Cavedon on Las Casas’s Use of Legal Interpretive Rules at Valladolid @matt_cavedon @LawandReligion

Matthew Cavedon, Emory University, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, has published Las Casas’s Use of Legal Interpretive Rules at Valladolid. Here is the abstract.

Who was Bartolomé de Las Casas as a legal reformer? A forefather of human rights, champion of indigenous peoples, and radical critic of Spanish imperialism. But comparatively little scholarship has “systematically addressed how Las Casas functioned as a [lawyer] throughout his life.” I want to do so in micro form by considering how he read one key legal text at one key moment. I will show how Las Casas reworked Pope Alexander VI’s 1493 bull Inter caetera in support of his critique of conquest. I look to his arguments concerning Inter caetera at the 1550–1551 imperial deliberations (junta) held at Valladolid, exploring four interpretive rules Las Casas used: (1) “the will of a ruler is always to be judged in conformity with the law”; (2) the Church’s jurisdiction over non-Christians is strictly limited; (3) legal texts must be interpreted to avoid “inhumanity or absurdity”; and (4) factual recitations matter.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.