Casas, Bartholomy De Las

, a Spaniard, and the illustrious bishop of Chiapa, was born at Seville in 1474; and, at the age of nineteen, attended his father, who went with Christopher Columbus to the Indies in 1493. Upon | his return he became an ecclesiastic, and a curate in the isle of Cuba; but quitted his cure and his country -in order to devote himself to the service of the Indians, who were then enslaved to the most ridiculous superstitions, as well as the most barbarous tyranny. The Spanish governors had long since made Christianity detested by their unheardof cruelties, and the Indians trembled at the very name of Christian. This humane and pious missionary resolved to cross the seas, and to lay their cries and their miseries at the feet of Charles V. The affair was discussed in council; and the representations of Casas so sensibly affected the emperor, that he made ordinances, as severe to the persecutors as favourable to the persecuted. But these ordinances were never executed the Spanish governors, or rather tyrants, continued to plunder and murder; and they had a doctor, one Sepulveda, who undertook even to justify these outrages by human and divine laws, and by the examples of the Israelites who conquered the people of Canaan. This horrible book was printed at Rome, but proscribed in Spain; and Casas, now become bishop of Chiapa, refuted this apology for tyranny and murder. His treatise, entitled, “The Destruction of the Indians,” and translated into most European languages, is full of details which shock humanity. Soto, the emperor’s confessor, was appointed arbiter of the difference between Casas, a bishop worthy of the first ages of the church, and Sepulveda, a doctor and advocate for principles which would not have been adopted by an heathen: and the result of all this was laid before Charles V. who, however, had too many affairs upon his hands to pay a due attention to it; and the governors continued to tyrannize as usual. Casas employed above fifty years in America, labouring with incessant zeal, that the Indians might be treated with mildness, equity, and humanity: but, instead of succeeding, he drew upon himself endless persecutions from the Spaniards; and, though he escaped with his life, might properly enough be called a martyr to the liberty of the Indians. After refusing several bishoprics in America, he was constrained to accept that of Chiapa in 1544. He reided there till 1551, when the infirm state of his health obliged him to return to his native country; and he died at Madrid in 156G, aged ninety-two. Besides his “Destruction of the Indians,” and other pieces on the same subject, there is a very curious Latin work of his upon | this question “Whether kings or princes can in conscience, by any right, or by virtue of any title, alienate citizens and subjects from their natural allegiance, and subject them to a new and foreign jurisdiction?” Ail his writings shew a solid judgment, and profound learning and piety. 1

1

Moreri. Dupin. Robertson’s Hist, of America.