The Valladolid Debate

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Peter Siegel Period 1 The West and the World October 18, 2014 The Valladolid Debate And Why Charles V Chose To Support Bartolomé De Las Casas In 1550, King of Spain, Charles V (1500-1558), assembled a Junta (jury) of notable doctors and theologians in the Spanish city of Valladolid to hear two sides of a debate regarding the treatment of the native inhabitants of the Spanish empire in the New World. Bartolomé de las Casas (1474–1566), a Dominican friar and the Bishop of Chiapas, argued that the Natives in South America were free men and deserved the same treatment as others. His opponent, the humanist scholar Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, insisted that "in order to uproot crimes that offend nature (Sepúlveda, 528) the Indians…show more content…
He argued that if they refused to accept Spanish rule, they should be enslaved. Furthermore, if the Indians resisted enslavement, Sepúlveda thought that the Spaniards had the legitimate right to wage war against them. Ginés de Sepúlveda believed that the Indians were barbarians and they committed crimes against natural law. Since Sepúlveda had never personally been to Spain and he mainly supported his opinions based on the teachings of Aristotle, the Bible, and other classical sources, his views were less connected to the practical reality of the treatment of the natives. He called the natives “half-men (homunculi) in whom you will barely find the vestiges of humanity, who do not possess any learning at all. (Sepulveda, 527) ” Opposing Sepúlveda was Bartolomé de las Casas, who participated in the conquest of Cuba and received land and Indians in return for his efforts, but in 1514 he underwent a radical transformation and came to believe that the conquistadors had cruelly mistreated the Indians. He dedicated his life to lobbying the Encomienda System which he thought in practice enslaved the natives of the new world. De las Casas believed that the Indians were “The most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful…show more content…
The Holy Roman Empire was already fighting in wars against Protestants, the Ottomans Empire, and France, and there was no justification for a war in the New World with the Natives to force them into converting to Christianity. De las Casas believed that the Natives would convert to Catholicism on their own free will. He believed that the Natives were “very apt to receive our holy Catholic Faith, (Bartolomé de las Casas, 1)” and “once they begin to hear the tidings of the Faith they are so insistent on knowing more and on taking the sacraments of the Church and on observing the divine cult that, truly, the missionaries who are here need to be endowed by God with great patience in order to cope with such eagerness.(Bartolomé de las Casas, 1-2)” Furthermore, to fund his military campaigns Charles V needed the Natives to mine massive amounts of bullion (gold and silver), and any conflict with the Natives would slow the supply to a halt. Charles V also chose to side with Bartolomé de las Casas, because unlike Sepúlveda, de las Casas lived in the New World and interacted with the

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