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Bartholomew de Las Casas; his life, apostolate, and writings   By: (1863-1927)

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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... Continue reading book >>

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