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  • CHAPTER 3.


    SOON after the Roman empire became Christian, laws were enacted, subjecting those who propagated erroneous opinions to punishment, under the false idea that heresy, or error in matters of revelation, was a crime and an offence against the state. The penalties were in general moderate, compared with those which were decreed at a subsequent period.

    Manicheism, which was considered as eversive of the principles of natural religion, and dangerous to morals, was the only heresy visited with capital punishment; a penalty which was afterwards extended to the Donatists, who were chargeable with exciting tumults in various parts of the empire.

    The bishops of that time were far from soliciting the execution of these penal statutes, which in most instances had passed at their desire, or with their consent. They flattered themselves that the publication of severe laws, by the terror which it inspired, would repress the hardihood of daring innovators, and induce their deluded followers to listen to instruction, and return to the bosom of the faithful church. When Priscillian was put to death for Manicheism, at Treves in 384, St. Martin, the apostle of the French, remonstrated with the emperor Maximus against the deed, which was regarded with abhorrence by all the bishops of France and Italy. St.

    Augustine protested to the proconsul of Africa, that, if capital punishment was inflicted on the Donatists, he and his clergy would suffer death at the hands of these turbulent heretics sooner than be instrumental in bringing them before the tribunals. But it is easier to draw than to sheathe the sword of persecution; and the ecclesiastics of a following age were zealous in stimulating reluctant magistrates to execute these laws, and in procuring the application of them to persons who held opinions which their predecessors looked upon as harmless or laudable. In the eleventh century, capital punishment, even in its most dreadful form, that of burning alive, was extended to all who obstinately adhered to opinions differing from the received faith. f142 Historians have not pointed out with precision the period at which this extension of the penal code took place, or the grounds on which it proceeded. Instances of the practice occur previously to the imperial edict of Frederic II. in 1224, and even to that of Frederic I. in 1184. It appears to me to have been at first introduced by confounding the different sects which arose with the followers of Manes. Taking advantage of the circumstances, that some individuals belonging to those who went by the names of Henricians, Arnoldists, Poor Men of Lyons, and Vaudois, held the leading tenet of Manicheism, the clergy fixed this stigma on the whole body, and called on magistrates to visit them with the penalty decreed against that odious heresy. In an ignorant age this charge was easily believed. It was in vain that the victims of persecution protested against the indiscriminate accusation, or disowned the sentiments imputed to them. By the time that undeniable facts cleared their innocence, the public mind had learned to view the severity of their fate with indifference or approbation; and the punishment of death, under the general phrase of delivering over to the secular arm, came to be considered as the common award for all who entertained opinions opposite to those of the church of Rome, or who presumed to inveigh against the corruptions of the priesthood.

    Other causes, some of which had been long in operation, continued to work, in the course of the eleventh century, a great change on the criminal proceedings against heretics. The sentence of excommunication, which at first only excluded from the privileges of the church, was now considered as inflicting a mark of public infamy on those who incurred it; from which the transition was not difficult, in a superstitious age, to the idea that it deprived them of all the rights, natural or civil, of which they were formerly in possession. The unhappy individuals who were struck with this spiritual thunder, felt all the bonds which connected them with society suddenly dissolved, and were regarded as objects at once of divine execration and human abhorrence. Subjects threw off their allegiance to their legitimate sovereigns; sovereigns gave up their richest and most peaceable provinces to fire and sword; the territories of a vassal became lawful prey to his neighbors; and a man’s enemies were those of his own house. The Roman pontiffs, who had extended their authority by affecting an ardent zeal for the honor of the Christian faith, found a powerful engine for accomplishing their ambitious designs, in the crusades, undertaken at their instigation, to deliver the Holy Land, and the sepulchre of Christ, from the pollution of infidels. These mad expeditions, whose indirect influence was ultimately favorable to European civilization, were in the mean time productive of the worst effects. While they weakened the sovereigns who embarked in them, they increased the power of the popes, and placed at their disposal immense armies, which they could direct against all who opposed their measures. They perverted, in the minds of men, the essential principles of religion, justice, and humanity, by cherishing the false idea that it is meritorious to wage war for the glory of the Christian name,—by throwing the veil of sanctity over the greatest enormities of which a licentious soldiery might be guilty,—by conferring the pardon of their sins on all who arrayed themselves under the banners of the cross,—and by holding out the palm of martyrdom to such as should have the honor to fall in fighting against the enemies of the faith. Nor were the popes either dilatory or slack in availing themselves of these prejudices. Finding that their violent measures for suppressing the Albigenses were feebly seconded by the barons of Provence, they proclaimed a crusade against heretics, launched the sentence of excommunication against both superiors and vassals, and carried on a war of extermination in the south of France during a period of twenty years. It was amidst these scenes of blood and horror that the Inquisition arose.

    Historians are divided in opinion as to the exact time at which the Inquisition was founded. Inquisitors and informers are mentioned in a law published by the emperor Theodosius against the Manicheans; but these were officers of justice appointed by the prefects, and differed entirely from the persons who became so notorious under these designations many centuries after that period. The fundamental principle of that odious institution was undoubtedly recognized in 1184, by the council of Verona; which however established no separate tribunal for the pursuit of heretics, but left this task entirely in the hands of the bishops. Rainier, Castelnau, and St. Dominic, who were sent into France at different times from 1198 to 1206, had a commission from the pope to search for heretics, and in this sense may be called inquisitors; but they were invested with no judicial power to pronounce a definite sentence. The council of the Lateran in 1218 made no innovation on the ancient practice. The council held at Toulouse in 1229, ordained that the bishops should appoint, in each parish of their respective dioceses, “one priest and two or three laics, who should engage upon oath to make a rigorous search after all heretics and their abettors, and for this purpose should visit every house from the garret to the cellar, together with all subterraneous places where they might conceal themselves.” But the Inquisition, as a distinct tribunal, was not erected until the year 1233, when pope Gregory IX. took from the bishops the power of discovering and bringing to judgment the heretics who lurked in France, and committed that task to the Dominican friars. In consequence of this the tribunal was immediately set up in Toulouse, and afterwards in the neighboring cities, from which it was introduced into other countries of Europe. f147 It may be considered as a fact at least somewhat singular, that in the proceedings of the first Spanish council whose records have reached our time, we find a deeper stigma attached to the character of informers than to that of heretics. The council of Elvira, after limiting the duration of the penance of those who might fall into heresy, decreed that “if a catholic become an informer, and any one be put to death or proscribed in consequence of his denunciation, he shall not receive the communion, even at the hour of death.” On a review of criminal proceedings in Spain anterior to the establishment of the court of Inquisition, it appears in general that heretics were more mildly treated there than in other countries.

