Monday, October 08, 2018

Protector de Indios

Helen Andrews has an interesting article on Bartolomé de las Casas, at "First Things":

The Controversy of Valladolid of 1550 was one of the great dramatic set pieces of the Spanish Conquest. For six days straight, two men debated the morality of Spain’s treatment of the Indians in the New World. On one side was Bartolomé de las Casas, age sixty-five, then at the climax of a lifetime of humanitarian advocacy on behalf of the Indians. On the other was Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, former history tutor to the heir to the throne and a staunch defender of the conquistadors. Judging their arguments was a panel of Spain’s most distinguished minds, and behind them loomed the figure of Charles V, ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever seen. The emperor had put a moratorium on all new expeditions in America while the morality of the conquest was being settled. Whether that moratorium would be lifted, and under what terms, was to be decided by this titanic battle.

Amazingly, the outcome of the debate is unknown....

As Andrews notes, Las Casas was a complicated man in a complicated situation, and, an immensely and sometimes irrationally stubborn man, did not always show himself a shining paragon; but he is a fascinating figure, for all that.

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