A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 21

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Chapter XXI: Of the New Kingdom of Granada

Many Tyrants there were, who set Sail from Venecuela, St. Martha, and Carthagena, hastening to the Conquest of Perusia, Anno Dom. 1539. and they accompanied with many more going farther from this Region, endeavored to penetrate into the Heart of this Countrey, where they found about Three Hundred Miles from Carthagena and St. Martha, many admirable Provinces and most fruitful Land, furnished with an even-tempered or meek-spirited People, as they are in other parts of India; very rich in Gold and those sorts of precious Stones known by the name of Emralds: To which Province they gave the Name of Granada, upon this account, because the Tyrant who first arrived in these Regions, was born in the Kingdom of Granada belonging to these parts; now they that spoiled these Provinces with their rapine being wicked, cruel, infamous Butchers, and delighting in the effusion of Humane Blood, having practically experimented the piacular and grand Enormities perpetrated among the Indians; and upon this account their Diabolical Actions are so great, so many in number, and represented so grievously horrid by circumstantial aggravations, that they exceed all the villanies committed by others, nay by themselves in other Regions, I will only select and cull out a few out of so great a number which have bene transacted by them within these three years, for my present purpose.

A certain Governour, because he that went to commit depredations and spoils in the Kingdom of Granada, would not admit him, as a Companion in his Robberies and Cruelties, set up an Inquisition, and produced proofs confirmed by great evidence, whereby he palpably lays open, and proves the Slaughters and Homicides he committed, and persists in to this very day, which were read in the Indian Courts of Judicature, and are there now Recorded.

In this Inquisition the Witnesses depose, that when all these Kingdoms enjoy'd Peace and Tranquillity, the Indians serv'd the Spaniards, and got their living by contstnat day-labour in Tilling and Manuring the Ground, bringing them much Gold, and many Gems, particularly Emeralds, and what other Commodities they could, and possessed, their Cities and Dominions being divided among the Spaniards, to procure which is the chiefest of their care and pains; and these are the proper measures they take to obtain their proposed ends, to wit, heaping and treasuring up of Gold and Riches.

Now when all the Indians were under their accustomed Tyranny: A certain Tyrant, and Chief Commander, took the King and Lord of the whole Countrey, and detain'd him Captive for six or seven moneths, demanding of him, without any reason, store of Gold and Emeralds. The said King, whose name was Bogoca, though fear, promised him a House of Gold, hoping, in time, to escape out of his clutches, who thus plagu'd him, and sent some Indians for Gold, who frequently, and at several times, brought him a great quantity of Gold, and many Jewels; but because the King did not, according to his promise, bestow upon him an Apartment made of pure Gold, he must therefore forfeit his Life. The Tyrant commanded himto be brought to Tryal before himself, and so they cite and summon to a Tryal the greatest King in the whole Region; and the Tyrant pronounced this Sentence, that unless he did perform his Golden Promise he should be exposed to severe Torments. They rackt him, poured boiling Soap into his Bowels, chain'd his Legs to one post, and fastened his Neck to another, two men holding his Hands, and so applyed the scorching heat of the Fire to his Feet; the Tyrant himself often casting his eye upon him, and threatning him with death, if he did not give him the promised Gold; and thus with these kind of horrid torments, the said Lord was destroy'd; which while they were doing, God being willing to manifest how displeasing these Cruelties are to His Divine Majesty, the whole City, that was the Stage on which they were acted, was consumed by fire; and the rest of the Captains following his example, destroy'd all the Lords of that Region by Fire and Faggot.

Once it fell out, that many Indians addressed themselves to the Spaniards with all Humility and Simplicity, as they use to do, who thinking themselves safe and secure, behold the Captain comes into the City, where they were to do their work, and commands all these Indians, sleeping and taking their rest, after Supper, being wearied with the heavy drudgery of the day, to be slain by the Sword: And this stratagem he put in practice, to make a greater impression of fear on all the minds of the Inhabitants; and another time a certain Captain commanded the Spaniards to declare upon Oath, how many Casics and Indians every individual person had in his Family at home, who were presently lead to a publick place, and lost their Heads; so there perisht, that bout, four or five hundred Men. The Witnesses depose this of a particular Tyrant, that by beating, cutting off the Hands and Noses of many Women as well as Men, and destroying several persons in great numbers, he exercised horrid Cruelties.