    Jews who relapsed, after having been baptized, were subject to whipping and spare diet, according to the age of the offenders. Those who apostatized to paganism, if nobles or freemen, were condemned to exile, and if slaves, to whipping and chains. The general law against heretics was, that such as refused to recant, if priests, should be deprived of all their dignities and property, and if laics, that they should, in addition, be condemned to perpetual banishment. Even after the barbarous custom of committing obstinate heretics to the flames had been introduced into other parts of Europe, Spain testified her aversion to sanguinary measures.

    In 1194, when Alfonso II. of Aragon, at the instigation of the legate of pope Celestine, published an edict, commanding the Vaudois, and all other sectaries, to quit his dominions, those who remained after the time specified were expressly exempted from suffering either death or the mutilation of their bodies. f152 No sooner had the Inquisition received the papal sanction, than measures were taken for having it introduced into Spain, where the Dominicans had already established convents of their order. In the course of the thirteenth century, inquisitorial tribunals were permanently erected in the principal towns of the kingdom of Aragon, from which they were extended to Navarre. Though a papal brief was issued in 1236 for the special purpose of introducing the Holy Office into Castile, and Ferdinand III. surnamed the Saint, is said to have carried with his own hand the wood destined for burning of his subjects,—yet it does not appear that there ever was a permanent tribunal in that kingdom under the ancient form of the Inquisition; either because heresy had made little progress among the Castilians, or because they were averse to the new method of extirpating it. f154 The mode of proceeding in the court of Inquisition, when first erected, was simple, and differed very little from that which was followed in the ordinary courts of justice. In particular, the interrogatories put to persons accused, and to witnesses, were short and direct, evincing merely a desire to ascertain the truth on the subjects of inquiry. But this simplicity soon gave place to a system of the most complicated and iniquitous circumvention. Grossly ignorant of judicial matters, the Dominicans modelled their new court after what is called in the Roman church, the Tribunal of Penance. Accustomed, in the confessional, to penetrate into the secrets of conscience, they converted to the destruction of the bodies of men all those arts which a false zeal had taught them to employ for the saving of their souls. Inflamed with a passion for extirpating heresy, and persuading themselves that the end sanctified the means, they not only acted upon, but formally laid down, as a rule for their conduct, maxims founded on the grossest deceit and artifice, according to which they sought in every way to ensnare their victims, and by means of false statements, delusory promises, and a tortuous course of examination, to betray them into confessions which proved fatal to their lives and fortunes. To this mental torture was soon after added the use of bodily tortures, together with the concealment of the names of witnesses.

    After this court had subsisted for two centuries and a half, it underwent what its friends have honored with the name of a reform ; in consequence of which it became a more terrible engine of persecution than before. Under this new form it is usually called the Modern Inquisition, though it may with equal propriety bear the name of the Spanish, as it originated in Spain, and has been confined to that country, including Portugal, and the dominions subject to the two monarchies.

    The war of the Albigenses was the pretext used by the popes for the establishment of the ancient Inquisition; the necessity of checking the apostasy of the converts from Judaism was urged as the reason for introducing the modern. While the Spaniards were engaged in continual wars with one another or with the Moors, the Jews, who had been settled for ages in the Peninsula, by addicting themselves to trade and commerce, had, in the fourteenth century, engrossed the wealth of the nation, and attained to great influence in the government both of Castile and Aragon.

    Those who were indebted to them, and those who envied them on account of the civil offices which they held, united in stirring up the religious prejudices of the populace against them; and in one year five thousand Jews fell a sacrifice to popular fury. With the view of saving their lives, many submitted to baptism, and it is computed that, in the course of a few years, nearly a million of persons renounced the law of Moses and made profession of the Christian faith. The number of converts, as they were called, was increased in the beginning of the fifteenth century, by the zeal of the Dominican missionaries, and especially of St. Vincent Ferrer, to whom the Spanish historians have ascribed more miracles and conversions than were wrought by the apostles. These converts were called New Christians, and sometimes Marranos from a form of execration then in use among the Jews. As their adoption of the Christian profession proceeded from the fear of death, or a desire to secure secular emoluments, rather than internal persuasion, the greater part repented of having abjured the religion of their fathers, and resumed the practice of its rites in secret, while they publicly conformed to those of the Christians. This forced conformity could not fail to be painful to their minds, and was relaxed in proportion as the fears which they felt for their safety abated. The consequence was, that many of them were discovered by the monks, who cried out that if some severe means were not adopted to repress the evil, the whole body of converted Jews would soon relapse into their former habits, and the faith of the old Christians would be corrupted and overthrown by these concealed apostates with whom they were intermingled.—But, although more immediately intended to guard the fidelity of the New Christians, the modern Inquisition, like the ancient, was charged with the discovery and punishment of all kinds of heresy, and extended its jurisdiction over the Old Christians, as well as Jewish and Moorish converts.

