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Bartolomé de Las Casas: An Interpretation of His Life and by Lewis Hanke

By Lewis Hanke

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In fact, it may be said that every one of Las Casas' erudite though bellicose treatises had a most practical and immediate purpose in view. The one entitled Some advice and regulations for confessors was designed to withhold the sacraments of the church from all persons who held Indians or who did not properly compensate them for their labor. The hubbub raised in the Indies by these suggested rules was so great that Las Casas wrote another tract and presented it to the Council of the Indies to sustain his previous regulations.

J See the writer's Cuerpo de documentos del siglo XVI (Mexico, 1943), 27, 324. 1 2 POLITICAL THEORIST AND HISTORIAN 49 Dominican came to him with certain doubts cencerning the conquest of Peru. Las Casas felt obliged to respond and forthwith composed another treatise Solution of the Twelve Doubts, and presented both treatises to Philip II as a sort of special will and codicil, with the request that Philip convoke a meeting of jurists and theologians to study the matter. Both these lengthy treatises were read in their entirety before the full Council of the Indies and a distinguished group of royal advisers on American affairs shortly before Las Casas died.

This theory he successfully put into practice in the famous experiment which took place in Guatemala in the years following 1537. This experiment, like all of his work on behalf of the Indians, was solidly based on an idea, which Las Casas expounded at length in a treatise entitled The Only Method of Attracting All People to the True Faith, recently printed in Mexico for the first time 1 • The doctrine enunciated by Las Casas in this treatise, the first of his many polemical writings, was simple.

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