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Title: Bartholomew de Las Casas; his life, apostolate, and writings
Author: MacNutt, Francis Augustus
Language: English
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              [Illustration: Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas]

                      Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas

           From the portrair drawn and engraved by Enguidanos.

Bartholomew de Las Casas; his life, apostolate, and writings

By Francis Augustus MacNutt

Cleveland, U.S.A.
The Arthur H. Clark Company


To my beloved wife, Margaret Van Cortlandt Ogden this volume is
affectionately dedicated


The controversies of which Bartholomew de Las Casas was, for more than
half a century, the central figure no longer move us, for slavery, as a
system, is dead and the claim of one race or of men to hold property
rights in the flesh and blood of another finds no defenders. We may study
the events of his tempestuous life with serene temper, solely for the
important light on the history of human progress.

It is sought in the present work to assign to the noblest Spaniard who
ever landed in the western world, his true place among those great spirits
who have defended and advanced the cause of just liberty, and, at the same
time, to depict the conditions under which the curse of slavery was first
introduced to North America.  It in no degree lessens the glory of Las
Casas to insist upon the historical fact that he was neither the first
Spaniard to defend the liberty of the American Indians, nor was he alone
in sustaining the struggle, to which the best years of a life that all but
spanned a century were exclusively dedicated.

Born in an age of both civil and religious despotism, his voice was
incessantly raised in vindication of the inherent and inalienable right of
every human being to the enjoyment of liberty.  He was preeminently a man
of action to whom nothing human was foreign, and whose gift of universal
sympathy co-existed with an uncommon practical ability to devise
corrective reforms that commanded the attention and won the approval of
the foremost statesmen and moralists of his time.  True, he also had a
vision of Utopia, and his flights of imaginative altruism frequently
elevated him so far above the realities of this world, that the
incorrigible frailties of human nature seemed to vanish from his
calculations, but when the rude awakening came, he neither forsook the
fight nor failed to profit by the bitter lesson.

When his dream of an ideal colony, peopled by perfect Christians labouring
for the conversion of model Indians, adorned with primitive virtues, was
dispelled, he girded his loins to meet his enemies with undiminished
courage, on the battle-ground they themselves had selected.  His moral
triumph was complete, and he issued from every encounter victorious.  The
fruits of his victories were not always immediate or satisfying, nor did
he live to see the practical application of all his principles, yet the
figure of this devoted champion of freedom stands on a pedestal of
enduring fame, of which the foundations rest on the eternal homage of all
lovers of justice and liberty, and it is the figure of a victor, who
served God and loved his fellow-men.

It will be seen in the following narrative, that monks of the Order of St.
Dominic were the first to defend the liberty of the Indian and his moral
dignity as a reasonable being, endowed with free will and understanding.
Associated in the popular conception with the foundation and extension of
the Inquisition, the Dominicans may appear in a somewhat unfamiliar guise
as torch-bearers of freedom in the vanguard of Spanish colonial expansion
in America, but such was the fact.  History has made but scant and
infrequent mention of these first obscure heroes, who faced obloquy and
even risked starvation in the midst of irate colonists, whose avarice and
brutality they fearlessly rebuked in the name of religion and humanity:
they sank, after lives of self-immolation, into nameless graves, sometimes
falling victims to the blind violence of the very Indians whose cause they
championed—protomartyrs of liberty in the new world.

The conditions under which Las Casas and his co-workers laboured were
discouragingly adverse.  The mailed conquerors and eager treasure-seekers
who followed in the wake of Columbus were consumed by two ruthless
passions—avarice and ambition.

Avarice and ambition alone, however, do not adequately explain their
undertakings, and we find among them a fierce zeal for Christian
propaganda strikingly disproportionate to their fitness to expound the
doctrines or illustrate the virtues of the Christian religion.  They seem
to have frequently compounded for their sins of sensuality and their deeds
of blood by championing the unity and purity of the faith—two things that
were held to be of paramount importance, especially in Spain, where to be
outside formal communion with the Church was to be either a Jew or a
Mahometan, or in other words, an enemy of God.

Perverted as their conception of the true spirit of Christian propaganda
may appear to us, it may not be doubted that many of these men were
animated by honest missionary zeal and actually thought their singular
methods would procure the conversion of the Indians.  On the other hand,
few of those who left Spain, animated by high motives, resisted the
prevalent seductions of avarice and ambition, amidst conditions so
singularly favourable to their gratification, and we find Las Casas
denouncing, as ridiculous and hypocritical, the pretensions to solicitude
for the spread of religion, under cover of which the colonists sought to
obtain royal sanction for the systems of slavery and serfage they had

The essential differences observable in the Spanish and English colonies
in America are traceable to the directly contrary systems of government
prevailing at that time in the mother countries.  All nations of Aryan
stock possessed certain fundamental features of government, inherited from
a common origin.  Climatic and geographical conditions operated with
divers other influences to produce race characteristics, from which the
several nations of modern Europe were gradually evolved.  Within each of
these nations, the inherited political principles common to all of them
were unequally and diversely developed.  The forms of political liberty
continued to survive in Spain, but, under Charles V., the government
became, in practice, an absolute monarchy, the liberties of the Córtes and
the Councils being gradually overshadowed by the ever-growing prerogatives
of the Crown.

In England, on the contrary, the share of the people in the government
was, in spite of opposition, of steady growth, only interrupted by
occasional periods of suspension, while the power of the Crown declined.
These conditions were repeated in the colonies of the two nations, with
some variations of form that were due to local influences in each of them.
The Spanish colonies relied entirely on the Crown and were, from the
outset, over-provided with royal officials from the grade of viceroy to
that of policeman, and even with clergy, all of whom were appointed by the
king’s sole authority and were removable at his pleasure.  These
settlements generally owed their existence to private enterprise, having
been founded by explorers and treasure-seekers, but in none of them did
the colonists enjoy any political rights or liberties, other than what it
pleased the sovereign to grant them.

They were ruled through a bureaucracy, of which were the members were
rarely efficient and usually corrupt, hence it followed that Spaniards
were bereft of any incentive to colonise, save one—their individual
aggrandisement.  Their inherited habit of obedience reconciled them to the
absence of any share in the direction and control of the colony in which
their lot was thrown, but such a system of administration deprived them of
the possibility of acquiring experience in the management of public
affairs.  Its effects were pernicious and far-reaching, for when the
colonies outgrew the bonds that linked them to Spain, their people,
ignorant of the meaning of true liberty, and untrained in self-government,
followed their instinct of blind submission to direction from above, and
fell an easy prey to demagogues.  Deprived of participation in framing the
laws, the colonists employed their ingenuity in devising means to evade or
nullify those which they deemed obnoxious or contrary to their interests,
and constant practice soon perfected their perverted activities in this
direction, until obstruction and procrastination were erected into a
system, against which even royal decrees were powerless.

The results that followed were logical and inevitable.  Laws devoid of
sufficient force to ensure their effective execution fail to afford the
relief or protection their enactment designs to provide, and ineffectual
laws are worse than no laws at all, for their defeat weakens the
government that enacts them and tends to bring all law into contempt.
Conditions of distance, the corruption of the colonial officials, the
conflict between local authorities, and the astutely organised opposition
of the colonists repeatedly thwarted the honest efforts of the home
government to safeguard the liberty of the Indians, which the Spanish
sovereigns had defined to be natural and inalienable, definitions that had
received the solemn sanction of the Roman pontiffs.

Spanish and English methods of dealing with the aboriginal tribes of
America offer as sharp a contrast as do their respective systems of
colonial government.  Whether the devil himself possesses ingenuity in
inflicting suffering, superior to that displayed by the Spanish conquerors
and their immediate followers, has never been demonstrated.  The gentle,
unresisting natives of the West Indian Islands, whose delicate
constitutions incapacitated them to bear labours their masters exacted of
them, were their first victims.  The descriptions penned as of the
cruelties practised on these harmless creatures dispense me from the
ungrateful task of attempting to depict them.  But, while the individual
Indian suffered inhuman tortures at the hands of the Spaniards, the race
survived and, by amalgamation with the invaders, it continues to
propagate, and to rise in the scale of humanity.

The English colonists found different conditions waiting them when they
landed on the northern coasts of America, where the Indian tribes were
neither gentle nor submissive.  Two absolutely alien and hostile races
faced one another, of which the higher professed small concern for the
amelioration of the lower, while amalgamation was excluded by the mutual
pride of race and the instinctive enmity that divided them.  There was no
enslaving of Indians, and the torturing was done entirely by the savages,
but, while the English method spared the individual Indian the suffering
his defenceless brother in the south had to endure, the aboriginal races
have everywhere receded before the relentless advance of civilisation.
The battle between the civilised and savage peoples has been
uncompromising; the stronger of the Indian nations have gone down,
fighting, while the remnants of such tribes as survive remain herded on
the ever-encroaching frontiers of a civilisation in which a tolerable
place has been but tardily provided for them.  We cannot escape the
conclusion that our treatment of the races we have displaced and
exterminated has been as systematically and remorselessly destructive as
was the spasmodic and ofttimes sportive cruelty operated by the Spaniards.
The Spanish national conscience recognised the obligation of civilising
and Christianising the Indians, a task which Spaniards finally
accomplished.  The Spanish sovereigns were honestly desirous of protecting
their new subjects, and the injustice inflicted on the latter was done in
defiance of the laws they enacted, as well as of public opinion in Spain,
which condemned it as severely as could the most advanced humanitarian
sentiment of our own times.

Las Casas voiced this condemnation and organised a masterly campaign of
education on the subject of the proper method of dealing with the Indians.
He suffered and endured for their sakes, while the men whose selfish and
inhuman undertakings he thwarted poured the vilest abuse and calumny upon
him.  Nature had mercifully endowed him with no sensitiveness save for the
sufferings of the oppressed, and he was as much a born fighter as the
fiercest conqueror who ever landed in Spanish America.  He waged a moral
battle, animated by only the noblest motives, and in his damning
arraignment of his countrymen, he eschewed personalities and, with a
charity as rare as it was becoming to his sacerdotal character, he
occupied himself exclusively with the principles at stake, leaving the
punishment of the criminals to the final justice of God.

The records of the earliest peoples of whom history preserves
knowledge—Chaldeans, Egyptians, Phenicians, and Arabians—show that slavery
has existed the remotest antiquity.  Slavery was the common fate of
prisoners of war in the time of Homer; Alexander sold the inhabitants of
Thebes, and the Spartans reduced the entire population of Helos to
servitude, so that Helot came to be synonymous with slave, while one of
the laws inscribed on the Twelve Tables of Rome gave a creditor the right
to sell an insolvent debtor into slavery to satisfy his claim.  Wealthy
Romans frequently possessed slaves, over whose lives and fortunes the
owners were absolute masters.

Christianity first taught the unity and equality of mankind; salvation was
for bond and free, for Jew and Gentile; the immortality of each human soul
was affirmed; each man’s body was defined of the Holy Ghost and a new
dignity was conferred by these novel doctrines on universal mankind, which
the lowly shared equally with the mighty.  The Christian conception of
liberty and equality however, referred more to the moral than to the
material order.  “The truth shall make you free.”  It was not subversive
of existing mundane conditions, but taught the duty of rendering Caesar
his due, and of the servant being subject to his lord, the woman to her
husband, and children to their parents.  The early Christians too
sincerely despised the prizes of this world—including the greatest of all,
liberty—to struggle for possession of any of them; unresponsive to the
lure of earthly honours and treasures, they fixed their desires on things
eternal.  Slavery continued to coexist with Christianity: children were
sold publicly in the markets of Bristol during the reign of King Alfred,
and the villeins were bound to the glebe, changing masters with the
transfer of the property from one proprietor to another.  The laws of
Richard III. and of Edward VI. dealt severely, not only with slaves, but
with all deserters, runaway apprentices, and other recalcitrant
dependents, who were reduced to partial or perpetual slavery for the most
trivial offences.  The condition of these various categories of bondmen,
however, was more one of serfage and vassalage, the ancient system of
slavery that had culminated in the Roman Empire having been modified by
the mild doctrines of Christianity and the gradual spread of the new

From the discoveries along the west coast of Africa, made by the
Portuguese in the first half of the fifteenth century, may be dated the
revival of the trade in slaves for purely commercial purposes.  Portugal
and southern Spain were thenceforward regularly supplied with cargoes of
negroes, numbering between seven and eight hundred yearly.  The promoter
of these expeditions was Prince Henry of Portugal, third son of John I.
and Philippa, daughter of John Gaunt, though in justice to that amiable
and learned prince, it must be borne in mind that the capture and sale of
negroes was merely incidental to explorations the unary purpose of which
was purely scientific.  Prince Henry held that the negroes thus captured
into his dominions were amply compensated for the loss of such uncertain
liberty as they enjoyed, by receiving the light of Christian teaching.  It
seems evident that most of them merely changed masters and probably gained
by the exchange,  for they were born subjects of barbarous rulers,  in
lands where the traffic in slaves was active. Many were obtained from the
Arabs and Moors, who already held them in bondage and, without minimising
the sufferings inseparable from all slave-trade, we may not unreasonably
assume that those who reached Portugal and Spain were the least
unfortunate of all their kind.

Las Casas, being a native of Andalusia, was familiar with this
slave-trade, for Seville was well provided with domestic slaves, whose lot
was not a particularly hard one.  So much a matter of course was the
presence of these negroes in Spain, that he never admits he had never duly
considered their condition or the matter of their capture and sale.  It
thus fell, as will be later described, that he assented to the demands of
the Spanish colonists in the Indies for permission to import Africans from
Spain to take the place of the rapidly perishing Indians.  In the
recommendation of this measure, several later historians pretended to
discover the origin of negro slavery in America, despite the authenticated
fact that sixteen years before Las Casas advised the importation of
negroes into the Indies, the slave-trade had been begun; nor is it
unlikely that other negroes had been brought to America by their Spanish
owners at a still earlier date.  Although the original intention had been
to import only Christian negroes, this provision of the law had been
easily and persistently evaded, under the leniency and indifference of the
authorities, who connived at such profitable violation.  It was contended
that the labour problem in the colonies admitted of no other solution; the
inefficient Indians were rapidly disappearing, of white labour there was
none, and, to respond to the demand for labourers, the Dominican Order, in
1510, sanctioned the importation of negroes direct from Africa, still
maintaining the proviso that all who were Jews or Mahometans should be

Ovando had reported the Indians as so naturally indolent that no wages
could induce them to work.  He represented them as flying from contact
with the Spaniards, leaving Queen Isabella to suppose that their avoidance
was due to a natural antipathy to white men.  The Queen, in her zeal to
fulfil the conditions imposed on her conscience by the papal bull of
donation, was easily tricked by the representations of the Governor,
coinciding as they did with those of other advisers of influence and high
station, into assenting to the enforced labour of the Indians.

Her reason is explicitly stated to be “because we desire that the Indians
should be converted to our holy catholic faith and should learn doctrine.”
For this motive, and with many restrictions as to the period of work and
the kinds of labour to be performed by the natives, the gentle treatment
to be shown them, and the wages to be paid them, the royal order was
finally issued.  It is evident that the misinformed and deluded sovereign
regarded the labour of the Indians almost as a pretext for bringing them
into contact with the Spaniards, solely for their own spiritual and moral

The discovery of America, following as it did so closely upon the
development of the negro slave traffic, had given great impetus to it and,
during the three succeeding centuries, Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards,
English, and Dutch quickly became close rivals for an ignominious primacy
in the most heinous of crimes.  The highest figures I have found, assign
to England one hundred and thirty vessels engaged in the trade, and
forty-two thousand negroes landed in the Americas during the year 1786
from English ships.  The annals of slavery are so uniformly black, that
among all the nations there is not found one guiltless, to cast the first
stone.  More than their due proportion of obloquy has been visited upon
the Spaniards for their part in the extension of slavery and for the
offences against justice and humanity committed in the New World, almost
as though they alone deserved the pillory.  Consideration of the facts
here briefly touched upon should serve to restrain and temper the
condemnation that irreflection has too often allowed us to heap
exclusively upon them for their share in these great iniquities.  If they
were pitiless towards individuals, we have shown ourselves merciless
towards the race; as a nation, they recognised moral duties and
responsibilities towards Indian peoples which our forefathers ignored or
repudiated; the failure of the benevolent laws enacted by Spanish
sovereigns was chiefly due to the avarice and brutality of individuals,
who were able to elude both the provisions of the law and the punishment
their crimes merited.  On the other hand, Las Casas thrilled two worlds
with his denunciations of crimes which our own enlightened country
continued for three centuries to protect.  His apostolate was prompted,
not by the horrors he witnessed nor by merely emotional sympathy, but by
meditation on the fundamental principles of justice.  The Scripture texts
that startled him from the moral lethargy in which he had lived during
eight years, revealed to him the blasphemy involved in the performance of
acts of formal piety and works of benevolence, by men who degraded God’s
image in their fellow-men and sacrificed hecatombs of human victims to
gratify their greed for riches.

From the hour of his awakening, we follow him during sixty years of
ceaseless activity such as few men have ever displayed.  His vehemence
tormented his adversaries beyond endurance, and they charged him with
stirring up dissensions and strife in the colonies, ruining trade,
discouraging emigration to the Indies, and, by his importunate and
reckless propaganda, with inciting the Indians to rebellion.  Granting
that some abuses existed, they argued that his methods for redressing them
were more pernicious than the evils themselves; prudent measures should be
employed, not the radical and precipitate method of the fanatical friar,
and time would gradually do the rest.  Men who argued such as the Bishop
of Burgos and Lope Conchillos, were large holders of encomienda
properties, who objected to having their sources of income disturbed.  Las
Casas penetrated the flimsy disguise they sought to throw over their real
purpose, to smother the truth the better to consolidate and extend their
interests, and realising that his only hope of success lay in keeping the
subject always to the front, he pursued his inexorable course of teaching,
writing, journeying to America to impeach judges and excommunicate
refractory colonists, and thence back again to Spain to publish his
accusations broadcast and petition redress from the King and his Councils.

The most respectable of his contemporary opponents in the New World was
Toribio de Benevente, under his popular Indian name of Motolinia. In 1555,
Motolinia wrote a letter to in which he dealt severely with the
accusations of Las Casas, whom he described as a restless, turbulent man,
who wandered from one colony to another, provoking disturbances and
scandals.  He confined himself to a general denial of the alleged
outrages, without attempting to refute them by presenting proofs of their
falsity, while his indignation was prompted by his patriotism.  He was
shocked that a Spaniard should publish such accusations against his own
countrymen; things which would be read by foreigners and even by Indians,
and thus bring reproach on the Spanish national honour.  He expressed
astonishment that the Emperor permitted the publication and circulation of
such books, taxing their author with wilful exaggeration and false
statements, and pointing out that the accusations brought more dishonour
on the monarch than on his subjects.

Motolinia was a devout man, whose apostolic life among the Indians won him
his dearly loved name, equivalent to “the poor man” or poverello of St.
Francis, but with all his virtues, he belonged to the type of churchman
that dreads scandal above everything else.  The methods of Las Casas
scandalised him; it wounded his patriotism that Spaniards should be held
up to the execration of Christendom, and he rightly apprehended that such
damaging information, published broadcast, would serve as a formidable
weapon in the hands of the adversaries of his church and country.  It must
also be remembered that he lived in Mexico, where Las Casas admits that
the condition of the Indians was better than in the islands and other
parts of the coast country.

The Bishop of Burgos and Lope Conchillos will be seen to be fair exponents
of the bureaucratic type of opponents to the reforms Las Casas advocated.
The Bishop in particular appears in an unsympathetic light throughout his
long administration of American affairs.  Of choleric temper, his manners
were aggressive and authoritative, and he used his high position to
advance his private interests.  He was a disciplinarian, a bureaucrat
averse to novelties and hostile to enthusiasms.  He anticipated
Talleyrand’s maxim “Sûrtout pas de zole,” and to be nagged at by a
meddlesome friar was intolerable to him.  Such men were probably no more
consciously inhuman than many otherwise irreproachable people of all
times, who complacently pocket dividends from deadly industries, without a
thought to the obscure producers of their wealth or to the conditions of
moral and physical degradation amidst which their brief lives are spent.

The most formidable of all the adversaries of Las Casas was Gines de
Sepulveda.  A man of acute intellect, vast learning, and superlative
eloquence, this practiced debater stood for theocracy and despotism,
defending the papal and royal claims to jurisdiction over the New World.
In striving to establish a dual tyranny over the souls and bodies of its
inhabitants, he concerned himself not at all with the human aspect of the
question nor did he even pretend to controvert the facts with which his
opponent met him.  He was exclusively engaged in upholding the abstract
right of the Pope and the Spanish sovereigns to exercise spiritual and
temporal jurisdiction over heathen, as well as Catholic peoples. To impugn
this principle was, according to Sepulveda, to strike at the very
foundations of Christendom; that a few thousands of pagans, more or less,
suffered and perished, was of small importance, compared with the
maintenance of this elemental principal.  First conquer and then convert,
was his maxim.  His thesis constitutes the very negation of Christianity.

                 [Illustration: Juan Gines de Sepúlveda]

                         Juan Gines de Sepúlveda

     From the engraving by J. Barcelon, after the drawing of J. Maca.

Las Casas repeatedly challenged his opponents to refute his allegations or
to contradict his facts and, in a letter to Carranza de Miranda in 1556,
he wrote:

“It is moreover deplorable that, after having denounced this destruction
of peoples to our sovereigns and their councils a thousand times during
forty years, nobody has yet dreamed of proving the contrary and, after
having done so, of punishing me by the shame of a retraction.  The royal
archives are filled with records of trials, reports, denunciations, and a
quantity of other proofs of the assassinations…There exists also positive
evidence of the immense population of Hispaniola—greater than that of all
Spain—and of the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, and more than forty other
islands, where neither animals nor vegetation survive.  These countries
are larger than the space that separates us from Persia, and the
terra-firma is twice as considerable…I defy any living man, if he be not a
fool, to dare deny what I allege, and to prove the contrary.”

His enemies were devoid of scruples, and unsparingly used every means to
nullify his influence and destroy his credit.  He was ridiculed as a
madman—a monomaniac on the subject of Indians and their rights; his
plainly stated facts were branded as exaggerations, though nobody accepted
his challenge to contradict them.  Such tactics alternated with others,
for he was also described as a heretic, as disloyal and unpatriotic,
seeking to impeach the validity of Spanish sovereignty in the Indies and
to bring ruin on the national interests.

The missionary period of the life of Las Casas in America ended with his
return to Spain in 1549 and the resignation of his episcopal see that
followed in 1552.  From that time may be dated the third and last period
of his life, which was marked by his literary activity, for, though he
never again visited America, his vigilance and energy in defending the
interests of the Indians underwent no diminution.  His writings were
extraordinarily luminous; and all he wrote treated of but one subject.  He
himself declared that his sole reason for writing more than two thousand
pages in Latin was to proclaim the truth concerning Indians, who were
defamed by being represented as devoid of human understanding and brutes.
This defamation of an entire race outraged his sense of justice, and the
very excesses of the colonists provoked the reaction that was destined to
ultimately check them.

Of all his numerous works the two that are of great and permanent interest
to students of American history, the _Historia General_ and the _Historia
Apologetica de las Indias_, were originally designed to form a single
work.  The writer informs us he began this work in 1527 while he resided
in the Dominican monastery near Puerto de Plata.

Fabié writes that his examination of the original manuscripts of the two
works preserved in the library of the Spanish Academy of History in
Madrid, shows that the first chapter of the _Apologetica_ was originally
the fifty-eighth of the _Historia General_.  Prescott possessed a copy of
these manuscripts, which is believed to have been burned in Boston in
1872, and other copies still exist in America in the Congressional and
Lenox Libraries, and in the Hubert Howe Bancroft collection.

During his constant journeying to and fro, much of the material Las Casas
had collected for the _Historia General_ was lost and when he began to put
that work into its actual form—probably in 1552 or 1553—he was obliged to
rely on his memory for many of his facts, while others were drawn from the
_Historia del Almirante, Don Cristobal Colon_, written by the son of
Christopher Columbus, Fernando.

The first historian who had access to the original manuscript, in spite of
the instruction of Las Casas to his executors to withhold them from
publication for a period of forty years after his death, was Herrera, who
dipped plenis manibus into their contents, incorporating entire chapters
in his own work published in 1601.  His book obtained a wide circulation
despite the fact that it was prohibited in Spain.

It was not until 1875-1876 that a complete edition of the _Historia
General_ and the _Apologetica_ was printed in Spanish.  This work was
edited in five volumes by the Marques de la Fuensanta and Señor José
Sancho Rayon, and was issued by the Royal Academy of History in Madrid.  A
Mexican edition of the _Historia General_ in two volumes, but without the
_Apologetica_, appeared in 1878. The _Historia Apologetica_ treats of the
natural history, the climate, the flora, fauna, and various products of
the Indies, as well as of the different races inhabiting the several
countries; their character, costumes, habits, and forms of government.
Though its purpose bore less directly upon the injustices under which the
natives suffered, it was none the less educational, the author’s purpose
being to put before his countrymen a minute and accurate description of
the New World and its inhabitants that should vindicate the latter’s right
to equitable treatment at the hands of their conquerors.  Misrepresented
and defamed, as he maintained the Indians were, by the mendacious reports
sent to Spain, Las Casas composed this interesting apology as one part of
his scheme of defence.  As a monument to his vast erudition, his powers of
observation, and his talents as a writer, the _Apologetica_ is perhaps the
most remarkable of all his compositions.

I append to this present volume an English translation of the most
celebrated of all the writings of Las Casas; that is, of the short
treatise published in 1552 in Seville under the title of _Brevissima
Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias_, and which recited in brief form
his accusations against the conquerors and his descriptions of the
cruelties that formed the groundwork of all his writings.

This was the first of nine tracts, all treating different aspects of the
same subject.  The full titles of these little books, of which a complete
set is now extremely valuable, may be found in Henry Harrisse, _Notes on
Columbus_, pp. 18-24; also in Brunet’s _Manuel_, the Carter-Brown
Catalogue, and other bibliographical works.

The first quarto gothic edition, printed by Trujillo in Seville in 1552,
entitled _Las Obras Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias
Occidentales por los Españoles_, contains seven tracts.  The second
edition, in Barcelona, 1646, bore the title _Las Obras de B. de Las
Casas_, and contains the first five tracts.

The _Brevissima Relacion_ was quickly translated into most of the
languages of Europe.  A French version, published in Antwerp in 1579, was
entitled _Tyrannies et Cruautés des Espagnols_, par Jacques de Miggrode.
_Le Miroir de la tyrannie Espagnole_, illustrated by seventeen horribly
realistic engravings by De Bry, contains extracts from several of the nine
treatises, composed into one work, issued in Amsterdam in 1620. Other
editions followed in Paris in 1635, in Lyons in 1642, and again two others
in Paris in 1697 and 1701: these latter were translated and edited by the
Abbé de Bellegarde.

The Italian translation, made by Giacomo Castellani, followed closely the
original text, by which it was accompanied; editions were printed in
Venice in 1626, 1630, and 1643, bearing the title _Istoria o Brevissima
Relatione della Distruttione dell’ Indie Occidentali_.  Three different
Latin versions were published as follows: _Narratio regionum Indicarum per
Hispanos quosdam devastatarum Verissima_, per B. Casaum, Anno 1582;
_Hispanice, anno vero hoc Lating excusa_, Francofurti, 1597; _Regionum
Indicarum Hispanos olim devastatarum accuratissima descriptio. Editio
nova, correctior…_Heidelbergae 1664. Despite the fact that Las Casas was
the first and most vehement in denouncing the Spanish conquerors as bad
patriots and worse Christians, whose acts outraged religion and disgraced
Spain, his evidence against his countrymen was diligently spread by all
enemies of his country, especially in England and the Netherlands, while
Protestant controversialists quoted him against popery, and in the conduct
of the conquerors the evidences of the Catholic depravity.

The earliest English edition was printed in 1583 under the title of _The
Spanish Colonie or Briefe Chronicle of the Acts and Gestes of the
Spaniardes in the West Indies, called the Newe Worlde, for a space of XL

John Phillips, who was a nephew of Milton, dedicated another version,
called _The Tears of the Indians_, to Oliver Cromwell.

Other English editions, bearing different names, appeared in 1614, 1656,
and 1689.  This last volume bore a truly startling title: _Casas’s horrid
Massacres, Butcheries and Cruelties that Hell and Malice could invent,
committed by the Spaniards in the West Indies_.  It doubtless had a large

Ten years later another edition was printed in London: _An Account of the
Voyages and Discoveries made by the Spaniards in America, containing the
exact Relation hitherto published of their unparalleled cruelties on the
Indians in the Destruction of about Forty Millions of People_.

The Netherlands being in revolt, both against the Catholic religion and
the Spanish government, it is not surprising to find that, in addition to
the French editions published in Amsterdam and Antwerp, no less than six
different versions were circulated in the Flemish and Dutch vernaculars,
as follows: _Seer cort Verhael van de destructie van d’Indien_, etc.,
Bruselas, 1578.  _Spieghel der Spaenscher tyrannye, in West Indien_, etc.,
Amstelredam, 1596.  Another edition of the same followed in the same year
and another in 1607. _Den Spieghel van de Spaenscher Tyrannie_, etc.,
Amstelredam, 1609.  Second edition of the same work in 1621.

A German translation entitled _Umständige Wahrhafftige Beschreibung der
Indianischen Ländern_, etc., was published at Frankfurt-am-Main, in 1645.

It seems hardly necessary, otherwise than as a matter of quaint chronicle,
to notice the fantastic attempt of the Neapolitan writer, Roselli, to
prove that the _Brevissima Relacion_ was not written by Las Casas, but was
composed years later by an unknown Frenchman.  This suggestion was too
agreeable to Spanish susceptibilities to lack approval in Spain when it
was first advanced, but it has since been consigned by general consent to
the limbo of fanciful inventions.

The limits of the present volume exclude the possibility of dealing
adequately with a life so fertile in effort, so rich in achievement, as
that of Las Casas, and I have confined myself to composing, from an
immense mass of material, a brief narrative of the acts and events that
seem to best illlustrate his character and to establish his claim to a
foremost place among the great moral heroes of the world.

I have drawn largely upon his own works, and by frequent and ample
quotations from his speeches I have sought to reveal my hero more
intimitely to my readers.  In reluctantly quitting this field of
profitable research, I confidently promise myself the satisfaction of one
day seeing literature enriched by an abler presentation of this great
theme than I have felt myself prepared to undertake.

                                                       FRANCIS A. MACNUTT.
June, 1908.


Principal authorities consulted in the preparation of this work:

      ANTONIO DE REMESAL, _Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de
      Chiyapa_, 1619.
      DAVILA PADILLA,_ Historia de la Fundacion_, etc., 1625.
      ANTONIO DE HERRERA, _Historia General de las Indias Occidentales_,
      volume i. of Icazbalceta’s _Documentos Ineditos_.
      JUAN DE TORQUEMADA, _Monarquia Indiana_, 1614.
      AGOSTINO DE VETANCOURT, _Teatro Mexicano_, 1698.
      FRAY DOMINGO MARQUEZ, _Sacro Diario Dominicano_, 1697.
      J.A. LLORENTA, _Œuvres de Las Casas_, 1822.
      JOSÉ ANTONIO SACO, _Historia de la Esclavitud_, 1875-78.
      MANUEL JOSÉ QUINTANA, _Vidas de Españoles Celebres_, 1845.
      CARLOS GUTIERREZ, _Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, sus Tiempos y su
      Apostolado_, 1878.
      ANTONIO MARIA FABIÉ, _Vida y Escritos de Don Fray Bartolomé de Las
      Casas_, 1879.
      SIR ARTHUR HELPS, _The Spanish Conquest in America._
      HENRY STEVENS, _The New Laws of the Indies_, 1893.
      ARISTOTLE, _Politics_ (Canon Weldon’s translation).
      WILLIAM ROBERTSON, _History of America.  History of Charles V._
      FLÉCHIER, _Vie de Ximenez_.
      MARSOLLIER, _Vie de Ximenez_.
      BAUDIER, _Histoire de Ximenez_.
      HENRY HARRISSE, Notes on Columbus.
      JUSTIN WINSOR’S _Narrative and Critical History of America_.
      JOHN BOYD THATCHER’S_Christopher Columbus._




Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas
Juan Gines de Sepúlveda
Christopher Columbus
Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros
Charles V.
Paul III.
Philip II.
Scenes of Las Casas’s Labours
Holograph of Las Casas Giving Directions for the Publication of his Work.


The Spanish wars against the Moors, no less than the Crusades against the
Moslems in the Holy Land, enlisted under the Christian standard the
chivalry of Europe, and during the victorious campaign of the King, St.
Ferdinand, knights from France, Germany, Italy, and Flanders swelled the
ranks of the Spanish forces in Andalusia.  Amongst these foreign noblemen
were two French gentlemen called Casaus, who claimed descent from Guillen,
Viscount of Limoges, one of whom was killed during the siege of Seville.
The city was taken in 1252, and the surviving Casaus shared in the
apportionment of its spoils, and founded there a family, whose descendants
were destined to become numerous and illustrious.  The name _Casaus_
assumed with time the more Spanish form of Casas, though it continued to
be spelled in both ways for several centuries, and Bartholomew de Las
Casas himself used both spellings indifferently, especially during the
earlier years of his life.

This family ranked among the nobility of Seville and mention is found of
the confirmation by Alfonso XI. of Guillen de Las Casas in the office of
regidor of the city in 1318.  This same Guillen became Alcalde Mayor of
Seville, and when he died his body was buried in one of the chapels of the
cathedral.  His son, Alfonso, is stated in the chronicles of Don Juan II.
(1409) to have been appointed by the Infante, Don Fernando, to the
lieutenancy of Castillo de Priego, “because he was a valiant man who could
hold it well.”  The names of Guillen and Bartolomé are of frequent
recurrence in the annals of the family, whose members constantly occupied
the honourable offices of judge, alcalde mayor, and captain, using the
title of Don and intermarrying with the most illustrious families of

According to indications equivalent to proofs in the absence of any
positive record, from such respectable forebears descended Fray Bartolomé
de Las Casas, who was born in Seville, in 1474.  He himself speaks of
Seville as his native city, and the popular tradition, which fixes the
ancient suburb of Triana as his birthplace, was recognised in 1859 by the
municipality of Seville assigning the name of Calle del Procurador to one
of the streets of Triana, in honour of the Bishop, whose proudest title
was Protector (or Procurador) General of the Indians.

In his voluminous writings, which teem with information about the men and
events of his times, the references to his own family history are
infrequent and imperfect, so that from his own records of his life, very
little is to be gleaned concerning it.  His father’s name is variously
given by different writers as Alonso, Antonio, and Francisco, while he
himself states(1) that he was named Pedro, thus contradicting all his
biographers from Remesal, who was the first, down to Don Antonio Fabié,
whose admirable _Vida y Escritos_, published in 1879, was the last
important contribution on this interesting subject.  Zuñiga, in his
_Discurso de Ortices_, assumed that Alonso de las Casas and Beatriz
Maraver y Cegarra of Triana were the parents of Fray Bartholomew, but in
the _Anales de Sevilla_, a later work, Francisco is given as the father’s
name.  Neither Llorente nor Gutierrez, who has followed him, gives any
authority for his affirmation that the father’s name was Antonio, while
Quintana and Fabié accept Remesal(2) and name the father Francisco.

The genealogy of the family furnished me by the dean of the Royal College
of Heralds in Madrid shows the descent of Fray Bartholomew through his
frather, named Francisco, from Alonso de Las Casas, “Señor de Gomez
Cardeña, Veinticuatro de Seville, la Villa de Priego” in 1409, and his
wife, Maria Fernandez Marmolejo.  The children of this couple were
Guillen, Isabel, Juan, Pedro, and Francisco, who is described in the
genealogy as the father of Bartholomew.  Pedro, whom Fray Bartholomew
mentions as his father, is described as _Dean of Seville_, in which case
his ecclesiastical state would exclude matrimony and legitimate issue.

Fabié affirms that in several passages of his writings Fray Bartholomew
confirms the assertion of those authors who have designated his father as
Francisco, but he does not indicate the whereabouts of these passages nor
have I, in my unaided researches, succeeded in finding them.  The
descendants of the original founder of the family had multiplied and, by
the close of the fifteenth century, were divided into many prolific
branches, hence the difficulty of identifying the unimportant father of an
extraordinarily important son is not wonderful.  Las Casas himself may be
reasonably assumed to have known his own father’s name and we must
conclude, in view of his assertion, that all other authorities, including
the Royal College of Heralds, are wrong, and that not Francisco, but a
Pedro de Las Casas, who was not however Dean of Seville, was the immediate
progenitor of the illustrious Bishop of Chiapa.

The scarcity of positive information concerning his immediate family is
equalled by the paucity of trustworthy details of the first twenty-eight
years of Fray Bartholomew’s life.  He completed his studies and obtained
the degree of licentiate in law at the University of Salamanca, the most
celebrated in Spain, and which ranked high amongst the great seats of
learning in Europe at that time.  Jurisprudence was divided into the
branches of Roman law as interpreted by the school of Bologna, and of
canon law, the principles of which were interwoven with the common
practice, whose severer tendencies they somewhat tempered.  The precepts
of Aristotle as interpreted by scholastics formed the basis of
philosophical studies, and the Thomistic doctrine was taught by professors
of the Dominican Order.

It has been judiciously observed that in that age of growing absolutism,
both spiritual and temporal, only a skilful Thomistic scholar could have
discerned the limits to the legitimate exercise of the royal authority
which Las Casas so clearly perceived and so boldly defined in the very
presence of the autocratic sovereigns of Spain.

Grammar, ethics, physics, and the branches of learning necessary to
complete the education of a young man of his social position and mental
capacity, were doubtless embraced in his course of study.  His use of the
Latin tongue was fluent, though his style has been criticised as
cumbersome and wanting in elegance; certainly his writings abound in
diffuse generalities, a multiplicity of repetitions, and a vast array of
citations from Scripture and the classics which render his unexpurgated
manuscripts wearisome enough to modern readers.  He shared the defects of
most of his contemporaries in this respect and followed the fashion common
in his times. The training he received in the Spanish schools and the
University, and which he afterwards perfected—as will be seen—by the
studies he resumed after his profession in the Dominican Order, rendered
formidable as an advocate one whom nature had endowed with a rare gift of
eloquence, a passionate temperament, and a robust physical constitution
which seems to have been immune to the ills and fatigues that assail less
favoured mortals.  Gines de Sepulveda, whose forensic encounter with Las
Casas was one of the academic events of the sixteenth century, described
his adversary in a letter to a friend as “most subtle, most vigilant, and
most fluent, compared with whom Homer’s Ulysses was inert and stammering.”

The father of Las Casas accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second
voyage to America and acquired profitable interests in the island of
Hispaniola.  He returned to Spain in 1496, bringing with him an Indian lad
whom he sent as a present to his son, who was then a student at Salamanca.

Bartholomew’s ownership of this Indian boy was brief, owing to Queen
Isabella’s intense displeasure when she learned that Columbus had brought,
and permitted to be brought back Indians, as slaves.  Nothing sufficed to
appease the Queen’s indignation that the Admiral should thus dispose of
her new subjects without her leave and authority, and a royal order was
published from Granada, where the court then was, commanding, under pain
of death, that all those who had brought Indians to Spain as slaves should
send them back to America.  When Francisco de Bobadilla was sent in 1500
to Hispaniola to supersede Columbus as Governor, all these Indians
returned with him and Las Casas himself states, “Mine was of the number.”

Thus strangely is the future apostle of freedom first introduced to our
notice in the guise of a slave-holder, constrained by a royal edict to
surrender his human property.

Upon his return from Salamanca to Seville Las Casas found himself, through
his father’s relations with Columbus, in daily intercourse with the men
whose voyages and discoveries were thrilling Europe. Amongst these
navigators was his uncle Francisco de Peñulosa, and it was but natural
that his eager temperament should catch the adventurous fever which
prevailed throughout Spain and notably in Andalusia.  Salucchi, in his
Latin treatise on Hebrew coins, says that Las Casas accompanied his father
on the second voyage of Columbus in 1493 and brought back the Indian slave
himself.  Llorente, who has been followed by several modern writers,
asserts that his first voyage to America was made with Columbus on his
third expedition.  He deduces this conclusion from a statement at the
close of the Thirty Propositions which Las Casas addressed to the Royal
India Council in 1547 and from a sentence in the First Motive of his Ninth
Remedy which he presented to the Emperor in 1542.  The first of these
passages reads “Thus, most illustrious Sirs, have I thought since
forty-nine years, during which I have witnessed evil-doings in America and
since thirty-four years that I have studied law.”  The passage merely
refers to Columbus having permitted certain Spaniards who had rendered
important services during his voyage to bring back each an Indian and
concludes, “And I obtained one.”

                   [Illustration: Christopher Columbus]

                           Christopher Columbus

      From an engraving by P. Mercuri after a contemporary portrait

The deductions of both these learned writers would seem to require more
positive corroboration.  Not only are they destitute of confirmation, but
in the second chapter of his _Historia General_, Las Casas gives the names
of many persons who did accompany Columbus in 1493, describing several
incidents connected with that expedition and concluding by saying that he
heard all these things “from my father who returned [to America] with him,
when he went to found settlements in Hispaniola.”  In the preface which he
wrote in 1552 to accompany the publication of his history, _Destruycion de
las Indias_, which had been composed ten years earlier, he speaks of his
experience extending over more than fifty years, but in his _Historia
General_, which is almost a diary of the first half of his life in
America, the first voyage that he mentions is that of Don Nicholas de
Ovando in 1502.  Las Casas was most careful in describing every particular
of the events in which he had a part and he nowhere mentions that he
accompanied Columbus on any voyage, whereas he dwells at length upon the
expedition of Ovando, and in the third chapter of the second book of the
_Historia General_ he affirms, “I heard this with my own ears for I went
on that voyage with the Comendador de Lares [Ovando] to this island.”  The
phrase is characteristic, for the positive note is rarely absent in the
affirmations of Las Casas, nor is it admissible that his experiences on
any voyage previous to that of Ovando should find no place in the exact
and scrupulous narrative he has left us of his relations with America and
his beloved Indians.

In consequence of the persistent and bitter complaints of Columbus against
the second Governor of Hispaniola, whose appointment violated the rights
secured to the Admiral and his successors by the capitulations of Granada,
the catholic sovereign decided to recall Francisco de Bobadilla, whose
administration gave cause for dissatisfaction in other respects, and to
send Don Nicholas de Ovando to replace him.  Ovando was at that time
Comendador de Lares and was later raised to the supreme commandership of
the Order of Calatrava.  He is described as a most prudent man, worthy to
govern any number of people, but not Indians; man in word and deed, an
avowed enemy of avarice and covetousness; not wanting in humility, as
shown in his habits of life, both public and private, though he maintained
the dignity and authority of his position.(3)

The new Governor was endowed with full powers to judge the accusations
against his predecessor and to dispose of the nettlesome questions which
had provoked the Roldan rebellion.

The preparations for his departure were delayed by many causes; his fleet
was the most considerable one that had thus far been organised to sail for
America, being composed of thirty-two vessels on which were to sail some
two thousand five hundred persons, many of whom were knights and noblemen.
Twelve Franciscan friars under the direction of their leader, Fray Alonso
del Espinal, formed part of the company.

It was this brilliant expedition that Fernando Cortes intended to join
when he was prevented by injuries incurred while engaged in an amorous
adventure which led him over garden walls into risky situations where he
ended with broken bones, and was consequently left behind.  The fleet
sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda on February 13, 1502, which according
to Las Casas was the first Sunday in lent of that year.(4)

The usual course, by way of the Canary Islands, was followed, but after
eight days at sea, a violent tempest wrecked one ship, _La Rabida_, with
one hundred and twenty people on board, and scattered the remainder; some
vessels were obliged to throw most of their cargo overboard, but all,
after many dangers, gradually found refuge in various ports of the
neighbouring islands.

The wreckage of _La Rabida_, and that of some other vessels which had also
foundered while carrying sugar from the islands, drifted back to the
Spanish coast and gave rise to the rumour that the entire fleet was lost.
This caused such a general sense of affliction that the sovereigns, on
receipt of this false report, shut themselves up in the palace at Granada
and mourned for eight days.

The vessels which had weathered the tempest united after some delay in the
port of the island of Gomera, and being joined there by another, fitted
out in the Canaries by people eager to go to America, the fleet was thus
brought up to its original complement.  The commander divided his squadron
in to two sections, the first of which, composed of the fastest vessels,
he kept under his command, while the second was placed under command of
Antonio de Torres.  Ovando’s division reached Hispaniola on the fifteenth
of April and the second squadron came safely to port some twelve days
later.  Thus did Bartholomew de Las Casas first land in the New World.


In the ever-memorable month of October, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed
on the shores of the New World he had discovered by sailing westward.  To
this great undertaking Columbus had advanced through a long career during
which he had had unusual adventures and experiences in almost every part
of the known world.  A Genoese by birth, he had studied at Pavia,(5) where
he had acquired some knowledge of Latin, and was introduced to the study
of those sciences to which his inclinations and his opportunities enabled
him later to devote himself.  He knew the Atlantic Coast from El Mina in
Africa,(6) to England and Iceland,(7) and he had visited the Levant(8)and
the islands of the Grecian Archipelago.

Writing of himself to the Catholic sovereigns, he says that he had been a
sailor from his earliest youth, and curious to discover the secrets of the
world.  This same impulse led him to the study of navigation, cosmography,
and kindred sciences, and his son Ferdinand states that the book which
most influenced his father was the _Cosmographia_ of Cardinal Aliaco in
which he read the following passage: Et dicit Aristoteles ut mare parvum
est inter finem Hispanicæ a parte Occidentis, et inter principium Indiæ a
parte Orientis.  Et non loquitur de Hispaniâ citeriori quæ nunc Hispania
communiter dicitur sed de Hispaniâ ulteriori quæ nunc Africa dicitur.(9)

The illustrious Florentine, Paolo Toscanelli, definitely encouraged the
conviction Columbus had formed from his reading of Marco Polo’s
descriptions of Cipango, Cathay, and the Grand Khan, that the lands might
be reached by sailing west, and there was doubtless little the ancients
had written concerning the existence of islands and continents lying
beyond the Pillars of Hercules with which he was not acquainted.

The story of his attempts to secure the necessary means and authority for
undertaking his great enterprise does not belong to our present subject,
but before hearing his own description of what and whom he found in the
western hemisphere when first he landed there, it is necessary to consider
the arguments by which his friends finally prevailed on the sovereigns of
Castile to grant him their patronage.  That they did this contrary to the
the counsels of the learned cosmographers of the age and in defiance of
contemporary common-sense, is in itself a most noteworthy fact which
testifies both to the singular qualities of Columbus and to the rare
sagacity of the Catholic Queen who, in her momentous decision, acted
alone, there being little in the scheme to commend it to the colder
temperament of King Ferdinand.

By almost no intellectual effort can we of to-day realise the chimerical
stamp which the proposition of Columbus bore, and which served to mark him
as an adventurer and a visionary or, to use a forceful Americanism, as a
“crank” in the estimation of sensible, practical people.  He has himself
recorded that he believed he was acting under inspiration and was merely
fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.  The council of cosmographers summoned
by the Queen’s confessor, Fray Hernando de Talavera, to study the project
which Columbus, through the exertions of his friends, the Prior of Santa
Maria de la Rabida, and Alonso de Quintanilla, treasurer of the royal
household, had succeeded in presenting to the sovereigns, decided “that it
was vain and impossible, nor did it belong to the majesty of such great
Princes to decide anything upon such weak grounds of information.”(10)

Spain was at that time engaged in a costly war against the Moors, who
still held Granada; hard pushed as the sovereigns were for money to carry
on the necessary military operations, it is not strange that no funds were
forthcoming to finance the visionary schemes propounded by an obscure
foreigner.  After some years of vain striving, Columbus was on the point
of quitting the country in despair, when two powerful allies
intervened—Cardinal Mendoza, Archbishop of Toledo, and Luis de Santangel,
who held the office of Receiver of Revenues of the Crown of Aragon.

It must have argued powerfully in favour of Columbus that he had won to
his support, not only several great ecclesiastics and the Duke of Medina
Celi, but also two of the most astute financiers of the realm,—Santangel
and Quintanilla, men not easily accessible to enthusiasms nor inclined to
encourage non-paying investments.

Whatever was the motive that prompted these men to take the project under
their protection, the Queen was primarily swayed by religious arguments,
which also with Columbus were as powerfully operative as his desire for
profit and glory.

The preface of his journal contains a review of of the year 1492, which
was signalised by the fall of Granada and the final expulsion, after seven
centuries, of the Moors from Spain.  He recalls his petition to the Pope,
asking that learned Catholic doctors should be sent to instruct the Grand
Khan in the true faith, and to convert populous cities that were perishing
in Idolatry, to which his Holiness had vouchsafed no answer, after which
he continues:

“Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes, promoters of the
Christian religion, and enemies of the sect of Mahomet and of all
idolatries and heresies, thought to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the
aforementioned provinces of India to see the said princes, the cities, the
countries, their position and everything concerning them and the way that
should be adopted to convert them to our Holy Faith.”(11)

This passage reflects the mind and character of Columbus as he is
described by Las Casas; for even beyond the glory of penetrating the
world’s mysteries that so powerfully influenced him, he nurtured dreams of
religious propaganda, another crusade to recover the Holy Sepulchre, and
the conversion of all the heathen to the faith.

“He fasted with strictest observance on the fasts of the church; he
confessed and received communion frequently; he recited the canonical
hours like an ecclesiastic or a monk; most inimical to blasphemies and
oaths, he was most devoted to Our Lady and to the seraphic Father, St.
Francis…most jealous of the Divine honour, eager and desirous for the
conversion of these peoples, and that the faith of Jesus Christ should be
everywhere spread, and singularly given and devoted to God that he might
be made worthy to help in some way to win the Holy Sepulchre.”(12)

Patient, long-suffering, prone to forgive injuries, Columbus was a man of
courageous soul and high aspirations, always pervaded with infinite
confidence in Divine Providence and never failing in loyalty to the
sovereigns whom he served.

Such were the qualities of the man whose great discovery prepared the
scene on which Las Casas was to play the noblest part of all; such were
the influences which promised to shape his actions in conformity with the
intentions of the saintly Queen who sustained him.  These influences are
seen to be first and always religious; religious in the prevailing
conception of a century, when the interpretation of the command “go ye and
teach all nations” admitted of no shirking an obligation laid by the
Divine command on each Christian, whether priest, king or subject.  An
infallible Church provided the one ordained channel of divine grace and
salvation for mankind, dissent from which meant damnation, and hence into
that Church all nations must be gathered.

Bearing these conditions of the age and these convictions which dominated
both the Queen and Columbus well in mind, we shall later have occasion to
observe the startling contradiction of essential principles of
Christianity shown in the acts of the latter in his dealings with the
Indians; for he not only prepared the stage Las Casas was to tread, but he
likewise provided the tragedy of iniquity to be thereon enacted.

The first soil on which Columbus landed was that of a beautiful island
some fifteen leagues in length, fruitful, fresh, and verdant like a fair
garden, in the midst of which was a lake of sweet water.  The weary eyes
of the mariners, strained for weeks to catch a glimpse of the despaired-of
land, were refreshed by the sight of this pezzo del cielo, and the landing
of Columbus was a scene of picturesque and moving simplicity in which were
not wanting the features of martial grandeur and religious solemnity,
furnished by steel-clad knights with drawn swords, bearing the royal
standard of Castile and the emblem of man’s salvation, before which all
knelt in a fervour of triumph and thanksgiving.  Both as wondering
witnesses and interested actors in this memorable drama, there appeared
the natives of the island, transfixed in silent awe in the presence of
their mysterious guests.  Columbus describes them as well-built, with good
features and beautiful eyes, but with hair as coarse as a horse’s mane;
their complexion was yellowish and they had their faces painted.  They
were entirely naked and neither carried weapons nor understood the use of
such things.

“They ought,” he says, “to make faithful and intelligent servants, for I
perceive they very quickly repeat all that is said to them and I believe
they would very quickly be converted to Christianity as it appeared to me
that they had no creed.”

In another passage he writes: “As they showed us such friendship and as I
recognised that they were people who would yield themselves better to the
Christian faith and be converted more through love than by force, I gave
some of them some coloured buttons and some glass beads which they wore
around their necks, and many other things of small value, with which they
were delighted, and became so attached to us that it was a marvel to

The natives were not slow to reciprocate these gifts and hastened to offer
the best of all they possessed to the Spaniards in return for their
trifling presents.

Indeed, since it is better to give than to receive, the Admiral describes
the natives of Marien as being of such a generous disposition that they
esteemed it the highest honour to be asked to give. What could be more
idyllic than his description of the people he found at Rio del Sol in
Cuba?—“They are all very gentle, without knowledge of evil, neither
killing nor stealing.”  Everywhere he touched during his first voyage, he
and his men were welcomed as gods descended upon earth, their wants
anticipated, and such boundless hospitality showered upon them that
Columbus was touched by the gentleness and grace of the natives.

“They are a loving uncovetous people, so docile in all things that I do
assure your Highness I believe in all the world there is not a better
people or a better country; they love their neighbors as themselves, and
they have the sweetest and gentlest way of speaking in the world and
always with a smile.”

When it came the turn of Las Casas to describe the Indians in the islands,
he wrote:

“All these infinite peoples were created by God the most simple of all
others, without malice or duplicity, most obedient and faithful to their
rulers, whom they serve; the most humble, patient, loving, peaceful, and
docile people, without contentions or tumults; neither factious nor
quarrelsome, without hatred, or desire for revenge, more than any other
people in the world.”

Such were the accounts of the New World given to the Catholic sovereigns
by Columbus on his return from his first voyage, and afterwards by Las
Casas in his terrible indictment of his countrymen’s destructive invasion
of those peaceful realms, peopled by innocent and genial heathen.  Had
Shakespeare heard this fair report when he put the description of the
magic isle in the mouth of the King’s counsellor, Gonzalo?

    I’ the commonwealth I would by contraries
    Execute all things; for no kind of traffic
    Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
    Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
    And use of service, none; contract, succession,
    Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
    No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
    No occupation; all men idle, all;
    And women too, but innocent and pure;
    No sovereignty;
    All things in common nature should produce
    Without sweat or endeavour; treason, felony,
    Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
    Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,
    Of it’s own kind, all foison, all abundance
    To feed my innocent people.(13)

Upon such virgin soil, Columbus felt confident that the gospel seed would
produce an abundant harvest and he says:

“I hold it for certain, Most Serene Princes, that by means of devout,
religious persons, knowing their language they would all quickly become
Christians and thus I hope in Our Lord that your Highnesses will provide
for this with much diligence to bring such numerous people into the Church
and convert them, as you have destroyed those who would not confess the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and that after this life (for we are all
mortal) you will leave your kingdoms in a very tranquil state, purified
from heresy and evil.”

Wonderful and humiliating is it to observe how little these first
impressions of the Indians and these elevated Christian aspirations
influenced his conduct in dealing with them, once he was master of their

The declared purposes of the second voyage of 1493 were the colonisation
of the newly discovered countries, the conversion of the natives, and the
extension of his discoveries.  Pope Alexander VI. had conferred the lands
thus far discovered and others to be discovered upon the sovereigns of
Castile and Leon, with the fullest rights over navigation, and imperial
jurisdiction over the western hemisphere.  The Bull bestowing these
concessions was dated the fourth of May, 1493, in the first year of his
pontificate.  An imaginary line, drawn from pole to pole and passing one
hundred leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, separated the spheres of
Spanish and Portuguese exploration, and the Bull expressly laid down as
the principal reason for this grant, that the natives would be converted
to Christianity.(14)

The conditions imposed by the Pontiff corresponded perfectly to the
sincere desires of the Spanish sovereigns, who had, from their first
knowledge of the existence of the Indians, displayed the keenest and
tenderest zeal to provide for their welfare.  They instructed Columbus to
deal lovingly with the Indians, to make them generous gifts, and to show
them much honour; and if perchance any one should treat them unjustly, the
Admiral should punish him severely.(15)

This second expedition was composed of 1500 men, of whom twenty were
horsemen; many knights and gentlemen, especially from Seville, and some
members of the royal household also went.  The number of officials of
various grades appointed to exercise problematical functions in the new
colony exceeded the necessities of the case and gave promise of the many
dissensions and petty conflicts which were not slow in declaring
themselves.  A priest, Father Buil, and other ecclesiastics were sent to
undertake the instruction and conversion of the Indians; in all, seventeen
ships left the Bay of Cadiz on September 25, 1493.(16) Upon his arrival at
Hispaniola, the Admiral found the little colony he had left there
completely exterminated, and learned from his friend the Cacique
Guacanagari that, after his departure for Spain, the Spaniards had fallen
to quarrelling amongst themselves and had scattered throughout the island,
provoking hostilities with the natives and had, in consequence, been
killed by a neighbouring chieftain, Caonabó, who also burned the tower the
colonists had built.  The first report on the state of the new colony of
Isabella, which Columbus sent to Spain in January, 1494, was in the form
of an instruction to Antonio de Torres, receiver for the colony, whom Las
Casas describes as “a brother of the Governor of the Infante Don Juan, a
notable person, prudent and efficient for such a post.”(17) In this
notable document occurs the first mention of slavery in the New World.
The Admiral directs Torres to inform the sovereigns that he has made
slaves of some Indians captured the cannibal islands, and has sent them to
Spain have them taught Spanish in order that they may later serve as
interpreters.  The justification he advanced for this measure was that by
taking from their surroundings they would be cured of their cannibalism,
converted to Christianity, and their souls saved; besides which, if the
cannibals were thus converted, the Indians of the neighbouring islands,
who were peaceable and lived in fear of them, would conceive a still
higher regard for the Spaniards.

This reasoning doubtless commended itself to most people, but the
sagacious Queen instantly put her finger upon the flaw in the argument,
and on the margin of Columbus’s report is written her answer: “This is all
very well and so it must be done; but let the Admiral see whether it might
not be _there_ arranged to bring them to our Holy Catholic Faith and the
same with the Indians of those islands where he is.”

The next suggestion, despite any possible excellence of his motives, was a
frank proposal to establish a thriving trade in human flesh as barefaced
as could be made by the least scrupulous “blackbirder.”  The Admiral,
always dwelling upon the spiritual welfare of the cannibal natives,
proposed that the more of them that could be captured, the better it would
be, and then, mingling temporal advantages to Spaniards with spiritual
blessings to the natives, he explained that the quantities of live stock
and other necessaries required by the colonists, might be paid for by the
sale of slaves sent back to Spain in the ships which would bring these
supplies several times a year to the colony.  The sovereigns are to be
reminded that they may collect duties on this slave-trade, and an early
answer is desired in order that the arrangements for the new commerce may
be pushed forward.(18)

The Queen’s observation on this passage was not as positive as it might
have been and, though the proposition was evidently repugnant to her, she
merely directed that the matter be suspended for the present until some
other way of providing on the spot be found and that the Admiral should
report further. Columbus, however, did not wait to receive the royal
approval of his slave-trading schemes. During a voyage which resulted in
the discovery of Jamaica and other islands, he visited that of San Juan
(Puerto Rico) for the purpose of capturing more cannibals, and on his
return Hispaniola, where he had left his brother Don Diego in charge as
President and Don Pedro Margarite as Captain-General, he found affairs in
the worst possible condition owing to the foolish and inconsiderate
conduct of the colonists, which had converted the friendly natives into
hostile enemies and placed the very existence of the colony in jeopardy.
After some hostilities, a degree of tranquillity was established and
Columbus laid a tribute upon the entire population of the island which
required that each Indian above fourteen years of age who lived in the
mining provinces was to pay a little bell filled with gold every three
months; the natives of all other provinces were to pay one arroba of
cotton. These amounts were so excessive that in 1496 it was found
necessary to change the nature of the payment, and, instead of the gold
and cotton required from the villages, labour was substituted, the Indians
being required to lay out and work the plantations of the colonists in
their vicinity. This was the germ of the cruel and oppressive
repartimientos and encomiendas which were destined to depopulate the
islands and to bring an indelible stigma on the Spanish colonial system in
the Indies. In that year, 1496, Bartholomew Columbus sent three hundred
natives, who were convicted or accused of killing Spaniards, to Spain to
be sold as slaves. Though the Spanish sovereigns admitted a difference in
the status of such natives, there is nevertheless a letter of theirs
addressed to Bishop Fonseca, who was at the head of Indian affairs,
directing him to receive no money from the sale of Indians until
theologians and canonists had pronounced upon the question whether they
might with a good conscience, permit such Indians to be sold. No positive
decision is recorded, but order were given that all Indians taken in acts
of flagrant “rebellion” and found guilty should be sent to Spain. There
was but one fate awaiting them so that, if not formally approved, the
enslaving of Indians, accused of rebellion, was by this edict tolerated.

Another piece of colonial legislation was effected in 1497 by the issue of
a royal patent to the Admiral, authorising him to grant parcels of land in
the islands to the Spanish colonists; there is no mention in this grant of
repartimientos of Indians to work on the lands. The affairs of the colony
were not prospering, complaints against the Admiral were numerous, and the
situation was much complicated by the open rebellion of the chief justice,
Roldan, in which the unfortunate Indians found themselves, whether they
would or no, involved on one side or the other and, no matter which way
victory went, upon them it fell to pay the costs. Regular raids were
organised upon tribes and villages, on the pretext that a chief had not
performed the services required in lieu of tribute and had fled with his
people to the forests; pursuit followed and all who were captured were
considered rebels taken in open fight and were immediately dispatched in
the vessels of Columbus’s fleet, which had reached Hispaniola in August,
1498, to be sold as slaves in Spain. Still invoking the name of the Holy
Trinity, Columbus explained to the sovereigns that he could supply as many
slaves as the Spanish market required, estimating, according to his
information, that four thousand could be disposed of, the value of whom,
together with that of a shipment of logwood, would amount to 40,000,000
maravedis. The consignment mentioned consisted of six hundred slaves, of
whom one third was given to the masters of the ships to cover the carrying

In the same letter, Columbus asked that the colonists should be allowed to
use Indian labour for a year or two until their affairs should become more
settled and prosperous, and so satisfied was he with the equity of this
arrangement that he set it at once in operation without waiting for the
royal sanction of his plan. After two years of dissensions, Roldan and his
rebellious supporters were pacified and Columbus partitioned lands and
slaves among them with unstinted generosity. Those of Roldan’s adherents
who elected to remain in the colony received from the Admiral
repartimientos, consisting of a certain number of hillocks of cazabi (the
plant from which flour for cassava bread was made), which were placed in
charge of a cacique whose people were obliged to till them for the profit
of the holder.  This was the second stage in the development of
repartimientos, viz., the Indians were bound to the land and forced to
cultivate it. Fifteen of the Roldan party, however, decided to return to
Spain, each of whom received from one to three slaves, whom they took back
with them in October, 1499.

The Queen’s proclamation issued at Seville, Granada, and elsewhere
ordering all holders of slaves given them by Columbus to return them
forthwith to Hispaniola under pain of death distinguished, however,
between such and the others who had been taken as prisoners of war and
sold into slavery. The distinction is a fine one and points to the
conclusion that even Queen Isabella admitted that some Indians might, for
defined causes, be enslaved, and that her assent was based upon some
pronouncement of the canonists and theologians to whom she had submitted
the question; but there is nothing to show that the slaves given to
Roldan’s followers were captured in any different way from the others.
This inconsistency, which so sadly weakens the noble character of the
royal proclamation and detracts from the merits of the Queen as an enemy
of slavery, could hardly have proceeded from her own inclinations but was
rather the outcome of some casuistry that constrained her action without
convincing her judgment. The Queen doubtless saw with pain and
disappointment that, owing to the Admiral’s measures and proposals, which
were in surprising contradiction with the lofty and pious principles he
professed, her own Catholic aspirations for the speedy conversion of the
Indians and the pacific extension of Spanish rule were being thwarted. The
noise of the controversies in which the sublime unreason of Columbus had
fortunately prevailed over the scientific opinions of the age, the
interest of the Queen, and all the circumstances of his first voyage had
fastened the attention of the Spanish and Portuguese courts upon his
expedition, excluding any hope that failure might escape notice.   For he
had failed in his ultimate purpose. Instead of Cathay, the Grand Khan
ready to welcome Christianity and a short road to the wealth of the East,
he had found a few semi-tropical islands, producing parrots and cocoanuts
chiefly, and inhabited by harmless barbarians living in an idyllic state
of poverty and idleness. The enthusiasm aroused by his first voyage
subsided and his fame as an explorer was obscured by his incompetency as a
governor. He himself never lived to comprehend the real importance of his
discovery and he persisted in regarding the islands as the outposts of a
great Oriental empire. Having sailed to seek a short route to the ancient
East, Columbus was constrained to render his disappointing discovery
acceptable by making it profitable and, since the promised gold and rare
spices were not forthcoming, only the trade in slaves remained to furnish
immediate profits. In July, 1500, Francisco de Bobadilla sailed to
supersede Columbus, with full powers from the sovereigns, and had he gone
as a messenger of vengeance to chastise the Admiral’s moral backsliding,
he could not have enacted the rôle more consistently, for, from the moment
of his landing, his treatment of Columbus was ruthless, and an amazed
world was shortly furnished the humiliating spectacle of the great
Admiral, in chains, shipped back to the kingdom he had endowed with a
world. Bobadilla’s moral, social, and economic administration proved a
complete failure and his own excesses contributed to his speedy removal,
without his management of the colony having corrected the abuses he was
sent out to redress or having relieved the Indians from the bonds of
slavery which, in defiance of the sovereign’s commands, were being daily
riveted more securely upon them.

The justified protests of Columbus found a hearing, and the man who had
inflicted a supreme indignity upon him was recalled, Don Nicholas de
Ovando being appointed by a royal cedula of September 3, 1501, to succeed


The arrival of Don Nicholas de Ovando’s fleet at Hispaniola was an event
of the greatest importance to the colony.  The first news that greeted the
new arrivals was that of the discovery of a huge nugget of gold, the
largest yet found and which, in fact, was never again equalled in size
until the rich lodes in California were tapped in 1849, for it weighed
thirty-five pounds and was valued at 3600 pesos in the money of that time.

This famous nugget was found eight or nine leagues from the settlement of
San Domingo, by an Indian girl, who, while resting from her labours, idly
turned up the soil with an instrument she held, and thus brought to light
the wonderful treasure.  The Governor appropriated it for the King, paying
its value to the two owners of the mine.  The jubilant Spaniards used the
nugget, which was shaped like a broad, flat dish, to serve up a roast
sucking-pig at a banquet given in honour of the occasion, saying that no
king ever feasted from such a platter.  Las Casas remarks that as for the
miserable Indian girl who found it, we may without sin suppose that they
never gave her so much as a red silk petticoat, and lucky was she indeed
if she got even a mouthful of the pig!

The second piece of glad news the colonists communicated was, that owing
to a recent uprising of the Indians in a certain province, they had been
able to enslave a goodly number of the rebels.  Such occasions rejoiced
their hearts, over the profits they thus derived from the struggles of the
unhappy natives to recover their freedom, and it may likewise without sin
be supposed that their ingenuity was not barren in suggesting devices for
provoking such lucrative revolts.

In the instructions delivered to Ovando, as well as in the Queen’s verbal
behests to him before sailing, the sovereigns sought to remedy the abuses
under which the Indians suffered.  The Queen explicitly laid down the
fundamental principle that “all the Indians in Hispaniola are and should
be free from servitude; nor should they be molested by any one, but should
live as free vassals, governed and protected as are the vassals of
Castile.” They were to pay a tribute—all Spanish vassals were taxed—and
they were to work in the gold-mines but for their labour they were to
receive a daily wage.  The Queen’s obvious intention was that the
government should, in some measure at least, be carried on for the benefit
of the Indians it was instituted to govern.  The orders describing the
measures to be taken for the instruction and conversion of the natives
were equally clear and imperative.

Ovando was authorised to permit the importation into Hispaniola of negroes
who were born slaves, belonging to Christian owners. (19) They were
consequently brought to the colony in such numbers that the Governor soon
wrote to Spain, advising that the traffic in African slaves be stopped, as
the negroes constantly escaped and took refuge in the forests and
mountains, taking with them also many Indians.  These negroes were for the
most part born in Andalusia of slave parents, who had been brought there
by the Portuguese who had carried on the slave-trade since early in the
fifteenth century.

The first official action of the new Governor was to institute an inquiry
into the administration of his predecessor, Bobadilla, against whose harsh
and arbitrary treatment of him, Columbus had filed complaints.  The
Admiral had meanwhile been received by the sovereigns, and Queen
Isabella’s compassionate heart had been much grieved by the sad accounts
of the indignities put upon him, the confiscation of his properties, the
violation of the rights solemnly conferred upon him and his heirs under
her signature, and finally the supreme outrage of his deposition and his
return to Spain wearing the chains of a common malefactor.  Francisco de
Bobadilla had far outstripped the limits of the sovereign’s intentions as
well as those of his own authority and had, by his treatment of Columbus,
violated the commonest sentiments of justice and humanity.  Ovando made
full restitution of the confiscated properties, and the rights and
privileges guaranteed to Columbus were once more recognised and made
valid.  The latter organised his fourth and last expedition to America,
which sailed on the ninth of May, 1502, (20) and arrived at Hispaniola
after a prosperous voyage, on the twenty-ninth of June.  Bobadilla set
sail for Spain on board the same ship which carried the famous gold
nugget, but neither arrived, as the vessel was overtaken by a violent
hurricane, and was lost when barely forty hours out from port.  Thus
perished one whose iniquities have caused his name to be handed down to
eternal execration in the pages of American history.

Such was the condition of the colony in Hispaniola, when Bartholomew de
Las Casas, then a young licentiate, twenty-eight years of age, arrived
there.  The purpose of his coming was no different from that of the other
gentlemen-adventurers who were bent on acquiring speedy fortunes in a land
of supposed riches that formed the theme of fabulous and alluring tales,
which often enough had but slender foundation in fact.  As his father had
already acquired properties in the island, it is probable that Bartholomew
came to assume the direction of them.  There is nothing to show that he
was at that time especially impressed or moved by the sad condition of the
Indians and the violation of their rights; on the contrary, he procured
slaves, worked them in the mines, and attended to the cultivation of his
estates with the energy he employed in every undertaking to which he put
his hand.  He says himself that during eight years of Ovando’s
governorship, this "pestilential disorder" took root without there being a
man who spoke or heeded or thought anything about it, notwithstanding that
such multitudes were being sacrificed, that out of the infinite number of
the inhabitants of whom the Admiral first wrote to the Catholic
sovereigns, there perished more than nine tenths in that brief period.

He took part in the second war against the Cacique Cocubanó(22) in the
province of Higuey, of which he afterwards wrote the most horrifying
description.  He related incredible cruelties, concluding thus: “All these
deeds, and others foreign to all human nature did my own eyes witness, and
I do not now dare to recount them, being hardly able to believe myself,
lest perhaps I may have dreamed them.” Throughout these massacres Las
Casas, young, enthusiastic, generous-hearted, noble-minded, and with his
naturally keen sensibilities refined and sharpened by the best education
of his times, appears to have played his part with the others, neither
better nor worse than they, equally blind to the injustice and tyranny
practised upon the inoffensive and defenceless Indians and only eager for
his share of the profits derived from their sufferings.  The contradiction
is as flagrant as in the case of the great Admiral who initiated the
system which brought all these horrors in logical sequence.  The war in
Higuey finished with the capture of the unfortunate Cocubanó, whom Ovando
caused to be hanged at San Domingó instead of allowing him to be torn to
pieces with pincers as the Spaniards demanded should be done.  Such was
the quality of mercy in that Governor’s heart.

The affairs of Las Casas prospered and he grew rich, though it is
difficult to believe that his yearly income from his properties amounted
to 100,000 castellanos—an enormous sum, given the value of money at that
time,—yet this is the figure he himself has given in his own writings.

