A champion for the oppressed Indians, his father had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to the West Indies. At first Bartholomew was as much a part of Christian imperialism as the next Spaniard, But in his mid thirties he had a spiritual conversion and was ordained to the priesthood, the first in the New World. In a sermon before the governor and leading settlers he denounced the cruelties he saw about him. He met widespread resistance, but persisted in his views. He made fourteen trips across the Atlantic to urge Spanish leaders to consider another way to win the Indians to the faith. Thanks in part to his appeals, Charles V, in 1542, issued a series of new laws, The Laws of the Indies, which softened the severity of the ecomeinda system and established the principle that Indians had human rights too.
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