Then one of the Captains sent this bloody Tyrant into the Province of Bogata, to inquire who succeeded that Prince there, whom he so barbarously and inhumanely Murder'd, who traveling many miles in this Countrey, took as many Indians as he could get, some of which, because they did not tell him who was Successor of this Deceased Prince, had their Hands cut off, and others were exposed to hunger- starv'd Currs, to be devour'd by them, and as many of them perished miserably.

Another time about the fourth Watch, early in the morning he fell upon several Casics, Noblemen and other Indians, who lookt upon themselves to be safe enough, (for they had their faith and security given, that none of them should receive any damage or injury) relying upon this, they left the Mountains their lurking places, without any suspition or fear, and returned to their Cities, but he seized on them all, and commanding them to extend their hands on the ground, cut them off with his own Sword, saying, that he punished them after this maner, because they would not inform him what Lord it was, that succeeded in that Kingdom.

The Inhabitants of one of these Provinces, perceiving that four or five of their Governours were sent to the other World in a fiery Vehicle or Chariot, being terrified therewith, took to the Mountains for Sanctuary, there being four or five thousand in number, as appears by good Evidence; and the aforesaid Captain sends a Tyrant, more cruel than any of the rest after them. The Spaniards ascend the Mountains by force (for the Indians were naked an unarm'd) Proclaiming Peace, if they would desist and lay down their Arms, which the Indians no sooner heard, but quitted their Childish Weapons; and this was no sooner done but this Sanguinary Spaniard sent some to possess themselves of the Fortifications, and they being secur'd, to attaque the Indians. Thus they, like Wolves and Lyons, did rush upon this flock of Sheep, and were so tired with slaughter, that they were forced to desist for a while and take breath, which done, the Captain commands them to fall to it again at the same bloody rate, and precipitate all that survived the Butchery, from the top of the Mountain, which was of a prodigious height; and that was perform'd accordingly. And the Witnesses farther declare upon Oath, that they saw the bodies of about seven hundred Indians falling from the Mount at one time, like a Cloud obscuring the Air, who were all broken to pieces.

This very Tyrant came once to the city Cota, where he surprized abundance of Men, together with fifteen or twenty Casics of the highest rank and quality, whom he cast to the Dogs to be torn Limb-meal in pieces, and cut off the Hands of several Men and Women, which being run through with a pole, were exposed to be viewed and gaz'd upon by the Indians, where you might see at once seventy pair of hands, transfixed with Poles; nor is it to be forgotten, that he cut off the Noses of many Women and Children.

The Witnesses farther depose, that the Cruelties and great Slaughters committed in the aforesaid new Kingdom of Granada, by this Captain, and other Tyrants, the Destroyers of Mankind, who accompany him, and have power still given them by him to exercise the same, are such and so hainous, that if his Majesty does not opportunely apply some remedy, for the redress and prevention of such mischiefs for the future, (since the Indians are daily slaughtered to accumulate and enrich themselves with Gold, which the Inhabitants have been so rob'd of, that they are now grown bare, for what they had, they have disposed to the Spaniards already) this Kingdom will soon decay and be made desolate, and consequently the Land being destitute of Indians, who should manure it, will lye fallow and incultivated.

And here is to be noted, how pestilential and inhumane the cruelty of these Tyrants hath been, and how violently exercised, when as in two or three years space, they were all slain, and the Country wholly desolate and deserted, as those that have been Eye-witnesses can testifie; they having acted like Merciless Men, not having the fear of God and the King before their Eyes, but by the instigation of the Devil; so that it may well be said and affirmed, not one Person will be left alive, unless his Majesty does retard, and put a stop to the full career of their Cruelties, which I am very apt to believe, for I have seen with these very eyes of mine, many Kingdoms laid waste and depopulated in a small time. There are other stately Provinces on the Confines of the New Kindgom of Granada, as Popayan and Cali, together with three or four more above five hundred miles in length, which they destroyed, in the same manner, as they have done other places, and laid them absolutely waste by the prementioned Slaughters, who were very Populous, and the Soil very Fruitful. They who came among us from those Regions report, that nothing can be more deplorable or worthy of pity and commiseration, then to behold such large and great Cities totally ruinated, and intombed in their own Ashes, and that in a City adorn'd with 1000 or 2000 Fabricks, there are hardly now to be seen 50 standing, the rest being utterly demolished, or consum'd and levelled to the ground by Fire and in some parts Regions of 100 miles in length, (containing spacious Cities) are found absolutely destroyed and consumed by Fire.

