Billeder på siden

at Juste, supported the views of Las Casas, and the scheme of selling the reversion of the encomiendas, which would have led to the total slavery of the Indians, was abandoned.

In 1557 we find the good old man again appearing before the king to answer certain charges brought against him, and uttering the memorable words, "To my accusers I oppose an apostolate of sixty years, consecrated to the salvation of souls and the defence of human life. If the question is between the Indians driven to despair and their oppressors, the blood of four millions of men, massacred in the conquered countries, proves better than my words, which of the two nations was guilty, and ought to bear the weight of the malediction which falls on the violators of this precept: 'Thou shalt not kill.' To accomplish the mission," he continued, "which two kings, your Majesty's predecessors, have confided to me, my feet have been torn by all the thorns of the roads, my heart has bled every day during the laborious years of a struggle out of which I have often come vanquished-cursed, like St Paul; stoned, like St Stephen; dragged from tribunal to tribunal, and accused of heresy for having maintained, that the Indians are the children of God, and that their souls did not cost the Saviour less than mine or yours. I await the sentence of your tribunal in this world; if it condemns me, I appeal to the tribunal of God."

The king not only declared that he was convinced of Las Casas' innocence of all charges brought against

him, but also asked for the old man's blessing, which he gave him with much solemnity.

During the rest of his life, Las Casas continued to occupy himself in the affairs of the Indies, and to labour at his greatest literary work, "The History of the Indies." He was still engaged in this in 1561, when he was eighty-seven years of age.

In his ninetieth year he wrote a treatise on the subject of Peru, perhaps the best produced by his fertile pen. Two years later, in 1566, he came forward not to write, but to act, on behalf of his Indians. The Dominicans at Guatemala had written to inform him that the inhabitants of that province were suffering great injustice from having been deprived of their audiencia; and to prosecute any appeal, had to make a journey to Mexico. Las Casas at once left Valladolid for Madrid, and put the case of the Guatemalans so strongly before the king and Council of the Indies, that their audiencia was restored to them. This was the last work of the great philanthropist. He fell ill at Madrid, and died there, after a short illness, in July 1566, being ninety-two years of age. He was buried with due solemnity in the convent chapel of Our Lady of Atocha; and a large crowd attended his obsequies.

Las Casas well earned the title of "the great apostle of the Indies." He was not always successful, and he utterly failed as a colonist; but his work and his influence lived long after his decease. "His career affords," says Sir A. Helps, "perhaps a solitary in

stance of a man who, being neither a conqueror, a discoverer, nor an inventor, has, by the pure force of benevolence, become so notable a figure, that large portions of history cannot be written, or at least cannot be understood, without the narrative of his deeds and efforts being made one of the principal threads upon which history is strung. In early American history, Las Casas is undoubtedly the principal figure. His extraordinary longevity has something to do with this pre-eminence. Very few men can be named who have taken so active a part in public affairs over such an extended period as nearly seventy years."




HE time when everybody-even if provided.


by nature with a rich crop of hair round the head and temples-wore a thick, long, curly wig, which enveloped the whole head, was sprinkled with powder, and ended in a long pig-tail which hung down behind the neck and was tied up with a black ribbon-the age of perukes-has long since passed away, and there is probably no one alive now, who remembers it when it was in the height of its glory. It was a stiff, singular period, when half the world bowed beneath the iron rule of an absurd fashion; but it was an age of fame for wig-makers, when they reaped a rich harvest, when they were unrestricted lords and masters over the heads of men, which they dressed and arranged with artistic hand. Whoever among them had not studied the deep science of perukes and pomades in Paris, Vienna, London, or Berlin, soon lost his customers, who forsook him for some empty braggart who could boast that he had visited one of

those capitals. No trade rose and fell so completely with the reigning and deposed fashions, as that of the wig-maker.

Thus an old master of this art, whose name was Johann Daniel Falk, and who lived in the seaport of Danzig, felt it to be. In his youth he had prospered well enough, but because he had not followed the progress of wigs, because he kept to the old form which he had been accustomed to in his early days, he lost all the custom of the upper circles of society, and had to confine himself to serving old bachelors who passed their time in dark back streets, from which they rarely emerged, and old-fashioned burghers, who prided themselves on wearing their wedding coat and wedding wig to their graves, as the most honourable of decorations-a class, however, which naturally was quickly vanishing. Thus it came to pass that wigmaker Falk became very poor. Still never a word escaped him against-not his trade, for he never called it that—but his art; to him it was the first in the world, for had it not to do with the noblest part of man-his head?

Falk was a married man; his wife belonged to a Genevese family who had settled in Danzig. She was a member of the Moravian Church; Falk, too, professed the Reformed faith. Their eldest son, who in baptism received, after his father, the names of Johannes Daniel, was born on the feast of SS. Simon and Jude, 1768. A rigid piety reigned in the Falk household; the boy was very strictly brought up, and

« ForrigeFortsæt »