Such being the attitude of a man of finer temperament during eight years
passed amidst scene of rapacious ferocity, something must be admitted to
explain the callousness of men of fewer sensibilities and lower moral
standards, who found themselves far removed from the usual restraint of
civilised society and confronted by many hard ships and severe
disappointments.   The moral and physical condition of the majority of
these men was indeed deplorable.  Many of them had staked all they could
obtain on this great venture in the Indies, hallucinated by the craze for
gold, of which they dreamed as lying, waiting to be picked up, in lands
where pearls strewed the sands of the beach.  Rapid exploitation of such
sources of fabulous wealth and a speedy return to Spain, rather than the
enterprises usually suggested to Anglo-Saxons by the term “colonisation,”
had lured them over the mysterious ocean.  Little thought was given to the
pastoral and agriculture resources of a rich soil that would have yielded
abundant crops in response to the simplest tillage and made of the islands
a granary sufficient to feed all Spain.  Unaccustomed to manual labour,
ignorant of the simplest principles of mining, poorly supplied—when at
all—with the necessary implements, they rushed to the mines with but
scanty provision even of food; fevers seized them, strange diseases
attacked them—most of all, disillusion confronted them; out of Ovando’s
2500 men more than one thousand died within a brief period, in the most
wretched manner.  Those who had the courage and strength to work, barely
made enough to feed themselves, for it not infrequently happened that
after the royal fifth was deducted and other expenses met, the remainder,
when divided, hardly gave to each colonist more than his daily, scanty
living.  The state of degradation into which they sank was pitiable and
there is little cause to wonder that, in their brutalised condition, they
took small account of the physical sufferings of the Indians and no
interest at all in weighing their claims to liberty and just treatment.
The few who did turn their attention to agriculture fared better, both as
to the comforts of their surroundings and the profits they derived from
their occupation; their Indians likewise led far easier lives than their
fellows who worked for the miners.  The vicious principles underlying
slavery once established, innumerable abuses are bound to follow, and when
responsibility for an iniquitous system is widely distributed, even the
most humane unconsciously drift into acquiescence in continuous and
monstrous acts of inhumanity, partly from want of strength to combat the
established order of things and partly from the easy ability of each to
shift his share of the blame for what his instincts condemn, onto the
shoulders of others.  Reforms left to the collective conscience of such a
community are apt to languish.  Such is man’s nature that the most
unnatural and abnormal conditions come to be tolerated by common
acquiescence, until something—an event without or a stirring of his soul
within—startles his better self into a realisation of his surroundings,
the scales fall from his eyes which, having, he saw not, and in a flash,
the iniquity of proceedings to which he has assented, in which he has
shared, and by which he has profited, becomes manifest.

In the Indies a premium was placed on rebellion;  the oftener the Indians
could be goaded into open revolt, the more slaves could be acquired
according to due process of law, and everybody’s profits increased.  To
such profitable encouragement the colonists were not slow to respond and
they were fertile in devices for rendering the lives of the Indians

No champion was forthcoming to defend the helpless native or even to make
his woes known; the tender-hearted Queen, who loved justice and hated
iniquity, was remote and her beneficent intentions towards her humble
subjects in the islands were inoperative.  “The heavens are high and the
Tzar is far” say the long-suffering mujiks, whose road to their “little
father’s” throne is barred by an army of interested bureaucrats.  Tyranny
is of divers sorts and one tyranny differs from another other in infamy,
but the worst tyranny of all is the dual tyranny over both body and soul
exercised collectively by irresponsible men over their fellows, and this
was the tyranny of such slavery as prevailed in the Spanish colonies.  The
specious argument that the only way to convert the Indians was to keep
them among the Spaniards, was constantly insisted upon in pious phrases
meant to delude the Queen by a display of zeal in carrying out her plan
for their conversion.  Ovando wrote complaining of the desertion of the
Indians, who escaped whenever they could from contact with the Spaniards
and fled in numbers to the remotest recesses of the forests, facing
starvation rather than endure their life in the settlements.  And what
wonder! for would any rational Indian voluntarily live amidst such
surroundings and submit to such labour for the sole benefit of his
tyrants? Nothing that the afflicted natives saw of the religion or the
civilisation of the Spaniards could possibly attract them to either.


In the month of September of the year 1510, the first Dominican friars,
four in number, arrived in Hispaniola from Spain under the leadership of
their Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, a man of gentle birth, distinguished
appearance, gracious manners, and great piety.  He had exceptional gifts
as a preacher and, in selecting the men of his Order to accompany him, he
chose those who, to their exemplary life and zeal for conversions, united
facility in expounding Christian doctrine.  Two, especially, out of his
company, were men of unusual ability—Fray Antonio de Montesinos and Fray
Bernardo de Santo Domingo.

One of the colonists, Pedro Lumbreras, gave the missionaries shelter, and
arranged to supply them with provisions, and the monks, without losing any
time, set to work to improve the habits and morals of the easy-going
Spaniards in the colony.  The Viceroy being absent in the city of
Concepcion de la Vega at that time, the Prior went thither to announce
their arrival and pay his respects, accomplishing the tedious journey of
thirty leagues on foot, sleeping on the ground and living on bread and
water.  He arrived at La Vega on a Saturday, and the next day, being
Sunday in the octave of All Saints, he preached a sermon on the glories of
paradise prepared for the saints, of which Las Casas says, “It was a
sermon so lofty and so divine that I held myself happy to hear it.” In
response to the Prior’s invitation at the close of his discourse, his
hearers sent their Indians, men, women, and children, to the church, after
dinner.  The Prior, holding a crucifix in his hand, and assisted by
interpreters, then gave the Indians their first exposition of Christian
doctrine, beginning with the creation of the world and finishing with the
Crucifixion.  This was the beginning of anything like a serious and
practical effort to carry out the reiterated instructions of the Spanish
sovereigns to instruct the Indians and convert them to Christianity.

In that same year, Las Casas took holy orders, and, though it is not clear
whether his ordination occurred before or after the memorable sermon of
Prior Pedro de Cordoba, it is evident that the impression he received from
that discourse powerfully influenced him at a critical moment of his life
and contributed to form the special vocation to which he afterwards
devoted himself.

His own description of his ordination is as follows:

“In this same year and in these same days, when the father, Fray Pedro de
Cordoba went to La Vega, a cleric called Bartholomew de Las Casas had sung
a new mass; he was a native of Seville and among the oldest [settlers] in
the island, and that was the first time that a new mass was sung in all
the Indies; on account of being the first, the event was celebrated with
great festivity by the Admiral [Don Diego Columbus] and everybody who was
in the city of La Vega; they comprised a large number of the inhabitants
of the island, for it was smelting time, when each brought his gold with
his Indians to have it melted, all meeting together as people do to make
payments, in the places where fairs are held in Castile; as there were no
gold coins, they made certain pieces in imitation of castellanos and
ducats, different sorts in the same smelting, where the King’s fifth was
melted and paid; these coins they offered [to the new priest] while others
made arrieles(24) to offer. Reales were current, and many of these were
presented, all of which the newly ordained priest gave to his god-father,
save a few gold pieces that were especially well made.  There was one
notable feature of this first mass with which the clergy present were not
satisfied; namely, there was not a drop of wine in the whole feast,
because no ship having arrived from Castile since a long time, there was
none in the entire island.”

The newly ordained priest entered immediately and zealously upon his
duties, one of the first of which he considered to be the continuation of
the religious instruction to the Indians he had seen so admirably
initiated by Fray Pedro de Cordoba.  He speedily acquired great fame
throughout the colony both for his virtues and his learning, and his
influence over the natives was established once and for ever.

Don Diego Columbus undertook in 1511 to conquer and settle the island of
Cuba, which had been discovered by his father, and, by virtue of the
privileges secured to him by the capitulations of Granada, he named Diego
Velasquez, a native of Cuellar and one of the oldest and most respected
colonists in San Domingo, commander of this enterprise.  The expedition,
which consisted of three hundred men, amongst whom was Fernando Cortes,
landed at a port called Las Palmas in the province of Maici and the
conquest was quickly and easily effected, the natives being of a pacific
disposition and little skilled in the use of even such indifferent weapons
as they possessed.  Thirty Spaniards in Jamaica, hearing of the events in
Cuba, took service under Velasquez, who appointed Panfilo de Narvaez as
commander under his orders.  The campaign in Cuba was signalised by the
same massacres and cruelties which marked the advance of Spanish
civilisation throughout the Indies; the natives were pursued and torn to
pieces by fierce dogs, burned alive, their hands and feet cut off, and the
miserable, terrified remnant speedily reduced to a condition of hopeless
slavery.  The so-called war ended with the execution of the Cacique
Hatuey, and in the early part of 1512, Diego Velasquez sent for Las Casas
to join him from Hispaniola.  At that juncture there arrived in the port
of Baracoa a vessel commanded by Cristobal de Cuellas, who brought with
him his daughter, the promised bride of Velasquez.  The Governor absented
himself for the celebration of his marriage, leaving his kinsman Juan de
Grijalva in command of fifty men during his absence, and charging Las
Casas to act as assistant and counsellor to Grijalva, who was a beardless
youth and, though of excellent disposition, was without experience.  The
news of Las Casas’s presence quickly spread amongst the Indians of Bayamo,
who had fled in terror before the horses of Narvaez into the province of
Camaguey, and, feeling reassured and confident of protection, they now
began to return little by little, asking pardon for the opposition they
had made to the Spanish force and offering to assist and serve the
invaders.  The veneration of the natives for Las Casas, their only friend,
was a most touching thing to see, for they trusted him without reserve,
believing him to be omnipotent and knowing him to be good; they called him
by the same title, Behique, which they gave to their own magicians and
both reverenced and feared him as being almost divine.  As the tribes came
in, bringing gifts to the Spanish commander, they also brought offerings
to Las Casas and when assured by him that the past was pardoned and
forgotten, their confidence was completely restored.

Peace being thus established in the province of Bayamo, Velasquez sent
orders to Narvaez that he should advance into the province of Camague with
all the force he had, which, united to that of Grijalva, amounted to about
one hundred men, and that Las Casas should accompany the expedition.

The spiritual and martial forces seemed to work in harmony; Grijalva was
obedient to the counsels of Las Casas, and Narvaez, although a hardened
campaigner and a man of violent temperament, was not indifferent to the
priest’s influence, backed as he knew it to be by the warm personal
support of his Governor, Velasquez.  Some thirty leagues from Bayamo, and
before entering the province of Camaguey, the expedition arrived at a town
called Cueyba, where they were well received by the Indians and where they
found, in a sort of chapel, a statue of the Blessed Virgin which had been
presented to the cacique some time before by Alonso de Ojeda who, after
shipwreck and untold hardships, had reached that place and been cared for
by the natives.  Ojeda had carried this image for many weary days,
confiding in its protection to rescue him from the dangerous plight in
which he found himself, and some of his companions who were now with the
Narvaez party praised its beauty so highly to Las Casas that he conceived
the idea of offering to trade for it a very good Flemish statue of his
own.  His proposal, however, was not agreeable to the cacique, who had, on
his part, become much attached to his own image, and the next morning when
Las Casas went to the little chapel, which the Indians kept nicely adorned
with cotton hangings and flowers, he was surprised to see that the statue
was missing from its customary place above the altar.  Upon inquiry he was
told by the Indians that their chief, fearing that he would be forced to
accept Las Casas’s offer to exchange, had taken his statue and fled into
the forests to save it.  There was even a fear that a general uprising
might result to defend the cherished statue, so Las Casas at once sent
messengers to the cacique to assure him that he not only no longer wished
to make the exchange but had decided to make him a present of his own
Flemish statue as well.

Twenty leagues beyond Cueyba the expedition entered the province of
Camaguey, and, at the entrance of the various towns, the Indians came out
to welcome the Spaniards, offering them provisions of fish, game, and
cassava.  Las Casas called together the children everywhere and baptised
them, concerning which he afterwards said that many were thus destined for
glory in good time, for shortly afterwards there was hardly one of those
children left alive.

Nothing inspired more wonder in the Indians than the transmission of news
from one place to another by means of writing, and the letters the
Spaniards sent to one another excited the greatest awe amongst them.  So
great had the influence of Las Casas amongst them become, that he had only
to send any piece of paper fastened to the end of a stick, carried by a
messenger who had been instructed to say what he wanted, for his orders to
be scrupulously obeyed; without the paper, the verbal message was shorn of
its authority, with the paper it commanded entire obedience.  To forestall
excesses on the part of the soldiers, Las Casas hit upon the device of
sending a messenger ahead, carrying one of these papers, to tell the
Indians that the expedition was approaching and that he desired them to
have provisions ready and to vacate one part of their village which the
Spaniards might occupy.  The messenger announced these dispositions, which
must be obeyed under pain of the Behique’s displeasure, and the Spaniards,
on their arrival, invariably found everything prepared for them and free
quarters in which to lodge.  Narvaez agreed to give strict orders to his
men to keep to their own part of the village, and any one who violated
this command or sought to mix with the Indians was punished.

At a village called Caonao, one of the characteristic pieces of
inexplicable cruelty, that so frequently occurred, took place.  Before
reaching that town, the expedition had stopped to eat in a dry river bed
(barranca), where there was a quantity of soapstone on which the men
sharpened their weapons.  Upon entering the town and before taking
possession of their quarters, they found some two thousand Indians
peaceably squatting about the square, after their fashion, curious to see
them and observe the movements of the wonderful horses at which they never
tired of looking.  While the provisions which the Indians had got ready
were being distributed, somebody—it was never discovered who—without cause
or rhyme or reason suddenly ran amok, drew his sword, and began slashing
right and left amongst the defenceless natives, and, as though crazed, the
other soldiers fell to work in the same fashion, so that, before one half
the Indians realised what was happening, the place was piled with dead and
wounded.  Narvaez looked on unmoved, but Las Casas, who was not in the
square when the massacre began, hearing what was afoot, rushed thither in
rage and despair to stop the slaughter. “What do you think of what our
Spaniards have done?” Narvaez coolly asked him, and the priest in a fury
replied: “To the devil with you and your Spaniards.” He finally succeeded
in arresting the butchery, not forgetting, in the midst of all, to
administer baptism to the dying.  His indignation on this occasion burst
all bounds and, from his own description, it may be inferred that his
language towards his countrymen was not in strict conformity with
sacerdotal usage.  No sufficient explanation of this lamentable occurrence
has ever been given, but Las Casas says that if the man who began the
massacre was the one he suspected, he later met a dreadful death.  It has
been alleged that a soldier mistook some movement of the crowd in pressing
forward to see the horses, for a beginning of hostilities, and, as there
had been a surprise practised on Narvaez’s men a short time before in
Bayamo, the man was seized with a sudden panic of fear that the little
force of one hundred men was about to be attacked and overcome by mere
force of numbers while off their guard, lost his head, and began to use
his sword; the others, seeing their comrade fighting, rushed into the
melee and before reason could get the upper hand, the mischief was done.
The natural consequence of this unprovoked massacre was a general flight
of the Indians from their towns, all who could, taking refuge in the
neighbouring islands.

The Spanish camp was established near Caonao and one day shortly after the
massacre an old Indian servant of Las Casas, called Camacho, came to him
to say that a young man about twenty-five years old and his younger
brother had returned and begged to be admitted as servants into his
household.  This young Indian was baptised under the name of Adrianico and
served as interpreter and intermediary to induce the other Indians to
return to their villages, so that little by little some degree of peace
and tranquillity was established throughout the province.  The Governor
quickly discovered that the simplest means of securing obedience was to
send a messenger bearing any bit of paper on a stick, to say in the name
of Las Casas whatever was to be done, and this became the means usually
employed to maintain order.  Thousands of the natives were instructed and
baptised during this expedition.  It was at this time that news was
received of the existence of several Spanish prisoners held by a cacique,
in the province of Havana, some hundred leagues distant, and Las Casas
sent his habitual Indian messenger carrying the sacred paper to tell that
cacique that the paper meant he was to send those prisoners at once, under
pain of the Behique’s severest displeasure.  After the departure of this
messenger, the Spaniards struck their camp and went on to a place called
Carahale, which Las Casas named Casaharta on account of the abundance of
excellent provisions they received there; these seem to have consisted
principally of parrots, of which the Spaniards consumed no less than
10,000 beautifully plumaged birds in the brief period of fifteen days they
stopped there.  Indeed, the amount the Spaniards ate amazed the frugal
natives, for it took more to feed a soldier for one day than an Indian
family required in a month, At this place there arrived one day a canoe,
in which were two Spanish women, in the costume of Mother Eve, one of them
about forty years old and the other eighteen.  They were the prisoners
sent back from Havana by the cacique who had meanwhile received the magic
paper ordering their release.  They described the slaughter of some
Spaniards upon their arrival at the port which, since that time, has
consequently been called Matanzas; several had managed to defend
themselves but had afterwards been hanged by a cacique on a ceiba tree,
leaving only the two women, whose lives were spared.  This news so
irritated Narvaez that he ordered eighteen caciques who had come in
response to Las Casas’s papers, bringing food for the Spaniards, to be put
in chains, and but for the priest’s threat that he would have him severely
punished by Velasquez, and even report the case to the King, he would have
hanged them.  Las Casas, by his vigorous and menacing attitude, secured
the immediate release of all the caciques but one, who was kept a prisoner
until Diego Velasquez joined the expedition and released him. (25)

At another village, a Spaniard, also a survivor of the Matanzas massacre,
was brought forward and delivered to the Spaniards by the cacique, who
declared he loved him and had treated him as his own son.  Great rejoicing
celebrated the finding of this man, and both Las Casas and Narvaez
embraced the cacique with fervour.  The Spaniard had nearly forgotten his
mother-tongue and was in all respects so entirely like the Indians in his
manners and ways that every one laughed a good deal at him.  Little by
little he recovered the use of his Spanish and was able to give much
information concerning the country.

Upon the arrival of Diego Velasquez, whose bride had died very shortly
after her marriage, a town was founded on the banks of a large river,
called by the Indians the Arimao, where very rich gold-mines were
discovered.  In this newly founded town of Xagua, as it was named, Las
Casas received a valuable repartimiento of land and Indians in recognition
of the services he had rendered during the expeditions, for, though he was
the enemy of all cruel treatment and the protector of the natives against
his callous-hearted countrymen, his conscience on the subject of
repartimientos was not yet fully awakened.

During his residence in the island of Hispaniola, Las Casas had been close
friends with a man named Renteria, whom he describes as a most virtuous,
prudent, charitable, and devout Christian, given entirely to the things of
God and religion and little versed in the things of this world, to which
he paid small attention; he was so open-handed by instinct that his
generosity was almost the vice of carelessness rather than a virtue.  He
was pure and humble in his life and was a man of some learning, devoted to
the study of the Scriptures and commentaries to the Latin tongue, and was
a skilful penman. Pedro de la Renteria, to whom Diego Velasquez had given
the office of alcalde in the island of Cuba was a Biscayan, son of a
native of Guipuzcoa, and such was the intimacy between him and Las Casas
in Hispaniola that they shared their possessions in common, though in the
management of their affairs, it was the latter who took the direction
entirely, as being the more capable and practical of the two. (26)

Upon Pedro de la Renteria, the Governor conferred a repartimiento of lands
and Indians adjoining the one given to Las Casas and the two had their
business interests in common.  Las Casas owns, with compunction, that he
became so absorbed at that time in developing his new estates and working
his mines that what should have been his principal care, the instruction
of the Indians, fell into the second place, though despite his temporary
blindness to his higher duties, he protests that, as far as their temporal
wants were concerned, he was humane and kind, both from his naturally
benevolent instincts and from his understanding of the law of God.  This
we may easily believe to be the case and, though his zealous soul may
afterwards, when all his energies of body and mind were exclusively
dedicated to his apostolate, have found grounds for self-reproach for
neglecting the spiritual wants of his Indians at that time, it is more
than probable that, even so, his care of them might well have served as a
pattern to his fellow-colonists and more than satisfied the natives, who
adored him.


The company of four Dominican monks under their Prior, Pedro de Cordoba,
had been increased until their community numbered twelve or fifteen men,
the severity of whose rule had been much augmented in the New World in
order to maintain the just proportion between their penitential lives and
the hard conditions of the colony in which they lived.  Their observation
of what was happening around them and of the injustice and cruelty daily
practised on the natives in defiance of the wishes of the Spanish
sovereigns, forced upon them the duty of protesting against such violation
of all laws, human and divine.  They had received into their community, as
a lay-brother, a man who, two years before, had murdered his Indian wife
and had afterwards fled to the forests where he lived as best he could.
The information furnished by this repentant criminal still further
amplified the insight of the monks into the treatment meted out to the
Indians and quickened their determination to attempt to stay the
iniquities of their countrymen.

The first man to raise his voice publicly in America against slavery and
all forms of oppression of the Indians was Fray Antonio de Montesinos, who
preached to the colonists of Santo Domingo a discourse, of which
unfortunately no full report now exists.  The monks had made a point of
inviting the Viceroy, the Treasurer, Passamonte, and all the officials to
be present in church on the Sunday fixed for the sermon, and it was known
throughout the colony that a matter of particular importance was to be the
subject of the discourse, though no one suspected its nature.  The text
chosen was from St. John: “I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness,” and the friar, who was blessed with the dual gifts of
eloquence and moral courage, drove his arguments and admonitions home with
such force that, though he was heard to the close without interruption,
the principal persons of the colony held a meeting after church and
decided that the preaching of such revolutionary doctrines must be
silenced.  They repaired to the monastery to make their protest, and to
demand that Fray Antonio should retract or modify his words the following
Sunday.  The Prior received the angry deputation and, after listening to
their demands, informed them that the discourse preached by Fray Antonio
represented the sentiments of the entire Dominican community and had been
pronounced with his full approbation.  The colonists became only the more
enraged at this answer and declared that, unless the preacher retracted,
the monks should pack their goods and return to Spain, to which the prior
with quiet irony replied: “Of a truth, gentlemen, that will give us little
trouble”; which indeed was the fact, for Las Casas says that all they
possessed of books, vestments, and clothing would have gone into two
trunks.  The most that the Prior would concede was that the subject should
be treated again on the following Sunday.

Fray Antonio once more ascended the pulpit and before the assembled colony
announced his text: “Repetam scientiam meam a principio et operatorem meum
probabo justum” (Job xxxvi. 3).  Not only did he repeat the sense of what
he had already said, but he elaborated still more forcibly his theme, and
ended by announcing that the sacraments of the Church would henceforth be
refused to all who persisted in the evil courses he denounced, and defying
his hearers to complain of him in Spain.

Amongst the men on whose startled ears these denunciations fell, were
hidalgos of high birth, reduced by reckless courses to expatriate
themselves in search of fortunes with which to return and resume their
extravagances in Spain; contemptuous of all forms of labour, they passed
their enforced exile in gambling, dicing, and debauchery in the company of
their Indian mistresses, chosen among the native beauties.   They
alternately courted the favour of the Viceroy or intrigued against him as
seemed most profitable to their interests; they displayed few of the
virtues and most of the vices common to their class in Spain.  Others
belonged in the unfailing and numerous category of adventurers, ever ready
to play a new stake in a new country; they constituted an equally reckless
but more resourceful element in the colony, though their contribution to
the moral tone of the community was likewise insignificant.  Columbus had
sought and obtained an authorisation to deport from Spain criminals under
sentence of either partial or perpetual banishment, while other
delinquents had had their sentences remitted on condition that they would
emigrate to the Indies.  So dissolute was the general tone of the colonies
and so depraved the habits of many of the colonists that Columbus could,
with sincerity, exclaim, “I vow that numbers of men have gone to the
Indies who did not deserve water from God or man.”

Las Casas, who loved sinners as much as he loathed sin, observed this
motley population with a more tolerant eye and affirmed that even amongst
those who had lost their ears, he still found sufficiently honest men; it
was not difficult to lose one’s ears in those days.  The voice of Fray
Antonio cried indeed in a moral wilderness!  But however far these men had
strayed from the true spirit of their religion, they had no intention of
foregoing the ministrations of the church, and they clung tenaciously to
the outward observance of forms and ceremonies as an offset against their
lax conformity to its moral precepts.

To be thus placed between the ban of excommunication and the renunciation
of their illegally held slaves, was an intolerable prospect.  Appeal or
protest to the Prior being useless, they despatched complaint to the King
and chose for the bearer of it a Franciscan friar, Alonso de Espinal, who
was instructed to unite his efforts to those of two other agents, who had
already been sent to obtain an extension of the encomienda privileges.
The Dominicans sent as their representative to contest the case, the
offending preacher himself, some generous sympathisers having been found
in the colony to furnish the money for the expenses of his journey.

The advocate for the colonists found all doors open to him and his way
made easy, for there were not a few of the courtiers and other great
personages in Spain who derived large profits from the abusive traffic in
the Indies, but the Dominican was friendless and met with obstacles on
every hand which barred his access to the King.  He managed after some
exercise of patience to outwit the gentlemen in attendance, and, forcing
his way into the King’s presence, begged to be heard.  Upon receiving the
royal permission to speak, the monk unfolded such a tale that the King sat
stupefied with horror at his ghastly recital.  “Did your Highness order
such deeds to be done?” asked the monk. “No, by God, never on my life,”
replied the King.  The immediate result of King Ferdinand’s aroused
conscience was, that a commission was formed to inquire into the case and
to take information on which to base a report to his Majesty.  The sense
of this report was that the Indians were freemen, but must be instructed
in the Christian religion; that they might be made to labour, but not in
such wise as to hinder their conversion nor in excess of their strength;
that they should have houses and be allowed sufficient time to cultivate
their own lands; that they should be kept in touch with the Christians and
that they should be paid wages for their work, which might be in clothing
and furnishings rather than in money.

While the discussions inside the commission were going on, the agents of
the colonists were active in presenting their side of the case.  Fray
Antonio was likewise losing no time, and was astonishingly successful in
that he won over the very Franciscan whom the colonists had sent to plead
their cause, and converted him into his staunch ally and supporter.

The outcome of this controversy was the code of laws promulgated at Burgos
on Dec. 27, 1512, and known as the Laws of Burgos.  They were afterwards
considerably added to by another commission, in which the Prior, Pedro de
Cordoba, who had come to Spain and seen the King, sat, and their
provisions, had they been conscientiously carried out in the sense their
framers designed, would have considerably ameliorated the condition of the
Indians.  They constitute the first public recognition of the rights of
the Indians and an attempt, at least, to amend their wrongs.

Three years elapsed between the date of Fray Antonio’s first courageous
plea on behalf of the Indians and the entrance of Las Casas upon the
active apostolate in their favour, to which the of his long life was
devoted.  There being no other priest at hand, Las Casas was invited to
say mass and preach at Baracoa on the feast of Pentecost in 1514, and in
searching the Scriptures for a suitable text he happened upon the
following verses in the thirty-fourth chapter of Ecclesiasticus, which
arrested his attention and started the train of reasoning destined to
produce great results.

“He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his offering is
ridiculous, and the gifts of unjust men are not accepted.  The most High
is not pleased with the offerings of the wicked; neither is He pacified
for sin by the multitude of sacrifices.”

“Whoso bringeth an offering of the goods of the poor doeth as one that
killeth the son before his father’s eyes.”

“The bread of the needy is their life; he that defraudeth him thereof is a
man of blood.”

“He that taketh away his neighbour’s living, slayeth him; and he that
defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a bloodshedder.”

The perusal of these simply worded texts, replete with terrible
significance, quickened the conscience of Las Casas more powerfully than
the spectacle of actual enormities happening daily for years under his
very eyes, though doubtless the influence of these many occurrences was
cumulative and had led him, gradually and unconsciously, up to the state
when but a touch was necessary to strip the last disguise from the heinous
abuses practised in the colony.  Until then he had been zealous in
protecting the Indians against massacre and pillage, but to the injustice
of the servitude imposed upon them, he was insensible, and he recounts
humbly enough that he had himself once been refused the sacraments by a
Dominican friar in Hispaniola—possibly the redoubtable Montesinos
himself—because he was a slave-holder.  He sustained a discussion on the
subject with the obdurate monk, whom he describes as a worthy and learned
man, but to little purpose, and the Dominican wound up by telling him that
“the truth has ever had many enemies, and falsehood many defenders.” Las
Casas, though somewhat impressed by what had passed between them, took no
heed of the admonition to release his Indians, and sought absolution from
a more lenient confessor.

Much time and many terrible experiences were required to germinate and
develop the seed the Dominicans had sown in his soul, but the day of
fruition came with the peaceful preparation of a discourse suitable for
the glorious feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, into whose
perpetual custody were committed the doctrines of Christ, to be infallibly
guarded.  Instead of disbursing these spiritual treasures to the humble
Indians amongst whom he lived as a superior being, almost deified in their
simple minds, he had profited by their labours as selfishly as the most
godless layman in the island, without making an effort to gather them into
one fold, under one shepherd, which, as a Christian priest, should have
been his chief occupation. But if the awakening was slow, it was complete,
and Las Casas was not one to shrink from following his beliefs to their
logical conclusions; not only was his newly formed conviction that the
treatment accorded to the Indians was a flagrant violation of all justice,
and one that merited condemnation in this world and condign punishment in
the next, absolute, but the first consequence following from it, and which
seemed to him imperative, was that he should forthwith set the example to
his fellow-colonists of freeing his serfs; the second was the devotion of
all his powers to making others see the wickedness of the system by which
they profited, and the terrible moral responsibility they would incur by
persisting in it.  He formed his determination to preach this crusade in
season and out and to henceforth use every weapon in defence of the
downtrodden natives.

Although he treated his own Indians kindly, and he well knew that if he
renounced his “encomienda” their condition would doubtless be worse under
the power of their new owner than before, Las Casas perceived how
impossible it would be to preach justice for the Indians while he himself
held them in bondage.

He went to the Governor, Diego Velasquez, and opened his mind fully on the
subject, declaring that as his conscience no longer permitted him to hold
his Indians in subjection, he had come to surrender them; and, admonishing
the Governor of his own grave responsibility, he announced that henceforth
his mission would be to preach this doctrine.  He desired for the moment
that his resolution should not be made public until the return to Cuba of
his friend and partner, Renteria, who was at that time absent in Jamaica
buying pigs and farm seeds.

The Governor listened with amazement to this new and, to him, monstrous
doctrine and, out of friendly interest for Las Casas, and possibly
thinking that his present intentions might subside if the renunciation of
his property could be deferred, he counselled him to go slowly, saying,
“Look well, father, to what you are doing, lest you may repent, for before
God I would wish to see you rich and prosperous.”  He urged him to take
fifteen days for careful consideration of the matter and to then return
and discuss his intentions.  This did not suit the temper of Las Casas who
answered: “My lord, I am much honoured by your desire for my prosperity
and for all the other favours you do me; but consider, my lord, that the
fifteen days have passed, and should I repent of my intention I have
expressed to you and desire to hold the Indians, and should you, out of
the regard you bear me, wish me to keep them or to renew your grant to me,
may it please God to punish you severely, nor to pardon you this sin.  I
only beg your lordship that all this shall remain secret and that you will
not grant the Indians to any one, until Renteria’s return, so that his
affairs may sustain no damage.”

The Governor reluctantly agreed and his respect for Las Casas being much
increased, he thenceforward forward consulted him in all that concerned
the welfare of the Indians.

On the feast of the Assumption, Las Casas preached a sermon on the
contemplative, as compared with the active life, in the course of which he
yielded to an impulse to make his intention publicly known.  Turning
towards the Governor’s seat, he said: “My lord, I give you permission to
tell to all what we have privately agreed upon between us, and I avail
myself of the same to announce it to all here present.” He then launched
into a fervid discourse upon the blindness, the injustice, the tyranny and
cruelty that marked the colonists’ treatment of the Indians, declaring
that their salvation was to be despaired of unless they liberated their
slaves and treated the natives humanely.  The assembly was moved to
mingled admiration and astonishment, for most of the colonists would as
soon have thought it a sin to work their beasts of burden as their
Indians, so deeply ingrained was their belief that the natives were
created to serve them.  Some were stimulated to sentiments of compunction,
but not to the extent of imitating the preacher’s heroic example of
renouncing the source of his income in deference to his moral principles.

While Las Casas was passing through these experiences in Cuba, his friend
and partner, Renteria, was, by a singular coincidence, arriving at
analogous convictions concerning the Indians and pondering upon the
formation of some plan by which the diminishing remnant of them might be
rescued from servitude and converted to the Christian religion.   During
lent of that year he made a retreat in a Franciscan monastery in Jamaica
whither, as has been said, he had gone to procure farm stock.  During this
period of seclusion from temporal distractions, he came to the conclusion
that the best means to benefit the natives would be to found several
schools or colleges into which the Indian boys and younger men might be
collected, and he formed the determination to go himself, if necessary, to
Spain and seek royal approval and support for this project.  Las Casas had
meantime become so impatient of further delay in beginning his labours
that, having made public his intentions, he abandoned his original idea of
waiting for Renteria’s return before starting for Spain.  Although he was
without funds and had no means of getting any save by the sale of a mare
worth a hundred pesos of gold, he wrote to Renteria telling him that he
was about leaving Cuba for Spain on business of great importance, so that,
if his friend wished to see him before he started, he must hasten back
from Jamaica.  Renteria, in consequence, finished his business in the
island and returned as quickly as possible to Cuba, where he was met upon
landing by the Governor, Las Casas, and numerous others, for he was a very
popular and much esteemed man in the colony.  It was only when the two
friends finally found themselves alone that an exchange of confidences
became possible, and Renteria, yielding to the insistence of Las Casas,
unfolded his plan for the establishment of Indian schools.  Each in turn
was surprised and gratified to learn the project of the other and, after
some discussion and arguments, it was decided that, of the two, Las Casas
was the one who must go to Spain.  Renteria disposed of his Jamaica
purchases and, out of the profits, furnished his friend with money enough
to defray the expenses of what was foreseen would be a long and doubtless
costly sojourn at court.

At this same juncture, the Dominican Prior in Santo Domingo sent four of
his monks to establish a community in Cuba, choosing as their Prior, Fray
Bernardo, who is described as both a pious and a learned man.  The
Governor of Cuba received these religious with great satisfaction, but to
no one did their coming afford greater joy than to Las Casas.  The
Dominicans began a series of earnest and edifying sermons, in the course
of which practical applications of Scripture texts were made to the actual
condition of affairs in the colony; and, by using the information
furnished them by Las Casas, the preachers were able to make very forcible
home thrusts on the subject of the injustice of the system of serfage and
the grave responsibility of those Spaniards who oppressed the Indians.
These sermons disturbed the conscience of the colonists but not to the
point of amending their evil system, so the chief result was a general
feeling of dissatisfaction within themselves and one of intensified
exasperation towards the preachers of such uncomfortable doctrine.  The
monks, on their part, realising that it was idle to combat with purely
spiritual weapons a system of evils which everybody was interested in
maintaining, perceived their only hope of success lay in having their
hands strengthened by royal support, and accordingly their Prior decided
to go to Spain with Las Casas, where they might co-operate in their


Las Casas was fully conscious of the hostility his mission was bound to
provoke, and how odious he would make himself, not only to the colonists,
but also to the members of the India Council, the courtiers, and to many
influential persons in Spain, all of whom had investments in the colonies
and drew incomes from the very abuses he was to combat; he therefore took
the precaution of drawing up a sworn and witnessed statement, ad perpetuam
rei memoriam, with the legal formalities dear to Spanish usage, in which
he recounted all the services of every kind that he had rendered in the
colonies.  Lest obstacles might be put in the way of his departure, he
resorted to a little dissimulation and caused the report to be spread that
he intended to go to Paris to finish his law studies and take his degree
at the university there.  The colonists, including the Governor, were
duped by this subterfuge and he departed in company with the Prior, who
took with him a deacon of his order, Fray Diego de Alberca.  The first
stage of their journey was to Hispaniola, where the Prior was seized by a
severe illness, to which he succumbed in the town of San Juan de la

In the city of Santo Domingo, Las Casas encountered his old friend and
precursor in the defence of the Indians, Prior Pedro de Cordoba, to whom
he recounted all that had befallen him in Cuba, his newly found vocation,
and his intention to visit Spain and lay the case for the Indians before
the King.  The Prior praised his resolution, but in wishing him all
success, he explained the situation he would find awaiting him in Spain,
where the all-powerful Bishop of Burgos, who was at the head of Indian
affairs, and the royal Secretary, Lope Conchillos, were entirely in favour
of the system of repartimientos and encomiendas, being themselves
shareholders in colonial enterprises.  As not uncommonly happens, it was
on the estates of such absentee owners that the Indians were most cruelly
handled, being mercilessly overworked by overseers anxious to curry favour
at home by the remittance of ever-increasing revenues.

Although he was sufficiently impressed by what he heard, the zeal of the
new apostle was undiminished.  The Dominican community in Hispaniola being
in sad need of funds, the Prior decided to profit by the occasion and to
send one of his monks with Las Casas to Spain to solicit aid.  He chose
for this mission the same Fray Antonio de Montesinos, whose earnestness in
behalf of the natives rendered him a sympathetic companion, while his own
experience in handling the question in Spain, promised to be of great
assistance to Las Casas.  They sailed in September, 1515, and after a
prosperous voyage arrived safely at Seville, where Montesinos lodged in
the monastery of his Order, while Las Casas was given hospitality by his

The Archbishop of Seville at that time was Fray Diego de Deza, a Dominican
who stood high in King Ferdinand’s favour, and the first service
Montesinos rendered his companion was to present him to the Archbishop, to
whom he had already given some account of the objects which brought them
both to Spain, and of the zeal of Las Casas in a cause which the Dominican
Order had made peculiarly its own.  It required no persuasion to enlist
the good offices of the Archbishop, who was in entire sympathy with their
undertaking and promptly furnished Las Casas with a warm letter to the
King, commending both the cause and its advocate.  To facilitate his
approach to the King, he furnished Las Casas also with letters to
influential persons in the royal household.

No better beginning could have been desired, and Las Casas set out for
Plasencia where the King then was, arriving there a few days before
Christmas in the year 1515.  Thanks to the counsels and information given
him by Montesinos, Las Casas knew something of the court and upon what
persons he might count, who might still be won over, and who were to be
avoided.  Among these last, the most notorious and powerful opponents were
the Bishop of Burgos and the Secretary, Lope Conchillos.  Whatever virtues
the former may have possessed they were certainly not of the apostolic
order and his appointment to the high office of President of the India
Council was one of the earliest and greatest calamities that overtook
American interests.  Las Casas was careful, therefore, to defer meeting
these two personages and to refrain from disclosing the object of his
presence until he should have first secured a hearing from the King, whose
sympathy he hoped to enlist before his opponents could prejudice the
monarch against him.  Again fortune favoured him, and two days before
Christmas he was closeted with the King, and explained in the fullest
detail the state of things in the islands; the extinction of the natives,
which was following rapidly on the barbarities and rapacity of the
Spaniards, and the violation of the royal provisions which the benevolence
of the late Queen and the sagacity of the King had decreed.  He was astute
enough to couple with the argument that these iniquities lay heavily on
the royal conscience, the assurance that the revenues from the Indies
would infallibly diminish until they ceased altogether, unless these
crying abuses were corrected.  In this conversation the charming
personality, cultivated intelligence, and earnest convictions of Las Casas
told powerfully, and he recounted horrifying incidents to the astonished
sovereign which, it may be rightly imagined, lost nothing in the recital
by such an eloquent and fervent advocate.  Again he was completely
successful, for King Ferdinand promised him another and longer audience
before Easter in which he would go more fully into the matter.  He slyly
notes in closing his own description of the audience and its results, that
neither Conchillos nor the Bishop of Burgos was much overjoyed when they
heard from the King what subject was under discussion.

Diego Velasquez was well aware that Las Casas would spare no means to
carry on his propaganda and that his first step would doubtless be to
engage the attention of the Admiral, Diego Columbus, whose lieutenant
Velasquez was, and that of the King as well, if he could reach him.  He
wrote therefore to the Treasurer, Passamonte, who in turn wrote to
Conchillos and the Bishop of Burgos warning them of what was on foot.

The monks of the Dominican Order were, in those days, to be found in many
posts of influence, not the least of which was that of confessor to the
King, and to Fray Tomas de Matiencio, the ghostly father of King
Ferdinand, Las Casas did not fail to go at the outset.  Matiencio had
already shown pronounced sympathy with the cause of the Indians and was,
therefore, to be counted upon as a firm ally, both because of his personal
convictions and for motives of solidarity with his Order.  Through his
confessor, Ferdinand sent to tell Las Casas that he should preceed him to
Seville and wait for his arrival there, when the promised audience would
be granted him; the King’s departure was fixed for the fourth day after
Christmas, so it may be seen that this affair did not drag just then at
the Spanish court.   The confessor also advised Las Casas not to avoid the
Bishop of Burgos and Conchillos; but, on the contrary, to go openly to
both and to explain as frankly to them as he had done to the King, the
exact condition of the Indians, the motives which had prompted him to
intervene, and the measures he judged necessary to stop the depopulation
and ruin of the colonies.  Matiencio reasoned that, as the matter must
ultimately come into the hands of these two men, and as they had to be
reckoned with, it was far wiser to give them the fullest information at
the outset, hoping also that Las Casas’s moving description of the
sufferings the Indians endured might modify their opposition.  This
counsel did not accord with the plan of Las Casas but he allowed his
judgment to be overruled by the royal confessor’s advice and sought out
Conchillos as being the less intractable of the two.  The letter from the
Archbishop of Seville procured him a courteous reception and had he come
seeking a benefice or some preferment from the King, he might have counted
upon the favour and assistance of the Secretary to advance his suit, but,
as he piously phrases it, he had, by divine mercy, been rescued from the
darkness in which, like all the others, he had wandered, a lost man, and
was liberated from all desire for any temporal benefits.  Save the
gracious words and courtly blandishments which Conchillos showered upon
him, nothing resulted from the interview.

His reception by the Bishop of Burgos was of a totally different order
and, though it is to be lamented that this prelate did not possess more of
the virtues becoming his state, it must be noted in his favour that
hypocrisy was wanting in his unlovely character.  Amongst other atrocities
which Las Casas brought to his attention was the death of seven thousand
Indian children within three months, on which he dwelt, hoping to touch
some humane chord in the Bishop.  He was deceived. “Look what an ignorant
fool you are!” exclaimed his lordship. “What is this to me or what to the
King?” This rough answer goaded his patience beyond control and Las Casas
shouted in reply: “That all these souls perish is nothing to you and
nothing to the King!  Oh, Eternal God! then to whom is it anything?”  With
this he left the Bishop’s presence.

The activity of Las Casas, his earnestness and his eloquence produced
immediate effects, for he forced Indian affairs upon the languid attention
of indifferent people and aroused so much interest in them that they
became a topic of general discussion.  He recounted his experiences to
Archbishop Deza on his return to Seville, and begged him to arrange that
both Conchillos and the Bishop of Burgos should be present at the audience
the King had promised him, so that he might put the case fully, for he
desired to charge them directly in the royal presence with responsibility
for the massacres and cruelties to the Indians and for the damage done to
the royal interests by their maladministration of the colonies.  His
project for this dramatic encounter was forestalled, and all the hopes
born of the royal assurances given him at Plasencia were dashed by the
news that reached Seville of the death of King Ferdinand, which occurred
at Madrigalegos on January 23, 1516.

This sudden stoppage of his carefully planned campaign was discouraging
enough to Las Casas but he was not disheartened, and resolved to set out
at once for Flanders where the young King Charles then was and to present
his plans to the monarch before he arrived in Spain.

King Ferdinand’s last will designated Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros as
regent of the kingdom until his successor’s arrival in Spain.

In a century prolific in great men, Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros was among
the greatest.  Descended from an honourable family, he entered the Church,
where a career of great promise opened before him.  At an early age,
however, he quit the secular priesthood for the cloister and became a monk
of the Franciscan Order, in which the austerity of his observance of that
severe rule of life and the vigour of his intellect advanced him to the
position of a Provincial.

Much against his own inclination, he had accepted the post of confessor to
Queen Isabella and from thence forward he became, in spite of himself, a
dominant figure in the political and ecclesiastical affairs of the realm.
The Queen raised him to the primatial see of Toledo, which carried with it
his elevation to the Roman purple.  The Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo was
the richest and most important person in Spain, after the sovereign; but
promotion to this lofty dignity, with its obligations to the pomp and
magnificence imposed by the usage of the times, in no way modified the
austerity of Cardinal Ximenez’s life.  He still wore the rough habit of
St. Francis under his purple and he patched its rents with his own hands.
Amidst palatial surroundings he slept on the floor or on a wooden
bench—never in a bed—and he held strictly to the diet of a simple monk.
No man was less of the world than he, though none was more in it or knew
it better.  He became as renowned for his wisdom and ability in conducting
affairs as he had long since been for his sanctity, and the confidence
which the King and Queen reposed in him caused him to be admitted to their
counsels on all the most important matters of government.

               [Illustration: Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros]

                       Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros

From a relief preserved in the Universidad Central. Photo by J. Laurent &
                               Co., Madrid

When the death of King Ferdinand occurred, the Cardinal was nearly eighty
years of age, yet he accepted and assumed the regency imposed upon him by
the King’s testament.  Adrian of Utrecht, Dean of the University of
Louvain, who had resided for some months at the court of King Ferdinand in
the quality of ambassador from Prince Charles, produced full powers from
the young sovereign, which conferred upon him the regency after
Ferdinand’s death.  Cardinal Ximenez acknowledged him without delay, and a
joint regency was instituted in which Adrian’s part was merely nominal, as
the actual government was carried on exclusively by the Cardinal.

It could hardly have been otherwise, for Adrian, as a foreigner, was
unpopular in Spain, where he exercised no influence; he did not even speak
Spanish and being, moreover, of a scholarly disposition, little used to
the intricacies of affairs of state, he was doubtless glad enough to
shelter himself behind the powerful figure of his masterful colleague.
The Cardinal was adored by the people; the sanctity of his life, the
integrity of his character, the superlative order of his genius, and his
princely munificence made him more powerful than any sovereign.  Some of
the great nobles who had imagined that the regency of an aged monk would
favour the designs of their invasive ambitions were sharply checked by the
energy of the new regent, who had organised an efficient body of troops in
his own pay and speedily made it apparent that Spain had a ruler with whom
it was perilous to trifle.  One incident in the contest he sustained in
defence of the crown’s prerogatives against the encroachments of the
feudal nobles, illustrates his character.  The Duke of Infantado, the
Grand Admiral of Castile, and the Count of Benevente came as
representatives of the nobles, to inquire into the nature of the powers by
which the regent exercised such absolute authority.  After hearing them
courteously, the Cardinal produced the late King’s testament and its
formal ratification by the absent King Charles.  As they raised some
objections to the extent of the powers these documents gave him, he led
them to a window of his apartment commanding a view of a large encampment
of soldiers and artillery, saying, “There are the powers I have received
from his Catholic Majesty, by which I govern and shall continue to govern
Castile, until the King, my master and yours, shall take possession of his
kingdom.” This answer both astonished and silenced them and they withdrew
convinced of the futility of conspiracies against a man so well prepared
and so determined.

The supreme object of his regency was to consolidate the union of the
various kingdoms and principalities of the peninsula into one state—in
other words to create a nation.  This he did, and thus laid the
foundations of Spain’s greatest power and glory, for he delivered the
kingdom to the young monarch in a more prosperous condition than it had
ever before enjoyed, and with the royal authority more widely extended and
more firmly grounded than any other Spanish sovereign had ever possessed

The regency of Cardinal Ximenez did not last two years, yet such was the
permanent character of his beneficent influence upon the national
development, that the memory of his services is still undimmed in Spain.
Amongst the statesmen of his times, he was facile princeps and he enjoys
the unique distinction of being the only prime-minister in history who was
regarded as a saint by his own contemporaries. (28)

To this ascetic and autocratic but not unkindly statesman Las Casas
decided to address himself, and he proceeded to Madrid to acquaint the two
regents with the abuses prevailing in the Indies and to announce his
intention of going to Flanders unless the necessary measures for the
relief of the oppressed Indians could be devised in Spain before the King
arrived.  He drew up a statement of the case in Latin, which he submitted
to the Ambassador Adrian, and another, identical, in Spanish, for Cardinal
Ximenez.  The gentle-hearted Fleming was horrified by what he read of the
atrocities perpetrated in the King’s name in the colonies, and repairing
to the apartment of Cardinal Ximenez, who lodged in the same palace, asked
him if such enormities were possible.  As the Cardinal already had plenty
of information on the subject from his brother Franciscans, he replied
that all that Las Casas stated was true and that there was even more
besides.  He signified to Las Casas that his proposed journey to Flanders
was unnecessary as he would himself provide means in Madrid for correcting
the abuses in the colonies.  There began at once a series of conferences
to which Cardinal Ximenez summoned his colleague in the regency, the
licentiate Zapata, Dr. Carbajal, and the distinguished jurist Dr. Palacios
Rubios; in the course of these debates Las Casas fully exposed the evils
of the colonial administration and proposed the measures which, in his
judgment, were necessary to remedy them.  The Cardinal-regent always had
by him as a consultor the Bishop of Avila, who was also of his Order, but
he rigorously excluded the obnoxious Bishop of Burgos from all
participation in Indian affairs, to the no small perturbation of that
prelate.  Las Casas relates a significant incident that happened during
one of these conferences, illustrating the means employed by his opponents
to confute his statements.  Cardinal Ximenez ordered the Laws of Burgos,
which, since 1512, were supposed to be in full force in the Indies for the
protection of the natives, to be read aloud; upon reaching one of the
articles, the reader falsified the text; Las Casas, who knew every line of
those acts by heart, objected and the Cardinal ordered the reader to
repeat; he did so in the same language, whereupon Las Casas once more
objected, saying, “The law does not say that.” The Cardinal, rendered
impatient by the repeated interruption, turned to Las Casas and remarked
with severity, “Either be silent or look well to what you say.” “Your
Eminence may take my head off if what this clerk is reading be truly found
in that law,” replied Las Casas promptly.  Taking the articles from the
hands of the reader he showed his Eminence that the sense had not been
correctly read.  The confusion of the clerk, whom Las Casas refuses to
dishonour by naming him in his history, was complete.  The outcome of
these discussions was that Las Casas, Dr. Palacios Rubios, and Fray
Antonio de Montesinos (who had meanwhile arrived in Madrid) were deputed
by the Cardinal-regent to draft a project of laws which would sufficiently
protect the Indians and secure fair government in the colonies.  By common
consent of his collaborators, the task of framing these laws was left
exclusively to Las Casas.  His propositions were:

   1. Unconditional liberty for the Indians;
   2. Suppression of both repartimientos and encomiendas;
   3. Some provisions for assisting the Spaniards to work their properties
      profitably without recurring to the oppressive and abusive systems
      they had hitherto employed.

Both Fray Antonio and Dr. Palacios Rubios approved these articles and the
latter somewhat added to and improved them, recomposing them in the proper
legal terminology of the time, after which they were again submitted,
discussed, and in some unimportant details, amended, in the
above-mentioned council presided over by the Cardinal, The next important
step was to place the execution of these new provisions in the hands of
trusted delegates who would apply them rigorously and in the sense
designed by the council, for there had been no lack of excellent decrees,
having the same end in view, but which had, in the past, been rendered
null and of no effect, through the connivance of the colonial authorities,
to whom their execution had been entrusted.  Las Casas, for the best of
motives, declined having any part in designating such officers and in
consideration of certain rivalries existing between the Franciscan and
Dominican Orders, especially in Indian affairs, the Cardinal finally
decided to confide the necessary powers to the monks of St. Jerome, an
Order which had thus far taken no part in colonial affairs.  Upon
receiving the Cardinal’s notification of this intention, the General of
that Order, who resided at San Bartolomé de Lupiano, summoned a chapter of
all the priors of Castile, in which twelve monks were designated, amongst
whom the regent might make his selection.  Four priors came to Madrid to
notify this result to his Eminence, and one afternoon the two regents,
accompanied by the entire court, rode out to the monastery of St. Jerome
near the Buen Retiro Gardens, where they lodged, to receive the formal
answer of the chapter.  Las Casas was, of course, present, and the regents
were received by the monks in the sacristy of the church, which had been
appropriately prepared for the great occasion.  Cardinal Ximenez addressed
the assembly, highly commending the willingness of the Jeronymites to
undertake such a meritorious task, and then ordered that Las Casas be
summoned to hear the result.

The boyish enthusiasm of Las Casas’s character appears on this occasion,
for, consumed with impatience, tortured by hopes and fears, he had waited
outside in the upper cloister as long as he could stand it and had then
finally descended a staircase which brought him unexpectedly to the
sacristy door, just in time to hear that he was being searched for; some
one asked him if he knew Las Casas, to which he meekly replied, “I am he.”
As he could not get in at that door, he had to go round through the
church, which obliged him to traverse the choir, where all the great
people of the court in attendance on the regents were waiting and who, so
Las Casas observes, were all glad to see him, except perhaps the Bishop of
Burgos.  This hour of Las Casas’s triumph was complete; on his knees
before the Cardinal-regent, in the presence of the assembled Priors of
Castile and the entire court, he heard, with ill-repressed tears, the
announcement that all he had most earnestly striven and prayed for was now
to be realised and that he himself was designated to confer with the
General of the Jeronymites concerning the choice of the men who were to
execute the new laws in the Indies.  The Cardinal, who unbent to few,
treated Las Casas with genial familiarity and when the latter declared
that he did not need the money his Eminence had provided for his expenses,
as he had enough of his own, he smilingly observed, “Go to, father, I am
richer than you.”

Not a moment of time was wasted, and that very evening Las Casas received
his instructions and twenty ducats for the expenses of his journey to
Lupiano, whither he set out the following morning.  One of the twelve
monks amongst whom the selection was to be made was in that monastery, and
the General had him called and presented him to Las Casas, who was as
pleased with his robust appearance, which promised to support the physical
hardships of colonial life, as he was with all that he heard of his
virtues and learning, though his face was as ugly a one as ever a man had;
this was Fray Bernardino de Mazanedo, the Prior of Mejorada, and he was
selected as one of the commission; Luis de Figueroa and the Prior of St.
Jeromino in Seville were finally agreed upon between Las Casas and the
General to complete the number.

No sooner had the Jeronymite monks arrived in Madrid than the agents of
the colonists, and all those who were interested in maintaining the
encomiendas and repartimientos, whose suppression meant the diminution of
their incomes, laid instant siege to them.  Las Casas was abused and even
threatened in the public streets, and a well organised campaign of calumny
and misrepresentation was set actively in motion.  The Indians were
represented as lazy, filthy pagans, of bestial morals, no better than
dogs, and fit only for slavery, in which state alone there might be some
hope of instructing and converting them to Christianity.  Las Casas was
flouted as a fanatic, bent on destroying the Spanish colonies, and as an
enemy of his country’s interests.  So adroitly were these and other
arguments presented, and so overwhelming was the mass of testimony
favourable to the colonists that constantly reached the Jeronymites from
all sides, that they began to be ill-affected towards Las Casas and to
disregard his suggestions.  Dr. Palacios Rubios was so disturbed by their
new inclination, that after conversations with them, in which their
changed views were plainly manifested, he declared it would be disastrous
to send such men; he forthwith determined to stop their departure, if
possible, before it was too late.

Cardinal Ximenez fell seriously ill at this time and Palacios Rubios
sought access to him in vain.  As soon as his Eminence had sufficiently
convalesced to attend to business, he ordered the final instructions to be
given to the Jeronymites and their departure to be hastened.  One of the
orders directed them, upon arriving in Hispaniola, to at once annul the
encomiendas held by members of the Royal Council for the Indies.  This
struck a hard blow at Conchillos and the Bishop of Burgos amongst others,
for the former lost eleven hundred Indians and the latter eight hundred,
(29) nor from that time forth did any member of the Council openly hold
property in slaves, though Las Casas was sceptical as to whether they did
not continue to have private interests.  Another similar order obliged all
judges and royal officials in the colonies to surrender their slaves.  The
general sense of the instructions furnished to the Jeronymites for their
guidance was in conformity with the ideas of Las Casas and the articles
were indeed drawn up by him, although certain concessions which did not
meet with his approval had been made to public opinion, and the important
property-owners in the colonies were sufficiently powerful at court to
obtain some modifications and to suppress some provisions in favour of the
Indians, which seriously hampered the original proposals.  In spite of the
declaration formally set down in the will of Isabella the Catholic that
the Indians were and must be considered free men, the contrary opinion had
come to prevail, and in the beginning of his negotiations in Spain Las
Casas himself had not ventured to insist too much or too openly on this
point, until one day, when in conversation with Cardinal Ximenez, he
queried by what principle of justice the Indians were held in subjection.
His Eminence answered with some vivacity: “With no justice, for are they
not free men? And who can doubt they are free?”  From thenceforward Las
Casas sustained this opinion unflinchingly.(30) The licentiate Zuazo of
Seville was appointed to accompany the Jeronymites and to open an inquiry
(tomar la residencia) into the administration of the colonial officials.
The powers of the friars were the fullest possible and enabled them to
inquire into all matters touching the welfare of the Indians and to
correct abuses, but they were not “governors” as has been supposed and
stated by many writers, but rather overseers, charged to ensure the proper
execution of the laws which had been enacted to protect the natives.

As soon as the instructions were delivered to the Jeronymites, Las Casas
received the following order from the Cardinal-regent:

“The Queen and the King.  Bartholomew de Las Casas, priest, native of the
city of Seville, and resident of the island of Cuba which is in the

“For as much as we are informed that you have been and are resident in
those parts for a long time, from which you know and are experienced in
their affairs, especially in what touches the well-being and usefulness of
the Indians, and you know and are acquainted with their life and
conversation from having dwelt with them, and because we know your good
zeal in our Lord’s service, from which we hope that you will execute with
all diligence and care what we shall charge and command you and will see
to what contributes to the welfare of the souls and bodies of the
Spaniards and Indians who live there; by these presents we command you to
repair to those regions of the said Indies, such as the islands of
Hispaniola, Cuba, San Juan, and Jamaica as well as to the mainland; and
you shall advise, inform, and give your opinion to the pious Jeronymite
fathers whom we despatch to effect the reformation of the Indies, and to
other persons who may assist them in this, concerning everything which
touches the liberty, good treatment and welfare of the souls and bodies of
the said Indians in the said islands and mainland; and that you shall
write to us giving information concerning everything that may be done or
should be done in the said islands; and that you shall do everything
required for our Lord’s service; for all of which we give you full power,
with all its casualties, dependencies, emergencies, annexes, and connexes;
and we command our Admiral and appellate judges and all other justices
whatsoever of the said Islands and Tierrafirma that they protect you and
cause this power to be protected and that they shall not oppose or go
contrary to its form and tenor nor consent that such be done at any time
or in any way under pain of our displeasure and of 10,000 maravedis for
each person who may act to the contrary.”

“Done at Madrid the 17th day of September in the year 1516 F. Cardinalis,
Adrianus Ambasiator—By command of the Queen and the King her son, our
sovereigns, the governors in their name.  George de Baracaldo.”

In addition to this full power, Las Casas was given the title of
Protector-General (or Procurator-General) of all the Indians, to which
office an annual salary of one hundred dollars was attached, an amount
which, for the times, was a considerable one.

Though everything now seemed ready for the departure of the Jeronymites
and Las Casas, the members of the Council still advanced objections to the
instructions which Palacios Rubios had drawn up for the licentiate Zuazo,
who had been deputed to take the residencia of the colonial judges; it was
feared that some severe decisions might be given on acts which these
latter had performed in the interests of the members of the India Council,
whose tools they were.  Las Casas employed his usual direct tactics to
overcome these delays and brought the matter to the Cardinal’s notice.
His Eminence summoned the licentiate Zapata and Dr. Carbajal into his
presence and ordered them to sign Zuazo’s papers; they obeyed, but
contrived to affix a mark in cipher to their signatures which would enable
them later to complain to the King that the regent had forced them to

In taking leave of the Cardinal, Las Casas frankly declared that he feared
the Jeronymites had been so tampered with and influenced before starting
on their mission, that more evil than good was to be apprehended from
their action.  The Cardinal, nonplussed for an instant by these
forebodings, exclaimed, “Whom then can we trust?” quickly adding, “Go on
and do you look out for everything.”

This unpromising joint-commission sailed from San Lucar on November 11,
1516, but in separate vessels, the Jeronymites keeping aloof from Las
Casas, who they contrived should not embark on the same ship with
themselves.  Their vessel reached Hispaniola thirteen days earlier than
the other, which had been obliged to stop at Puerto Rico to discharge

By detaching themselves from Las Casas at the very outset, the three
Jeronymites doubtless intended to affirm the impartial and independent
attitude essential to the judicial character of their mission.  They were
not carried to the Indies on any such wave of righteous zeal and
indignation as bore the impetuous reformer on its crest.  They were
cloister-bred men, cautious and prudent in their decisions and deliberate
in their acts, and they doubtless felt that for them to arrive in company
with Las Casas would be to prejudice the impartiality of their proceedings
in the eyes of all the colonists.  They were sent to the colonies to carry
out instructions of a most delicate and difficult nature and it was their
obvious preference to fulfil their mission, as far as possible, without
friction.  In this exercise of caution, Las Casas beheld weakness and even
treachery.  His passionate nature chafed and raged at the deliberateness
with which these impassive monks moved, and he was not slow to denounce
them as having been won over by the blandishments of the colonial
officials to betray the mission with which they were entrusted.  His
passion for justice, associated as it was with unrealisable ideals,
refused to take account of the multifarious difficulties in the way of the
reforms on which his heart was set, and he despised the obstacles to their
consummation, through which he would have crashed, regardless of the
consequences.  Despite the sincerity of these one-sided views of the great
Protector, it must be conceded that the problems confronting the
Jeronymites were complex and difficult of solution.  The prompt and
reckless execution of their instructions would have overturned the entire
economic system of the colonies which, however unjust in its principles,
was the established condition of things, and would have certainly brought
financial ruin as the first consequence.  The situation was one which
called for all their circumspection if the Jeronymites were to make their
authority effective and their decisions operative.  They were the first of
all the men sent by the Spanish government to effect reforms in the
colonies, whose intention to discharge their duty was conscientious,
though Las Casas does not even admit this in their favour, for he declares
that they had relatives in the islands whom they desired to benefit, and
that in writing to the Governor of Cuba they even signed themselves as his
“chaplains,” which seemed to him conclusive proof of their too subservient
attitude towards the higher colonial authorities.

The Jeronymites, however, had been furnished with two sets of instructions
and it was within their discretion to guide their policy according to
either, as their judgment formed on the spot might dictate.  The first set
of instructions was in conformity with the plan drawn up by Las Casas and
Palacios Rubios; the second was provided in case the result of their
investigations showed the full application of the first to be inexpedient,
for Cardinal Ximenez, though sympathising with the ideas of Las Casas, was
not led by him, but viewed the situation, as he did every other that
concerned the welfare of the Spanish realm, from the standpoint of a
statesman trustee for the absent sovereign.

The first measures of the Jeronymites were in the right direction, but
they were far too timid and temporising to satisfy the expectations of Las
Casas; the conditions he had foreseen were only too prompt in declaring
themselves, for the Jeronymites showed themselves somewhat insensible to
the crying abuses which he incessantly pressed upon their attention.  They
did not give full credit to all of his representations and even ignored
many of the proofs he adduced.  They had failed to find the picture he had
drawn in Spain of the Indians an entirely accurate one, and they resisted
his reiterated demand that they should scrupulously obey the injunction to
at once deprive all royal judges and officials of their encomiendas.  The
exasperation of Las Casas at this time pushed him to excesses which
aroused such a storm of ill-feeling and hostility against him that his
good friends the Dominicans feared for his life and insisted that he
should come to live with them in their monastery, where he would be safer
from any violence his enemies might attempt.  Whether it was feasible to
proceed in the drastic manner demanded by Las Casas is open to doubt.  It
is evident that the colonists would have offered an obstinate resistance,
to combat which the three Jeronymites had nothing but the moral force of
their commission.  Even with our present facilities for rapid
communication, it is not always easy for the central authority to control
its agents and ensure the faithful execution of its intentions.  In the
sixteenth century, time and distance influenced powerfully the action of
the government representatives.  Their instructions were made complex,
voluminous, in the effort to cover every possible emergency, but no
foresight sufficed for the purpose, while the legal system in use opened
many loopholes for evading or postponing the application of unpopular
measures.  An appeal from a royal commissioner’s decision, to the India
Council or to the King, entailed a delay of many long months or even
years, during which each party contested every point.  The outcome of such
proceedings was problematical but the resisting party was always certain
of the one positive advantage of delay.


As soon as Zuazo arrived, nearly three months after the Jeronymites, Las
Casas immediately lodged against members of the audiencia, an accusation
of having encouraged and shared in the man-hunts in the Lucayan islands
and the enslavement of the captured natives.  The Jeronymites, whose every
act was now one of opposition to Las Casas, showed much annoyance at this
impeachment of the royal functionaries.  They solicited divers opinions,
addressing themselves to the accused officials, who naturally exculpated
themselves, to the Franciscan monks, who were not over-friendly to the
Indians, and to the Dominicans, who were their warm advocates.  Much
discussion ensued, and meanwhile the perplexed Jeronymites did nothing, so
that matters continued as they had been before their arrival, except that
the sufferings of the Indians were augmented by their owners, who feared
that the encomienda system was nearing its end and hence worked their
Indians to death, sparing neither women nor children, so as to get all the
profit they could out of them before they lost them.  Charges and
counter-charges were sent to Spain, the Jeronymites complaining of Las
Casas and he in turn denouncing them to Cardinal Ximenez, though many of
his letters were intercepted and never reached their destination.  Things
had come to such a pass that the only hope of remedy lay in Las Casas
returning to Spain to file complaints against the very men he had himself
caused to be sent to the Indies and in whose impartiality and humanity he
had placed all his hopes.  Both the Dominicans and Franciscans, for once
in accord in this business, addressed letters to the King and the Cardinal
in defence of Las Casas, armed with which he sailed in May, 1517, for
Spain and within fifty days arrived at Aranda de Duero, where he found his
friend and protector, the Cardinal-regent, stricken with a serious

The arrival in Spain of the young King, Charles I.—better known in history
under his imperial title of Charles V.,—after repeated postponements was
now confidently expected.  During his regency, Cardinal Ximenez had been
frequently embarrassed by the influences surrounding the King in his
distant Flemish court.  He had written with characteristic frankness
advising the King not to bring a Flemish household with him into Spain,
and as soon as the date for the royal journey was fixed, the Cardinal set
out to meet his arriving sovereign, travelling as fast as his age and
infirmities would allow.  He had arrived at Aranda de Duero, where he was
seized with an illness of such a mysterious character that his friends
hinted that he had been poisoned.

In the one interview which Las Casas obtained, he perceived that the
machinations of his enemies had not been entirely in vain, for he found
the Cardinal’s mind somewhat influenced by the representations which had
reached him from the Jeronymites and the agents of the colonists.

Charles V. landed at Villaviciosa in Asturias on September 13, 1517.
Among his first acts was the dispatch of a letter to the Cardinal, in
which the latter was dismissed to his diocese with a few perfunctory
expressions of regard and recognition for his services.  Cardinal Ximenez
breathed his last a few hours after reading this heartless communication
and Las Casas was left to begin anew his life as a courtier and to
cultivate the good-will of the all-powerful Flemish favourites.  He was
fortunate, at this time, in securing the friendship of a brother of Fray
Antonio de Montesinos, named Reginaldo, who was also a Dominican and
proved a staunch and resourceful ally.

                        [Illustration: Charles V.]

                                Charles V.

 From an engraving by Ferdinand Slema, made in 1778 after the portrait by

Influences and arguments which sound strange enough in twentieth-century
ears were powerful, and likely to be employed with dangerous success in
Spain at that time.  One of the members of the Council having asserted to
Fray Reginaldo that the Indians were incapable of conversion, the friar
submitted this proposition to the Prior of San Estéban in Salamanca, one
of the most learned and influential men in the Dominican order, asking him
to invite a body of theologians to determine whether or no such an
affirmation was in accordance with Catholic doctrine, and to send him a
copy of the decision.  Thirteen doctors of theology and other
ecclesiastical authorities replied with four or five signed conclusions,
the last of which defined that all who held or propagated that error
should be condemned to the stake as heretics.  This was a weapon in Las
Casas’s hands which circumstances might make formidable; it was no
trifling thing to be arraigned before the tribunal of the Inquisition on a
charge of holding heretical doctrines, for neither rank nor calling
availed to protect the offender, and it is somewhat astonishing that no
reference to use of this “opinion” being made by Las Casas in any given
case is found in the records of his struggle for the liberty of the

King Charles, even in his boyhood, was of a grave and thoughtful
temperament, reserved and observant in an unusual degree, but however
richly endowed with gifts which promised him a glorious reign, he
necessarily left the administration of his government very largely under
the direction of his advisers, of whom the two most influential were
William de Croy, commonly called Chièvres, or by the Spaniards, Xevres,
who had formerly been the King’s governor, and Jean Salvage, a learned
priest who was Dean of the University of Louvain.  The latter’s name was
corrupted by the Spaniards into Juan Selvagio, and he held the office and
title of Grand Chancellor, both hitherto unknown in Spain.  These Flemings
were odious to the Spaniards, who resented their high rank and influence
and looked upon them as rapacious foreigners, who were controlling
national affairs to the exclusion of those who had better claims, while
they enriched themselves out of the Spanish treasury: none of them so much
as spoke the national language and even the King’s first task was to
master Spanish in order to converse with his own subjects.

As the Grand Chancellor had control of the department of justice, it was
to him that Las Casas first got himself presented.  He was well received
and afforded opportunities to state his case, and, as he produced letters
given him by some French Franciscans from Picardy, whom he had known in
the Indies and who were friends of the Chancellor, he soon found himself
upon terms of some friendliness with him.  The Chancellor found great
interest in listening to all that Las Casas had to tell him, and it is not
to be doubted that the latter’s habitual earnestness when on this subject
was increased by the evident sympathy of his listener, upon whose support
the fate of his projects depended.

This friendship with the detested Flemings cost Las Casas dear with his
own people, and made him more unpopular than ever.  His opponents were
obliged, however, to cease abusing him in their letters and official
papers, for not only did the Chancellor openly befriend him, but he handed
over to him most of the correspondence pertaining to Indian affairs.  Las
Casas translated the contents into Latin, adding his own observations or
objections to the different reports or proposals, and then returned them
to the Chancellor, who was delighted to have such expert assistance in
dispatching complicated affairs, in which he was himself unpractised.
From the Chancellor’s favour to that of the King was but a step, and the
charge of reforming Indian legislation, which Las Casas had held from
Cardinal Ximenez, was renewed to him.  This welcome news was given him one
day by the Chancellor remarking in Latin, which was their habitual tongue,
Rex dominus noster jubet quod vos et ego opponamus remedia Indiis;
faciatis vestra memorabilia. Las Casas was quick to obey this congenial
behest. (31)

It is indicative of the priority of importance which Las Casas habitually
gave to spiritual over temporal aids, that he first had recourse to the
priors of the religious orders, asking them to have their communities pray
unceasingly and with special earnestness, that his mind might be illumined
by divine grace to perceive what course he must follow.  He next drew up
his plan, but perhaps in no act of his long career is there less evidence
of the action of divine guidance, for, in framing his project, he
committed an error which he himself sincerely and frankly deplored with
touching humility, and which has served all his detractors ever since as
ground on which to bring a grave charge against him.

In obedience to the King’s command conveyed to Las Casas through the
Chancellor, he drew up a plan in which he proposed that labourers should
be induced to emigrate to the Indies, by granting that each person,
whether man or child, should have his expenses paid as far as Seville, the
place of embarkation, at the rate of half a real per day.  While waiting
in Seville to start, the India House (Casa de Contractacion) was to lodge
and feed them, their passage to Hispaniola was to be given them and their
food furnished for one year.  Any of the emigrants who, at the expiration
of the first year, found themselves incapacitated on account of the
climate to support themselves, should be entitled to further assistance in
the form of a royal loan.  Lands were to be given them gratis and also the
requisite farming implements for working them, in which their rights as
owners should be permanent and hereditary.  A more liberal scheme of
assisted emigration could hardly be imagined.  Other inducements were held
out to attract emigrants under the new regulations and Las Casas acceded
to the request of certain of the colonists in Santo Domingo to ask the
King’s consent to the importation of negro slaves to replace the Indians
who should be freed.