    It is proper that the names of those individuals to whom Spain owes this institution should not be forgotten. The most active were Felippe de Barberis, inquisitor of Sicily, and Alfonso de Hoyeda, prior of Seville, both of them Dominican friars, assisted by Nicolas Franco, bishop of Treviso, who was at that time nuncio from pope Sixtus IV. to the Spanish court. f158 The whole of Spain was at this period united into one kingdom by the marriage of Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and Isabella, queen of Castile.

    Ferdinand readily acceded to a proposal which gave him the prospect of filling his coffers by means of confiscations; it was equally agreeable to Sixtus, from its tendency to promote the views of the court of Rome; and they succeeded, by the help of the friars, in overcoming the repugnance which it excited in the humane but superstitious mind of Isabella. The bull for establishing the Inquisition in Castile was issued on the 1st of November 1478; and on the 17th of September 1480, their catholic majesties named the first inquisitors, who commenced their proceedings on the 2d of January 1481, in the Dominican convent of St. Paul at Seville.

    The tribunal did not however assume a permanent form until two years after, when friar Thomas Torquemada, prior of Santa Cruz in the town of Segovia, was placed at its head, under the designation of inquisitorgeneral, first of Castile, and afterwards of Aragon. Torquemada proceeded without delay to exercise the high powers with which he was intrusted, by choosing his assessors, and erecting subordinate tribunals in different cities of the united kingdom. Over the whole was placed the Council of the Supreme, consisting of the inquisitor-general as president, and three counsellors, two of whom were doctors of law. This regulated and controlled the inferior tribunals; and by its fundamental laws, the counsellors had a deliberative voice in all questions relating to civil law, but a consultative voice only in those which appertained to ecclesiastical law, of which Torquemada was constituted the sole judge by the apostolical bulls. These counsellors appear to have been appointed with the view of preventing encroachments on the secular authorities, and accordingly altercations did sometimes arise between the inquisitors-general and the counsellors of the Supreme; but as the latter were all of the clerical order, and as no clear line of distinction between civil and ecclesiastical affairs was drawn, the questions which came before the court were generally brought under the rules of canon law, or in other words, decided according to the pleasure of the president. Torquemada’s next employment was to form a body of laws for the government of his new tribunal. This appeared in 1484; additions were made to it from time to time; and, as a diversity of practice had crept into the subordinate courts, the inquisitor-general Valdes, in 1561, made a revisal of the whole code, which was published in eighty-one articles, and continues, with the exception of a few slight alterations, to be the law to this day. From these constitutions, as illustrated by the authentic documents connected with the history of the Inquisition which have been lately made public, a correct idea may be formed of the mode of process observed in that dreadful tribunal. Instead however of entering here into details which may be found elsewhere, I shall select such particulars as show that the Inquisition possessed powers which enabled it effectually to arrest the progress of knowledge, and to crush every attempt which might be made for the reformation of religion and the church.

    The first thing which presents itself to our view, is the immense apparatus which the Inquisition possesses for the discovery of heresy, and the apprehension of those who are suspected of having incurred its taint.

    Deceived by the importance attached to denunciation in the instructions of the Holy Office, some writers would lead us to believe that there is no way in which a process can be commenced before the Inquisition, except by a formal charge preferred by some individual; whereas the truth is, that information, in whatever way it may be obtained, is sufficient for this purpose. The Inquisition is not only a court of justice, but also, as its name intimates, a body of police, employed in discovering the offenses on which it is afterwards to sit in judgment. Every individual belonging to its tribunals, supreme or subordinate, from the inquisitor-general down to the lowest alguazil or familiar, is charged with this employment. At those periods when its vigilance was aroused by the alarm of heresy, it had its secret spies and authorized agents at every port and pass of the kingdom, as regularly as government had its tide-waiters and custom-house officers, armed with authority to arrest the persons and property of all who incurred their suspicions. In addition to its internal resources, it avails itself of the superstitious prejudices of the people, whom it raises en masse, to drive the poor heretics into the legal toils spread for them in all parts of the country. At any time which it judges proper, but statedly on two Sundays every year during lent, an edict is published in all the churches of the kingdom, requiring every one who knows any person suspected of heresy to give information to the Inquisition within six days, upon pain of incurring mortal sin and excommunication by their silence. At the same time, the priests in the confessional exert all the influence which they possess over the minds of their penitents to persuade them to comply with this order. In this way the worst and the best, the weakest and the strongest passions of the human breast are engaged; and persons are induced to become informers from private malice, from pious scruples, and from selfish fears. The father sometimes informs against his own child, the wife against the husband, and the lovesick maiden against the object of her tenderest attachment. Though the holy fathers prefer a process by denunciation to one ex officio, and in order to encourage informers, conceal their names, yet anonymous informations are received without any scruple, provided they furnish the smallest clue by which the charge may be brought home to the accused. One prosecution is often the means of fastening the suspicion of heresy on a number of individuals; for it is an invariable rule with the inquisitors, not to inform a witness of the particular object for which he is cited, but to commence by desiring him to task his memory and say if he recollects having seen or heard any thing which appeared to be inconsistent with the catholic faith; in consequence of which, he is led to mention names not implicated in the process. If, upon inquiry, the inquisitors are of opinion that they will find it difficult to convict the suspected person, they do not examine him, because this would only serve to put him on his guard; nor do they use any means to recover him from the supposed errors into which he has fallen; but suspending their proceedings, wait until they obtain additional proof to substantiate the charge. If the evidence is deemed sufficient, they issue the order of arrest to the alguazil, who, accompanied by the sequestrator and receiver of goods, instantly repairs to the house of the accused; and, provided the latter has absconded, the familiars are furnished, not only with a minute description of his person, but also with his picture, so that it is next to impossible that their prey can escape them. f164 Nor is it less difficult for a person to escape without condemnation, if he once has had the misfortune to be apprehended. It is only in the way of being able to convict him of heresy, that the inquisitors are entitled to seize on his property; and as it is an established maxim of theirs, that the Holy Office cannot err, they consider it as a reflection on its proceedings, if any individual whom it has apprehended shall clear himself from suspicion.

