Laws of the Indies

The Laws of the Indies ("Leyes de Indias" in Spanish) are the entire body of laws issued by the Spanish Crown for its American and Philippine possessions of its empire. They regulated social, political and economic life in these areas. The laws included a mirad of decrees issued over the centuries and the important laws of the sixteenth century, which attempted to regulate the interactions between the settlers and natives, such as the Laws of Burgos (1512) and the New Laws (1542). Throughout the five hundred years of Spanish presence in these parts of the world, the laws were compiled several times, most notably in 1680 under Charles II in the "Recopilación de las Leyes de los Reynos de Indias" (Compilation of the Laws of the Kingdoms of the Indies), which became the classic collection of the laws, despite the fact that later laws superseded parts of it and other compilations were issued. The 1680 compilation set the template by which the laws were organized.


With the often violent Spanish America conflict between Native American (Indian) communities and Spanish colonists arose. At the same time conflicts appeared between the colonists and the Crown.The laws also incorporated the ban against "New Christians" [ Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre] , Pablo A. Chami.] on settling in the Americas.

Two of the main sets of laws issued in the sixteenth century regulated Spanish contact with Indians, an issue about which the crown quickly became concerned soon after Christopher Columbus's first voyages. The Laws of Burgos (1512), signed by King Ferdinand II of Aragon, focused upon the welfare of the conquered Native Americans. The issue was revisited after Bartolome de las Casas brought attention to abuses being carried out by encomenderos. The Laws of Burgos were revised by the New Laws of 1542 issued by Charles I and quickly revised again in 1552, after the laws met resistance from colonists. These were then followed by the Ordinances Concerning Discoveries in 1573, which forbade any unauthorized operations against independent Native Americans. [ Indies, Laws of the] . (2006). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 22, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online] .

To guide and regularize the establishment of presidios (military towns), missions, and "pueblos" (civilian towns), King Phillip II developed the first version of the Laws of the Indies, a comprehensive guide comprising of 148 ordinances to aid colonists in locating, building, and populating settlements. They codified the city planning process and represented some of the first attempts at a general plan. Signed in 1573, the Laws of the Indies are seen as the first wide-ranging guidelines towards design and development of communities. These laws were heavily influenced by Vitruvius' Ten Books of Architecture and Alberti's treatises on the subject.

After some of the northern Spanish colonies became a part of the United States, the Laws of the Indies were influential in the creation of regulations that guided the development in the United States, particularly the Land Ordinance of 1785, which introduced townships and sections as organizing devices.Jackson, John (2003, June). [ Guiding Good Development Design] . Retrieved November 22, 2006, from Indiana Association of Cities and Towns Web site] .

About the Laws

In Book IV of the 1680 compilation of The Laws of the Indies, plans were set forth for settlers in high detail on every facet of creating a community. Examples of the diverse range of rules include:

* Those [Colonists] who should want to make a commitment to building a new settlement in the form and manner already prescribed, be it of more or less than 30 neighbors, (know that) it should be of no less than twelve persons and be awarded the authorization and territory in accordance with the prescribed conditions.
* Having made the selection of the site where the town is to be built, it must, as already stated, be in an elevated and healthy location; [be] with means of fortification; [have] fertile soil and with plenty of land for farming and pasturage; have fuel, timber, and resources; [have] fresh water, a native population, ease of transport, access and exit; [and be] open to the north wind; and, if on the coast, due consideration should be paid to the quality of the harbor and that the sea does not lie to the south or west; and if possible not near lagoons or marshes in which poisonous animals and polluted air and water breed.
* They [Colonists] shall try as far as possible to have the buildings all of one type for the sake of the beauty of the town.
* Within the town, a commons shall be delimited, large enough that although the population may experience a rapid expansion, there will always be sufficient space where the people may go to for recreation and take their cattle to pasture without them making any damage.
* The site and building lots for slaughter houses, fisheries, tanneries, and other business which produce filth shall be so placed that the filth can easily be disposed of.

These regulations are included in a body of 143 others (totaling 148) configuring any settlement according to the rule of Spain and its colonies. This continued as a precedent in all towns of Spanish control until the relinquishing of the land to others, as in the case of the American colonies and their growth; however, the Laws of the Indies still serve as an example to design guidelines for communities today.

Examples of cities implemented with The Laws

* Santa Fe, New MexicoMessina, John (2002, March). " [ Town Making] ] ". Retrieved November 22, 2006, from Architecture and Urbanism of the Southwest Web site.]
*Álamos, Mexico
*Albuquerque, New Mexico
*Tucson, Arizona
*Fernandina, Florida (1811)
*Laredo, Texas (1767)



*Spain/Council of the Indies and Juan Manzano Manzano. "Recopilación de leyes de los reynos de las Indias". 4 vols. Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispánica, 1973 [1681] ISBN 9788472322042
*Spain/Council of the Indies. "Recopilación de leyes de los reynos de las Indias, 1681". 5 vols. Mexico: M. A. Porrúa, 1987. ISBN 9789688420911
*Spain/Council of the Indies. "Recopilación de leyes de los reynos de las Indias". 3 vols. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitutionales: Boletín Oficial del Estado, 1998 [1681] . ISBN 9788434010406
*Tyler, S. Lyman. "The Indian Cause in the Spanish Laws of the Indies: With an Introduction and the First English Translation of Book VI, Concerning the Indians, from the" Recopilación de leyes de los reinos de las Indias, "Madrid, 1681". Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.
*Tyler, S. Lyman. "Spanish Laws Concerning Discoveries, Pacifications, and Settlements among the Indians: With an Introduction and the First English Translation of the New Ordinances of Philip II, July 1573, and of Book IV of the" Recopilación de leyes de los reinos de las Indias, "Relating to these Subjects". Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.

External links

[ "Recopilación de las leyes de los reynos de Indias"] Spanish language, PDF, facsimile version of the compilation on site of the Congress of the Republic of Peru.

See also

*Laws of Burgos
*New Laws
*Urban planning

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