This recommendation cost Las Casas dearly enough and later exposed his
reputation unjustifiable attacks, some of which even represented him as
having _introduced_ negro slavery into America; others as having been
betrayed by blind zeal in favour of the Indians into promoting the
slave-trade at the expense of the Africans.  No one more sincerely
deplored his course in this matter than he himself when he realised the
significance of what he had done, and the sincerity and humility of his
compunction should have sufficed to disarm his detractors.  The most
formal accusation made by a reputable historian against Las Casas is found
in Robertson’s _History of America_, vol. iii., Year 1517, in which he
charges the apostle of the Indians with having proposed to Cardinal
Ximenez to purchase a sufficient number of negroes from the Portuguese
settlements on the coast of Africa and to transport them to America in
order that they might be employed as slaves in working in the mines and
tilling the ground.  Cardinal Ximenez however, when solicited to encourage
the commerce, peremptorily rejected the proposition because he perceived
the iniquity of reducing one race of men to slavery when he was consulting
about the means of restoring liberty to another.  But Las Casas, from the
inconsistency natural to men who hurry with headlong impetuosity towards a
favourite point, was incapable of making the distinction.  While he
contended earnestly for the liberty of the people born in one quarter of
the globe, he laboured to enslave the inhabitants of another region and in
the warmth of his zeal to save the Americans from the yoke, pronounced it
to be lawful and expedient to impose one still heavier on the African.

Language could hardly more completely travesty the facts, for Las Casas
neither “laboured to enslave the inhabitants of another region” nor did he
“pronounce it lawful” to increase slavery amongst the Africans.  The moral
aspect of the question of slavery was not under consideration and the
recommendation of Las Casas is seen upon examination to reduce itself to
this: he advised that Spanish colonists in America should be allowed the
privilege, common in Spain and Portugal, of employing negro slave labour
on their properties.  Since Spaniards might hold African slaves in Spain,
it implied no approval of slavery as an institution, to permit them to do
the same in the colonies.  Las Casas was engaged in defending a hitherto
free people from the curse of a peculiarly cruel form of slavery, but had
he regarded the institution as justifiable in itself, he would have
modified the ardour of his opposition to its extension.

The truth plainly appears in the chronicles of the times and establishes
beyond cavil exactly what Las Casas did, and under what circumstances and
for what purposes he made the recommendation which he never afterwards
ceased to deplore.  Retributive justice has followed these attempts of
several lesser contemporaries of Robertson to asperse the character of one
of the purest, noblest, and most humane of men, and while discredit has
overtaken the inventors and publishers of these falsehoods, the
investigations of impartial historians, provoked by their enormity, have
resulted in banishing such fables from historical controversy.

The original basis of the charge that Las Casas favoured the introduction
of negro slavery into America is a passage in Herrera’s _Historia de las
Indias Occidentals_, written in 1598, thirty-two years after the death of
Las Casas, and which reads as follows:

“As the licentiate Las Casas encountered much opposition to the plan he
had formed for helping the Indians and seeing that the opinions he had
published had produced no result, in spite of the extraordinary credit he
enjoyed with the Flemish chancellor, Juan Selvagio, he had recourse to
other means to attain the same ends.  He asked in 1517 that the
importation of Africans be permitted to the Spaniards settled in the
Indies, in order to diminish the labour and sufferings of the Indians in
the mines and on the plantations, and that a good number of labourers be
enrolled in Spain who would emigrate to the Indies upon the conditions and
with the advantages which he proposed.  This new proposition was approved
by the Cardinal of Tortosa, Adrian, by the Grand Chancellor, and the
Flemish ministers.  The Chamber of Commerce at Seville was consulted to
learn what number of Africans, Cuba, Santo Domingo, San Juan [Puerto
Rico], and Jamaica would require.  It was replied that it would be
sufficient to send four thousand.  This answer being almost immediately
made known by some intriguer to the Flemish governor of Bressa, this
courtier obtained the monopoly of the trade from the sovereign and sold it
to some Genoese for twenty-five thousand ducats on condition that during
eight years no other license should be granted by the King.  This
arrangement was extremely harmful to the Population of the islands,
especially to the Indians for whose benefit it had been granted; in fact
had the trade been free, all the Spaniards might have engaged in it, but
as the Genoese sold their right at a very high price few Spaniards were
able to pay, and the importation of blacks was almost nil.  The King was
counselled to pay back the twenty-five thousand ducats from his treasury
to the governor and recover his rights, which would pay him well and be of
great advantage to his subjects.  Unfortunately the King had little money
then and, as he was left in ignorance of much concerning the affairs of
the Indies, nothing of what was most important was done.”

There is not a word in this passage which even refers to the
_introduction_ of negro slavery and Herrera in another passage (tom. i.,
dec. i., lib. iv., cap. xii.) states that a royal ordinance given on
September 3, 1500, to Don Nicholas de Ovando, the Governor of Hispaniola,
permitted the importation of negro slaves.  This was two years before Las
Casas made his first voyage as a young man of twenty-eight to America, and
in 1503, the same Ovando asked that no more negro slaves be sent to
Hispaniola because they escaped and lived amongst the natives whom they
corrupted. (32) The number of negroes continued, nevertheless, to increase
and repeated mention of their presence in the colonies is found in
different passages throughout the history of Herrera and in other early

Since the first half of the fifteenth century (about 1440) (33) the
Portuguese had been engaged in bringing negroes from the west coast of
Africa and selling them in Lisbon and Seville, so that during half a
century before Las Casas appeared on the scene where he was destined to
play so distinguished a part, Andalusia and the southern provinces of
Spain were well provided with slaves and a flourishing trade was carried
on.  The condition of such slaves was not a particularly hard one and the
children born in Spain of slave parents were Christians.  Since this
system was recognised by the laws of the kingdom, and indeed by those of
all Christendom at that time, no additional injury would be done to the
negroes by permitting Spaniards who might own them in Spain, to take them
also to the colonies.  Las Casas was a man of such humane temperament that
oppression and injustice everywhere of whatever kind revolted him, but it
can hardly be required, even of him, to be several centuries in advance of
his times in denouncing a commonly accepted usage which presented, as far
as we know, few crying abuses.  Toleration of an established order, even
though an essentially evil one, is a very different thing from the
extension of its worst features in regions where it is unknown and amongst
people ill-fitted to support its burdens.  A small group of men, chiefly
Dominican monks, with Las Casas at their head, courageously championed the
cause of freedom and humanity in a century and amongst a people hardened
to oppression and cruelty; they braved popular fury, suffered calumny,
detraction, and abuse; they faced kings, high ecclesiastics, and all the
rich and great ones of their day, incessantly and courageously
reprimanding their injustice and demanding reform.  Since the memorable
day when Fray Antonio de Montesinos proclaimed himself “vox clamantis in
deserto” before the astonished and incensed colonists of Hispaniola, the
chorus of rebuke had swelled until it made itself heard, sparing none
amongst the offenders against equity and humanity.  The development of the
collective moral sense of a people is only slowly progressive, and the
betterment of racial conditions is more safely accomplished by evolution
than revolution, hence if the moral vision of Las Casas did not detect the
injustice practised on the negroes, simultaneously with his keen
perception of that which was being perpetrated on the Indians, his failure
cannot be justly attributed either to indifference to the lot of one race
of people or to wilful inconsistency in seeking to benefit another at its
expense.  That his action was not understood in any such sense at the
time, is conclusively proven by the fact that inconsistency was never
alleged against him, nor employed as a polemical weapon in the heated
controversies in which he was engaged during all his life with the keenest
and most determined opponents to his views.  Far afield indeed did his
enemies wander, seeking for weapons both of attack and defence, and
nothing that could be twisted into an offence against the public
conscience or national interests escaped the keen eyes of the searchers.
He was himself the first to perceive the error and contradiction into
which he had inadvertently fallen, and forty years before Herrera’s work
was published, he had expressed his contrition for his failure to
appreciate the conditions of African slavery, in the following passage,
which occurs in the fourth volume (page 380) of his _Historia General_:

“The cleric Las Casas first gave this opinion that license should be
granted to bring negro slaves to these countries [the Indies] without
realising with what injustice the Portuguese captured and enslaved them,
and afterwards, not for everything in the world would he have offered it,
for he always held that they were made slaves by injustice and tyranny,
the same reasoning applying to them as to the Indians.”

Fuller and more mature consideration of the entire question of slavery in
all its aspects, of the right of one man or of nations to hold property in
the flesh and blood of their fellow-men, conducted Las Casas directly to
the necessary and generous conviction that the whole system must be
everywhere condemned; for again in Chapter 128 he says of this advice
which the cleric gave,

“that he very shortly after repented, judging himself guilty of
inadvertence; and as he saw—which will be later perceived—that the
captivity of the negroes was quite as unjust as that of the Indians, the
remedy he had counselled, that negroes should be brought so that the
Indians might be freed, was no better, even though he believed they had
been rightfully procured; although he was not positive that his ignorance
in this matter and his good intention would exculpate him before the
divine justice.”

As has been noted, the transfer of his monopoly by the Governor of Bressa
to Genoese merchants, instead of increasing the exportation of negroes to
America, resulted in almost stopping the nefarious trade, hence no
considerable amount of mischief is traceable to the adoption of Las
Casas’s suggestion, which was only one of many enumerated in his scheme.
Had the project as he framed it been accepted in its entirety and loyally
carried out, no increased injustice would have been done to the negroes,
for it was the frightful mortality amongst the cruelly driven Indians that
rapidly reduced the numbers of labourers and made gaps which could only be
filled by the importation of others from elsewhere.  Under a more humane
system, the Indians might still have laboured, but not in excess of their
powers; their lives would not have been sacrificed or rendered
unendurable, while the colonists would have become rich less rapidly;
there would have been no shortage of workmen and little need for the
importation of Africans at a high price, even though one negro did the
work of four Indians, according to the popular estimate.  While many
admirable suggestions of Las Casas were rejected, this blamable one
concerning the permission to import negroes was accepted, and thus by a
singular irony of fate, this good man, whose whole life was a
self-sacrificing apostolate in favour of freedom, actually came to be
aspersed as a promoter of slavery.

The controversy on this passage in the life of Las Casas has been touched
upon here because it furnished at one time material for much discussion,
(34) but the light of historical research has long since dispersed the
artificial clouds which misrepresentation caused to gather about the fame
of the Protector of the Indians, and there now neither is, nor can be, any
doubt concerning the sentiments and intentions of one whose noble figure
is too clearly defined on the horizon of history ever again to be blurred
or obscured.

Another part of the plan for colonisation on the moral basis of benefiting
the Indians as well as the Spaniards, was the foundation of fortified
places at intervals along the coast of the territory to be granted.  In
each of these settlements, some thirty men should be stationed with a
provision of various articles, such as the Indians prized, for trading
purposes; also several missionary priests, whose occupation would be
teaching and converting the Indians.  It was maintained that by kind
treatment the Indians could be attracted to the Spaniards and thus, little
by little, become civilised, profitable, and voluntary subjects of the

Unfortunately for the prosperous development of these benevolent projects,
the mischievous Bishop of Burgos and his brother, who, since the latter
part of Cardinal Ximenez’s regency, had been excluded from active
participation in Indian affairs, began once more to exercise an influence,
partly, perhaps because long experience had equipped them with a practical
knowledge of details which the Grand Chancellor found useful, and partly,
so Las Casas hints, because they had succeeded, by spending important sums
of money, in recovering their former offices. At first the Bishop’s
opposition was mild enough, and he contented himself with pointing out
that he had never been able to induce emigrants to go to the Indies and
that Las Casas’s scheme was unworkable.  Las Casas, however, affirmed that
he could easily find three thousand workmen as soon as he was authorised
to assure them of the King’s conditions, and that the Bishop had not
succeeded in finding men because he had treated the islands as a penal
colony, whereas now, on the contrary, the severest punishment, after the
death penalty, with which a colonist in the Indies could be threatened,
was that of being shipped back to Spain.

The King had left Valladolid(35) on his way to take formal possession of
the kingdom of Aragon and these negotiations were being carried on at
Aranda de Duero, where a halt had been made. Las Casas fell ill and the
court moved on without him, but it is indicative of the favour he had
already acquired with the King that frequently the monarch exclaimed: “Oh,
I wonder how Micer Bartolomé is getting on!”  Micer was the title the
Flemings gave to ecclesiastics, and Charles V., who was the reverse of
demonstrative, commonly used this familiar appellation in speaking of Las
Casas. Before the court reached Zaragoza, the invalid was on his legs
again and had rejoined the others, being received with great joy by the
Grand Chancellor, (36) who was almost as enthusiastic as Las Casas himself
in pushing forward the Indian reforms. Delay, however, was again caused at
Zaragoza, where the King and court were established, by the illness of the
ever-contrary Bishop of Burgos; while waiting there to resume business, a
letter was sent to Las Casas from Seville by his friend Fray Reginaldo,
containing a full account of the ruthless cruelties of one of the captains
of Pedro Arias, named Espinosa, which cost the lives of forty thousand
Indians. This ghastly chronicle, which was supplied by a Franciscan, Fray
Francisco Roman, who wrote as an eye-witness of the atrocities, was
immediately laid before the Chancellor by Las Casas; the former was much
impressed by the report and directed Las Casas to go to the Bishop on his
behalf and read him the letter.

The Bishop took the news coolly enough and merely observed that he had
long since advised the recall of Pedro Arias.(37)

With the recovery of the Bishop, everything seemed ready for the
resumption of business, when fate dealt Las Casas one of the hardest blows
he had had to sustain. The Grand Chancellor, who owned to feeling
indisposed on a Friday, became worse on Saturday, so that he had to keep
his room; his illness persisted on Sunday with signs of fever and, as Las
Casas tersely puts it, “they buried him on Wednesday.”

With the death of the Fleming died all hope of any immediate action in
behalf of the Indians; in the absence of any other as familiar with the
business of the Indian department as himself, the Bishop of Burgos found
himself once more omnipotent, or as Las Casas puts it, “he seemed to rise
to the heavens while the cleric [himself] sank to the depths.” The
Chancellor’s successor, named by the King pro tempore, was the Dean of
Bisancio, a heavy, phlegmatic man who slept peacefully all through the
sessions of the Council and only had sufficient perception to commend Las
Casas for the zeal with which he pestered him day and night, remarking on
one occasion with a dull smile: Commendamus in Domino, domine Bartholomeo,
vestram diligentiam.  Two such ill-assorted characters as this bovine dean
and the fiery Las Casas only succeeded in tormenting one another to no
purpose, though, as the latter observes, in this case “it did not kill the
Dean for all that.”

The India Council, over which the Bishop of Burgos presided, was composed
at that time of Hernando de la Vega, Grand Commander of Castile, Don
Garcia de Padilla, the licentiate Zapata, Pedro Martyr de Angleria, and
Francisco de los Cobos who was then just rising into prominence. Las Casas
was excluded, and though he was as busy as ever in laying petitions and
memorials before the Council, he had no friends or protectors inside and
consequently obtained nothing, save what they were obliged for very
shame’s sake to concede him. Discouragement was too alien to his sanguine
temperament, else he might, with some show of reason, have abandoned all
hope of struggling successfully against such odds. The first decisive
measure of the Bishop was to recall the Jeronymite fathers from their
mission in the Indies, of which he had from the outset been the determined
opponent. It has often been justly observed that the vicissitudes of
politics make strange bed-fellows, and it was certainly a singular
regrouping of the persons in this historical situation, to find the
Jeronymites now reduced to seeking out Las Casas to whom to pour out their
woes against the mutual enemy, the Bishop of Burgos.


While matters were at the low ebb described in the preceding chapter, the
appearance of a new and unexpected character on the scene brought Las
Casas some welcome assistance. Although his chief support had been his
good friend, the deceased Chancellor, the other Flemings in the royal
household were, on that account first of all, interested in him and the
cause he so ardently pleaded. Amongst these unpopular foreigners was
Monsieur de la Mure, who, being attracted to Las Casas by what he heard of
him, expressed a desire to several of his friends to make the clerigo’s
acquaintance. This wish was soon gratified, and the young courtier’s
interest in all that concerned the Indians and the proposed measures for
the reform of the colonies was quickly satisfied by Las Casas, who
furnished him with a full history of the business he had in hand. The
least impressionable of men could not listen to such an advocate unmoved,
and M. de la Mure, profoundly affected by what he heard, offered to help
his new friend by every means he could command. He was an ally worth
having, for, being a nephew of Monsieur de Laxao, sommeiller du corps to
the King, he was able to introduce Las Casas to his powerful uncle, who
stood in closer relation to the monarch than any other officer of the
court, for he slept in the royal bedchamber.

Monsieur de Laxao was as quickly won over to the good cause as his nephew
had been, so Las Casas, finding himself once more with powerful
supporters, renewed his efforts to press his business to a conclusion.
Some wholesome activity was displayed in dispatching various officials to
take the residencia, of the several governors of the islands, Rodrigo de
Figueroa being sent to Hispaniola, Doctor de la Gama to Puerto Rico and
Cuba, and Lope de Sosa to Darien, where he was also to succeed the actual
Governor, Pedro Arias de Avila. The Council, acting upon reports which
described the natives of Trinidad as cannibals, ordered that war should be
made upon them, but Las Casas denied this charge, and contrived that
Figueroa should be authorised to first investigate and report on this
matter before hostilities began; Figueroa’s report was entirely favourable
to the natives, amongst whom he found no cannibalism.

As the Dominicans in Hispaniola were ignorant of the progress of events at
court and the loss sustained by Las Casas through the death of the
Chancellor, they still conceived him to enjoy great influence.   The
Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, wrote him a detailed description of some recent
atrocities perpetrated by the Spaniards in Trinidad where they had gone to
fish for pearls; manifesting also dissatisfaction with the conduct of the
Jeronymites.  He therefore begged Las Casas to obtain from the King a
grant for the Franciscan and Dominican monks of one hundred leagues of
coast on the mainland about Cumaná, from which laymen should be excluded;
should one hundred leagues be thought excessive, then he begged for ten,
and failing this he would accept the small islands known as the Alonso
group, which lay some fifteen leagues from the coast.  His intention was
to establish a place of refuge, or sanctuary, to which the persecuted
Indians might repair, sure of finding kind treatment, and, through
instruction, be converted to Christianity.  The Prior declared that unless
some one of these concessions was made, he would have to recall all the
monks of his Order from those countries, where it was idle for them to
attempt to teach Christian doctrines, as long as the Indians saw those who
called themselves Christians acting in open violation of them.  The
contents of this letter vexed and alarmed Las Casas not a little, for he
feared that if the Prior were driven to make good his threat of recalling
his monks, the Indians would be abandoned, without defence, to the
cruelties of the Spaniards and would soon be exterminated. His one hope of
support in his own plans lay in the Dominicans, without whose aid his
efforts were foredoomed to failure. He spoke to the Bishop and the members
of the Council, reading them the letter and addressing earnest appeals to
them to stop the iniquities which were devastating the entire coast. He
urged, with all the arguments of which he was master, that the one hundred
leagues asked for should be conceded.  The Bishop of Burgos was unmoved,
both by the Prior’s harrowing description of the outrages committed on the
Indians and by the appeal of Las Casas, and he coolly answered that the
King would be badly advised to grant a hundred leagues of land to the
friars, without some return therefor; a reply which Las Casas observes was
unworthy of a successor of the Apostles.  Poor as the Bishop was in
episcopal qualities, he was even less gifted with those which make a good
minister of colonial affairs, and the results of his thirty-five years of
control of Indian affairs were as unprofitable to the Spanish Crown as
they were disastrous to the Indians.

Las Casas did not hesitate to express his opinion to the Bishop with his
customary uncompromising frankness, but with no result, save probably that
of confirming his stubborn and hostile attitude.

Perceiving that no argument which did not promise lucrative returns would
avail to secure a grant of territory, the clerigo evolved a plan that
promised to secure the ends for which he and the Dominicans were striving
and, at the same time, would assure a profitable investment for the Crown.

In spite of the Bishop’s continued opposition, Las Casas pushed forward
his plan for colonising, and though the Chancellor’s death was a great
loss to him, he nevertheless found in Cardinal Adrian of Utrecht and other
Flemings, every possible assistance. He was named royal chaplain in order
to give him additional prestige before the public, and letters were sent
throughout the kingdom to the principal civil and ecclesiastical
authorities, ordering some and inviting others to aid him by every means
in their power to collect the desired emigrants. The officials of India
House in Seville were instructed to receive and attend to those intending
to emigrate under Las Casas, when they arrived in Seville; they were
likewise directed to prepare the necessary ships to transport them to
America.  It was necessary that Las Casas should be accompanied on his
recruiting tour through the country by some trustworthy man to help him in
enrolling his emigrants, and, as fate would have it, his choice fell most
unfortunately upon one Berrio, an Italian, a circumstance which Las Casas
afterwards observed was, in itself, sufficient to explain his treachery.
Berrio was to act as herald, publishing in the different cities, with
sound of trumpet, the object of Las Casas’s visit, the high powers he held
from the King, and the favourable conditions he offered. To give his
assistant more dignity in the eyes of the people Las Casas procured for
him the designation of Captain in the royal service, with a salary of four
hundred and five maravedis per day.

Berrio sold himself to the Bishop of Burgos before the recruiting
expedition even began, and his signed instructions, which he had engaged
to obey, were fraudulently altered by the latter so as to free him from
all control. Thus provided, he soon detached himself from his rightful
superior and went to Andalusia, where he assembled on his own account two
hundred men, vagabonds, loafers, and tapsters, of whom few were labourers
and none fit for colonists. These unpromising recruits were gathered in
Seville, where the officials of India House were at a loss to know what to
do with them; they finally sailed, but, as the colonial authorities had
received no notice concerning them, they landed, destitute and worthless,
in Hispaniola, where their arrival was unwelcome. Many of them died and
the others scattered in various parts.  It fell to Las Casas to interest
himself in their behalf and to relieve their miseries, but the meal and
wine he obtained for them arrived in Hispaniola too late, as the intended
beneficiaries were either dead or widely dispersed.

It appears, according to Las Casas’s own account, that emigrants were
attracted to his scheme, not so much by the liberal conditions, or because
their circumstances were not prosperous, but by their desire to escape
onerous feudal conditions still prevailing in Spain. It was chiefly,
therefore, from amongst the dwellers on great estates that his emigrants
were recruited, for many such said they desired to leave their children
free in a free country under the King’s protection. The great nobles were
ill-pleased at this desertion of their feudatories, and Las Casas soon
found himself at loggerheads with the Constable of Castile, whose
villagers at Berlanga were inscribing themselves in great numbers; the
Constable ordered him to quit his estates. On an estate called Rello,
belonging to the Count of Coruna, out of thirty householders twenty-nine
put down their names as emigrants. As may be supposed the number of the
clerigo’s enemies in high quarters was increased by this state of things,
though his success in recruiting emigrants enabled him to triumph over the
Bishop, who had foretold that he would never get together the necessary
people.  He was able to say on his return to Zaragoza that not only three
thousand but ten thousand people would willingly go if the Bishop would
provide the means.

Cardinal Adrian listened sympathetically to the report of what had been
done and addressed to Las Casas the observation in Latin,  Vere vos
tribuitis aliud regnum regi.

The King and his Court left the kingdom of Aragon at this time to visit
the principality of Cataluña, making his formal entry into Barcelona on
the fifteenth of February, 1519. The Jeronymite fathers had arranged for
the sale of the royal haciendas in Hispaniola, and Las Casas, ever on the
alert to secure advantages for his colonists, presented a petition asking
that they should be maintained for one year at the royal expense. The
vexation of the Bishop of Burgos augmented visibly at this fresh claim for
assistance, and he roundly declared such a concession would cost the Crown
more than an armada of twenty thousand men, which provoked the pertinent
retort from Las Casas: “Does it appear to your lordship that after you
have killed off the Indians, I should now lead Christians to death? Well,
I shall not.” As the Bishop, according to Las Casas, was no fool, he hoped
that he understood this plain answer.

Without the assistance which he was convinced was indispensable to the
success of his undertaking, Las Casas refused to move, though every effort
was made to start him off; an attempt was even made to secure another
leader for the undertaking, but the news of this design was not slow in
reaching him, and he promptly published far and wide, in the district
where his recruits were waiting his orders to start, that they should on
no account accept the leadership of another, who would only conduct them
to failure and starvation in the colonies.

Events of great importance were occurring at this time which absorbed the
attention of the King and his counsellors to the exclusion of American
affairs. By the death of his grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian, the
succession was open, though both Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of
England aspired to the imperial dignity. The royal interest therefore
centred in Germany and the coming election, and Las Casas and his Indian
schemes were put to one side.


As has been heretofore explained, Las Casas perceived that his efforts to
obtain support for his project would come to naught, unless it could be
made plain to the Council that some material benefit would accrue to the
royal revenues; he therefore turned his attention to forming a plan which
should comprehend the conversion of the Indians by gentle and peaceful
means and likewise yield a profit to the Crown. He conceived the idea of
forming a species of order of knighthood, whose members were to be known
as Knights of the Golden Spur. They were to number fifty selected men,
each of whom should furnish two hundred ducats, which he deemed would
amount to a sufficient sum for the expenses of founding the colony. The
knights were to wear a dress of white cloth, marked on the breast with a
red cross, similar to the cross of Calatrava, but with some additional
ornamentation. The purpose of this costume was to distinguish them in the
eyes of the Indians from all other Spaniards.

A grant of one thousand leagues of coast, beginning one hundred leagues
above Paria, and with no limits in the hinterland, was asked for the
colony, in return for which concession a payment of fifteen thousand
ducats was promised to the Crown during the first three years, which sum
should afterwards become an annual income until the seventh year; from the
seventh to the tenth year, the income would be thirty thousand ducats, and
beginning with the eleventh year, it would reach the sum of sixty
thousand. The foundation of three fortified towns, with at least fifty
Spaniards in each, was promised within the first five years. The religious
propaganda was to be carried on by twelve Franciscan and Dominican friars,
whom Las Casas was to be allowed to choose: for this purpose the King was
asked to solicit the necessary faculties from the Holy See. Such, in
brief, was the plan which Las Casas conceived for spreading civilisation
on the American coast and winning the Indians to Christianity. His own
jurisdiction within the conceded territory was to be absolute, and all
Spaniards whatsoever were to be forbidden by royal command, and under pain
of severe penalties, to cross its borders. The only discoverable road to
liberty lay through absolutism, under a benevolent despot.

The most obvious flaw in this scheme was the difficulty—amounting indeed
to impossibility—of finding the fifty knights. Las Casas, like many
enthusiasts and reformers, failed to reckon with the realities of human
nature. His colony was to be a Utopia, peopled by lofty-minded Spaniards,
who were free from the prevalent thirst for gold, and only preoccupied in
cultivating sentiments of the purest altruism: mixed with them were to be
gentle-mannered Indians, in whom shone all the qualities of primitive man,
unspoiled by contact with the evils of civilisation, and who were
thirsting to know the truth and to embrace it. These idyllic barbarians
were to furnish the human material on which the knights were to exercise
their virtues and all were to be thus united in bonds of loving fraternity
and disinterested industry, under the benign government of a dozen monks,
who had long since renounced this world and who would give their exclusive
attention to leading their flock from a terrestrial into the celestial
paradise. A Fra Angelico might have grouped these interesting types into a
picture of soul-stirring beauty.  Even had the fifty been found, all with
the proper dispositions and in harmonious unanimity of purpose, there was
little chance that they would remain unaffected by the unbalancing and
corrupting influences of a new country, where they would be absolute
masters over an inferior race of people. Many excellent men of the highest
principles and best intentions went from Spain to America in those times,
but few resisted the temptations which beset them.

Las Casas kept his plan a profound secret until he had secured the
approbation of the new Chancellor, Gattinara, and that of several of the
influential Flemings.  It was then laid before the India Council, where it
was met with a storm of objection and ridicule. It was promptly shelved,
and not all the urging of Las Casas, the discontent of the Flemings, nor
even the efforts of the Chancellor himself to induce the Bishop of Burgos
to study the matter, sufficed to have it taken into serious consideration.
The different features, as they became known, provoked mirth, and much fun
was made of the white robes, red crosses, and golden spurs of the knights.

Baffled by the inertia of the Council and the failure of his powerful
friends to obtain serious attention for his project, Las Casas had
recourse to other influences. The oppression of the Indians and the
violation of their rights as free men not only revolted the humanitarian
instincts of their Protector, they offended justice and constituted a
grave crime against morality, by which the King was inculpated and for
which he would have to answer at the bar of divine justice. No utilitarian
ends could justify criminal means, and that Indian slavery was profitable
to the Crown was in no sense a palliation of its essential wickedness.

The King’s confessor, as keeper of the royal conscience, had already in
Ferdinand’s time been prevailed upon to explain to his Majesty the grave
responsibility he incurred in tolerating a state of things so contrary to
divine and natural laws.  Now Las Casas, in his extremity, turned to the
court preachers, who were eight in number, laying before them the entire
case as a problem in morals, upon which it was within their duty as the
spiritual instructors of the sovereign to pronounce. The part which these
ecclesiastics took in the matter was brief but not unimportant nor without
results Two of them were secular priests, the brothers Luis and Antonio
Corodele, both religious and learned men, doctors of the University of
Paris; another was Fray Miguel de Salamanca, also a doctor of Paris; there
was Father Lafuente of the University of Alcalá, a Franciscan, Fray Alonso
de Leon, an Augustinian, Fray Dionisio, and two others whose names Las
Casas was not able to recall when writing his history some forty years
after these events occurred. This body of learned men represented
everything that was most authoritative in theological and canonical
opinion of the times and constituted a most formidable ally against the
Bishop and Council. Meetings of the eight preachers and Las Casas were
held in the convent of Santa Catalina, at which several other men of
importance assisted, one of whom was Fray Alonso de Medina, of the
Dominicans; while another, a Franciscan friar who had spent much time in
the Indies, is described as a brother of the Queen of Scotland. These
meetings, which were secret, were held at the same hour of the day as the
sittings of the India Council.

Religious dogma was held in that age to be axiomatic and incontrovertible;
all science was interpreted through the medium of the one universal
science of theology, and the civil law of the times drew its sanction from
the principles of canon law, from which indeed it was scarcely separable.
Just as it was sought to sustain Galileo’s proposition concerning the
revolution of the earth by an appeal to theology, and just as theologians
were considered competent to pronounce on the soundness of the theories of
Columbus, so was it admitted, with far greater reason, to be within their
competence to pronounce upon the question of the extension of slavery in
the Indies, although that matter was treated as one of secular policy,
belonging to the India Council.  Kings and governments contended, when
they could, for the exercise of their royal powers in temporal matters,
independently of the spiritual control, but the line of distinction was a
fine one, not easily drawn, and the basis of Spain’s claim to the Indies
and to the exercise of jurisdiction in America was the Bull of Alexander
VI. issued in May, 1493. The express condition on which the Pope granted
the Bull was, that the conversion of the Indians should be the primary
care of the Spanish government, and this condition was so clear and
binding that it amounted to a reservation to the Pope of an oversight of
the means to be adopted for that end. As it was within the recognised
power of the Pope to grant such rights and jurisdiction, and to attach
conditions thereto, it was equally within his power to annul or withdraw
them if the Spanish sovereigns failed to fulfil those conditions. Hence
the government of the Indies, in all that pertained to the moral
well-being and religious instruction of the natives, was, beyond question,
within the legitimate exercise of ecclesiastical control. The exposition
of the case by Las Casas, supported by the mass of evidence he was able to
furnish and the testimony of the Scotch Franciscan and others, convinced
the theologians that their duty, both to religion and to the King bound
them to intervene and to correct abuses in open violation of the declared
intentions of the sovereigns from the time of Isabella that the Indians
should be free men, whose conversion to Christianity was their first duty.
The theologians bound themselves by a common oath, that no opposition
should discourage them, and that each and all of them would not desist
from their single and united efforts, until success had crowned them.  It
was decided that the first step should be to exhort the members of the
Council: this failing of result, they would address their remonstrances to
the Chancellor, after him to M. de Chièvres, who was nearest the person of
the King, and in the last resort the monarch himself should be made to
understand his responsibility.  Should nothing come of their exhortations,
they bound themselves to preach openly against the government, instructing
the public conscience on the subject and assigning to the King his just
share of the wrong-doing.

Action followed swiftly upon the adoption of this resolution, and the
India Council, under the presidency of the redoubtable Bishop of Burgos,
was stupefied by the apparition of the theologians at one of its sittings.
Fray Miguel de Salamanca, after asking for permission of the President,
made the following brief but energetic discourse: “Most illustrious
gentlemen and most reverend sir: It has been certified to us, the
preachers of the King our lord, by persons whom we are forced to believe,
and it also appears to be notorious, that men of our Spanish nation in the
Indies commit great and unheard-of evils against the natives of those
parts; such as robberies and murders, thereby giving the greatest offence
to God and bringing infamy on our holy faith, and by which such an
infinite number of people have perished that large islands and a great
part of the mainland are now depopulated, to the great ignominy even of
the Royal Crown of Spain; for the Holy Scripture testifies that in the
multitude of the people consists the dignity and honour of the King, and
in their diminution is his ignominy and dishonour.  We have marvelled at
this, knowing the prudence and merits of the illustrious persons who
compose the Council for the government of those countries, to whom God
appears to have confided such a great world as they are said to
constitute, and for which they will have to render a strict account; on
the other hand, learning that there can have been no reason why those
nations, which lived peaceably in their countries, owing us nothing,
should have been destroyed by us, we know not what to say, nor do we find
any one to whom to impute such irreparable evils, other than to those who
until now have governed them. Since it is incumbent upon us, by virtue of
the office we hold at court, to oppose and denounce everything that is an
offence and a dishonour to the Divine Majesty and to souls and, to the
extent of our powers, to exhort until all such be extirpated, we have
decided, before adopting other measures, to come before your lordships and
make our purpose known, and to supplicate you to consent to explain to us
how it has been possible to permit such a great evil without remedying it;
and that since it has not until now been stopped—for it goes on to-day
with full license—you should devise means to remedy it. It is manifest
that by so doing, your lordships will receive signal recompense, while by
refusing, you will, on the contrary, receive terrible torments, for you
bear on your shoulders the heaviest and most dangerous burden, if you well
consider it, of any men in the world to-day. We likewise beseech your
lordships, with all due humility and reverence, not to attribute our
coming to temerity, but to accept and judge it by the spirit that has
prompted it, which is the wish to act according to God’s precepts as we
are obliged to do.”

The Council—composed of such dignitaries as the Grand Commander of
Castile, Don Garcia de Padilla, the distinguished man of letters, Peter
Martyr, Francisco de los Cobos, and others—listened aghast to this speech,
which was followed by a moment of silence that none of them felt prepared
to break. The Bishop, whose wrath had waxed during the discourse, rose
with an air of great authority and majesty to reply.

“Great indeed,” he said, “has been your presumption and daring to come to
correct the Council of the King. Casas must be at the bottom of this; who
puts you, the King’s preachers, to meddle in government affairs which the
King entrusts to his Councils? The King does not maintain you for this,
but to preach the Gospel.”

The rebuke fell flat, nor were the theologians one whit overawed by the
Bishop’s high tone, for which they were not unprepared.  Father Lafuente,
who answered, began with a pun: “There is no Casas here but the Casa
[house] of God, in which we officiate and for whose support and defence we
are bound and ready to stake our lives. Does it appear presumption to your
lordship that eight doctors of theology, who might properly address a
whole General Council on matters of faith and government of the universal
Church, should come to admonish a Council of the King?  We may admonish
the King’s Councils for what they do wrong, for by our office we belong to
the King’s Council, and hence, gentlemen, we come here to admonish you and
to require you to correct those most misguided and unjust actions,
committed in the Indies to the perdition of souls and the offence of God.
And if you do not correct these things, gentlemen, we shall preach against
you as against those who do not keep the laws of God, nor act for the
advantage of the King’s service.  This, gentlemen, is to fulfil and to
preach the Gospel.”

Such a threat was no despicable one, and the members of the Council were
brought by it to a milder disposition than that disclosed by the testy
reply of their President to Fray Miguel’s opening discourse. Garcia
Padilla undertook the apology of the Council, protesting that many
excellent Provisions in favour of the Indians had emanated from that body,
whose intentions were good; he offered to submit these proofs of an
equitable disposition to the theologians, though he observed that their
presumption did not merit such courtesy. The tone of the discussion
softened considerably and it was decided that the various enactments of
the Council already in vigour and those it proposed to put in operation
should be presented to the theologians, who would later make known their
opinion of them. These comprised the Laws of Burgos published in 1512 and
the several amendments of Cardinal Ximenez.  After hearing them read, the
theologians withdrew, saying they would present their opinion at another

Fray Miguel was deputed to draw up in writing their conclusions, which he
did in the somewhat lengthy form common at that time, the substance of the
decision being that repartimientos and encomiendas were condemned
absolutely, as the principal and direct cause of the destruction of the
Indians; and second, that the only means for correcting the existing
abuses and to civilise and convert the Indians was to form towns of at
most twelve hundred householders.  Las Casas was opposed to the remedy,
which he perceived to be not only without efficacy, but positively hurtful
to the Indians, who would only deteriorate under such unfamiliar
conditions. This divergence of opinion between Las Casas and the preachers
introduced disunion where unity was the sole source of strength, and the
inability to fix upon a remedy for the evils, which all were agreed cried
out for one, destroyed the force of the representations in favour of the
Indians. All were agreed that the actual state of things was intolerable,
but they could not agree upon the remedy to be adopted.  In reality no
laws could cope with the situation.  A weak, retrograde race of ignorant
people was suddenly brought into contact with the strong, active
Spaniards, who carried with them a civilisation to which the former were
inertly refractory.  There was but the one possible outcome, which has
repeated itself throughout the world’s history—the weaker race had to go
under.   Neither the Utopia of Las Casas nor the laws proposed by the
preachers nor any other conceivable arrangement could have saved them.
The laws enacted were already more than sufficient to protect the natives
from oppression and undue suffering, had their application been carried
out in the spirit in which they were framed.  Even the system of
encomiendas might have been worked more rationally, and under it the
condition of the Indians need not have been a particularly bad one.
Paternal laws, paternally administered in the humane and religious spirit
preached by the Dominicans and Las Casas, might have furnished a remedy,
but the character of the Spanish colonists, the prevalent greed for
wealth, taken together with the indolent habits and temperament of the
Indians, opposed unsurmountable obstacles.

The zeal of Las Casas closed his eyes to these existing conditions, which
foredoomed his efforts to failure and the Indians to destruction.
Fortunately it was so, for he was thus enabled to continue his struggle
unflaggingly and to keep the Public conscience in Spain awake to the work
of justice to be accomplished. In this struggle lay the only hope of
protecting the defenceless natives from undue excesses, of opposing some
check to the injustice of the colonists, and of discharging the moral duty
that Christian Spain had assumed towards her humble subjects in the New

Seeing the uselessness of further dealings with the preachers, Las Casas
dropped that learned body, of which nothing further was ever heard in
connection with Indian affairs.

He next adopted the bold policy of formally accusing the whole Council of
unfairness and partiality—a truly amazing act of courage on the part of a
simple priest, even though he felt himself supported by the sympathy of
the Chancellor and several of the King’s Flemish favourites.  More
astonishing must it have been to the members of that august body, that the
sovereign should have ordered the impeachment to be taken into
consideration. This decision was procured through the influence of the
Chancellor, Gattinara, and bore with it the authorisation for Las Casas to
designate such persons as he deemed suitable, to sit in the Council with
those he had accused, and to thus ensure his affairs an impartial hearing.
At the same time M. de Laxao made known to him that the King desired such
persons to be selected from among the members of other royal councils.
His choice fell upon Don Juan Manuel, Alonso Tellez, the Marquis de
Aguilar del Campo, the licentiate Vargas, and all the Flemings who had
seats in Councils. Besides these, the King desired that whenever the
affairs of Las Casas were to come under consideration, the voting members
of all other Councils, including those of War and of the Inquisition,
should be present. In virtue of this command, the Cardinal Adrian, who was
at that time Grand Inquisitor of Spain, sometimes assisted. This newly
constituted Council met rarely, owing to the pressure of public matters of
grave importance to the country, and the Bishop of Burgos, who was
mortally vexed by the royal decision in favour of Las Casas’s complaint,
was fertile in pretexts for creating delays. To counteract such
procrastination, the Grand Chancellor adopted the policy of  citing the
Bishop to Council meetings without specifying the nature of the business
to be considered, and when the unsuspecting prelate appeared, expecting to
treat matters of state, he frequently had Las Casas and his Indian affairs
sprung upon him.  The number of the Council being increased by the
admission of the new members from five to more than thirty, the Bishop was
powerless to oppose effective resistance, as he could only count on the
votes of his five original associates. Nor did the clipping of the
Bishop’s claws stop there, for whenever he appeared at Court, some of the
Flemings contrived, to his intense disgust, to bring the subject of the
Indies to the King’s attention, so that it only remained for him to appear
as rarely as possible.

The Council having consented to the projects of Las Casas, in spite of the
Bishop’s persistent opposition, orders were given for the necessary
authorisations for carrying out his proposed plan.  At this juncture the
Bishop discovered an ally in the person of Gonzalez Fernandez de Oviedo,
author of the _Historia natural y moral de las Indias_, who had passed
much time in America and was highly esteemed as an authority in Indian
matters.  Oviedo was presented to the Chancellor and explained his reasons
for condemning the plans of Las Casas but failed to change Gattinara’s
opinion.  Representatives of the colonists in Cuba and Hispaniola spared
no effort to defeat their opponent, promising, if the concessions Las
Casas was asking were granted to them, to pay triple the income to the
Crown which the latter offered.  This offer by the procurators of the
colonists was not ignored, and, by command of the King, was laid before
the Council for consideration.  This led to further discussion, for Las
Casas was invited to respond to the counter proposals, which he did with
even more than his usual eloquence.  A special meeting was called, before
which Las Casas was plied with questions and objections to his plans; but
if his enemies thought to find him lacking in ready response, they were
sadly deceived, for the promptness with which he disposed of every
objection, the clearness with which he answered every question, and the
earnestness with which he vindicated the cause of the Indians and flayed
their oppressors, ended by convincing even the most indifferent.  The
brother of the Bishop, Antonio de Fonseca, challenged Las Casas for
unjustly accusing the members of the Council of killing the Indians,
whereas thanks to his measures such members had long since been obliged to
surrender their encomiendas; to this argument Las Casas retorted: “Sir,
their lordships have not killed _all_ the Indians, but they did kill an
infinite number while they had them, though the principal and greatest
destruction has been committed by individual Spaniards with the assistance
of their lordships.”  It was obviously impossible to discuss in open
council with a man who talked thus, and when the Bishop himself, goaded to
impatience, exclaimed, “Well instructed indeed is a member of the King’s
Council who, because he is a member, finds himself in conflict with
Casas!”  he got his answer from the imperturbable priest—“Better
instructed still is Casas, my lord, who, after having come two thousand
leagues at great risk and peril to save the King and his Council from
going to hell on account of the tyrannies and destructions of peoples and
kings which are perpetrated in the Indies, instead of being well received
and thanked for his service, is forced into conflict with the Council.”
This ended the discussion, and the concession already granted to Las
Casas, was ratified.

Nothing, however, was ever really ended in Spain in those days and too
many passions had been aroused, too many interests compromised, for the
enemies of Las Casas ever to acquiesce in his victory.  The Bishop of
Burgos was the last man to accept such a defeat, and to his original
stubborn and interested opposition was now added a desire for vengeance on
his plain-spoken and successful opponent.  From the material contained in
all the numberless petitions from the colonies which he had received at
various times, he drew up a memorial to the King, containing thirty
reasons why the concession granted to Las Casas should be refused.  When
these thirty objections were ready the Bishop asked the Chancellor to
summon a special meeting of the Council, before which they were read.  Las
Casas was not present at this meeting, but both Cardinal Adrian and the
Chancellor notified him and advised him to reply immediately.  The
Chancellor’s request to the secretary of the Council, Cobos, to furnish
him a copy of the memorial meeting with no reply, he sent a formal demand
for the memorial to be delivered to him without further delay; no denial
was possible, but the Council only delivered him the document on the sworn
assurance that it should not leave his hands.  Gattinara gave the required
promise, but invited Las Casas and M. de Laxao to supper at his house that
evening, and, laying the great dossier on the table, said to Las Casas,
“Now make your answer to these objections advanced against you.”

“How, my lord,” answered Las Casas; “they were three months in forging and
drawing them up, and after reading them at your convenience, it took your
lordship two months to get possession of them, and now I am to answer them
in the space of a Credo! Give me five hours and your lordship shall see
what I answer.”

As his promise prevented the delivery of the memorial to Las Casas, the
Chancellor arranged a table for him in his own apartment where he could
compose his reply, advising him to make it in the form of answers to
questions supposed to be addressed to him by the King.  For four nights
Las Casas laboured on his composition until eleven o’clock, at which hour
he supped with the Chancellor and afterwards returned at midnight to his
lodging, not without fears for his personal safety, for his enemies were
as numerous as they were powerful and sufficiently unscrupulous to use any
means for silencing him.

No copy exists of these thirty objections and the answers made to them,
and Las Casas says that the originals were burned.  From the little that
is known of the former, they seem to have been so frivolous and strained
that it is amazing the Council listened to them with patience or that the
Chancellor deemed them worthy of a reply.  The first, for example, stated
that, as Las Casas was a priest, the King had no jurisdiction over him to
restrain his actions in the territory conceded him; the second asserted
that by his turbulence he had provoked grave scandals in Cuba; the third
pointed out the danger of his forming an alliance with the Venetians or
Genoese and delivering to them the profits of his colony; another accused
him of having deceived Cardinal Ximenez, and the thirtieth or last of all
oracularly stated that there were some secret things known about him of
such a damaging nature that they could only be confided to the King’s
private ear, and hence were not set down in writing.  This ancient method
of Court intriguers everywhere, whose mysterious accusations can only be
made in secrecy, without the accuser’s identity being disclosed, is always
new and is ever useful in cases where the condemnation of the accused is
determined beforehand.

Fortunately the Chancellor loved the light, and Las Casas was furnished
the opportunity of seeing and refuting the accusations against him, which
he did with entire success, not only clearing himself of every charge
invented to discredit him, but, turning the tables on his detractors, he
threw a flood of light on the maladministration of the colonies and the
peculations from the royal revenues by the Spanish officials.  This
crushing answer, which filled more than twelve sheets of paper, was read
at a special meeting of the Council, which the Chancellor had summoned
without letting its object be known, and reduced his enemies to humiliated
silence.  The only observation which even the usually ready Bishop found
to offer was that the answer had been prepared for Las Casas by the Court
preachers.  The feebleness of this must have struck all present, and the
Chancellor with fine irony asked: “You now hold that Micer Bartholomew is
so lacking in argument and discretion that he has to find somebody else to
answer for him? From what I have heard of him he is equal to this and to
more besides.”

Gattinara presented a full report of the proceedings to the King, with the
result that the grant and privileges already conceded to Las Casas were
fully confirmed. Skirmishing between him and the Bishop went on as usual
during the final settlement of the details with the Council and on one
occasion Las Casas exclaimed to him, “By my faith, my lord, you have
fairly sold me the Gospel and since it is paid for, now deliver it!”


The troubles of Las Casas, however, were not yet over, nor did the
opposition to his projects relax; on the contrary, the arrival at
Barcelona in 1519 of Fray Juan Quevedo, the first Bishop of Darien,
brought a new combatant into the field against him.  On his way from
Darien to Spain, Quevedo had stopped in Cuba, where he had heard the
complaints of the enraged colonists, who declared that unless his mad
campaign against his fellow-countrymen was stopped Las Casas would ruin
the island, impoverish them all, and destroy every source of revenue.  It
was thought that Diego Velasquez paid Quevedo to controvert the
representations of Las Casas and to plead the cause of the colonists at
Court.  As he was a man of considerable weight and an excellent preacher,
Velasquez hoped he might win the King to his way of thinking.  Arriving at
Court, thus prepared to advocate the interests of Velasquez and the
colonists, Quevedo was no mean antagonist.  The first meeting between him
and Las Casas took place in the royal ante-chamber where, on being told
who the newly arrived prelate was, the clerigo approached saying, “My
lord, since I am interested in the Indies it is my duty to kiss your
hand.”  The Bishop asked who the strange priest was and, on being told,
exclaimed with some arrogance, “Oh, Señor Casas! and what sermon have you
got to preach to us?”  Had he known Las Casas better he would have adopted
other tactics, for the clerigo was not the kind of man to attack. He
answered: “Certainly, my lord, since some time I have wished to hear your
lordship preach, but I assure your lordship that I have a pair of sermons
ready, which if you wish to hear and consider them, may be worth more than
all the money you have brought from the Indies.”

This exchange of thinly veiled hostilities was cut short by the appearance
of the Bishop of Badajoz, who came out from audience with the King, and
took Quevedo off with him to dinner. To forestall any unfavourable
influence which Quevedo might seek to exercise on the Bishop of Badajoz,
who was friendly to Las Casas, the latter made a point of going after
dinner to the Bishop’s house, where he found an illustrious company
comprising, amongst others, the Admiral, Don Diego Columbus, playing
chequers.  Somebody remarked that wheat was grown in Hispaniola, to which
Quevedo replied that it was impossible. Las Casas, who happened to have in
his pocket-book some specimen grains which he had gathered in the garden
of the monastery of St. Dominic, mildly observed, “It is certain, my lord,
for I have seen it of excellent quality in that island, and I may even
say, look at it yourself, for I have some with me.”  The Bishop lost his
temper and answered with great asperity: “What do you know?   This is like
the affairs you manage!  What do you know about the matters you handle?”

“Are my affairs evil or unjust, my lord,” asked Las Casas.  The Bishop
even more testily exclaimed, “What do you know, or what knowledge and
learning have you that you venture to handle these affairs?”  Though
mindful not to annoy the Bishop of Badajoz, Las Casas let himself go
somewhat, and with something of Quevedo’s asperity replied that his
knowledge and learning might be even less than the Bishop conceded, but he
(the Bishop), instead of defending his flock against the tyranny of the
Spaniards, lived on their very flesh and blood, and that if he did not
restore to the last penny what he had squeezed out of them, he had no more
chance of salvation than had Judas.  The host interfered to allay the
rising choler of his guests, and Las Casas shortly after withdrew.  The
incident, however, had its consequences, for the Bishop of Badajoz related
the occurrence to the King, who, thinking that a polemical tournament
between Las Casas and Quevedo in the royal presence might be something
worth hearing, ordered that both should appear before him three days
later, to debate the subject.  A Franciscan friar, newly arrived from the
Indies, where he had witnessed the state of things, happened along just
then and sought out Las Casas to express his full sympathy with the
latter’s efforts on behalf of the natives. The Franciscan began a series
of sermons at a church near the palace, to which a number of the Flemings
listened, afterwards reporting their impressions to the King.  His Majesty
therefore commanded that the monk should also be present on the occasion
of the discussion between Las Casas and Quevedo.  The appearance of the
Franciscan, was not to Quevedo’s liking, and he somewhat tartly remarked
to him that the Court was no place for monks, who had much better be in
their cells.  As the Bishop himself was of the same Order, the monk aptly
retorted that he was of the like opinion and that “all of us monks would
be better off in our cells.”  Quevedo seems to have rarely come out ahead
in the verbal skirmishes his choleric temper prompted him to provoke.

The account given by Las Casas of the debate before the King gives us a
good picture of the stately ceremonial observed at the Court of Charles V.
The King being seated on his throne, the others present were accommodated
on benches extending along both sides of the audience chamber; to the
right of the King sat M. de Chièvres, next to whom was the Admiral Don
Diego Columbus; then the Bishop of Darien and finally the licentiate,
Aguirre.  On the left hand of the throne was seated the Grand Chancellor,
next to whom came the Bishop of Badajoz and so on with the others in their
order of precedence.  Las Casas and the Franciscan stood at the foot of
the room, opposite the throne.

After a moment of silence following the seating of the Court, M. de
Chièvres and the Grand Chancellor rose, advanced together, and mounting
the steps of the throne knelt before the King, to whom they spoke in
whispers as though receiving some secret instructions.  Returning then to
their respective places and being again seated, the Chancellor said,
“Reverend Bishop, his Majesty commands that if you have anything to say
concerning the Indies you shall speak.”  The Bishop of Darien rose and
began with an eloquent exordium in the classical style customary in such
discourses at that time and which produced the best impression on his
hearers.  He declared that he had long desired the honour of appearing in
the royal presence, and now that God had satisfied his wish, he recognised
that facies Priami digna erat imperio, which was a graceful reference to
the Imperial dignity to which the young monarch had recently been elected
in Germany.  He asked, however, that as the matters he had to present to
his Majesty’s attention were of a private nature, all those present who
were not members of the Council should be ordered to withdraw.  The
Chancellor signed to him to be seated and again he and M. de Chièvres
approached the throne with the same ceremonial and after having received
the royal commands, sotto voce, they returned to their places and the
Chancellor said, “Reverend Bishop, his Majesty commands that if you have
anything to say, you shall speak.” The Bishop however repeated his demand
that all those not of the Council should withdraw, and a third time the
Chancellor and M. de Chièvres went through the ceremony of receiving the
royal commands. Again the Chancellor, when he resumed his place, said,
“Reverend Bishop, his Majesty commands that if you have anything to say,
you shall speak, for all here present have been called to be of this

The Bishop’s efforts to exclude Las Casas and the Franciscan being thus
defeated, for it was impossible for him to insist further, he began as
follows: “Most potent lord, the Catholic King, your grandfather (may he
rest in holy glory) commanded the construction of an armada to go and make
settlements on the mainland of the Indies and solicited our very Holy
Father to create me Bishop of that first settlement; besides the time
occupied in coming and going, I have been there five years, and as a
numerous company went and we only had provisions enough for the journey,
all the rest of our people died of hunger: the remainder of us who
survived, in order to escape the fate of the others, have done nothing
during all that time but rob and kill and eat.  As I perceived that that
country was going to perdition and that its first governor was bad and the
second worse, I determined to return and report these things to our King
and Lord in whom is all the hope of a remedy.  As for the Indians, judging
by the accounts of those in that country whence I come, and those of
others whom I saw on my way, they are a natura slaves.”  The remainder of
this speech has not been preserved, but the opening of it was singular
enough, considering that it was delivered by the advocate of the colonists
and one of the bitterest opponents of Las Casas. At its conclusion the
ceremony of taking the royal orders was repeated and the Chancellor
commanded Micer Bartholomew in the King’s name to speak.

The speech which Las Casas then delivered is given, in part, in the third
part of his _Historia General_. (38) In it he declared that he had
accepted his vocation not to please the King but to serve God and that he
renounced, once for all, any temporal honour or favour his Majesty might
ever wish to confer upon him.  A remarkably bold sentence followed: “It is
positive, speaking with all the respect and reverence due to so great a
King and Lord, that I would not move from here to that corner to serve
your Majesty, saving my fidelity as a subject, unless I thought and
believed I would render service to God by so doing.”  The chief point in
the Bishop’s discourse which he controverted, was the assertion that the
Indians were by nature slaves.  He was supported throughout, and
especially on this point, by the Franciscan; and even the Admiral Diego
Columbus, who had himself held encomiendas and whose renowned father had
indeed initiated the very abuses which were being denounced, bore witness
to the truth of his statements and the weight of his arguments.  When Las
Casas had finished, Quevedo, who expressed his wish to reply, was notified
that anything further he had to say must be submitted in writing.  This
closed the audience and the King withdrew.

In conformity with the King’s order that his answer to Las Casas should be
presented in writing the Bishop of Darien prepared two statements, one of
which set forth all the various abuses and the destruction caused by the
Spaniards in that colony, while the other contained suggestions for
remedying those evils; one of these remedies was the prohibition of the
customary raids amongst the Indian tribes and the other was that the
peaceable Indians should be induced to live in villages where they might
be taught, and also pay some tribute to the Crown.  The Bishop’s view of
the lamentable state of things in the colony, his condemnation of the
violent conduct of the Spaniards, and his opinion that it was urgent to
introduce a new system for regulating the relations between the colonists
and natives seem not to have differed from those of Las Casas himself, and
both the corrective measures he proposed met with the latter’s hearty
approval.  These memorials were first read by the Bishop to the Chancellor
and M. Laxao, both of whom were highly satisfied to discover such
unexpected conformity with the representations of their friend the
clerigo.  When asked by them what he thought of Las Casas’s projects, the
Bishop replied that he found them excellent and most just.

This singular conversion of the Bishop of Darien from a formidable
opponent into a supporter, delighted Las Casas, who, when the Chancellor
showed him the two memorials, asked for a pen that he too might sign them,
saying: “Did I ever tell your lordship more than the Bishop has here
admitted? What greater cruelties, murders, and destruction in that country
have I ever reported to your lordship than these?”

What influence worked upon Quevedo does not appear; whether he perceived
that the King looked with sympathy on the enthusiastic Las Casas and that
the latter was high in favour with the important Flemish group at Court
and therefore sure to carry his point, and so decided, as a practised
courtier, to pass over to the winning side, or whether under his choleric
exterior there was a chord that responded to the sufferings of the obscure
Indians in their miseries, and a sense of justice that was outraged by the
rapacious cruelty of his countrymen, we have no means of knowing.  Shortly
afterwards he fell dangerously ill of a sickness which carried him off in
three days.  Las Casas was much impressed by his Christian end and by the
fact that before he died he had been moved to testify to the true
condition of things in the Indies, than which no other act on his part
could have been a better preparation for death.

The affairs of Las Casas were now well advanced and all seemed plain
sailing ahead; he conferred with Diego Columbus, Admiral of the Indies,
concerning the foundation of the forts he had undertaken to build along
the coast at intervals of one hundred leagues from one another. These
forts were to serve for defence and also as centres of trade to which the
Indians would be attracted to bring their gold, pearls, and other things
of value to be exchanged for the Spanish merchandise they
prized—hawks’-bells, beads of coloured glass, and like trifles.  The
Admiral was in agreement with this project, until he consulted his brother
Fernando Columbus, who suggested to him that he should ask from the King
the administration of justice in the new settlements and their extensions.
Las Casas opposed this project, but the Admiral followed his brother’s
counsel and presented his petition to the Council, where it was
disallowed; the Admiral in consequence took no further interest in the
plan and thus Las Casas was deprived of his valuable support.


As the date for the King’s departure from Spain to assume the imperial
dignity drew near the opposition to his leaving grew so strong that the
question of stopping him by force, if necessary, was even mooted, and
various parts of Spain were in a state of ferment bordering on civil war.
Charles left Barcelona and proceeded through Aragon to Burgos and from
thence to Coruña, where he had summoned the Córtes of Castile to assemble.
This city had been chosen, partly because it was a convenient port of
embarkation and partly, also, because the tide of opposition and hatred
against the Flemish courtiers had reached such a height that they felt it
wiser to keep to a seaport, from whence flight would be easier than from
an inland town, in case their position became untenable after the King’s

In the midst of such preoccupations, it required all the energy and
unflagging perseverance of Las Casas to keep his affairs to the front and
save them from being forgotten; as it was, even he had moments of
discouragement in which he was tempted to drop the whole matter and retire
from the Court.  His faithful Flemings, however, did not fail him, and
with their aid, he managed to get no less than seven days in the month of
May devoted to Indian affairs, before the sovereign sailed from Coruña.

During one of these sittings of the Council, Cardinal Adrian contrived to
overcome the opposition which was still active against Las Casas, by a
masterly discourse, in which he proved that by all natural and divine
laws, the policy so far pursued in the Indies was a mistaken one, and that
the Indians must be civilised and converted by humane and peaceful means.
The desired grant was finally made and consisted of two hundred and sixty
leagues of coast between Paria and Santa Marta, inclusively, and extending
inland in a direct line from its two extremities to the South Sea. The
text of this grant, which Charles V. signed in Coruña on May 19, 1520,
fills several chapters of the third part of the _Historia General de las

All the necessary formalities having been complied with and all obstacles
overcome, Las Casas was at last ready to launch his colonial venture.
Friends in Seville advanced him loans of money and others presented him
with a quantity of article of trade, of small enough value in Spain but of
great worth in the eyes of the Indians.  The fifty men who were to adopt
the white habit of the Knight of the Golden Spur had not been selected,
but it was thought well to begin the settlement with labourer and perhaps
to choose the candidates for the new knighthood from amongst the Spaniards
already settled in the Indies.  He sailed with his little company from San
Lucar de Barrameda on November 11, 1520, and after an uneventful voyage
reached the island of Puerto Rico, called by the Indians Boriquen, and
first named San Juan by the Spaniards.

While Las Casas had been sustaining his long struggle in Spain in behalf
of the Indians, a series of disastrous events had occurred in America,
which created serious obstacles in the way of his scheme for colonisation.
In 1518 some Dominican and Franciscan friars had founded two convents on
the Pearl Coast, the former at Chiribichi and the latter at Maracapana,
some seven leagues distant at the mouth of the Cumaná River and just
opposite the island of Cubagua.  These religious communities had
established the most peaceful relations with all the Indians in their
neighbourhood and the friars came and went with perfect freedom, being
welcomed in all the villages.  All went quietly until the arrival of one
Alonzo de Ojeda, who came from Cubagua, engaged ostensibly in the pearl
trade, but likewise in raiding for slaves. Pearl diving was as perilous
and fatal an occupation for the Indians as the work in the mines of
Hispaniola and Cuba, and such numbers had perished in Cubagua that it was
necessary to replenish the vacancies by bringing others from the
neighbouring mainland.  When Ojeda landed at Chiribichi he repaired to the
convent, where he found but one priest and a lay-brother, all the others
being absent, preaching to the Spaniards in Cubagua.  As he expressed a
wish to see the cacique, Maraguey, the priest, thinking no evil, sent to
invite the Indian to come to the monastery; on his arrival, Ojeda began to
question him as to whether cannibalism was practised by any tribes in the
neighbourhood, his answers being taken down on paper by a notary.  The
cacique declared that there were no cannibals thereabouts and, being
displeased by the questions and alarmed by the formalities of ink and
paper, he quickly withdrew.  Ojeda next went to the convent at Maracapana,
where the cacique, called Gil Gonzalez, came to meet him with every
demonstration of friendship.  Ojeda declared he had come to trade and
wished to buy maize, and on the day following his arrival he left with
fifteen of his men to go inland in search of the grain.  Fifty Indians
transported the loads from the interior to the coast, and while these
bearers were resting, the Spaniards suddenly drew their weapons, killing
some who tried to escape and forcing all the others on board their
caravel.  The effect of this act of unprovoked treachery in a peaceful
settlement, where the Indians had received the newcomers with every
hospitality as guests, may be easily imagined, and as was natural, Gil
Gonzalez planned vengeance for the outrage.  The scene at the convent
whither the cacique of Chiribichi had been summoned by his friend the
priest, and the impressive formality of the writing with pen and paper
furnished by the priest, unfortunately identified the monks in the minds
of the Indians with Ojeda and his exploits.  The alarm was passed all
along the coast, and the Indians bided the moment for a favourable attack;
nor had they long to wait, for Ojeda, accompanied by ten men, came on
shore again on Saturday as indifferently as though nothing had happened.
Gil Gonzalez affected to receive them in a friendly manner, but no sooner
had they reached the village than the Indians fell upon them, killing
Ojeda and several others, while the remainder barely succeeded in reaching
the caravel.  The Indians even went out in canoes to attack the vessel but
were repulsed, and the Spaniards, setting sail, put to sea.

The defenceless friars remained, however, and at Chiribichi the priest,
while vesting to say mass, and the lay-brother were both killed by the
people of the cacique Maraguey and the convent was burned.  So great was
the fury of the Indians that they even killed a horse with which the monks
worked in their garden.

The news of this massacre reaching Hispaniola from the Spaniards at
Cubagua, the royal Audiencia at once despatched a small force under
Gonzalo de Ocampo to punish the Indians, and the disheartening news of
these turbulent events was the greeting that met Las Casas on his arrival
at Puerto Rico.  Knowing that Ocampo’s armada would touch there on its way
to the Pearl Coast, he determined to await its arrival, where in fact
Ocampo appeared within a few days.  Las Casas had been a neighbour of his
in other days and, though he knew that his treatment of the Indians did
not differ from that of the other colonists, he held him in some esteem.
He showed Ocampo his cedulas with the royal signature, which prohibited
any Spaniards from landing, against his will, in the territory granted to
him, and he formally required him to desist from his errand of vengeance.
Ocampo answered that, while he did not refuse obedience to the royal
commands, he was in this instance acting under the orders of the royal
Audiencia and was obliged to carry out the instructions he had received;
the responsibility lay with the Audiencia, which would protect him from
any consequences following the execution of its mandate.

Seeing that Ocampo was not to be stopped, Las Casas resolved to go himself
to Hispaniola, show his powers to the Audiencia, and exact the recall of
the fleet.  Meanwhile he placed his colonists amongst the various planters
of Puerto Rico, who were glad enough to welcome labourers, who were scarce
in the island.  This decision of Las Casas was a most mistaken one and was
the outcome of an error of judgment which did not require the light of
after events to make plain.  More was certainly to be hoped from his
presence on the spot, and from the influence he might exercise over
Ocampo, than from anything he could obtain from the Audiencia, whose
members were his bitterest enemies.   It was, moreover, impossible for any
counter-orders he might be able to wrest from the reluctant Audiencia, to
reach the Pearl Coast in time to stop the action of Ocampo, and Las Casas
does not even appear to have sought to detain the latter in Puerto Rico,
pending the arrival of further instructions.

After dividing his colonists, who thus became scattered, and lost touch
with him and with one another, Las Casas bought a vessel for five hundred
dollars—an enormous sum at the time—in which he sailed for Hispaniola.
His arrival in Santo Domingo was most unwelcome and revived all the
ancient odium of the colonists against him, for he was without doubt the
best-hated man in America.

He presented his papers to the Governor, and a meeting of some ten
officials, who composed what was termed the Consulta and dealt with local
questions, was convoked to consider his demands.  The first of these was,
that the provisions of the royal grant to him should be formally
published, according to custom, with sound of trumpet so that all the
colonists might clearly understand the prohibition for any one to enter
the territory conceded to him, without his permission, and that all
Spaniards were commanded to treat the Indians humanely, and to keep faith
with them in treaties and contracts under severe penalties at the King’s
pleasure.  Second he demanded that the Consulta should order all Spaniards
to quit the territory of his concession, and should recall Ocampo
forthwith, as the murder of the friars there had been provoked by the
barbarous conduct of Ojeda.

As his previous experience might have taught him, the Consulta listened
with gravity to his demands and permitted the proclamation of his cedulas,
but when it came to taking any action to restrain Ocampo, reasons for
delay were found and the matter dragged on without anything being

It being to the interests of those colonists who were expecting a rich
cargo of slaves to be brought back by Ocampo, from his punitive
expedition, to hinder the departure of Las Casas and, if possible, to
wreck his plans for colonising, divers means were invented to accomplish
this object.  A rumour was started that his five-hundred-dollar vessel was
in a bad condition and unseaworthy; the authorities decided that this
point must be investigated, so several persons were named to examine the
boat and report on her condition. They did so, and promptly reported that
the vessel was not merely unseaworthy, but was in such a state that no
repairs would make her so, and that the only course was to dismantle her.
Thus Las Casas beheld his five hundred dollars vanish and himself a
fixture in Hispaniola.

Meanwhile Ocampo had reached the Pearl Coast and, feigning to come
directly from Spain with merchandise and to be entirely ignorant of the
murder of Ojeda and the friars, he succeeded in luring the cacique Gil
Gonzalez close to his ship, when a naked sailor dived overboard, grappled
with the cacique in his canoe and finally stabbed and killed him. A
landing was then made and the country raided with the usual accompaniment
of murders, torturings, and capturing of the natives, many of whom were
carried on board the vessels and sent back to Hispaniola, to be sold as
slaves. Ocampo, with others of his followers who remained behind, founded
a town, half a league up the Cumaná River, which he named New Toledo.

The arrival of the slave cargo at Hispaniola where Las Casas was still
engaged in altercations with the authorities, threw him into a terrible
rage.  He protested vehemently before the Audiencia against the deliberate
and open violation of the royal commands, whose contents had been publicly
proclaimed, and he threatened to return forthwith to Spain and lay the
case before the King, from whom he would obtain the punishment of the
authors of the outrage and their condemnation to pay all the expenses of
Ocampo’s armada, which had been illegally charged to the Royal treasury.

Nobody doubted that he was capable of executing his threat, and, since it
was known that he enjoyed the protection of the all-powerful Flemings and
was something of a favourite with the young King himself, the members of
the Consulta and some of the principal men in the colony decided, after
many discussions, that it would be well to appease the clerigo’s wrath and
come to some arrangement with him for their mutual benefit.  It was then
proposed to form a company, in which there should be twenty-four
shareholders, each of whom should contribute an identical sum and derive
an equal profit from the undertaking on the Pearl Coast.  Six of the
shares should be assigned to the Crown, six to Las Casas and his fifty
knights of the Golden Spur, three to Admiral Diego Columbus, one to each
of the four auditors of the Audiencia, and the remaining five to the
treasurer Pasamonte and the other officials of the Audiencia.

This scheme was submitted to Las Casas, who must by that time have been
well-nigh in despair, and, although it very materially changed his
original plan, it offered the only possible means for carrying out his
intentions, so he agreed to the formation of the company.  The agreement
upon which the company was based gave to Las Casas Ocampo’s armada with
several brigantines and barques and all their contents, and he was to
choose amongst the three hundred followers of Ocampo one hundred and
twenty, who should constitute the armed force of the new colony, under the
latter’s command.  This arrangement, so it was pretended, would leave Las
Casas free to dedicate all his efforts to the conversion of the Indians.
The last article of the agreement was almost comical. It provided that
when Las Casas himself should denounce any Indians as cannibals, the
Spaniards should be bound to declare war against them and make slaves of

He afterwards wrote concerning the articles of agreement as follows:

“Great was the blindness or ignorance—if indeed it was not malice—of those
gentlemen to believe that the clerigo would ever fulfil those horrible and
absurd conditions, knowing him to be a good Christian, not covetous, and
ready to die to liberate and help in saving those people from the
condition in which they were held.”

With his armada well equipped, and a plentiful supply of provisions and
merchandise for trading purposes on board, Las Casas finally sailed from
Hispaniola in July, 1521, directing his course first to the island of
Mona, where a quantity of cassava bread was to be taken on board, and from
thence to Puerto Rico, where he expected to collect his original
colonists.  On his arrival there, not one however, was found to join the
expedition, as they had long since dispersed throughout the island or had
joined marauding expeditions to capture Indians.  This defection must have
caused Las Casas great disappointment, for he had assembled these men with
great care in Spain, choosing only such as he thought from their good
character to be adapted for his ideal colony.  The change which their new
and strange surroundings had operated in these peaceful, simple folk was
not unnatural; loosed from all the anchors that held them to habits of
industry and probity, they found themselves caught in new currents;
cupidity was awakened by the gold-fever that infected all the colonists,
the pious projects with which they left Spain under the guidance of their
apostolic leader were easily abandoned when the influence of his
enthusiasm was withdrawn, and they took to the freebooting ways and easy
morals of the colonists with whom they were thrown.  Las Casas had
neglected to realise that they were not angels.