    Without acquainting him either with his accuser or the charge brought against him, every art is employed, both by his judges in the repeated examinations to which they subject him, and also by the jailer to whose care he is intrusted, to induce the prisoner to confess that he has been guilty of some offence against the faith. He is strictly interrogated as to his kindred, connections, acquaintances, and manner of life; the records of all the tribunals of the Holy Office are ordered to be searched; and if it is found that any of his ancestors or relations, however remote, either in the male or female line, or any of those with whom he has consorted, were Jews, Moors, or heretics, or had incurred the censures of the Inquisition, this circumstance is regarded as sufficient to fasten on him a legitimate presumption of guilt. Even a failure to repeat the Ave Maria or creed exactly after the manner of the Roman church, is viewed in the same light. f165 The impenetrable secrecy with which all the proceedings of the Inquisition are shrouded, is at once an instrument of terror, and an encouragement to every species of injustice. Every person who enters its walls is sworn, before he is permitted to depart, to observe the most profound silence as to all that he may have seen, heard, or uttered. The names of the witnesses are carefully concealed from the prisoner; and they are not confronted with him, nor, so far as appears, with one another. No check is imposed on the infidelity or ignorance of the notaries or clerks who take down the depositions. The accused is not furnished with a copy of the evidence against him, but merely with such garbled extracts as his judges are pleased to order; and, taking advantage of the different modes of expression used by the witnesses in speaking of the same fact, the procurator-fiscal often converts one charge into three or four, by which means the prisoner is thrown into confusion on his defence, and exposed to popular odium, as a person laden with crimes, if he is ultimately brought out in the public autoda- fe. Every thing which the witnesses in their examination may have said in his favor, or which might be conducive to his exculpation, is studiously and totally suppressed.

    The same partial and unjust rules are observed in forming the extracts, both at the commencement and termination of the process, are submitted to certain divines, called qualificators of the Holy Office, whose business it is to say whether the propositions imputed to the accused individual are heretical, or to what degree they subject him to the suspicion of heresy.

    These individuals, besides, are generally monks or scholastic divines, imbued with false notions, and ready to qualify , or stigmatize as heretical, opinions sanctioned by the authority of the most approved doctors of the church, merely because they have not met with them in the contracted circle of their studies.

    It is not easy to conceive a greater mockery of justice than is to be found in the provisions made for the defence of the prisoner. The judges appoint one of their advocates to act as his counsel, who has no means of defending his client, except the garbled extracts from the depositions of the witnesses already mentioned. But the truth is, that his ability is as great as his inclination; for, while nominally the advocate of the prisoner, he is really the agent and proctor of the court, in obedience to whose directions, given at the time of his nomination, he labors in most instances to induce his client to confess and throw himself on the mercy of the judges. Nor is the pretended privilege of challenging the witness less nugatory and insulting to the prisoner. Deprived of every means of knowing the persons who have deponed against him, he can have recourse to conjecture only; malice is the sole ground of exception which he is permitted to urge; he may have been accused from fanaticism, fear, or ignorant scruples; or his personal enemy may have put forward, as the instrument of his malice, an individual whom the prisoner would never think of suspecting; and sometimes the procurator-fiscal takes the precaution of secretly establishing the credibility of his witnesses beforehand, with the view of defeating the challenge. The inquisitors are uniformly disposed to favor the witnesses for the prosecution, and to screen them from punishment, even in cases of perjury. Nor is this evil to be traced to the character of particular judges; it springs from the very genius of the tribunal, which induces all who are connected with it to set at defiance the most essential principles of justice by which every other court is governed, and even to disregard its own regulations, for the sake of encouraging informations and indulging a morbid jealousy. Of the same illusory nature is the privilege which, in certain cases, they give the prisoner to bring forward exculpatory evidence. For, in the first place, he is restricted in his choice of witnesses.

    While the testimony of persons of all descriptions—relations, domestics, New Christians, malefactors, infamous characters, children, and even idiots, is admissible against him; he, on the contrary, is directed to name, for his exculpation, only Christians of ancient race, of unimpeached character, and who are neither his relatives nor domestics. And, in the second place, the tribunal reserves to itself the power of examining such of the prisoner’s witnesses only as it shall judge “most fit and worthy of credit.” f171 The injustice of the inquisitorial process can only be equalled by its cruelty.

    Persons of undoubted veracity, who had the happiness to escape from the secret prisons of the Inquisition during the sixteenth century, have described them as narrow and gloomy cells, which admitted the light only by a small chink,—damp, and resembling graves more than prisons, if they were subterraneous; and if they were situated in the upper part of the building, feeling in summer like heated furnaces. At present, they are described as, in general, good vaulted chambers, well lighted, free of humidity, and of such size as to allow the prisoner to take a little exercise. But even those who give the most favorable description of these abodes admit, that nothing can be conceived more frightful than the situation of the individual who is immured in them, left as he is to conjecture respecting his accuser and the particular crime with which he is charged; kept in ignorance of the state of his process; shut out from every kind of intercourse with his friends; denied even the consolation of conversing confidentially with the person to whom his defence has been intrusted; refused all use of books; afraid, if he has a fellow-prisoner with him for a few days, to do more than exchange salutations with him, lest he should be confiding in a spy; threatened if he hum a tune, and especially a sacred one, to relieve his languor; plunged, during the rigor of the winter months, in total darkness for fifteen hours of every day in an abode that never saw the cheerful blaze of a fire; and, in fine, knowing that if ever he should be set free, he must go out to the world lost for ever in public opinion, and loaded with an infamy, heavier than that of the pardoned assassin or parricide, which will attach to his children of the remotest generation. What wonder that such prisoners as are not induced, at an early period of their confinement, to confess guilt, become a prey to dejection, and seek relief from their miseries in death, or else sink into a hopeless and morbid insensibility, from which the rack itself is scarcely sufficient to rouse them?

