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According to the proposal by Las Casas, there was a need to establish sugar mills in Spain and therefore, additional labor would be necessary. The only viable source of labor was the Negroes. Besides, liberating Indian slaves would demand an immediate replacement. Similar suggestions were rampant across Spain during this time. As a result, a number of licenses were awarded to the Spanish colonial masters to import slaves from other regions.
The Indian slaves could only be freed after being replaced by the Negroes from Cuba, Jamaica, and San Juan. Initially, this proposal sounded good enough to protect the enslaved Indian population. However, it later proved to be hypocritical because “total extermination of the Indians of the greater and lesser Antilles and along the Caribbean coasts” took place (MacCulloch 2005, p. 86).
To begin with, it was completely wrong for the clergy to propose and execute such a recommendation. Slavery is an inhuman act in all dimensions. It can be remembered that it led to a massive loss of life and social strife among the affected communities. Some ethnic groups were completely exterminated owing to the self-interests of a few slave dealers. For eight years, no license could be granted to anyone else to bring Negro slaves to the Indies in order to leave the Indians at liberty and enslave the Negroes. Although this appeared like an appropriate step in the right direction, countless number of Negroes were enslaved to offer free labor towards the benefit of colonialists.
It is indeed agreeable that “we are the cause of all the sins which they commit against each other, as well as our own in buying them” as stated by Las Casas (MacCulloch 2005, p. 87). When the license to trade black slaves was awarded to colonial masters in Spain, it opened up leeway for gross mistreatment of the captives. The lucrative nature of the slave trade led to the use of unorthodox means of obtaining them.
From the text, the Portuguese “hastened – and hasten every day – to abduct and capture them in as many wicked ways as they can” (Malveaux 2005, p. 675). It reached a point when the clergy felt that everything had gone out of control. In fact, how could the liberty of Indians be guaranteed when they had proven to be so much product in the hands of colonial lords? It is not surprising that the population of Indian slaves was significantly reduced to a level of gross shortage in the workforce.
From the beginning, the cleric should have realized that Negroes’ captivity was equally unjust like that of the Indians. The remedy was wrong because it still subjected precious human life to torture. Bypassing the legislation to import black slaves, created an open opportunity for the evil practice to flourish. Consequently, all parties subjected to the slave trade tortured themselves. In addition, the cost of obtaining a license for one Negro was quite high. The Clergy thought that the Spaniards could be assisted by the high cost of black slaves. However, the practice was sinful since it generated an evil desire to obtain slaves through other awkward means.
In a nutshell, an accusing finger was supposed to be pointed at the clergy for allowing the expensive slave trade to take place. In any case, the trade was illegal in the first place. Hence, permitting it to thrive was tantamount to the deliberate elimination of vulnerable communities.
MacCulloch, D (2005). The Reformation. New York: Penguin Books.
Malveaux, E. (2015). The Color Line: A History. Oxford: Xlibris Corporation.