New Laws of 1542

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New Laws of 1542

New Laws of 1542, general legislative code designed to protect the Indians and to restrain the encomenderos. Clerical denunciation of Spanish mistreatment of the Indians began on Hispaniola and became more strident when the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, a former conquistador and encomendero, entered the fray. Las Casas's lobbying influenced Charles I's promulgatation of the New Laws in 1542.

The New Laws authorized a viceroy for Peru and audiencias in Lima and Guatemala to create a more effective administrative and judicial system. They are best known for prohibiting Indian slavery, attacking the encomenderos in general, and ordering that individuals responsible for the civil war in Peru be stripped of their encomiendas. This last provision, coupled with one prohibiting new assignments of encomiendas and ordering the reversion of existing ones to the crown upon the death of the holders, angered the encomenderos and led to a rebellion in Peru and the death of the region's first viceroy. In New Spain a wiser viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, refrained from enforcing contested provisions of the laws to avoid a rebellion.

Faced with the unexpectedly violent reaction, the Crown relented and, by allowing succession for a second "life" in 1545, enabled the encomenderos to pass on their grants for another generation.

See alsoCharles I of Spain; Encomienda; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; New Spain, Viceroyalty of; Slavery: Spanish America.


John H. Parry and Robert G. Keith, eds., New Iberian World: A Documentary History of the Discovery and Settlement of Latin America to the Early 17th Century, 5 vols. (1984), vol. 1, The Conquerors and the Conquered, pp. 348-359.

Additional Bibliography

Casas, Bartolomé de las. An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies, with Related Texts. Edited by Franklin W Knight. Trans. Andrew Hurley. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2003.

Charles, Holy Roman Emperor, Fred W. Lucas, and Henry Stevens. The New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians. London: Privately printed at the Chiswick Press, 1893.

Cieza de León, Pedro de. Crónica del Perú. 4 v. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Fondo Editorial: Academia Nacional de la Historia, 1984.

                                    Mark A. Burkholder

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New Laws of 1542

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New Laws of 1542