    That part of the process which relates to the torture is a monstrous compound of injustice and barbarity. If, after the evidence is closed, the tribunal find that there is only a demi-proof of guilt against the prisoner, it is warranted, by its instructions, to have recourse to the torture, in order to force him to furnish additional evidence against himself. He is allowed, indeed, to appeal to the council of the Supreme against the sentence of the inquisitors ordering him to be tortured; but then, by a refinement in cruelty, it is provided that the inquisitors shall be judges of the validity of this appeal, and “if they deem it frivolous, shall proceed to the execution of their sentence without delay.” In this case, the appeal of the poor prisoner is as little heard of as are the shrieks which he utters in the subterraneous den to which he is conducted without delay, where every bone is moved from its socket, and the blood is made to start from every vein of his body. But it is not my intention to shock the feelings of the reader by any description of the infernal operation; and, instead of trusting myself to make any reflections of my own on a practice so disgraceful to human nature, I shall merely quote those of the late historian and ex- secretary of the Inquisition. “I do not stop (says he) to describe the several kinds of torture inflicted on the accused by order of the Inquisition; this task having been executed with sufficient exactness by a great many historians. On this head, I declare that none of them can be accused of exaggeration. I have read many processes which have struck and pierced me with horror, and I could regard the inquisitors who had recourse to such methods in no other light than that of cold-blooded barbarians.

    Suffice it to add, that the council of the Supreme has often been obliged to forbid the repetition of the torture in the same process; but the inquisitors, by an abominable sophism, have found means to render this prohibition almost useless, by giving the name of suspension to that cessation from torture which is imperiously demanded by the imminent danger to which the victim is exposed of dying among their hands. My pen refuses to trace the picture of these horrors, for I know nothing more opposed to the spirit of charity and compassion which Jesus Christ inculcates in the gospel, than this conduct of the inquisitors; and yet, in spite of the scandal which it has given, there is not, after the eighteenth century is closed, any law or decree abolishing the torture.” f176 Of the punishments inflicted by the Inquisition, of the san-benito, or coat of infamy, and the auto-da-fe, with all its dread accompaniments, we shall have too much occasion to speak in the sequel.

    The principles of the ancient and modern Inquisition were radically the same, but they assumed a more malignant form under the latter than under the former. Under the ancient Inquisition, the bishops had always a certain degree of control over its proceedings; the law of secrecy was not so rigidly enforced in practice; greater liberty was allowed to the accused on their defence; and in some countries, as in Aragon, in consequence of the civil rights acquired by the people, the inquisitors were restrained from sequestrating the property of those whom they convicted of heresy. But the leading difference between the two institutions consisted in the organization of the latter into one great independent tribunal, which, extending over the whole kingdom, was governed by one code of laws, and yielded implicit obedience to one head. The inquisitor-general possessed an authority scarcely inferior to that of the king or the pope; by joining with either of them, he proved an overmatch for the other; and when supported by both, his power was irresistible. The ancient Inquisition was a powerful engine for harassing and rooting out a small body of dissidents; the modern Inquisition stretched its iron arms over a whole nation, upon which it lay like a monstrous incubus, paralysing its exertions, crushing its energies, and extinguishing every other feeling but a sense of weakness and terror.

    In the course of the first year in which it was erected, the inquisition of Seville, which then extended over Castile, committed two thousand persons alive to the flames, burnt as many in effigy, and condemned seventeen thousand to different penances. According to a moderate computation, from the same date to 1517, the year in which Luther made his appearance, thirteen thousand persons were burnt alive, eight thousand seven hundred were burnt in effigy, and one hundred and sixty-nine thousand seven hundred and twenty-three were condemned to penances; making in all one hundred and ninety-one thousand four hundred and twenty-three persons condemned by the several tribunals of Spain in the course of thirty-six years. There is reason for thinking that this estimate falls much below the truth. For, from 1481 to 1520, it is computed that in Andalusia alone thirty thousand persons informed against themselves, from the dread of being accused by others, or in the hope of obtaining a mitigation of their sentence. And down to the commencement of the seventeenth century, the instances of absolution were so rare, that one is scarcely to be found in a thousand cases; the inquisitors making it a point, that, if possible, none should escape without bearing a mark of their censure, as at least suspected de levi, or in the lowest degree. f181 It was to be expected that the inquisitors would exert their power in checking the cultivation of biblical learning. In 1490, many copies of the Hebrew Bible were committed to the flames at Seville by the order of Torquemada; and in an auto-da-fe celebrated soon after at Salamanca, six thousand volumes shared the same fate, under the pretext that they contained judaism, magic, and other illicit arts. Deza, archbishop of Seville, who had succeeded Torquemada as inquisitor-general, ordered the papers of Lebrixa to be seized, and passed sentence against him as suspected of heresy, for the corrections which he had made on the text of the Vulgate, and his other labors in elucidation of the scriptures. “The archbishop’s object (says Lebrixa, in an apology which he drew up for himself) was to deter me from writing. He wished to extinguish the knowledge of the two languages on which our religion depends; and I was condemned for impiety, because, being no divine but a mere grammarian, I presumed to treat of theological subjects. If a person endeavor to restore the purity of the sacred text, and point out the mistakes which have vitiated it, unless he will retract his opinions, he must be loaded with infamy, excommunicated, and doomed to an ignominious punishment! Is it not enough that I submit my judgment to the will of Christ in the scriptures? must I also reject as false what is as clear and evident as the light of truth itself? What tyranny! To hinder a man, under the most cruel pains, from saying what he thinks, though he express himself with the utmost respect for religion, to forbid him to write in his closet or in the solitude of a prison, to speak to himself, or even to think! On what subject shall we employ our thoughts, if we are prohibited from directing them to those sacred oracles which have been the delight of the pious in every age, and on which they have meditated by day and by night?” f183 Arbitrary as this court was in its principles, and tyrannical and cruel as it has proved in its proceedings, so blinded did the Spanish nation become as to felicitate herself on the establishment of the Inquisition. The cities of ancient Greece vied with one another for the honor of having given birth to Homer. The cities of modern Germany have warmly disputed the honor of having invented the art of printing. Even the credit of having first adopted this German invention has given rise to an honorable rivalry among the states of Italy; and the monastery of St. Subiac, in the Campagna di Roma, has endeavored to wrest the palm from both Milan and Venice. But the cities of Spain have engaged in a more than inglorious contest for the credit of having been the first seat of an institution which, after failing to strangle learning in its birth, has all along persecuted it with the most unrelenting malice. The claims of the inhabitants of Seville are engraven on a monument erected in their city to the memory of this event. Segovia has contested this honor with Seville, and its historians are seriously divided on the question, whether the Holy Office held its first sitting in the house of the marques de Moya, or in that of the majorat de Caceres. f185 It is but justice, however, to the Spaniards to state, that this perverted and degrading sentiment was the effect of the Inquisition, and formed no original trait in the national character. The fact is now ascertained beyond all question, that the erection of this tribunal was viewed by the nation with the greatest aversion and alarm. Talavera, the excellent archbishop of Granada, resisted its introduction with all his influence. The most enlightened Spaniards of that age spoke of its proceedings with horror and shame. “The losses and misery which the evil ministers of the Inquisition have brought upon my country can never be enough deplored,” says the chevalier de Cordova, Gonzalez de Ayora, in a letter to the secretary of king Ferdinand. “O unhappy Spain, mother of so many heroes, how unjustly disgraced by such a horrible scourge!” exclaims Peter Martyr. f188 D’Arbues, the first inquisitor of Aragon, and afterwards canonized as a martyr, was not the only individual who fell a sacrifice to the indignation against the Inquisition, shared by all classes of the community.

