

world. Vitoria’s exposition brings these developing principles to a new level, circumscribing the rights and duties of nations as nations; his Political Writings finally breaks out of the restrictive framework of a putative Roman Empire to view the nations as potentially a great community under law. Vitoria’s lectures on the Indies attempt to demonstrate that the relationship between Spaniards and Indians is essentially a relationship of equals. The Spaniards cannot presume that they can legitimately conquer the Indians by virtue of a supposed superior level of civilization. Even if that were the case, it would give no just cause. But it cannot even be proved that the Indians are entirely lacking in the arts of civilization: “…they have some order in their affairs: they

have properly organized cities, proper marriages, magistrates and overlords, laws, industries, and commerce, all of which require the use of reason. They likewise have a form of religion, and they correctly apprehend things which are evident to other men, which indicates the use of reason.” “Thus if they seem to us insensate and slow-witted, I put it down mainly to their evil and barbarous education. Even amongst ourselves we see many peasants who are little different from brute animals.”13 Though he later significantly qualifies this judgement, even going as far as to cast into doubt the Indians’ actual ability to govern themselves,14 it forms the basis for a series of far-reaching conclusions. He poses the question ‘do the barbarians hold dominion?’ His argument

against the dominion of the Indians is clearly stated as they were once sinners, unbelievers, madmen, or insensate, thus were insufficiently rational to govern themselves. But he clearly states that sinners, unbelievers, and madmen are all true masters. “The barbarians are not impeded from being true masters, publicly and privately, either by mortal sin in general or by the particular sin of unbelief. Nor can Christians use either of these arguments to support their title to dispossess the barbarians of their goods and lands.”15 Vitoria uses this analogy, “…these are the same rights we concede to Saracens and Jews, who have been continual enemies of the Christian religion. Yet we do not deny the right of ownership, unless it be in the case of Christian lands which they