On arriving at that part of the Pearl Coast called Cumaná, it was found
that Ocampo’s colony of New Toledo was already in the throes of discontent
from hunger and disease; his men had begun by pressing the Indians into
service, with the result that all the native abandoned the country,
leaving the Spaniards to starve.  When it became known that those who
chose might return to Hispaniola, every man of them declared he would go,
so Las Casas was left with a few of his friends and some who were in his
pay.  Ocampo showed sincere regret and much sadness at abandoning his old
friend, for whom, in spite of their differences, he had a sincere
admiration, in such a plight.  He took leave of him with many
demonstrations of affection, and joining his men sailed away to

Las Casas was now in his long-desired territory, but the material for
starting his colony was sadly reduced.


Some time before the events just recounted, Franciscan friars from Picardy
had been sent to the Pearl Coast by the Prior Pedro de Cordoba, under the
leadership of Fray Juan Garceto, and this little community heard the news
of Las Casas’s coming with profound joy.  Upon his arrival, they came to
meet him singing Te Deum Laudamus and Benedictus qui venit in nomine
Domini.  The convent was modest enough, being rudely constructed of wood
and thatch, and the life of the friars in the midst of the vast wilderness
about them was one of the most apostolic simplicity.  The house stood
about a musket-shot back from the Cumaná River in a beautiful garden
which, in such a climate, was not a difficult achievement.  Las Casas
built a large storehouse on one side of the garden for his trading
merchandise and, through the friars and an Indian woman called Maria, who
had learned Spanish, he published among the Indians that he had been sent
by the new King of the Christians in Spain, and that henceforth there
would be no more fighting, but all were to live together in peace and
friendship. In order to attract them, he made them presents from his
stores; but it was not unnatural that the diffidence of the Indians should
yield but slowly to these blandishments after the deceptions of which they
had been the victims, and besides, Las Casas could not trust his own
dependents, but had to keep a sharp eye continually on them, to prevent
them scandalising and offending the natives.  Under such discouraging
circumstances, progress was inevitably slow.

Not only were the Spaniards under his own control in little harmony with
the spirit of his intentions and as refractory as they dared be to his
orders, but the pearl fishers on the island of Cubagua, who were a typical
lot of godless ruffians, frequently came to the mainland, with the valid
excuse that the absence of sweet water on their island obliged them to
fetch their supply from the Cumaná River.  These expeditions for water
were usually accompanied by some disturbances with the Indians, some of
whom were frequently captured and carried off to work in the pearl

To put a stop to these incursions into his territory, Las Casas contracted
with a mason, for eight dollars in gold per month, to build him a fort at
the mouth of the river; but the people at Cubagua, hearing of this project
which would interrupt and control their movements, contrived to so
influence the mason that he threw up his contract and abandoned the work,
thus leaving the country defenceless.  The Cubaguans seduced and ruined
the Indians, chiefly by offering them liquors and spirits, which have
always proved the white man’s most attractive and destructive products to
the savage and have ever gone in the vanguard of civilisation.  The
Indians gave everything they possessed for alcohol even selling their
fellows as slaves, in exchange for wines; these they drank to inordinate
excess, and in the fury of their debauch quarrels broke out amongst them
which ended in murders and a state of the most riotous disorder, against
which Las Casas and the monks struggled in vain.  The strongest
representations and protests were made to the alcalde of Cubagua, whither
Las Casas went in person, but, far from producing the desired result, his
efforts to protect his own territory only served to excite increased
resentment on the part of his lawless neighbours, and neither his own life
nor that of the Franciscans was any longer safe from the threatened
reprisals of their hostile countrymen.  The situation was one of the
greatest gravity and even peril; instead of showing promise of
improvement, it grew daily worse; for, though the men at Cubagua were
somewhat restrained from venturing upon open acts of hostility directed
against him since they had seen what powers the royal cedulas gave him,
their ingenuity in devising vexations, inventing contrarieties, and
creating obstacles which effectually nullified all his efforts, was
extraordinarily fertile.  Fray Juan Garceto was of the opinion that Las
Casas should return to Hispaniola to complain to the Audiencia and demand
that some effective restraint be exercised upon the Spaniards at Cubagua
or, failing of success there, that he should even go to the King himself
to obtain redress and the punishment of the offenders.  This advice did
not accord with Las Casas’s own view, for he had reason to know how
difficult it was to obtain anything from the Audiencia and how easy it was
to evade even the most explicit provisions of royal cedulas, when it
suited the interest of those concerned to do so.  His absence at such a
critical moment would also remove the one effective restraint on the
lawlessness of the Cubaguans and doubtless result in the total destruction
of his stores, which were valued at fifty thousand castellanos.  Two
vessels were lying off  the coast, loading salt for Hispaniola, and during
the days previous to their sailing both Las Casas and Fray Juan gave
themselves up to earnest prayer and each offered his daily mass to obtain
some divine guidance as to the right course to pursue, since they were in
absolute disagreement.  Las Casas prepared a full statement of the
situation, and a petition asking the Audiencia to furnish the necessary
remedy without delay, which he intended to despatch by one of the ship’s
captains in case he did not go himself when the sailing day came.  The
last day finally arrived, and Fray Juan, after saying his mass, sought Las
Casas and said, “It is your duty, sir, to go and on no account to stop
here.”  “God knows,” replied Las Casas, “how much this goes against my
judgment and my wishes but, since it seems right to your Reverence, I am
willing to do it; if it is an error, I would rather err by the judgment of
another than be right by my own, for I hope in God.”  The wisdom of
submitting his judgment as an act of religious humility in a matter
concerning his own spiritual welfare would have been laudable, but Las
Casas was far more qualified to judge on a question of policy affecting
the welfare of his enterprise than was Fray Juan Garceto, and the
responsibility for repeating the blunder he had made in Puerto Rico of
abandoning his colony while he went off to protest to the Audiencia, must
rest where it belongs—on his own shoulders—and not where he sought to put
it—on those of the humble Franciscan.   If somebody had to go—and it seems
that the necessity was urgent—then Fray Juan had better have taken the
letters and gone himself before the Audiencia, leaving Las Casas to
withstand his enemies and keep his colony together as best he could, until
the Audiencia despatched some authority to effectively restrain the
Cubaguans.  His resolution taken, in accordance with the friar’s
inspiration, Las Casas appointed Francisco de Soto, a native of Olmedo, as
captain during his absence and gave him full instructions for his
guidance.  It was especially impressed upon the captain that on no account
should he permit the two vessels which the colony possessed to leave the
harbour; he was to be on the alert and in case of open hostilities he was
to load the merchandise on board if possible, but if not, then to save all
his people and take refuge at Cubagua.  Much preoccupied as to the fate of
those he left behind and uncertain as to the wisdom of his course, Las
Casas set out for Hispaniola, leaving all he possessed in the convent,
save one box of his clothing and another containing some books.

It is illustrative of the capricious and light-hearted spirit of
disobedience to all authority, save what force imposed, which
characterised Spanish officials in America, that the first thing De Soto
did, before the ship bearing Las Casas was barely out of sight, was to
send away his two vessels, one in one direction and the other in the
opposite, to fish for pearls and, if possible, to capture Indians.  The
natives were in a state of unrest owing to the continual vexations of the
people of Cubagua and also of Las Casas’s men who, as soon as he was gone,
became almost as bad as the others.  The beautiful speeches in which peace
and justice and friendship were promised for the future, under the
powerful protection of the new King of Spain, had resulted in nothing, and
the last illusion of the Indians vanished with the disappearance of the
ship that bore their protector towards Hispaniola.  A general massacre of
the colony was concerted to take place about fifteen days after Las Casas
left.  The Franciscans got wind of it three days before the date fixed and
though the Indian woman Maria, when asked, denied the plot in words, she
conveyed to the friars by gestures that she had lied because the presence
of other Indians intimidated her from telling the truth.  A Spanish
trading ship arrived in these days, but in spite of the colonists’ prayers
to be taken on board the captain refused, so the hapless men were left to
their fate. At the last moment an effort was made to organise some defence
and twelve or fourteen pieces of artillery were mounted around the
storehouse, but when they came to examine the powder, it was found—oh,
Spanish improvidence!—to be so damp that it was useless.  At sunrise they
thought to dry it, but they were too late, for with fierce war-whoops, the
Indians were upon them; three of their number were killed and the
store-house, in which the others had barricaded themselves, was set on
fire.  Fortunately there was a small door that gave access to the garden,
through which they escaped from the burning building.  De Soto, who had
been out to reconnoitre the town was wounded with a poisoned arrow, but
managed to reach the garden where the others were.  The friars had
constructed a canal through their garden leading to the river and on this
they had a large Indian canoe capable of holding fifty persons.  This
canoe was now their sole hope of safety and everybody managed to get into
it, save one unfortunate lay-brother who had taken refuge among some reeds
along the bank and was only discovered after the canoe had pushed off.
Seeing his companions borne swiftly away on the saving current, he rose
from his hiding-place with despairing gestures of appeal, but though every
effort was made to reach him it was in vain, and he, poor man, seeing that
his situation was hopeless, signalled to them with pathetic heroism to
leave him and save themselves while they could.  He was killed a few
moments later when the Indians, not knowing of the egress into the garden
and believing that all the Spaniards were inside the burning building,
came round to the other side of the Storehouse.  When they caught sight of
the fugitives in the canoe, they quickly launched a swift pirogue and set
out in pursuit of the canoe.  The Spaniards had already doubled the point
called Hraga and were a league down the river, but they were exhausted
with hard rowing and the light pirogue of their pursuers gained so rapidly
upon them that their only hope was to take refuge in the thick underbrush
along the shore, where the Indians, being naked, could not penetrate on
account of the thorns.  The canoe and the pirogue touched land almost at
the same time and not far from one another.  Fray Juan afterwards
recounted to Las Casas how he was overtaken by an Indian and, seeing the
club raised to strike him, he threw himself on his knees, closed his eyes,
and prepared for death; the blow did not fall, and on opening his eyes he
found himself alone, with no Indian in sight.  Finding it impossible to
reach the Spaniards in their refuge in the thorny thicket, the Indians
withdrew and the Christians, covered with blood from their many wounds,
managed, though in a truly pitiable plight, to reach some boats which were
loading salt not far off.  It was then noticed for the first time that
their captain, Francisco de Soto, was missing and, as some one remembered
having seen him concealed under a great rock in the thicket, a boat was
sent to look for him.  After three days’ search he was found, dying of
thirst, and on being brought on board and given water, he finished himself
by drinking to excess.  Thus the author of all the mischief paid the
penalty of his imprudence and disobedience with his life.

While the colonists were undergoing these sufferings, Las Casas found
himself on board a vessel whose pilots, ignorant of the chart, carried him
eighty leagues beyond the harbour of Hispaniola and wasted two months in
beating against the currents to pass the little island La Beata.  Seeing
the hopeless incompetency of these men, he had himself put ashore at the
harbour of Jaquimo some twenty leagues lower down, from whence he could go
on to Jaguana and so across the island to the city of Santo Domingo.  The
news of the disaster at Cumaná had long since reached Hispaniola and Las
Casas heard of it in the following manner, while journeying on foot across
the island with several companions.  One day, while he was taking his
afternoon siesta under a tree, a party of travellers joined his
companions, who enquired what news there was in Santo Domingo or from
Spain.  The newcomers answered that the only recent news was that of the
murder of the clerigo Las Casas and all his colony at Cumana by the
Indians.  “We are witnesses to prove that that is impossible” replied the
others, and the discussion which ensued awakened the clerigo who thus
received the disheartening tidings, which he was inclined to believe, of
the total destruction of his hopes.  He afterwards attributed this
catastrophe to his own weakness in allowing himself to be drawn into a
partnership with godless men, whose sole object was to enrich themselves,
by which he had offended God and merited punishment. He would have done
better to keep to his original plan of forming a religious company of
Knights of the Golden Spur, who, aided by the friars, would have embarked
with him on the conversion of the natives without mingling any expectation
of profitable trade with their project.  The struggle for immediate and
inordinate gain, in which the Spanish colonists were engaged, with its
slave raids, extermination of the Indians by selling them alcoholic
liquors and forcing them into the dangerous labours of mining and pearl
diving, was incompatible with such a colony as Las Casas designed to
found, and the agreement into which he entered with the Audiencia of
Hispaniola was bound to wreck his projects.

Had the ability of Las Casas to direct his undertaking and to govern men
been equal to his genius in the sphere of morals and intellect, and to the
eloquence of his advocacy, the realisation of his ideal of justice and
charity might have been assured.  Certainly he contended against
overwhelming odds in Spain, the Bishop of Burgos, who controlled American
affairs, was implacably hostile; in America the colonial authorities and
the entire population barring the friars and a possible handful of his
friends, were vigilantly opposed to him; deceived and betrayed by his
Squire Berrio, he was disobeyed by De Soto and abandoned by his colonists,
while all hope of establishing friendly relations with the Indians in the
territory conceded to him was annihilated by the Spaniards at Cubagua,
whose aggressions kept the whole country in a state of alarm. These
untoward conditions, which no foresight on his part could have avoided,
were alone sufficient to explain the failure of his enterprise.  His plans
seem, however, to have involved a contradiction of a fundamental law of
human progress which decrees the destruction of rudimentary forms of
civilisation when brought into contact with a higher one.  Neither humane
civil legislation nor the higher principles of Christian charity have thus
far served to save the weaker races of mankind from absorption or
extermination.  The fiercer and stronger tribes of American Indians
receded before the Anglo-Saxon invasion of their territories, leaving a
trail of blood behind them, while the weaker nations of the islands and
Southern Americas went down before the Spaniards, with hardly more than a
plaintive cry for mercy.

The price of civilisation is a high one, and as the peoples of Europe paid
it, so were the aboriginal populations of America not exempted from the
blood-tax.  The obscure workings of the mysterious laws of race-survival
were forced on and hastened by the cruelties against which Las Casas
protested in vain, but the triumphal march of human progress has followed
on.  Cannibalism, idolatry, slavery, and other barbarisms have disappeared
from the American continents; the Christian religion has replaced
degrading superstitions, agriculture and commerce flourish, while
literature and the arts adorn life in the several republics, whose meanest
citizen enjoys a security of life and property unknown to the proudest of
their ancestors under the rule of Montezuma or the Incas. Belief in the
principles of equity and charity forbids us to doubt that these and even
nobler results might have been achieved by the methods advocated by Las
Casas, but history records no racial expansion along other roads than that
opened by the sword.


Although held in general detestation in Hispaniola, as a seditious
mischief-maker and an enemy of the Spaniards’ interests, there were not
wanting some sympathisers who, when Las Casas arrived, dejected and
bankrupt, at Santo Domingo, received him kindly, and even offered to lend
him five thousand ducats with which to begin again.

The clear thinking and high resolution which had carried him through so
many trials seemed at this time to fail him; nor indeed is there just
cause for wonder, for there is a limit to human powers of endurance, and
if ever a man was overtaken by a dark hour, Las Casas was he.  In after
years, he arraigned his own conduct at this period with undue severity,
reflecting that as the Emperor was back in Spain with the Flemings, and
his old friend Cardinal Adrian had become Pope, he might have accomplished
his life’s purpose of ending the sufferings of the Indians, had he only
adopted the resolution of going directly to Spain.  As it was, he wrote an
extensive account to the Emperor of all that had occurred and the causes
that had brought on the calamity at Cumaná.

To the monks of the Dominican order, Las Casas had years since been united
by the strong bonds of devotion to a common cause, which was the dominant
influence, as it was the sole object, of his life. As they had accompanied
and sustained him throughout his long struggle, so it was to them that he
naturally turned for sympathy in the extremity of his disappointment,
exiled, as he was, amidst the hostile colonists of Hispaniola.  These were
the saddest days of his tempestuous life, during which doubts began to
penetrate his very soul—doubts of his own worthiness to carry on the
mission to which he had believed himself called, doubts even as to whether
it might not be ordained by the inscrutable wisdom of Divine Providence
that the Indians should perish before the advance of the Spaniards.  If
this were true, then his life had been wasted in a vain conflict with the
occult forces that govern the destiny of races.

While waiting for answers to the letters he had written to Spain, he found
his only consolation in his intercourse with the Dominican friars, with
whom in fact he had been for years closely united in spirit.  Fray Domingo
de Betanzos exercised a great influence upon him at this time, and to him
is due the decision of Las Casas to enter the Dominican Order.

The discussions between the two must have been frequent and prolonged for,
weary and disappointed as he was, Las Casas seems not to have yearned for
the seclusion of the cloister. To his objection that he must await the
King’s reply to his letter before taking a decision, Betanzos answered,
“Decide now father, for if you were to die meanwhile, who will receive the
King’s letters and orders?”  These words sunk deep into his soul and from
thence-forward he pondered seriously upon his vocation.  Finally his mind
was made up and he decided to imagine himself dead when the King’s letter
should arrive and so beyond the reach of royal commands.  In 1522, he
asked for the habit of the Order. (39) The news of his solemn profession,
which took place in 1523, was received with great joy by the people
outside the convent, though for very different reasons, for they assisted
at his exit from the world and his entrance into the cloister with the
same satisfaction with which they would have attended his funeral.  While
making his novitiate, the letters from the Cardinal (now Pope) Adrian and
his Flemish friends at Court arrived.  The Flemings urged his immediate
return to Spain, promising him every assistance in their power, but the
superiors of the monastery in Hispaniola did not deliver these disquieting
epistles to their novice, for fear of shaking his resolution to persevere
in his vocation.

The earliest biographer of Las Casas, Antonio de Remesal, says that he was
chosen Prior of the monastery, and this statement is supported by a letter
from the Auditors of Hispaniola dated June 7, 1533, addressed to Prince
Philip who was governing Spain during the absence of the Emperor his
father, in which Fray Bartholomew is mentioned as Prior of the Monastery
of Santo Domingo in the town of Puerto de Plata. (40) In chapter 146 of
his _Historia Apologetica_, he himself speaks of “conferring the habit” on
a novice, which he could only do if he were Prior.

The first seven years that Las Casas passed in the seclusion of his
monastery were not marked by any salient incident.  He devoted himself
with all the intensity of his nature to the practice of the austere rule
of St. Dominic and became, as he himself afterwards described in writing
of that period of his life, as though dead to the world, so little part
did he have in the course of events outside his cloister’s walls.  He gave
much time to the study of theology, especially to the works of St. Thomas
Aquinas, the glory of the Dominican Order.  These studies served to equip
him with stores of canonical and philosophical learning which enabled him,
when the time came, to sustain controversies with some of the most learned
men in Europe.

In the second chapter of his _Historia Apologetica_ the following sentence
occurs: “Three leagues to the west of the extremity of this plain is
Puerto de Plata, and on a hill above and near by the town thus named there
is a monastery of the Dominican Order, where the composition of this
History was begun in the year 1527,—to be finished when and where the will
of God may ordain.”(41)

In 1529, he lent his efforts to bringing to an end the long standing
rebellion of the cacique Enrique whose forces, in the mountains of
Baranco, the Spaniards had fought at intervals during fourteen years in
vain.  This chief had been educated in the Franciscan convent at Vera Paz
and was a man of unusual intelligence and superior courage; he married a
beautiful Indian girl of good lineage and, with the Indians under his
rule, was assigned in repartimiento to a Spaniard named Valenzuela, who
began by robbing him of a valuable mare and ended by taking from him his

The cacique’s protests were answered with a beating, and his complaints to
the governor of St. Juan de la Maguana, one Pedro Vadillo, were

This grievance led to an organised rebellion of the natives under Enrique,
who assembled numerous forces.  By constantly moving from place to place,
he was able to elude the several Spanish expeditions sent against him.
The course of these alternate hostilities and negotiations to obtain the
submission of Enrique, and the dispersal of his people, are described at
length in chapters 125 and 126 of the _Historia General_.  Even the
intervention of Fray Remigio, one of the Franciscans who had come from
Picardy to Hispaniola, and who had been one of Enrique’s teachers in the
convent, failed induce the offended cacique to surrender. News of the
continued success of the rebellion reached Spain, and in 1527, Don
Sebastian de Fuenleal was sent out as President of the Audiencia and
Bishop of Santo Domingo, with special instructions to subdue Enrique.  His
efforts proved as fruitless as the preceding attempts, and in 1528 the
King wrote still more urgently that the campaign must be brought to a
successful issue.  The Bishop-President, being in sore perplexity to
devise means for satisfying the royal commands, showed this embarrassing
letter to Fray Bartholomew.

“My lord,” said Las Casas, “how many times has your lordship and this
Audiencia tried to subdue this man to the King’s service by waging war
against him.”

“Many times,” answered the Bishop, “almost every year a force has been
organised and so it will go on till he dies or submits.”  “And how often,”
asks Las Casas, “have you tried to win him by peaceful means?”  “I don’t
know that there was but the one time,” answered Fuenleal.  Fray Bartolomew
then affirmed that he was confident that he could arrange a peace and, the
Bishop-president having accepted his offer to act as ambassador to
Enrique, he fulfilled his mission as much to the astonishment as to the
satisfaction of everybody.

The Spanish historian Quintana rejects the account of these events which
is given by Remesal and has ever since been accepted by historians as
authentic, declaring it to be fabulous, and limiting the part Las Casas
played in the affair of Enrique to a visit he paid him after peace was
concluded.  Remesal bases his narrative on documents which he declares he
found in the archives of the Audiencia of Guatemala, and there seems no
sufficient motive for doubting the veracity of the evidence.  Las Casas,
in describing what took place in the early part of the troubles with
Enrique (1520), does not say positively that he took part in the first
negotiations for peace, but he does clearly give it to be understood that
the successful issue of the final efforts was owing to his intervention.
A detailed account of the conclusion of the rebellion would, according to
the system adopted in writing his _History_, find its rightful place in
the fourth book, which is missing, though there is little room for doubt
that it was written and may possibly still be discovered.

Concerning the journey which—according to Remesal—Las Casas made to Spain
in 1530, very little is known, and Quintana is as sceptical about this
voyage as about the part attributed to him by some biographers in
Enrique’s subjugation, though there seems as little reason in this
instance to doubt the explicit statement of one whose good faith is as far
above suspicion as his opportunities for knowing the facts were

Torquemada represents Fray Juan Zumarraga, the first Bishop of Mexico, as
visiting Spain in 1532, and as having previously written asking that the
colonists should be prohibited from enslaving the Indians, and that during
that time identical representations had been made to the government by the
Bishop of Chiapa, Don Bartolomé de Las Casas, (42) which procured letters
patent from the Empress-Regent signed in 1530, before the bishop of Mexico
arrived. (43) The scepticism of Quintana seems hardly justified.

The occasion of the alleged journey was the recent discovery and conquest
of Peru by Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro.  The fate of these
millions of people, newly subjected to the Castilian crown could not have
been a matter of indifference to Las Casas.  They stood far higher in the
scale of civilisation than the naked islanders, possessing as they did, as
great an empire as the Mexicans, with religion, laws, and literature of a
high order of development.  While the entrance of Las Casas into a
monastic order was, in one sense, a retirement from the world, he had
chosen a community whose members were as devoted to the defence of the
Indians as he himself was, and while he had, when still a secular priest,
sustained a stout fight, unaided save by such friends as chance and his
own efforts might here and there secure him, he could, after his
profession, count upon the moral and active support of one of the most
powerful religious organisations of the age.  His retirement, therefore,
proved to be a period of refreshment, during which he reinforced his
powers for continuing his propaganda and, while losing nothing of his
original enthusiasm and determination, he returned to the scene of his
former activity with renewed courage and a great religious Order at his

Determined as he was to forestall a repetition in Peru of the
exterminating cruelties perpetrated in the islands, he returned to Court
in his Dominican habit, where he preached several times with great
success.  The gift of eloquence he had always possessed, and his eight
years of study and meditation had furnished him with new weapons, which he
wielded with the same fiery zeal that had characterised the first years of
his apostolic championship.  During the six months he remained in Spain,
he obtained a royal cedula to be delivered to Pizarro and Almagro,
positively prohibiting the enslavement of any of the natives of Peru for
any reason, or in any manner whatsoever, as they were declared to be the
free vassals of the King, and as much entitled to the possession of their
liberty and property as were the natives of Castile itself.  The obnoxious
Bishop of Burgos had long since fallen into disgrace and was dead, so that
Las Casas was free to carry on his negotiations with the India Council
without encountering at every step the obstacles and delays his old enemy
had formerly opposed to his projects.

During his absence in Spain, the first provincial chapter of the
Dominicans had been held in Hispaniola, and on his return there he learned
that the monastery of San Domingo in Mexico had been designated as the
chief house of the province, with Fray Francisco de San Miguel as the
first Prior. Las Casas, in company with other friars embarked with the new
Prior for Mexico, his own destination being Peru, where he had not only to
deliver the royal cedula he had secured, but also to found some convents
in those regions.  The friars in Mexico did not welcome their new Prior as
cordially as they might have done, but Fray Bartholomew, ever ready to
exercise his powers of universal peace-maker, smoothed the difficulties,
after which he left for Peru early in 1532, accompanied by Fray Bernardino
de Minaya and Fray Pedro de Angulo. (44) As their port of embarkation was
Realejo in Nicaragua, they passed through Santiago de Guatemala where they
lodged in the abandoned convent of San Domingo.  As soon as the news of
their arrival spread, the whole town came eagerly to see them; the
enthusiasm of the inhabitants was somewhat dampened when they learned that
Las Casas was one of the three, for he had earned a terrible fame amongst
slave-dealing Spaniards and whenever he appeared, was apt to produce royal
cedulas of embarrassing purport or, at least, to denounce and report to
Spain the violence and cruelties commonly practised on the Indians.

The friars’ stay at Santiago was brief, in spite of the urgent entreaties
of the priest there, who begged them to remain and to reopen the deserted
monastery, as the field for spiritual labours was a broad and uncultivated
one.  Fray Bartholomew was anxious, however, to reach his destination,
knowing from past experiences how much easier it is to forestall an evil
than to remedy a rooted abuse. He rightly judged that whatever good was to
be accomplished by virtue of the royal cedula he carried, must be achieved
before the conquerors of Peru had time to enslave the Indians and to
establish a system similar to those that had worked such damage in the
Islands and in Mexico.  They were obliged to wait twenty-four days at
Realejo until a ship which was to carry reinforcements and stores to
Pizarro and Almagro was ready to sail; meanwhile the three monks, under
the exterior guise of the gentle dove, were obliged to use some of the
wisdom of the serpent and to carefully conceal the nature of their
mission, for otherwise the ship-owners, whose chief article of commerce
was slaves, would never have taken them on board.

Upon their arrival in Peru, Las Casas immediately communicated the purport
of the cedula to the Spanish commanders.  Both Almagro and Pizarro
protested that they would obey the order to the letter, though it went
sorely against their interests. They ordered the royal command to be
solemnly published with the usual formalities and even added other
penalties to those prescribed, for any violation of its provisions.

This part of his mission accomplished, it remained for Fray Bartholomew
and his companions to take steps to found religious houses as their
superior had ordered, but after consultation with the Bishop of those
parts, Fray Vicente de Valverde, it was decided that such foundations
would be premature, since the country was only half subdued and a
continuous state of warfare still prevailed.  Their return to Mexico was
therefore agreed upon and, together with a number of Spaniards who were
disappointed with their prospects in Peru, the three friars left for
Panama whence they sailed for Realejo, where they arrived early in March
of 1532.

The Bishop of Nicaragua, who at that time was Don Diego Alvarez Osorio,
had been instructed by the Emperor to establish Dominican convents in his
diocese, and the arrival of the friars afforded him the first opportunity
that had presented itself to obey the royal commands.  A convent was
therefore established with the customary ceremonies at Leon, the seat of
the Bishop, and was dedicated to St. Paul.  The friars set themselves to
work to learn the language of the natives, which was not difficult for
Pedro de Angulo, since he already knew the Mexican tongue, whose
similarity rendered intelligible communication with the Indians easy from
the outset.

While engaged in the apostolic labour of teaching and converting the
natives who were eager to become Christians, Las Casas received a letter
from the licentiate Cerrato, who had succeeded the Bishop Don Sebastian de
Fuenleal as President of the Audiencia in Hispaniola on the transference
of the latter to Mexico, urging him to return forthwith, as his presence
was necessary for the service of God and the Emperor.  Money for the
expenses of the journey accompanied this communication, the nature of
which left its recipient no choice but to obey, so leaving the work of
conversions that had so favourably begun, to the care of the friars who
had returned with him from Peru, Fray Bartholomew and Fray Pedro de Angulo
set out on their long journey by way of Honduras, where a ship might be
found either at the port of Trujillo or that of Caballos.

Upon his arrival at Santo Domingo, where he was cordially received by the
President, Cerrato though his presence was never a source of tranquillity
to the slave-dealing colonists, Las Casas learned that the principal
reason for recalling him, was the President’s desire to establish a surer
peace with the cacique Enrique; although the latter had made no attack on
the Spaniards since the agreement of 1529, he had not disbanded his
followers, but remained in an inaccessible mountain fastness, a permanent
source of unrest to the Spaniards with whom he showed no intention of
entering into closer relations.

No mission could have been more to Fray Bartholomew’s liking, for he was
ever eager to prove the truth of his perpetual thesis that the Indians
were reasonable, peaceable people who, if treated humanely would readily
embrace civilisation and Christianity.  Making his usual condition that no
force should be used, and accompanied only by his faithful companion, Fray
Pedro de Angulo, he set out for the mountain regions to search for
Enrique.  After several days of fatiguing wanderings he came upon the
cacique, as well entrenched and with as many precautions against a
possible attack or surprise as though he were engaged in active warfare
instead of being at peace since four years. For some time, during which
the two Dominicans remained as guests in the camp, no news of them reached
Santo Domingo, so that the President and the colonists began to feel great
uneasiness for their safety.  Two months of absolute silence elapsed when,
to the stupefaction of the colony, Las Casas appeared at the entrance of
the Audiencia in company with the formidable cacique.  During fourteen
years this Indian chieftain had been the terror of the Islands, invincible
and intractable; the triumph of Las Casas was correspondingly great when,
by the force of his reasoning, he led him peacefully into the Spanish
capital.  Great was the ovation that greeted this signal success of the
unpopular Dominican; the President fulfilled to the letter all the
promises and assurances which Las Casas had given Enrique in the Emperor’s
name, so that from their most obstinate enemy, this cacique became the
most loyal friend of the Spaniards. (45) Perhaps no accomplishment in his
long life of great achievements and great disappointments afforded him
more unalloyed pleasure than this pacific victory.

The centre of Fray Bartholomew’s action was now transferred to Peru, where
he was bent upon keeping a watchful eye on the execution of the royal
commands for the protection of the Indians, which he had been instrumental
in procuring. There, it seemed still possible to bar out slavery in all
its forms, so he solicited the Dominican superiors in Hispaniola four
friars to accompany him and found religious houses in Peru.  Amongst these
four was Fray Luis Cancer, whose name was destined to be written in the
list of the proto-martyrs of the Catholic Church in America.

The President Cerrato, out of gratitude to Las Casas, made all the
provision for the return journey and the five friars set out, probably by
the same road by which Las Casas had come.  In 1534, he was in Nicaragua,
where he left three of his companions in the convent of St. Paul at
Santiago, while he and Fray Luis Cancer and Fray Pedro de Angulo continued
on their way to Peru. Embarking at the port of Realejo on board a small
vessel, they were overtaken by a furious storm and such continued bad
weather that, after many days of misery and danger, the ship was obliged
to put back, and they found themselves again at their port of embarkation.

Their journey to Peru being thus frustrated, the friars returned to their
convent at Leon where, in the early days of 1534, a letter reached Las
Casas from Don Francisco Marroquin, who had recently been appointed Bishop
of Guatemala after the renunciation of Fray Domingo de Betanzos.  His
diocese was vast but its clergy consisted of himself and one priest, and
in his letter he entreated Fray Bartholomew, since his journey to Peru had
been abandoned and the diocese of Nicaragua was reasonably provided with
priests, to come with his companions to Guatemala, where there was a great
field open for apostolic work and no labourers to occupy it.  Las Casas at
once responded to this invitation and in Santiago de los Caballeros, the
trio of Dominicans established their convent, being joined somewhat later
by Fray Rodrigo de Ladrada who came thither from Peru.

The first essential was to learn the Guatemalan language in order to
preach and catechise the Indians, and this was the more easily
accomplished because the Bishop Marroquin was already master of it, and
undertook their instruction. It was this same bishop who published in
Mexico in 1556, a catechism of Christian Doctrine in the Utlateca tongue,
commonly called Quiché, a little book which has become extremely rare and


The next few years passed in successful missionary work, without offering
any events of particular interest in the life of Las Casas.  During this
period he composed his work, _De Unico modo vocationis_, in which he
argued that Divine Providence had instituted only one way of converting
souls, viz., convince the intelligence by reasoning and win the heart by
gentleness. (46) The ground principle of all his teaching was unalterably
the same, and he eloquently insisted upon his doctrine of peace and kind
treatment of the Indians, whom he never ceased to declare were reasonable
people of unspoiled nature, who were to be converted by gentleness and
justice—not by brutality and oppression.  His theories provoked the same
ridicule and opposition in Guatemala as elsewhere, though there was not
the same bitterness of feeling towards him as existed in the Islands.

The heads of the Spanish colony in Guatemala even challenged him to put
his theories into practice, saying that if he succeeded in subduing any
tribes, they would admit that they had been unjust, and would abandon
their opposition and liberate their slaves.  This challenge Las Casas at
once accepted, and selected for the field of his undertaking the mountains
of the province of Tuzulatlan, inhabited by a warlike people, whom the
Spaniards had never been able to conquer, partly on account of the
difficult nature of the country, and partly on account of the skill and
courage of the inhabitants in defending themselves.  Besides the bare
necessaries for his support, Las Casas only asked that the conditions
expressed in the following agreement bearing the Governor’s signature
should be scrupulously observed. The act was thus worded:

“By these presents I promise and give my word in the name and on behalf of
his Majesty and by the royal power which I hold that should you, or anyone
of your religious here present, to wit, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas,
Fray Rodrigo de Ladrada, and Fray Pedro de Angulo, by your efforts and
care, bring any provinces or Indians of them, which may be all or partly
within my jurisdiction which I exercise for his Majesty, to peaceably
recognise his Majesty as sovereign and to pay a tribute according as their
means and property may permit either of gold, if it exists in their
country, or of cotton, maize, or any other product which they possess and
use for trade amongst themselves, I will, by virtue of his Majesty’s
authority, recognise all such and their provinces in his Royal name and
present them to his Majesty that they may serve him as his vassals; nor
will I give them to any one, nor shall they be given in encomienda to any
Spaniard either now or at any time.  I will command that no Spaniard shall
molest them nor enter their country, under grave penalties, for a period
of five years, that they may not disturb them or hinder your preaching and
their conversion, unless I should myself go personally when it may seem
good to you and when you may accompany me; for in this matter I desire to
fulfil the will of God and of his Majesty and to aid you as far as I
possibly can to win the natives of this province to the knowledge of God
and the service of his Majesty, etc.”

Provided with this official guarantee, the friars began to carefully study
the best means for approaching the Indians of Tuzulatlan and after much
reflection, they hit upon a plan as simple as it was ingenious.  They
composed couplets in the Quiche tongue, in which were recited the creation
of the world and the story of Eden; man’s fallen state and need of
redemption; the birth and miracles of Our Lord and finally His death upon
the Cross.  These verses were very much after the style of the text of the
miracle-plays which were so popular throughout Europe in the Middle Ages,
and as they contained the entire epitome of the Christian religion, the
Indians, by merely listening to the chanting of them, would catch the
rhythm by ear, and the sense of the doctrines might be trusted to
penetrate their understanding, once their attention had been secured.

Selecting four Christianised Indians who plied their trade as itinerant
merchants between the country of Zacapula and the Quiché tribes, whom they
thought qualified to play the part, the friars carefully taught them the
verses. The Indian’s memory is as tenacious as his faculty for learning by
rote is quick, and as the rhymes were graceful and the subject matter both
dramatic and mysterious, the four traders quickly learned to chant them in
chorus, accompanied by several Indian musical instruments.  Some time was
necessarily consumed in these preparations and it was August of 1537
before the friars were ready to send forth their apostolic troubadours.
The news of their conditions and agreement with the governor reached
Mexico, where the Bishop Marroquin had gone for his consecration, and met
with approval both from the Dominican superiors there and the Governor of
the Audiencia.

In addition to the usual stock of merchandise which the traders carried,
Las Casas supplied them with a number of such Spanish trifles as most
pleased the Indians and instructed them to go first to the house of the
principal cacique (47) of the Quiché, who was a warlike chief of great
authority, and to do nothing without first consulting him and receiving
his approval. To ensure them a good welcome, some special presents adapted
to his probable fancy were to be offered him.

The traders obeyed their instructions to the letter, and after offering
their gifts, which delighted the cacique, they opened their wares to the
public.  Their Castilian merchandise added immensely to the attraction of
their market and drew a larger number, between buyers and curious people,
than usual. When the day’s business was over, they called for some musical
instruments—the templanaste—and taking out their own castanets and
timbrels, they began to chant the couplets.

Such music had never before been heard in the Quiche land, but if the form
attracted their attention, the words of the verses made a still deeper
impression on the listeners, and most of all on the cacique himself.  The
next day, when the fair was over, he asked the traders to sing again the
wonderful story and, as the news of the previous day’s performance had
spread amongst the people, a still larger crowd had assembled to listen.
When the singing had finished, the cacique asked the traders for
explanations concerning the sense of their song but they, acting on Las
Casas’s instructions, replied that they only knew what they sang and to
learn more he would have to send for certain friars who would be very glad
to come and tell him everything concerning the mysteries of the verses.
This gave the traders an opportunity to describe the friars who, they
said, wore white robes covered with black mantles and had their hair cut
in the form of a crown around the head; they told of the extreme frugality
of their lives, their severe penances, and that their only occupation was
to instruct people, for they despised gold and were indifferent to
personal possessions.  The cacique marvelled not a little to hear of this
new variety of Spaniard, so contrary in habits and manners to the others,
of whom his knowledge had led him to form the poorest opinion. He
conceived an earnest wish to see these strangers and arranged with the
traders that his brother, a young man of twenty-two, should return with
them to Santiago and see for himself if what they said was true.  He
charged his brother to observe carefully and secretly the ways of the
friars and to learn all he could about them and meanwhile, in return for
the gifts of Las Casas, he sent him a number of the most valuable things
his country produced.

The anxiety of the friars during all this time as to the result of their
first effort must have been keen, and hence the satisfaction with which
they welcomed the return of the traders and their distinguished companion
amounted to jubilation; still more was the significance of the present,
though its actual value or usefulness to the recipients was probably
small, but most important of all was the invitation from the cacique to
visit his country.

While the young chieftain was busy observing the life of the convent and
satisfying himself that the descriptions given by the traders were
accurate, the friars had chosen Fray Luis Cancer(48) as their first envoy
to his brother.  Provided with more gifts for the cacique, he set out, the
only Christian amidst the Indians who followed in the train of the Quiché
chief, to penetrate into the unknown country, whose turbulent reputation
had earned it the sombre name amongst the Spaniards of Tierra de
Guerra—land of war,—for it was never at peace.

No sooner had they crossed the Quiché frontier than everywhere the people
came out to see the wonderful guest, making his arrival a veritable
festival; arches were erected for him to pass under the very roads were
swept before his footsteps and his entrance into the cacique’s own town
was a triumph.  A church was at once built for him, and at the celebration
of the first mass, the cacique assisted in absorbed wonder, while the
dignity and Solemnity of the ceremonies and the beauty of the sacerdotal
vestments impressed him by their favourable contrast to the repugnant
rites and filthy robes of the priests of his own religion.  Fray Luis
spoke the Quiché language with fluency, and during several days he gave
instructions and explanations, which resulted in the cacique’s conversion;
that of the others followed as a matter of course.  The friar had brought
with him the contract signed by the Governor, and he explained its
conditions and importance very fully; this document was a more valuable
instrument of conversion than would have been an authentic manuscript
epistle of St. Paul.  The cacique’s conversion was complete, and with his
own hands he overthrew the national idols, and began, with all the zeal of
a convert, to preach Christian doctrine to his people.  The propaganda so
actively undertaken by this unexpected assistant left Fray Luis free to
visit some neighbouring regions, in all of which he was hospitably
received and concerning whose inhabitants he made a most encouraging
report on his return to Santiago, where, as may be imagined, his
companions received him with the greatest joy.

As the rainy season was over at the end of October, the moment for
visiting Tuzulatlan was favourable, and Las Casas determined to go himself
and visit the newly converted cacique.  It was December when he and Fray
Pedro de Angulo arrived in the Quiche country, where the cacique, who
since his baptism was known as Don Juan, showed them the same hospitality
as he had to Fray Luis.  While some of the Indians received them as
messengers bringing glad tidings, there were others who cast epicurean
glances upon them and decided that they would taste well served with a
sauce of chili. (49)

The introduction of the new religion had not been effected without
opposition and the Indians of Coban had even burned the first church.
Another was soon built, however, in which the two friars said mass daily,
preaching afterwards in the open air to immense assemblies of people.

Don Juan was at first unwilling that the friars should penetrate farther
into the country, fearing that some of the people, who adhered to the old
customs and were hostile to the Spaniards might attack them, but he
finally withdrew his objections and formed a guard of his bravest
warriors, to whom he confided the safety of his guests.  Thus escorted,
they traversed all the provinces of Tuzulatlan and Coban where, contrary
to the cacique’s apprehensions, they encountered only the most friendly

At this juncture a Bull of Paul III. (Farnese) which was designed to put
an end to further disputes concerning the status of the Indians, by
defining their rights once for all, arrived in America. (50)

This Bull was issued in reply to letters sent to the Pope by the Bishop of
Tlascala, begging his Holiness to decide the vexed question of the status
of the Indians, and was based on the Scriptural text _Euntes docete omnes
gentes_.  The Pope declared the Indians to be rational beings, possessed
of liberty and free-will and therefore susceptible to receive the gospel,
which must be preached to them in obedience to the divine commands.  He
condemned in severe terms those who enslaved the Indians and pretended to
deny their capacity to become Christians.  A pontifical brief was at the
same time addressed to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, confirming the
sense of the Bull and commending the Emperor’s condemnation of slavery in
his American possessions.

                        [Illustration: Paul III..]

                                Paul III.

   From an engraving by Vincenzo Crispino after the portrait by Titian.

The satisfaction of Las Casas with this authoritative pronouncement from
the supreme head of Christendom may be easily imagined, for it reads not
unlike some of his own compositions.  He translated the Latin text into
Spanish and supplied copies to all the governors and chief persons in
those colonies, so that the decision and commands of the Pontiff might be
perfectly understood by every one.

To one of his projects for civilising and converting the Indians more
rapidly, the cacique was very reluctant to agree; this was that they
should quit their semi-nomadic life and their custom of living in small
scattered groups throughout the country, and come together in towns and
villages.  They were so much attached to the independence and freedom of
their mountains, that it was easier for the natives to renounce their
religion, to which indeed they seemed to have little attachment, than to
abandon the ancient customs of their race.  Their resistance to this
innovation risked losing all that had been accomplished, for they were
prepared rather to fight than to yield on this point.  By his quiet
persistence, however, Las Casas succeeded in starting a village of one
hundred houses at a place called Rabinal, whose familiar name he wisely
refrained from changing, and little by little, even the natives of Coban,
who were the least amenable, were attracted by the novelty, and came to
inspect the new system, with which those who had adopted it were
delighted, as they could thus hear mass every day and enjoy the discourses
and conversation of the friars, of which they seem never to have tired.
Fray Luis now joined Las Casas at Rabinal, from whence he repeated his
former visits to various places through-out the neighbouring country.  The
friars were obliged to learn the language or dialect of Coban in order to
enter into relations with its people, the most savage of all the tribes in
those parts.

The Bishop Marroquin had meanwhile returned from Mexico and Pedro de
Alvarado, the captain, who distinguished himself during the conquest of
Mexico by his rashness and cruelties, was now the lieutenant of the
Emperor in Guatemala, and to these authorities Las Casas wished to render
an account of what had been accomplished.  To give a more striking proof
of the condition of things in Tuzulatlan, he wished very much to have Don
Juan accompany him, remembering no doubt, the impression the appearance of
the cacique Enrique had produced in Santo Domingo.  The project suited the
cacique perfectly, and he began to make arrangements for his journey,
planning to go in considerable pomp with a numerous following of warriors.
To this Las Casas objected, foreseeing the difficulty he would have in
keeping such a large number from too familiar contact with Spaniards, from
which quarrels and troubles would inevitably ensue.  He succeeded in
convincing Don Juan that such a display was unnecessary, and sent notice
of the approaching visit to Guatemala, where Father Ladrada built more
rooms onto the convent for the reception of the guests and laid in an
extra supply of provisions to regale them.

The Bishop, without waiting for a visit from the cacique upon his arrival,
went at once to the convent to see him and, as he spoke the Guatemalan
tongue, they talked together, not only on general subjects but also on
matters of faith, the Bishop marvelling greatly at the degree of Don
Juan’s instruction and the maturity and gravity of his judgment.  Indeed,
so impressed was he by the exceptional dignity of the cacique that he
begged the Adelantado to go and see him.  Pedro de Alvarado had had much
experience of Indians and was one of the cruellest of Spanish commanders
in America, holding the life of an Indian in no more consideration than
that of a dog, yet even he was so favourably attracted by Don Juan’s
appearance and manners that, wishing in some way to honour him and having
nothing at hand to give him, he took off his own red velvet hat and placed
it on the cacique’s head.  His followers murmured somewhat at this
demonstration, which they considered excessive, but Don Juan was radiant
in his magnificent headgear.

To celebrate Don Juan’s visit, an inspection of the town was planned, so
that he might see how the Spaniards lived; the Bishop and the Aldelantado
sent word beforehand to all the merchants to dress their shops with the
best things they had, stuffs, jewelry, plate, etc., and if the cacique
should show a fancy for anything, it should immediately be given to him
and the account sent to the Bishop.  This was doing things in a really
royal fashion, and one regrets to have to relate that the cacique walked
with great gravity and dignity—as much as though he had been born in
Burgos, says Remesal—amidst the brave display, without manifesting any
surprise or wish to possess anything he saw, refusing also to accept the
different articles which were offered to him.  The only object about which
he seems to have asked a question was a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and
when he heard the Bishop repeat the story of the Mother of Christ, just as
the friars had first sung it in his mountain home, he knelt down to
receive the image from his hands, with great veneration, and afterwards
delivered it to one of his attendants, cautioning him to carry it with the
greatest care and reverence.

The visit fortunately passed off without any friction between the
Spaniards and the followers of Don Juan, and at its close, Las Casas and
Fray Rodrigo de Ladrada accompanied the cacique back to his country,
intending to penetrate still farther into the interior of Coban where the
natives were but little known to white men.  Two caciques, whose names as
Christians were Don Miguel and Don Pedro and whose tribes were near to
Rabinal, rendered much help in carrying out this plan, and so well did
everything promise, that the two friars would have remained in the
countries of Tuzulatlan and Coban to prosecute their missionary labours,
but for a summons from their companions in Guatemala recalling them
thither in May of 1538.

The Bishop Marroquin, who had prompted the summons, assembled the
community and explained that the urgent need of more clergy in his diocese
had decided him to send some of them to Spain to induce other friars of
their own and the Franciscan Order to come to his assistance.  The choice
of the envoy for this mission not unnaturally fell upon Las Casas, for he
had often made the journey, was well acquainted in Spain, where he had
many and powerful friends, and was well versed in the ways of the court.
Fray Rodrigo went as his companion, and before quitting Guatemala, he went
to take leave of the cacique Don Juan, who was much dejected at the
departure of his friends.

The two travellers repaired first to Mexico, where a chapter of the
Dominican Order was held on August 24, 1539, in which Pedro de Angulo was
named prior of the convent in Guatemala, and Fray Luis Cancer was
designated to accompany Las Casas and Ladrada to Spain.  During his stay
in Mexico, Las Casas saw the Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, who was
inclined to share the view that humane treatment of the natives promised
better results than violence, and willingly combined with him for several
peaceful missions to distant provinces in the north-west of Mexico.

Charles V. was absent from Madrid when Las Casas and his companions
arrived but the former was welcomed by many old friends and set about his
business with the activity and perspicacity which marked his treatment of
affairs.  Since the death of the Bishop of Burgos, another and a better
spirit breathed in the Council, and there was a more sincere and
consistent effort to give full effect to the royal decrees in favour of
the Indians.  To this, the Bull of Paul III. had doubtless in no small
measure contributed, for it was obviously impossible after such an
authoritative pronouncement to continue along the old lines, treating the
natives like chattels and affecting to deny them souls.  The Council
accorded a number of beneficial provisions in response to Las Casas’s
representations. The pact entered into with the Governor, which guaranteed
the independence of the cacique of Tuzulatlan and his people, was ratified
by the Council, and letters were written in the King’s name to several of
the converted caciques; one of these new provisions ordered that the
Indians should be taught music and that musical instruments should be
furnished them from Spain.  Fray Bartholomew was equally successful in
finding a number of friars for the diocese of Guatemala, and on January
21, 1541, Fray Luis Cancer sailed with a number of Franciscans on the
return journey.  Las Casas and the Dominicans remained behind by command
of Cardinal Loaysa, who intimated that the former’s presence would be
necessary later, for important matters, of which he would learn in due
time.  Before the departure of the Franciscans, the royal orders
concerning the welfare of the Indians were proclaimed from the steps of
the Cathedral of Seville in the presence of a large concourse of people.

Cardinal Loaysa, who occupied the metropolitan see of Seville,
contemplated making important changes in the code of laws that governed
the Indies, and his desire to consult Las Casas before framing his new
system rendered it necessary that the latter should remain in Spain.  In
the following year, 1542, the Nuevas Leyes, or New Laws, as they were
termed, were drawn up, and although there is no direct evidence to prove
that they were drafted by Las Casas, there is little doubt that many of
their most salutary articles were due to his influence and suggestions.
The usual method of assembling councils composed of theologians,
canonists, lawyers, and men who had had much experience in the colonies,
was likewise followed at this time, and in their meetings the several
questions concerning the system of government best adapted to the Indians,
the most promising means for converting and civilizing them, and the
measures required to correct and eliminate the abuses under which they
suffered, were exhaustively discussed.  The verbal debates were
supplemented by the presentation of facts and arguments in support of
different theories, drawn up in writing.  In a council held by the
Emperor’s command at Valladolid in 1542, Las Casas presented one such
lengthy memorial, in which he enumerated the different remedies which he
maintained were indispensable if his Majesty would provide for the relief
of his Indian vassals.  The number of the remedies proposed in this
document is given by Las Casas himself as sixteen, but of these only the
eighth is known to be in existence.  Probably it contained the substance
of his thesis, which, like most papers of the time, must have been very
wordy and discursive.  The eighth remedy was afterwards published at
Seville in 1552 with twenty reasons in support of it.

Las Casas’s habitual activity was in no way diminished, and he exercised
as great energy in winning adherents to his cause as he did foresight in
combating opposition to it.  Copies of his memorial were distributed to
all the important men whose opinions might influence the tenor of the new
laws and the spirit of their application, including the members of the
council in Valladolid, especially Cardinal Loaysa, who was President of
the India Council, Don Ramirez de Fuenleal, who had been transferred from
the presidency of the audiencia of Mexico to the bishopric of Cuenca, Don
Juan de Zuñiga, Grand Commander of Castile, the Secretary, Francisco de
los Cobos, and all the others who had been appointed to act as judges in
this affair.  These men held meetings in the house of Pedro Gonzalez de
Leon and the outcome of their deliberations was the formation of the
famous code of Nuevas Leyes.

Several of the articles of this code might have been drafted word for word
by Las Casas himself so entirely do they bear the impress of his opinions:

“Item. We ordain and command that from now and henceforth no Indian may be
enslaved because he has fought, nor for any other reason, whether because
of rebellion, or for purposes of ransom, nor in any other way, and we
desire that they shall be treated as our vassals of the Crown of Castile,
for such they are.”

“No one may press the Indians into service by way of naboria or tapia(51)
nor in any other manner against their will.  And since we have ordered
that from henceforth the Indians shall not be made slaves, we likewise
ordain and command that in the case of such as have been heretofore
enslaved contrary to right and justice, the Audiencias shall summon the
parties, and without process of law, but promptly and briefly upon the
truth being known, shall liberate them.  Nor may the Indians be unjustly
enslaved in default of persons to solicit the aforesaid [procedure]; we
command that the Audiencia shall appoint persons who may pursue this cause
for the Indians and that such persons shall be conscientious and diligent
men and shall be paid out of the fines of the Exchequer.”

Neither the spirit nor the provisions of these laws differ from those of
the various ordinances and cedulas which the Spanish sovereigns from the
reign of Isabella the Catholic had from time to time promulgated.  So true
is the saying of Dr. Johnson that wisdom may make laws but it requires
virtue to execute them.  The Spanish sovereigns were more humane than
their subjects, but the latter were ready with expedients for evading laws
whose execution would have hindered their avaricious undertakings in the
distant colonies, while venal officials lent their connivance to these
violations, instead of administering the laws in the spirit in which their
authors had conceived them.  The statute books of the worst despotisms are
adorned with the wisest and most liberal ordinances.  From the iradés of
the Ottoman Sultans and ukases of the Russian Tsars, those empires might
be easily shown to possess ideal systems of government, under whose
enlightened and beneficent sway happy and prosperous peoples have enjoyed
the delights of religious and political liberty.

The most important article of the New Laws concerning the encomienda
system provided as follows:

“Furthermore we ordain and command that from now and henceforth no
Viceroy, Governor, Audiencia, discoverer, or any other persons whatsoever
shall allot Indians in encomienda, neither by new provision or
resignation, donation, sale, nor in any other form or manner; neither by
vacancies, nor inheritance, but, that on the death of any person holding
the said Indians, they shall revert to our royal Crown.  Let the
Audiencias take means to be immediately and particularly informed
concerning the deceased person, his rank, merits, services, and his
treatment of his Indians and whether there is a widow or children; they
shall send us a report on the condition of the Indians and of the property
that we may order what may be best for our service and may make such
provision as may seem good to us for the widow and children of the
deceased. Should the Audiencia meanwhile perceive a need to provide for
such widow and children, they may do this out of the tribute paid by the
said Indians, giving them a moderate amount for these Indians are under
our Crown, as stated.”

This article provided for the gradual and total extinction of slavery,
with due regard to the interests of the colonists, and though it did not
meet the wishes of Las Casas for the immediate and absolute correction of
the prevailing abuses, its strict application promised to produce more
slowly, the results which he sought.

On the 20th of November, 1542, Charles V. signed the Nuevas Leyes of
Valladolid, in the city of Barcelona, and their publication immediately

Las Casas was in Valencia at this time and it was there that he finished
the best known of all his writings, which was first printed in 1552 under
the title _Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de la Indias_, and bore a
dedication to Philip II. (52) This little book, as the reader may see from
the translation of it given at the close of this volume, is a veritable
catalogue of horrors.  Man’s invention has its limits, and the ways of
torturing the human body are numbered, hence, as the descriptions of the
various scenes of brutality repeat themselves over and over in the same
language, they end by becoming wearisome.  The book was speedily
translated into various European languages and its dissemination aroused a
tempest of indignation against the Spanish colonial system in America.
Its contents were made to serve in the religious and political
controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and Las Casas was
cited as a witness both against his Church and his country.

There is no doubt that every incident that Las Casas relates as coming
within his own knowledge and observation is true, though Prescott
describes “the good Bishop’s arithmetic as coming from the heart than from
the head” and historians generally have been inclined to doubt his
figures.  His description of the mild and friendly character of the
natives of the islands was doubtless exact, but when he extends it to
include the fierce and warlike tribes of the mainland, his generalisations
are seen to be misleading.  None of the peoples of Anáhuac could be
truthfully described as “gentle lambs” or as “humble, submissive, and
docile, knowing no evil and neither possessing nor understanding the use
of weapons.”  Slavery was everywhere established, with its attendant
abuses and evils, and it was slavery that Las Casas combated.   It must be
borne in mind that Las Casas was a man in whom humanitarianism
overshadowed every other sentiment, that he was of an ardent,
impressionable and imaginative temperament, with sensibilities of the most
delicate sort; moreover, he was an apostle, the defender of an oppressed
people, whom he had taken under his protection and whose cause it was the
mission of his life to sustain and defend.   The violation of divine and
human justice had been erected into a system by the conquerors and
discoverers and nothing, in his eyes, could palliate the evils which that
system fostered, and by which the colonists prospered, while the native
races were dwindling to extinction.  Beyond these primary facts, he
refused to see; of them, he had seen more than enough to inflame his
indignation and start him upon the crusade for which his iron
constitution, his superior intellectual powers, and his resistless
eloquence were alone adequate.  He was frequently betrayed into invective,
and his denunciations are as fierce as language could make them, while the
energetic terms in which he depicts, in all their bald horror, the
revolting inhumanity of his countrymen provoke a shudder.  The Brevissima
Relacion is not literature for sensitive readers.


Copies of the New Laws, accompanied by a royal letters of instruction,
were sent, not only to the viceroys, governors, and Audiencias in America,
but also to the priors of the different convents, so that the knowledge of
their provisions might be as widely diffused as possible and the vigilance
of the friars excited to see that they were obeyed both in the letter and
the spirit.  Las Casas went from Valencia to Barcelona to thank the
Emperor, and while there, the royal secretary, Francisco de los Cobos,
waited on him one Sunday afternoon, bearing his appointment by the Emperor
to the newly erected bishopric of Cuzco, which, for extent of territory,
number of inhabitants, and vast resources, was the richest in the New
World.  Such a recognition from the sovereign could not be otherwise than
welcome to Las Casas, who was perhaps the most abused man of his time both
in America and Spain, but his determination not to accept the dignity was
positive, though veiled at the outset under the plea that, being a
Dominican and bound by the rule of obedience, he could not receive the
royal nomination without the previous consent of his superiors.

Regard for consistency was, however, the principal motive of his refusal,
for he had protested before the Emperor and all men, in 1519, that his
labours in favour of the Indians were actuated solely by the desire to
advance God’s service by effecting their conversion: for all his hardships
and sufferings, he neither expected nor desired any recompense, and he
formally renounced in anticipation all and any honours or rewards the
Emperor might think of offering him. (53) His resolution to abide by that
declaration being unalterable, he left Barcelona to escape possible
pressure, and the desirable bishopric passed to another Dominican, Fray
Juan Solano.

The designation of Las Casas for the bishopric was made by Cardinal Loaysa
and the other members of the India Council and, nothing daunted by his
refusal, they insisted that some one of the newly founded bishoprics in
America should be governed by the man who, of all others, possessed the
highest qualifications, the most thorough knowledge of those countries,
and the sincerest interest in apostolic work amongst the natives.  The
first bishop of the diocese of Chiapa having just died, he was designated
for the vacancy, and this time he was constrained by the arguments of
persons of influence, notably the director of the College of San Gregorio
in Valladolid, to put aside his scruples and to accept a position in which
he could most benefit his beloved Indians.

That the diocese of Chiapa was the poorest in the new World, and so barren
of revenues that a subsidy was furnished by the Emperor to enable the
Bishop to live at all, contributed perhaps as much as anything to
reconcile Las Casas to his new dignity. (54) He repaired to Toledo and
appeared before the chapter of his Order which was being held there, to
ask that some monks should be furnished him for his new diocese.

Las Casas was preconised in Rome on the feast of Pentecost, 1542, after
which a whole year elapsed before the necessary bulls reached Spain and
the friars who were to accompany him were chosen.  After arranging for the
reunion of these friars, he set out for Seville, where, on the 30th of
March, 1544, he was consecrated bishop in the chapel of the Dominican
monastery of St. Paul by Bishop Loaysa, nephew of the cardinal of the same
name, assisted by the Bishops of Cordoba and Trujillo in Honduras. On the
21st of March, the newly consecrated Bishop wrote the following letter to
the India Council:

VERY HIGH AND POTENT LORDS: after we left the Court on Tuesday the 4th of
this month, we arrived within sixteen days at this city, in spite of the
heavy roads and great rains we encountered.  Upon our arrival here we
found the fleet ready to sail down the river, but on account of the calm
weather and want of wind, no vessel has been able to sail until to-day,
Friday.  The ship on which the friars were to sail only got as far as San
Domingo and there, the cedulas did not make it perfectly clear that the
officials should pay their passage to Puerto de Caballos; because the
cedulas say that from there they are to be paid to Honduras, because they
were supposed to go in the vessel that would disembark them at the said
Puerto de Caballos.  The cedulas that I obtained, were made out
conditionally should the friars think it better to go to Quaçaqualco; so
that should they not think it better to go to Quaçaqualco they would for
that reason, be unable to leave Hispaniola.  Therefore I beg Your Highness
(55) to be gracious enough to order a cedula to be supplied them, ordering
the officials in Hispaniola to pay the passage from there to Puerto de
Caballos, in case they do not have to disembark at Quaçaqualco—as I
believe they will not—and may it arrive soon, as this fleet is on the
point of sailing.  Referring to this, the officials of India House have no
funds from which to give me the two hundred and fifty ducats Your Highness
had the goodness to order to be given to start me off, because—leaving
apart what was sent them to keep for the bishops, etc.,—no other monies
from His Majesty have been sent them: so here I am—with the past expenses
for works, and without a maravedi for my provisions, on which account I
have neither done nor bought anything.  I do not even know in which vessel
I am sailing because there is nothing that is not muddled, but as I have
no money, I am less worried than I should be about the vessel in which I
am to sail.  I beseech Your Highness, if it be your pleasure that I should
go with this fleet and take those friars, to do me the favour to send me a
cedula ordering that they give me the two hundred and fifty ducats out of
the funds of the dead.  And it must come soon, and with all haste if I am
to go now, as however quickly it may arrive, it will not come in time for
me to complete my preparations, seeing the hurry the fleet is in and the
little I have with which to provide things: for I have to provide for the
needs of the friars.

I received one letter from the Court, as our bulls came two days after our
departure. It seems Our Lord will not pay me in this world for the worries
I go through for His sake.  Certainly it were a great glory for me that
Your Highness should honour and favour me on my consecration, thus
completing the favours Your Highness has shown me.  I give thanks to God
that He has so favoured me and undoubtedly I hope to accomplish more in
those distant parts, than in the ecclesiastical courts of this country.
Up to now they [the bulls] have not arrived, nor do I know who will bring
them nor when they will come.  When they arrive I shall endeavour—should
there be time—to obtain the favour from his excellency the Cardinal of
ordering me to be consecrated by anybody who can perform the ceremony,
although I have not yet kissed the hands of his excellency, he having been
very busy these past two days since his arrival.  I was likewise unable to
pass through Toledo—being obliged to await my commissions which were
necessary for my speaking to the Provincial of the Franciscans about the
twelve monks, of whom only two are here, who will sail with this fleet.  I
beseech your Highness to order a letter to be written to him [the
Provincial] that he may send the others immediately if they are to go in
this ship, and they will afterwards be given provisions if they arrive in
time; and should they not, I will leave the documents concerning them in
the charge of the Superior of the Franciscan Order.  May Our Lord bless
and give you all prosperity in your high station and in His service as
Your Highness deserves and we, your most humble servants, desire. Amen.
From Seville 21st of March 1544 Your Highness’s servant who kisses your
Royal hands—

                            FRAY BARTHOLOMEW DE LAS CASAS, _Bishop elect._

Another letter dated ten days later and addressed in the same manner to
Prince Philip through the India Council describes the episcopal
consecration of Las Casas and invites the Prince’s attention to certain
matters in the following terms:

VERY HIGH AND POTENT LORDS: To-day, Passion Sunday our Lord graciously
bestowed on me the glory of consecration—very different from the
ignominies He suffered that day, according to the representations of His
church.  I do not know why His Majesty ordered it to be so done, as it
could not be done before—nor was there time to expect it could be done
afterwards—on account of the haste of the fleet to sail: but however that
may be, to him be all glory and thanks, for he deserves them.  The
Cardinal has shown me great kindness in favouring me wherever possible. It
was his nephew or relative, the Bishop Loaysa, who consecrated me,
assisted by the Bishop of Honduras and the Bishop Torres.  The Bishop of
Honduras was about setting out, but at my request he waited to assist at
my consecration, and in great poverty he has delayed his journey seven or
eight days, the expenses of which I would have willingly paid if I had had
the wherewithal.  I humbly beg Your Highness to recompense him for what I
owe him: I shall esteem it a favour to myself.  Although no occasion
should offer, I was thinking to ask Your Highness to graciously grant him
some relief, so that that church, destitute of pastor and spiritual
ministrations, may not suffer such abandonment and poverty, for I greatly
doubt that he would solicit anything. I humbly and affectionately beseech
Your Highness that this be one of the first things attended to, as it is
most important. Whatever way that Your Highness may adopt to supply that
need, will be acceptable to him.  One day shortly after I arrived at this
city, I wrote begging Your Highness to do me the favour to order the
officials of this house [India House] to pay me the two hundred and fifty
ducats which His Majesty granted me from the funds of the dead, because
there are no others, and therefore I have found myself in want.  Knowing
this the officials of this house did me a great service in getting a
certain banker to lend it me, against my promise to repay within thirty
days.  I beseech Your Highness to do me the favour of ordering a cedula
covering it to be issued, because the fleet is in a great hurry to sail
and were the cedula delayed I would suffer great want and much annoyance,
for if I could not repay what the creditor has lent me, it would be a very
bad thing for him.  I likewise beseech Your Highness to order the
necessary cedulas for the friars to be sent, that the officials of
Hispaniola may pay their passage to Puerto de Caballos, for I have one
only to Quaçaqualco, where we shall not be able to land on account of the
bad harbour.  The other principal cedula authorises the officials of India
House to pay the passage to Puerto de Caballos, but this cannot be done
for lack of ships, so the friars first disembarked at the port of San
Domingo in Hispaniola and from there, they have to reembark to Puerto de
Caballos.  The officials of San Domingo have no authority for this, and if
the friars had to remain there long they would suffer great danger.

Everyone here is quite well and receiving shelter and charity from the
monasteries.  The Provincial and the Prior of this convent of San Pablo
and the others have well carried out Your Highness’s orders in this
respect.  All kiss the hands of Your Highness and pray God to prolong the
life and Royal state of Your Highness, especially Fray Rodrigo—our
companion.  I beseech Your Highness, for the service of God, to provide
that the relief and freedom which His Majesty granted to the Indians in
the island of Cuba may be made effective, before those who hold them have
finished destroying and killing them, for they are and have been most
shamefully oppressed, afflicted, and reduced in number in all those parts
of the Indies.

Likewise, that, since the Archdeacon Alvaro de Castro, whom Your Highness
charged with the care of the Indians in Hispaniola, is dead, Your Highness
will order that duty assigned to some devout friar or ecclesiastic so that
those who survive, few as they are, may not be deprived of the enjoyment
of the relief and favour His Majesty granted them.  It seems to me it
would be well, should Your Highness so please, to bestow it on Canon
Albaro de Leon who is a Canon of La Vega, or on Gregorio de Viguera, Dean
of the same church of La Vega.

May the Lord increase and prosper the fortunate life and very high estate
of Your Highness in His holy service, Amen. Seville 31st March 1544 Your
servant who kisses your Royal hands—

                                  FRAY BARTHOLOMEW DE LAS CASAS, _Bishop._

In spite of all the anti-slavery legislation enacted, there were actually
at that time a number of Indians held as slaves in Seville itself, and
before starting for his distant diocese, Las Casas undertook as his first
duty to secure their liberation.  His action aroused much of the ancient
enmity against him, but to that he was indifferent: the text of the New
Laws was explicit, leaving no opening for false construction.  Success
crowned his efforts and enabled him to leave, fully satisfied, for San
Lucar de Barrameda where his friars were waiting for him to embark. He
there celebrated the feast of Corpus Domini with great pomp, and during
the time occupied in his final preparations, he and his friars received
many donations of necessaries.  The fleet of twenty-seven ships, amongst
large and small only awaited the arrival of Doña Maria de Toledo widow of
the Admiral Don Diego Columbus, who was to sail for Hispaniola to
safeguard the rights of her children in some disputed questions of
inheritance and upon her arrival, it immediately put to sea on July l0th.
The new Bishop, with his faithful companion Ladrada and forty-five
Dominican friars, embarked on the _San Salvador_.  On that same date he
entered into possession of his meagre episcopal revenues, for an ordinance
that had been passed to oblige the bishops of American dioceses to stay in
them, established that their incomes should begin from the date of their
sailing. (56)

This proving insufficient, as there were some who were satisfied with
their episcopal dignity and preferred to remain in Spain, it was
afterwards provided that their consecration must take place in America.


Before sailing to take possession of his diocese, Las Casas addressed the
following letter of farewell to Prince Philip (afterwards Philip II.),
then governing in the name of the Emperor, his father:

VERY HIGH AND VERY POTENT LORD: I received two letters simultaneously from
Your Highness: the date of the last was April 1st and accompanying it was
the Royal cedula concerning the passage from Hispaniola to Honduras for
the monks whom Your Highness is sending to those provinces.  For all of
which I kiss your Royal hands and for your kindness in granting that the
bulls should be sent so promptly as to reach me in time to serve at my
consecration, which, by divine grace, took place here in San Pablo on
Passion Sunday as I already wrote Your Highness the day after.  I trust to
God our Lord that this dignity, to which, by divine Providence, our lord
and sovereign the Emperor has elevated me, despite any unworthiness and
inability to support it, may prove a sufficient instrument for better
fulfilling my old desires to do the will of God, of which God has deigned
to make use in those countries.  It is His will that His Holy Faith should
be preached and that the beings he has created and redeemed should know
Him and that His predestined ones should be saved and His Majesty and Your
Highness receive great services.  Concerning the two hundred and fifty
ducats which Your Highness granted me, the officials of this house have
not yet obtained them, but I hope they will seek them and supply them in
the end, though it may be with difficulty, because everybody is aware that
His Majesty has no money in this house and that so many demands daily
arise that there is not a man who will lend a maravedi to His Majesty.  In
truth, this is very injurious to His Majesty’s service and to the
greatness of his imperial State, because, according as his enemies learn
that this house is rich or is in want of money—so will they either fear
him or presume to cause him annoyances.  In order that this house should
always enjoy confidence to guarantee the above mentioned, it seems that
Your Highness ought to command that, just as they keep account of what is
spent in keeping an army and in feeding those who are actually in
attendance, night and day, on the royal and imperial person of His Majesty
and on Your Highness, so also should it be provided that when this house
has a surplus of twenty or thirty thousand ducats, it should be reported
to have one or two hundred thousand.  Such sums should never, on account
of any other necessity, be lacking here, for they would be useful for many
things and by the credit they would give, the greatest wants could be met.
I shall report, as Your Highness ordered, the number and names of the
friars now sailing, as soon as we are all united, God willing, at San

Up to now I think we have forty-three.  I am in hopes of more going from
this province, from which we have seven or eight.  But all those who are
going, do not want to separate from those who come from Castile or to go
to any other part of the Indies except where the latter do: the men from
here are very virtuous and religious people.  The number I have said we
have here would have been greater, had not some six or eight of those whom
we brought from Castile stayed behind.  I think that some were afraid and
others were detained by reasonable obstacles: the latter, we hope will
follow us when the causes are removed.  I beg Your Highness to order the
Provincial, who is now appointed to this province and who was formerly
Prior of San Pablo in Valladolid, a true servant of God, and very zealous
for God’s honour and for the salvation of the Indians, to be induced to
continually send monks to those parts, as I firmly believe he will amply

This house of San Pablo in Seville being very necessary for the religious
Your Highness will be sending to the Indies, and having great expenses on
account of the poverty and want of this city, where everything costs a
third more than in Valladolid—which is frightful—I humbly beseech Your
Highness always to remember it by gifts and by such alms as it may be
possible to bestow on it: especially out of the funds of the dead.  For I
hold it to be as necessary to give alms to the house, and just as
beneficial to the souls of the dead—to whom the fund belongs—as it is to
give for the maintenance of the friars who go to preach the gospel in
those parts where the deceased unrighteously amassed the riches they left
behind them.  Your Highness may believe that the protection and good
treatment shown here to the friars, tend to dispel their fears of the
labours which friars in the Indies usually sustain.  Without such
encouragement everything would be just the contrary, and some would be
frightened and discouraged, as has heretofore happened.  Certainly, up to
the present, great have been the care and comfort that our companions,
servants of God, have received here from the provincial and the prior.
Twenty or twenty-two have been given shelter here.  I therefore beg Your
Highness to bear this in mind, should there be an occasion in the future
to grant them any favour or alms.  In this city and throughout Andalusia
there is a large number of Indians held unjustly as slaves; and when the
licentiate Gregorio Lopez was here by order of His Majesty, they kept many
Indians imprisoned after the order was given for their release, some being
hidden and others taken into the country and elsewhere.  I have even been
told by a man who knows—to clear his conscience—that there was a great
deal of bribery and corruption among wicked people, who used three or four
or ten ducats to outrage God, stealing the liberty of the Indians and thus
leaving many in perpetual slavery: they also hid the truth by threatening
the Indians who showed themselves and by other means, such as withholding
facts from the licentiate Gregorio Lopez which he could not divine, but
which should have been told him.  The only remedy for such injustices,
according to the officials of this house who are very good people as far
as I can see and who have consciences, is that Your Highness should order
to be proclaimed throughout Andalusia that all those who have Indians must
bring or send them to this house within a certain time, otherwise they
shall all be considered as free; adding other penalties for noncompliance.
According to the provision made by His Majesty, there should be an
immediate settlement of the pretensions of those who allege a title by
purchase, which allows them to hold an Indian as a slave until it is
ascertained from whom he was first acquired; for they stole them all and
sold them when they arrived here.  Any such Indian should not remain in
their possession but should be placed where he could earn enough to clothe
himself and save sufficient to return to his country—because they subject
him to a thousand oppressions and cruelties.  I have seen things of that
sort daily since my arrival.  San Pablo is crowded with Indians who think
that I can take them or can relieve their captivity and the torments they
suffer.  And their masters, discovering this by their absence promptly
beat them and put them in irons, even those whom the licentiate Gregorio
Lopez left neither in slavery nor free.  Not to prolong this letter, I do
not relate many other things to Your Highness.

