Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas

Las Casas
Jay I. Kislak Foundation
Bartholomé de Las Casas,
Autograph letter to Emperor Charles V.

Valladolid, c.1528 [detail].

Other detail

For Las Casas, the Indians were innocents being led to the slaughter by greedy Spanish overlords and their violent henchmen. In this manuscript, Las Casas addresses the Emperor and indicts the Spanish for killing the Indians to obtain wealth "against the law of God. & your Majesty is compelled by divine precept and law to declare them free." Las Casas's powerful arguments, here and elsewhere, led to a victory of sorts: in 1542, the Indians of New Spain were formally made vassals of the Emperor and their enslavement was prohibited.

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