Finally many great Tyrants who came out of the Perusian Kingdoms by the Quitonians Travelled to the said new Kindgom of Granada and Popayan, and by Carthagena and the Urabae, they directed their course to Calisium, and several other Tyrants of Carthagena assault Quito, who joyn'd themselves in an intire Body and wholly depopulated and laid waste that Region for the space of 600 miles and upward, with the loss of a prodigious number of poor Souls; nor as yet do they treat the small remnant of so great and innocent a people with more humanity then formerly.

I desire therefore that the Readers who have or shall peruse these passages, would please seriously to consider whether or no, such Barbarous, Cruel and Inhumane Acts as these do not transcend and exceed all the impiety and tyrrany, which can enter into the thoughts or imagination of Man, and whether these Spaniards deserve not the name of Devils. For which of these two things is more eligible or desirable whether the Indians should be delivered up to the Devils themselves to be tormented or the Spaniards? That is still a question.

Nor can I here omit one piece of Villany, (whether it ought to be postpon'd or come behind the cruelty of Brute Animals, that I leave to decision). The Spaniards who are conversant among the Indians bred up curst Curs, who are so well instructed and taught that they at first sight, fly upon the Inhabitants tearing them limb by limb, and so presently devour them. Now let all persons whether Christians or not consider, if ever such a thing as this reacht the ears of any Man, they carry these Dogs with them as Companions where ever they go, and kill the fettered Indians in multitudes like Hogs for their Food; thus sharing with them in the Butchery. Nay they frequently call one to the other, saying, lend me the fourth part of one of your Slaves to feed my Dogs, and when I kill one, I will repay you, as if they had only borrowed a quarter of a Hog or Sheep. Others, when they go a Hunting early in the morning, upon their return, if you ask them what sport had you to day at the Game? They will answer, enough, enough, for my Dogs have killed and worried 15 or 20 Indian Vassals. Now all these things are plainly prov'd upon those Inquisitions and Examinations made by one Tyrant against another. What I beseech you, can be more horrid or barbarous?

But I will desist from Writing any longer at this time, till some Messenger brings an account of greater and blacker Impieties (if greater can be committed) or else till we come to behold them again, as we have done for the space of forty two years with our own Eyes. I will only make this small addition to what I have said that the Spaniards, from the beginning of their first entrance upon America to this present day, were no more sollicitous of promoting the Preaching of the Gospel of Christ to these Nations, then if they had been Dogs or Beasts, but which is worst of all, they expressly prohibited their addresses to the Religious, laying many heavy Impositions upon them, dayly afflicting and persecuting them, that they might not have so much time and leasure at their own disposal, as to attend their Preaching and Divine Service; for they lookt upon that to be an impediment to their getting Gold, and raking up riches which their Avarice stimulated them so boundlessly to prosecute. Nor do they understand any more of a God, whether he be made of Wood, Brass or Clay, then they did above an hundred years ago, New Spain only exempted, which is a small part of America, and was visited and instructed by the Religious. Thus they did formely and still do perish without true Faith, or the knowledge and benefit of our Religious Sacraments.

I Frier Bartholomeas de las Casas or Casaus of the Order of St. Dominick, who through the mercy of God am Arriv'd at the Spanish Court, Cordially wishing the expulsion of Hell or these Hellish Acts out of the Indies; fearing least those Souls redeemed by the pretious Blood of Christ, should perish eternally, but heartily desiring that they may acknowledge their Creator and be saved; as also for the care and compassion that I ever had for my Native Countrey Castile, dreading least God should destroy it for the many sins committed by the Natives her Children, against Faith, Honour and their Neighbours: I have at length upon the request of some Persons of great Quality in this Court, who are fervently zealous of the Honour of God, and moved with pitty at the Calamities and Afflictions of their Neighbours (though I long since proposed it within my self, and resolved to accomplish it, but could not, being distracted with the avocations of multiplicity of constant Business and Employment, have leisure to effect it) I say I have at length finished this Treatise and Summary at Valencia, Decemb. 8. An. Dom. 1542, when they were arrived at the Height, and utmost Degree of executing Violences, Oppressions, Tyrrany, Desolations, Torments, and Calamities in all the aforesaid Regions, Inhabited by the Spaniards (though they are more Cruel in some places than other) yet Mexico with its Confines were more favourably treated than the rest of the Provinces.