I likewise beg Your Highness to order some relief that is final and not
indefinite, for the men who were thus left neither slaves nor free:
because I do not know what relief it can be considered, to leave them
neither free nor slaves until they die; for meanwhile, they are daily
treated worse and worse by those who call them slaves and dogs, because
they consider that the licentiate Gregorio Lopez approved of their
captivity, etc., tying their hands the more tightly.  I have seen what I
state ever since I came here.  Your Highness would both laugh at and
abominate the spice dealers of this city, who barter spices for Indians
and for gold (as it is they who mostly own them), and their fierceness in
making war on the Indians, that makes them to seem like dummy lions,
painted.  What I wish Your Highness would do to protect all such Indians
as are left neither slaves or freemen and all who are bound in any way,
would be to oblige their owners to exhibit a receipt of the sale: because
it is clear to every one, save to those whose perceptions God has allowed
to be weakened by their malice, audacity, and ambition, that there has
never been a war in all the Indies for which there was any real authority
given by His Majesty or by his royal predecessors.  The royal instructions
on this point have never been heeded, as I have seen and on my conscience
affirm, and as all those violaters admit.  Consequently, as there was
never just cause, it follows that all the wars were unjust and that no
Indians could have been justly enslaved: all the more so since the
Spaniards attacked them in time of peace and captured millions of them.
This being the real truth, Your Highness should order that all such owners
be obliged to prove the title of him who sold any such Indian, and so on
back till the first one who stole or treacherously captured him is
unearthed.  In the meantime the Indians should be taken from them and
placed as above indicated, all of which should be done within a limited
time, so that the legal proceedings would not last eternally; and when
they are finished the said Indian should be declared free.

But what I would take on my conscience and would answer for to God on my
deathbed is, that Your Highness should proclaim throughout this kingdom
that all the Indians here must be free—because in truth they are just as
free as I am.  In this Casa de Contractacion, outside its judges and
officials such as the treasurer, accountant, and agents, who seem to me to
be those I have mentioned above, and some few minor officials, I see there
is little zeal or kindness for the Indians, and I observe such
disinclination to accomplish anything in their favour, that however small
may be the pendulum, they work it with as much effort as though it were a
tower they had to move.

Truly I think Your Highness must order everything to be done gratis and
willingly;—or if not, then pay somebody who will do it.  There is very
great need here for somebody to help these poor Indians, being as they
are, in great want and more than miserable, because they do not know how
to ask for justice. They have been so intimidated and thrust down into the
very abyss that they dare not complain.  I do not find a single man who
will take pity on them: but on the contrary, every on persecutes,
terrorizes, and despises them.  And I am sure God will execute justice and
exact vengeance for all this.  It would be well if Your Highness would
order a salary to be paid some man who would act as their lawyer in the
House, commanding all necessary authority to be attached to his office,
and that the officials should help him in it.  If it is necessary to
consult His Majesty for this, do not let these poor wretches suffer for
want of protection as they have always done.  There is a porter in this
House, a good man who, according to what I have seen and the officials
told me, has repeatedly taken pity on them, and I beseech Your Highness to
grant me and all the Indians the favour of ordering him to be appointed as
protector of all the Indians in this Kingdom and of their affairs in this
House, authorising him to report all the happenings of any importance to
Your Highness and to the Royal Council of the Indies.  Let this power be
given to Diego Collantes, porter of the said House; and to ensure his
using it the more faithfully until Your Highness pleases to grant him a
salary, I will pay him twenty ducats yearly, so that he may do his duty in
the said office.  The truth is, that although he is a good man, the
position needs a man with much more authority but for the present he would
suffice.  Juan de la Quadra, who was secretary to the licentiate Gregorio
Lopez while he was here, spoke to me about these matters.  He seems to me
an honest, upright person and one who feels deeply the crimes committed in
this city against the Indians.  He is writing to Your Highness on the
subject and I beseech Your Highness to order some remedy provided for the
actual necessities. He informs me that he is writing in the sense of what
I said above.

The licentiate Bartolomé Ortiz did not bring his Indians to be registered
within the period intimated to him and says that he protested against the
sentence before this Royal Council, also with regard to other Indians whom
he held as slaves, despite the fact that they were free.  Amongst these
was an Indian woman who was beyond question free, and had been declared
free by Gregorio Lopez, who left orders for her to be sent at the
licentiate’s expense to the island of Cuba from whence he brought her.
Ortiz also appealed from this decision.  As I asked that she might now be
given the letter and order of Your Highness permitting her to return with
this fleet, Ortiz presented a statement showing that his case was at
present in appeal before this Royal Council.

I beseech Your Highness not to permit these appeals and delays in cases
which are favourable to the liberty of the Indians and of everybody in the
world, because there will be no end to them nor will a single Indian ever
obtain his liberty.  I beg that Your Highness will order this Indian woman
and the others to be liberated and allowed to return to their country.

It is indeed a great weight on my conscience to leave the Indians in this
country, because, as they only mix with servants and other unmanageable
and vicious persons and see the taverns full of loose people, without
order or restraint, and other public places full of bad examples, it must
happen that they, being human, will follow the example of their
companions.  In their own country, on the contrary, they live much better
than here, even if there are not so many Christians.  I beseech Your
Highness to issue such orders that not one man of them may remain here.

It would also be well if Your Highness ordered an explanation of the
proclamation that you commanded to be published throughout all the Indies,
prohibiting the officials of India House from receiving Indians into this
kingdom: also instructions as to what they must do to forbid this traffic,
under penalty of death, to ship captains and sailors, so that no one would
dare to bring an Indian, nor allow one to be brought here. Let them know
that they are forewarned in such cases.

Thinking there was nothing doubtful in the cedulas Your Highness sent for
the departure of these religious I did not care to exhibit the cedula
until the very end, in case we took besides the forty, an excess of
stores, etc.  Now that I have shown it to the officials, they maintain
that, as it does not expressly state that those above the number of forty
should be provided for out of the funds of the dead, but from the money in
the charge of the treasurers, they do not intend to provide for more than
the forty, lest they should have to pay out of their own pockets.  I
beseech Your Highness graciously to order this settled at once, so that we
shall not be forced to leave behind the religious we hope to embark, in
addition to the forty.  And let this be done soon, for we are only waiting
for good weather.  The heavy rains which have fallen daily have prevented
the launching of two or three of the vessels.  To-day the river from its
source has abated.  Our Lord prosper and grant a long and happy life to
Your Highness.  Amen.  Seville 20th April 1544.  Your humble servant who
kisses Your Royal hands.

To-night the following occurred—an Indian came to me complaining that
notwithstanding his certificate of freedom, given him by Gregorio Lopez,
his owner kept him in slavery and treated him worse than a slave, sending
him out with a donkey to carry and sell water. He showed me his
certificate of freedom, in the presence of ten or twelve monks.  I told
him to go to-day to the Casa de Contractacion so that its officials might
correct the abuse, and I sent a servant with him to show him the
building—because if his master found out, he would keep him until he
called in the officials.  Finally his owner discovered him and took the
letter and tore it up.  He said “bring chains and put them on this dog.”
The Indian escaped through a window and they cried after him, “Thief,
thief,” so that somebody down below came and beat him, and stabbed him in
the jaw.  He managed to reach a place where some of my servants were, and
they are trying to cure him: but he is dying.  One of my servants went to
the assistant to tell him what had happened, but the latter answered that
he was not astonished that people killed the Indians, because they stole
and did much harm.  I beg Your Highness to note how destitute they are of
any pity.  With judges so cruelly unjust and tyrannical, Your Highness may
imagine what sort of things happen over there [in the colonies] with the
Spaniards against the Indians, when they dare do these things in Seville
where, the other day a judge ordered an Indian to be stabbed to death.


The voyage began badly, for the _San Salvador_ was poorly ballasted and
only arrived at Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, after considerable
difficulty and danger, on the 19th of July, and was detained there for ten
days until the ship was made seaworthy.  Some of the friars who were
unfamiliar with sea-voyages conceived such mistrust of the _San Salvador_
that they refused to again go aboard her, so it was necessary to
distribute these nineteen timid souls amongst the other ships. The 30th of
July saw the fleet again at sea, and the voyage to Hispaniola continued
without any untoward incident, until the 9th of September, when they
arrived in the harbour of Santo Domingo, where the same vessel on which
Las Casas and the twenty-seven friars were, ran on a rock and came near
being wrecked in sight of land: hardly was this disaster surmounted when
she collided with another of the ships to the imminent peril of both,
though, fortunately, with no great injury to either.

The Dominicans in Santo Domingo conducted the Bishop and his friars in
solemn procession to the convent, where Te Deum Laudamus was sung.

In striking contrast to this affectionate reception was that which awaited
him from the colonists.  The New Laws were regarded as the ruin of the
colonies and Las Casas was universally considered the inspirer, if not
actually the framer of these laws, hence the indignation and hatred of the
Spaniards against him and all Dominicans was at fever heat: meetings were
held, in which it was resolved to boycott the friars and refuse them all
alms or assistance.  Seeing the odium he had unwittingly wrought upon his
hosts, the Bishop was inclined to leave their convent and go to the
Franciscans, but this was rightly considered as likely to spread the
antagonism which had so far manifested itself against the Dominicans only.
Even before things had reached this point, Las Casas had already written
Prince Philip on the 15th of September, denouncing the cruelties which
still went on unchecked and mentioning by name a number of officials who
were unworthy to occupy the positions they held, because of the grave
abuses they committed and tolerated.

On September 10th a letter which shows the state of public feeling towards
the New Laws and the new Bishop was addressed to the Emperor by the
principal colonists of Nicaragua.

The signers avow their surprise that their twenty-five or thirty years of
services to the Crown should be rewarded by seeing their children
disinherited, and declare that if the New Laws are put in force, despite
their cries to high heaven for justice, it will only remain for many of
them to die.  Las Casas is denounced as an envious, vainglorious, and
turbulent monk, who has been expelled from every colony in the Indies and
whom even no monastery can tolerate.  He is charged with bringing ruin on
large numbers of people, solely because revengeful motives prompt him to
injure certain individuals.  It is also pointed out that he knows nothing
about affairs in New Spain and the mainland, having spent all his life in
Cuba and the islands.

However much Las Casas may have deplored the feeling his presence provoked
and especially the rancour he had stirred up against his brethren, whose
only offence lay in giving him hospitality, he did not allow his regrets
on this score to arrest or modify the steps he intended to take to enforce
obedience to the New Laws. Shortly after his arrival, he presented copies
of the laws and of the other royal ordinances which he carried, to the
Audiencia, asking that, in accordance with their provisions, all Indians
then held in slavery should be liberated.  Although the President,
Cerrato, supported him, the other members of the Audiencia were one and
all opposed.  According to the current phrase, they agreed to _obey_ the
law, but declared they could not _comply_ with it.  They all held slaves
themselves and the only result of the action of Las Casas was, that they
sent their representatives to Spain to procure some reform in the more
obnoxious articles of the code.

The presence of Las Casas in Hispaniola infused new courage into the
Dominicans, who had been discouraged in recent years by the difficulty and
hopelessness of contending against public opinion on the subject of the
Indians and had consequently ceased to preach and agitate in their favour:
some members of the community had even been affected by the prevalent
opinion that the Indians were really a race of a different order, servile
by nature, and destined by Providence to a life of subjection to their
superiors.  Learned arguments were found to sustain this opinion. The
well-known chapters of Aristotle’s _Politics_ were quoted, the Scriptures
were drawn upon, and, as not infrequently happens, many good men adopted
the easier line of not contending with the views of the rich and powerful.

There now ensued a sort of revival of the old enthusiasm in the defence of
the natives; sermons were preached which stirred up great wrath and
provoked protest from the authorities. It was easy to adopt reprisals on
the friars, and the colonists did not hesitate to do so, refusing alms and
supplies to the convents.  Threats of violence, even of shooting Fray
Tomas Casillas, whose sermons had been particularly offensive, were not
wanting, though fortunately they were not executed.  The friars were
reduced to the last extremity and, but for the charity of some few
sympathisers and the generous aid of the Franciscan monks who fed them,
they would have found themselves in want of the absolute necessaries of
life in the midst of a hostile populace.  At this juncture a notable
conversion was effected by their preaching; a widow named Solano, who was
reputed the richest person in the colony, came one day to the convent and
declared that she was convinced of the truth of all the preachers had
expounded concerning the iniquity of slavery and that she had in
consequence resolved, not only to liberate her two hundred and more
slaves, but to make restitution of her tainted wealth in as far as she
could, by transferring her plantations to the Order, as her awakened
conscience forbade her enjoyment of it.  This event stirred the entire
colony profoundly, and as the action of the friars was so clearly contrary
to their own temporal interests as to place the sincerity of their
convictions and the purity of their motive beyond question, a certain
revulsion in public sentiment began to manifest itself. It is not recorded
that anybody else followed the widow’s example, but such a change was
operated in the disposition of the better class of people that when the
time for Las Casas and his friars to leave arrived, regret for their
departure was expressed on all sides.  On December 14th they embarked on
what proved to be a long and tempestuous voyage, attended by many and
great dangers; owing to the ignorance of the pilot, the Bishop himself had
to take the wheel.  Christmas was celebrated at sea, and it was not until
the fifth of January that they finally landed at the port of Lazaro on the
coast of Campeche.  The first episcopal function performed by the Bishop
in his new diocese was the pontifical celebration of the vigil and mass of
the Epiphany, during which he delivered an earnest discourse on the one
theme that furnished material for all his sermons and writings—the
injustice and sin of slavery and the obligation resting on all Christian
Spaniards to liberate their slaves in conformity with the laws of the
Emperor, and to provide for their humane treatment and conversion,
according to the law of God.


Although the Bishop of Chiapa, upon landing in his diocese, determined to
follow the dictates of prudence rather than the promptings of zeal in
bringing his spiritual subjects into submission to the New Laws, the
question of Indian slavery was one so closely bound up with their temporal
interests that no moderation or persuasion on his part could have availed
to bring about their renunciation of the established system.   In the
first sermons preached by his friars, the subject of slavery was not
mentioned, and Las Casas sought, more by private conversation and argument
with individuals, to convince them of the grave infraction of morals as
well as the open violation of the law, they committed in holding the
Indians in slavery.  His arguments fell upon deaf ears, nor did a single
Spaniard accept his admonitions or entertain for a moment the idea of
liberating his slaves.   Nor did their resistance confine itself to a
passive form, for within a short time, the colonists openly refused him
obedience and withheld his lawful tithes, declaring that they would not
receive him as their Bishop, and occasioning him every annoyance and
discomfort they could invent.  The refusal of his tithes caused the Bishop
serious embarrassment, as it left him without funds to pay for the ship he
had chartered in Hispaniola for his journey to Campeche.  The priest of
the town managed to raise about one hundred castellanos for this purpose
and Las Casas signed a note for the remainder.

The Governor of those regions at that time was Francisco de Montejo, who
had played a conspicuous part in the affairs of Mexico, whither he had
gone with Fernando Cortes.  He was absent when Las Casas landed at
Campeche and became the object of such general and determined hostility,
and his son was governing in his stead.  In response to the announcement
of the Bishop’s presence, the Governor despatched his brother-in-law, who
was a person of some authority, to welcome the Bishop, instructing him to
treat him in all respects with the highest consideration and in case he
wished to come to Merida, to arrange everything necessary for his journey

It was decided to make the journey by sea rather than by the more
difficult overland route, and one boat-load of friars sailed, carrying a
large part of the stores, which included vestments and altar plate and
other church furnishings.  Hardly were the preparations for the departure
of the Bishop and the remainder of his people completed, when the
distressing news of the total loss of this vessel and its cargo reached
them from Champoton, an Indian village, where the few survivors of the
wreck had found refuge. Nine friars and twenty-three other persons
perished in this disaster, the news of which threw a heavy cloud of
sadness over the little band of missionaries.  Thousands of miles from
their native land and in a new world, these men were sustained solely by
their faith in their mission and their confidence in the leadership of
their venerable Bishop, for they were not only cut off from hope of
succour but were exposed to the persecutions of their own countrymen,
because of their zeal for justice, in defending the oppressed against
cupidity and cruelty.  Despite the many causes for discouragement Las
Casas decided, on the advice of the pilot of the ship that was to carry
them, to profit by the fair weather then prevailing, and set the example
to the others of going first on board the vessel.  The friars followed in
silence, and so entirely were their thoughts given to the premature fate
of their lost comrades, that the whole of that night and the following day
were passed in silence and prayer: when the ship reached the place where
the wreck had occurred, the prayers for the dead were solemnly recited by
the tearful company.  This becoming tribute rendered to the memory of the
departed, Las Casas seated himself at table and, setting the others a
wholesome example, he began to eat, for until then no one had had the
heart to touch food.  The weather suddenly changed for the worse and a
perilous Norther, which was the greatest enemy of navigation in those
waters, sprang up, forcing the vessel to put in at the island of Terminos,
where some fragments of the wreck were found, but the sea had given up no
dead. Three days passed in waiting for better weather, and though Las
Casas desired to re-embark and continue the voyage, Fray Tomas Casillas
was in favour of waiting for the shipwrecked people at Champoton to
overtake them, and then to continue the journey overland.  This difference
of opinion led to a division of the company, the Bishop re-embarking with
Father Ladrada and a few of the others, while the majority were left to
follow the overland route.

The chief city of the diocese of Chiapa was Ciudad Real, and the Bishop,
on his arrival, was accorded a warm welcome and was lodged in one of the
best houses in the place, belonging to a Spaniard who was absent at that
time, while the friars were accommodated in another, just opposite.  The
clergy of the immense diocese was scanty enough, being composed of two
priests in that town and three others elsewhere; of these latter common
report did not speak well, as their secular occupations and efforts to
enrich themselves brought discredit upon their clerical character.  The
cathedral was a small church, of poor construction and meagrely furnished
with the necessaries for celebrating the religious offices.  One of the
new Bishop’s first disciplinary acts was to summon the three vagrant
priests to Ciudad Real, where he might constrain them to a more sacerdotal
life under his immediate authority.  Las Casas lived according to the
strict rule of his Order, eating only fish, eggs, and vegetables, and,
though he permitted meat to the others who sat at his table, there was so
little to tickle the palate of the epicure that two out of the three
renounced allegiance to their Bishop and betook themselves beyond the
confines of his diocese where they speedily fell into evil ways.  His life
at this period was one of truly apostolic simplicity; although seventy
years old, his habits were as frugal and austere as those of any
anchorite.  Towards the Spanish colonists he at first manifested mild and
affectionate sentiments, which blinded them so entirely to the indomitable
energy and fearless spirit that animated him, that they, on their part,
showed themselves obsequious and generous.  The deception was mutual, and
disillusion only awaited the moment when the material interests of the
Spaniards should be touched, to declare itself.  Slavery flourished
throughout the diocese, to the great affliction of the Bishop: he first
sought by private conversations with the principal persons of the colony,
by arguments, explanation of the New Laws and of the Emperor’s wishes, to
effect the liberation of the Indians, but failing in this, he next
preached publicly on the subject.  No headway was made by one or the other
means employed, while shocking cruelties were of daily occurrence and the
Indians, who recognised the Bishop as their only protector and advocate,
brought him tales of their sufferings which left him no choice but to have
recourse to stronger measures.

The Easter season of 1545 was approaching, and the fulfilment of the
precept of confession, which marks the farthermost frontier of Catholic
observance, within which even the most lax must remain under penalty of
excommunication ipso facto, afforded the Bishop his opportunity. He
withdrew from all his clergy, except the dean and canon of his cathedral
church, their faculties for granting absolution, reserving to himself all
questions involving the relations of the Spaniards to the Indians.  He
furnished the two appointed confessors with a detailed list of cases in
which not merely the questions of holding slaves and cruel treatment were
involved, but likewise those which had to do with the right to hold
property acquired unjustly from the natives and by violation of the law.

This treatise was doubtless the same that was published in 1552 entitled
_Confesionario_, etc., or in any case it contained the root doctrines of
which that tract may have been an elaboration.  Both upon the ability and
the fidelity of the two confessors he had selected, the Bishop felt he
could rely, but in the case of the Dean he was again mistaken in his
choice, for in certain of the reserved cases the latter declared that he
found no grounds, either in canon law or in any authorities, for his
Bishop’s decision.  The Mercedarian friars, who also had a community in
the diocese, were likewise opposed to the severity of the Bishop, and as
none of the colonists were disposed to ruin themselves by liberating the
Indians, the situation was a grave one for a Catholic community, for no
matter how little in conformity with the Church’s teaching were the daily
lives of many, excommunication was intolerable to all of them.
Remonstrances and petitions against his trenchant decision poured in upon
the Bishop, and the Dean, supported by the Mercedarians, undertook to
intercede for the Spaniards and, if possible, to obtain some relaxation of
the obnoxious ruling.  Their efforts were vain, for the simple reason that
Las Casas held that it was not within his competence to recede from his
decision without practically denying his life’s mission.  As the tension
became daily more severe, the colonists addressed to the Bishop, a formal
“requirement” drawn up by a notary public, containing arguments to support
their claims, based on the terms of the Bull of Alexander VI. and
threatening, if he persisted in refusing them the sacraments, to appeal to
his metropolitan, the Archbishop of Mexico, and ultimately to the Pope:
meanwhile they would denounce him to the King and his Council as a
disturber of the public peace and a formenter of dissensions and troubles
in the country.  To this threat the Bishop answered: “O blind men! How
completely does the devil deceive you!  Wherefore do you threaten me with
your complaints to the Archbishop, to the Pope, and to the King?  Know
then that though I am obliged by the law of God to do as I do, and you to
obey what I tell you, you are likewise constrained thereunto by the most
just laws of your sovereign, since you think yourselves such faithful
vassals to him.”  After reading some of the articles of the New Laws
forbidding slavery to them, he continued: “According to this, it is I who
might much better complain of you, for not obeying your King.”  The
situation was a deadlock, for the Bishop was immovable, neither would the
Spaniards give way.  From murmuring against his decision and questioning
his authority to impose such unreasonable and ruinous commands, they
passed to calumny and ridicule, and as these weapon are forged by evil
imaginations and their exercise is unhampered by the restrictions of
truth, many fantastic accusations were invented against Las Casas, and
diligently circulated.  The most frugal and abstemious of men was accused
of gluttony and intemperance; his learning, which was certainly varied if
not vast and was by no means mediocre, was declared to be superficial and
insufficient to enable him to properly weigh nice questions of theology
and law, and finally it was insinuated that some of his opinions were
heretical and that his refusal to allow the sacraments of penance and the
eucharist in his diocese proceeded from his dissembled Lutheranism.  As a
hint of what might overtake him if he persisted in his course, a musket
was fired into the window of his room one night.  Even the children were
taught scurrilous couplets which they sang at him, when he appeared in the
streets: only his Dominicans remained faithful to him in this difficult
season and their fidelity, though doubtless a source of great consolation
to him, had for its chief visible effect, to involve the friars in the
popular execration visited on the Bishop.  It was a repetition of the
incidents in Hispaniola, for likewise in Chiapa the people turned against
the friars, refraining from their ministrations and refusing them alms and
support. (57)

The first act of open rebellion came from the Dean, who administered the
communion during Holy Week to various persons who not only continued to
hold their Indians in spite of the Bishop’s remonstrances and admonitions,
but were notoriously engaged at that very time in buying and selling
slaves.  The disobedience of his subordinate could not be left unnoticed
and the bishop resolved to reprimand him, but paternally, in presence of
the other clergy, as an example.   This intention was more easily formed
than executed, for the Dean refused to appear, although the first summons
came in the form of an invitation to dinner: three times was the summons
repeated but each time, on one pretext or another, it was evaded, until
there only remained to summon him officially and to censure his violation
of his Bishop’s instructions and his refusal to appear before him.  As
even this severe measure left him unmoved, Las Casas ordered his arrest
and sent his alguacil and some of the clergy to bring the recalcitrant
Dean before him.  The news of what was passing had spread through the town
and when the diocesan authorities went to make the arrest, quite a crowd
of people had collected to see the outcome of the ecclesiastical duel.
The appearance of the Dean, being conducted by force to answer to the
Bishop for disobedience that had been prompted by his compliance to the
Spaniards’ desires, provoked a demonstration in his favour.  He, seeing
his opportunity, began to call for help, crying: “Help me to get free,
gentlemen, and I’ll confess everybody! Get me free and I’ll absolve all of
you!” A great hubbub ensued; men armed themselves to attack the Bishop’s
alguacil; some barricaded the Dominicans in their convent to prevent their
coming to the assistance of the arresting party, others freed the Dean
from his captors, and thus, with great uproar and shouts for the King and
his justice against the Bishop, the mob arrived at the latter’s house,
into which a crowd forced its way with clamorous disorder.

A gentleman named Rodriguez de Villafuerte, who was in the ante-chamber in
company with Fray Domingo de Medinilla, managed to somewhat calm the
turbulence of the people.  The leaders of the mob burst into the room
beyond, where Fray Domingo had insisted that the Bishop should remain,
instead of coming out to face the rioters as he wished, insulting him in
the coarsest language and even threatening to kill him.  The storm of
popular fury broke itself against the imperturbable serenity and
inflexible determination with which Las Casas met and dominated it.
Though the crowd dispersed, cowed and sullen, to their houses, the
murmuring continued, and the friars dared not leave their convents, for
fear of provoking a fresh outbreak.

The Bishop cancelled the ecclesiastical faculties of his Dean and
excommunicated him.

The man who had threatened to kill Las Casas was the same one who had once
before fired a musket shot through the Bishop’s window, by way of warning
him, and as he was known for a hot-headed reckless person, the friars were
seriously apprehensive lest he might execute his threat; they begged Las
Casas to leave and go to a place of safety.  “Where,” he asked in reply,
“would you, Fathers, have me go?  Where shall I be safe as long as I act
in behalf of these poor creatures?  Were the cause mine, I would drop it
with pleasure, but it is that of my flock, of these miserable Indians,
wearied and oppressed by unjust slavery and insupportable tributes, which
others of my flock have imposed upon them.  Here I wish to remain; this
church is my spouse, it is not mine to abandon.  This is the purpose of my
residence [here].  I wish to irrigate it with my blood, if they take my
life, so that zeal for God’s service may be absorbed by the very ground I
hold, to make it fertile, to bring forth the fruit of desire—the end of
the injustice that stains and infects it.  This is my wish, this is my
determined resolve, and I shall not be so fortunate that God will permit
the inhabitants of this city to fulfil it; other times have I found myself
in greater dangers and, because of my unworthiness, God has withheld from
me the crown of martyrdom.  These disturbances, and the hatred of the
conquerors for me, are of ancient date; I no longer feel their insults nor
fear their threats, and in comparison with what has happened to me in
Spain and the Indies, those of the other day were very moderate.”

Against such steadfast resolution, the colonists could not hope to
prevail, and one of the first results of the violent attack upon the
Bishop, was a certain reaction in public sentiment when calmer Judgment
reasserted itself.  There was even some counter demonstration, and the
news was brought to Las Casas that the man who had threatened to kill him
had himself been badly mauled and beaten.  The Bishop was the first and
most assiduous of the injured man’s visitors, even preparing with his own
hands, bandages and ointments to dress his hurts.  Such charity and
abnegation could not but touch even the rude object of these attentions,
and after repeatedly begging the Bishop’s forgiveness for his recent
violence, the man attached himself to him from thenceforth, and became one
of his warmest defenders.

Nevertheless, the attacks on the Bishop and on the friars did not lessen
for long, nor was the resentment against them diminished amongst the
greater number of the colonists, who pushed their reprisals to such an
extent that, not only were the priests reduced to the barest necessities
of life, but even wine for the celebration of mass was wanting and
unobtainable.  To remedy this necessity, Indians were sent out into the
province to beg for the friars, but the Spaniards learned of this measure
and, after forbidding the natives to give them anything, they seized
whatever these messengers obtained in spite of the prohibition, and gave
them a sound beating as a preventive of any future excursions.

Existence in such surroundings was no longer possible, and the friars
resolved to leave Ciudad Real.  They sent out four of their number in
advance, after which Fray Tomas de la Torre announced from the pulpit
their intention to abandon the convent and the reasons which forced them
to go.

Learning from those who had gone ahead that they had been well received in
Chiapa, and that everything seemed propitious for the foundation of a
convent there, the community prepared to follow.  Before definitely
abandoning Ciudad Real, it was thought well to deliver a final address to
the people, explaining clearly and fully the righteousness of their
doctrine concerning slavery.  This discourse was pronounced by Fray Alonso
de Villabra, who cited many authorities to show that the iniquity of
slavery was beyond dispute and that it was condemned by the laws of God
and man alike.  The sermon failed to convince the hostile and unwilling
listeners, whose interests were bound up in slavery, and the only result
of this last well-meant effort was to intensify, if possible, the
irritation against the Bishop and the friars.

The reception of this interesting band of apostolic men by the people of
Chiapa, was in striking contrast to the menacing demonstrations which
provoked and accompanied their departure from Ciudad Real.  More than a
league outside the town, the exiles found a large number of Indians,
decked out in their best gold ornaments and plumes, carrying crosses made
of feathers and flowers, awaiting their arrival, to escort them to the
quarters prepared for them.

As soon as the Bishop was housed, an immense number of natives came from
all parts of the neighbourhood, begging to be taught the Christian
religion.  The joy of the tormented Bishop at this demonstration may be
imagined, and he urged the friars, after such proofs of the disposition of
the Indians to receive the faith, to send to persuade other religious to
come and join them in the work of converting the willing people.

The Spaniard who held the encomienda of Chiapa was an astute person, in
reality quite as vicious as any of the others but more adroit in
concealing his evil doings; he found small difficulty in deceiving the
simple friars and, by showing them hospitality and professing great
respect for the New Laws, he succeeded in persuading them that he was
their friend and protector.  The harmony of their relations could not
however remain long undisturbed; from professing friendship he passed to
more or less open acts of hostility, and from flattery he resorted to
calumny.  An incident which occurred may serve admirably to illustrate the
deceptions practised by the colonists on the ignorant Indians. One of the
more intelligent of the natives came one day to the Dominicans and spoke
as follows:

“Fathers, behold we are becoming bewildered.  Our master told us when you
came, that he had written a letter to the Emperor _his brother_ [sic]
asking that you be sent to say Mass for us and that it was by his order
that you came to live amongst us.  Since then, he tells us that you are
poverty-stricken people, who come here to be supported by our labour,
because you have not enough to eat in your own country.  He has forbidden
us to give you the ground for your convent and to allow the church to be
altered.  You, on the other hand, tell us we should not call him our
master, for no man other than God whom you preach, is that; you tell us,
also, that this man is a mortal like ourselves, subject to the Emperor,
King of Castile, and that the Alcaldes at Ciudad Real may punish him.  He
tells us that he is next to God and has no master in the world.  I don’t
understand you; you speak ill of our master; he speaks ill of you, and
with all this we see you going about together good friends, neither of you
daring to speak in the other’s presence of what each tells us in the
other’s absence.  If you are honest, speak clearly, for we are in a cloud
of smoke from your manner of proceeding.” (58)


Everywhere throughout the province of Chiapa, the heart of Las Casas was
wrung by a repetition of the same tales of violence and rapacity; women
stolen, property wrested from the defenceless Indians, and the people
bought and sold like cattle, to be mercilessly overworked until more
merciful death released them from bondage.  The Bishop was helpless,
having no power or authority to enforce obedience either to the moral law
he perpetually preached, or to the New Laws he everywhere expounded to the
obdurate colonists.  This condition of things, to which no end was
apparent, determined him in June, 1545, to lay the matter before the
Audiencia of the Confines and to demand that the provisions of the New
Laws be enforced.  To reach the town of Gracias à Dios from Ciudad Real,
whither he had returned, he took the road through Guatemala, yielding to
the entreaties of his former companion Fray Pedro de Angulo, who desired
him to see the admirable results achieved in the Tierra de Guerra.  Truly
after such disappointments, sufferings, and persecutions, the Bishop
deserved the consolation he derived from beholding the transformation of
those formerly savage idolaters, into peaceful and civilised Christians,
living in their towns in an orderly fashion far beyond what his highest
hopes had allowed him to believe possible.  The caciques of the different
towns vied with one another in celebrating his arrival, and Las Casas
spoke to them all in their own language and delivered to them the cedulas
he had obtained for them from the Emperor in Barcelona on May 1, 1543, in
which their exemption from every kind of servitude was promised in

The journey from Tululatzan to Gracias à Dios was both a difficult and a
perilous one, especially at that season when the rains had swollen the
rivers and destroyed the mountain roads.  It is significant that
throughout the life of Las Casas in America, he is never once mentioned as
being ill or obliged on account of any infirmity to defer or alter his
plans.  His constitution was evidently one of steel.  In spite of his
seventy-one years, he reached his destination in due time, where he met
the bishops of Guatemala and Nicaragua, the latter of whom was about to be
consecrated.  The Bishop-elect of Nicaragua was Fray Antonio de
Valdivieso, also a Dominican, who fully shared the opinions and sympathies
of Las Casas.  All three of these prelates had grievances and petitions
for redress of abuses and for the stricter administration of the laws in
favour of the Indians, to lay before the Audiencia.  Since that particular
tribunal had been created for the purpose of executing these laws and was
composed of men whom Las Casas had either chosen himself or recommended,
the bishops were justified in anticipating a favourable hearing and a
speedy adjustment of their complaints.  They obtained neither however, and
especially towards Las Casas was the opposition of the auditors directed.
When he first entered the council room, some of them cried: “Out with that
lunatic!” and on another occasion, when Las Casas declined to withdraw,
the President, Maldonado (well named indeed!), ordered him to be ejected
by force.  Again, when the Bishop, with great solemnity, demanded that the
Audiencia should correct the abuses complained of and should relieve the
Indians from unlawful oppression, Maldonado answered: “You are a cheat, a
bad man, a bad bishop, a shameful fellow, and you deserve to be

Such language in open council, addressed by the presiding officer to a
bishop, sounds incredible, and considering the great influence of religion
on all Spaniards of that time, it is not wonderful that after such
insolence, this petty official was regarded by the entire community as
excommunicated; a half-hearted apology, ungraciously made, sufficed
however to avoid an open scandal.

Las Casas had already assured his friars in Ciudad Real that he neither
felt insults nor feared threats, so the vulgar abuse of Maldonado did not
touch him; he drew up and presented a wordy memorial to the Audiencia,
divided into seven articles. The first article affirmed that the Bishop
was hindered in the exercise of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, by the
opposition of the officers of justice.  The second asks for the aid of the
secular arm to punish those guilty of disobedience and sacrilege.  The
third asks that the Indians may be relieved from tyrannous oppression,
particularly from the excessive taxes and forced labour exacted from them.
The fourth article solicits the transfer of all causes affecting the
Indians from the civil to the ecclesiastical courts.  The fifth begs the
Audiencia to forbid all wars, conquests, invasions of territory, and the
establishment of Spanish haciendas in Yucatan.  The sixth article
petitions orders for the good treatment of the few Indians still held by
the Crown in Yucatan, and the seventh asks that the officials of the
Audiencia transfer to the Crown, all Indians and all villages affected by
the royal ordinances already published.  The answer of the Audiencia was
brief and amounted to a denial of the Bishop’s allegations. (60)
Foreseeing, doubtless, the rupture which must inevitably follow the
presentation of his memorial, Las Casas had already written to Prince
Philip, regent during the Emperor’s absence from Spain.

On the 25th of October, a letter signed by the Bishops of Chiapa and
Nicaragua was despatched to Prince Philip complaining of the conduct of
the Audiencia towards the churches, and declaring that since the New Laws
were ignored and left in abeyance, the cruel treatment of the Indians had
increased.  It was alleged that the President, Maldonado, and his
associates possessed more than 60,000 Indians and that he encouraged his
governors in every kind of tyranny and robbery of the natives for all of
which the too compliant Audiencia neglected to provide any remedy.  The
destitute and helpless condition of the bishops and clergy was set forth,
and they were described as the only faithful subjects whom the sovereign
had in those regions, for all the other royal officials were solely
occupied with their own interests and in opposing the clergy in the
discharge of their pastoral duties.  The two bishops urged upon the Prince
to liberate all the Indians absolutely and immediately, as the only means
to stop the growing evil.  The more to impress the Prince with the
independent spirit of the colonial officials in ignoring royal orders and
violating the express provisions of the New Laws, the bishops affirmed
that most of them—with but few exceptions—were even inclined to
independence and were secretly as much rebels as those in Peru.  An
increase in the number of bishops was asked of the Prince, with new
dioceses in Yucatan and Chiapa, which were too extensive for one bishop to
govern.  It plainly appears in this letter that the writers were aware
that the Audiencia had written, asking that a metropolitan judge should be
sent out with superior powers of jurisdiction to hold them in check, but
far from opposing this project, they agreed to it, suggesting, however,
that he should be a papal legate and that meanwhile, until such a one
could arrive, some one of the bishops should be deputed to hear appeals
and decide cases with arch-episcopal powers.

The scandalous affair of the Dean in Ciudad Real was also recounted to the
Prince and some displeasure expressed that the Bishop of Guatemala,
Marroquin, should have seen fit to receive this rebellious priest in his
diocese.  Priests, however, were so scarce, that any one who could say a
mass and baptise a pagan, no matter what his defects of character or
conduct might be, was apt to be welcomed.

On the 15th of November, Las Casas addressed a letter to the India Council
repeating his grave charges against Maldonado and explaining the reasons
why he connived at resistance to the New Laws.

Simultaneously the Audiencia likewise wrote to the Council giving their
version of the situation. This letter was not signed by the licentiate
Herrera, one of the auditors, who afterwards wrote to the Emperor,
explaining and justifying his abstention, by saying that he disapproved of
the violent language used against the bishops and did not share the views
of his associates concerning them.  Although he found Las Casas
over-zealous, he considered that the Indians were harshly treated and that
the Audiencia failed to protect them against oppression.  They would even
be better off in slavery than they were in their present condition, for
then at least their owners might care for them.

Perhaps nothing could more completely vindicate Las Casas than the
contents of this letter.(61) Herrera was almost alone, however, in siding
with the Bishop for even those of the colonists whose temporal interests
were not at stake in the question of liberating the Indians, were
unwilling to antagonise the Audiencia and to face the condemnation of
their fellow-citizens.  Even the Bishop of Guatemala, who had formerly
been a close friend and warm sympathiser, proved unequal to the pressure
brought to bear upon him. He deserted his fellow-bishop, and his letter of
August 17, 1545, to the Emperor, was singularly unworthy of his episcopal
character, especially when dealing with one of equal dignity to his

At this juncture, news of the gravest and most disquieting nature reached
Las Casas from Canon Juan Perera, whom he had left as Vicar-General at
Ciudad Real during his own absence.  Armed with powers granted by the town
authorities, Luis de Torre Medinilla and the alguacil mayor, Diego Garcia,
had presented themselves to the Canon to institute an inquiry into the
cases in which the Bishop had ordered absolution to be refused, founding
their action upon the terms of Alexander VI.’s Bull, which gave the Indies
to the kings of Castile; from the terms of the Bull they deduced the right
of conquest and the disposal of the persons and property of the conquered

The Canon stood firm, however, declaring that he could only grant
absolution to those who released their slaves and restored—as far as
possible—their ill-gotten profits.  They asked that his answer should be
given them in writing, as they wished to refer it to the Pope, to which
the Canon agreed on condition that he be allowed thirty days in which to
prepare a properly expressed statement.  The period fixed elapsed without
the authorities again asking for the document, for they had devised a new
plan to overreach the Bishop.  They offered the Canon the keys of the
church if he would accept them as curate, abandoning his character as
Vicar-General of the Bishop, promising him a generous salary and other
advantages if he would agree.  The Canon did not agree but reported the
situation faithfully to Las Casas, who thus learned that his spiritual
subjects were in open rebellion against his authority.

The Audiencia had ended by agreeing to send an auditor to Ciudad Real to
see that the New Laws were executed, and a gentleman of Santiago de
Nicaragua wrote the news of this decision to the Council saying, “The
Bishop is returning to this country to complete the destruction of this
unhappy city, bringing with him an auditor to still further tax the
country.  We don’t know how it is that your lordships do not remedy such
great evils.”  An open council was held on December 15, 1545, which was
attended by all the householders of the town, and upon opening the
sitting, the secretary called attention to the fact that the Bishop had
been exercising his episcopal authority without having shown the required
papal bulls or royal cedulas to the Council; moreover he had introduced
novel doctrines, reserving certain cases for absolution, concerning which,
the Emperor’s final decision had not yet been received in reply to the
petition addressed to His Majesty; as it was evident to them all that the
Bishop’s ideas, if acceded to by the colonists would result in the total
ruin of them all and a general rebellion of the Indians, it was incumbent
upon them to notify the Bishop that he must follow the example of other
bishops in the colonies, abandoning his novelties until the return of the
procurator, who had been sent to Spain to present the colonists’ appeal on
these matters, when the Emperor’s decision would be made known; any
disturbances which might arise from the present unsettled state of feeling
must be laid to the Bishop’s charge.  These sentiments encountered general
approval, and it was unanimously decided that should Las Casas refuse to
acquiesce in them, they would refuse to receive him as their lawful bishop
and would suppress his tithes. This last decision was published and a fine
of one hundred castellanos imposed on any one violating it.

Fray Tomas de la Torre learned of these decisions and sent from
Cinacatlan, where he then was, to warn a lay brother, Fray Pedro Martin,
and a servant of the Bishop who were in Cuidad Real, and to advise them to
put the Bishop’s books and household goods in a place of safety, for he
feared that in the excitement, popular resentment might burst all bounds
and everything belonging to Las Casas might be destroyed.  His warning was
not unwarranted, for the two men were obliged to fortify themselves as
best they could in the sacristy of the church, where they were attacked at
midnight by a body of men, who were determined to expel them from the
town.  After besieging them in vain for some time, the attacking party
left, intending to return by daylight, but the besieged took advantage of
their absence to escape and managed to reach Cinacatlan barefoot, where
their account of the state of things in the town greatly increased the
anxiety of the friars.

While these turbulent events were happening, Las Casas had arrived at the
Dominican monastery at Copanabastla on his way to Ciudad Real, where it
was his intention to celebrate Christmas in his cathedral; he took the
precaution of sending a trusty messenger ahead, who brought back a full
account of the decisions of the Council and the preparations for resisting
the Bishop’s entrance.  On his way back to Copanabastla this messenger
passed by Cinacatlan and told the friars of the Bishop’s whereabouts, so
they also wrote him full information of all that had happened and the kind
of reception awaiting him in the city.

The citizens of Ciudad Real were also kept informed of the Bishop’s
approach and, with unswerving resolution, began to take their measures to
stop his advance unless he accepted their conditions; pickets were
established at different points of the road to give warning of his
approach.  Singular indeed was the activity displayed in arming as large a
force of men as could be mustered, to oppose this aged monk who, like his
apostolic forebears, came alone, on foot, with a staff in his hand and
neither purse nor scrip. Although there were not wanting those among the
friars who counselled him not to brave the popular fury, Las Casas refused
to follow their advice, saying: “If I do not go to Ciudad Real, I banish
myself voluntarily from my own church and it may be said of me, with
reason, the wicked fleeth, when no man pursueth.  How do we know that they
want to kill me and that the sentinels are placed for this express
purpose?  I do not doubt the truth of what the fathers at Cinacatlan say,
but there are our Lord’s words to his disciples when they sought to deter
him from returning to Judea, because they [the Jews] had sought to kill
him the day before.  The day has twelve hours, in each one of which, or in
each minute or in each instant, the minds of men may change.  If I do not
enter into my church, of whom may I complain to the King and the Pope for
putting me out of it?”

The Bishop’s serenity was as perfect as his resolution was unchangeable,
and, gathering his scapular in his hand, he rose from his chair and set
out on his journey, amidst the tears and remonstrances of the friars.
Upon reaching the first post of sentinels he found the men off their
guard, as a report had spread that he had abandoned his intention to
advance.  The Indians, when they recognised him, completely forgot the
orders they had received from their Spanish masters, and in mingled joy at
seeing their beloved Bishop again and distress at being there under such
duty, they threw themselves at his feet, weeping, protesting, and
imploring his forgiveness for their compulsory part in opposing him.(63)
Knowing that the poor creatures would pay dearly for their neglect of
orders, Las Casas had them bound, as though he had surprised and captured

That night Ciudad Real was shaken by a terrible earthquake which drove the
frightened people into the public square.  Talking amongst themselves,
some declared that this upheaval heralded the Bishop’s approach and was
the beginning of the destruction he would bring upon their town.


At dawn Las Casas entered the city unnoticed and reached his cathedral,
from whence he sent Father Nicola Galiano, one of the clergy, to notify
the Council of his arrival and that he was awaiting them.  The Bishop’s
arrival, did in reality, cause a greater disturbance than the earthquake.
The members of the Council debated as to what was now to be done; the
Bishop was in the city and in his cathedral, despite their efforts to
exclude him.  Finally it was decided to go in a body to the church, where
they seated themselves as though for a sermon.  When the Bishop entered
from the sacristy to speak to them, no one rose or showed any of the
customary marks of respect.   The notary immediately read the
“requirement” it had been their intention to present before Las Casas was
admitted to the city, omitting however the passages which denied his

Las Casas replied to this with great benevolence, saying that as he was
ready even to shed his blood for them, he had no intention of interfering
with their properties except in so far as was necessary to prevent sin
against God and their neighbour: he exhorted them to consider matters
calmly and not to allow themselves to be carried away by irreflection.
His manner, as well as the sense of this speech, were surprisingly
conciliatory, but one of the council, less impressed by the persuasive
eloquence of the Bishop, observed from his place that as Las Casas was but
a private individual, he had presumed too far in summoning such an
important body as the council, composed of the most illustrious gentlemen
of the colony, to come to meet him, instead of going himself to them.  The
Bishop, with much dignity, answered; “Look you, sir,—and all of you in
whose name he has spoken,—when I wish to ask anything from your estates, I
will go to your houses to speak with you; but when I have to speak with
you concerning God’s service and what touches your souls and consciences,
it is for me to send and call you to come to wherever I may be, and it is
for you to come trooping to me, if you are Christians.”  Nobody ventured
to reply to this rebuke and the Bishop, rising immediately withdrew,
towards the sacristy.  Then the notary of the council approached him
respectfully, saying that he had a petition to present on behalf of the
townspeople, which there was no need to read as it merely asked that they
should be treated as a Christian people and have confessors appointed to
grant them absolution.  The Bishop assented, but as he named the Canon
Juan Perera and the Dominicans, who all notoriously shared his views on
the question in dispute, the council demurred, saying that they were
unacceptable.  The Bishop therefore named a priest from Guatemala and a
Mercedarian friar, whose sentiments he knew to be in harmony with his own,
though they had taken no part in the controversies and hence their opinion
had never been publicly manifested.  Both were men of exemplary piety and
zeal in their ministry.  Even Fray Vicente Ferrer, who accompanied the
Bishop, was unaware of the real sympathies of the two confessors, and
fearing his superior was unwittingly making a blunder, he tugged at his
vestments saying: “Let your lordship rather die than do this.”

Immediately those present broke forth into imprecations on Fray Vicente
and all but maltreated him, in the midst of which uproar, the Mercedarian
friars, who had heard of the Bishop’s return, appeared in the church to
welcome him.  The disturbance was somewhat quelled by their arrival, and
they managed to conduct the Bishop and the offending Fray Vicente in
safety to their own convent.

The fatigue of the journey and the excitement of these disturbing scenes
through which he had passed left the aged Bishop exhausted, but his trials
had in reality only just begun, and hardly had he seated himself in the
cell the friars provided for him, to take a little bread and wine, when a
fearful uproar was heard outside, which proved to be caused by an immense
crowd of armed people who had surrounded the convent.  Some of these men
forced their way into his presence, but so great was the noise and clamour
that the friars, who sought to learn the cause of this hostile
demonstration, could neither hear nor make themselves heard. Finally it
appeared that this fresh outburst was occasioned by the discovery that the
Bishop had captured and bound their Indian sentinels as prisoners.  Las
Casas at once assumed the entire blame, explaining exactly how he had
surprised them and why he had bound them.  A storm of vituperation greeted
his explanation—all semblance of respect, either for his age or office,
was abandoned—and one taunted the protector of the Indians with himself
tying them up and draging them three leagues.(64) Amidst all these
reproaches and insults Las Casas replied to one of his tormentors saying:
“I do not wish, sir, to answer you, so as not to take from God the task of
punishing you, for the insult you offer is not to me but to God.”

While this scene of violence was proceeding inside the Bishop’s cell, his
negro servant Juanillo was being baited in the courtyard where some one
who accused him of tying the Indians, gave him a thrust with his pike,
which laid him, wounded, on the ground.  The friars rushed to the rescue
of the unfortunate negro and two of the younger monks finally succeeded in
getting all the armed men out of their convent.

All these riotous happenings had taken place between dawn and nine
o’clock, and so true was the Bishop’s saying that in each hour of the
twelve, men changed their minds, that before noon order was not only
entirely established, but the extraordinary spectacle was offered of the
members of the same council who had insulted and outraged the Bishop,
coming in great humility to the convent, accompanied by the alcaldes,
without their wands of office or their swords, to beg his forgiveness and
to acknowledge him as their rightful Bishop.  Not content with this act of
reparation, they carried him in procession from the convent to the house
of Pedro Orozco de Acevedo, one of the principal citizens, where an
apartment was prepared for his habitation.  To complete this
transformation and illustrate even more fully the vagaries of the human
temper, they determined to celebrate his arrival by holding a grand
tournament in his honour, the day after Christmas.  Remesal does not say
whether this form of festivity met with the Bishop’s approval, but it may
be permitted to imagine that had he been consulted, he would have found
some more fit means for celebrating the reconciliation.

Las Casas was probably not at all duped by the sudden conversion of his
enemies, which was indeed more indicative of a mercurial and capricious
temperament than of a sincere desire to make amends for their conduct: the
real reason of these sudden demonstrations must be sought in the fears
that were aroused in the minds of the better citizens, of the punishment
sure to fall upon them, when the news of their actions should reach Spain.

Proofs of their bad faith are not far to seek.  Even while the festivities
were preparing, a body of men rode off to Cinacatlan where they robbed and
terrorised the Indians, bullied and threatened the frairs, and finally
returned with great rejoicings to Ciudad Real.  The friars being in no way
deceived, for they also understood but too well the volatile character of
the Spaniards, took the precaution of provisioning the Bishop, so that he
might not be starved out when popular resentment should again nullify the
present reconciliation.

The Indian porters who were to carry these provisions, were so fearful of
being set upon and beaten or even killed by the Spaniards, that it was
only after much persuasion that they consented to deliver them:
fortunately they were not molested and the supplies reached their
destination intact.

A short time after these events, the Auditor, Juan Rogel, sent by the
Audiencia of the Confines, arrived at Ciudad Real just as the Bishop was
preparing for his journey to Mexico where one Francisco Tello de Sandoval,
whom the Emperor had sent as Visitor-General of New Spain, had convoked a
meeting of all the bishops and prelates in America to confer upon the
vexed questions concerning the Indians, about which opinion was so divided
as to render hopeless any acceptable legislation from Madrid.  The
celebrated Sepulveda, one of the most learned scholars and ablest men of
his times, led the opposition to the doctrines of Las Casas and sustained
the theory that servitude was the rightful and natural state of the
Indians and that it was justifiable to subdue them by force to Spanish

On the 20th of November, 1545, the Emperor, in response to the arguments
and petitions of the representatives of the colonists, had abrogated the
most important articles of the New Laws—in fact had substantially revoked
them, though this action was not yet known in Chiapa, where the Bishop
received the Auditor Rogel, to whom he highly praised the New Laws, whose
application was the object of Rogel’s visit.  The Auditor, after hearing
him out, said: “Your lordship well knows that though these New Laws and
Ordinances were framed in Valladolid by the agreement of such grave
personages,—as your lordship and I witnessed—one of the reasons which has
rendered them so hateful in the Indies has been the fact that your
lordship had a hand in proposing and framing them: for the conquerors
consider your lordship so prejudiced against them, that they believe that
what you obtain for the natives is not so much for love of the Indians as
for hatred of them.  Entertaining such a suspicion, they would feel it
more, were I to deprive them while your lordship is present, than the loss
itself of their slaves and estates; Señor Don Francisco Tello de Sandoval
has summoned your lordship to this meeting of prelates which takes place
in Mexico and I would be glad if you would prepare for your journey and
hasten your departure, for until your lordship is gone I can do nothing.
I do not want it said that I am doing what is necessary out of respect, as
everything would thereby be lost.”

This plain speaking, in which Las Casas recognised much truth, convinced
him that by remaining, he would only retard the cause he desired to help,
so he quickly completed his preparations and left Ciudad Real in the first
week of Lent in 1546, hardly a year after his first entrance into it.  His
departure was signalised by some demonstrations of sympathy, and a few
people accompanied him as far as Cinacatlan, where he remained for several
days counselling with the friars concerning the stand to be taken on
Indian matters in the council or synod he was going to attend in Mexico.

As the other American bishops disapproved of his action in refusing the
sacraments to slave-holders and the Visitor General, Tello de Sandoval,
had already written him a sharp letter of reproof for his imprudence in
obstinately persisting in his views despite the fact that he was alone in
holding them, formidable opposition would have to be encountered in the
synod.  Neither Las Casas nor his Dominican brethren were at all dismayed
by their isolation, nor did they for a moment consider the possibility of
abandoning or even relaxing their convictions.  The Canon, Juan Perera,
who had stood loyally by his Bishop, assisted at these conferences, but as
he had previously expressed contrary opinions, he desired to make an act
of public reparation for his past errors.  He returned to Ciudad Real
especially to preach a sermon of retraction and to read a paper prepared
for him by Fray Tomas de la Torre, containing a full vindication of his
Bishop’s opinions.  This recantation produced no small effect upon the
colonists, some of whom were moved to express regret for their part in the
maltreatment of Las Casas and the friars.  This business terminated, the
Canon rejoined Las Casas at Cinacatlan and accompanied him to Mexico.

Before setting forth on his last journey, the Bishop transferred his
property to the Dominicans and, though there was a conditional clause in
the deed of gift, there was no reservation in the donor’s mind, for he
knew that he was leaving Chiapa for ever and would never again govern a
diocese.  Accompanied by the friars Rodrigo Ladrada, Vicente Ferrer, and
Luis Cancer and by the Canon Perera he journeyed to Antequera in the
province of Oaxaca—the marquisate of Cortes—where he was received in the
Dominican convent.  But so intense and wide-spread was the feeling against
him that both the Viceroy and the Visitor-General wrote to him that he
should not advance farther towards Mexico, until they summoned him, lest
his appearance might provoke a disturbance.  The march of a hostile army
upon a defenceless city could hardly have stirred up greater excitement
than the arrival of this aged Bishop with his four humble companions.  He
finally entered the city of Mexico at ten o’clock one morning, and not
only was there no disturbance of the peace when he was recognised, but his
followers even heard some comments of admiration for him as he passed
through the streets to the Dominican monastery where he was to lodge.

The very day of his arrival, Las Casas betrayed his lack of those
conciliatory qualities, without which no man can negotiate debatable
questions with any hope of success.  During his several visits to Spain,
where he handled delicate questions with consummate skill, he had shown
tact in seeking to disarm opposition and conciliate opponents, but in
Mexico he displayed no wordly wisdom whatsoever.  He replied to the
message of the Viceroy and the auditors who sent to welcome him, that he
would not visit them as they were excommunicated because they had cut off
the hand of a priest in Antequera.

The news of this message was spread throughout the city and still further
inflamed the popular ire against him.  Just at a time when so much
depended upon winning supporters to his side and conciliating, as far as
possible, the conflicting principles of the contending parties, Las Casas
alienated the powerful Viceroy and the auditors, and rendered himself
inaccessible to any possible overtures from the more reasonable and
moderate men of the opposition, whom it should have been his first duty to
placate by every possible concession.

The synod or council was composed of the five bishops of Mexico, Chiapa,
Guatemala, Oaxaca, and Mechoacan, with possibly a sixth from Tiazcala;
besides these, there were the prelates and chief theologians of the
religious orders, and finally, all the learned men of the colony.  The
outcome of their deliberations was contained in eight propositions, of
which the five principal ones were as follows:

   1. All infidels, of whatsoever sect or religion they may be or whatever
      may be their sins, hold and possess in conformity with the natural
      and divine law and the law of nations, the property they acquire
      without prejudice to others; and likewise their principalities,
      kingdoms, estates, lordships, dignities, and jurisdictions.
   2. Although four different classes of infidels exist, there is but one
      method instituted by divine providence for teaching the true
      religion, namely, persuading the understanding by reasoning and
      attracting the will by gentleness. This is common to all men in the
      world, without regard to difference of errors or sects, or
      corruption of morals.
   3. The sole and final cause why the Apostolic See granted supreme
      sovereignty and imperial jurisdiction over the Indies to the Kings
      of Castile and Leon was the preaching of the Gospel, the spread of
      the Christian religion, and the conversion of the nations of those
      regions, and not to increase their dignity or to make them richer
      princes than they were.
   4. The Holy See, in granting the said supreme sovereignty, did not
      intend to deprive the native sovereigns and rulers of their estates,
      lordships, jurisdiction, honours, and dignities, nor did it intend
      to give the Kings of Castile and Leon any license by which the
      spread of the Gospel should be impeded and the conversion of the
      people of those regions be retarded.
   5. The said sovereigns of Castile, who offered and bound themselves of
      their own choice to see that the faith was preached and the Indians
      converted, are obliged by divine precept to bear the necessary
      expenses for accomplishing these ends.

These were the most important of the eight articles approved by the synod,
and they were grounded upon and defended by a multitude of arguments drawn
from the Fathers and General Councils: they were not adopted without
opposition, and every point was fought over in endless debates, for the
conquerors and all holders of encomiendas contested stoutly for what they
held to be their rights.  The synod also established the conditions on
which sacraments should be administered to the colonists, and addressed a
full report of the proceedings to the Emperor, soliciting his confirmation
and the royal authority for executing all that had been enacted.

Although Las Casas had several times essayed to bring the question of
slavery before the council, no direct or explicit decision was given on
that important point, and as his efforts were embarrassing, the Viceroy
quickly told him that reasons of State had compelled him to defer a
definite solution of that question.  Far from quieting Las Casas, this
information aroused his zeal all the more, and as a hearing in the council
was denied him, he preached a few days later when the Viceroy was present,
taking for his text this significant passage from the thirtieth chapter of
the prophet Isaias: “For this is a rebellious people; lying children,
children that will not hear the law of God.  Who say to the seers, see
not; and to the prophets, prophesy not right things unto us; speak unto us
smooth things, prophesy deceits.”

The sermon was not without the intended effect, and the Viceroy began to
regret the exclusion of the subject of slavery from the council: as a
compromise, he consented that separate meetings should be held in the
convent of San Domingo to consider this subject, offering to transmit to
the Emperor the conclusions adopted.  Las Casas was ably seconded in the
proceedings of these meetings, by Fray Luis Cancer, and a declaration was
drawn up declaring that the Indians—with few exceptions—had been unjustly
enslaved and that those who held them were bound to set them free:
slave-holders were described as tyrants and all personal services exacted
from the defenceless natives were condemned.  Those who took part in these
meetings and signed the decisions, were destitute of any means to give
effect to them, but they adopted measures to publish and distribute copies
of them throughout the colonies, in the hope that they might influence
public opinion in the right direction.

Las Casas named the Canon, Juan Perera, as his Vicar-General in the
diocese of Chiapa, on the ninth of November, 1546, and at the same time
appointed as confessors the friars Tomas Casillas, Tomas de la Torre,
Domingo de Arana, and Alonso de Villabra, to whom he furnished copies of
the instructions approved by the council of Mexico, in which were
comprised the twelve rules.  The colonists appealed to the Emperor against
the instructions, which they held to be unduly severe and onerous for
them, and, in reply to their petition, a royal order dated in Valladolid
on the twenty-eighth of November, 1542, was received by the Audiencia of
Mexico ordering a copy of the disputed regulations to be sent to Spain for

In the early part of the year 1547, Las Casas arrived in Vera Cruz to
embark for Spain, and after some delay there, until a ship could be found
for the voyage, left the shores of America for the last time(65)


Rejected by his flock in Chiapa, abused and denounced by the Spanish
colonists in America, the venerable Bishop’s arrival in his native country
was preceded by accusations intended to prejudice the young Prince, Don
Philip, who was regent during the Emperor’s absence, against him.  Long
years of championship of an unpopular cause rendered him impervious to
these baseless attacks of his enemies.  At a time of life when most men
think to rest, Las Casas prepared himself with undiminished vigour to
continue the struggle in the cause of freedom.  Upon his arrival in Spain,
he repaired at once to Valladolid where the court was usually in
residence, only to find that Don Philip had gone to hold a Córtes in the
kingdom of Aragon.  With his habitual promptness, the Bishop followed him
thither, and was received with great kindness by the Prince, who, after
listening attentively to all that he had to recount, wrote to the
Dominicans in Chiapa commending their conduct and offering to send more
men of their Order to reinforce them, if they were required.

The Indians were ever uppermost in the mind of Las Casas and he likewise
obtained that the Prince should write letters to the caciques in Chiapa
and Tuzulutlan, who had become Christians, congratulating them on their
conversion, praising their zeal, of which the Bishop had informed him, and
urging them to follow the counsels of their Dominican friends.  To
celebrate his pacific victory in the “Land of War,” Las Casas also had the
sinister name Tuzulutlan officially changed to that of Vera Paz or True

The formal resignation of Las Casas from the diocese of Chiapa was made
known to the Spanish Ambassador in Rome, Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, in
a letter from the Emperor dated September 11, 1550, with instructions to
announce the same to the Pope and to present the name of Fray Tomas
Casillas for the vacant bishopric.

Mention has been made of the _Confesionario_, or book of instructions
written by the Bishop of Chiapa and distributed to the clergy of his
diocese.  In this little manual, Las Casas demonstrated that the armed
invasion of America by the Spaniards and the conquest of the various
countries were contrary to all right and justice: he argued that the Bull
of donation given by Alexander VI. charged the Spanish sovereigns with the
right, or rather the duty, of converting the inhabitants of the New World
to Christianity; once their conversion was effected, they might be
induced, if possible, by gentle and pacific means to place themselves
under Spanish rule.  Arguing from these premises, the Bishop directed his
clergy to refuse absolution and the sacraments to all who refused to
liberate their slaves or continued to oppress and rob the natives.

Reduced to a formula the doctrine of Las Casas may be summed up: Convert
the Indians first and they will afterwards become Spanish subjects; as
against the contention of his adversaries that they must first be
conquered, after which their conversion would follow.

His enemies were not slow in seizing upon these definitions and in
twisting them into a denial of the sovereign rights of the Crown.  Formal
denunciations of the teachings contained in the _Confesionario_ were laid
before the India Council, (66) and that body having summoned Las Casas to
explain his doctrines in writing, he submitted an exposition of the
contents of his book, in the form of thirty propositions, the substance of
which may be summarised as follows: (67)

   1. The power and authority which the Pope holds from Jesus Christ,
      extends over all men, whether they be Christians or infidels, as far
      as everything touching their salvation is concerned.  Their exercise
      should, however, be different over pagans than over those who have
      received or have refused to receive the true faith.
   2. The primacy of the Pope imposes upon him the obligation to diffuse
      the Christian religion throughout the world and to see that the
      Gospel is preached to the heathen wherever they will receive it.
   3. The Pope is bound to choose proper missioners for such propaganda.
   4. It is evident that Christian rulers are his most suitable and
      efficient assistants in this work.
   5. The Pope is free to invite or justified in obliging Christian rulers
      to lend their help, by the exercise of their power, by the
      expenditure of money, and by sending suitable men to conduct
   6. The Pope and the Christian sovereigns should act together for this
      end, in agreement with one another.
   7. The Pope may distribute heathen lands among Christian rulers,
      designating where each is to labour for the conversion of the
   8. Such distribution should be made, however, for the purpose of
      ensuring the instruction and the conversion of the pagan nations but
      not at all to increase the territories of the Christian sovereign or
      to augment his revenues, titles, and honours, at the expense of the
   9. It may follow that Christian princes may incidentally derive some
      profit from this conversion of such infidels, and all such may be
      permitted to them, but the primary object must be the propagation of
      the Faith, the extension of the Church, and the service of God.
  10. Native kings and rulers hold their authority and jurisdiction by a
      just title and have a right to the obedience of their lawful
      subjects, nor should they be deposed or violently treated.
  11. Injustice, cruelty, and every form of wickedness are produced by the
      violation of this law.
  12. Neither idolatry nor any kind of sin justifies Christians in
      usurping the authority of native rulers or in seizing the lands and
      goods of their subjects.
  13. As long as such infidels have not opposed the propagation of the
      Gospel and have not refused to receive the Faith preached to them,
      no Christian tribunal or judge has a right to punish them for the
      practice of idolatry or for the commission of any sins, no matter
      how heinous.
  14. The New World was discovered during the pontificate of Alexander
      VI., hence that pontiff was obliged to designate some Christian
      prince under whose protection the propagation of the Faith should be
      carried on.
  15. Since the Catholic sovereigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, had
      protected and aided Columbus in making his discovery, and had,
      moreover, expelled the Mahometans from their land, the Pope
      perceived the special claims they had to receive this privilege, and
      the great advantages to religion of confiding this mission to them.
  16. The Pope, having authority to grant such a privilege, has power
      likewise to annul, revoke, or suspend it for just cause; or he may
      transfer it to some other ruler and forbid all others to interfere.
  17. The jurisdiction over the Indies held by the sovereigns of Spain is
  18. The native rulers in the Indies are therefore obliged to submit to
      the jurisdiction of the Spanish sovereigns.
  19. Once the native rulers have voluntarily and freely accepted the
      Faith and been baptised Christians, they become bound by another
      title than before to acknowledge the Spanish sovereignty.
  20. The law of God imposes on the Spanish sovereigns this duty of
      selecting proper persons and sending them to preach Christianity to
      the natives, and to neglect nothing that may ensure their
  21. They share this obligation with the Pope and, before the conversion
      of the natives has been accomplished, they have the same power over
      them as has His Holiness.
  22. The Catholic Faith may be best spread throughout the New World by
      imitating the example of our Lord in establishing His religion upon
      earth.  The natives are submissive, docile people, who may be won by
      kindness, charity, and good examples of holy living. They should be
      encouraged and favoured, and treated as brothers.
  23. The Romans, Mahometans, Moors, and Turks have propagated their
      doctrines by the sword, but such means are tyrannical, and it is
      blasphemy for Christians to imitate such cruelties; what has already
      been done in the Indies has caused the natives to believe the
      Christian God to be the most merciless and cruel of all deities.
  24. It is only natural that the Indians should defend their countries
      from armed invasion, thus they resist the propagation of the Faith.
  25. The Spanish sovereigns have from the outset repeatedly forbidden
      wars, conquests, and acts of cruelty. Those officials who have
      pretended to act by royal authority in such wars and acts have lied,
      and the warrants they have shown are forgeries.
  26. It follows that all the wars, invasions, and conquests that have
      been made, have been tyrannical, contrary to justice and authority,
      and hence, in fact, null and void: this is proven by the record of
      the proceedings in Council against all such tyrants and usurpers who
      have been found guilty.
  27. It is the duty of the Spanish sovereigns to maintain and
      re-establish all laws and usages amongst the Indians which are good,
      and that is to say the most of them; those which are bad should be
      abolished, and the preaching and application of the Gospel is the
      best means for effecting this.
  28. The Devil himself could not have worked greater harm than have the
      Spaniards, by their tyranny and cruel greed; they have treated the
      Indians like beasts, worked them to death, and persecuted those who
      have wished to learn from the friars, even more than others.
  29. The system of giving the Indians in encomienda and repartimiento is
      absolutely contrary to the royal commands issued by Queen Isabella
      to Columbus and his successors during her reign.  The Queen ordered
      all Indians who had been brought to Spain as slaves, to be sent back
      and set free.  What would she think could she but witness the
      present state of things?  The present sovereign has been kept in
      ignorance of the true condition, and his long journeys and absences
      have prevented him from informing himself.
  30. It follows, therefore, from these propositions that all the
      conquests, acquisitions of territory, invasions, and usurpations,
      whether by the Crown officials or by the colonists and individuals,
      are illegal, because all have been accomplished contrary to the
      orders of the Spanish sovereigns and in defiance of their authority.

Without pausing to examine the origin or trace the development of the
papal claim to dispose of the western hemisphere, which Las Casas admits
in these Thirty Propositions, it should be borne in mind that Alexander
VI. made no unusual exercise of his prerogative in so doing, nor was there
anybody, whether philosopher, jurist, or statesman, who, at that time,
contested his pretension; arguments which Las Casas presented as almost
axiomatic are now obsolete, and of interest merely as illustrating the
political doctrines of his times.  He was, perhaps, the first to limit the
exercise of the papal power by describing it as conditional, and in
denying that the bull gave the sovereigns of Castile any property rights
in the New World.  According to his doctrines, the Pope was exercising his
purely spiritual power.  Charged by the Founder of Christianity with the
obligation to cause the Gospel to be preached to every creature, he might
delegate to the sovereign of his choice the right, or rather the duty of
sending his subjects to convert the heathen within a prescribed portion of
the Indies—but for no other purpose.  Equally clear is the limitation he
places to the action of the prince.  The latter receives no authorisation
from the Pope to invade, occupy, or govern territory in America.  His
mission is exclusively religious, and any advantage accruing to himself
must be merely incidental.  Since he may not rightfully use force to
establish his rule over the Indians, the rights of sovereignty conferred
by the Bull, only become effective in cases where the native rulers, after
their conversion, voluntarily acknowledge them.

