The History of the Inquisition of Spain from the Time of its Establishment to the Reign of Ferdinand VII.by Juan Antonio Llorente
Writers of many countries have spoken of Inquisitions established in different parts of the world, where the Roman Catholic faith is the religion of the
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ALTHOUGH a tribunal has existed for more than three hundred years in Spain, invested with the power of prosecuting heretics, no correct history of its origin, establishment, and progress has been written.
Writers of many countries have spoken of Inquisitions established in different parts of the world, where the Roman Catholic faith is the religion of the state, and yet not one is worthy of confidence. The work of M. Lavallée, entitled the "History of the Inquisitions of Italy, Spain, and Portugal," and published in 1809, has only added to the historical errors of the authors who preceded him. The Spanish and Portuguese writers on the same subject deserve no higher credit; and have not detailed, with accuracy, the circumstances which led to the establishment of this dreadful tribunal. These writers even differ in their statements of the period of its origin, and place it between the years 1477 and 1484. One affirms, with confidence, that the latter date is the true one, because in that year the regulations of the tribunal were enacted; another decides that it originated in 1483, because in that year Thomas Torquemada was appointed inquisitor-general by the Pope.
The inquisition of Spain was not a new tribunal created by Ferdinand V. and Isabella, the queen of Castile, but only a reform and extension of the ancient tribunal, which had existed from the thirteenth century.
No one could write a complete and authentic history of the Inquisition, who was not either an inquisitor or a secretary of the holy office. Persons holding only these situations could be permitted to make memoranda of papal bulls, the ordinances of sovereigns, the decisions of the councils of the "Suprême," of the originals of the preliminary processes for suspicion of heresy, or extracts of those which had been deposited in the archives. Being myself the secretary of the Inquisition at Madrid, during the years 1789, 1790, and 1791, I have the firmest confidence in my being able to give to the world a true code of the secret laws by which the interior of the Inquisition was governed, of those laws which were veiled by mystery from all mankind, excepting those men to whom the knowledge of their political import was exclusively reserved. A firm conviction, from knowing the deep objects of this tribunal, that it was vicious in principle, in its constitution, and in its laws, notwithstanding all that has been said in its support, induced me to avail myself of the advantage my situation afforded me, and to collect every document I could procure relative to its history. My perseverance has been crowned with success far beyond my hopes, for in addition to an abundance of materials, obtained with labour and expense, consisting of unpublished manuscripts and papers, mentioned in the inventories of deceased inquisitors, and other officers of the institution, in 1809, 1810, and 1811, when the Inquisition in Spain was suppressed, all the archives were placed at my disposal; and from 1809 to 1812, I collected everything that appeared to me to be of consequence in the registers of the council of the Inquisition, and in the provincial tribunals, for the purpose of compiling this history.
Never has a prisoner of the Inquisition seen either the accusation against himself, or any other. No one was ever permitted to know more of his own cause than he could learn of it by the interrogations and accusations to which he was obliged to reply, and by the extracts from the declarations of the witnesses, which were communicated to him, while not only their names were carefully concealed, and every circumstance relating to time, place, and person, by which he might obtain a clue to discover his denouncers, but even if the depositions contained any thing favourable to the defence of the prisoner. The maxim on which this was founded, is, that the accused ought not to occupy himself but in replying to the chief points of his accusation, and that it was the province of the judge afterwards to compare the answers that he had made with those which had been given favourable to his acquittal. Philip Limborch, and many more of veracity, have erred in their histories, from their ignorance of the method of conducting an inquisitorial trial. Those authors relied wholly on the accounts of prisoners, who knew nothing of the groundwork of their own case; and the details in Eymerick, Paramo, Pegna, Carena, and some other inquisitors, are too limited to yield the necessary information.
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