And indeed no Man durst openly and publickly do any injury to the Inhabitants; for there some Justice, (which is no where else in India) though very little is done and practiced; yet they are grievously opprest with intolerable Taxes. But I do really believe, and am fully perswaded that our Sovereign Lord Charles the Fifth, Emperour and King of Spain, our Lord and Prince, who begins to be sensible of the Wickedness and Treacheries, which have been, and still are committed against this Miserable Nation, and distressed Countries contrary to the Will and Pleasure of God, as well as His Majesties that he will in time, (for hitherto the Truth hath been concealed and kept from his Knowledge, with as great Craft, as Fraud and Malice) totally extirpate and root up all these Evils and Mischiefs, and apply such proper Medicines as may purge the Morbifick and peccant Humours in the Body Politick of this New World, committed to his Care and Government as a Lover and Promoter of Peace and Tranquility. God preserve and bless him with Renown and a happy Life in his Imperial State, and prosper him in all his Attempts, that he may remedy the Distempers of the Christian Church, and Crown him at last with Eternal Felicity, Amen.

After I had published this Treatise, certain Laws and Constitutions, enacted by his Majesty then at Baraclona in the Month of December, An. Dom. 1542, promulgated and published the Year ensuing in the City of Madera, whereby it is provided, (as the present Necessities requir'd) that a period be put to such great Enormities and Sins, as were committed against God and our Neighbours, and tended to the utter Ruine and Perdition of this New World. These Laws were published by his Majesties Order, several Persons of highest Authority, Councellors, Learned, and Conscientious Men, being assembled together for that purpose, and many Debates made at Valedolid about this weighty Affair, at length by the unanimous Consent and Advice of all those who had committed their Opinions to Writing, they were made publick who traced more closely therein the Laws of Christ and Christianity, and were judged Persons pure, free from and innocent of that stain and blemish of depriving the Indians of their Treasures by Theft and Rapine, which Riches had contaminated and sullied the Hands, but much more the Souls of those who were enslav'd by those heaps of Wealth and Covetousness, now this obstinate and hot pursuit after Wealth was the Original of all those Evils committed without the least Remorse or Check of Conscience.

These Laws being thus promulgated, the Courtiers who promoted these Tyrants, took care that several Copies should be transcribed, (though they were extremely afflicted to see, that there was no farther hopes or means to promote the former Depredations and Extortions by the Tyranny aforesaid) and sent them to several Indian Provinces. They, who took upon them the Trouble and Care of Extirpating, and Oppressing by different ways of Cruelty, as they never observed any Method or Order, but behav'd themselves most inordinately and irregularly, having perused these Diplomata or Constitutions, before the new made Judges, appointed to put them in Execution, could Arrive or be Landed, they by the assistance of those (as 'tis credibly rumour'd, nor is it repugnant to truth) who hitherto favour'd their Criminal and Violent Actions, knowing well that these Laws and Proclamations must necessarily take effect, began to grow mutinous, and rebel, and when the Judges were Landed, who were to Execute these Mandates, laying aside all manner of Love and Fear of God, were so audacious as to contemn and set at nought all the Reverence and Obedience due to their King, and so became Traytors, demeaning themselves like Blood-Thirsty Tyrants, destitute and void of all Humanity.

More particularly this appear'd in the Perusian Kingdoms, where An. Dom. 1542, they acted such Horrid and Stupendous Enormities, that the like were never known or heard in America, or throughout the whole World before that time: Nor were they only practised upon the Indians, who were mostly destroy'd, but upon themselves also, God permitting them by his just Judgement to be their own Executioners, and sheath their Swords in one anothers Bowels. In like manner the other parts of this New World being moved by the Example of these Rebels, refused to yield Obedience to those Laws. The rest pretending to petition his Majesty turn Rebellious themselves; for they would not voluntarily resign those Estates, Goods and Chattels they have already usurped, nor willingly manumit those Indians, who were doomed to be their Slaves, during Life; and where they restrain'd the Murdering Sword from doing Execution, they opprest them gradually with personal Vassalage, injust and intolerable Burthens; which his Majesty could not possibly hitherto avert or hinder, because they are all universally, some publickly and openly, others clancularly and secretly, so naturally addicted to Rob, Thieve and Steal; and thus under pretext of serving the King, they dishonour God, and defraud his Imperial Majesty.