In these definitions, Las Casas had gone far, but his adversaries despite
their subtlety were impotent either to force or inveigle him into a
position, where even constructive heresy and disloyalty might be imputed
to him.  More adroit than they, he skilfully evaded their snares, without
sacrificing one jot of his contention.  The India Council was well
satisfied with his defence of the _Confesionario_, but the resentment of
his enemies was inflamed the more by his victory, and it was felt to be
more than ever necessary to fix upon some one able to refute his arguments
and discredit him in the estimation of statesmen and theologians.

One of the foremost of Spanish theologians and Jurists at that period was
Gines de Sepulveda, whose distinction as a master of Latin style had
caused Erasmus to describe him as the Spanish Livy.  Born in Cordoba of
noble parents in 1490, he had passed many years in Italy and had but
recently returned to Spain, where he was named royal historiographer by
Charles V.  During his sojourn in Rome, Sepulveda had published a dialogue
entitled _Democrates_, in which he sought to prove that war was consonant
with the doctrines of Christianity: “De convenientia, disciplinæ militaris
cum cristiana religione.”

Whether or no Sepulveda was deliberately chosen by the opponents of Las
Casas to dispute the Bishop’s propositions in defence of the Indians, does
not positively appear, (69) but just before the latter returned from
America, he composed a second dialogue, _Democrates II.  De justis belli
causis apud Indios_, in which he upheld the right of the Spaniards to make
war on the Indians.  This dialogue was apparently written in Valladolid
and called forth an episcopal reprimand from the Bishop of Segovia.  The
fraternal admonition of the Bishop, instead of disposing of the subject,
provoked a reply from Sepulveda in the form of an _Apologia_ of an
_Democrates II_.

The India Council having refused to permit the publication of this
dialogue, Sepulveda petitioned the Emperor, who referred the matter to the
Council of Castile.  That body having given its assent, the Emperor signed
a royal cedula at Aranda de Duero, authorising the printing of the book.

In the midst of the interest excited by this controversy, Las Casas
arrived in Spain.  He prevailed upon the Council of Castile to reconsider
its decision, and to submit Sepulveda’s work to the universities of
Salamanca and Alcala, for an opinion on the soundness of his doctrine.
The reply of the universities was adverse, and the authorisation to
publish was consequently annulled. (70)

Prohibited from publishing his book in Spain, Sepulveda sent it to Rome
where the censorship of the press was freer and where, in fact, the
condemned dialogue was printed, together with the author’s _Apologia_
addressed to the Bishop of Segovia.  An edition of the work was prepared
in Spanish for the benefit of those who did not read Latin, but the
Emperor forbade the entrance of the one and the other into Spain.

Las Casas took but the time necessary to master the propositions of
Sepulveda, before he seized the cudgels in defence of his Indians.  From
this moment the controversy took another complexion.  Sepulveda had so far
crossed weapons with learned theologians, men of study rather than of
action, who carried on the dispute along purely scholastic lines and
according to the recognised rules governing debates between scholars.

His new adversary, who was the best informed man in the world on the
special subject under dispute, transferred the debate from academic to
practical ground, of every foot of which he was master.  Though inferior
in learning to the polished humanist, who affected to regard him as a
furious fanatic whose crude Latin shocked his scholarly sensibilities, Las
Casas was his match in fervid eloquence, overmatched him in the ardour of
his feelings, and ended by pulverising him under the weight of facts he
hurled upon him.

The controversy assumed such proportions that the Emperor, in the fashion
of the times, ordered the India Council to assemble in Valladolid in
conjunction with certain theologians and scholars, to decide whether or no
wars for conquest might be justly waged against the Indians. (71) Before
this learned jury both Las Casas and Sepulveda were summoned to appear in

In the first session of the assembly, Sepulveda stated his propositions
and expounded his defence of them, presenting, under four heads, his
reasons why it was lawful to make war on the Indians:

   1. Because of the gravity of their sins, particularly the practice of
      idolatry and other sins against nature.
   2. Because of the rudeness of their heathen and barbarous natures,
      which oblige them to serve those of more elevated natures, such as
      the Spaniards possess.
   3. For the spread of the faith; for their subjection renders its
      preaching easier and more persuasive.
   4. On account of the harm they do to one another, killing men to
      sacrifice them and some, in order to eat them.

These reasons were defended by their author in an able discourse, in which
all the resources of his vast learning and forensic ability were called
into play.

Las Casas occupied five sessions in reading his _Historia Apologetica_,
after which the assembly directed the Emperor’s confessor, Fray Domingo de
Soto, to prepare a summary of the arguments of both parties, of which
fourteen copies should be made for distribution to the members of the

After the reading of Fray Domingo’s summary, which was drawn up with
perfect impartiality and great clearness, Sepulveda presented twelve
objections to the arguments of Las Casas, each of which he argued with
great subtlety and erudition.  The refutation of these twelve objections
by Las Casas, closed this memorable controversy; in none of his writings
is the character of the Protector of the Indians more fully revealed than
in this final discourse before the conference at Valladolid.  To give it
in its entirety would occupy too much space in this place, but the
following translation of the speech with which he introduced his twelve
answers, is worthy of our closest attention.

After the introductory phrases required by the etiquette of such debates
he continued: “So enormous are the errors and scandalous propositions,
contrary to all evangelical truth and to all Christianity that the Doctor
Sepulveda has accumulated, set forth, and coloured with misguided zeal in
the royal service, that no honest Christian would be surprised should we
wish to combat him, not only with lengthy argument, but likewise as a
mortal enemy of Christendom, an abettor of cruel tyrants, extirpator of
the human race, and disseminator of fatal blindness throughout this realm
of Spain.  But the least we could do, having regard to the obligations
imposed by the law of God, is to answer each point here presented, and
this will complete his confusion.”

From this vigorous opening, the Bishop went on to examine the nature of
the Bull of donation and the intention of Alexander VI. in granting it.
He demonstrated the irrefutable fact that the Catholic sovereigns and the
Pope were in absolute agreement, and that the clearness of the language of
the Bull left no room for two interpretations.  The better to illustrate
and drive home this argument, he cited articles from the last will of
Queen Isabella, of which the following translation proves the truth of his

“Forasmuch as when the islands and terra-firma discovered, or to be
discovered, in the Ocean Sea, were granted to us by the Holy Apostolic
See, our principal intention, when we asked the said concession from Pope
Alexander VI. of happy memory, was to provide for attracting and winning
to us the natives, and to convert them to our holy Catholic faith; and to
send to the said islands and and terra-firma, prelates, religious,
clerics, and other learned and God-fearing men, to instruct the
inhabitants in the Catholic faith: and to use all necessary diligence in
teaching them and in introducing good customs among them; all this
according as may be more fully seen in the wording of the said concession.
I therefore very affectionately beseech my lord the King, and I charge and
command the said Princess, my daughter, and the said Prince, her husband,
that they shall execute and accomplish this, making it their principal
object, and using the greatest diligence therein.  They shall not consent,
or furnish occasion that the Indian natives and inhabitants of the said
islands and and terra-firma, sustain any injury, either in their persons
or their belongings, but they shall rather order that they be well and
justly treated.  And if they [the Indians] have received any injury, they
shall correct it and shall take measures to prevent what is conceded to
and enjoined upon us by the wording of the said concession, from being

Reviewing the conditions in the colonies, Las Casas described the richness
of the soil and the vast resources of the Indies, declaring that what was
wanted there, were industrious, honest, and frugal emigrants, who would
develop the agricultural sources of wealth, instead of the horde of
rapacious adventurers and dissolute soldiery then engaged in depopulating
and ruining them.  One by one he stripped Sepulveda’s propositions of
their brilliant rhetoric, exposing the hollowness and sham beneath the
specious reasoning, with which the latter sought to cloak his poverty of
facts. Las Casas closed his case with the following brilliant and
prophetic peroration:

“The injuries and loss which have befallen the Crown of Castile and Leon
will be visited likewise on all Spain, because the tyranny wrought by
their devastations, massacres, and slaughters is so monstrous, that the
blind may see it, the deaf hear it, and the dumb recount it, while after
our brief existence, the wise shall judge and condemn it.  I invoke all
the hierarchies and choirs of angels, all the saints of the Celestial
Court, all the inhabitants of the globe and especially those who may live
after me, to witness that I free my conscience of all that has been done;
and that I have fully exposed all these woes to his Majesty; and that if
he abandons the government of the Indies to the tyranny of the Spaniards,
they will all be lost and depopulated—as we see Hispaniola, and other
islands and three thousand leagues of the continent destitute of
inhabitants.  For these reasons, God will punish Spain and all her people
with inevitable severity. So may it be!”(72)

Language worthy of a saint and a statesman, in which there breathed the
spirit of prophecy, for the system of government, once initiated by the
Spanish officials, was persisted in till the end, while one by one the
great possessions of Spain in the New World were torn from the mother
country.  In no land where freedom of speech was a recognised right, could
an orator have used plainer language, and it shows both the Spanish civil
and ecclesiastical authorities of that age in a somewhat unfamiliar light
that Las Casas not only escaped perilous censures but even won a moral
victory over his talented opponent.  What would have become of the
champion of such unpopular doctrines, attacking as he did the material
interests of thousands of the greatest men in the land, had there been
daily newspapers in those times, it is not difficult to imagine.  Examples
of the defenders of forlorn causes are not wanting in our own day, and the
fate of those who lead an unpopular crusade is the pillory of the press,
which spares no less than did the fires of the mediaeval stake.

The discovery and conquest of the American dominions brought ruin to Spain
as a nation; beyond the tribute of glory which those early achievements
yielded to the Spanish name, the results were disastrous to her power.
During centuries, much of the best blood of her prolific people was
drained by the Americas, so that the population of the peninsula to-day is
little more numerous than in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, whereas
her territory and natural resources might maintain triple their number.


Although the forensic encounter with Sepulveda was the most dramatic
incident in the latter years of the life of Las Casas after his return to
Spain, its conclusion was not followed either by his disappearance or by
any diminution of his activity as Protector of the Indians.  His habitual
residence from that time on became the College of San Gregorio at
Valladolid, where he had the companionship of his devoted friend Ladrada
and the support of an important community of his Order.  Fray Rodrigo, who
also acted as confessor to his old friend, would seem to have been
something of a wag, as it is related of him that when the Bishop had
become somewhat deaf, the confessor might be heard admonishing his
penitent: “Don’t you see, Bishop, that you will finish up in hell because
of your want of zeal in defending the Indians whom God has placed in your

The royal India Council likewise sat in Valladolid, and this fact may
possibly have influenced the indefatigable Bishop’s choice of that city
for his residence.  He had made repeated efforts to obtain from the
Council some positive proclamation or declaration, affirming the freedom
of the Indians as a natural and inalienable right, and at this time, he
succeeded in moving that somewhat lethargic body to express a desire for
more explicit information on this subject, before reaching a decision.  In
response to an order from the Council, Las Casas wrote his treatise
entitled, _The Liberty of the Enslaved Indians_ (_De la libertad de los
Indios que han sido reducidos à la esclavitud_) which, for greater
convenience, he divided into three parts.   The first part treated of the
nullity of the title on which such slavery was based; the second dealt
with the duties of the Spanish sovereign towards the Indians, and the
third was devoted to the obligations of the bishops of the American

In none of his writings are the opinions of Las Casas on questions of the
rights of man and the functions of government more lucidly set forth, and
while many of the arguments on which he rested his propositions, and which
were consonant with the prevalent spirit of his times, would not secure
universal assent in our day, there is not one of the essential principles
of his thesis, that has not since been recognised as inherently and
indisputably just.

His treatise opened as follows:

“I propose in this article to demonstrate three propositions; first, that
all the Indians who have been enslaved since the discovery of the New
World, have been reduced to this sad condition without right or justice;
second that the majority of Spaniards who hold Indian slaves do so in bad
faith; and third, that this imputation is also applicable to such
Spaniards as have not acquired their slaves by right of repartimiento but
have obtained them from other Indians.”

He combated the almost universally accepted theory that justifiable
conquest conferred the right of enslaving the conquered, and he maintained
that the most that might be exacted from a conquered people, even from
those who had actively resisted, was recognition of the government
established by the victorious party; taxes were justifiable and must be
paid, and prisoners of war might be held until the close of hostilities,
while extra burdens might be laid upon the country during the period of
military occupation.  Not one of these principles was at that time acted
upon by any Christian power engaged in war with uncivilised nations, yet
every one of them is now placed beyond dispute by the universally accepted
principles of international law.

Wars unjustly undertaken, according to Las Casas, could confer no rights,
because right is not founded upon injustice, and he defined war as unjust
when undertaken without the sanction of legitimate authority, or even when
ordered by legitimate authority, but without sufficient motive or
provocation.  This touched the question of the Indians very closely, for
most of the Spanish invasions of the different islands and the countries
of the mainland were begun without any authority from, or even the
knowledge of the Spanish government.  No Spanish sovereign ever authorised
the invasion or conquest of any of the countries, on which their distant
and self-styled representatives embarked, for motives of personal
aggrandisement or in a pure spirit of adventure.  Both Velasquez in Cuba
and Cortes in Mexico were destitute of any royal authority for their
undertakings, and only the splendour of their successes sufficed to
condone their license, when they were able to confront the King with a
profitable fait accompli. The royal instructions to all governors and
representatives of the Spanish Crown were, on the contrary, filled with
injunctions to treat the Indians humanely, to provide for their conversion
and instruction by pacific means, and on no account to employ force save
for self-defence.

Las Casas arraigned the conduct of all the colonial governors and
officials, mercilessly attacking and exposing the various deceits and
subterfuges, by means of which they evaded or overstepped their
instructions, provoking the Indians by their inhuman cruelties to acts of
resistance, in order to enslave them as rebels against the royal
authority. He illustrated his accusations with numerous incidents of which
he had himself been a witness.

His denunciations of the judges described them as corrupt and venal, ready
to wink at the scandalous abuses and the violations of the Spanish laws,
which were daily perpetrated under their very eyes, consenting the while
to fill their own pockets with a share of the illicit profits.

Describing the horrors and ravages of the slave-trade, he declared that
the provinces of Guatemala and Nicaragua had been depopulated, while in
the provinces of Jalisco, Yucatan, and Panuco, similar outrages had been
perpetrated, adding that the Germans in Venezuela were even more adroit
than the Spaniards in the nefarious art of raiding Indian villages to
carry off the inhabitants into slavery.  “Your Majesty will see that I do
not exaggerate when I affirm that more than four million men have been
reduced to slavery, all of which has been accomplished in defiance of your
Majesty’s royal instructions.”

Throughout this treatise, Las Casas supports his contentions on citations
from Scripture, and in the second article, dealing with the obligations of
the King towards his Indian subjects, he defines in very plain language
the sanctions on which the royal claims to obedience rest: “The law of God
imposes on the king the obligation to administer his kingdoms in such wise
that small and great, poor and rich, the weak and the powerful, shall all
be treated with equal justice”;—such is his Statement of the King’s duty
and he supports it with quotations from Deuteronomy, Leviticus, the
prophet Isaias, and St. Jerome, concluding with these words: “In fact,
history furnishes examples of God chastising the nations and kingdoms
which have refused justice to the poor and the orphan.  Who shall venture
to say that such may not be the fate of Spain, if the King denies the poor
Indians their just dues and fails to give them the liberty, to which they
have an incontestable right?”

Nor does he limit the King’s responsibility to his personal acts in cases
which may come directly to his knowledge; he is obliged also to see that
his subjects observe one another’s rights and live according to the laws
of civil order and public morality.  The object for which society and
rulers exist is to insure the common weal of all, and no sovereign can
secure this, who does not base his government on the principles of virtue
and justice.  The Spanish king is therefore not only obliged to secure the
liberty of the Indians because justice exacts this of him, but also
because he is bound to prevent his Spanish subjects from acts of
usurpation of the rights of others.  Christian kings have greater duties
than those which weigh upon heathen or heretical rulers, for they are
bound to protect religion, favour its ministers, and spread the faith for
the sanctification of the whole world.  By securing liberty to the
Indians, their conversion would be assured and, all causes of enmity and
hatred against Spaniards being removed, the natives would eagerly welcome
the missionaries and receive their teaching.

The third article of his argument, dealing with the conduct of bishops in
America, rehearses their apostolic duties towards their flocks and
concludes by defining it as an episcopal obligation to represent the
sufferings and wrongs of their defenceless people to the King and the
India Council, and to insist on Justice being done them.

It is a noteworthy fact that such writings and speeches seem to have given
no offence to the Spanish monarch, at that time the most absolute
sovereign in Christendom, and that, not only before the members of the
India Council, but in the estimation of the impartial men of his times,
Las Casas succeeded in disproving the charge of disputing the rights of
the Spanish Crown to sovereignty in the Indies, which his enemies had
maliciously sought to fasten upon him.

Charles V. had already conceded much to the venerable Bishop’s unceasing
and energetic representations.  A royal decree had abolished slavery,
reduced very considerably the number of encomiendas, and had restricted
the authority of the holders of these concessions over their Indians; the
labours of the natives held in encomienda had been greatly lightened and
their rights had been placed on a sure basis, strict instructions having
been given to the civil authorities to correct abuses of power and to
protect the weak.  Wise laws and humane instructions had, however, at no
time been wanting but the benevolent intentions of the Emperor were never
adequately fulfilled by the Spanish colonial officials.  Nevertheless,
much had been accomplished and the condition of the Indians—those of them
who survived—was very different in 1550, from that which prevailed when
Las Casas took up their cause in 1510.  Spaniards and Indians were equal
before the common law of the land, the papal bull had defined, once for
all, the moral status of the latter as responsible beings, and it was
henceforth heresy to sustain the contrary.  The supports on which those
who had contended in favour of tightening the hold of the Spanish
colonists on the natives had, one by one, been knocked from under them and
the way was open for the more complete and practical application of the
royal provisions for the protection of the oppressed peoples.

Prince Philip, to whom the Emperor had granted the sovereignty of Naples,
Sicily, and Sardinia and who was already styled Philip II., left Spain on
July 12, 1554, to celebrate his marriage with the English Queen, Mary
Tudor.   He took in his suite several renowned theologians, amongst whom
was Carranza de Miranda, at that time his confessor and later raised to
the primatial See of Toledo.  The relations between Las Casas and this
important ecclesiastic had been most cordial and the latter had given the
weight of his approval on more than one occasion to the Bishop in his
furious controversies; notably during his contest with Sepulveda and by
defending his _Confesionario_.  Carranza, in his quality of confessor,
exercised a great influence over the mind of Philip II.

                        [Illustration: Philip II.]

                                Philip II.

From a photograph of the original portrait by Pantoja in the Prado Museum.
               (by permission of J. Laurent & Co., Madrid)

At this time a movement was set on foot by the Spanish colonists in
America to obtain from the Crown the establishment of the encomienda
system in perpetuity.  The movement was opportune, for Spanish finances
were at a low ebb and the King, being hard pressed for ready money, might
be tempted to yield his consent to this simple means tor raising the
considerable sum the petitioners would gladly pay.  This important
question seemed likely to be submitted to Philip during his stay in
England, where an agent of the colonists in Peru, Don Antonio Ribera, was
ready to open negotiations. Las Casas, who was sleepless where the
interests of his protégés were concerned, perceived how vitally their
welfare was threatened by this nefarious scheme and vividly realised that
Philip must be prevented, at all costs, from giving his decision during
his absence from Spain.

It would seem from his letter to Carranza, begging him to use his
influence with the King to defer judgment until his return, that the
latter had applied to him for an opinion on the subject.   The
correspondence between the two extended over the several years of the
King’s absence, but of the letters of Las Casas to Carranza, only the
first one, written in 1555, has been preserved.  Its language is no less
vigorous than that which the Protector was accustomed to use when roused
to the duties of his position.

After reviewing the history of the colonists’ relations with the Indians
and recalling the solemn pledge given by Charles V. that his Indian
subjects should never be enslaved, he vehemently threatens the King and
his ministers with the eternal pains of hell if they break that royal
engagement.  In enumerating the obstacles opposed by the Spaniards to the
conversion of the Indians, he writes:

“The third difficulty opposed to the conversion of the Indians is, that
the system of oppression and cruelty followed in dealing with them, makes
them curse the name of God and our holy religion: as the friars in Chiapa
write me, nothing short of a miracle can make the Indians believe in Jesus
Christ, when they see the execrable and manifest contradiction that exists
between His gentle and beneficent doctrines and the conduct of the
Christians, their enemies.  What a scandal is it for them to see the faith
preached by fifteen or twenty monks who are poor, despised, miserably
clad, and reduced to begging their bread, while the crowd of so-called
Christians living in opulence, arrayed in silks, mounted on their horses,
inspires respect, submission, and fear everywhere, and acts in defiance of
the law of God and the teachings of His ministers!”

The Bishop expresses the hope that Carranza will read any passage of his
letter, or indeed the entire composition to the King, if he judges it
wise.  An analogous letter on the same subject, written shortly afterwards
by Las Casas and Fray Domingo de Santo Tomas jointly, was addressed to
Philip II.  Victory crowned the Bishop’s efforts, for the royal decision,
given after King Philip’s return to Spain, was adverse to making the
encomiendas hereditary or perpetual.

Although he had chosen San Gregorio as his residence, Las Casas must have
been frequently and for lengthy periods absent from Valladolid.  A royal
order dated from Toledo on the fourteenth of December, 1562, and signed by
Philip II. directs that the Bishop of Chiapa, on account of his services
to the late Emperor and of those he continues to render to the King, shall
always be provided with lodgings suitable to his rank, in Toledo or
wherever else in the Spanish realm the court may happen to reside.  The
attendance of Las Casas at court would seem, from this document, to have
been frequent.

In 1563, the annual life pension of 200,000 maravedis granted him by
Charles V. in 1555, was increased by Philip II. to the sum of 350,000

In the early months of 1564 Las Casas was in Madrid, lodged in the Convent
of Our Lady of Atocha just outside the city walls.  It was on the
seventeenth of March of that year that he there formally delivered a
sealed document, which he declared to be his signed will, in the presence
of a notary, Gaspar Testa, and seven other witnesses.(74)

At the age of ninety he wrote his treatise in defence of the Peruvians,
the last of his known compositions, and which was written, as is stated in
its text, in 1564.(75) The style and arguments of this work are identical
with those that characterised all his writings.  The last negotiation in
behalf of American interests that Las Casas undertook and saw to a
successful finish, was to obtain the restoration of the Audiencia of the
Confines, to Gracias á Dios, whence it had been recently transferred to
Panama, thus leaving the whole of the former province with no superior
tribunal for the administration of justice.  This business called him from
Valladolid to Madrid in the spring of 1566.

The life of the great Bishop was nearing its end.  He had long outlived
all his early contemporaries, he had enjoyed the confidence and respect of
three of the most remarkable sovereigns, Ferdinand of Aragon, Charles V.
and Philip II., all of whom had received his fearless admonitions, not
only with docility, but had responded with cordial admiration.  Cardinal
Ximenez, Pope Adrian VI., the powerful Flemish favourites, the discoverers
and conquerors from Columbus to Cortes and Pizarro, were all long since
dead, and he had seen numbers of his most powerful enemies in disgrace and
in their graves.  The Spain on which he closed his aged eyes was a
different country from that on which he had first, opened them; the
colonial development in America, the Reformation in Germany, the rise of
England—all these and a hundred events of minor but far-reaching
importance, had changed the face of the world.

The illness which proved fatal to Las Casas overtook him in the convent of
the Atocha in Madrid, and in the latter days of July, 1566, he died.(76)
Only a few days before he breathed his last he wrote the following
sentences, which were probably the last his prolific pen ever traced.
They portray the character and aspirations of this great man more fully,
perhaps, than any other of his multitudinous compositions.

“For the goodness and mercy of God chose to elect me as His minister,
despite my want of merit, to strive and labour for the infinite peoples,
the possessors and owners of those kingdoms of the countries we call the
Indies, against the burdens, evils, and injuries such as were never seen
or heard of, which we Spaniards brought upon them, contrary to all right
and justice; and to restore them to their pristine liberty, of which they
were unjustly despoiled; and to save them from the violent death which
they still suffer, just as for the same cause, thousands of leagues of
country have been depopulated, many in my own presence.  I have laboured
at the Court of the Castilian sovereigns, coming and going between the
Indies and Spain many times during the fifty years since 1514, animated
only by God and by compassion at beholding the destruction of such
multitudes of rational, humble, most kind, and most simple men, all well
adapted to accept our Holy Catholic Faith and moral doctrine, and to live
honestly.  God is witness that I have advanced no other reason.  Hence I
state my positive belief, for I believe the Holy Roman Church, which is
the rule and measure of our faith, must and does hold that the Spaniards’
conduct towards those peoples, their robberies, murders, usurpations of
the territories of the rightful kings and nobles and other infinite
properties, which they accomplished with such accursed cruelties—has been
contrary to the most strictly immaculate law of Jesus Christ and contrary
to natural right.  It has brought great infamy on the name of Jesus Christ
and of the Christian religion, entirely hindering the spread of the faith
and irreparably injuring the souls and bodies of those innocent peoples.
I believe that because of these impious and ignominious acts, perpetrated
unjustly, tyrannously, and barbarously upon them, God will visit His wrath
and ire upon Spain for her share, great or small, in the blood-stained
riches, obtained by theft and usurpation, accompanied by such slaughter
and annihilation of those peoples, unless she does much penance.”

This last profession of the faith he had kept unfalteringly for more than
half a century, was his own supreme vindication and a warning to his

A great concourse of people assembled for the obsequies of the venerable
Bishop, which were celebrated by the Superior of the Monastery, Fray
Domingo de la Para, and his mortal remains, clothed in modest episcopal
vestments, with a wooden crozier in his hand, were laid to rest in the
Capilla Mayor of the church of Atocha. (77)

The remains of great men are frequently denied a permanent resting place
anywhere, and the frequent translations of their bodies not uncommonly end
in their final whereabouts becoming a matter of dispute.  Records are
lost, graves are disturbed, witnesses are untrustworthy, and it finally
becomes impossible to ascertain the last resting place of some great
personage, whose whereabouts during almost every hour of his life were a
matter of public interest and notoriety.  Thus it has happened with the
remains of this illustrious Spaniard and holy Bishop.  According to a
statement made by Juan Antolines de Burgos in his manuscript history of
the city of Valladolid, (78) the bones of Las Casas were afterwards
removed from the Atocha and buried in San Gregorio.  The college buildings
were in part alienated, thus necessitating another removal of the body,
which was then buried in the cloister where the remains of the monks
commonly found sepulture.  In 1670, Fray Gabriel de Cepedo dedicated a
work entitled _Historia de la milagrosa y Venerable Virgin de Atocha_ to
Charles II., in which he contradicts the statement of Juan Antolines by
affirming that Las Casas rested at that time in the church of Atocha.  He
does this as one referring to a commonly known and undisputed fact and his
published statement has never been contradicted.  The old church of Atocha
no longer exists, having been demolished to make way for a new edifice,
still in process of construction.

The will of Las Casas was opened on July 31, 1566, at the instance of Fray
Juan Bautiste, Procurator of the College of San Gregorio in Valladolid, he
being the executor.  It was found that Las Casas had left all his
manuscripts to the college.(79) He requested the rector to have his vast
correspondence, consisting of letters and reports sent to him by friars,
missionaries, and others throughout all America and covering a period of
many years, chronologically arranged and collected in the form of a book,
as these documents would illustrate and confirm the truth of all he had
alleged against the Spaniards and in favour of the Indians. “Let them be
placed,” he wrote, “in the college library ad perpetuam rei memoriam, for
should God decree the destruction of Spain, it may be seen that it is
because of our destruction of the Indies, and His justice may be made




Don Philip our Lord.
Most High, and Mighty Lord.

      As divine Providence has ordained that in his world, for its
      government, and for the common utility of the human race, Kingdoms
      and Countries should be constituted in which are Kings almost
      fathers and pastors, (as Homer calls them) they being consequently
      the most noble, and most generous members of the Republics, there
      neither is nor can be reasonable doubt as to the rectitude of their
      royal hearts. If any defect, wrong, and evil is suffered, there can
      be no other cause than that the Kings are ignorant of it; for if
      such were manifested to them, they would extirpate them with supreme
      industry and watchful diligence.
   2. It is seemingly this that the divine Scriptures mean in the Proverbs
      of Solomon, qui sedet in solio iudicii, dissipat omne malum intuitu
      suo: because it is thus assumed from the innate and peculiar virtue
      of the King namely, that the knowledge alone of evil in his Kingdom
      is absolutely sufficient that he should destroy it; and that not for
      one moment, as far as in him lies, can he tolerate it.
   3. As I have fifty, or more, years of experience in those countries, I
      have therefore been considering the evils, I have seen committed,
      the injuries, losses, and misfortunes, such as it would not have
      been thought could be done by man; such kingdoms, so many, and so
      large, or to speak better, that most vast and new world of the
      Indies, conceded and confided by God and his Church to the Kings of
      Castile, that they should rule and govern it; that they should
      convert it, and should prosper it temporally, and spiritually.
   4. When some of their particular actions are made known to Your
      Highness, it will not be possible to forbear supplicating His
      Majesty with importunate insistence, that he should not concede nor
      permit that which the tyrants have invented, pursued, and put into
      execution, calling it Conquests; which if permitted, will be
      repeated; because these acts in themselves, done against those
      pacific, humble, and mild Indian people, who offend none, are
      iniquitous, tyrannous, condemned and cursed by every natural,
      divine, and human law.
   5. So as not to keep criminal silence concerning the ruin of numberless
      souls and bodies that these persons cause, I have decided to print
      some, though very few, of the innumerable instances I have collected
      in the past and can relate with truth, in order that Your Highness
      may read them with greater facility.
   6. Although the Archbishop of Toledo, Your Highness’ Preceptor, when
      Bishop of Cartagena, asked me for them and presented them to Your
      Highness, nevertheless, because of the long journeys by sea and land
      Your Highness has made, and of the continual royal occupations, it
      may be that Your Highness either has not read them or has already
      forgotten them.
   7. The daring and unreasonable cupidity of those who count it as
      nothing to unjustly shed such an immense quantity of human blood,
      and to deprive those enormous countries of their natural inhabitants
      and possessors, by slaying millions of people and stealing
      incomparable treasures, increase every day; and they insist by
      various means and under various feigned pretexts, that the said
      Conquests are permitted, without violation of the natural and divine
      law, and, in consequence, without most grievous mortal sin, worthy
      of terrible and eternal punishment.  I therefore esteemed it right
      to furnish Your Highness with this very brief summary of a very long
      history that could and ought to be composed, of the massacres and
      devastation that have taken place.
   8. I supplicate Your Highness to receive and read it with the clemency,
      and royal benignity he usually shows to his creatures, and servants,
      who desire to serve solely for the public good and for the
      prosperity of the State.
   9. Having seen and understood the monstrous injustice done to these
      innocent people in destroying and outraging them, without cause or
      just motive, but out of avarice alone, and the ambition of those who
      design such villainous operations, may Your Highness be pleased to
      supplicate and efficaciously persuade His Majesty to forbid such
      harmful and detestable practices to those who seek license for them:
      may he silence this infernal demand for ever, with so much terror,
      that from this time forward there shall be no one so audacious as to
      dare but to name it.
  10. This—Most High Lord—is most fitting and necessary to do, that God
      may prosper, preserve and render blessed, both temporally and
      spiritually, all the State of the royal crown of Castile. Amen.


      The Indies were discovered in the year fourteen hundred and
      ninety-two.  The year following, Spanish Christians went to inhabit
      them, so that it is since forty-nine years that numbers of Spaniards
      have gone there: and the first land, that they invaded to inhabit
      was the large and most delightful Isle of Hispaniola which has a
      circumference of six hundred leagues.
   2. There are numberless other islands, and very large ones, all around
      on every side, that were all—and we have seen it—as inhabited and
      full of their native Indian peoples as any country in the world.
   3. Of the continent, the nearest part of which is more than two hundred
      and fifty leagues distant from this Island, more than ten thousand
      leagues of maritime coast have been discovered, and more is
      discovered every day; all that has been discovered up to the year
      forty-nine is full of people, like a hive of bees, so that it seems
      as though God had placed all, or the greater part of the entire
      human race in these countries.
   4. God has created all these numberless people to be quite the
      simplest, without malice or duplicity, most obedient, most faithful
      to their natural Lords, and to the Christians, whom they serve; the
      most humble, most patient, most peaceful, and calm, without strife
      nor tumults; not wrangling, nor querulous, as free from uproar, hate
      and desire of revenge, as any in the world.
   5. They are likewise the most delicate people, weak and of feeble
      constitution, and less than any other can they bear fatigue, and
      they very easily die of whatsoever infirmity; so much so, that not
      even the sons of our Princes and of nobles, brought up in royal and
      gentle life, are more delicate than they; although there are among
      them such as are of the peasant class. They are also a very poor
      people, who of worldly goods possess little, nor wish to possess:
      and they are therefore neither proud, nor ambitious, nor avaricious.
   6. Their food is so poor, that it would seem that of the Holy Fathers
      in the desert was not scantier nor less pleasing.  Their way of
      dressing is usually to go naked, covering the private parts; and at
      most they cover themselves with a cotton cover, which would be about
      equal to one and a half or two ells square of cloth.  Their beds are
      of matting, and they mostly sleep in certain things like hanging
      nets, called in the language of Hispaniola hamacas.
   7. They are likewise of a clean, unspoiled, and vivacious intellect,
      very capable, and receptive to every good doctrine; most prompt to
      accept our Holy Catholic Faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs;
      and they have as little difficulty with such things as any people
      created by God in the world.
   8. Once they have begun to learn of matters pertaining to faith, they
      are so importunate to know them, and in frequenting the sacraments
      and divine service of the Church, that to tell the truth, the clergy
      have need to be endowed of God with the gift of pre-eminent patience
      to bear with them: and finally, I have heard many lay Spaniards
      frequently say many years ago, (unable to deny the goodness of those
      they saw) certainly these people were the most blessed of the earth,
      had they only knowledge of God.
   9. Among these gentle sheep, gifted by their Maker with the above
      qualities, the Spaniards entered as soon as they knew them, like
      wolves, tigers, and lions which had been starving for many days, and
      since forty years they have done nothing else; nor do they otherwise
      at the present day, than outrage, slay, afflict, torment, and
      destroy them with strange and new, and divers kinds of cruelty,
      never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of, of which some few will
      be told below: to such extremes has this gone that, whereas there
      were more than three million souls, whom we saw in Hispaniola, there
      are to-day, not two hundred of the native population left.
  10. The island of Cuba is almost as long as the distance from Valladolid
      to Rome; it is now almost entirely deserted.  The islands of San
      Juan [Porto Rico], and Jamaica, very large and happy and pleasing
      islands, are both desolate.  The Lucaya Isles lie near Hispaniola
      and Cuba to the north and number more than sixty, including those
      that are called the Giants, and other large and small Islands; the
      poorest of these, which is more fertile, and pleasing than the
      King’s garden in Seville, is the healthiest country in the world,
      and contained more than five hundred thousand souls, but to-day
      there remains not even a single creature.  All were killed in
      transporting them, to Hispaniola, because it was seen that the
      native population there was disappearing.
  11. A ship went three years later to look for the people that had been
      left after the gathering in, because a good Christian was moved by
      compassion to convert and win those that were found to Christ; only
      eleven persons, whom I saw, were found.
  12. More than thirty other islands, about the Isle of San Juan, are
      destroyed and depopulated, for the same reason.  All these islands
      cover more than two thousand leagues of land, entirely depopulated
      and deserted.
  13. We are assured that our Spaniards, with their cruelty and execrable
      works, have depopulated and made desolate the great continent, and
      that more than ten Kingdoms, larger than all Spain, counting Aragon
      and Portugal, and twice as much territory as from Seville to
      Jerusalem (which is more than two thousand leagues), although
      formerly full of people, are now deserted.
  14. We give as a real and true reckoning, that in the said forty years,
      more than twelve million persons, men, and women, and children, have
      perished unjustly and through tyranny, by the infernal deeds and
      tyranny of the Christians; and I truly believe, nor think I am
      deceived, that it is more than fifteen.
  15. Two ordinary and principal methods have the self-styled Christians,
      who have gone there, employed in extirpating these miserable nations
      and removing them from the face of the earth.  The one, by unjust,
      cruel and tyrannous wars.  The other, by slaying all those, who
      might aspire to, or sigh for, or think of liberty, or to escape from
      the torments that they suffer, such as all the native Lords, and
      adult men; for generally, they leave none alive in the wars, except
      the young men and the women, whom they oppress with the hardest,
      most horrible, and roughest servitude, to which either man or beast,
      can ever be put.   To these two ways of infernal tyranny, all the
      many and divers other ways, which are numberless, of exterminating
      these people, are reduced, resolved, or sub-ordered according to
  16. The reason why the Christians have killed and destroyed such
      infinite numbers of souls, is solely because they have made gold
      their ultimate aim, seeking to load themselves with riches in the
      shortest time and to mount by high steps, disproportioned to their
      condition: namely by their insatiable avarice and ambition, the
      greatest, that could be on the earth.  These lands, being so happy
      and so rich, and the people so humble, so patient, and so easily
      subjugated, they have had no more respect, nor consideration nor
      have they taken more account of them (I speak with truth of what I
      have seen during all the aforementioned time) than,—I will not say
      of animals, for would to God they had considered and treated them as
      animals,—but as even less than the dung in the streets.
  17. In this way have they cared for their lives—and for their souls: and
      therefore, all the millions above mentioned have died without faith,
      and without sacraments.  And it is a publicly known truth, admitted,
      and confessed by all, even by the tyrants and homicides themselves,
      that the Indians throughout the Indies never did any harm to the
      Christians: they even esteemed them as coming from heaven, until
      they and their neighbours had suffered the same many evils, thefts,
      deaths, violence and visitations at their hands.

                              Of Hispaniola

      In the island of Hispaniola—which was the first, as we have said, to
      be invaded by the Christians—the immense massacres and destruction
      of these people began.  It was the first to be destroyed and made
      into a desert.  The Christians began by taking the women and
      children, to use and to abuse them, and to eat of the substance of
      their toil and labour, instead of contenting themselves with what
      the Indians gave them spontaneously, according to the means of each.
      Such stores are always small; because they keep no more than they
      ordinarily need, which they acquire with little labour; but what is
      enough for three households, of ten persons each, for a month, a
      Christian eats and destroys in one day.  From their using force,
      violence and other kinds of vexations, the Indians began to perceive
      that these men could not have come from heaven.
   2. Some hid their provisions, others, their wives and children: others
      fled to the mountains to escape from people of such harsh and
      terrible intercourse. The Christians gave them blows in the face,
      beatings and cudgellings, even laying hands on the lords of the
      land.  They reached such recklessness and effrontery, that a
      Christian captain violated the lawful wife of the chief king and
      lord of all the island.
   3. After this deed, the Indians consulted to devise means of driving
      the Christians from their country.  They took up their weapons,
      which are poor enough and little fitted for attack, being of little
      force and not even good for defence; For this reason, all their wars
      are little more than games with sticks, such as children play in our
   4. The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to
      slaughter and practise strange cruelty among them.  They penetrated
      into the country and spared neither children nor the aged, nor
      pregnant women, nor those in child labour, all of whom they ran
      through the body and lacerated, as though they were assaulting so
      many lambs herded in their sheepfold.
   5. They made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his
      head at one blow: or they opened up his bowels.  They tore the babes
      from their mothers’ breast by the feet, and dashed their heads
      against the rocks.  Others they seized by the shoulders and threw
      into the rivers, laughing and joking, and when they fell into the
      water they exclaimed: “boil body of so and so!”  They spitted the
      bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were
      before them, on their swords.
   6. They made a gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch
      the ground, and by thirteens, in honour and reverence of our
      Redeemer and the twelve Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with
      fire, they burned the Indians alive.
   7. They wrapped the bodies of others entirely in dry straw, binding
      them in it and setting fire to it; and so they burned them.  They
      cut off the hands of all they wished to take alive, made them carry
      them fastened on to them, and said: “Go and carry letters”: that is;
      take the news to those who have fled to the mountains.
   8. They generally killed the lords and nobles in the following way.
      They made wooden gridirons of stakes, bound them upon them, and made
      a slow fire beneath: thus the victims gave up the spirit by degrees,
      emitting cries of despair in their torture.
   9. I once saw that they had four or five of the chief lords stretched
      on the gridirons to burn them, and I think also there were two or
      three pairs of gridirons, where they were burning others; and
      because they cried aloud and annoyed the captain or prevented him
      sleeping, he commanded that they should strangle them: the officer
      who was burning them was worse than a hangman and did not wish to
      suffocate them, but with his own hands he gagged them, so that they
      should not make themselves heard, and he stirred up the fire, until
      they roasted slowly, according to his pleasure.  I know his name,
      and knew also his relations in Seville. I saw all the above things
      and numberless others.
   9. And because all the people who could flee, hid among the mountains
      and climbed the crags to escape from men so deprived of humanity, so
      wicked, such wild beasts, exterminators and capital enemies of all
      the human race, the Spaniards taught and trained the fiercest
      boar-hounds to tear an Indian to pieces as soon as they saw him, so
      that they more willingly attacked and ate one, than if he had been a
      boar.  These hounds made great havoc and slaughter.
  10. And because sometimes, though rarely, the Indians killed a few
      Christians for just cause, they made a law among themselves, that
      for one Christian whom the Indians killed, the Christians should
      kill a hundred Indians.

                   The Kingdoms that were in Hispaniola

      There were five very large and principal kingdoms in this island of
      Hispaniola, and five very mighty kings, whom all the other
      numberless lords obeyed, although some of the lords of certain
      separate provinces did not recognise any of them as superior.  One
      kingdom was called Maguá, with the last syllable accented, which
      means the kingdom of the plain.

      This plain is one of the most notable and marvellous things in the
      world, for it stretches eighty leagues from the sea on the south to
      that on the north.  Its width is five leagues, attaining to eight
      and ten, and it has very high mountains on both sides.

   2. More than thirty thousand rivers, and brooks water it among which
      there are twelve as large as the Ebro, the Duero, and the
      Guadalquivir.  And all the rivers that flow from the western
      mountain, which number twenty or twenty-five thousand, are very rich
      in gold.  On that mountain (or mountains) lies the province of
      Cibao, from which the mines of Cibao are named, whence comes that
      famous gold, superior in carat, which is held in great esteem here.
   3. The king, and lord of this realm was called Guarionex.  He had such
      great lords as his vassals, that one alone of them mustered sixteen
      thousand warriors to serve Guarionex; and I knew some of them.  This
      king Guarionex was very obedient, virtuous and, by nature, peaceful
      and devoted to the king of Castile.  And in certain years, every
      householder amongst his people gave by his orders, a bell full of
      gold; and afterwards, because they could not fill it, they cut it in
      two and gave that half full; because the Indians had little or no
      ability to collect, or dig the gold from the mines.
   4. This prince offered to serve the King of Castile, by having as much
      land cultivated as would extend from Isabella, which was the first
      habitation of the Christians to the town of San Domingo, which is a
      good fifty leagues, in order that gold should not be asked of him;
      because he said, and with truth, that his vassals knew not how to
      collect it.  I know he was able to do the cultivation he proposed to
      undertake, most gladly; and it would have rendered the King more
      than three million crowns yearly, and, owing to this cultivation,
      there would have been at the present time in this island fifty towns
      as large as Seville.
   5. The payment they awarded to this great and good king and lord, was
      to dishonour him; a captain, a bad Christian violating his wife.
      Although he might have bided his time to assemble his people and
      revenge himself, he determined to depart alone, and to hide himself
      and die exiled from his kingdom and state, in a province called
      Ciguay, of which the ruler was his vassal.
   6. When the Christians became aware that he was missing, he could not
      hide himself from them.  They made war on that ruler who sheltered
      him, where, after great slaughter, they found and captured him.
      When he was taken, they put him on a ship in chains, to bring him to
      Castile in fetters.  The ship was lost at sea, and many Christians
      were drowned with him, besides a great quantity of gold, including
      the great nugget, which was as big as a cake and weighed three
      thousand and six hundred crowns, because God was pleased to avenge
      such great injustice.
   7. The second kingdom was called Marien, where now is the royal port at
      the end of the plain towards the north.  It was larger than the
      kingdom of Portugal and was certainly much more prosperous, and
      worthy of being populated; and it has many, and high mountains, and
      very rich gold, and copper mines.  Its king was named Guacanagari
      (with the last letter accented) under whom there were many and very
      great lords, many of whom I saw and knew.
   8. In the country of this king, the old Admiral(80) who discovered the
      Indies, first went to stay.  When he discovered the island he, and
      all the Christians who accompanied him, was received the first time
      by the said Guacanagari with great humanity and charity.  He met
      with such a gentle and agreeable reception, and such help and
      guidance when the ship in which the Admiral sailed was lost there,
      that in his own country, and from his own father a better would not
      have been possible.  This I know from the recital and words of the
      same Admiral.  This king, flying from the massacres and cruelty of
      the Christians, died a wanderer in the mountains, ruined and
      deprived of his state.  All the other lords, his subjects, died
      under tyranny and servitude, as will be told below.
   9. The third kingdom and dominion was Maguana, a country equally
      marvellous, most healthy and most fertile; where now the best sugar
      of the island is made. Its king was called Caonabò.  In strength,
      and dignity, in gravity, and pomp he surpassed all the others.  They
      captured this king with great cunning and malice, he being safe in
      his own house.  They put him on a ship to take him to Castile and,
      as there were six ships in the port ready to leave, God, who wished
      to show that this, together with the other things, was a great
      iniquity and injustice, sent a tempest that night that sank all the
      vessels, drowning all the Christians on board of them. The said
      Caonabò perished, loaded with chains, and fetters.
  10. This lord had three or four very brave brothers as powerful and
      valiant as himself.  They, seeing the unjust imprisonment of their
      brother and lord, and witnessing the destruction and slaughter the
      Christians perpetrated in the other kingdoms, (particularly after
      they knew that the king their brother was dead) armed themselves to
      attack the Christians and avenge themselves.  The Christians went
      against them with some horsemen.  Horses are the most deadly arm
      possible among the Indians.  They worked such havoc and slaughter,
      that they desolated, and depopulated half the kingdom.
  11. The fourth kingdom is that which is called Xaragua.  This was as the
      marrow, or the Court of all this island.  It surpassed all the other
      kingdoms in the politeness of its more ornate speech as well as in
      more cultured good breeding, and in the multitude and generosity of
      the nobles.  For there were lords and nobles in great numbers.  In
      their costumes and beauty, the people were superior to all others.
  12. The king and lord of it was called Behechio and he had a sister
      called Anacaona.  Both rendered great services to the King of
      Castile, and immense kindnesses to the Christians, delivering them
      from many mortal dangers: and when the King Behechio died, Anacaona
      was left mistress of the kingdom.
  13. The governor(81) who ruled this island arrived there once, with
      sixty horsemen and more than three hundred foot.  The horsemen alone
      were sufficient to ruin the whole island and the terra firma.  More
      than three hundred lords were assembled, whom he had summoned and
      reassured.  He lured the principal ones by fraud, into a
      straw-house, and setting fire to it, he burnt them alive.
  14. All the others, together with numberless people, were put to the
      sword, and lance.  And to do honour to the Lady Anacaona, they
      hanged her.  It happened that some Christians, either out of
      compassion or avarice, took some children to save them, placing them
      behind them on their horses, and another Spaniard approached from
      behind and ran his lance through them.  Another, if a child was on
      the ground, cut off its legs with his sword.  Some, who could flee
      from this inhuman cruelty, crossed to a little island lying eight
      leagues distant in the sea; and the said governor condemned all such
      to be slaves, because they had fled from the carnage.
  15. The fifth kingdom was called Higuey: and an old queen called
      Higuanama ruled it, whom they hanged.  And I saw numberless people
      being burnt alive, torn, and tortured in divers, and new ways, while
      all whom they took alive were enslaved.
  16. And because so many particulars happened in this slaughter and
      destruction of people, that they could not be contained in a lengthy
      description—for in truth I believe that however many I told, I could
      not express the thousandth part of the whole—I will simply conclude
      the above mentioned wars by saying and affirming, before God and my
      conscience, that the Indians gave no more cause, nor were more to
      blame for all this injustice done unto them, and for the other said
      wickedness I could tell, but omit, than a monastery of good and well
      ordered monks would have given that they should be robbed and
      killed, and that those who escaped death, should be placed in
      perpetual captivity and servitude, as slaves.
  17. And furthermore, I attest, that in all the space of time during
      which the multitudes of the population of this island were being
      killed and destroyed, as far as I can believe or conjecture, they
      did not commit a single mortal sin against the Christians that
      merited punishment by man.  And of those which are reserved to God
      alone, such as the desire of vengeance, hatred and rancour, that
      these people might harbour against such mortal enemies as were the
      Christians, I believe very few of the Indians committed any such.
      They were little more impetuous and harsh, judging from the great
      experience I have of them, than children or youths of ten or twelve
  18. I have certain and infallible knowledge, that the Indians always
      made most just war on the Christians while the Christians never had
      a single just one with the Indians; on the contrary, they were all
      diabolical and most unjust, and much worse than can be said of any
      tyrant in the world; and I affirm the same of what they have done
      throughout the Indies.
  19. When the wars were finished, and with them the murder, they divided
      among them all the men, (youths, women, and children being usually
      spared) giving to one, thirty, to another forty, and to another a
      hundred and two hundred, according to the favour each enjoyed with
      the chief tyrant, whom they called governor.  Having thus
      distributed them, they assigned them to each Christian, under the
      pretence that the latter should train them in the catholic faith;
      thus to men who are generally all idiots, and very cruel, avaricious
      and vicious, they gave the care of souls.
  20. The care and thought these Spaniards took, was to send the men to
      the mines to dig gold, which is an intolerable labour; and they put
      the women into dwellings, which are huts, to dig and cultivate the
      land; a strong and robust man’s work.  They gave food neither to the
      one, nor the other, except grass, and things that have no substance.
      The milk dried up in the breasts of nursing women and thus, within a
      short time, all the infants died.
  21. And as the husbands were separated and never saw their wives,
      generation diminished among them; the men died of fatigue and hunger
      in the mines and others perished in dwellings or huts, for the same
      reason.  It was in this way that such multitudes of people were
      destroyed in this island, as indeed all those in the world might be
      destroyed by like means.
  22. It is impossible to recount the burdens with which their owners
      loaded them, more than three and four arobas(82) weight, making them
      walk a hundred and two hundred leagues.  The same Christians had
      themselves carried by Indians in hamacas, which are like nets; for
      they always used them as beasts of burden.  They had wounds on their
      shoulders and backs, like animals, all wither-wrung.  To tell
      likewise of the whip-lashings, the beatings, the cuffs, the blows,
      the curses, and a thousand other kinds of torments to which their
      masters treated them, while, in truth, they were working hard, would
      take much time and much paper; and would be something to amaze
  23. It must be noted, that the destruction of this island and of these
      lands was begun when the death of the most Serene Queen, Doña
      Isabella was known here, which was in the year 1504.  For up to that
      time, only some provinces in the island had been ruined by unjust
      wars, but not entirely: and these were nearly all kept hidden from
      the Queen.  Because the Queen, who is in blessed glory, used great
      solicitude and marvellous zeal for the health and prosperity of
      these people, as we ourselves, who have seen the examples of it with
      our eyes and touched them with our hands, well know.
  24. Another rule to be noted is this; that in all parts of the Indies
      where the Christians have gone and have passed, they ever did the
      same murder among the Indians, and used tyranny and abominable
      oppression against these innocent people; and they added many more
      and greater and newer ways of torment.  They became ever crueller,
      because God let them precipitate themselves the more swiftly into
      reprobate judgments and sentiments.

                 The Two Islands of San Juan and Jamaica

In 1509 the Spaniards passed over to the islands of San Juan and Jamaica,
(83) which were so many gardens and hives of bees, with the same object
and design they had accomplished in Hispaniola, where they committed the
great outrages and iniquities narrated above.  They even added to them
more notorious ones, and the greatest cruelty; slaying, burning, roasting,
and, throwing the Indians to fierce dogs.  They oppressed, tormented, and
afflicted all those unhappy innocents in the mines, and with other
labours, until they were consumed and destroyed, because there were in the
said isles more than a million souls, and to-day there are not two hundred
in each. All have perished without faith and without sacraments.

                            The Island of Cuba

      In the year 1511 the Spaniards passed over to the island of Cuba,
      (84) which as I said, is as long as from Valladolid to Rome, and
      where there were great and populous provinces.  They began and ended
      in the above manner, only with incomparably greater cruelty. Here
      many notable things occurred.
   2. A very high prince and lord, named Hatuey, who had fled with many of
      his people from Hispaniola to Cuba, to escape the calamity and
      inhuman operations of the Christians, having received news from some
      Indians that the Christians were crossing over, assembled many or
      all of his people, and addressed them thus.
   3. “You already know that it is said the Christians are coming here;
      and you have experience of how they have treated the lords so and so
      and those people of Hayti (which is Hispaniola); they come to do the
      same here.  Do you know perhaps why they do it?”  The people
      answered no; except that they were by nature cruel and wicked.
      “They do it,” said he, “not alone for this, but because they have a
      God whom they greatly adore and love; and to make us adore Him they
      strive to subjugate us and take our lives.”  He had near him a
      basket full of gold and jewels and he said. “Behold here is the God
      of the Christians, let us perform Areytos before Him, if you will
      (these are dances in concert and singly); and perhaps we shall
      please Him, and He will command that they do us no harm.”
   4. All exclaimed; it is well! it is well! They danced before it, till
      they were all tired, after which the lord Hatuey said; “Note well
      that in any event if we preserve the gold, they will finally have to
      kill us, to take it from us: let us throw it into this river.” They
      all agreed to this proposal, and they threw the gold into a great
      river in that place.
   5. This prince and lord continued retreating before the Christians when
      they arrived at the island of Cuba, because he knew them, but when
      he encountered them he defended himself; and at last they took him.
      And merely because he fled from such iniquitous and cruel people,
      and defended himself against those who wished to kill and oppress
      him, with all his people and offspring until death, they burnt him
   6. When he was tied to the stake, a Franciscan monk, a holy man, who
      was there, spoke as much as he could to him, in the little time that
      the executioner granted them, about God and some of the teachings of
      our faith, of which he had never before heard; he told him that if
      he would believe what was told him, he would go to heaven where
      there was glory and eternal rest; and if not, that he would go to
      hell, to suffer perpetual torments and punishment.  After thinking a
      little, Hatuey asked the monk whether the Christians went to heaven;
      the monk answered that those who were good went there.  The prince
      at once said, without any more thought, that he did not wish to go
      there, but rather to hell so as not to be where Spaniards were, nor
      to see such cruel people.  This is the renown and honour, that God
      and our faith have acquired by means of the Christians who have gone
      to the Indies.
   7. On one occasion they came out ten leagues from a great settlement to
      meet us, bringing provisions and gifts, and when we met them, they
      gave us a great quantity of fish and bread and other victuals, with
      everything they could supply.  All of a sudden the devil entered
      into the bodies of the Christians, and in my presence they put to
      the sword, without any motive or cause whatsoever, more than three
      thousand persons, men, women, and children, who were seated before
      us. Here I beheld such great cruelty as living man has never seen
      nor thought to see.
   8. Once I sent messengers to all the lords of the province of Havana,
      assuring them that if they would not absent themselves but come to
      receive us, no harm should be done them; all the country was
      terrorized because of the past slaughter, and I did this by the
      captain’s advice.  When we arrived in the province, twenty-one
      princes and lords came to receive us; and at once the captain
      violated the safe conduct I had given them and took them prisoners.
      The following day he wished to burn them alive, saying it was better
      so because those lords would some time or other do us harm.  I had
      the greatest difficulty to deliver them from the flames but finally
      I saved them.
   9. After all the Indians of this island were reduced to servitude and
      misfortune like those of Hispaniola, and when they saw they were all
      perishing inevitably, some began to flee to the mountains; others to
      hang themselves in despair; husbands and wives hanged themselves,
      together with their children, and through the cruelty of one very
      tyrannical Spaniard whom I knew, more than two hundred Indians
      hanged themselves.  In this way numberless people perished.
  10. There was an officer of the King in this island, to whose share
      three hundred Indians fell; and by the end of three months he had,
      through labour in the mines, caused the death of two hundred and
      seventy; so that he had only thirty left, which was the tenth part.
      The authorities afterwards gave him as many again, and again he
      killed them: and they continued to give, and he to kill, until he
      came to die, and the devil carried away his soul.
  11. In three or four months, I being present, more than seven thousand
      children died of hunger, their fathers and mothers having been taken
      to the mines.  Other dreadful things did I see.
  12. Afterwards the Spaniards resolved to go and hunt the Indians who
      were in the mountains, where they perpetrated marvellous massacres.
      Thus they ruined and depopulated all this island which we beheld not
      long ago; and it excites pity, and great anguish to see it deserted,
      and reduced to a solitude.

                               The Mainland

      In the year 1514 there passed over to the continent an unhappy
      Governor(85) who was the cruellest of tyrants, destitute of
      compassion or prudence, almost an instrument of divine fury.  His
      intention was to settle large numbers of Spaniards in that country.
      And although several tyrants had visited the continent, and had
      robbed and scandalised many people, their stealing and ravaging had
      been confined to the sea-coast; but this man surpassed all the
      others who had gone before him, and those of all the Islands; and
      his villainous operations outdid all the past abominations.
   2. Not only did he depopulate the sea-coast, but also countries and
      large kingdoms where he killed numberless people, sending them to
      hell.  This man devastated many leagues of country extending above
      Deldarien to the kingdom and provinces of Nicaragua inclusive, which
      is more than five hundred leagues; it was the best, the happiest,
      and the most populous land in the world.  There were very many great
      lords and numberless settlements, and very great wealth of gold: for
      until that time, never had there been so much seen above ground. For
      although Spain had been almost filled with gold from Hispaniola, and
      that of the finest, it had been dug by the labour of the Indians
      from the bowels of the earth, out of the aforesaid mines, where, as
      has been said, they perished.
   3. This governor and his people invented new means of cruelty and of
      torturing the Indians, to force them to show, and give them gold.
      There was a captain of his who, in an incursion, ordered by him to
      rob and extirpate the people, killed more than forty thousand
      persons, putting them to the sword, burning them alive, throwing
      them to fierce dogs, and torturing them with various kind of
      tortures: these acts were witnessed by a Franciscan friar with his
      own eyes, for he went with the captain, and he was called Fray
      Francisco de San Roman.
   4. The most pernicious blindness of those who have governed the Indies
      up to the present day, in providing for the conversion and salvation
      of these people, which (to tell the truth) they have always
      postponed, although with words they have represented and pretended
      otherwise, reached such depths that they have commanded notice to be
      given the Indians to accept the Holy faith and render obedience to
      the kings of Castile; otherwise war would be made on them with fire
      and blood, and they would be killed and made slaves etc.
   5. As though the Son of God, who died for each of them, had commanded
      in his law, when he said Euntes, docete omnes gentes that intimation
      should be sent to peaceful and quiet infidels, in their own
      countries, that, if they did not receive it at once, without other
      teaching or doctrine, and that if they did not subject themselves to
      the dominion of a king, of whom they had never heard, nor seen, and
      particularly whose messengers are so cruel, so wicked, and such
      horrible tyrants, they should therefore, lose their rights, their
      lands and liberty, their wives and children, with all their lives;
      such a blunder is stupid and worthy of infamy, obloquy, and hell.
   6. This wretched and unhappy governor, in giving instructions as to the
      said intimations, the better to justify them—they being of
      themselves unseemly, unreasonable and most unjust—commanded these
      thieves sent by him, to act as follows: when they had determined to
      invade and plunder some province, where they had heard that gold was
      to be found, they should go when the Indians were in their towns,
      and safe in their houses; these wretched Spanish assassins went by
      night and, halting at midnight half a league from the town, they
      published or read the said intimation among themselves saying:
      Princes and Indians of such a place in this continent, we make known
      unto you, that there is one God, one Pope, and one King of Castile,
      who is Lord of this country; come at once to render him obedience
      etc. otherwise know that we shall make war on you, kill you, and put
      you into slavery etc.  And towards sunrise, the innocent natives
      being still asleep with their wives and children, they attacked the
      town, setting fire to the houses that were usually of straw, burning
      the children, the women and many others alive, before they awoke.
      They killed whom they would, and those whom they took alive, they
      afterwards killed with tortures, to force them to indicate other
      towns where there was gold, or more than was to be found there; and
      the others that survived, they put into chains as slaves.  Then when
      the fire was extinguished or low they went to look for the gold that
      was in the houses.
   7. In this way and with such operations, were this wretched man and all
      the bad Christians he took with him occupied during the year 1514,
      till the year 1521 or 1522, sending on these raids six or more
      servants, who collected for him a certain portion of all the gold
      and pearls and jewels the Spaniards stole, and of the slaves they
      captured, besides the share that belonged to him as Captain General.
      The officers of the king did the same, each sending as many boys or
      servants as he could.  And also the first bishop of that kingdom
      sent his servants to obtain part of this profit.
   9. As far as I can judge they stole, during that time in the said
      kingdom, more gold than a million crowns; and I believe I understate
      it; and it will not be found that, of all they stole, they sent the
      King more than three thousand crowns.  And they destroyed more than
      eight hundred thousand souls.  The other tyrant governors who
      succeeded them till the year 1533 killed, and allowed to be killed
      the survivors with the tyrannical servitude that followed the war.
  10. Among the other numberless knaveries he committed and permitted
      during the time he governed, was this one; a prince, or lord, having
      of his own will, or more likely out of fear, given him nine thousand
      crowns, he was not satisfied with this sum so he took the said lord,
      bound him seated to a stake, with his feet distended and exposed to
      fire, to force him to give them a larger quantity of gold; and he
      [the chief] sent to his house and brought other three thousand
      crowns; they tortured him again, and as he gave no more gold, either
      because he had none or did not wish to give it, they kept him thus,
      till the marrow oozed out from the soles of his feet; and thus he
      died.  Numberless times they killed and tortured lords in this way
      to get gold from them.
  11. Another time a company of Spaniards, while going to assassinate,
      came to a mountain where a great number of people were sheltered and
      in hiding, to escape from the pestilential and horrible operations
      of the Christians; assaulting it unexpectedly they captured seventy
      or eighty young girls and women; and left many dead whom they had
  12. The next day many Indians assembled and pursued the Christians,
      driven by their anxiety for their wives and daughters to fight; and
      the Christians finding themselves at close quarters, and not wishing
      to disorder their company of horse, drove their swords into the
      bodies of the young girls and women, and of all the eighty they left
      not even one alive.  The Indians writhing with grief cried out, and
      said: “O wretched men, cruel Christians, you kill Iras!” (the women
      in that country are called Iras).  They meant that to kill women is
      a sign of abominable, cruel and bestial men.
  13. Ten or fifteen leagues from Panama there was a great lord called
      Paris, who had great wealth of gold.  The Christians went thither
      and he received them as though they were his brothers: he willingly
      presented the captain with fifty thousand castellanos.  It seemed to
      the captain and to the Christians that one who spontaneously gave
      that quantity, must have a great treasure; which was the aim and
      recompense of their effort.  They dissimulated, saying they wished
      to depart: towards sunrise they returned and attacked the
      unsuspecting town; and they set fire to it and burnt it.  They
      killed and burnt many people, and stole other fifty or sixty
      thousand castellanos, and the prince, or lord fled to escape death
      or capture.
  14. He quickly assembled all the people he could, and in two or three
      days came upon the Christians, who were carrying away his hundred
      and thirty or forty (86) thousand castellanos, and fell upon them
      manfully, killing fifty Christians, recapturing all the gold while
      the others escaped badly wounded.
  15. Afterwards, many Christians turned on the said lord and destroyed
      him and many of his people; they killed the rest with the usual
      servitude, so that to-day there is neither sign nor any vestige
      whatsoever that there was ever a town or born man where formerly was
      thirty leagues of dominion well populated.  The murders and
      destruction done by that miserable man and his company in that
      kingdom which he devastated, are without number.

                        The Province of Nicaragua

      In the year 1522 or 1523 this same tyrant invaded the most
      delightful province of Nicaragua to subjugate it; it was an unlucky
      hour when he entered it.  Who could adequately set forth the
      happiness, healthfulness, agreeableness, prosperity, and the number
      of dwellings and concourse of the people that were there? it was
      truly a marvellous thing to see how full it was of towns, stretching
      for a length of nearly three or four leagues, thickly planted with
      the most marvellous fruit trees; which was the reason that there was
      such an immense population.
   2. So much injury and assassination, so much cruelty, wickedness and
      injustice, was done to those people by that tyrant, together with
      the others, his companions, that human language would not suffice to
      relate it; for he was accompanied by all those who had helped to
      destroy all the other kingdom.  The land being flat and open, the
      natives could not hide in the mountains, and their country was so
      delightful, that it was with difficulty and great grief that they
      brought themselves to abandon it; for this reason they suffered, and
      will suffer great persecutions, and they tolerated the tyranny and
      the slavery of the Christians to the extent of their endurance, and
      because they are naturally a very humble and pacific people.
   3. He sent fifty mounted soldiers, and had the inhabitants of a whole
      province, larger than the country of Rusenon(87) killed with lances,
      without leaving man nor woman, old nor young alive.  He did this for
      a very trifling reason; such as because they did not come as soon as
      he called them, or because they did not bring him enough loads of
      maize, (which is the grain of that country) or enough Indians to
      serve him or some other of his company: the land being flat, no one
      could escape from their horses and from their infernal wrath.
   4. He sent some Spaniards to invade other provinces, which means to go
      and murder the Indians; and he let the assassins bring away as many
      Indians as they pleased from the peaceful settlements, to serve
      them; they put these Indians in chains so that they should not set
      down the loads weighing three arobas that they bound on their backs.
      And it happened sometimes out of the many times he did it, that out
      of four thousand Indians, not six individuals returned alive to
      their homes, because they were left dead by the way.
   5. And when some became tired, or lame on account of the great weights,
      or fell ill through hunger, fatigue and weakness, they cut off their
      heads at the neck so as not to loosen them from their chains, and
      the head fell to one side, and the body to the other.  It may be
      imagined how their companions would feel.  When orders were given
      for similar expeditions, the Indians, knowing from experience that
      none who started ever returned, went weeping, and sighing, and
      saying: “Those are the roads, we trod to serve the Christians; and
      although we laboured hard, we finally returned after some time to
      our own homes and to our wives and children; but now we go without
      hope of ever returning, nor of seeing them again, or of having life
      any more.”
   6. Once, because it suited his inclination to make a new distribution
      of Indians, and also, they say, to take them from his enemies and
      give them to his friends, the Indians were unable to plant their
      crops; and as bread ran short, the Christians took from the Indians
      all the maize they had to maintain themselves and their children; in
      consequence more than twenty or thirty thousand souls died of
      hunger; and it happened, that a certain woman was driven by hunger
      to kill her own son for food.
   7. As each of the towns was a very pleasing garden, as has been said,
      the Christians settled in them; each one in the place that fell to
      his share or, (as they say,) was committed to his charge; each one
      carried on his own cultivation, supporting himself with the meagre
      provisions of the Indians, thus robbing them of their private lands
      and inheritances, by which they maintained themselves.
   8. In this wise the Spaniards kept within their own houses all the
      Indian lords, the aged, the women, and the lads, all of whom they
      compelled to serve them day and night, without rest.  They employed
      even the children, as soon as they could stand, in excess of their
      powers.  And in this way they have wasted, and to-day still waste
      those few that are left, not allowing them to have either a home or
      anything of their own. In this they even surpassed the similar
      injustice they perpetrated in Hispaniola.
   9. They have exhausted and oppressed, and caused the premature death of
      many people in this Province, making them carry planks and timber to
      build vessels in the port, thirty leagues distant; also by sending
      them to seek for honey and wax in the mountains, where they are
      devoured by tigers; and they have loaded and do still load pregnant
      and confined women, like animals.
  10. The most horrible pestilence that has principally destroyed this
      Province, was the license which that governor gave to the Spaniards,
      to ask slaves from the princes and lords of the towns.  Every four
      or five months, or whenever one obtained the favour or license from
      the said governor, he asked the lord for fifty slaves threatening,
      if he did not give them, to burn him alive or to deliver him to
      fierce dogs.
  11. As the Indians usually do not keep slaves and, at most a lord has
      two or three or four, the lords went through their towns and took,
      first all the orphans; next, of those who had two children they
      asked one, and of those who had three, two: and in this way the lord
      completed the number demanded by the tyrant, amidst great wailing
      and weeping in the town, for they seem, more than any other people,
      to love their children.
  12. By such conduct from the year 1523 to 1533, they ruined all this
      kingdom.  During six or seven years, five or six vessels carried on
      this traffic, taking all this multitude of Indians to sell them as
      slaves in Panama and Peru, where they all died.  It has been
      verified and experienced a thousand times that, by taking the
      Indians away from their native country, they at once die more
      easily: because the Spaniards habitually give them little to eat and
      never relieve them from labour, for they are only sold by some and
      bought by others, to make them work.  In this way they have carried
      off more than five hundred thousand souls from this province making
      slaves of people who were as free as I am.
  13. In their infernal wars and the horrible captivity into which they
      put the Indians up to the present time, the Spaniards have killed
      more than another five or six hundred thousand persons, and they
      still continue.  All these massacres have occurred in the space of
      fourteen years.  At present they kill daily in the said province of
      Nicaragua, from four to five thousand persons, with servitude and
      continual oppression; it being, as was said, one of the most
      populous in the world.

                                New Spain

      New Spain was discovered in the year 1517. (88) And the discoverers
      gave serious offence to the Indians in that discovery, and committed
      several homicides.  In the year 1518 men calling themselves
      Christians went there to ravage and to kill; although they say that
      they go to populate.  And from the said year 1518, till the present
      day (and we are in 1542) all the iniquity, all the injustice, all
      the violence and tyranny that the Christians have practised in the
      Indies have reached the limit and overflowed: because they have
      entirely lost all fear of God and the King, they have forgotten
      themselves as well.  So many and such are the massacres and cruelty,
      the murder and destruction, the pillage and theft, the violence and
      tyranny throughout the numerous kingdoms of the great continent,
      that everything told by me till now is nothing compared to what was
      practised here.
   2. Yet, even had we related everything, including what we have omitted,
      it would not be comparable, either in number or magnitude, to the
      acts which, from the said year 1518 till the present day of this
      year 1542 have been committed.  In this day of the month of
      September the gravest and most abominable acts are done and
      committed; because the rule we have mentioned above verifies itself,
      that from the commencement onwards they have ever been increasing in
      greater wickedness and infernal works.
   3. Consequently, from the invasion of New Spain which was on April 18th
      of the said year 1518 till the year 1530, which was twelve entire
      years, the murders and the massacres lasted.  With bloody hands and
      cruel swords the Spaniards continually wrought in nearly four
      hundred and fifty leagues of country belonging to the City of Mexico
      and its surroundings, which numbers four or five great kingdoms, as
      large and much more delightful than Spain.
   4. All these countries were more populous than Toledo, Seville,
      Valladolid, and Zaragoza, together with Barcelona; because these
      cities have not, nor did they ever have so many inhabitants when
      they were at their fullest, as God placed, and as are to be found in
      all the said leagues; to go around which, one must walk more than a
      thousand and eight hundred leagues.
   5. In the said twelve years more than four million souls have been
      killed by the Spaniards with swords and lances, and by burning alive
      women and children, young and old in the said extent of 450 leagues,
      during the time what they call “conquests” lasted.  In fact, they
      were violent invasions by cruel tyrants, condemned not only by the
      divine law, but by all human laws; they were much worse than those
      of the Turks to destroy the Christian Church.  Besides all this,
      there are the deaths they have caused, and cause every day by the
      tyrannical servitude, the daily afflictions and oppressions above
   6. Neither language, nor knowledge, nor human industry could suffice to
      relate in detail the dreadful operations of those public and mortal
      enemies of the human race, acting in concert in some places and
      singly in others, within the aforesaid circuit.  In truth,
      respecting the circumstances and conditions that rendered certain
      deeds more grievous, no exercise of diligence and time and writing
      could hardly explain them sufficiently.  However I will recount
      something of some of the countries, protesting on my oath, that I
      believe I am not telling the thousandth part.