    Torquemada, the first inquisitor-general, was obliged to adopt the greatest precautions for his personal safety. In his journeys he was uniformly accompanied by a guard of fifty familiars on horseback, and two hundred on foot; and he had always on his table the tusk of a wild animal, to which he trusted for discovering and neutralizing poisons. In Aragon, where the inhabitants had been accustomed to the old Inquisition for two centuries and a half, the introduction of it in its new form excited tumults in various places, and met with a resistance almost national. No sooner had the inhabitants of Castile felt the yoke, than they sought to throw it off; and the cortes of that kingdom joined with those of Aragon and Catalonia, in representing the grievances which they suffered from the Inquisition, and in demanding a radical reform on its iniquitous and oppressive laws. It is unnecessary to say, that these attempts, which were renewed at intervals during thirty years from the establishment of that tribunal, proved finally abortive.

    This unfortunate issue was in no small degree owing to cardinal Ximenes, who contributed more than any other individual to rivet the chains of political and spiritual despotism on his native country. Possessed of talents which enabled him to foresee the dire effects which the Inquisition would inevitably produce, he was called to take part in public affairs at a time when these effects had decidedly appeared. It was in his power to abolish that execrable tribunal altogether as an insufferable nuisance, or at least to impose such checks upon its procedure as would have rendered it comparatively harmless. But he not only allowed himself to be placed at its head, but employed all his influence and address in defeating every attempt to reform its worst and most glaring abuses. In 1512, the New Christians made an offer of six hundred thousand crowns to Ferdinand, to assist him in carrying on the war in Navarre, on condition that a law were passed enjoining the testimonies of the witnesses, in processes before the Inquisition, to be made public. With the view of diverting the king from acceding to this proposal, Ximenes seconded his remonstrances against it by placing a large sum of money at the royal disposal. And, in 1516, when a similar offer was made to the ministers of Charles V., and when the universities and learned men of Spain and Flanders had given their opinion, that the communication of the names and depositions of the witnesses was conformable both to divine and human laws, the cardinal again interposed, and by messengers and letters urged the rejection of the measure, upon the wretched plea that a certain nameless witness had been assassinated, and that the person of the king was put in danger by the admission of converted Jews into the palace. He exerted himself with equal zeal in resisting the applications which the New Christians made to the court of Rome for the same object. During the eleven years that he was at the head of this tribunal, fifty-one thousand one hundred and sixty-seven persons were condemned, of whom two thousand five hundred and thirty-six were burnt alive. Not satisfied with perpetuating the Inquisition in his native country, he extended the precious boon to two quarters of the globe, by establishing one tribunal at Oran in Africa, and another at Cuba in America.

    With the exception of the check which, at the commencement of his ministry, he put on the mad proceedings of the inquisitor Luzero, who, by listening to false accusations, had harassed the good archbishop of Granada, the marquis of Pliego, and many of the most respectable persons of the kingdom, the reforms which the cardinal made on the Inquisition are confined to the substitution of a St. Andrew’s cross, in place of the ordinary one, on the san-benito, and the allotment of separate churches for the New Christians. If mankind were to be treated as their foolish admiration of talents merits, they would be left to groan under the rod of oppression. Ximenes has obtained the title of a great man, from foreigners as well as natives of Spain. But in spite of the eulogiums passed upon him, I cannot help being of opinion, with a modern writer, that Ximenes bore a striking resemblance to Philip II., with this difference, that the cardinal was possessed of higher talents, and that his proceedings were characterized by a certain openness and impartiality, the result of the unlimited confidence which he placed in his own powers. His character was essentially that of a monk, in which the severity of his order was combined with the impetuosity of blood which belongs to the natives of the south.

