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Consultations of the emperor concerning his dominions in America.
During those violent convulsions in Peru, the emperor and his ministers were intently employed in preparing regulations, by which they hoped not only to reestablish tranquillity there, but to introduce a more perfect fyfa tem of internal policy into all their settlements in the New World. It is manifest from all the events recorded in the hiftory of America, that rapid and extensive as the Spanish conquests there had been, they were not carried on by any regular exertion of the national force, but by the occasional efforts of private adventurers. After fitting out a few of the first armaments foț discovering new regions, the court of Spain, during the busy reigns of Ferdinand and of Charles V, the former the most intriguing prince of the age, and the latter the most ambitious, was encumbered with such a multiplicity of schemes, and involved in war with so many nations in Europe, that it had not leisure to attend to distant and less interesting objects. The car e of prosecuting discovery, or of attempting conquest, was abandoned to individuals; and with such ardour did men push forward in this new career, on which novelty, the fpirit of adventure, avarice, ambition, and the hope of meriting heaven, prompted them with combined influence to enter, that in less than half a century almost the whole of that
extensive empire which Spain now poffefies in the New World, was subjected to its dominion. As the Spanish court contributed nothing towards the various expeditions undertaken in America, it was not intitled to claim much from their success. The fovereignty of the conquered provinces, with the fifth of the gold and filver, was reserved for the crown; every thing else was seized by the associates in each expedition as their own right. The plunder of the countries which they invaded served to intemnify them for what they had expended in equipping themselves for the service, and the conquered territory was divided among them, according to rules which custom had introduced, as permanent establishments which their successful valour merited, In the infancy of those settlements, when their extent as well as their value were unknown, many irregularities efcaped observation, and it was found necessary to connive at many exceffes. The conquered people were pillaged with destructive rapacity, and their country parcelled out among its new masters in exorbitant shares, far exceeding the highest recompence due to their services. The rude conquerors of America, incapable of forming their establishments upon any general or extensive plan of policy, attentive only to private interest, unwilling to forego present gain from the prospect of remote or publick benefit, seem to have had no object but to amass sudden
wealth, without regarding what might be the
One evili n particular called for an imme-
The emperor and his minifters were fo fenfible of this, and so folicitous to prevent the extinction of the Indian race, which threatened to render their acquisitions of no value, that from time to time various laws, which I have mentioned, had been made for securing to that unhappy people more gentle and equitable treat
ment. But the distance of America from the
The persons with whom he advises,
The evil continued to grow, and at this time the emperor found an interval of leisure from the affairs of Europe to take it into attentive confideration. He consulted not only with his ministers and the members of the council of the Indies, but called upon several perfons who had resided long in the New World , to aid them with the result of their experience and observation. Fortunately for the people of America, among these was Bartholomew de las Casas, who happened to be then at Madrid on a mission from a chapter of his order at Chiapa. f) Though, fince the miscarriage of his former fchemes for the relief of the Indians, he had continued shut up in his cloister, or occupied in religious functions, his zeal in behalf of the former objects of bis pity was so far from abating, that, from increased knowledge of their sufferings, its ardour had augmented. He seized eagerly this opportunity of reviving his favourite maxims concerning the treatment
1) Remesal Hist, de Chiapa pı 146.
of the Indians. With the moving eloquence natural to a man on whose mind the scenes which he had beheld had made a deep impression, he defcribed the irreparable waste of the human fpecies in the New World, the Indian race almost totally swept away in the islands in less than fifty years, and hastening to extinction on the continent with the same rapid decay. With the decisive tone of one strongly prepoffeiled with the truth of his own fyftem, he im puted all this to a fingle cause, to the exactions and cruelty of his countrymen, and contended that nothing could prevent the depopulation of America , but the declaring of its natives to be freemen, and treating them as subjects, not as Slaves. Nor did he confide for the fuccefs of this proposal in the powers of his oratory alone. In order to enforce them, he compofed his famous treatise concerning the destruction of America, g) in which he relates, with many horrid circumstances, but with apparent marks of exaggerated description, the devastation of every province which had been visited by the Spaniards.
His solicitude to introduce a general reformation of governinent.
The emperor was deeply afflicted with the recital of so many actions shocking to hu
g) Remeral, p. 192, 199.