Here the Author having finished the matter of Fact in this Compendious History, for Confirmation of what he has here written, quotes a tedious and imperfect Epistle (as he styles it) beginning and ending anonymous withal, containing the Cruelties committed by the Spaniards, the same in effect as our Author has prementioned, now in regard that I judge such reiterated Cruelties and repeated Barbarisms are Offensive to the Reader, he having sailed already too long, and too far in an Ocean of Innocent Indian blood: I have omitted all but Two or Three Stories not taken notice of by the Author. One of the Tyrants, (who followed the steps of John Ampudia, a notorious Villain) gave way to a grat Slaughter of Sheep the chief Food and Support of the Spaniards as well as Indians, permitting them to kill Two or Three Hundred at a time, only for their Brains, Fat, or Suet, whose Flesh was then altogether useless, and not fit to be eaten; but many Indians, the Spaniards Friends and Confederates followed them, desiring they might have the hearts to feed upon, whereupon they butchered a great many of them, for this only Reason, because they would not eat the other parts of the Body. Two of their gang in the Province of Peru kild Twenty Five Sheep, who were sold among the Spaniards for Twenty Five Crowns, merely to get the fat and brains out of them: Thus the frequent and extraordinary Slaughter of their Sheep above a Hundred Thousand Head of Cattel were destroy'd. And upon this Account the Region was reduced to great penury and want, and at length perished with Hunger. Nay the Province of Quito, which abounded with Corn beyond Expression, by such proceedings as these, was brought to that Extremity that a Sextarie or small Measure or Wheat was sold for Ten Crowns, and a Sheep at as dear a rate.

This Captain taking leave of Quito was followed by a poor Indianess with loud Cries and Clamours, begging and beseeching him not to carry away her Husband; for she had the charge of Three Children, and could not possibly supply them with Victuals, but they must inevitably dye with hunger, and though the Captain repulsed her with an angry brow at the first; yet she approacht him a second time with repeated Cries, saying, that her Children must perish for want of Food; but finding the Captain inexorable and altogether unmov'd with her Complaints, and her Husband not restor'd, through a piquant necessity wedded to despair; she cut off the Heads of her Children with sharp Stones, and so dispatcht them into the other World.

Then he proceeded farther to another City, and sent some Spaniards that very Night, to take the Indians of the City of Tulilicui, who next day brought with them above a Hundred Persons; some of which (whom he lookt upon to be able to carry burthens) he reserved for his own and his Soldiers service, and other were chain'd, and perished in their Fetters: but the little Infants he gave to the Casic of Tulilicui, abovesaid to be eaten up and devoured, whose skins are stuft with Ashes and hung up in his House to be seen at this very day. And in the close of this Letter he shuts up all with these words, 'tis here very remarkable and never to be forgotten, that this Tyrant (being not ignorant of the Mischiefs and Enormities executed by him) boastingly said of himself, They who shall travel in these Countreys Fifty years hence, and hear the things related of me, will have cause to say or declare, that never such a Tyrant as I am marched through these Regions, and committed the like Enormities.

Now not to quit the Stage without one Comical Scene or Action whereon such Cruelties have been lively personated, give me leave to acquaint you with a Comical piece of Grammatical Learning in a Reverend Religioso of these parts, sent thither to convert the West-Indies Pagans, which the Author mentions among his Reasons and Replications, and all these I pass by as immaterial to our purpose, many of them being repeated in the Narrative before.

The weight and burthen of initiating the Indians into the Christian Faith lay solely on the Spaniards at first; and therefore Joannes Colmenero in Santa Martha, a Fantastic, Ignorant, and Foppish Fellow, was under Examination before us (and he had one of the most spatious Cities committed to his Charge as well as the Care and Cure of the Souls of the Inhabitants) whether he understood how to fortifie himself with the sign of the Cross against the Wicked and Impious, and being interrogated what he taught, and how he instructed the Indians, whose Souls were intrusted to his Care and Conduct; he return'd this Answer, That if he damn'd them to the Devil and Furies of Hell, it was sufficient to retrieve them, if he pronounced these Words, Per Signin Sanctin Cruces. A Fellow fitter to be a Hogherd than a Shepherd of Souls.

This Deep, Bloody American Tragedy is now concluded, and my Pen choakt up with Indian Blood and Gore. I have no more to say, but pronounce the Epilogue made by the Author, and leave the Reader to judge whether it deserves a Plaudite.

The Spaniards first set Sail to America, not for the Honour of God, or as Persons moved and merited thereunto by servent Zeal to the True Faith, nor to promote the Salvation of their Neighbours, nor to serve the King, as they falsely boast and pretend to do, but in truth, only stimulated and goaded on by insatiable Avarice and Ambition, that they might for ever Domineer, Command, and Tyrannize over the West- Indians, whose Kingdoms they hoped to divide and distribute among themselves. Which to deal candidly in no more or less intentionally, than by all these indirect wayes to disappoint and expel the Kings of Castile out of those Dominions and Territories, that they themselves having usurped the Supreme and Regal Empire, might first challenge it as their Right, and then possess and enjoy it.