Only throughout a portion of our Republic-in fifteen of these United States-the opinions, the feelings, the practice of the inhabitants, as regards laborers and labor itself, have been more perverted, have been less civilized than in the most despotic counties of Europe. In these States the class of working husbandmen has been defrauded, both as regards civil rights and social position, below the parish of India. This cannot happen in any nation without producing results fatal alike to its prosperity and to the moral worth and essential dignity of its population. The only doubt as the these results is, whether their influence has been more pernicious on the enslaves or on the enslaved.
The introduction into our hemisphere of this terrible element of social demoralization was almost coeval with its discovery by Europeans. It was in October of the year 1492 that Columbus first landed; and it was just eight years afterward, in the month of October, 1500, that Francis de Bobadilla was guilty of the great discoverer; the other, the reducing to bondage of the gentle slanders whose fair land he discovered. Bobadilla "granted liberal donations of Indians to all who applied for them." a The first year of the sixteenth century saw introduced into America that baneful system, abhorrent to Christian civilization, which was to spread and to gather numbers and strength and influence, until, after more that three centuries and a half of evil growth, it was to bring a million of combatants into the field, to sacrifice, on the field of battle, hundreds of thousands of lives and thousands of millions of treasure. There is scarcely a page in history so replete with horrors as that which records the inception of slavery in this hemisphere. That terrible abuse caused, in an incredibly short period, the extinction of a race-a race whom all the historians of that day concur in representing as the most kind and inoffensive and hospitable of mankind. Gold must be had. Columbus had been disgraced because he had failed to send home a sufficiency of it. His successors resolved to escape that imputation. The mines must be worked, and the forced labor of the feeble natives was employed to work them.
After a time royal sanction was obtained for the act. Isabella, just if severe, who had issued orders that the Indians should be free from servitude and from molestation, b died in 1504; and in 1511 Ferdinand issued a decree of his privy council declaring that "after mature consideration of the Apostolic Bull and other titles by which the crown of Castile claimed the right to its possessions in the New World, the servitude of the Indians was warranted both by the laws of God and man." c
Thus was legalized that system of rapiered imientos, under which there had been previously assigned to each Spaniard, by an order on some cazique, a certain number of natives, who were to be instructed in the Catholic faith. What the character of their masters and teachers was may be gathered from the fact that Columbus himself had recommended the transportation to Hispaniola of malefactors convicted of the less
a Robertson's History of America, London, 1792. Vol. 1, Book 2, p. 222. Herrera, General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America (Stevens" translation), London, 1725, Vol. 1. p. 244.
b Ovando "was particularly charged by the queen that all the Indians of Hispaniola should be free from servitude, and that none should molest them."
(Herrera, Vol. 1, p. 247.)
c. Robertson's History of America, Vol. 1, p. 307. This decree was passed against the protest of the Dominicas, the abolitionists of those days.