      Among other massacres there was one took place in a town of more
      than thirty thousand inhabitants called Cholula; all the lords of
      the land, and its surroundings, and above all the priests, with the
      high priest came out in procession to meet the Christians, with
      great submission and reverence, and conducted them in their midst to
      lodge in the town in the dwelling houses of the prince, or principal
      lords; the Spaniards determined on a massacre here or, as they say,
      a chastisement to sow terror and the fame of their valour throughout
      that country, because in all the lands the Spaniards have invaded,
      their aim has always been to make themselves feared of those meek
      lambs, by a cruel and signal slaughter.
   2. To accomplish this, they first sent to summon all the lords and
      nobles of the town and of all its dependencies, together with the
      principal lord; and when they came, and began to speak to the
      captain of the Spaniards, they were promptly captured, without any
      one who could give the alarm, noticing it.
   3. They had asked for five or six thousand Indians to carry their
      baggage, all of whom immediately came and were confined in the
      courtyards of the houses.  To see these Indians when they prepared
      themselves to carry the loads of the Spaniards, was a thing to
      excite great compassion for they come naked, with only the private
      parts covered, and with some little nets on their shoulders
      containing their meagre food; they all sit down on their heels, like
      so many meek lambs.
   4. Being all collected and assembled in the courtyard, with other
      people who were there, some armed Spaniards were stationed at the
      gates of the courtyard to guard them: thereupon all the others
      seized their swords and lances, and butchered all those lambs, not
      even one escaping.
   5. Two or three days later, many Indians who had hidden, and saved
      themselves under the dead bodies (so many were they) came out alive
      covered with blood, and they went before the Spaniards, weeping and
      asking for mercy, that they should not kill them: no mercy nor any
      compassion was shown them; on the contrary, as they came out, the
      Spaniards cut them to pieces.
   6. More than one hundred of the lords whom they had bound, the captain
      commanded to be burned, and impaled alive on stakes stuck in the
      ground.  One lord however, perhaps the chief and king of that
      country, managed to free himself, and with twenty or thirty or forty
      other men, he escaped to the great temple, which was like a fortress
      and was called Quu, where they defended themselves during a great
      part of the day.
   7. But the Spaniards, from whom nothing is safe, especially among these
      people destitute of weapons, set fire to the temple and burned them,
      they crying out: “wretched men! what have we done unto you? why do
      you kill us? go then! in Mexico you will find our universal lord
      Montezuma who will take vengeance upon you for us.”  It is said,
      that while those five, or six thousand men were being put to the
      sword in the courtyard, the captain of the Spaniards stood singing.

          Mira Nero de Tarpeya
          A Roma como se ardia.
          Gritos dan niños y viejos,
          Y el de nada se dolia.

   8. They perpetrated another great slaughter in the town of Tepeaca,
      which was much larger and more populous than Cholula; they put
      numberless people to the sword with great and particular kinds of
   9. From Cholula they took their way towards Mexico; and the great king
      Montezuma sent them thousands of presents; and lords and people came
      to meet them with festivities while on their arrival at the paved
      road to Mexico, which is two leagues long, his own brother appeared,
      accompanied by many great lords bearing many presents of gold,
      silver and clothing.  At the entrance of the city he himself
      descended from a golden litter, with all his great court to receive
      them and to accompany them to the palaces, where he had given orders
      they should be lodged; on that same day, according to what was told
      me by some of those present, they managed by some feint, while he
      suspected nothing, to take the great king Montezuma prisoner; and
      then they put him in fetters and placed a guard of eighty men over
  10. But leaving all this, of which there would be many, and great things
      to say, I only wish to relate a notable thing that those tyrants did
      here.  When the captain of the Spaniards went to capture a certain
      other captain, (90) who came to attack him, he left one of his
      captains with, I think, a hundred men or more, to keep guard over
      the king Montezuma; these Spaniards decided to do another
      extraordinary thing to increase the fear of them throughout the
      land, a practice, as I have said, to which they often resorted.
  11. All the Indians, plebeians as well as nobles of Montezuma’s capital
      and court, thought of nothing else but to give pleasure to their
      captive monarch.  Among other festivals they celebrated for him, one
      was the performance in all the quarters and squares of the city of
      those customary dances, called by them mitotes, and in the islands,
      areytos.   In these dances they wear all their richest ornaments,
      and as this is their principal enjoyment and festivity, all take
      part in it.  The greatest nobles and knights and those of royal
      blood, according to their rank, performed their dances and
      ceremonies nearest the buildings where their sovereign was a
  12. More than 2000 sons of lords were assembled in the place nearest to
      the said palaces who were the flower and the best nobility of all
      Montezuma’s empire.  The captain [Alvarado] of the Spaniards went
      thither with a squadron of his men and he sent other squadrons to
      all the other parts of the city, where they were performing the said
      dances, pretending that they went to witness them; and he commanded
      that at a certain hour all should fall upon them.
  13. And while the Indians were intent on their dances in all security he
      cried, Santiago! and fell upon them; with their drawn swords the
      Spaniards pierced those naked and delicate bodies, and shed that
      generous blood, so that not even one was left alive.  The same was
      done by the others in the other squares.
  14. This was a thing that filled all those kingdoms and people with
      amazement, anguish, lamentation bitterness and grief.  And until the
      end of the world, or till they are entirely destroyed, they will not
      cease in their dances, to lament and sing—as we say here in
      romances,—that calamity and the destruction of all their hereditary
      nobility, in whom they had gloried for so many years back.
  15. Upon witnessing such injustice and unheard of cruelty, inflicted
      upon so many innocent and inoffensive people, the Indians, who had
      tolerated with patience the equally unjust imprisonment of their
      supreme monarch, because he himself had commanded them to refrain
      from attacking or making war on the Christians, now took up arms
      throughout the city and attacked the Spaniards, many of whom were
      wounded and with difficulty found safety in flight.
  16. Threatening the captive Montezuma with a dagger at his breast, they
      forced him to show himself on the battlements, and to command the
      Indians to cease besieging the house and calm themselves.  His
      subjects had no mind to obey him any further, but on the contrary,
      they conferred about electing another sovereign and commander who
      would lead them in their battles.
  17. As the captain [Cortes] who had gone to the port, was already
      returning victorious, and had announced his approach and was
      bringing with him many more Christians, the fighting ceased for
      three or four days, until he entered the city.  When he had entered
      and numberless people were assembled, from all the country, the
      fighting became so general and lasted for so many days that the
      Spaniards, fearing they would all perish, decided to leave the city
      by night.
  18. Learning their intention, the Indians killed a great number of
      Christians on the bridges of the lagoon, in what was a most just and
      holy war; for their cause was most just, as has been said, and will
      be approved by any reasonable and fair man.  After the fighting in
      the city, the Christians were re-inforced and executed strange and
      marvellous slaughter among the Indians, killing numberless people
      and burning many alive including great lords. (91)
  19. After the greatest and abominable tyranny practised by these men in
      the City of Mexico, and in the towns throughout the country for ten,
      fifteen and twenty leagues in those parts, during which numberless
      people were killed, this, their tyrannical pestilence passed
      onwards, spreading into, infecting and ruining the province of
      Panuco, where there was a marvellous multitude of people: equally
      marvellous were the massacres and slaughter that they performed
  20. Afterwards they destroyed the province of Tututepeche in the same
      way; then the province of Spilcingo; then that of Colima; each of
      which is larger than the kingdoms of Leon and of Castile.  To
      describe the massacres, slaughter, and cruelty which they practised
      in each, would doubtless be a most difficult thing, impossible to
      confirm and disagreeable to listen to.
  21. Here it must be noted, that the pretext with which they invaded and
      began to destroy all those innocent beings and to depopulate those
      lands which, on account of their numberless populations should have
      caused such joy and contentment to true Christians, was, that they
      came to subject them to the King of Spain; otherwise, they must kill
      them and make slaves of them.  And those, who did not promptly yield
      obedience to such an unreasonable and stupid commission, and refused
      to place themselves in the hands of such iniquitous, cruel and
      brutal men, they declared were rebels, who had risen against the
      service of His Majesty; and thus they wrote from here to our lord
      the King.
  22. And the blindness of those who govern the Indians, did not
      understand nor attend to what is expressed in their laws, and is
      clearer than any of their first principles whatsoever, namely; that
      no one can be called rebel, if he be not first a subject.
  23. Let Christians and those that have some knowledge of God, and of
      reason, and also of human laws, consider to what state can be
      reduced the hearts of whatsoever people who live in security in
      their own country ignorant of having obligations towards any one,
      and who have their own rightful rulers, upon being thus unexpectedly
      ordered to yield obedience to a foreign King whom they have never
      seen, nor heard of, otherwise be it known to you, that we must at
      once cut you to pieces; especially when they actually see the threat
      put into execution.
  24. More dreadful is it that those who obey voluntarily, are put into
      onerous servitude; in which, under incredible labour and tortures
      that last longer than those of death by the sword, they and their
      wives and children and all their race perish.
  25. And although these people, or any other in the world are moved by
      fear or the said threats to yield obedience and to recognise the
      dominion of a foreign King, our blinded people, unbalanced by
      ambitious and diabolical avarice, do not perceive that they thereby
      acquire not a single atom of right, these fears being truly such as
      discourage the firmest men.
  26. To say that natural, human and divine right permits their acts
      because the intention justifies them is all wind: but their crime
      condemns them to infernal fire, as do also the offences and injuries
      done to the Kings of Castile, by destroying these their kingdoms and
      annihilating (as far as they possibly can) their rights over all the
      Indies.  These, and none other, are the services the Spaniards have
      rendered, and do render to-day to the said sovereign kings in these
  27. By this just and approved title, did this tyrant captain send two
      other tyrant captains, much more cruel and ferocious and more
      destitute of compassion and mercy than himself, to the vast, most
      flourishing, most happy and densely populated kingdoms, namely to
      that of Guatemala, on the South Sea; and to that of Naco and
      Honduras or Guaymura, on the North Sea.  They lie opposite one
      another, bordering, but separate, and each three hundred leagues
      distant from Mexico.  He sent one expedition by land and the other
      with ships by sea, each provided with many horsemen and
  28. I state the truth: Out of the evil done by both, and especially by
      him who went to the kingdom of Guatemala,—because the other soon
      died a bad death—I could collect and recount so much wickedness, so
      many massacres, so many deaths, so much extermination, so much and
      such frightful injustice, that they would strike terror to present
      and future ages: and I could fill a big book with them, for this man
      surpassed all the past and the present in the kind and multitude of
      abominations he committed; in the people he destroyed and in the
      countries he devastated, for they were infinite.
  29. The one who commanded the expedition by sea, committed great
      robberies and scandal; destroying many people in the towns along the
      coast.  Some natives came out to receive him with presents in the
      kingdom of Yucatan, which is on the road to the above mentioned
      kingdom of Naco and Guaymura, where he was going; when he arrived
      there, he sent captains and many people throughout that country, who
      robbed, killed and destroyed everything and everybody they found.
  30. One especially of these captains who had mutinied with three hundred
      men, and had entered the country towards Guatemala, advanced
      destroying and burning every place he found, robbing and killing the
      people; he did this diligently for more than a hundred and twenty
      leagues, so that if others were sent in pursuit of him, they would
      find the country depopulated and in rebellion, and would be killed
      by the Indians in revenge for the damage and destruction he had

  31. A few days later they [the Spaniards] killed the principal captain
      who had sent him and against whom he had mutinied.  Afterwards there
      succeeded other most cruel tyrants who, with slaughter and dreadful
      cruelty, and with the capture of slaves and the selling them to the
      ships that brought their wine, clothing and other things, and with
      the usual tyrannical servitude from the year 1524 till 1535, ruined
      those provinces and that kingdom of Naco and Honduras, which truly
      seemed a paradise of delight, and was better peopled than the most
      populous land in the world.  We have now gone through these
      countries on foot and have beheld such desolation and destruction as
      would wring the vitals of the hardest-hearted of men.

      In these eleven years they have killed more than two million souls,
      and in more than a hundred leagues square, they have not left two
      thousand persons, whom they are now daily exterminating by the said

  32. Let us again speak of the great tyrant captain, (92) who went to the
      kingdom of Guatemala, who, as has been said, surpassed all past and
      equalled all present tyrants.  The provinces surrounding Mexico are,
      by the route he took (according to what he himself writes in a
      letter to his chief who sent him), four hundred leagues distant from
      the kingdom of Guatemala: he advanced killing, ravaging, burning,
      robbing and destroying all the country wherever he came, under the
      above mentioned pretext, namely, that the Indians should subject
      themselves to such inhuman, unjust, and cruel men, in the name of
      the unknown King of Spain, of whom they had never heard and whom
      they considered to be much more unjust and cruel than his
      representatives.  He also gave them no time to deliberate but would
      fall upon them, killing and burning almost at the same instant that
      his envoy arrived.

                  The Province and Kingdom of Guatemala

      When he reached this kingdom, he began with a great massacre.
      Nevertheless the principal lord, accompanied by many other lords of
      Ultatlan, the chief town of all the kingdom went forth with
      trumpets, tambourines and great festivity to receive him with
      litters; they served him with all that they possessed, and
      especially by giving him ample food and everything else they could.
   2. The Spaniards lodged outside the town that night because it seemed
      to them to be strong, and that they might run some risk inside it.
      The following day, the captain called the principal lord and many
      others, and when they came like tame lambs, he seized them and
      demanded so many loads of gold.  They replied that they had none,
      because that country does not produce it.  Guiltless of other fault
      and without trial or sentence, he immediately ordered them to be
      burned alive.
   3. When the rulers throughout all those provinces saw that the
      Spaniards had burnt that one and all those chief lords, only because
      they gave them no gold, they all fled from their towns and hid in
      the mountains; they commanded all their people to go to the
      Spaniards and serve them as their lords, but that they should not,
      however, reveal to them their hiding place.
   4. All the inhabitants came to offer themselves to his men and to serve
      them as their lords.  This compassionate captain replied that he
      would not receive them; on the contrary, he would kill them all, if
      they did not disclose the whereabouts of their chiefs.  The Indians
      answered that they knew nothing about them but that the Spaniards
      should make use of them, of their wives and children whom they would
      find in their houses, where they could kill them or do with them
      what they wished.  And this the Indians declared and offered many
   5. Stupefying to relate, the Spaniards went to the houses where they
      found the poor people working in safety at their occupations with
      their wives and children, and there they wounded them with their
      lances and cut them to pieces.  They also went to a quiet, large and
      important town, where the people were ignorant of what had happened
      to the others and were safe in their innocence; within barely two
      hours they destroyed it, putting women, children, and the aged to
      the sword, and killing all who did not save themselves by flight.
   6. Seeing that with such humility, submission, patience and suffering
      they could not break nor soften hearts so inhuman and brutal, and
      that they were thus cut to pieces contrary to every show or shadow
      of right, and that they must inevitably perish, the Indians
      determined to summon all their people together and to die fighting,
      avenging themselves as best they could on such cruel and infernal
      enemies; they well knew, however, that being not only unarmed but
      also naked and on foot, they could not prevail against such fierce
      people, mounted and so well armed, but must in the end be destroyed.
   7. They constructed some pits in the middle of the streets, covered
      over with broken boughs of trees and grass, completely concealing
      them: they were filled with sharp stakes hardened by fire which
      would be driven into the horses’s bellies if they fell into the
      pits.  Once, or twice, did some horses fall in but not often,
      because the Spaniards knew how to avoid them.  In revenge, the
      Spaniards made a law, that all Indians of whatsoever rank and age
      whom they captured alive, they would throw into the pits.  And so
      they threw in pregnant and confined women, children, old men and as
      many as they could capture who were left stuck on the stakes, until
      the pits were filled: It excited great compassion to see them,
      particularly the women with their children.
   8. They killed all the others with lances and knives; they threw them
      to savage dogs, that tore them to pieces and ate them; and when they
      came across some lord, they accorded him the honour of burning in
      live flames.  This butchery lasted about seven years from 1524 to
      1531. From this may be judged what numbers of people they destroyed.
   9. Among the numberless horrible operations that this unhappy and
      accursed tyrant performed in this kingdom, together with his
      brothers, (for his captains and the others who helped him, were not
      less unhappy and senseless than he) was one very notorious one.  He
      went to the province of Cuzcatan, in which, or not far distant,
      there is the town of San Salvador, which is a most delightful place
      extending all along the coast of the South Sea from forty to fifty
      leagues: and the town of Cuzcatan, which was the capital of the
      province, gave him the kindest of welcomes, sending him more than
      twenty or thirty Indians loaded with fowls and other provisions.
  10. When he arrived, and had received the gift, he commanded that each
      Spaniard should take from that multitude of people, as many Indians
      as he pleased for his service during their stay there, whose duty
      should be to bring them everything they needed.  Each Spaniard took
      a hundred, or fifty or as many as he reckoned would be sufficient
      for his service, and those innocent lambs bore with the
      distribution, and served with all their strength, and almost adored
  11. In the meantime this captain asked the lords to bring him much gold,
      because it was principally to that end that they came.  The Indians
      replied that they were happy to give all the gold they had, and they
      collected a very great quantity of the hatchets they use, which are
      made of gilded copper and look like gold, though there is little on
      them.  The captain ordered that they should be tested and because he
      saw they were of copper, he said to the Spaniards: “to the devil
      with such a country! let us leave it since there is no gold and let
      each one put the Indians who serve him, in chains, and I will order
      that they be branded as his slaves.”  This was done, and they marked
      as slaves with the King’s brand, all they could bind. And I saw the
      son of the prince of that town thus branded.
  12. When those Indians who escaped and the others throughout the land
      beheld such great iniquity, they began to collect and to arm
      themselves.  The Spaniards did the greatest slaughter and massacre
      among them, after which they returned to Guatemala where they built
      a town; and it is that one which has now been by righteous decree of
      divine justice, destroyed by three deluges together: the one of
      water, the other of earth and the third of stones much bigger than
      ten, and twenty oxen.
  13. Having thus killed all the lords and the men who could have made
      war, they put all the others into the aforesaid infernal slavery;
      they demanded slaves as tribute, so the Indians gave their sons and
      daughters as they have no other slaves, all of whom they loaded into
      ships and sent to be sold in Peru.  By other massacres and murders,
      besides the above, they have destroyed and devastated a kingdom more
      than a hundred leagues square, one of the happiest in the way of
      fertility and population in the world.  This same tyrant wrote that
      it was more populous than the kingdom of Mexico; and he told the
  14. He and his brothers, together with the others, have killed more than
      four or five million people in fifteen or sixteen years, from the
      year 1524 till 1540, and they continue to kill and destroy those who
      are still left; and so they will kill the remainder.
  15. It was his custom when he went to make war on some town or province,
      to take with him as many of the Indians as he could, to fight
      against the others; and as he led ten or twenty thousand and gave
      them nothing to eat, he allowed them to eat the Indians they
      captured.  And so a solemn butchery of human flesh took place in his
      army where, in his presence, children were killed and roasted; and
      they would kill a man only to eat his hands and feet, which were
      esteemed the best bits.  And all the people of the other countries,
      hearing of these villainies, were so terror stricken they knew not
      where to hide themselves.
  16. They killed numberless people with the labour of building boats.
      From the South Sea to the North, a distance of a hundred and thirty
      leagues, they led the Indians loaded with anchors weighing seventy
      and eighty pounds each—some of which wore into their shoulders and
      loins.  They also carried much artillery in this way on the
      shoulders of those poor naked creatures; and I saw many of them
      loaded with artillery, suffering along the roads.
  17. They deprived the husbands of their wives and daughters, and gave
      them to the sailors and soldiers, to keep them contented and bring
      them on board the ships.  They crowded Indians into the ships, where
      they all perished of hunger and thirst.  And in truth, were I to
      recount his cruelties one by one, I could make a big book that would
      astonish the world.
  18. He built two fleets, each composed of many ships, with which he
      burnt, as though with fire from heaven, all those countries.  Of how
      many did he make orphans! Of how many did he take away the children!
      How many did he deprive of their wives! how many wives did he leave
      without husbands! Of what adulteries, rapes and violence was he the
      cause! how many did he deprive of liberty! what anguish and calamity
      were suffered by many people because of him! what tears did he cause
      to be shed! what sighs! what groans! what solitude in this life and
      of how many has he caused the eternal damnation in the next! not
      only of the Indians—who were numberless—but of the unhappy
      Christians, of whose company he made himself worthy, with such
      outrages, most grave sins and execrable abominations.  And I pray
      God, that he may have had compassion on him and be appeased with the
      bad death to which he at last brought him. (93)

                     New Spain and Panuco and Xalisco

      After the great cruelties and massacres, that have been described
      (besides those not mentioned) had been committed in the provinces of
      New Spain and that of Panuco another senseless and cruel tyrant(94)
      arrived in Panuco in the year 1525.  By committing great cruelty and
      putting many in irons, and enslaving great numbers of freemen in the
      ways above told, and sending shiploads of them to the islands of
      Cuba and Hispaniola, where they could best he sold, he finished
      devastating all that province.  Eighty Indians, reasonable beings,
      were given in exchange for a horse.
   2. From Panuco, he was sent to govern the city of Mexico and all New
      Spain as President, with other great tyrants as Auditors: and the
      great evils, many sins and the amount of cruelty, robbery, and
      abomination he and they together committed, are beyond belief.  They
      thus reduced all that country to such extreme ruin, that in two
      years they would have brought New Spain to the condition of the
      island of Hispaniola, had God not prevented them by the resistance
      of the Franciscan friars and afterwards, by the appointment of a
      Royal Audiencia composed of good men, friendly to all virtue.
   3. One of this man’s companions forced eight thousand Indians to work,
      without any payment or food, at building a wall around his great
      garden; they dropped dead from hunger but he showed no concern
   4. When this president, of whom I said he finished devastating Panuco,
      learned that the said good royal Audiencia was coming, he found an
      excuse to go inland to discover some place where he might tyrannise;
      he forced fifteen, or twenty thousand men of the province of Mexico
      to carry the baggage of his expedition, of whom not two hundred
      returned, all the rest having perished under his tyranny.
   5. He arrived in the province of Mechuacan, which is forty leagues
      distant from Mexico and similar to it, both in prosperity, and in
      the number of its people.  The king and ruler came out to receive
      him with a procession of numberless people, rendering a thousand
      services and making him presents; he at once took the said king
      prisoner because he was reputed to have great riches of gold and
      silver: to force him to surrender his many treasures, the tyrant
      began to put him to the following tortures.
   6. Having put his feet in stocks, with his body stretched and his hands
      tied to pieces of wood, they placed a pan of fire near his feet, and
      a boy with a sprinkler soaked in oil, sprinkled them every now and
      then to burn the skin well.  On the one side there stood a cruel man
      with a loaded arbalist aimed at his heart: on the other stood
      another holding a terrible and fierce dog which, had he let it,
      would have torn the king to pieces in a moment; and thus they
      tortured him to make him disclose the treasures; until a Franciscan
      monk, being informed of it, delivered him from their hands, though
      he died at last of his tortures.  They tortured and killed many
      lords and princes of the provinces in like fashion, to make them
      give up their gold and silver.
   7. At this time a certain tyrant, going as inspector rather of the
      purses and the property of the Indians than of their souls and
      bodies, found that some Indians had hidden their idols, as the
      Spaniards had never taught them about another better God.  He took
      the lords prisoner till they gave him the idols, thinking they would
      be of gold or silver, and because they were not, he punished them
      cruelly and unjustly.
   8. And not to be defrauded of this purpose, which was to rob, he
      compelled the said lords to buy back the idols from him: they bought
      them with such gold and silver as they could find, to adore them as
      their God like they were accustomed.  These are the works these
      wretched Spaniards perform, and the example that they give, and the
      honour they procure for God in the Indies.
   9. This great tyrant passed from the province of Mechuacan into that of
      Xalisco, which was as full of people as a hive is of bees, most
      populous and most prosperous, because it is one of the most fertile
      and marvellous in the Indies.  There was a certain town whose houses
      extended nearly seven leagues.  On his arrival there, the lords and
      people came joyfully forth, bearing gifts, as all the Indians are in
      the habit of doing when they go to receive any one.
  10. He began to commit the usual cruelties and wickedness as all there
      are in the habit of doing, and much more besides, to obtain the
      object they hold as God, which is gold.
  11. He burnt the towns, captured the lords, tortured them—made slaves of
      everybody he captured and led numbers away in chains.  Women just
      confined were loaded down with the baggage they carried for the
      wicked Christians and, not being able to carry their infants for
      fatigue and the weakness of hunger, they threw them by the roadside
      where numbers perished.
  12. One wicked Christian having seized a maid by force, to sin with her,
      the mother sprang to tear her away from him, but he seized a dagger,
      or sword, and cut off the mother’s hand; and because the maid would
      not consent, he stabbed her and killed her.
  13. Among many other free people he unjustly caused to be marked as
      slaves, were four thousand five hundred men, women, and nursing
      children of a year old; others also of two, three, four and five
      years old, although they went forth peacefully to meet him; there
      were numberless others that were not counted.
  14. When the countless iniquitous and infernal wars and massacres were
      terminated, he laid all that country under the usual, pestilential
      and tyrannical servitude to which all the tyrant Christians of the
      Indies are in the habit of reducing these peoples.  In which he
      consented that his own majordomos and all the others, should use
      cruelty and unheard of tortures to extract gold and tribute from the
  15. One majordomo of his killed many peaceable Indians, by hanging,
      burning them alive, throwing them to fierce dogs, and cutting off
      their feet and hands and tearing out their tongues and hearts, for
      no other reason than to frighten them into submission and into
      giving him gold and tribute, as soon as they recognised him as the
      same celebrated tyrant.  He also gave them many cruel beatings,
      cudgellings, blows and other kinds of cruelty every day and every
  16. It is told of him that he destroyed and burnt eight hundred towns in
      that kingdom of Xalisco: he goaded the Indians to rebellion out of
      sheer desperation, and after they saw such numbers perish so
      cruelly, they killed some Spaniards, in which they were perfectly
      justified, and then retreated to the mountains.
  17. Afterwards, the injustice and oppression of other recent tyrants who
      passed that way to destroy other provinces—which they called
      _discovering_ them,—drove many Indians to unite and to fortify
      themselves among certain cliffs: against them the Spaniards have
      again perpetrated such cruelty, killing numberless people, that they
      have almost finished depopulating and destroying all that large
  18. These wretched, blind men whom God has permitted to yield to
      reprobate appetite, do not perceive the Indians’ cause, or rather
      the many causes sanctioned by every justice, and by the laws of
      nature, of God and of man, to cut them to pieces, whenever they have
      the strength and weapons, and to drive them from their countries:
      nor do they perceive the iniquity and great injustice of their own
      pretensions, which are condemned by all laws, not to mention the
      many outrages, tyrannies and grave and inexpiable sins they have
      committed against the Indians, by repeatedly making war on them:
      seeing nothing of this, they think and say and write, that the
      victories they obtain over the innocent Indians by destroying them,
      are all conceded to them by their God, because their iniquitous wars
      are just.  Almost as though they rejoiced, and glorified, and
      rendered thanks to God for their tyranny: like those tyrant bandits
      did of whom the prophet Zacharias says in chapter eleven Pasce
      pecora occisionis, quæ qui occidebant non dolebant, sed dicebant:
      Benedictus Deus, quia divites facti sumus.

                          The Kingdom of Yucatan

      In the year 1526, by lying and deceiving and by making offers to the
      King, as all the other tyrants have done till now to obtain offices
      and positions, so as to rob, another unhappy man(95) was elected
      governor of the kingdom of Yucatan.
   2. This kingdom possessed a dense population, because the country is
      very healthy and abounding much more than Mexico in provisions and
      fruit: and honey was particularly abundant, more so than in any
      other part of the Indies thus far discovered.
   2. The said kingdom has a circumference of about three hundred leagues.
      Its people were famous among all those of the Indies for prudence
      and cleanliness, and for having fewer vices and sins than any other;
      and they were very willing and worthy of being brought to the
      knowledge of God.  A great town might have been built there by the
      Spaniards where they might have lived as in a terrestrial paradise
      had they been worthy; but, on account of their great avarice,
      stupidity and grave sins they were not; just as they have not been
      worthy to possess the many other countries that God has disclosed to
      them, in the Indies.
   4. This tyrant, with three hundred men whom he brought with him, began
      by making cruel war on those good and innocent people, who kept
      within their houses without offending any one; and they killed and
      destroyed countless people.
   5. The country produces no gold, and if it had he would have used up
      the people by working them in the mines; to coin gold therefore out
      of the bodies and souls of those for whom Jesus Christ died, he made
      slaves indifferently of all whom he did not kill; many ships were
      attracted thither by the news that slaves were to be had, all of
      which he sent back loaded with human beings whom he sold for wine,
      oil, vinegar, pork, clothing, horses and whatever else he and his
      men thought they needed.
   6. He selected the most beautiful maid from fifty or a hundred, and
      gave her to him who chose her, in exchange for an aroba of wine, or
      oil, or for a pig: and similarly a handsome boy, chosen from among
      two hundred or three hundred, for the same amount.  One boy, who
      seemed to be the son of a prince was given in exchange for a cheese;
      and a hundred people for a horse.
   7. He continued with these operations from the year 1526 to 1533 which
      were seven years, ruining and depopulating those countries, and
      killing those people without pity, till news of the riches of Peru
      reached the place and the Spaniards left him, and that hell ceased
      for some days.
   8. Afterwards, however, his ministers returned to commit more great
      evils, robbery, wickedness, and great offence against God: and
      neither have they ceased at the present time.  Thus have they almost
      entirely depopulated all those three hundred leagues that were, as
      has been said, so densely peopled.
   9. No one could believe, neither could the particular cases of cruelty
      that were done here, be related.  I will only tell of two or three,
      that I remember.
  10. On one occasion these wretched Spaniards set out with fierce dogs to
      hunt Indians, both women and men, and an Indian woman who was too
      ill to escape, took a cord and, so that the dogs should not tear her
      to pieces as they tore the others, she tied her little son of one
      year to one foot, and then hanged herself on a beam; she was not
      quick enough before the dogs came up and tore the child limb from
      limb, although a friar baptised it before it expired.
  11. When the Spaniards were leaving the kingdom, one of them asked the
      son of a lord of a certain town or province to go with him; the
      child answered, that he did not wish to leave his country: the
      Spaniard replied, “come along with me, or I will cut off your ears”;
      as the boy said that he would not, the man seized a dagger and cut
      off one of his ears, and then the other; and on the boy still saying
      that he would not leave his country, he slit his nostrils, laughing
      as though he were only giving him a pinch.
  12. This lost soul lauded himself, and shamelessly boasted before a
      venerable monk that he tried his best to get many Indian women with
      child, because when they were pregnant he got a better price on
      selling them for slaves.
  13. In this kingdom, or possibly in a province of New Spain, a Spaniard
      went hunting game, or rabbits, with his dogs; one day, not finding
      anything to hunt, it seemed to him that the dogs were hungry, so he
      seized a little child from its mother and cut off its arms and legs
      with a dagger, giving each dog its portion and when they had eaten
      these pieces he threw that little body on the ground for all of them
  14. Consider only the inhumanity of the Spaniards in these parts and how
      God has let them fall into reprobate appetite; consider of what
      account they hold these people who are created in God’s image and
      redeemed by His blood. But we shall see worse things below.
  15. Leaving the infinite and unheard of cruelties perpetrated by those
      who call themselves Christians, in this kingdom where there is no
      justice worth speaking of, I will conclude with this only: that when
      all the infernal tyrants had left, eager for and blinded by the
      riches of Peru, Fray Jacomo proceeded, with four monks of his Order
      of St. Francis, to that kingdom, to pacify it, and to preach and
      bring to Jesus Christ the remnant of people left from the infernal
      harvesting and the tyrannical massacres committed by the Spaniards
      during seven years; and I think that these monks went there in the
      year thirty-four.
  16. They sent ahead certain Indians from the province of Mexico as
      messengers, to inquire whether the natives were satisfied that the
      said monks should enter their country, to bring them news of the one
      only God, who is God and true Lord of all the world.
  17. They [the Indians] assembled many times and consulted about the
      thing, having first made many inquiries as to what sort of men these
      were, who called themselves _fathers_ and _brothers_, and as to what
      they laid claim; and in what they were different from the Christians
      from whom they had suffered so many offences and such injustice.
  18. They resolved at last to receive them, on the condition that they
      came alone with no Spaniards.  The monks promised this because the
      Viceroy of New Spain had granted them this privilege and had given
      orders that no more Spaniards except the monks were to be allowed to
      enter the country, nor should the Indians suffer any harm from the
  19. The friars, as is their custom, preached to those people the gospel
      of Christ, and the holy intentions of the king of Spain towards
      them.  With such love and pleasure did they receive the doctrine and
      example of the monks, and so greatly did they rejoice over the news
      of the kings of Castile, of whom in all the past seven years the
      Spaniards had never given them information nor that there was any
      king other than he, who tyrannised and destroyed here, that after
      the monks had preached there forty days, the lords of the country
      brought and consigned to them all their idols that they might burn
  20. And afterwards they gave them their own children, whom they love
      more than the light of their eyes, that they might train them.   And
      they built them churches, monasteries and houses: and friars, were
      invited to other provinces, to preach and bring the natives to the
      knowledge of God and of him whom they called the great king of
  21. And, persuaded by the monks, the Indians did a thing never done
      again up to the present day; and all that some of those Tyrants
      pretend about those kingdoms being destroyed by the friars, is
      falsehood and lies.
  22. Twelve or fifteen lords, each ruling many vassals and large
      territories, assembled their people and, after taking their votes
      and consent, subjected themselves of their own will to the dominion
      of the kings of Castile, receiving the Emperor, as King of Spain,
      for their supreme and universal sovereign; and they made some sinas,
      like signatures, which I have in my possession, together with the
      attestations of the said friars.
  23. Just when this growth of faith inspired the friars with great joy
      and hope of drawing to Jesus Christ the still numerous people of
      that kingdom who survived the murders and unjust wars, eighteen
      Spanish tyrants on horse entered a certain part of the country with
      twelve others on foot, which makes thirty, and they brought with
      them many loads of idols taken from the Indians in other provinces.
  24. And the captain of the said thirty summoned a lord of the country
      where he had entered, and told him that he must take those loads of
      idols and distribute them throughout his country, trading each idol
      for an Indian man or woman, to make them slaves; he threatened to
      make war on the chief if he refused.
  25. Forced by fear, the said lord distributed the idols throughout all
      this territory and commanded all his vassals that they should accept
      and adore them, and give him Indian men and women as slaves for the
      Spaniards.  In alarm, the Indians who had two children gave one of
      them, and those who had three gave two; and in this way they
      concluded that sacrilegious commerce and the lord, or prince
      satisfied the Spaniards.
  26. One of these impious and infernal bandits, called Juan Garcia, when
      ill and near death, had under his bed two loads of idols and he
      commanded an Indian woman who served him, to be very careful not to
      exchange those idols for fowls, but each one for a slave because
      they were very valuable.  And finally with this testament and
      occupied with this thought the unhappy man died.  And who doubts
      that he is buried in hell?
  27. Consider therefore of what profit are the religion and the examples
      of Christianity of the Spaniards who go to the Indies; what honour
      they procure for God; how they work that he may be known and adored
      by those people; what care they take that His holy faith be sown,
      grow and expand in those souls.  And judge whether this be a less
      sin than Jeroboam’s qui peccare fecit Israel by making two golden
      calves, for the people to adore.  Or whether it equals that of Judas
      or causes more scandal.
  28. These then are the deeds of the Spaniards who go to the Indies; in
      their desire for gold they have numberless times sold, and do sell,
      and have forsworn Jesus Christ.
  29. When the Indians saw that the promise the monks made them that the
      Spaniards should not enter those provinces did not come true, and
      that the same Spaniards brought their idols from other countries to
      sell, after they had given all their own gods to the monks to be
      burned, so that they might adore the one true God, they became
      tumultuous and the whole country was enraged with the friars, to
      whom they said:
  30. Why have you lied and deceived us saying that Christians could not
      enter this country?  And why have you burnt our gods when your
      Christians bring gods from other provinces to sell to us?  Were
      perhaps our gods not better than those of other nations?
  31. The friars having nothing to reply, calmed them as best they could.
      They sought out the thirty Spaniards, telling them the harm they had
      done and beseeching them to depart, but they would not go; on the
      contrary they gave the Indians to understand, that it was the friars
      themselves who had made them come there,—which was the height of all
  32. At last the Indians determined to kill the friars; being warned by
      some Indian, the latter escaped one night.  And when the friars had
      left, and the Indians perceived their innocence and virtue and the
      malice of the Spaniards, they sent messengers a distance of fifty
      leagues after them, praying them to return, and asking their pardon
      for the anxiety they had caused them.
  33. The friars, being servants of God and zealous for those souls, gave
      them credence, and returned to the country where they were received
      like angels, the Indians rendering them a thousand services; and
      they stayed there four or five months longer.
  34. As that country was so distant from New Spain, the Viceroy’s efforts
      to expel those Christians from it were fruitless, and they persisted
      in remaining there although he had them proclaimed traitors; and
      because they never ceased their outrages and habitual oppression of
      the Indians, it seemed to the monks that, sooner or later the
      natives would become disgusted with such perverse works, and that
      perhaps the evil consequences would fall on them, especially as the
      evil deeds of the Spaniards constantly disturbed the Indians and
      prevented them from preaching to them in tranquillity.  They
      therefore determined to abandon the kingdom.
  35. Thus the country was left without the light and help of doctrine;
      and those souls were abandoned to the obscurity of ignorance and
      misery, in which they formerly were.  The Indians were deprived,
      till better times should come, of assistance and the diffusion of
      the knowledge of God, which they had been already receiving with
      eagerness; it was just as though we were to deprive plants of water
      a few days after planting them: and this was brought about by the
      inexpiable fault and consummate malice of those Spaniards.

                       The Province of Santa Maria

      The province of Santa Marta was a country where the Indians had a
      great deal of gold because both it and the places round about have
      rich mines which were diligently worked.  And for this reason, from
      the year 1498 till the present 1542, numberless Spanish tyrants have
      continually gone there with ships to ravage and kill those people
      and to steal their gold.  They afterwards returned in the ships with
      which they made numerous expeditions, murdering and massacring, with
      notorious cruelty; this commonly occurred along the seacoast and a
      few leagues inland, till the year 1523.
   2. In the year 1523 some Spanish tyrants went to take up their abode
      here. And because the country, as has been said, was rich, divers
      captains succeeded one another, each crueller than the other, so
      that it seemed as though each had made a vow to practise more
      exorbitant evils and cruelty than the other, in verification of the
      rule we have given above.
   3. In the year 1529 there arrived a great tyrant accompanied by many
      men, devoid of any fear of God or any mercy on mankind; so great
      were the massacres, slaughter and impiety he perpetrated, that he
      surpassed all his predecessors.  During the space of six, or seven
      years that he lived, he and his men stole much treasure. (96)
   4. He died without sacraments after also avoiding the commission of
      investigation met on his account; and afterwards, other murderous
      and thieving tyrants succeeded, who continued to destroy those
      people who had survived the treatment and cruel swords of their
   5. They marched far inland, ruining and exterminating large and
      numerous provinces; killing, and making slaves of their people in
      the ways above told of the others, putting lords and their vassals
      to grievous tortures to force them to disclose the gold and the town
      where it was to be had: as has been said they surpassed, both in
      number and quality, the operations of all their predecessors so that
      from the said year 1529, till to-day, they have devastated in those
      parts more than four hundred leagues of country, which was as
      densely peopled as the other.
   6. I truthfully declare that if I had to relate singly the evil, the
      massacres, the destruction, injustice, violence, slaughter, and the
      great sins the Spaniards have committed in this Kingdom of Santa
      Marta, against God, against the King, and against those innocent
      nations, I would compose a very long history; I shall relate all
      this however in due time, if God gives me life.
   7. Here I wish only to quote some few of the words that the lord bishop
      of that province now writes to the King: and the date of his letter
      is the 20th of May, 1541, in which among other words he says thus:
   8. “I assert, oh Sacred Cæsar, that the way to remedy the ills of this
      country is for Your Majesty to now take it out of the hands of
      step-fathers and to give it a husband, who will treat it justly, and
      as it deserves; and this as soon as possible because otherwise I am
      certain that the way these tyrants who now have the government,
      crush and harass it, will very soon destroy it,” etc.
   9. And further on he says: “therefore Your Majesty will clearly discern
      that those who govern in these parts, deserve to be destroyed, to
      relieve the republics.  And if this is not done, their infirmities
      are, in my opinion, without remedy. And Your Majesty will know in
      like manner that in these parts there are no Christians but demons;
      neither are there servants of God nor of the King, but traitors to
      His law, and to the King.”
  10. “Because in truth, the greatest obstacle I find to winning the
      Indians from war to peace, and from peace to the knowledge of our
      Holy Faith, is the harsh and cruel treatment that the peaceable ones
      receive from the Christians.”
  11. “They have on this account become so fierce and enraged, that
      nothing is more hated or abhorred by them, than the name of
      Christians, whom in all this country they call in their language
      Yares, which means demons; and without doubt they are right, because
      the deeds they do here are not those of Christians nor of reasonable
      men, but of devils.”
  12. “From which it arises, that the Indians, seeing these perverse
      operations are general, and that both the commanders and the
      subordinates are so devoid of mercy, think that such is the law of
      the Christians, of which their God and their King are the authors.
      And to try to persuade them to the contrary is like trying to dry up
      the sea, and only makes them laugh and jeer at Jesus Christ and His
  13. “And the Indian warriors, seeing the treatment shown the peaceable
      people, count it better to die once, than many times in the power of
      the Spaniards; I know this most invincible Caesar from experience”
  14. And in a chapter further on he says: “Your Majesty has more servants
      in these parts than is supposed; because there is not a soldier
      among those here who, while he is assassinating, or robbing, or
      destroying, or killing, or burning Your Majesty’s vassals to force
      their gold from them, does not make bold to claim that he is serving
      Your Majesty.  It would therefore be well, Most Christian Cæsar,
      that Your Majesty should make known by rigorously punishing some of
      them, that such services as are contrary to the service of God, are
      not accepted.”
  15. All the above are formal words of the said Bishop of Santa Marta,
      and from them it will be clearly seen what is done to-day in these
      unfortunate countries, and to these innocent people.
  16. By "Indian warriors" he means those who live in the mountains and
      have been able to escape from massacres perpetrated by the unhappy
      Spaniards.  And he terms “peaceable” those Indians whom the
      Spaniards, after having killed numberless people, condemn to the
      aforesaid tyrannical and horrible slavery, in which they then finish
      destroying and killing them, as appears from the quoted words of the
      bishop: and in truth very little indeed does he express, of what
      they suffer.
  17. When the Spaniards make them labour, carrying loads over the
      mountains, they kick and beat them, and knock out their teeth with
      the handles of their swords, to force them to get up when they fall,
      fainting from weakness, and to go on without taking breath; and the
      Indians commonly exclaim; “go to, how wicked you are: I am worn out
      so kill me here, for I would rather die now and here.”  And they say
      this with many sighs and gasps, showing great anguish and grief.
  18. Oh! who could express the hundredth part of the affliction and
      calamity that these innocent people suffer from the unhappy
      Spaniards!  May God make it known to those who can, and ought to
      remedy it.

                        The Province of Cartagena

      This province of Cartagena lies westward and fifty leagues below
      that of Santa Marta, and bordering on that of Cenù as far as the
      Gulf of Urabà: it comprises about a hundred leagues of seacoast and
      a large territory inland towards the south.
   2. These provinces have been as badly treated as those of Santa Marta,
      distressed, killed, depopulated and devastated, from the year 1498
      or 99 until to-day, and in them many notorious cruelties, murders,
      and robberies have been committed by the Spaniards; but in order to
      finish this brief compendium quickly and to recount the wickedness
      done by them elsewhere, I will not describe the details.

                             The Pearl Coast

                    Paria, and the Island of Trinidad

      Great and notorious have been the destruction that the Spaniards
      have worked along the Coast of Paria, (97) extending for two hundred
      leagues as far as the Gulf of Venezuela, assassinating the
      inhabitants and capturing as many as they could alive, to sell them
      as slaves.
   2. They frequently took them by violating their pledged word and
      friendship, the Spaniards failing to keep faith, while the Indians
      received them in their houses, like fathers receive their children,
      giving them all they possessed and serving them to the best of their
   3. Certainly it would not be easy to relate, or describe minutely the
      variety and number of the injustices, wrongs, oppressions, and
      injury practised upon the people of this coast by the Spaniards from
      the year 1510 up to the present day.  I will relate but two or three
      instances from which the villany and number of the others, worthy of
      punishment by every torment and fire may be judged.
   4. In the island of Trinidad which joins the continent at Paria, and is
      much larger and more prosperous than Sicily, there are as good and
      virtuous people as in all the Indies; an assassin going there in the
      year 1516, with sixty or seventy other habitual robbers, gave the
      Indians to understand that they had come to dwell and live in that
      island along with them.
   5. The Indians received them as though they were children of their own
      flesh and blood, the lords and their subjects serving them with the
      greatest affection and joy, bringing them every day double the
      amount of food required; for it is the usual disposition and
      liberality of all the Indians of this new world to give the
      Spaniards in excess of all they need and as much as they themselves
   6. In accordance with the Spaniards’ wish, they built one great house
      of timber, where all might live: they needed no more than one in
      order to carry out what they had in mind and afterwards
   7. When they were putting the straw over the timbers and had covered
      about the height of two paces so that those inside no longer saw
      those without, the Spaniards, under pretence of hurrying on the
      completion of the house, induced many people to go inside; meanwhile
      they divided, some surrounding the house outside, with their weapons
      ready for the Indians who should come out, and the others stationing
      themselves inside the house.  The latter drew their swords and
      threatening the naked Indians with death if they moved, they began
      to bind them, while some who ran out seeking to escape were cut to
      pieces with swords.
   8. Some who got out, wounded, and others sound, joined with one or two
      hundred natives who had not entered the house, and arming themselves
      with bows and arrows they retired to another house of the
      community’s to defend themselves; while they defended the door
      however, the Spaniards set fire to the house, and burnt them alive;
      they then took the prey they had captured, amounting to perhaps a
      hundred and eighty or two hundred men, and carried them bound to
      their ship.  Hoisting sail they departed for the island of San Juan,
      where they sold one half as slaves, and afterwards to Hispaniola,
      where they sold the remainder.
   9. When I at the time reproved the captain in the same island of San
      Juan for such infamous treachery and malice, he replied “Go to,
      Senor, thus was I commanded, and instructions were given me by those
      who sent me, that if I could not capture them in war, I should take
      them under pretext of peace.”
  10. And in truth he told me that in all his life he had found neither
      father nor mother, if not in the island of Trinidad; such were the
      good services the Indians had rendered him.  This he said to his
      greater shame and the aggravation of his sins.
  11. Numberless times have they done these things on this continent,
      capturing people and making them slaves under promise of safe
      conduct.  Let it be seen what sort of acts these are: and whether
      those Indians taken in such a way, are justly made slaves.
  12. Another time the friars of our Order of St. Dominic determined to go
      and preach to those people and convert them, for they were without
      the hope or the light of doctrine by which to save their souls, as
      they still are to-day in the Indies; they sent a monk, who was a
      theological scholar of great virtue and sanctity, accompanied by a
      serving friar as his companion; his object was to see the country,
      become intimate with the people, and seek convenient sites to build
  13. When the monks arrived, the Indians received them as angels from
      heaven, and listened with great affection, attention, and joy to
      those words which they could make them understand more by signs than
      speech, as they did not know the language.
  14. It happened that after the departure of the vessel that had brought
      the monks, another ship arrived there; the Spaniards on board of it
      practising their infernal custom, deceitfully enticed the lord of
      that land, named Don Alonso, on board without the monks perceiving
      it; either the friars or some other Spaniards, had given him this
      name, for the Indians like and desire Christian names and at once
      ask to have them, even before they know enough to be baptised. So
      they deceived the said Don Alonso, to make him come aboard their
      ship, with his wife and certain other persons, by telling him they
      would prepare a feast there for him.
  15. At last seventeen persons went on board with the lord and his wife,
      confident that as the monks were in the country, out of respect for
      them, the Spaniards would not do anything wicked; because otherwise
      they would not have trusted them.  Once the Indians were on the
      ship, the traitors set sail and were off to Hispaniola, where they
      sold them for slaves.
  16. On seeing their lord and his wife carried off, all the Indians came
      to the friars intending to kill them.  The friars were like to die
      for sorrow on beholding such great villany, and it may be believed
      they would have rather given their lives than that such injustice
      should have been done; especially as it impeded those souls from
      ever hearing or believing the word of God.
  17. They called the Indians as best they could and told them that by the
      first ship that passed there, they would write to Hispaniola and
      bring about the restoration of their lord and of the others who were
      with him. For the greater confirmation of the damnation of those who
      were governing, God caused a ship to come at once to hand.  The
      monks wrote to their brethren in Hispaniola lamenting and protesting
      repeatedly.  The auditors never would do justice, because they
      themselves had divided a share of the Indians so barbarously and
      unjustly carried off by the tyrants.
  18. The two monks who had promised the Indians that their lord, Don
      Alonso, together with the others, should return in four months’
      time, seeing that they did not come, neither in four, nor in eight
      months prepared for death, and to give their lives to those to whom
      they had consecrated them before they left.  And so the Indians took
      vengeance upon them, killing them justly, although they were
      innocent: because it was believed that the monks had been the cause
      of that treachery, and because they saw that what had been
      faithfully promised them within four months was not fulfilled; and
      also because up to that time and up to the present day they neither
      knew, nor know, that there is a difference between the friars and
      the Spanish tyrants, bandits, and assassins of all that country.
  19. The blessed friars suffered unjustly, and by that injustice there is
      no doubt that, according to our holy faith, they are true martyrs,
      and reign blissfully to-day with God in the heavens; for they were
      sent to that land under obedience, and their intention was to preach
      and spread the holy faith, to save all those souls and to suffer
      every kind of affliction and death that might be offered them for
      Jesus Christ crucified.
  20. Another time, through the great tyranny and execrable works of the
      wicked Spaniards, the Indians killed two monks of St. Dominic and
      one of St. Francis, of which I myself am a witness, for I escaped
      the same death by divine miracle; so serious and horrible was the
      case I might have much to say that would amaze mankind, but on
      account of the length of the narration I will not relate it here nor
      until the time comes.  The last day will disclose all more clearly,
      for God will then avenge such horrible and abominable outrages as
      are done in the Indies by those who bear the name of Christians.
  21. Another time there was a town in the provinces called Capo della
      Codera, the lord of which was called Nigoroto; this is either a
      personal name or else one common to all the lords of that country.
  22. He was so kind and his people so virtuous, that when the Spanish
      ships passed there the Spaniards found comforts, provisions, rest,
      and every consolation and refreshment, and many did he deliver from
      death, who, wasted with hunger, took refuge there from other
      provinces where they had assassinated, and practised evil and
      tyranny.  He gave them food and sent them safe to the Pearl Island
      [Cubagua], where some Christians dwelt, whom he could have slain,
      without any one knowing it, and did not: all the Christians finally
      called Nigoroto’s town the mansion and home of everybody.
  23. An ill-starred tyrant deliberated within himself to attack this
      place, as the people felt so safe: so he went there with a ship and
      invited many people to come on board, as they were used to, trusting
      the Spaniards.  When many men, women, and children were gathered in
      the ship, he set sail and came to the island of San Juan, where he
      sold them all as slaves.  And I arrived just then at the said island
      and saw that tyrant and heard what he had done.
  24. He left all that country ruined; and all those Spanish tyrants, who
      robbed and assassinated along those coasts took it ill, and detested
      so dreadful a deed because they lost the asylum and dwelling place
      they had had there as though in their own houses.
  25. To abbreviate, I omit the narration of the tremendous wickedness and
      fearful deeds that have been committed, and are committed to-day in
      these countries.
  26. They have taken more than two million ruined souls from that
      populous seacoast to the island of Hispaniola, and to that of San
      Juan, where they have likewise caused their death in the mines and
      other works, of which there were many, as has been said above.  And
      it excites great compassion and sorrow to see all that most
      delightful coast deserted and depopulated.
  27. It is certainly true, that never does a ship sail loaded with
      kidnapped and ruined Indians (as I have told) without the third part
      of those that embarked, being thrown dead into the sea, besides
      those that they kill in effecting their capture.
  28. The reason of this is, that as they need many men to accomplish
      their aim of making more money from a greater number of slaves, they
      carry but little food and water, so as to save expense to the
      tyrants, who call themselves privateers; they have enough for only a
      few more people than the Spaniards who man the ships to make the
      raids; as these miserable Indians are in want and die of hunger and
      thirst, the remedy is to throw them in the sea.
  29. And in truth, one of them told me, that from the Lucayan Islands,
      where very great havoc of this sort was made, to the Island of
      Hispaniola, which is more than sixty or seventy leagues, a ship is
      supposed to have gone without compass or nautical chart, finding its
      course by the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown out of ships
      and left in the sea.
  30. When they are afterwards disembarked at the island where they are
      taken to be sold, it is enough to break the heart of whomsoever has
      some spark of compassion to see naked, starving children, old
      people, men, and women falling, faint from hunger.
  31. They then divide them like so many lambs, the fathers separated from
      the children, and the wives from the husbands, making droves of ten
      or twenty persons and casting lots for them, so that each of the
      unhappy privateers who contributed to fit out a fleet of two or
      three vessels, and the tyrant villains who go to capture and prey
      upon the natives in their homes, receives his share.
  32. And when the lot falls on a drove in which there is some old or ill
      person, the tyrant who gets it, says: “Why in the devil do you give
      this old man to me? That I shall bury him? Why should I take this
      ill one? To nurse him?”  It may be seen how the Spaniards despise
      the Indians and whether they carry out the precept of divine love to
      one’s neighbour, upon which rest the law and the prophets.
  33. The tyranny exercised by the Spaniards upon the Indians in fishing
      pearls, is as cruel, and reprehensible a thing as there can be in
      the world.  Upon the land there is no life so infernal and hopeless
      as to be compared to it, although that of digging gold in the mines
      is the hardest and worst.
  34. They let them down into the sea three and four and five fathoms
      deep, from the morning till sunset.  They are always swimming under
      water without respite, gathering the oysters, in which the pearls
  35. They come up to breathe bringing little nets full of them; there is
      a hangman Spaniard in a boat and if they linger resting, he beats
      them with his fists, and, taking them by the hair, throws them in
      the water to go on fishing.
  36. Their food is fish and the fish that contain the pearls, and a
      little cazabi or maize bread, which are the kinds of native bread:
      the one gives very little sustenance and the other is very difficult
      to make, so with such food they are never sufficiently nourished.
      Instead of giving them beds at night, they put them in stocks on the
      ground, to prevent them from escaping.
  37. Many times the Indians throw themselves into the sea while fishing
      or hunting pearls and never come up again, because dolphins and
      sharks, which are two kinds of very cruel sea animals that swallow a
      man whole, kill and eat them.
  38. From this it may be seen, whether the Spaniards who thus seek profit
      from the pearls, observe the divine precepts of love to God and
      one’s neighbour; out of avarice, they put their fellow creatures in
      danger of death to the body and also to the soul; because they die
      without faith and without sacraments.
  39. They lead the Indians such a wretched life that they ruin and waste
      them in a few days; for it is impossible for men to live much under
      water without respiration, especially because the cold of the water
      penetrates their bodies and so they generally all die from
      hæmorrhages, oppression of the chest caused by staying such long
      stretches of time without breathing; and from dysentery caused by
      the frigidity.
  40. Their hair, which is by nature black, changes to an ashen colour
      like the skin of seals, and nitre comes out from their shoulders so
      that they resemble human monsters of some species.
  41. With this insupportable toil, or rather, infernal trade, the
      Spaniards completed the destruction of all the Indians of the
      Lucayan Islands who were there when they set themselves to making
      these gains; each one was worth fifty and a hundred crowns, and they
      were sold publicly, although it had been prohibited by the
      magistrates themselves; it was even more unjust elsewhere for the
      Lucayans were great swimmers.  They have caused the death of
      numberless others here, from other provinces, and other regions.

                            The Yuyapari River

On a river called the Yuyapari, which flows for more than two hundred
leagues through the province of Paria, a wretched tyrant(98) sailed a
great distance in the year 1539, accompanied by four hundred or more men;
and he did very great slaughter, burning alive and putting to the sword
numberless innocent and inoffensive people who were in their towns or
houses, unsuspicious of danger; and he left immense tracts of country
burnt, terrorized, and the inhabitants scattered.  He finally died a bad
death and his fleet was dispersed.  Other tyrants succeeded him and
continued this wickedness and tyranny: and to-day they go through those
regions destroying, killing, and sending to hell those souls that were
redeemed by the son of God with His own blood.

                         The Kingdom of Venezuela

      The Spaniards have always exercised diligent care to hide the truth
      from our lord the King about injuries and losses to God, to human
      souls, and to his State; and in the year 1526, he was deceived and
      perniciously persuaded into giving and conceding to some German
      merchants, the great kingdom of Venezuela which is much larger than
      all Spain; the entire management of the government and all
      jurisdiction were conceded under a certain agreement and compact, or
      condition that was made with them. (99)
   2. These men invaded these countries with a force of three hundred or
      more and found the people the same gentle lambs, (and much more so),
      as they usually find them everywhere in the Indies before the
      Spaniards injure them.
   3. More cruel beyond comparison than any of the other tyrants we have
      told of, was their invasion; and more irrational and furious were
      they than the cruellest tigers, or raging wolves and lions.  Their
      liberty of action was the greater because they held all the
      jurisdiction of the country; with greater eagerness and blind
      greediness of avarice, and with ways and arts for stealing and
      accumulating gold and silver more exquisite than their predecessors,
      they abandoned all fear of God and the King and all shame of men,
      forgetting that they were mortal beings.
   4. These devils incarnate have devastated, destroyed, and depopulated
      more than four hundred leagues of most delightful country containing
      large and marvellous provinces, valleys extending for forty leagues,
      pleasant regions, very large towns, most rich in gold.
   5. They have killed and entirely cut to pieces divers large nations and
      destroyed many languages, so that not a person who speaks them
      remains, except a few, who have hidden in caverns and in the bowels
      of the earth to escape from the pestilential sword of the
    6 They have killed, destroyed, and sent to hell, (according to my
      belief), more than four or five millions of those innocent races by
      means of various strange and new kinds of cruel iniquity and
      impiety; nor do they, at the present day, cease sending them there.
   7. I will relate no more than three or four instances of the endless
      injustice, outrages, and slaughter they have done, and are doing
      to-day; it may be imagined from these what they must have done to
      accomplish the great destruction and depopulation we have described.
   8. They took the supreme lord of all the province, putting him to
      torture, for no other reason than to obtain his gold.  He escaped
      and fled to the mountains, where he remained in hiding amongst the
      rocks, with his enraged and terrified people.  The Spaniards
      attacked them in their search for him; they recaptured him and,
      after cruel slaughter, they sold at auction all whom they took
   9. Before they captured that ruler, they had been received in many, nay
      in all the provinces, wherever they went, with singing and dances
      and many gifts of large quantities of gold; the payment they made
      the Indians was to put them to the sword and cut them to pieces in
      order to terrorise the whole country.
  10. Once, when the inhabitants had come out to meet him in the aforesaid
      way, the tyrant German captain put a great number of people into a
      large straw louse and cut them to pieces.  As the house had some
      beams at the top and many climbed up to escape from the bloody hands
      and swords of those men or pitiless beasts, this infernal man caused
      fire to be set to the house; thus all who remained were burnt alive.
      This action caused the depopulation of a great number of towns as
      all the people fled to the mountains where they hoped to be safe.
  11. They came to another large province on the borders of the province
      and kingdom of Santa Marta, where they found the Indians in their
      towns and houses, peaceably occupied with their affairs.  They
      stayed with them a long time, eating their substance while the
      Indians served them as though it were their duty to give them life
      and succour; they bore with their continual oppressions and usual
      exactions, which are intolerable, for one parasite Spaniard eats as
      much in one day as would be sufficient for an Indian household of
      ten persons for a month.
  12. During this time, the Indians spontaneously gave them great
      quantities of gold, besides the best of treatment.  At last when the
      tyrants wished to depart, they determined to repay their hospitality
      in this following manner.
  13. The German governor, who was a tyrant and, for what we know also a
      heretic—for he never attends mass neither does he let many others
      go, besides which, other signs mark him as a Lutheran,—ordered his
      men to capture all the Indians they could, with their wives and
      children, and to confine them in a large yard or wooden enclosure
      prepared for the purpose; he then announced that whoever wished to
      go out and be free, must ransom himself according to the will of the
      iniquitous governor, giving so much gold for himself, so much for
      his wife and for each of his children; and to force them the more,
      he commanded that nothing whatever should be given them to eat,
      until they brought him the gold he demanded as ransom.
  14. Many who were able, sent to their houses for gold and redeemed
      themselves.  They were set free, and returned to their occupations
      and to their houses to provide themselves with the necessaries of
      life. The tyrant sent certain villainous Spanish thieves to
      recapture these miserable Indians, who had once ransomed themselves;
      they brought them back to the enclosure and tortured them with
      hunger and thirst to make them ransom themselves again.
  15. Many who were captured were ransomed two and three times.  Others
      who could not, because they had given all the gold they possessed
      and had not enough left, he left languishing in the enclosure till
      they died of hunger.
  16. By this deed, he left ruined, desolate, and depopulated, a most
      populous province most rich in gold, which has a valley of forty
      leagues, where he burnt a town that had a thousand houses.
  17. This infernal tyrant determined to go inland, as he eagerly desired
      to discover the hell of Peru in those parts.  To make this unhappy
      journey, he, and the others brought numberless Indians, chained to
      one another, carrying loads of sixty, and seventy pounds each.
  18. If one tired, or fainted from hunger, fatigue, and weakness, they at
      once cut off his head at the collar of the chain so as not to stop
      to loosen the others in the line; and the head fell to one side and
      the body to the other, and they distributed his load among the other
   19 To tell of the provinces he destroyed, the towns, and places he
      burnt (for all the houses are built of straw)—the people he killed,
      the cruelty he displayed in the several massacres during this
      journey, would make an incredible and terrifying story, but it would
      be true, nevertheless.
  20. These journeys were afterwards undertaken by other tyrants who
      followed in the same Venezuela, and others from the province of
      Santa Marta, animated by the same holy intention of discovering this
      holy house of gold in Peru; and they found all the country for more
      than two hundred leagues, so much burnt, depopulated, and deserted,
      from formerly being most populous and prosperous, as has been said,
      that though they themselves were cruel tyrants, they marvelled and
      were horrified to behold the traces of such lamentable devastation.
  21. Many witnesses have proved these things before the chancellor of the
      exchequer of the India Council and the proofs are in the possession
      of the same Council but they have never burnt alive any of these
      nefarious tyrants.
  22. But what has been proven is as nothing compared to the massacres and
      great wickedness that have been committed, because all the officers
      of justice in the Indies are so mortally blind that they do not
      investigate the crimes, destruction, and slaughter that have been,
      and are to-day wrought by all the tyrants of the Indies, beyond
      declaring that as such and such a one has used cruelty towards the
      Indians, the King’s revenue has lost so many thousand crowns; they
      are satisfied with little proof, and that of a very general and
      confused character.
  23. And even this they do not verify, nor make it as clear as they
      should; for if they did their duty to God and the king, they would
      discover that the said German tyrants have robbed the king of more
      than three million crowns’ worth of gold, because that province of
      Venezuela, with the others they have ruined, devastated, and
      depopulated for an extent of more than four hundred leagues, (as I
      have said) was the most prosperous, the richest in gold, and the
      most populous of the universe.
  24. During the sixteen years those tyrants, enemies of God, devastated
      it, they have wasted and caused the loss of more than two millions
      of revenue that the king of Spain would have drawn from that
      kingdom. Nor is there hope of repairing this damage between now and
      the end of the world, unless God, through a miracle, should
      resuscitate so many million persons.
  25. These are the temporal injuries to the king. It would be well to
      consider what, and how many are the injuries, the dishonour,
      blasphemies, and insults to God and His law, and with what will be
      requited so many numberless souls, burning in hell, because of the
      avarice and cruelty of these tyrant animals or Germans. (100)
  26. To sum up this wickedness and ferocity, I will only say that from
      the day the Germans entered the country till the present time, that
      is in these sixteen years, the Indians they have transported in
      their ships amount to more than a million who were sold as slaves in
      Santa Marta, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and the island of San Juan.
  27. And even now, in the year 1542, the traffic continues, for the royal
      Audiencia of Hispaniola dissembled—nay favoured this and all the
      other numberless acts of tyranny and destruction done along all that
      coast of the continent, which is more than four hundred leagues from
      Venezuela to Santa Marta, and is under their jurisdiction, though
      they could have prevented and corrected them.
  28. There has been no other reason to make slaves of all these Indians
      except the perverse, blind, obstinate will of these most avaricious
      tyrants, and to satisfy their insatiable avarice for money; just as
      all the others have always done everywhere in the Indies, taking
      those lambs and sheep away from their houses, their wives, and their
      children in the said cruel and wicked ways, marking them with the
      king’s brand to sell them as slaves.

