A Journal for Western Man
Light Replacing Darkness:
A Story of Spanish Colonization
in the Americas
G. Stolyarov II
Issue VIII- October 27, 2002
In his day Dr. Juan Gines de Sepulveda (1490-1573) was a noted Classical scholar, lawyer, and theologian who defended the efforts of the Spanish crown and its agents in the New World against the accusations of Bartolome de las Casas within the realm of Spain itself and the smear campaign that had been launched by Spain’s political opponents in Europe. Dr. Sepulveda had taken cognizance of the fact that, for the sake of undermining the morality of the Spanish effort, the enemies of colonization (or more likely those who did not wish to compete with Spanish efforts in the New World) portrayed Native communities as idyllic, harmonious, and hospitable. However, he was able to look past this veneer and realize that dominant cultures in Mesoamerica and South America maintained a stranglehold on an oppressed populace through mass sacrifice and cannibalism. “If we are dealing with virtue, what temperance or mercy can you expect from men who are committed to all types of intemperance and base frivolity and eat human flesh?” was a question he had posed to the audiences of sixteenth-century Spain which bears ever greater relevance today as a host of scientific facts emerges to ascertain his claims. Estimates of annual induced deaths at the hands of the Aztecs alone range from 250,000 (Dr. Woodrow Borah of the University of California) to 7,300,000 (Our Lady of the Rosary Library), which implies an average daily death toll from 865 to 20,000 innocent civilians and helpless war captives with hearts torn out for the sake of an absolutely unwarranted religious superstition! And these were mere averages. Single day casualties on special occasions, such as the dedication ceremony of the Inner Pyramid of the Sun in Tenochtitlan, where 80,400 people were slaughtered, rose to even more unnerving heights. Moreover, a recent theory by American anthropologist Michael Harner suggests that the Aztecs, under religious guise, practiced systematic and widespread consumption of their own citizenry, cannibalism if you will, due to a general shortage of protein in their environment. To support his claims are numerous dismembered, mangled, and fractured skeletons discovered in Aztec graves for sacrificial victims. The conspicuous lack of heads and limbs on the remnants of these unfortunate victims suggests that they had been picked apart like chickens by a population of parasites who required the ultimate suffering on the part of their human counterparts for the sake of their sloth, not wishing to expend the mental effort and physical labor to develop an alternative and humane food source. As for the Incas, in their society sacrifice had developed a depraved psychological twist to it. Karen N. Peart, a pro-Inca author, sought to justify their despotism’s eradication of the most intelligent and physically attractive young boys and girls by stating that “in Inca culture, it was considered an honor to be chosen for sacrifice, and the victims went willingly.” So warped and backward was their so-called “culture” that the destruction of the most innocent, promising, and pleasant of its specimens was viewed as an “honor”, that death was the guiding premise instead of life and generations of unsuspecting commoners were normalized into, obeying the antithesis of morality without raising a squeak. Inducing that manner of submission requires a far more substantial degree of coercion and brutality, both chronic and flagrant, than the suppression of a revolt or the execution of a group of dissenters. Having witnessed carnage, sacrifice, and murder across-the-board, the Incas have become not merely desensitized but obsequious to it, and it was that manner of ingrained barbarism that Sepulveda condemned and that it took the Spanish to reverse.
How do those atrocities compare with the policies of the Spanish crown and its New World agents toward Native Americans? The Aztecs’ primary pool of sacrificial victims had been drawn from hundreds of subordinate Mesoamerican tribes, who, according to World Cultures, despised and feared the tyrannical empire for their systematic terror and theft of their fittest, most apt citizens to be taken to the altars. Those hundreds of tribes, including the Tlaxcalans and Tabascans, sided with Cortes and assisted him in deposing the Aztec yoke. In return Cortes, as his first edict upon entering Tenochtitlan, forbade the savage practice of human sacrifice and forever freed his allies from bondage to their vicious overlords. The Spanish sought to establish cooperative and mutually beneficial relations with the Natives through a system of encomienda, wherein any Indians dwelling on a colonist’s plot of land were granted the option of remaining there and being paid for their services with money, shelter, education, job training, health care, and defense against aggression, a package in many respects the precursor of today’s capitalistic employer-worker relationship. While it is true that particular individual settlers had abused this arrangement to impose unbearable burdens upon their laborers, the crown acted with a commendably righteous intention and diligent striving to remedy such crimes. According to historian Gregory Cerio, King Ferdinand of Spain passed the 1512 Laws of Burgos, which had ordained that Natives be treated by their contractors in a manner deserved by a human being. “No Indian shall be whipped or beaten or called ‘dog’ or any other name unless it is his proper name,” stated this legislation, echoing the philosophy of Ferdinand’s wife, Queen Isabella, who respected the Indians as free crown subjects and granted them identical political rights and obligations as were expected of the Caucasian inhabitants of the kingdom. Even the scalding criticism of colonization on the behalf of men like las Casas was a matter of serious consideration for Ferdinand’s successor, Emperor Charles V, whose government in 1542 devised the New Laws of the Indies, outlawing Native American slavery, forbidding the Natives from being laden with burdens beyond their range of comfort, further reforming the encomienda system, and dispatching Audiencias, bodies of investigation and enforcement of said laws, to the New World. As for the violators of such edicts, the Audiencias were authorized “if there had been any excesses, on the part of the [offenders], or should any be committed hereafter, to take care that such excesses are properly corrected, chastising the guilty parties with all rigor conformably to justice.” Moreover, Spain’s government maintained a thorough consideration for honest, reasonable accounts of the genuine situation in the New World in order to become assured of the implementation of its laws. According to Cerio, “From Ferdinand forward, Spanish monarchs encouraged candid reports, favorable or unfavorable, on conditions in the Americas.” This was a remarkable, if only partial, development in free speech rights two hundred years prior to the emergence of individualistic philosophical systems which secured a general transition to liberty in Western culture.
