Statute of Bartholomew de las Casas

Bartholomew de las Casas was born in Seville, Spain in 1474. He was the son of a merchant. He came from a farming and mercantilist background. This would prove crucial in his later years, while helping the Indigenous. He had met the royal family of Spain several times. It was not uncommon for him to find himself in their company at any given time.

At the age of nine Bartolome had the privilege of watching Christopher Columbus' return parade. This was in celebrating his successful return back from the Americas for the first time. Bartholomew's father was able to be one of many to accompany Columbus on his second voyage to America. While away his father accumulated great wealth.

In the meantime Las Casas studied Latin in addition to his letters. When his father returned in 1498 Bartholomew asked of his father that he be able to attend school. He had an interest in law. Given that his father had acquired more than enough money he obliged. Casas was sent to the finest University in Spain at the time. There he studied canon law. Bartholomew not only received one, degree, but two. Yet, he got them at two different times. The first he got before he went on his initial trip to the Island Hispaniola. While there he took care of his father's land as well as his own. This land was allotted to them through encomiendas. He was also currently in the Spanish military.

During this time he witnessed many injustices inflicted upon the Indians by the Spanish. The Spanish enslaved Indians to mine for gold on their lands. Bartholomew also witnessed more atrocities committed against the Indians by the Dominicans. This caused him to later denounce the encomienda system in 1511. In 1514 de las Casas gave up his encomienda and his ownership of Indians.

He later went on to write several books. Yet, one that is remembered is the New Laws. It made slavery illegal. It stated that if a slave that person could only be held for a single generation. In an effort to enforce these New Laws Bartholomew himself made a trip to Chiapas. This new ordinance was met with great resistance by settlers in Chiapas. The king of Spain ended up backing the New Laws and forcing everyone to see it as legitimate. Another book he published was called, Brief Relation of Destruction of the Indies. Many people disagreed about the contents of this book. One of them being a man by the name of Juan Sepulveda. So he wrote a book justifying war with the Indians. Casas was so dismayed that he went to the Council of Valladolid and made sure Sepulveda's book was not published.

Casas would spend his remaining years in Spain. While in Spain he would advocate and write for Indians rights and proper treatment. This among other things would earn him the name , "Defender of the Indians". In life he was known to be a humanitarian, spanish historian, and missionary. He was many other things as well, but those three to name a few. He passed in July of 1566.