Sepúlveda, Juan Ginés de (c. 1490–1573)

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Sepúlveda, Juan Ginés de (c. 1490–1573)

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (b. ca. 1490; d. 1573), Spanish humanist. "The most strident champion of Spanish imperialism," to quote Anthony Pagden, Sepúlveda translated Aristotle, supported the idea of universal monarchy, and wrote a number of works, including Democrates alter (or secundus, published 1780), which strongly defended the rights of the Castilian crown in the New World. He is best known for his opposition to the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas in "the Spanish struggle for justice" in the mid-sixteenth century. In contrast with Las Casas and the theologians of Salamanca, Sepúlveda believed that the Aristotelian doctrine of natural aristocracy and natural servitude justified the Spanish conquest of the Indies and wars against the native populations. He also believed that the conquest of the natives was an act of charity, for it brought them the benefits of civilization, religion, and trade with Spain. The colonists' exploitation of native labor, thus, was justified. Not surprisingly, the conquistadores and early settlers considered Sepúlveda their champion.

See alsoSlavery: Indian Slavery and Forced Labor .


Lewis Hanke, All Mankind Is One: A Study of the Disputation Between Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians (1974).

Anthony Pagden, Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination: Studies in European and Spanish-American Social and Political Theory 1513–1830 (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Castañeda, Felipe. El indio, entre el bárbaro y el cristiano: Ensayos sobre filosofía de la conquista en Las Casas, Sepúlveda y Acosta. Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes, Departamento de Filosofía: Alfaomega Colombiana, 2002.

                                      Mark A. Burkholder