The first real educators to take up the work of enlightening American Negroes were clergymen interested in the propagation of the gospel among the heathen of the new world. Addressing themselves to this task, the missionaries easily discovered that their first duty was to educate these crude elements to enable them not only to read the truth for themselves, but to appreciate the supremacy of the Christian religion. After some opposition slaves were given the opportunity to take over the Christian civilization largely because of the adverse criticism which the apostles to the lowly heaped upon the planters who neglected the improvement of their Negroes. Made then a device for bringing the blacks into the Church, their education was at first too much dominated by the teaching of religion.
[Footnote 1: Bourne, Spain in America, p. 241; and The Penn. Mag. of History, xii., 265.]
Many early advocates of slavery favored the enlightenment of the Africans. That it was an advantage to the Negroes to be brought within the light of the gospel was a common argument in favor of the slave trade. When the German Protestants from Salsburg had scruples about enslaving men, they were assured by a message from home stating that if they took slaves in faith and with the intention of conducting them to Christ, the action would not be a sin, but might prove a benediction. This was about the attitude of Spain. The missionary movement seemed so important to the king of that country that he at first allowed only Christian slaves to be brought to America, hoping that such persons might serve as apostles to the Indians. The Spaniards adopted a different policy, however, when they ceased their wild search for an “El Dorado” and became permanently attached to the community. They soon made settlements and opened mines which they thought required the introduction of slavery. Thus becoming commercialized, these colonists experienced a greed which, disregarding the consequences of the future, urged the importation of all classes of slaves to meet the demand for cheap labor. This request was granted by the King of Spain, but the masters of such bondmen were expressly ordered to have them indoctrinated in the principles of Christianity. It was the failure of certain Spaniards to live up to these regulations that caused the liberal-minded Jesuit, Alphonso Sandoval, to register the first protest against slavery in America. In later years the change in the attitude of the Spaniards toward this problem was noted. In Mexico the ayuntamientos were under the most rigid responsibility to see that free children born of slaves received the best education that could be given them. They had to place them “for that purpose at the public schools and other places of instruction wherein they” might “become useful to society."
[Footnote 1: Proslavery Argument; and Lecky, History of England, vol. ii., p. 17.]