In Rene Trujillo's book "Human Rights in the 'Age of Discovery,'" the introduction explains the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was adopted in 1948 by the United Nations and was ratified by 48 nations. Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the commission that wrote it and represented the United States in the United Nations. Most national constitutions incorporate some of the Declaration's principles and human rights organizations think of the Declaration as a kind of constitution, stating rights and freedoms.
When Trujillo tells us about Francisco de Vitoria's opposition to the way that the Spaniards were treating the Western Hemisphere's native people when they discovered the "new" world. Vitoria came up with an alternative to the theology and philosophy of repression that was widely known in his time (right around the 1500's). The thesis of his alternative had 3 principles: all human beings have a fundamental right to be treated as free people, to defend their own status of independence, and to enjoy the right to work toward and to make peace and international unity. These principles instigated a dispute between Juan Gines de Sepulveda, the official defender of the monarch, and Vitoria based on the concept of a just war, or, in general, the concept of "justice" altogether when it comes to human rights.
Vitoria's perspective can be understood on 5 basic points: the Spaniards and the native people had to be seen as equal, in terms of their humanity; any assertion of inhumanity in the native people had to be seen as a result of a lack of education and their uncivilized customs; the native people, same as the Spanish, had property rights to their possessions and could not be deprived of those possessions because of any accusation of a lack of culture; the native people might be entrusted to the protection of the Spaniards while still in an "underdeveloped state" (assuming that the protection of the natives would eventually lead to them independently functioning, and that the Spaniards had the necessary moral character and skill to undertake such a position); and the consent of the native people and their free choice were the ultimate grounds for any just Spanish intervention in the "new" world.
All demands placed on the native people were justified, in the eyes of the Spaniards, based on the belief in the power of the Roman Catholic...