Las Casas and Slavery

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“Las Casas and Slavery,” New York Times, 9 October 1857, p. 2.
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New York Times
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Las Casas and Slavery
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Cara Holtry
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The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

To the Editor of the New-York Times:
It has become commonplace to connect Las Casas with the subject of African Slavery and its introduction to this Continent. However often his honored name may have served “to point a moral or adorn a tale,” in the hands of friends or the opponents of Slavery, it is none the less inaccurate historically to intimate or assert that the good bishop had anything to do with the introduction of Slavery here or anywhere.
Mr. Filllibuster-General WALKER, some little time since, in one of his peripatetic discourses, reproduced LAS CASAS upon the scene for quite a new and special purpose; namely, to demonstrate with what “honor,” “wisdom” and liberality, may be attended the advent of Slavery to a Continent, or even a State, such as Nicaragua. The subject is recalled to notice by a letter from Washington, published in the TIMES of the 21st, in which some comments occur in relation to Gen. WALKER, LAS CASAS and Slavery. The writer remarks:
“Why he, LAS CASAS, consented to Negro Slavery does not clearly appear; but it seems that he regarded it as a temporary expedient necessary for the liberation of his Indians, of whom he had been appointed by ZIMENES ‘Protector.’ ”
Now, laying altogether on one side WALKER and his illustration, we devote a few paragraphs to vindicate the memory of a good man.
With the discovery of American arose a new development of Slavery. To extort the riches of a virgin soil and territory, those who succeeded the first discovered and explorers availed themselves, upon the plantation and in the mines, of the labor of the Indian, with cupidity unrestrained by a notion of mercy.
The repartimiénto, as carried out by the Spanish settler, proved fatal to the weak constitution and delicate organization of the native. He sunk under it gradually, but surely and speedily. Out of 60,000 Indians in Hispaniola, in 1508, only 14,000 survived in 1516, so great was the danger of extermination.
Generous and humane men lamented actively this condition of things; among them the venerated Bishop justly styled “protector of the Indians,” who with untiring benevolence and zeal, made it the labor of his life to ameliorate their wretched condition. The he suggested, however, in a manner to be acted upon, or indeed at all, a substitution of Negro labor for that of the Indian, we have upon doubtful authority, that alone of the inaccurate HERRERA, who wrote thirty years after the death of LAS CASAS. Contemporary authors, among them SPULVEDA, the antagonists of LAS CASAS, are silent upon this point.
Happily, the commission of injustice, even to a single memory, is not here at all necessary to preserve the consistency of history. The repartimiénto was found precarious, and becoming insufficient, necessity naturally suggested an increased use of Negroes, who already, and as early as 1503, before LAS CASAS is assumed to have stirred in the matter at all, had been, a few of them, imported for slave-labor into the West Indies. A large addition, in 1511, was made to the number, even by royal authorization. Their rapid increase from thence is history of the modern slave-trade. When the Indian was superseded by the Negro, the latter was thought to be laborious, hardy and capable of the work of four natives; which was not far from the fact.” CLERUS.”

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