A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 17
Chapter XVII: Of the Kingdom of Venezuela
Our Sovereign Lord the King in the Year 1526, over-perswaded by fallacious appearances (for the Spaniards use to conceal from His Majesties knowledge the dammages and detriments, which God himself, the Souls and state of the Indians did suffer) intrusted the Kingdom of Venecuela longer and larger then the Spanish Dominions, with its Government and absolute Jurisdiction to some German Merchants, with power to make certain Capitulations and Conventions, who came into this Kingdom with Three Hundred Men, and there found a benign mild and peaceable people, as they were throughout the Indies till injured by the Spaniards. These more cruel then the rest beyond comparison, behav'd themselves more inhumanely then rapacious Tygres Wolves and Lyons, for they had the jurisdiction of this Kingdom, and therefore possessing it with the greater freedom from controul; lay in wait and were the more vigilant with greater care and avarice to understand the practical part of heaping up Wealth, and robbing the Inhabitants of their Gold and Sliver, surpassing all their Predecessors in those indirect ways, rejecting wholly both the fear of their God and King, nay forgetting that they were born men with reasonable Faculties.
These incarnate Devils laid waste and desolate Four Hundred miles of most Fertile Land, containing vast and wonderful Provinces, most spatious and large Valleys surrounded with Hills, forty Miles in Length, and many Towns richly abounding in Gold and Silver. They destroy'd so many and such considerable Regions, that there is not one supernumerary witness left to relate the Story, unless perchance some that lurkt in the Caverns and Womb of the Earth to evade death by their inhumane Swords embrew'd in Innocent Indian blood, escaped. I judge that they by new invented and unusual Torments ruinated four or five Millions of Souls and sent them all to Hell. I will give a taste of two or three of their Transactions, that hereby you may guess at the rest.
They made the supream Lord of the Province a Slave, to squeeze his Gold from him, racking him to extort his confession who escaping fled into the Mountains, their common Sanctuary, and his Subjects lying absconded in the Thickets of the Woods, were stir'd up to Sedition and Tumult or Mutiny. The Spaniards follow and destroy many of them, but those that were taken alive and in their power were all publickly sold for Slaves by the Common Crier.
They were in all Provinces they came into entertained and welcomed by the Indians with Songs, Dances and Rich Presents but Rewarded very ungratefully with bloodshed and Slaughter. The German Captain and Tyrant caused several of them to be clapt into a Thatcht House, and there cut in pieces; but some of them to avoid falling by their bloody and merciless Swords, climb'd up to the beams and Rafters of the House, and the Governour, hearing it (O cruel Brute?) commanded Fire to be put to it and burnt them all alive, leaving the Region desert and desolate.
They also came to another stately Province, bordering on St. Martha; whose inhabitants did them many egregious and notable services, bestowing on them innumerable quantities of Gold besides many other gifts, but when they were upon departure, in retribution of their Civil Treating and Deportment the German Tyrant, commanded that all the Indians, with their Wives and Children if possible, should be taken into Custody; inclosed in some large capacious place, and that there it should be signified unto them, whosoever desired to be set at Liberty should redeem himself at the Will and Pleasure (as to price;) of the unjust Governour, or at a certain rate imposed upon himself, his wife and every Childs head; and to expedite the business prohibited the administration or allowance of any food to them, till the Gold required for Redemption was paid down to the utmost grain. Several of them sent home to discharge the demanded price of their Redemption, and procur'd their Freedom, as well as they could by one means or other, that so they might return to their Livelihood and profession, but not long after he sent other Rogues and Robbers among them to enslave those that were Redeemed.
To the same Gaol they are brought a second time, being instigated or rather constrained to a speedy Redemption by hunger and thirst; Thus many of them were twice or thrice taken, captiv'd and Redeedmed; but some who were not capable of Depositing such a sum, perished there. Farthermore this Tyrant was big with an itching desire after the discovery of the Perusian Mines, which he did accomplish. Nay should I enumerate the particular Cruelties, Slaughters, &c. committed by him though my discourse would not in the least be contrariant to the Truth, yet it would not be beleived and only stupifie and amaze the Reader.
This course the other Tyrants took who set sail from Venecuela and St. Martha (with the same Resolution of detecting the Perusian Golden, Consecrated Houses as them they esteemed) who found the fruitful Region so desolate, deserted, and wasted by Fire and Sword, that those Cruel Tyrants themselves were smitten with wonder and astonishment at the traces and ruins of such prodigious Devastations.
All these things and many more were prov'd by Witness in the Indian Exchequer, and the Records of their Testimony were entred in that Court, though these execrable Tyrants burnt many of them that there might be little or nothing prov'd as a cause of those great Devastations and Evils perpetrated by them. For the Minister of Justice who have hitherto lived in India, through their obscure and damnable blindness, were not much sollicitous about the punishment of the Crimes and Butcheries which have been and are still committed by these Tyrants, only they may say possibly because such a one, and such a one hath wickedly and barbarously dealt with the Indians, that is the reason so great a summ of Crowns in Money is diminished already or retrenched from His Majesties Annual Revenue, and this general and confused proof is sufficient (as they worthily conceive) to purge or repress such great and hainous Crimes. And though they are but few, are not verified as they ought to be, nor do they attribute and lay upon them that stress and weight as they ought to do, for if they did perform their Duty to God and the King; it could not be made apparent as it may be, that these German Tyrants have cheated and rob'd the King of Three Millions of Gold and upward; and thus these Enemies to God and the King began to depopulate these Regions and destroy them, cheating his Majesty of Two Millions of Gold per Annum, nor can it be expected, that the Detriment done to his Majesty can possibly be retriev'd, as long as the Sun and moon endures, unless God by a Miracle should raise as many Thousands from Death to Life, as have bin destroy'd. And these are the Temporal Dammages the King suffers. It would be also a Work worthy the inquiry into, to consider how many cursed Sacriledges and Indignities God himself hath been affronted with to the dishonour of his Name. And what Recompence can be made for the loss of so many Souls as are now tormented in Hell by the Cruelty and Covetousness of these Brutish German Tyrants. But I will conclude all their Impiety and Barbarisme with one Example, viz. That from the time they entred upon this Country to this very day, that is, Seventeen Years, they have remitted many Ships fraighted with Indians to be sold as Slaves to the Isles of St. Martha, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and St. John, selling a Million of Persons at the least, I speak modestly, and still do expose to Sale to this very Year of our Lord 1542, the King's Council in this Island seeing and knowing it, yet what they find to be manifest and apparent they connive at, permit and countenance, and wink at the horrid Impieties and Devastations innumerable which are committed on the Coasts of this Continent, extending Four Hundred Miles in Length, and continues still together with Venecuela and St. Martha under their Jurisdiction, which they might easily have remedied and timely prevented.