    The cardinal would be still more inexcusable if he were the author of an unpublished work which has been ascribed to him. It is a fictitious composition, after the manner of the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and treats of the best mode of governing a kingdom. In one part of it, the abuses of the Holy Office are discussed freely and at large in the presence of Prudenciano, monarch of the kingdom of Truth, who, after hearing the inquisitors, decides, with the advice of his counsellors, that all persons accused of heresy shall be put in possession of the names and depositions of the witnesses; that they shall have the same liberty of holding intercourse with their advocates, procurators and friends, which is granted to other prisoners; that they shall not be excluded from the benefit of divine service during their confinement; that New Christians, and the descendants of heretics, shall be admissible to all offices, and exempted from every stigma; that, to prevent ignorant convictions, the tribunals of the inquisition shall be provided with judges well instructed in questions of faith; that the confiscation of the goods of those condemned for heresy shall be limited to the property which they actually possess at the time, and shall not extend to the portions which they had previously given to their married children, nor interfere with the fulfillment of any lawful engagement which they had contracted; and in general, that processes before the Inquisition shall be conducted on the maxims which regulate other courts of criminal judicature. This treatise, drawn up during the minority of Charles V., was intended for the instruction of that young prince, and proves that Spain possessed at that time persons of superior illumination; but we may safely acquit cardinal Ximenes from the suspicion of being the author of a work containing principles of liberal policy and enlightened justice, which there is no reason to think that ghostly statesman ever entertained at any period of his life.

    The history of the Inquisition, during the first thirty years after its erection, discloses a series of intrigue, in which it is hard to say whether the court of Rome, the court of Spain, or the Holy Office, acted the most deceitful and unprincipled part. While they combined to oppress and impoverish the people of Spain, each of them sought to overreach the other and to promote its own selfish designs. The court of Rome readily gave its sanction to the establishment of the Inquisition; and Sixtus IV., in a letter to queen Isabella, signified that “he had felt the most lively desire to see it introduced into the kingdom of Castile.” Notwithstanding this, the papal court both secretly and openly encouraged the New Christians to appeal to Rome, reversed the sentences which the Inquisition had pronounced against them in Spain, and admitted them to reconciliation in secret. But after it had extorted large sums of money for these favors, no sooner did the Spanish monarch, at the instigation of the inquisitors, reclaim against these proceedings, than it revoked its decisions, suspended the execution of its bulls, and left the victims of its avarice and duplicity to the vengeance of their incensed persecutors. It was evidently on the same avaricious principle that Leo X., in the year 1517, authorized the inquisitors at Rome to judge in complaints of heresy against natives of Spain. On that occasion, Geronimo Vich, the Spanish ambassador, received orders from his court to remonstrate against this decree, as inflicting a stigma on a nation which had testified such zeal for the catholic faith, and to request that the remedy against heresy should be applied equally to those of other countries. To this representation Leo gravely replied, that so far from wishing to inflict a disgrace, he had intended to confer an honor on the Spanish nation; that he had dealt with them as a rich man does with his jewels, which he guards with greater care than the rest of his property; and thought that, as the Spaniards entertained so high an esteem for the Inquisition at home, they would not be offended with it abroad. f201 The conduct of the Inquisition presented the same glaring contradiction of the avowed principles on which it was founded. Amidst all their professions of zeal for the purity of the faith, the inquisitors carried on the scandalous traffic of commuting canonical censure for pecuniary mulcts.

    To retain Christians within the sacred enclosure of the catholic church, and in dutiful subjection to its supreme head, was the grand object of the institution of the Holy Office; and the exercise of its powers was delegated to the monks, who were the most devoted supporters of the Roman pontiff, and held that his decrees in matters of faith, when pronounced ex cathedra , were infallible. Yet, when the decrees of the holy see were opposite to their own determinations, or interfered with their particular interests, they made no scruple of resisting them, and engaging the government of the country in their quarrel. f202 It was not to be expected that the conduct of the court of Spain would be less selfish. All are agreed that Ferdinand, in supporting the Inquisition, regarded it, not as a means of preserving the purity of religion, but as an instrument of tyranny and extortion. Nor was his grandson Charles V. actuated by higher motives. On assuming the reins of government in Spain, he swore to observe certain equivocal regulations for correcting the abuses of the Inquisition; but he declared, at the same time, in private, that this promise had been extorted from him by the importunity of the representatives of certain cities. Despairing of any relief from this quarter, the cortes of Aragon sent deputies to Rome, and, by the distribution of a sum of money among the cardinals, obtained three briefs reforming the Inquisition, and placing its procedure on the footing of common law.

    Charles, who wished to employ that formidable tribunal as an engine for suppressing the tumults which his arbitrary measures had excited in various parts of the kingdom, applied to Leo X. for a bull annulling the obnoxious briefs. The negotiation which ensued, and was protracted during three years, is equally disgraceful to both parties. His Holiness told Senor de Belmonte, the Spanish ambassador, that he had been informed by credible persons, that the Inquisition was the cause of terrible mischief in Spain; to which the ambassador bluntly replied, that the persons who gave this information were believed, because they were liberal of their money. At the same time, he advised his master to have recourse to that system of bribery of which he complained. “Cardinal Santiquatro (writes he) can be of great service in this affair, because he draws as much money as possible to his master and himself. It is only on this condition that he is authorized by the pope to act, and he executes his task with great adroitness. The cardinal of Ancona is a learned man, and an enemy to the former. He is minister of justice, and can be useful, as he is well disposed, to serve your majesty; but he is reckoned as great a thief as his colleague.” In another missive he says, “Always I am assured that, in what relates to the Inquisition, money is a means of gaining over these cardinals.” And after soliciting instructions from his court, he adds, “All this is necessary, and something besides; for money does much here. The pope expects (from Aragon and Catalonia) forty-six or forty-seven thousand ducats.” The cardinals were too “wise in their generation” to be deceived by the flattering representations which the ambassador made of his master’s disinterestedness, and laughed at the idea of sovereigns supporting the Inquisition “from pure zeal for religion.” In vain did Charles himself endeavor to quicken the tardy steps of Leo, by writing that “the world surmised that his Holiness and he understood one another, and wished to squeeze as much money as possible from the bull in question.” The crafty pontiff, assuming the tone of justice, threatened, by a decree of the sacred Rota, to annul all the sentences of confiscation pronounced against those Spaniards who had made a voluntary confession of heresy; “and I am told,” says the ambassador, “that if this measure pass, as is expected, your majesty will be obliged to restore more than a million of ducats acquired in that way.” A few persons, through perversion of judgment, have burnt men alive for the love of God , but, in the greater number of instances, I apprehend it will be found that this has been done for the love of money.

