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


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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...






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