“Are These Not Also Men?”
In 1511, Fray Antonio Montesinos spoke the words, “Are these not also men?”His famous quote was a response to the mistreatment of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the Americas, by the conquering Spanish.Immediately upon discovering and colonizing the New World a widespread debate arose in regards to the usage and treatment of the native Indians.This debate was primarily focused on how to classify the Indians.Many people believed that the Indians were not human at all and should be allowed to be treated merely as slaves.The opposing side, the church, argued back that the Indians, no matter how seemingly uncivilized they lived, were humans.
A major argument resulted and the question as to how a human being is classified as being a human became a fiery debate among many.The Spanish conquerors believed that, like animals, the Indians did not have rational souls, or the ability to reason. Also, in conjunction, the Conquerors used the views of a medieval Dominican named Thomas Aquinas as justification for their reasoning.Aquinas once stated that a rational soul was determined by the ability to become a Christian.Those not capable were considered to be “brute animals.”
The Indians were often compared to parrots, or horses in the way they lived their lives.The conquerors needed the indigenous people to be considered less than human because if they were considered animals, forms of forced labor with out time off for religious learning could be used.An example was the encomienda.
The Church’s point of view was that in order to have and maintain power in the New World they would need the numbers of the Indians to be included in their community as followers.Patricia Seed, the author of this journal offers her line of thinking.It is that both sides of the debate were trying to monopolize the Indians for their own benefits.The Spania