   The Provinces of that Part of the Continent which is Called Florida

      These provinces(101) have been visited at divers times since the
      year 1510 or 1511 by three tyrants who imitated the deeds done by
      the others, and also by two of them in other parts of the Indies
      seeking to advance to a degree disproportioned to their merit, at
      the cost of the blood and destruction of their fellow creatures.
   2. And all three died a bad death, and their families and properties
      established in human blood, perished, for I am witness of all three,
      whose very memory is already as extinct in the world as though they
      had never lived.
   3. The infamy and horror of their names scandalised all the land
      because of some massacres they perpetrated: these were not many,
      however, for God killed them before they did more, for He had
      reserved till that hour the punishment for the wickedness that I
      know and saw they committed in other parts of the Indies.
   4. The fourth tyrant went there recently, in the year 1538, with his
      plans made and with great preparations. Since three years nothing
      has been seen or heard of him.
   5. We are sure, that as soon as he landed he committed cruel deeds and
      at once disappeared: and that, if he be alive, he and his men have
      destroyed numbers of people in these three years, if he encountered
      any on his march, for he is one of the notorious, and experienced
      ones who, together with his other companions, has done the most harm
      and wickedness, and has destroyed many provinces, and kingdoms.  But
      we rather believe that God has given him the same end as the others.
   6. Three or four years after the above things were written, three of
      the other tyrants returned from the land called Florida; they had
      accompanied the chief tyrant whom they left dead, and we learned
      from them what cruelty and unheard of wickedness, these inhuman men
      committed there against those innocent and harmless Indians,
      principally during the life of their commander and also after his
      unhappy death: therefore what I foretold above has not turned out
   7. And so many things confirm the rule I laid down at the beginning:
      that the more they continue to discover, ruin, and destroy both
      peoples and countries, the more notorious are the cruelties and
      iniquities they commit against God and their fellow creatures.
   8. It is already wearisome to us to relate so many, and such execrable,
      horrible, blood-thirsty operations, not by men, but by ferocious
      beasts, hence I will not stop to relate any but the following.
   9. They found large towns full of people who were friendly,
      intelligent, politic, and orderly.  They did great slaughter among
      them, according to their custom, in order to impregnate the hearts
      of those people with fear of them.
  10. They tormented and killed them, loading them like animals.  When one
      became tired, or fainted, they cut off his head at the neck, in
      order not to free those in front from the chain that bound them, and
      the body fell to one side and the head to the other, as we have told
      elsewhere above.
  11. In one town where they went they were received with joy, and
      over-abundant food was given them, while more than six hundred
      Indians carried their loads, like beasts of burden, and cared for
      their horses; when the tyrants had left there, a captain who was a
      relative of the chief tyrant, turned back to rob the entire town
      whose people felt themselves safe; and with a lance, he killed the
      lord and king of the town, and did other cruel deeds.
  12. Because the inhabitants of another large town seemed to them to be a
      little more on their guard, on account of the infamous and horrible
      deeds of which they had heard, they put to the sword large and small
      children and old people, subjects and lords, without sparing any
  13. It is said that the chief tyrant had the faces of many Indians cut,
      so that they were shorn of nostrils and lips, down to the beard; and
      in particular of a group of two hundred whom he either summoned or
      who came voluntarily from a certain town.  Thus he despatched these
      mutilated, suffering creatures dripping with blood to carry the news
      of the deeds and miracles done by those baptised Christians,
      preachers of the Holy Catholic faith.
  14. It may be judged in what state those people must be, how they must
      love the Christians, and how they will believe that their God is
      good and just, and that the law and religion they profess and
      praise, is immaculate.
  15. Most great and outlandish are the evils done here by those unhappy
      men, sons of perdition.  And thus the wickedest of captains died
      miserably and without confession; and we doubt not that he is buried
      in hell, unless by chance, God out of His divine mercy has
      mysteriously succoured him despite his guiltiness for such execrable

                             Rio della Plata

      Three or four times since the year 1522 some captains have visited
      Rio della Plata, (102) where there are large kingdoms and provinces,
      and very friendly and intelligent people.
   2. We know, in general, that they have committed many homicides and
      much injury.  In particular, as it is so distant from the Indies, we
      have nothing signal to tell.
   3. We have no doubt at all, however, but that they have and do carry on
      the same practices as in other places; because they are the same
      Spaniards, and some among them have visited other regions, and
      because they go to get wealth and power just like the others; it is
      impossible for this to come about, except by destruction, massacres,
      robbery, and the extermination of the Indians by the adoption of the
      perverse rule and system they have all alike followed.
   4. After writing the above, we have learned, with ample proof, that
      they have destroyed and depopulated great provinces and kingdoms of
      that country, murdering, and cruelly treating those unfortunate
      people; they have thereby made themselves even more notorious than
      the others, because, being at a greater distance from Spain, they
      could do more as they pleased and consequently lived in greater
      disorder and with less justice.  As for justice, however, there has
      never been any in all the Indies, as is seen from what has been
      related above.
   5. Among infinite other cases, the three following have been read
      before the Council of the Indies.  A tyrant governor commanded
      certain of his people, to go to some Indian town and, if food was
      not given them, to kill all the inhabitants.   Thus authorised, they
      started and, because the Indians considered them their enemies and
      more out of fear and the desire to escape from them, than from a
      want of generosity, refused to supply them, the Spaniards put more
      than five thousand persons to the sword.
   6. Another time a certain number of people presented themselves
      peaceably for their service, or perhaps they had been summoned by
      the Spaniards; and because they did not come quickly enough, or
      because, as is their habit and common usage, they wished to inspire
      them with fear and horrible fright, the Governor commanded that they
      should all be consigned into the hands of their Indian enemies.
   7. They wept and cried, praying that the Spaniards  would kill them,
      rather than deliver them to their enemies. (103) And as they would
      not leave the house where they were, they were cut to pieces there,
      weeping, and crying out: “We came peaceably to serve you and you
      kill us?  May our blood, remain on these walls as testimony of our
      unjust death and of your cruelty!” This was, in truth, a notorious
      action, and worthy of consideration, but much more of being

              The Vast Kingdoms and Great Provinces of Peru

      In the year 1531 another great tyrant went with certain people to
      the kingdoms of Peru,(104) which he invaded by virtue of the same
      title, intentions, and principles as all the former ones, because he
      was one of the most experienced, and since a long time had taken
      part in all the cruelties and massacres that had been committed on
      the continent since the year 1510; he was devoid of faith and
      honour, and he did more cruelty and slaughter, destroying towns,
      killing and exterminating the people of them and causing such great
      mischief in these countries that, I am certain, it would be
      impossible for any one to recount and describe them till we shall
      see and know them clearly in the day of judgment. I could not, nor
      should I know how to describe the deformity, the character, and the
      circumstances of some incidents that I would relate, and which
      greatly aggravate their hideousness.
   2. From his unhappy landing, he killed and destroyed some peoples and
      robbed them of a large quantity of gold.  In an island near the same
      province called Pugna which is very populous and pleasing, they were
      received by the lord and people like angels from heaven and, after
      having eaten all their provisions in six months, the Indians again
      uncovered the store of corn they had laid up for themselves and
      their families in time of drought and barrenness, tearfully offering
      it for their consumption.  The payment that was finally awarded the
      natives, was to put them to the sword, for they killed great numbers
      with lances, and those whom they captured alive, they made slaves;
      in consequence of this and the other great notorious cruelties done
      there, they left this island almost deserted.
   3. From there the Spaniards went to the province of Tumbala, which is
      on the continent, where they killed and destroyed everything they
      could.  And because all the people fled from their fearful and
      horrible operations, they declared they had revolted and were in
      rebellion against the king.
   4. This tyrant employed the following artifice.  He demanded still more
      from all who either offered or whom he asked to present him with
      gold, silver, and their other possessions, until he saw that they
      either had no more, or brought no more: he then declared that he
      received them as vassals of the king of Spain and embraced them; he
      caused two trumpets to be sounded, giving them to understand that
      for the future he would take nothing more from them, nor do them any
      harm; he esteemed it permissible to rob them or to take all they
      gave, out of fear inspired by the abominable reports they heard of
      him, before he received them under the shelter and protection of the
      king, as though after they were received under the royal protection
      he would no more oppress, rob, desolate, and destroy them.
   5. A few days later came the universal king and emperor of those
      kingdoms, who was called Atabaliba with many naked people armed with
      ridiculous weapons and ignorant of how swords cut, and lances wound,
      and horses run; nor did they know the Spaniards, who would assault
      the very devils if they had gold, to rob them of it.  He arrived at
      the place where they were, and said: “Where are these Spaniards? let
      them come forward, for I shall not stir from here till satisfaction
      is rendered me for my vassals whom they have killed, for the town
      they have desolated, and for the riches they have stolen from me.”
   6. The Spaniards attacked him—killing infinite numbers of his people;
      they took him prisoner from the litter in which he was carried and
      after they had captured him, they negotiated with him for his
      ransom: he promised to give four million crowns, and paid them
      fifteen, after which they promised to set him free.
   7. They ended by keeping no faith nor truth, for they have never been
      kept by the Spaniards in their dealings with the Indians: they
      calumniated him, saying that by his orders the people were
      assembling, and he replied that not a leaf moved in all the country
      save by his will and that if the people were assembling, they might
      believe that he was the cause of it: as he was their prisoner, they
      might therefore kill him.
   8. In spite of all this they condemned him to be burned alive, although
      later, some of them begged the captain, to have him strangled and to
      burn him afterwards. When he learned this he said: “Why do you wish
      to burn me?  What have I done to you?  Have you not promised to free
      me, after my ransom was paid?  Have I not given you more than what I
      promised you?  Send me, as thus you wish it, to your King of Spain.”
      He said many other things showing condemnation and detestation of
      the great injustice of the Spaniards: and at last they burnt him.
   9. Let the justice of these deeds be considered: the reason of this
      war: the imprisonment, death sentence, and execution of this
      monarch; and how conscientiously these tyrants hold the great
      treasures they steal in those kingdoms from such a great king and
      from numberless other lords and private people.
  10. Of the countless notoriously wicked and cruel acts committed in the
      extirpation of these people by those who call themselves Christians,
      I will relate some few that a friar of St. Francis witnessed in the
      beginning; and he signed depositions with his name, sending some of
      the copies to those regions and others to the kingdoms of Castile:
      and I have one of the copies in my possession with his own
      signature, in which he makes the following statements.
  11. “I, Fray Marcus de Nizza of the Order of St. Francis, commissary of
      the friars of the same Order in the provinces of Peru, who were
      among the first monks who entered the said provinces with the first
      Christians, speak to render truthful testimony of some of the things
      that I saw with my own eyes in that country; chiefly concerning the
      treatment of the Indians and the acquisition of property taken from
      the natives.”
  12. “First of all I am eye-witness, and from actual experience know,
      that these Indians of Peru are the most affable people that have
      been seen among the Indians, and were very well inclined and
      friendly towards the Christians.”
  13. “And I saw that they gave gold abundantly to the Spaniards, and
      silver and precious stones and all that was asked of them, and that
      they rendered them every good service; and the Indians never went
      forth in war fashion, but always peaceably, as long as no cruelty
      and ill-treatment provoked them; on the contrary, they received the
      Spaniards with all benevolence and honour in their towns, giving
      them provisions and as many male and female slaves for their
      service, as they asked.”
  14. “I am also witness, and I testify, that without the Indians giving
      them any cause or occasion, the Spaniards, as soon as they entered
      their country, and after the chief lord Atabaliba had paid them more
      than two millions of gold and had left all the country in their
      power, without resistance, immediately burnt the said Atabaliba, who
      was ruler of all the country: and after him, they burnt alive his
      captain-general Cochilimaca who had come peaceably to the governor,
      accompanied by other high personages.”
  15. “Within a few days after these executions they likewise burned
      Chamba another very high lord of the province of Quito, without him
      giving them any cause.”
  16. “Thus too they burnt unjustly Chapera lord of the Canaries.”
  17. “Likewise they burnt the feet of Luis who was one of the great lords
      in Quito, and tortured him in many other ways, to force him to
      reveal the hiding place of Atabaliba’s gold, of which treasure it
      was known that he knew nothing whatever.”
  18. “They likewise burnt in Quito, Cozzopanga, who was governor of all
      the provinces of Quito and who had responded to the intimations of
      Sebastian de Benalcazza, the governor’s captain, by coming
      peaceably; but because he did not give them as much gold as they
      asked, they burnt him, with many other lords and principal persons.
      As far as I could understand, it was the intention of the Spaniards
      that no lord should survive in all the country.”
  19. “The Spaniards assembled a large number of Indians, and shut up as
      many as could enter, in three large houses which they then set on
      fire and burnt them all, although they had never done the slightest
      thing against any Spaniard, nor given the least cause.”
  20. “It once happened, that when a priest called Ocana, pulled a child
      out of the fire in which it was burning, another Spaniard snatched
      it out of his hands and threw it back in the middle of the flames,
      where it became ashes together with the others; while the aforesaid
      Spaniard, who had thus thrown the Indian into the fire was returning
      to his dwelling the same day, he suddenly fell dead in the road; and
      it was my opinion, that they should not give him [Christian]
  21. “Moreover I affirm, that I myself saw the Spaniards cut off the
      hands, noses, and ears of the Indian men and women, for no purpose
      whatever but just because the fancy struck them; and in so many
      places and regions did this occur that it would be a long story to
  22. “I also saw the Spaniards setting dogs onto the Indians, to tear
      them to pieces; and thus I saw many of them torn to pieces.”
  23. “I likewise saw so many houses and towns burned that I could not
      tell the number, so great was their multitude.”
  24. “It is likewise true that they took nursing children by the arms and
      hurled them in the air as high as they could; and their other
      injustice and aimless cruelties terrified me, besides innumerable
      other things that I saw, and which it would take long to tell.”
  25. “I saw moreover that they called the Indian lords and chiefs, to
      come peaceably, promising them safety, but as soon as they arrived
      they burnt them. And in my presence they burnt two, one from Andon
      and the other in Tumbala, nor was I able for all I preached to them,
      to prevent them burning them.”
  26. “I call God and my own conscience to witness that, as far as I can
      understand, the Indians only revolted on account of this ill
      treatment which sufficiently justified their action as may be
      clearly seen by everybody.”
  27. “The Spaniards have never dealt honestly with them nor kept their
      word but, contrary to all reason and justice, they have tyrannically
      ruined them and all their country, doing such things against them,
      that they [the Indians] have resolved sooner to die, than suffer
      such deeds.”
  28. “I say moreover, that the Indians are right in affirming that there
      is more gold hidden, than has been discovered, for they have refused
      to disclose it because of the injustice and cruelty shown them by
      the Spaniards; nor will they disclose it as long as such treatment
      continues, but rather will they die like the others.”
  29. “God our Lord has been much offended by these deeds, and His Majesty
      very badly served and defrauded, for they have made him lose
      countries that could very well provide food for the whole of
      Castile, and in my opinion, it will be very difficult and expensive
      to recover them.”
  30. All these are the formal words of the said monk; and bear the
      signature also of the Bishop of Mexico, testifying that everything
      was affirmed by the said Father, Fray Marcus.
  31. What this Father says he has seen, should be considered here:
      because this happened throughout fifty or a hundred leagues of
      country and during nine or ten years, at the beginning, when there
      were very few Spaniards: afterwards the sound of gold drew thither
      four or five thousand Spaniards, who spread through many large
      kingdoms and provinces, covering more than five hundred or seven
      hundred leagues, all of which they have destroyed by practising the
      same deeds and others still more ferocious and cruel.
  32. Truly, from that time to the present day, a thousand times more
      people have been destroyed and dispersed than he was told of; being
      devoid of mercy and the fear of God and the King, the Spaniards have
      destroyed a very large part of the human race.
  33. Within the space of ten years they have killed, up to the present
      day, more than four millions of persons; and they are still killing.
  34. A short time since they pursued and killed a great queen, wife of
      Elingue, he who was left king of those kingdoms which the Christians
      had tyrannically seized and provoked to rise in the present
      rebellion.  They captured the queen, his wife who, it is said, was
      pregnant and, contrary to all justice, they killed her, only to
      grieve her husband.
  35. If the cruelties and different murders committed by the Christians,
      and their daily deeds in those kingdoms of Peru were to be told,
      they would doubtless be so horrible and so numerous that what we
      have recounted of the other countries would fade, and seem little,
      compared with their number and their gravity.

                      Of the New Kingdom of Granada

      In the year 1539 many tyrants joined together and started from
      Venezuela, Santa Marta, and Cartagena for Peru: and others came back
      from the same Peru to explore those countries.  Three hundred
      leagues inland behind Santa Marta and Cartagena, they found some
      very delightful and marvellous provinces, full of numberless people,
      as mild and kind as the others, and very rich in gold, and in those
      precious stones called emeralds.
   2. To these provinces they gave the name of the new kingdom of Granada;
      because those tyrants who first came to these countries were natives
      of the kingdom of Granada in Spain.
   3. As many iniquitous and cruel men among those who gathered from all
      parts, were notorious butchers and shedders of human blood who were
      very inured to, and experienced in the great sins that we have said
      were committed in many parts of the Indies, it follows that their
      fiendish operations, and the circumstances and qualities that
      blackened and aggravated them, were such that they have surpassed
      very many, or indeed all, that the others and they themselves have
      committed elsewhere in the Indies.
   4. Of the multitude they have committed in these three years, and
      continue without ceasing to commit, I will briefly relate a few.  As
      a man who was robbing and murdering in the said kingdom would not
      allow a governor to also rob and kill, the latter brought a suit
      against him, calling many witnesses to prove the slaughter,
      injustice, and massacres he had done, and is doing; this evidence
      was read, and is to be found in the Council of the Indies.
   5. The witnesses in the said law-suit affirm that all the kingdom was
      quiet, and subject to the Spaniards; the Indians continually
      laboured to furnish them provisions, and to accumulate property for
      them; they brought them all the gold and precious emeralds they
      possessed or could obtain: the lords and inhabitants of the towns
      had been divided among the Spaniards, who lay claim to them as the
      means for obtaining their final object, which is gold.  Having thus
      reduced everybody to the usual tyranny and slavery, the principal
      tyrant captain commanding them, captured the sovereign of all that
      country, without any cause or reason, and kept him for six or seven
      months, demanding gold and emeralds of him.
   6. The said king, who was called Bogota, being overcome by fear said
      that he would give a house of the gold they demanded, hoping to free
      himself from the hands of his tormenters: he sent some Indians to
      bring him the treasure, and several times they brought a large
      quantity of gold and stones: because he did not give the house of
      gold, the Spaniards declared that he should be killed, because he
      did not fulfil his promise.
   7. The tyrant said that he should be tried by process of law, so they
      prosecuted him, accusing the said king of the country.  The tyrant
      gave sentence, condemning him to tortures, if he did not give the
      house of gold.
   8. They tortured him with the cord: they threw burning fat on his
      belly; they put his feet in irons fastened to a stake, tied his neck
      to another, while two men held his hands; and in this position they
      put fire to his feet.
   9. Every now and then, the tyrant entered and told him, that they would
      kill him by inches with tortures if he did not give the gold.  And
      thus they did, and killed this lord with tortures.  While they were
      tormenting him, God gave a sign of destestation of that cruelty, by
      causing all that town, where it was committed to be burnt.
  10. The other Spaniards imitated their good captain and, since they only
      know how to rend these people, they did the same; torturing the lord
      of the town or towns, that had been confided to them, with divers
      and fierce tortures while those lords and their people felt
      themselves safe, and were giving them all the gold and emeralds they
      could: the Spaniards tortured them only to extort more gold and
      jewels.  And in this way they burnt and cut to pieces all the lords
      of that country.
  11. Terror-stricken by the excessive cruelty practised upon the Indians
      by one of those particular tyrants a great lord called Daytama fled,
      with many of his people from such inhumanity, and retreated to the
      mountains.  This, if it did but avail, they conceive to be the
      remedy and refuge, and this is what the Spaniards call revolt and
  12. The principal tyrant captain hearing this, sent a force to that
      cruel man, whose ferocity and wickedness towards the peaceful and
      submissive Indians had driven them to the mountains; the latter went
      in pursuit of the natives, and because it sufficed not to hide in
      the bowels of the earth, they found a large number of people whom
      they killed, cutting to pieces more than five hundred men, women,
      and children, and sparing no one.
  13. The witnesses also say that before his death, the same Prince
      Daytama had been to see that cruel man and had taken him four or
      five thousand crowns, but notwithstanding this, he committed the
      said slaughter.
  14. Another time a great number of people having come to serve the
      Spaniards, and feeling themselves safe, serving with their humility
      and simplicity, the captain entered the town one night where the
      Indians were and commanded that all those Indians should be put to
      the sword while some of them were sleeping, and some supping and
      resting from the labours of the day.
  15. He perpetrated this massacre because it seemed good to him to make
      himself feared by all the people of the country.
  16. Another time the captain put all the Spaniards on oath, to lead at
      once as many lords and chiefs and common people as each had in his
      household service, to the square, where he had all their heads cut
      off, thus killing four or five hundred people.  And the witnesses
      say that he thought in this way to pacify the country.
  17. The witnesses depose that one particular tyrant did great cruelty,
      killing, and cutting off the hands and noses of many men and women,
      and destroying many people.
  18. Another time the captain sent the afore-named cruel man, with
      certain Spaniards to the province of Bogota, to make inquiry as to
      who had succeeded to that dominion since they had tortured the
      universal lord to death: he marched through many leagues of country,
      capturing as many Indians as he could.
  19. And because the people did not show him the lord who had succeeded,
      he cut off the hands of some and gave others to ferocious dogs,
      which tore them to pieces both men, and women; and in this way he
      killed, and destroyed many Indian men and women.
  20. One day, near sunrise, he went to attack some lords, or captains and
      many Indians who felt tranquil and secure, because he had assured
      them and given them his word that they should receive no hurt or
      harm; confiding in this assurance they had come down from the
      mountains, where they were hidden, to dwell in this town on the
      plain; thus he captured a great many of these unsuspecting and
      confiding people, women and men, and making them put their hands
      flat on the ground he himself cut them off with a scimitar, saying
      that he punished them because they would not tell where the new
      lord, who had succeeded to that kingdom, was hidden.
  21. Another time, because the Indians did not give a coffer full of gold
      that this cruel captain demanded, he sent people to make war on
      them, in which they killed numberless persons, and cut off the hands
      and noses of so many women and men that they could not be counted:
      they gave others to fierce dogs that tore them to pieces and ate
  22. Another time, the Indians of a province of that kingdom, seeing that
      the Spaniards had burnt three or four principal lords, retreated in
      fear to a strong rock to defend themselves from enemies so devoid of
      humanity; and according to the witnesses, there may have been four
      or five thousand Indians on the rock.
  23. The above-named captain sent a great and notorious tryant, who
      surpassed many of those who have charge of destroying those
      countries, with a certain number of Spaniards, to punish those
      Indians who had fled from such a great pestilence and butchery: and
      he declared they were in revolt, seeking to make it appear that they
      had done something wrong, for which the Spaniards must punish them
      and take vengeance: they themselves, however, merit any most cruel
      torture whatsoever, without mercy, because they are so deprived of
      mercy and compassion towards those innocent creatures.
  24. The Spaniards went to the rock and forced their way up, the Indians
      being naked and without arms; then the Spaniards called the Indians
      with professions of peace, assuring them that no harm should be done
      them, if they did not fight; the Indians at once ceased, whereupon
      that most cruel man commanded the Spaniards, to seize all the strong
      positions of the rock, and when taken, to surround the Indians.
      These tigers and lions surrounded the tame lambs, and disembowelled
      and put to the sword so many, that they stopped to rest, so many had
      they cut to pieces.
  25. When they had rested a little, the captain ordered that they should
      kill and throw down from the rock, which was very high, all the
      survivors; and so they did.  And the witnesses say, that they beheld
      such a mass of Indians thrown from the rock, that there might have
      been seven hundred men together, who were crushed to pieces where
      they fell.
  26. To complete their great cruelty, they sought out all the Indians who
      had hidden in the thicket, and he commanded all to be put to the
      sword; and thus they killed them, and threw them down from the rock.
  27. Nor would he rest satisfied with the cruel things that have been
      related, but wished to distinguish himself still more and increase
      the horribleness of his sins, by commanding that all the Indians,
      men and women, save those he kept for his own service, who had been
      captured alive (because in these massacres each usually chooses a
      few men, women and children for his own use) should be put in a
      straw house to which he set fire: some forty or fifty were thus
      burnt alive, while others were thrown to fierce dogs that tore them
      to pieces and ate them.
  28. Another time, this same tyrant captured many Indians in a certain
      town called Cota which he visited; he had fifteen or twenty lords
      and principal persons torn by dogs; and he cut off the hands of many
      men and women, tied them to cords and hung about seventy pairs of
      hands along a beam, so that the other Indians should see what had
      been done to these people; and he cut off the noses of many women
      and children.
  29. Nobody could explain the actions, and cruelty of this man, God’s
      enemy, because they are innumerable, nor have such deeds as he did
      in those countries and in the province of Guatemala, ever been
      witnessed or heard of since then: during many years he went about
      those countries doing these deeds, burning and destroying the
      inhabitants and their property.
  30. The witnesses in the trial further say, that the cruelties and
      massacres perpetrated in the said new kingdom of Granada by the
      captain himself and, with his consent, by all those tyrants and
      destroyers of the human race who were with him, were such that they
      have wasted and exterminated all the country.  And that unless His
      Majesty arrests the massacring done among the Indians to extort gold
      which, as they had already given all they had, they no longer
      possess, the destruction will shortly be complete, and no Indians of
      any sort will be left to sustain the country, which will be left
      depopulated and desolate.
  31. It should be considered how great and furious has been the cruelty
      and pestilential tyranny of unhappy tyrants, in the space of two or
      three years, since the discovery of this kingdom which, as all who
      have been there, and the witnesses at the trial say, was as thickly
      populated as any in the world; they have desolated it with
      massacres, so devoid of mercy, of the fear of God and the King, that
      they say, not a single person will be left alive unless His Majesty
      shortly prevents these infernal operations.   And so I believe it to
      be, for with my own eyes I have seen many, and large countries in
      those parts, which they have destroyed and completely depopulated
      within a brief period.
  32. There are other large provinces, bordering the said new kingdom of
      Granada, called Popayan and Cali: also three, or four others that
      extend for more than five hundred leagues; the Spaniards have
      rendered them desolate, and destroyed them like the others, unjustly
      robbing and torturing to death the numberless inhabitants of that
      most delightful country.
  33. People coming now from there declare that it excites compassion to
      see so many large towns burnt and destroyed; towns where formerly
      there were a thousand or two thousand families, are reduced to
      hardly fifty, while others are entirely burned and abandoned.
  34. In other places, from one to three hundred leagues of country are
      found completely deserted; large towns having been burnt and
  35. Great and cruel tyrants penetrated into New Granada from the
      direction of the province of Quito in the kingdom of Peru, and into
      Popayan and Cali from the direction of Cartagena and Uraba, while
      from Cartagena, other ill-starred tyrants marched through to Quito;
      afterwards others, came from the direction of Rio de San Juan, which
      is on the South coast.  All of these men united together and they
      have devastated and depopulated more than six hundred leagues of
      country, sending innumerable souls to hell. They are doing the same
      at the present day to the miserable survivors, although they are
  36. And to prove the axiom I laid down in the beginning, namely that the
      tyranny, violence, and injustice of the Spaniards towards these
      gentle lambs, accompanied by cruelty, inhumanity, and wickedness,
      most worthy of all fire and torture, which continue in the said
      provinces, go on increasing, I cite the following.
  37. After the massacres and slaughter of the war, the people are
      condemned, as was said, to the horrible slavery described above.  To
      one of the devils, two hundred Indians were given, to another,
      three.  The devil commandant ordered a hundred Indians to be called
      before him and when they promptly came like so many lambs, he had
      the heads of thirty or forty cut off; and said to the others: “I
      will do the same to you, if you do not serve me well, and if you
      leave without my permission.”
  38. Now in God’s name consider, you, who read this, what sort of deeds
      are these, and whether they do not surpass every imaginable cruelty
      and injustice, and whether it squares well with such Christians as
      these to call them devils; and whether it could be worse to give the
      Indians into the charge of the devils of hell than to the Christians
      of the Indies.
  39. I will also tell of another such operation; I do not know which is
      the more cruel, the more infernal, and nearer the ferocity of wild
      beasts, this one or that one just told.
  40. It has already been said, that the Spaniards of the Indies have
      tamed and trained the strongest and most ferocious dogs to kill and
      tear the Indians to pieces.
  41. Listen and see, all you who are true Christians and also you who are
      not, whether such deeds have ever been heard of in the world; to
      feed the said dogs they take many Indians in chains with them on
      their journeys, as though they were herds of swine; and they kill
      them, making public butchery of human flesh; and one says to the
      other; “lend me a quarter of one of these villeins to give to my
      dogs to eat, until I kill.”  It is as though they were lending a
      quarter of pork or of mutton.
  42. There are others, who go hunting with their dogs in the morning and
      when one is asked on his return for dinner how it has fared with
      him, he replies; “it has fared well with me, because I have left
      perhaps fifteen or twenty villeins killed by my dogs.”
  43. All these and other diabolical things are being proved now in
      law-suits started by some tyrants against others. What can be
      filthier, fiercer, and more inhuman?
  44. I will finish with this, till news comes of other deeds of more
      eminent wickedness, if any such there can be: or until, on our
      return there, we again behold them, as we continually have with our
      own eyes since forty-two years.
  45. I protest before God on my conscience that, as I believe and hold
      certain, such are the perdition, harm, destruction, depopulation,
      slaughter, deaths, and great and horrible cruelties, and most foul
      ways of violence, injustice, robbery, and massacre, done among those
      people and in all those countries of the Indies, that with all I
      have described, and those upon which I have enlarged, I have not
      told nor enlarged upon, in quality and quantity, a ten thousandth
      part of what has been done and is being done to-day.
  46. And that all Christians may have greater compassion on those
      innocent nations, and that they may more sincerely lament their loss
      and doom, and blame and abominate the detestible avarice, ambition,
      and cruelty of the Spaniards, let them all hold this truth for
      certain, in addition to what I have affirmed above; namely, that
      from the time the Indies were discovered down to the present,
      nowhere did the Indians harm any Christians, before they had
      sustained harm, robbery, and treachery from them.  Nay, they always
      esteemed them immortal, and come from Heaven; and as such they
      received them, until their deeds manifested their character and
  47. It is well to add something else, that from the beginning till the
      present day the Spaniards have given no more thought to providing
      for the preaching of the faith of Jesus Christ to these people than
      if they were dogs or other animals: nay, they have persistently
      afflicted and persecuted the monks, to prevent them from preaching,
      because it seemed to them an impediment to the acquisition of the
      gold and wealth they promised themselves in their greedy desires.
  48. And to-day there is not in all the Indies more knowledge of God
      among these people, as to whether He is of wood, or in heaven or on
      earth, than there was a hundred years ago, except in new Spain,
      where monks have gone and which is but a very little corner of the
      Indies.  And so all have perished and are perishing, without faith
      and without Sacraments.

      I was induced to write this work I, Fray Bartolomeus de las Casas,
      or Casaus, friar of St. Dominic, who by God’s mercy do go about this
      Court of Spain, trying to drive the hell out of the Indies, and to
      bring about that all those numberless multitudes of souls, redeemed
      with the blood of Jesus Christ, shall not hopelessly perish forever;
      moved also by the compassion I feel for my fatherland, Castile, that
      God may not destroy it for such great sins, committed against His
      faith and honour and against fellow creatures. A few persons of
      quality who reside at this Court and are jealous of God’s honour and
      compassionate towards the afflictions and calamities of others,
      urged me to this work although it was my own intention which my
      continual occupations had never allowed me to put into effect.
   2. I brought it to a close at Valencia the 8th of December 1542, when
      all the violence was more terrible, and the oppression, tyranny,
      massacres, robberies, destructions, slaughter, depopulation,
      anguish, and calamity aforesaid, are actually at their height in all
      the regions where the Christians of the Indies are; although in some
      places they are fiercer, and more abominable than in others.
   3. Mexico and its neighbourhood are a little less badly off; there, at
      least, such things dare not be done publicly, because there is
      somewhat more justice than elsewhere, although very little, for they
      still kill the people with infernal burdens.
   4. I have great hope, for the Emperor and King of Spain our Lord Don
      Carlos, Fifth of this name is getting to understand the wickedness
      and treachery that, contrary to the will of God, and of himself, is
      and has been done to those people and in those countries; heretofore
      the truth has been studiously hidden from him, that it is his duty
      to extirpate so many evils and bring succour to that new world,
      given him by God, as to one who is a lover and observer of justice,
      whose glorious, and happy life and Imperial state may God Almighty
      long prosper, to the relief of all his universal Church, and for the
      final salvation of his own Royal soul.  Amen.

      Since the above was written, some laws and edicts have been
      published by His Majesty, who was then in the town of Barcelona, in
      the month of November 1542 and in the town of Madrid the following
      year; these contain such provisions as now seem suitable to bring
      about the cessation of the great wickedness and sin committed
      against God and our fellow creatures, to the total ruin and
      destruction of that world.
   2. After many conferences and debates amongst conscientious and learned
      authorities, who were assembled in the town of Valladolid, His
      Majesty made the said laws; acting finally on the decision and
      opinion of the greater part of all those who gave their votes in
      writing, and who drew nearer to the law of Jesus Christ, as true
      Christians.  They were likewise free from the corruption and
      foulness of the treasures stolen from the Indies that soiled the
      hands, and still more the souls of many in authority who, in their
      blindness, had committed unscrupulous destruction.
   3. When these laws were published, the agents of the tyrants, then at
      Court, made many copies of them; they displeased all these men who
      considered that they shut the doors to their participation in what
      was robbed and taken by tyranny: and they sent the copies to divers
      parts of the Indies.
   4. None of those who there had charge of robbing the Indians, and of
      finishing their destruction by their tyranny, had ever observed any
      order, but such disorder as might have been made by Lucifer; when
      they saw the copies, before the arrival of the new judges who were
      to execute them, it is said and believed that they had been warned
      of what was coming by those in Spain, who have till now encouraged
      their sins and violence.  They were so agitated, that when the good
      judges who were to carry out the laws arrived, they resolved to set
      aside shame and obedience to the King, just as they had already lost
      all love and fear of God.
   5. They thus determined to let themselves be called traitors, for they
      are cruel and unbridled tyrants, particularly in the kingdoms of
      Peru, where at present, in this year of 1546, such horrible,
      frightful, and execrable deeds are committed, as have never been
      done, either in the Indies or in the world; not only do such things
      happen among the Indians whom they have already all or nearly all
      killed, but among themselves.  In the absence of the King’s justice
      to punish them, God’s justice has come from heaven to bring
      dissension amongst them and to make one to be the executioner of the
   6. Shielded by the rebellion of these tyrants, those in all the other
      regions, would not obey the laws and, under pretext of appealing
      against them, have also revolted; they resent having to abdicate the
      dignities and power they have usurped, and to losing the Indians
      whom they hold in perpetual slavery.
   7. Where they have ceased to kill quickly by the sword, they kill
      slowly by personal servitude and other unjust and intolerable
      vexations. And till now the King has not succeeded in preventing
      them because all, small and great, go there to pilfer, some more,
      some less, some publicly and openly, others secretly and under
      disguise; and with the pretext that they are serving the king, they
      dishonour God, and rob and destroy the King.

The present work was printed in the most noble, and faithful town of
Seville, at the house of Sebastian Truxillo book-printer. To our Lady of

                             The Year M.D.LII

What follows is part of a letter and report, written by one of those very
men who went to these regions, recounting the deeds the captain did, and
allowed to be done, in the countries he visited.  When the said letter and
report was given with other things to be bound, the bookseller either
forgot or lost one or more pages containing frightful things, that had all
been given me by one of those who did them, all of which I had in my
possession; what follows is therefore without beginning or end.  But as
this piece that is left, is full of notorious things, it seemed well to me
not to leave it unprinted: because I believe it will not excite less
compassion and horror in Your Highness, than some of the irregularities
already related, as well also as the desire to correct them.


      He allowed the Indians to be chained and put in prisons, and so it
      was done.  And the said captain took three or four in chains for
      himself; by so doing and by robbing the Indians of their supplies
      instead of providing for necessary sowing and populating, the
      natives of the country were reduced to such want, that great numbers
      of them were found in the streets starved to death.
   2. He killed about ten thousand souls by making the Indians carry the
      Spaniards’ baggage to and from the beach, because all who reached
      the coast died of the heat.
   3. After this he followed the same trail and road as Juan de Ampudia,
      sending the Indians he had brought from Quito, a day in front, to
      discover the Indian towns and to sack them so that he and his people
      might avail themselves of them on their arrival.  Those Indians
      belonged to him and his companions, one of whom had two hundred,
      another three hundred, according to the number each brought with
      him, and they carried whatever their masters robbed. And in this
      they treated children and women most cruelly.
   4. He followed the same course in Quito, burning all the country and
      the stores of maize belonging to the lords; he consented to the
      killing of great numbers of sheep, all of which form the principal
      provision and maintenance of the natives and of the Spaniards; for
      the latter use two or three hundred just to eat the brains and fat
      alone, and waste the meat.
   5. His friendly Indians who went with him, killed great numbers of
      sheep, just to eat the hearts, not eating anything else.  And so two
      men in a province called Purua killed twenty-five sheep and
      pack-sheep, just to eat the brains and fat, although among the
      Spaniards they cost twenty and twenty-five pesos each.
   6. By such excessive disorder, they killed more than a hundred thousand
      head of animals, which reduced the country to very great want, while
      the natives died of starvation in great numbers.  Although there was
      more maize in Quito than can be told, this bad order of things
      brought such penury on the people that a measure of maize came to
      cost ten pesos, and a sheep the same.
   7. When the said captain returned from the coast, he determined to
      leave Quito, to go in search of Captain Juan de Ampudia.  He took
      more than two hundred foot and horsemen, among whom he led many
      inhabitants of the country of Quito.  The said captain permitted the
      colonists who accompanied him to draw the lords from their
      departments and as many Indians as they liked, and this they did.
   8. Alonso Sanchez Nuyta took a lord and more than a hundred Indians
      with their wives; Pedro Cobo and his cousin, more than a hundred and
      fifty with their wives and many of the children, who otherwise all
      died of starvation.  And so likewise Moran, an inhabitant of
      Popayan, had more than two hundred persons; and all the other
      inhabitants and soldiers also took as many as each could.
   9. And the said soldiers asked him if he would give them licence to put
      the Indians they brought with them, in prison; and he said yes,
      until they died, and when these were dead, also others; for if the
      Indians were vassals of His Majesty, they were also of the
      Spaniards, and they died in war.
  10. In this way the said captain left Quito and went to a town called
      Otabalo, which he owned at that time by virtue of the distribution,
      and he demanded five hundred men for the war from its lord, who gave
      them to him with some Indian chiefs.  He distributed some of these
      people among the soldiers and the rest he took with himself, some
      with packs, and others in chains, and some, who served him and
      brought him food, were free; the soldiers also took them, bound in
      this way with chains and cords.
  11. When they left the province of Quito they took away more than six
      thousand Indians, men and women of whom not twenty men returned to
      their country: because they all died of the great and excessive
      labours imposed on them, in countries far from their native land.
  12. It happened at this time, that one Alonso Sanchez was sent by the
      said captain in command of certain people in a province; on the way,
      he met a number of women and boys loaded with provisions who,
      instead of fleeing, waited for him, to give them to him; and he had
      them all put to the sword.
  13. And a miracle happened when a soldier was stabbing an Indian woman;
      at the first blow the sword broke in half, and at the second only
      the handle was left, without his being able to wound her.  Another
      soldier with a double bladed dagger wanted to stab another Indian
      woman, but at the first blow four fingers’ length of the point broke
      off, and at the second nothing remained but the handle alone.
  14. When the said captain left Quito, leading away such a quantity of
      natives, separating them from their wives, giving some of the young
      girls to those Indians he took with him, and others to those who
      were left behind on account of their old age, a woman came behind
      him, with a little child in her arms, weeping and begging him not to
      take her husband away from her, because she had three little
      children whom she would not be able to bring up, and who would die
      of starvation; and seeing that he answered her roughly the first
      time, she came back a second with louder cries saying, that her
      children would die of starvation: and when she saw, that he
      commanded she should be driven away and that he would not release
      her husband, she threw the child on some stones and killed it.
  15. When the said captain arrived in the province of Lili at a town
      called Palo near the great river, he found there the Captain Juan de
      Ampudia, who had gone in advance to explore and pacify the country;
      the said Ampudia had founded a town called Ampudia, in the name of
      His Majesty and of the Marquis Francisco Pizarro, and had appointed
      Pedro Solano de Quiñones and eight rulers as ordinary judges; and
      the greater part of the country was at peace, and divided.  As soon
      as he knew that the said captain was at the river, he went to see
      him accompanied by many of the inhabitants and peaceful Indians,
      loaded with provisions and fruit; and from thenceforward all the
      Indians in the neighbourhood went to visit the said captain, and to
      bring him food.
  16. These were the Indians from Namudi, Palo, Soliman, and Bolo; but
      because they did not bring as much maize as he wanted, he ordered
      many Spaniards to go with their Indians, men and women to get maize,
      wherever they found it.  So they went to Bolo and to Palo, where
      they found the Indians, tranquil in their houses; and the said
      Spaniards and those who went with them, stole and carried off the
      maize, gold, stuffs, and all the Indians possessed, and they bound
      many of them.
  17. When the Indians saw that they were treated so badly, they went to
      complain to the said captain of what had been done, and to request
      that the Spaniards should restore all they had taken from them.  He
      would not have anything restored, but told them that his men would
      not go there a second time.
  18. Within three or four days the Spaniards returned for maize, and to
      rob the Indians of the town.  The Indians having seen that the said
      captain kept and observed his word so little, all the country
      revolted, which did much harm and disservice to God Our Lord, and to
      His Majesty.
  19. So the whole country is left deserted, because the people have been
      destroyed by their enemies the Olomas and Manipos: these are a
      warlike people from the mountains, who descended every day to the
      plains to capture and despoil them, seeing that their towns and
      native country were left abandoned; and the most powerful among them
      ate the weaker, because they were all dying of starvation.
  20. Having done this, the said captain returned to the said country of
      Ampudia, where he was received as General and seven days later he
      again left to go to the places called Lili and Peti, accompanied by
      more than two hundred men on foot and on horse.
  21. Afterwards the said commander sent his captain in all directions,
      making cruel war on the natives; and so they killed great numbers of
      Indians, men and women, and burnt their houses and stole their
      goods: this lasted many days.
  22. The lords of the country seeing that they were killing and
      destroying them, sent some peaceable Indians, with provisions.  And
      the said captain having left for a settlement called Yce, he at once
      sent some Spaniards to rob, capture, and kill as many Indians as
      they could, commanding that many houses should be burnt; and so they
      burnt more than a hundred.
  23. From there he went to another town, called Tolilicuy, (105) where
      the lord at once came forth peaceably with many Indians: and the
      said captain demanded gold of him and of his Indians.  The lord said
      he had but little, but that he would give him what he had. They all
      immediately began to bring him what they could.
  24. The said captain gave each of the Indians a ticket bearing the name
      of the said Indian who had given him gold, threatening that any
      Indian who did not pay and was without this ticket, should be thrown
      to the dogs.  Terrified by this, all the Indians who had gold, gave
      him all that they could; and those who had none fled to the mountain
      and to other towns, for fear of being killed; for which reason a
      great number of natives perished.
  25. The said captain forthwith ordered the lords to send two Indians to
      another town, called Dagua, to order the inhabitants to come
      peaceably to him, and bring him a quantity of gold.
  26. On arriving at another town, he sent a number of Spaniards, and
      Indians from Tolilicuy to capture many Indians, and so the following
      day they brought back more than a hundred persons with them. He took
      all those capable of carrying loads, for himself and the soldiers,
      and put them in chains so that they all died; and the said captain
      gave the infants to the said lords of Tolilicuy to be eaten.  And
      to-day in the house of the said Lord Tolilicuy there are the skins
      of the infants full of ashes.
  27. Without saying anything, he departed from there for the provinces of
      Calili, where he joined Captain Juan de Ampudia, who had been sent
      by him to explore the country by another route; both the one and the
      other did much slaughter and much injury to the native people
      wherever they went.
  28. The said Juan de Ampudia arrived at a place, the lord of which was
      called Bitacon; he had prepared some pits for his defence, into
      which two horses belonging to Antonio Redondo and Marcus Marquez
      fell; the latter died but the other not.  In consequence of this the
      said Ampudia ordered as many as possible of the Indians, men and
      women, to be captured; more than a hundred persons were captured
      whom they threw into those pits alive where they killed them, and
      they burnt more than a hundred houses in that town.
  29. Thus they joined one another at a large town and, without calling
      the Indians pacifically, nor sending interpreters to summon them,
      they made cruel war on them, and persecuted them, and killed great
      numbers of them.  And as soon as they joined one another as has been
      said, the aforenamed Ampudia told the captain what he had done at
      Bitacon, and how he had thrown so many people into the pits; and the
      said captain replied that he had done very well; and that he himself
      had done the same at Riobamba, which is in the province of Quito,
      where he threw more than two hundred persons into the pits; both
      stayed here, making war throughout the country.
  30. After this he entered the province of Birù or Anzerma, making cruel
      war of fire and blood, from this province to the salt ponds.  From
      there he sent Francisco Garcia Tobar forward, making cruel war on
      the natives as is told above; and the Indians went to him two by
      two, making signs that they sought peace in the name of all the
      country, and asking what the Spaniards wished; for if they wanted
      gold or women or provisions, they should be given them, and begging
      that they should not be killed in this way: and this the Spaniards
      themselves have confessed to be true.
  31. And the said Francisco Garcia told them to go away, that they were
      drunk, and that he did not understand them, after which he returned
      to where the said captain was and they set out to march through all
      the province, making most cruel war on the natives, plundering and
      killing them; and more than two thousand souls were carried off from
      there between him and his soldiers, all of whom died in chains.
  32. Before they left the inhabited country, they killed more than five
      hundred persons.  Thus he returned to the province of Calili; and if
      on the way some Indian, man or woman, became so tired that he could
      not walk, they stabbed him; if he was in chains they cut off his
      head, so as not to undo them and so that the others seeing this,
      should not feign being ill.
  33. In this way they all died, and on this journey all the people he had
      brought from Quito, Pasto, Quilla, Cagua, Paria, Popayan, Lili,
      Cali, and Anzerma, perished in very great numbers.  On his return
      march, as soon as he entered the large town, they killed all they
      could.  And they captured three hundred persons in that day.
  34. From the province of Lili, he sent the said captain, Juan de
      Ampudia, with many people to the place and dwellings of Lili, in
      order to capture all the Indians, men and women, that he could, for
      carrying the packs; because all the numerous people he had brought
      from Anzerma, had already died.  And the said Juan de Ampudia
      brought more than a thousand persons, many of whom he killed.
  35. The said captain took all the people he needed, giving the rest to
      the soldiers, who at once put them in chains, where they all died:
      after depriving the said country of the Spaniards, and of the
      natives in such great numbers, as is seen by the few that are left,
      he set out for Popayan.
  36. On the way he left behind a live Spaniard, whose name was Martin de
      Aguirre, because he could not walk as much as the healthy ones.  On
      his arrival at Popayan he dwelt in that town, and began to destroy,
      and rob the Indians of the surrounding country, with the same
      disorder as he had done in the others.
  37. He made a royal stamp here and melted all the gold he had gathered,
      and that Juan de Ampudia had gathered before he came; and without
      any accounting or explanation, and without giving any part to any
      soldier, he took it all for himself, except that he gave what he
      chose to some whose horses were dead.  This done, and after taking
      the fifths of His Majesty he said he was going to Cuzco to report to
      his Governor; so he set out for Quito, taking a great number of
      Indians, men, and women, all of whom died on the journey and in that
      place.  And further the said captain returned to destroy the royal
      stamp he had made.
  38. It is well at this point to relate a word that this man said of
      himself, showing that he very well knew the evil and cruelty that he
      did.  He spoke thus: “In fifty years, those that pass by here and
      hear of these things, will say: ‘It was here that the tyrant so and
      so marched.’ ”
  39. These in-comings and out-goings of this captain in those kingdoms,
      and this way of visiting those people living safely in their
      country, and these operations practised by him against them, Your
      Highness should know and be convinced, have always been done by the
      Spaniards everywhere in the same way, from the discovery of the
      Indies till the present day.


                             Latin Text(106)

Paulus Papa tertius universis Christi fidelibus præsentes litteras
inspecturis salutem et Apostolicam benedictionem.   Sublimis Deus sic
dilexit humanum genus, ut hominem talem condiderit qui non solum boni
sicut cæteræ creaturæ particeps esset, sed ipsum Summum Bonum inaccesibile
et invisibile attingere et facie ad faciem videre posset; et cum homo ad
vitam et beatitudinem æternam obeundam, etiam sacrarum literarum
testimonio, creatus sit, et hanc vitam et beatitudinem æternam, nemo
consequi valeat, nisi per fidem Domini nostri Jesu Christi fateri necesse
est, hominem talis conditionis et naturæ esse, ut Fidem Christi recipere
possit, et quemqunque, qui naturam hominis fortitus est, ad ipsam Fidem
recipiendam habilem esse.  Nec enim quisque adeò desipere creditur, ut se
secredat Fidem obtinere posse, et medium summe necessarium, nequaquam

Hinc veritas ipsa quæ nec falli, nee fallere potest, cum prædicatores
fidei ad officium prædicationis destinaret, dixisse dignoscitur.  _Euntes,
Docete Omnes Gentes._  Omnes dixit, absque omni deletu, cum omnes fidei
disciplinæ capaces existant.  Quod videns ipsius humani generis emulus qui
bonis operibus, ut pereant semper adversatur, modum excogavit ac temis in
auditum, quo impediret, ne verbum Dei gentibus salve fierent,
predicaretur, ac quosdam suos satelites commovit, qui suam cupiditatem ad
implere, cupientes occidentales, et meridionales Indos, et alias gentes,
quas temporibus istis ad nostram notitiam pervenerunt, sub prætextu, quod
Fidei Catolicæ expertes existant, uti muta animalia ad nostra obsequia
redigendos esse passim asserere præsumat.

Nos igitur qui eiusdem Domini Nostri vices, licet immeriti, gerimus in
terris, et oves gregis sui nobis commissas, quæ extra eius ovile sunt, ad
ipsum ovile toto nixu exquirimus.  Attendentes Indos ipsos, ut potè veros
homines, non solum Christianæ Fidei capaces existere, sed ut nobis
innotuit, ad fidem ipsam promptissimè currere.  Ac volentes super his
congruis remediis providere, prasdictos Indos et omnes alias gentes ad
notitiam Christianorum imposterum deventuras, licet extra Fidem Christi
existant sua libertate àc rerum suarum dominio privatos, seù privandos non
esse.  Imò libertate et dominio huiusmodi, uti et potiri, et gaudere,
liberè et licitè posse, nee in servitutem redigi debere.  Ac si secùs
fieri contigerit irritum et innane.  Ipsosque Indos et alias gentes verbi
Dei prædicatione et exemplo bonæ vitæ ad dictam Fidem Christi invitandos
fore, et præsentium literarum transumptis manu alicuius Notarii publici
subscriptis, àc sigillo alicuius personæ in dignitate Ecclesiastica
constitutæ munitis, eamdem fidem adhibendam esse, quas originalibus
adhiberetur auctoritate Apostolice per præsentes litteras decernimus et
declaramus.  Non obstantibus præmissis, cæterisque contrariis

Datum Romæ Anno Domini millessimo quingentessimo trigessimo septimo.
Quarto nonas Junii Pontificatus nostri, Anno tertio.

                          THE BULLSublimis Deus


Paul III Pope   To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come,
health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise
that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures
enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and
invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man,
according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to
enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith
in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the
nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever
is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith.  Nor is it
credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire
the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him
to receive it.  Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never
failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He
chose for that office “Go ye and teach all nations.”  He said all, without
exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring
men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never
before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of
Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him,
have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the
South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated
as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable
of receiving the catholic faith.

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek
with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside, into
the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are
truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the catholic
faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to
receive it.  Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, we define
and declare by these our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by
any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical
dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals,
that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the
contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be
discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty
or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith
of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately,
enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they
be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and
of no effect.

By virtue of our apostolic authority We define and declare by these
present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public
and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus
command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and
other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by
preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.

Given in Rome in the year of our Lord 1537. The fourth of June and of our
Pontificate, the third year.


THE PRINCE. Our officials of India House, who reside in the city of
Seville: Rev. Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the province
of Chiapa, goes to this city in order to send off forty priests, who are
now going to the province of Honduras; and also to give orders concerning
their departure and other matters which he understands.  I therefore wish
the said bishop to be given every facility in these matters so that he may
be enabled to arrange quickly, as is due to one in our service, and I
command and order you that in the aforesaid, as in all things, you will
offer him help, and assist him and the said priests; and in thus doing,
you will be serving me.  From Valladolid 13th day of the month of February
1544—I, the Prince, etc.

THE PRINCE.  Our officials of India House, who reside in the city of
Seville; as the bulls of the bishop of the province of Chiapa, the
Reverend Father Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas have arrived and Diego
Navarro, who brought them by our orders is entitled by the agreement made
with him to be paid for the cost and the delivery of the said bulls,
amounting, according to the declaration of Pedro de Tapia and of Diego de
Gaona, apostolic notaries, and of certain money changers in Rome, to
eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis, and since
this has to be deducted from the five hundred thousand maravedis, which
the said bishop receives from us in New Spain, I order that out of
whatever maravedis are in your charge, our treasurer shall pay the said
Diego Navarro or his authorised representative the said eighty-eight
thousand nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis.  You will take care that
they are collected according to the cedula which I send by him.  Let me
know what you do in this matter, and do not fail to do so.

Dated in Valladolid, etc.

Archives of the Indies, Council of Guatemala, register of property.  Royal
commands issued to the authorities, corporations, and private persons of
the district, years 1529 to 1551. Desk 100, drawer 1st. Packet 1st.

THE PRINCE.  By these presents I give permission and faculty to you, Rev.
Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the province of Chiapa to
leave our realms, and dominions and go to our Indies, Islands, and “Terra
Firma” of the ocean sea, accompanied by four black slaves for your
personal service and establishment, free of all duty, as well from the two
ducats for their licences, as from the “almoxarifazgo” duties.(108)
Whatever sum this amounts to, I exempt you; and we instruct our officials
in those islands and provinces to which the said slaves are to be sent, to
take charge of this original document and place it in the chest of the
Three Keys, so that the said slaves shall be unable to make more than the
one voyage for which we give you permission by this licence.  Dated in the
town of Valladolid 13th day of February 1544—I, the Prince, etc.

THE PRINCE.  Reverend Father in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas,
bishop-elect of the province of Chiapa I have been informed that the
province of Socousco is within the boundaries of your diocese.  Knowing
this and with the confidence I place in you, my will is to place the said
province under your charge so that, as prelate you will have the care of
the spiritual affairs in it, until, as aforesaid, a bishop is provided for
it.  I therefore order and entrust you as prelate to take charge of the
spiritual welfare of the said province until as said, a prelate is
provided for it.  Of the tithes of the said province you are to take one
fourth part, and the other three parts shall be distributed among the
ecclesiastical ministers who at present serve in that province; and in the
repairs and decorations of its churches.  The fourth part, of which you
have the use, shall be expended in your personal visits throughout the
said provinces and in performing their pontifical functions until the
prelate we shall appoint goes to reside in his bishopric.  Dated in
Valladolid 13th day of February 1544—I, the Prince, etc.

THE PRINCE.  Reverend Father in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas,
bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa.  You
already know that the Emperor King, my sovereign, having seen the
necessity of providing and ordering certain things tending to the better
government of the Indies, the better treatment of its natives, and the
better administration of justice, and in order to fulfil the duties he
owes to the service of God our Lord, and in the discharge of his royal
conscience has, after much deliberation, ordered certain ordinances to be
drawn up.  As it afterwards appeared necessary and advantageous to explain
certain clauses in the said ordinances and to further strengthen others,
certain ordinances and declarations were made, many of whose articles have
been rectified for the benefit, preservation, and good treatment of the
natives of the said Indies, their lives and properties.  They may all thus
be well treated as free subjects and vassals of His Majesty (which they
are) and instructed in the Holy Catholic Faith, as you will see by the
copies of the said ordinances and declarations, which I order to be sent
to you with this letter, signed by Juan de Samano, our secretary.  And
whatever I have commanded in our ordinances and in our cedulas and
provisions, which I now renew, I send and order our viceroys, presidents
and the auditors of our audiencias and royal chancelleries of the said
Indies, our governors and our judges that with great zeal and diligence
they obey, comply with, and have them proclaimed.  They shall rigorously
punish all who rebel against these ordinances, and many of the said
ordinances shall be given to the priests who are in those parts that they
may be made known to the natives, and procure obedience to them, and
report those who do not fulfil them, to the said audiencia.  I also think
it advisable to mention this to you, feeling confident that as you are the
pastor and protector of the native Indians in your bishopric, and are
bound to be more zealous in procuring their better welfare and in
preserving their spiritual and temporal development, you will, therefore,
do this and take greater care to ensure the execution of what has been
enacted for their benefit.  Thus I charge you and I command you to see
that this is carried out, and to exercise great vigilance and care to
ensure the observance of the said statutes and the execution of their
provisions.  And should any person or persons violate these orders, you
will notify the governors and judges in those parts so that they may
punish them according to the provisions of the statutes.  Should the
latter prove remiss, neglectful, or inclined to dissimulate, you will
report to the President and auditors of Our Audiencia and Royal
Chancellery of the Confines, indicating those who have offended and in
what way, so that they may order the guilty to be punished in conformity
with the commands we have sent them.  In case the said President and
auditors fail to correct and punish them, after seeing your statement—a
thing we do not believe—you will notify us of everything in order that we
may have them punished as we may think fit.  In doing this you will have
fulfilled the duties you owe to the service of God, our Lord, and in the
discharge of your conscience; moreover the Emperor my sovereign will also
be served.  Dated in Valladolid, 13th day of February 1544.  I the Prince,

DON CARLOS by Divine Grace, August Emperor, King of Germany; Doña Juana
his mother, and the same Don Carlos by the grace of God, Kings of Castile
and Leon, etc.  To you, Rev. Father in Christ, Bartholomew de Las Casas,
bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, health
and grace.  You well know that on account of the good reports that we had
of your character, we presented you to our most Holy Father as bishop of
the said diocese, and though the bulls have not been despatched, the
service of God Our Lord, the instruction and conversion of the natives of
the said bishopric and the good government and advancement of the Church
and its divine teachings, require that you go with all haste to the said
provinces to undertake the said teaching and conversion and the other
matters with which we have charged you.  Were you to await the arrival of
the said bulls, certain misfortunes might in the meantime occur there
which would displease God our Lord, and not be in accordance with our
duties to His service in the Indies.  It was therefore agreed that without
awaiting the said bulls, you should go to the said province, and we
approve it.  Therefore we pray and command you that as soon as you receive
this you will start for the said province of Chiapa, without awaiting the
said bulls: you will enquire into and find out the state of the spiritual
affairs of the province and also what churches and monasteries have been
built.  What tithes there have been and in what way they have been spent
and distributed.  If the necessary churches have not been built you will
see that they are immediately erected in such places as you judge best,
placing priests to administer the Holy Sacraments and to diligently
instruct the natives of those towns in all matters relating to our holy
Catholic Faith.  In the meantime, we, as patrons of the said churches and
the others in our Indies, command persons to be named to those benefices
who will assume charge of them. You will likewise see that the divine
services are carried out with the necessary reverence, decency, and
decorum, and that the natives of the said district are instructed in the
Holy Catholic faith; you will see that the said priests and others who
reside in the said provinces live honestly, and that those who are charged
with the education of the Indians in the teachings of our Holy Catholic
Faith fulfil their duties.  We command that the President and the auditors
of our Audiencia and Royal Chancellery of the Confines, as well as all
other judges and subjects of the said province of Chiapa, shall give you
all the above mentioned, and shall favour and aid you in whatever you ask
of them or is necessary.  For all of which we name you and give you full
power by this, our letter with all its incidents, dependencies, annexes,
and connexes.  You are notified by this letter that you are not authorised
to exercise jurisdiction or other functions forbidden to bishops-elect
before they are confirmed and consecrated.  Dated in the town of
Valladolid 13th day of February etc.

DON CARLOS, etc.  To you, the Rev. Father in Christ, Bartholomew de Las
Casas bishop-elect of the province of Chiapa, health and grace.   Be it
known to you that we have been informed that in your diocese, many Indians
have been hunted and driven to the hills and mountains by the cruel
treatment of Spaniards living there, and of others who have gone there of
their own free will.  And because we are desirous that the said Indians
should be pacified and taught our Holy Catholic Faith, and should be
brought back to the towns they used to inhabit to again live there and be
taught the Christian doctrines, we have decided, on account of the great
confidence we have in you, to beg you to endeavour to bring the said
Indians to peaceful terms.  We therefore charge and command you that upon
your arrival there you will endeavour to procure peace, and to instruct
all the Indians who have been driven out of the said bishopric, in the
knowledge of the Holy Catholic Faith.  And you will persuade them to
return to the towns they used to inhabit or to the places indicated by
you, which you think more suitable.  And that they may come the more
willingly, you will promise and assure them in our name that if they come
and populate the said towns, they shall not be molested either now or at
any time during our royal reign; neither they, nor their descendants, nor
the towns they inhabit.  By these presents we promise that should they
come to peaceful terms as stated, we will not molest them neither during
this reign nor at any other time.  We moreover command that for a period
of four years they shall neither be fined nor taxed by our officials nor
by any other persons; and that they may be more relieved from work, our
will is that they shall be free of all tribute.  You will have special
oversight of their good treatment and of their instruction and conversion,
and you will advise us what number of Indians have become peaceful through
these means and also what districts they have peopled.  Dated in the town
of Valladolid etc.

THE PRINCE.  Reverend Father in Christ, Francis Marroquin, bishop of the
province of Guatemala: I am informed by Our Council that you have
interfered and are interfering in the spiritual affairs pertaining to the
Diocese of Chiapa and know its affairs as though you were its bishop,
being as it is the lawful church and having its chapter, and the see being
at present vacant.  The Emperor King, my sovereign, has presented to the
said bishopric the Reverend Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, and we have
despatched him thither without waiting for his bulls.  You are aware that
in a lawfully erected diocese it belongs to the chapter during the vacancy
of the see, to take cognisance of what happens there.  Therefore I command
you that from the day that you receive this, you will henceforth, neither
know nor try to find out and interfere as a bishop in anything pertaining
to the said bishopric of Chiapa, and that you will leave the chapter of
the vacant see to act as is customary during a vacancy.  Dated in
Valladolid etc.

THE PRINCE.  Don Carlos, by Divine Grace august Emperor, King of Germany;
Doña Juana, his mother and the same Don Carlos, by the grace of God, Kings
of Castile and Leon etc.  To you Rev. Father in Christ, Bartholomew de Las
Casas, bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa,
health and grace be with you.  You well know how we have sent you, without
awaiting your bulls, to the said province to undertake the spiritual
affairs there and, because our wishes are that pending the arrival of the
said bulls, you shall be entitled to collect the ecclesiastical tithes of
that bishopric and to distribute them according to and in the manner
authorised by the foundation law of the diocese, we command you, pending
the arrival of the bulls authorising you to take possession of the said
bishopric, to collect all the ecclesiastical tithes of that bishopric.  By
these presents we command all persons who should pay them, to bring them
to you or to whomever you authorise to receive them, just as though you
had already taken possession of the diocese by virtue of the said bulls.
The tithes thus collected you shall spend and distribute each year on the
things and in such wise as the foundation charter provided, and for their
collection we give you full power, with its incidents, dependencies,
annexes, and connexes.  We likewise order that our judges and the
inhabitants of the said province shall not place nor allow to be placed
any impediment whatsoever in your way and shall leave you free to collect
the said tithes; and should necessity arise, they shall help and assist
you, and shall compel the tithe-payers to pay you the tithes as
beforesaid—Dated in the town of Valladolid 13th of February 1544—I the
Prince—by command of His Highness, Juan de Samano; signed by the Bishop of
Cuenca and the licentiates Gutierrez Velasquez; Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron.
THE PRINCE.  Venerable and devout Father, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas,
bishop-elect confirmed to the province of Chiapa; I saw your letter of the
21st ult. and the one you wrote to Juan de Samano, his Majesty’s
secretary, and the cedula you ask for, authorizing the expenses of the
forty friars who are going to Honduras, goes with this.  About the two
hundred and fifty ducats which I ordered to be given you by the officials
of this chamber, seeing that there is no money wherewith to pay them, I
have ordered them to be paid on account, and that they should pay them to
you, as you will have understood when you receive this, and thus they will
settle with you in full.

I have written to the Franciscan Provincial of the Province of Castile,
that ten priests are going to the Indies instead of the twelve that I
asked for, as you told me that two of them are already in that city, of
which I am glad.  The others who come will be provided with their passage
and stores according to the cedula you possess.

Pertaining to your consecration, in another document which accompanies
this, I am sending to give notice of the arrival of your bulls, charging
you to arrange at once for your consecration.  I therefore beg you to do
this and to let me know how it was celebrated.  Valladolid 1st day of
April 1544.  I, the Prince: countersigned by Samano, signed by the bishop
of Cuenca, Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron.

DON CARLOS and Doña Juana etc.  To you alcaldes and others and to our
judges of the provinces of Chiapa, Yucatan, Cozumel and to all Aldermen,
Judges, lawyers, gentlemen, esquires, officials and to all loyal subjects
in every city, town, and village which lie within the boundaries assigned
by our President and the auditors of our royal Council in New Spain to the
bishopric of the city of Ciudad Real of this province of Chiapa, and to
whatsoever other persons may be charged with the administration of the
churches in the said cities, towns, and villages lying within the said
boundaries and to whom this our letter may concern, health and grace.  You
well know or should know that we have presented to our very Holy Father,
the Reverend Father in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de las Casas of the
Dominican Order, for the bishopric of the said city of Ciudad Real in the
province of Chiapa, to whom His Holiness, in virtue of our presentation,
conveyed the said church and bishopric; and he ordered to be given and did
give his bull for it, presenting it to us and begging us to grant our
execution of the letter so that, in conformity with the said bulls, he
would be given possession of the said bishopric and might receive its
rents and income, to enable him to appoint his vicars and other officials
of the said bishopric and that we might dispose as we saw fit.  He sent
the said bulls to be shown to our Council of the Indies and after they had
seen them, we agreed that in the meantime or until we or our sovereign
successors enlarge or diminish the boundaries of the said bishopric, the
said Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas should preserve the boundaries assigned
by the said President and auditors to the said bishopric of Chiapa; and
that the tithes and other things which belong to him as bishop should be
paid him; and that we should send this, our letter to you; and we
approved.  For that reason we order all and each one of you, who see the
said bulls, which will be presented by the said Reverend Fray Bartolomew
de Las Casas, conformably with their tenor and form to give or have given
to him, or to whomever he authorises, the possession of the church and
bishopric of the said city of Ciudad Real of the province of Chiapa, that
he may hold it within the boundaries the said President and auditors have
marked out.  Meanwhile, and until we or the kings our successors enlarge
or diminish the said boundaries as before stated, you shall hold him as
your bishop and prelate, giving him the proceeds and incomes, tithes and
revenues, and all things pertaining to him as bishop of that diocese.  And
you shall allow him to perform his pastoral duties and exercise his
episcopal jurisdiction in person or through his officials or vicars, in
whatever manner and in whatever form may be rightfully used according to
the said bulls, and as the laws of our kingdom sanction; and in all things
and cases belonging to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, you shall give him all
help and assistance.  And should he ask the aid of the secular arm, you
will grant it in conformity with the law, and each one and all shall not
fail him in any way, under penalty of our displeasure and of five hundred
thousand maravedis, forfeit to our exchequer.  Dated in the town of
Valladolid 7th of March 1544—I, the Prince; legalised by Samano, signed by
the Bishop of Cuenca, Gutierrez Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron.

THE PRINCE.  Our officials in the province of Higueras and Cape of
Honduras: know ye that on account of the good reports and information of
the character and life of Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas of the Dominican
Order, the Emperor King, my sovereign, has presented him to His Holiness
as bishop of the province of Chiapa in place of Fray Juan de Arteaga,
deceased, former bishop of the said diocese.  As the said bishop has
explained to me that in order to go to reside in the said diocese, he will
be obliged to provide himself in the said province with a few things for
his voyage, he has begged me to order you to lend him from your funds the
sum of two hundred ducats, or what I am pleased to give; and I approve. I
have therefore ordered in one of my documents, that five hundred thousand
maravedis in excess of the fourth part of the tithes of the said
bishopric, are to be yearly given from our purse.  That he may have
sufficient to maintain himself better, I command that out of whatever
maravedis are in your care, our treasurer shall give and pay to the said
Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, or to his authorised representative, the
said two hundred ducats, amounting to seventy-five thousand maravedis, and
shall note it on the back of the said document above mentioned; as you pay
it on account and in part payment of the said five hundred thousand
maravedis that we give him in this way each year, we have ordered that
these and other maravedis, which in these countries are to be given him,
shall be deducted from the five hundred thousand maravedis.  You will take
his receipt or that of his authorised representative to show that the said
two hundred “ducats” have been received on account.  Dated in Valladolid,
thirteenth day of February 1544,—I, the Prince, countersigned by
Samano—signed by the bishop of Cuenca, and Gre. Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez
y Salmeron.

THE PRINCE.  Our officials in the province of Guatemala, or any other
persons who may have been appointed to collect the tithes of the Bishop of
Chiapa, during the vacant bishopric.  Know ye that the Emperor King, my
sovereign, because of the good reports he had of the character and merits
of the Rev. Father in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas of the
Dominican Order, presented him to the Holy Father as bishop of the said
diocese of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, in place of
the licentiate Rev. Juan de Arteaga, former bishop, deceased.  The said
bishop has begged me, in order to assist him in his many expenses until he
starts to the said bishopric and to pay the expenses of his bulls, to
graciously give him the tithes belonging to the church, that have
accumulated since the decease of the said Rev. Juan de Arteaga, should I
so wish, and I, agreeing to the above and to help him, do approve.  I
therefore command you to help and assist the said bishop or his authorised
representatives with any tithes you may have collected or that remain in
the said bishopric of Chiapa belonging to the church, from the day the
said predecessor died until the day when he will enter and enjoy the five
hundred thousand maravedis which we order to be given him.  Dated in
Valladolid thirteenth day of February 1544—I the Prince—by command of His
Highness, Juan de Samano.

THE PRINCE.    Forasmuch as the Reverend Father in Christ, Fray
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad Real of the
plains of Chiapa has informed me that it may happen that in the Cathedral
of your said bishopric, there may not be more than one or two incumbents,
presented by us and installed by you in the dignities, canonries, and
prebends of the diocese, and, that not being more numerous, they must
divide amongst them all that pertains to the capitula mensa and promotes
the service of God our Lord and increases the divine cult in the said
church.  Should this be the case, the persons who were installed and were
present should take what was required for its establishment, and out of
the remainder competent salaries should be given to some of the priests
who serve in the said church so long as there are no more beneficiaries,
as we desire that the above mentioned may be corrected.    We order and
charge by these presents that, when it happens that in the said church
there are not at least four incumbents in residence, you will appoint up
to the said number to fill the vacant places, and priests who lead
exemplary lives and of the necessary abilities to serve in the said
church, as its canons and priests should; you will give them a sufficient
salary from the funds that belong to the Order of the Chapter; first
paying those who reside there and are ordained as the foundation statutes
provide.  And what may be left over from this and from the said salaries,
which you will order to be paid from the said funds, you will order to be
divided among all those installed and named by you, according to what is
due to each.  But should it happen that four incumbents or more than are
entitled to, reside in the said church, let them have from the funds of
the said Order of the Chapter, according to the foundation.  And you will
endeavour to hold them to this and will report to our Council for the
Indies by the first ships sailing, all particulars respecting the persons
appointed, with their salaries as before mentioned, and their
capabilities, so that we may judge what will be most useful to the service
of God our Lord, and to Holy Church.

And take care to enlighten us when the funds increase, that we may appoint
more persons for the service of the said church.  And be careful that the
salaries you have to fix, do not exceed the usual amount allowed in like
cases.  Dated in the town of Valladolid, thirteenth day of February 1544.
I, the Prince, by command of His Highness, Juan de Samano, signed by the
Bishop of Cuenca, by the licentiate Gre. Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y

THE PRINCE.  Our officials in New Spain; you already know how, on account
of the good reports we have had of the character and merits of the
Reverend Father, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, we presented him to the
bishopric of the province of Chiapa in the place of Don Juan de Arteaga
the late bishop; and as his bulls have been sent and their delivery cost
eighty-eight thousand, nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis, which
amount must be paid out of the five hundred thousand maravedis which we
ordered in another document to be given to him yearly in that country, and
because our officials of India House, who reside in the city of Seville,
have by our order paid eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and twenty-five
maravedis, I ordered them to send you this my cedula in order that you
might repay it.  I therefore command you that of the five hundred thousand
maravedis which the said Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas receives from us in
that country, the two first years in succession, you will collect the said
eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis which you
will send to the aforesaid officials at Seville, that we may be repaid

Dated, in Valladolid ist of April 1544, I, the Prince, countersigned by
Samano, signed by the bishop of Cuenca, Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y

THE PRINCE. Counsellors, judges, lawyers, gentlemen, esquires, officials,
and all royal subjects of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa;
know ye that the Emperor King, my sovereign, on account of the good
reports he had of the character, life, and habits of the Reverend Fray
Bartholomew de Las Casas, has presented him to this bishopric.   Because
we hope our Lord will be well served by him, we have ordered him to start
without waiting for his bulls and we have provided him with what we
thought necessary.  I charge and command you to honour him and treat him
justly, and to ask his advice in whatever matters may occur and in
accordance with the service of God our Lord and the good government of
this city, for I trust that by his good works and example and the great
zeal he shows for the service of God and for His Majesty, he will counsel
and guide you in whatever may contribute to the best results. Valladolid,
23rd of February, etc.

THE PRINCE.  Venerable dean and chapter of the Cathedral of the bishopric
of Chiapa: know ye that the Emperor King, my sovereign, because of the
good report he had of the character, life, and habits of Fray Bartholomew
de Las Casas, has presented him to this bishopric; and because we hope
that our Lord will be well served by his mission and for the benefit of
the Holy Church, we have ordered him to start without waiting for his
bulls to be granted to him, and we have ordered what provision we thought
necessary.  I charge and command you to honour him and to treat him with
respect and to take his advice in everything necessary for the government
of the church during the time he is awaiting consecration, because I hope
that with his wise teachings, good example, and the zeal he shows in the
service of God and His Majesty, he will advise and direct what is most
advantageous to the best results.

Valladolid 23rd of February 1544, Idem, etc.

THE PRINCE. Presidents and Auditors of Our Audiencia and Royal Chancellery
of the Confines: know ye that the Emperor King, my sovereign, on account
of the good reports he had of the character, life, and habits of the
Reverend Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, has presented him to the bishopric
of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa.  With a view to the
good results we hope he will achieve in instructing and converting the
natives of his diocese, we have commanded him to depart without waiting
for his bulls.  Being the man he is and having had so much experience in
the affairs of those parts, we have entrusted to him to let us know what
is happening over there, and what is necessary for the service of God our
Lord in that country and among its natives. Therefore I charge and command
you that whenever the said bishop has anything to relate to you you will
listen and endeavour to help him in the service of God, your Father and
ours.  And in whatever befalls him, you will help and favour and honour
him, according as his dignity demands.

Valladolid, 13th of February 1544—I, the Prince—by command of His Highness
Juan de Samano, signed by the Bishop of Cuenca and the licentiate
Gutierrez Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron.

THE PRINCE.  President and judges of our Council and of Our Royal
Chancellery of the Confines; know ye that the Emperor King, my sovereign,
presented the bishopric of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa
to the licentiate Arteaga, and His Holiness, in response to the said
representation, conferred it upon him.  After his death, His Majesty,
presented the said bishopric to Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, whom we
have commanded to depart without waiting for his bulls, and to fulfil the
good we hope he will accomplish among the natives of the said bishopric.
And that he may know the limits of the said bishopric, dividing it from
the bishoprics of Guatemala, Honduras, Tiascala, and Guascaco, I command
that upon his arrival there, you show him the limits to which the said
bishopric of Chiapa extends.  Bearing in mind how the said Fray
Bartholomew de Las Casas has served and will serve us, and the good he can
do in the conversion of the natives in the said bishopric, the boundaries
which will be pointed out to him must be quite distinct from the other
bishoprics of the country, for as long as it is our wish—Dated in the town
of Valladolid 13th day of February 1544—I, the Prince, etc.

THE PRINCE.  President and judges of our Audiencia and Royal Chancery of
the Confines.  Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of
Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, has informed me, and we all well
know, that he and the other priests of his Order have worked hard to bring
peace to the provinces of Teçulatlan, Lacandon, and others that were
engaged in warfare; these provinces are situated within the limits of the
bishopric and he beseeches me, since he and the said priests have
understood and are endeavouring to bring peace to the said provinces, to
be good enough to order that they shall be included within the limits of
his diocese; thus included, he would work with more love and zeal than any
former prelate to convert the natives to a knowledge of the Holy Catholic
Faith, according to our wishes.  Our Council of the Indies having
considered this, it was agreed that I should send you this my cedula, and
as I approved, I command you to see to the above.  Should the said
provinces of Teçulatlan and Lacandon be outside the limits of the said
diocese of Chiapa, you will arrange that the said Fray Bartholomew de Las
Casas has them under his charge as prelate, until His Holiness, upon our
presentation, appoints a prelate over the said provinces.  Let the said
bishop-elect have charge of the spiritual affairs in those provinces and
as prelate take a fourth part of the tithes which belong to him in the
said provinces; the other three quarters shall be distributed among the
ecclesiastical ministries already in existence in the said provinces and
in the repairs and the decorations of the churches of them.  Dated in
Valladolid thirteenth day of February 1544—I, the Prince, etc.

            [Illustration: Map: Scenes of Las Casas’s Labours]

                      Scenes of Las Casas’s Labours

                  [Illustration: Holograph of Las Casas]

Holograph of Las Casas Giving Directions for the Publication of his Work.

            Reproduced from Thacher’s "Christopher Columbus".

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