Moreover, the mutual material gains from the monumental contact between two previously disjoint continents and groups of human beings cannot be underestimated when evaluating Spanish colonization from a moral perspective. A variety of breeds of livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and swine, which formed the crux of a stable food supply in a land previously marred by protein deficiency, arrived to the Americas via Eurasia. The horse, a sturdy and reliable beast of burden and transportation, enabled for not merely a swifter communication and trade network, but shaped the lifestyle of the Plains Indians north of New Spain for the subsequent three hundred years. Wheat, barley, rice, and oats, staple foods in the European diet, were now rendered available to Native Americans as well. Citrus, peach pear, and banana fruits, as well as grapes, coffee, and sugar were introduced from Africa with which Spain and Portugal had been conducting an active trade since the days of Henry the Navigator. The warm environment of Mesoamerica and the Indies permitted these crops to thrive in voluminous quantities, generating consumer goods, profits for some of the most adventurous capitalists of the time, and a massive amount of employment opportunities for the native population. This was not a reckless act of sacrifice and self-exertion on Europe’s behalf, either. The turkey populated farms on the Eastern side of the Atlantic, and corn, potato, and tomato became household words throughout the European continent Aside from this, a delicious luxury, chocolate, was now rendered available to Westerners, along with quinine, which was later furnished into a cure for malaria and enabled the habitation and introduction of rational, civilized commerce into Africa during the second Age of Imperialism. But was this not all a product of “greedy profit-mongering exploiters” seeking to earn an extra peso on their trades? Yes, and more justifiable because of it. For it is this driving force, the motor of self-interest and self-amelioration, that enriches and enlightens all parties involved, that, in the words of Ayn Rand, is the fountainhead of human progress. Crops, goods, and livestock in both continents fueled a population explosion at the onset of the Industrial Revolution as, for the first time in human history, famines, shortages, and commercial isolation were the exception, not the rule. A larger population in turn permitted for more extensive specialization and division of labor and, henceforth, swifter developments in every possible scientific and technological aspect of the globalizing economy.
Granted, Spanish rule was not a utopia and particular
vigilante settlers did
crimes in the New World. Nevertheless, much of the
misinformation we are exposed to in the histories of
today concerning the “atrocities of Spanish
colonization” had been repackaged, misconstrued, and
stained by Spain’s political enemies. William of Orange,
a Dutch Protestant seeking to instigate a schism with
the Hapsburg empire and carve himself a piece of it
under religious motives alluded to Spanish “barbarism
and cruelties” as far back as 1580, politicizing history
to ignite a revolution which would not have possessed
the fuel to linger prior to his rantings. Theodore DeBry,
a Dutch printer who had never set foot in the New World,
depicted horrifying scenes of mass butchery and
execution of Native Americans by the Spanish,
all out of his own imagination!
DeBry is used even today as a source for such modern
historians as James Loewen, seeking to pollute the image
of the colonization of the Americas to bring about a
multiculturalist, racial appeasement interpretation of
history. The English government, led by first a
Protestant monarch, Henry VIII, who yearned to justify
war with the Hapsburgs on the irrational grounds of
religious disagreement, then by a totalitarian usurper,
Lord-Protector Oliver Cromwell, eagerly embraced any
defamations which would assist them in blackening the
image of “the enemy”. And their motives were not any
humanitarian yearning nor a principle of Just War (the
Augustinian doctrine to which the Spanish had adhered in
the New World). Cromwell’s own words reveal the truth of
the matter. He called Spain the “enemy abroad, who is
head of… that anti-Christian interest, that is so
described in Scripture… and upon this account you have a
quarrel with the Spaniard. And truly he hath an interest
in your bowels.” Such accusations of irreconcilable
antagonism were leveled at the Spanish for what reason?
Why, none other that they in their majority followed a
divergent scheme of religious worship than the
Protestants! And today, in an era of religious freedom
and toleration, the majority of us nevertheless succumb
to la leyenda negra,
the pre-Enlightenment propaganda employed by the
sixteenth and seventeenth-century counterparts of
G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.