    Leo X., having died during this dispute, was succeeded by Adrian, the preceptor of Charles V., who continued to hold the situation of inquisitor- general of Spain, along with that of supreme pontiff, for nearly two years.

    This union of offices, in the person of the spiritual adviser of the young monarch, led to measures which extinguished every hope of procuring a reform of the Holy Office. Despairing of relief, the nation submitted to the yoke; habit reconciled them to it; and, making a virtue of necessity, they soon came to congratulate themselves on an institution which they had regarded as an engine of the most intolerable and degrading servitude.

    Other causes contributed, along with the Inquisition, to rivet the chains of religious bondage on the minds of the Spaniards, and to render the prospect of ecclesiastical reform among them next to hopeless.

    One of these causes was the suppression of their civil liberties. Formerly the victims of persecution had often found shelter within the independent domains of the nobles, or the privileged walls of great cities. Cardinal Ximenes, by flattering the commons without adding to their real consequence, had succeeded in breaking the power of the nobility. Charles pursued the line of policy which his minister had begun, by invading the rights of the people. Irritated by the assistance which the latter had given to the attack on their immunities, the nobles either stood aloof from the contest which ensued, or sided with the crown. The consequence was, that the commons, after an enthusiastic resistance, were subdued; the cortes and the chartered towns were stripped of their privileges; and the authority of the sovereign became absolute and despotical throughout the united kingdom.

    The great accession of wealth and reputation which Spain acquired by the discovery of the New World, proved no less fatal to her religious than to her personal liberty. Columbus appears to have been at first actuated solely by an enthusiastic passion for nautical discovery; but during the discouragements with which his ardent and unconquerable spirit had to contend, another feeling arose of a no less powerful kind, which was cherished, if not infused, by the monks of La Rabida, among whom he resided for some time, and who zealously assisted him in his applications to the court of Castile, and in his exertions to fit out the fleet with which he entered on his daring enterprise. His imagination was now fired with the idea of not only adding to the boundaries of the known world, but also of enlarging the pale of the catholic church, by converting to the Christian faith the inhabitants of those rich and populous countries with which he hoped to open a communication, by stretching across the waters of the western ocean. Similar views, but associated with baser feelings, were adopted by the successors of Columbus. As the see of Rome, in virtue of the universal authority which it arrogated, had granted to Spain all the countries which she might discover beyond the Atlantic, the conquerors of America looked upon themselves as the servants of the church as much as of the sovereigns from whom they immediately received their commission; their cupidity was inflamed by fanaticism; and the consideration that every battle which they won was subservient to the spread of the catholic faith, atoned for and sanctified, in their eyes, the unheard-of cruelties which they inflicted on the intimidated and unoffending natives of the New World.

    Sanctioned as they were by the government and clergy, these views were easily diffused through the nation. Astonished at the intelligence which they received from their countrymen who had visited the newly-discovered regions, elated by the splendid success which had crowned their undertakings, and flushed with the hopes of the inexhaustible riches which would continue to flow in upon them, the Spaniards were thrown into a feverish intoxication, which, meeting with other causes, produced an important change on their sentiments and character. New feelings sprung up in their breasts; and late transactions were seen by them in a light different from that in which they had formerly viewed them. Reflecting that they had expelled the Jews, the hereditary and inveterate enemies of Christianity, from their coasts, overturned the Mahomedan empire which had been established for ages in the Peninsula, and planted the standard of the cross among pagans on a new continent of incalculable extent, they began to consider themselves as the favorites of heaven, destined to propagate and defend the true faith, and bound, by national honor as well as duty, to preserve their sacred soil from being polluted by the slightest taint of heretical pravity.

    To these causes must be added the vast increase of strength which the Spanish monarchy received by the succession of its youthful sovereign to his paternal dominions in the Low Countries, Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary; and by his elevation to the imperial throne of Germany, under the name of Charles V. The chief obstacle which this presented to the spread of the reformed opinions in Spain, did not lie in the ease with which it enabled him to crush the least symptom of revolt from the established faith.

    Independently of all personal convictions, Charles, in seeking to realize his towering projects of universal empire, must have seen it his interest to cultivate the friendship of the court of Rome; and although he was involved in contests with particular pontiffs, and held one of them for some time a prisoner in his own castle, yet he uniformly testified the warmest regard for the catholic faith, and the honor of the popedom. In the forcible measures to which he had recourse for suppressing the Reformation in Germany, he relied chiefly on the troops which he drew from Spain, whose detestation of heresy was heightened by the hostilities which they waged against its professors. To their countrymen at home, who already regarded them as champions of the faith, they transmitted the most hateful representation of the protestants, whom they described as at once the pest of the church, and the great obstacle to the execution of the splendid schemes of their beloved monarch. Thus the glory of the Spanish arms became associated with the extirpation of heresy. And when the protestant cause ultimately triumphed over the policy and power of the emperor, the mortification felt by the Spaniards settled into a deadly antipathy to every thing which proceeded from Germany, and a jealous dread lest the heresy with which it was infected should secretly find its way into their own country.


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