BLTC Press Titles

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The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

Memoirs of General Miller

by John Miller


1st. The tyranny exercised over the aborigines.

2nd. The despotism of Spaniards over their own descendants.

It is scarcely necessary to assert in this place, because the fact will be admitted by those who take the trouble to investigate the subject, that not only the riches derived from Spanish America, but the very means of subsistence enjoyed by its inhabitants, have all along been procured by the personal toils of the aborigines, assisted, it is true, in some of their laborious tasks, by slaves imported from Africa. But the latter were too valuable to be expended in the mines.


By Indians alone gold and silver were extracted; the land was cultivated by Indians; by Indians the flocks and herds were reared and tended; and every other servile duty performed. Yet upon inquiry it will be found, that the sole return which they have received from the Spaniards, for these benefits, has been a life of cruel and continuous suffering.

Of the gold and silver acquired by their labours little remained in their own hands; of the fruits of the earth, which they sowed and gathered in, they were hardly ever permitted to be the possessors; of the cattle which they reared they were seldom the owners, and but rarely allowed to partake of the nourishment to be derived from them. Their sustenance consisted almost solely of maize and herbs, the spontaneous growth of the soil. The clothes and other productions of Europe, with which America was supplied, were not for the Indians; and their miserable dress was confined to the same sort of coarse clothing that had been woven by Indian females before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The only blessing indeed which their masters could pretend to have conferred upon them was a knowledge of the religion of which they were themselves professors; and even here the benefits obtained by the Indians were of an equivocal nature; they were converted to Christianity in name, but in reality were reduced to a state of absolute bondage.

Volumes might be written upon the almost endless varieties of oppression, both secular and ecclesiastical, which reduced this hapless race to a condition of wretchedness, in comparison with which that of the negro slave is a state of comfort; but this exposition will, for the sake of brevity, be confined principally to two points, viz.—

The mita, and the repartimiento.

It would be difficult to find in history more glaring instances of unblushing cruelty produced by insatiable avarice, than is afforded by the mita and the repartimiento, as they were practised by Spaniards in America.

The mita was the compulsory personal toil exacted from the Indians for the space generally of a year. The population of every district furnished the pefsonel of labour by which its riches were to be made available, and every proprietor, whether of land or of mines, was entitled to claim a share in what was considered and treated as a herd of working animals.

This fund of human labour was called the mita. It was so regulated, that a determinate number of Indians was annually drawn by ballot for the several services of the district. Every individual who obtained the grant of a mine became entitled, so soon as the grant was registered, to a proportionate number of these unhappy beings to work it. Some estimate may be formed of the effects of this regulation, when it is understood that there were fourteen hundred mines registered in Peru alone, and that every mine which remained unworked for the space of a year and a day became the property of any person who chose to claim it, for the purpose of turning it to account.

So dreadful was the labour of the mines considered, that each individual on whom the lot fell regarded it as a virtual sentence of death. He carried with him to that dreary abode his wife and children, and made the necessary disposition to provide for the contingency of never again returning. Nor were these forebodings groundless, for, under the most favourable circumstances, scarcely one out of five of these devoted victims was ever known to survive this odious and most oppressive conscription.

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