Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

496                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

parallels in those of past epochs, and that the\- arc due to the satne
follies and moral failings. There is the same tenor in his essay
Phiiipp der Zmifc otkr Religion tmd Mucht (195i). He then turned to
his own country and examined the grandeur and guilt of the Great
Elector, of Frederick I and of Frederick the Great in his historical
disquisition DieHobetK%plkrtt(i<)$$)i and followed this up with Auf
Wfffn detttscher Gese/jw/tfe (1934), Later he passed to this country
•with Das Inselreich, Gese/% md (IrSsse dcr britischen Macht (1936):
*Wie fiber SptMicn* Port/topi/, Dwtschltwtl dtiwmerte uhcr England der
Unterffingi he says. During the composition of this book, which
was suppressed when it appeared, his outlook on the world and
the processes of history, he tells us, took on final and fixed form,
In these works already he shows himself to he rather an interpreter
of history than a historian proper, and in this field his most
brilliant achievement is by common consent l^s Casas vor Karl V
(1938); here we have in the first piace an epitome of the Spanish
conquest of South America, with a horrifying account of the
torturing and enslavement of the Indian natives together with a
revelation of the political condition of Spain. For once in a way in
Schneider's explorations of history we have some fictional interest,
the love story of Las Casas for an Indian girl. But the chief interest
is the life story of Las Casas, who to begin with was no better as a
landowner than the rest of the Spanish colonists; but in the end he
was moved by pity to change his ways, f !e joined the Dominicans
and for the rest of his life carried on a campaign by writing and
preaching in support of his passionate conviction that the Indies,
simply because they were human beings, were entitled to be free,
The culmination of this long contest was the Council held in 15 50
at Valladolid to fight out the pros and cons of the argument; the
disputation, as Schneider relates it, reduces itself to an attack on
Las Casas by a learned doctor of law, who proves that by all the
force of logic the Indies must first be rendered helpless and then
by force converted, whereas Las Casas by an equal display of logic
enforced by Gospel truth proves incontrovertibly that as men
bom free they cannot even be forced to accept the religion of the
conquistadores. Charles V is present in person, but as the pro-
ceedings draw to a close he withdraws in high dudgeon, and it is
thought that Las Casas has lost the battle* Charles goes to visit his
mad mother Joan in the castle where she is immured; on his return
he sends for Las Casas to visit him in the late evening and they