Front Page Titles (by Subject) Slavery and Imperialist Ideology - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Slavery and Imperialist Ideology - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Slavery and Imperialist Ideology
“Iberian Expansion and the Issue of Black Slavery: Changing Portuguese Attitudes, 1440–1770.” The American Historical Review 83 (February 1978): 16–42.
To justify their overseas imperial conquests, colonization, and slavery, the Portuguese devised an official “ideology of expansion.” This ideology together with their self-doubts formed the Portuguese attitude toward blacks, and toward slavery in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
The fifteenth century inaugurated an upsurge of the Portuguese slave trade marked by the enslavement of Moorish, African, and Asian peoples with whom the Portuguese had neither religious rivalry nor territorial disputes. Portuguese imperial expansion was motivated by a mixture of “God, gold, or greed” to economically exploit black slave labor in Portugal, Brazil, and the sugar plantations of Madeira. In the imperial process, black slavery compelled the Portuguese to reinterpret the old concepts of “honor” and “just war” to allow offensive actions by Christians against “infidels.” Though these expansionist crusades and slavery-expeditions were piously cloaked in the name of service to God, Charles Gibson more accurately described the first such expedition against Moroccan Ceuta in 1415 as the “first act of state-directed imperialism of modern European history.”
The Portuguese ideology of expansion aimed to ease the Portuguese moral dilemma concerning imperialism and slavery. A pro-Portuguese warrior-God conveniently sanctioned His chosen people to extend Christianity to the pagans and infidels of Africa and Asia by means of the politicized Iberian tradition of crusades and “just wars.” “Pillage, piracy, and wanton destruction” were legitimate policies in this ideology to deprive infidels of the sinews of war that they might conceivably direct against Christians.
Political pressures wrested papal sanctions, bulls, and indulgences to bolster the military and economic interests of Portuguese imperial expansion to Africa and beyond. Pope Nicholas V, for example, granted to Dom Alphonso V authorization to subdue the infidel Saracens, annex their lands, and reduce them to perpetual servitude—all this in the name of Christ and blessed with a plenary indulgence.
But doubts troubled the Portuguese and Iberian conscience. Even João de Barros (1496-1570), the court historian known as the “Portuguese Livy” could not reconcile the ideology of expansion with the cruel realities of the slave trade. The most trenchant critics of the Portuguese policies were the Spanish Jesuit, Luís de Molina (1536-1600), and the Spanish Dominican missionary, Bartholomé de las Casas (1474-1566). Las Casas defended the liberty of Amerindians and castigated the slave trade and its historian apologists: “And to be marvelled at is the manner in which the Portuguese historians glorify as illustrious such heinous deeds, representing these exploits as great sacrifices made in the service of God.” Growing doubts about the moral contradictions of imperialism and slavery were poetically expressed in Camões's epic of Portuguese expansion, the Lusíadas.