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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Could proceed from the Gitanos


of the law of Charles III. exercising any great beneficial influence over the character of the Spanish Gipsies, I would attribute the change in question to what Mr. Borrow himself says: "It must be remembered that during the last seventy years, a revolution has been progressing in Spain, slowly it is true; and such a revolution may have affected the Gitanos." The Spanish Gipsy proverb, "Money is to be found in the town, not in the country," has had its influence on bringing the race to settle in towns. And by residing in towns, and not being persecuted, they have, in Mr. Borrow's own words, "insensibly become more civilized than their ancestors, and their habits and manners less ferocious." The only good which the law of Charles III. seems to have done to the Spanish Gipsies was, as already said, to permit them to follow any occupation, and be admitted to any guilds, or communities, (barring the capital, and royal residences,) they pleased; but only on the condition, and that _on the pain of death_, that they _renounced every imaginable thing connected with their tribe_; which, we may reasonably assume, no Gipsy submitted to, however much in appearance he might have done so.

But it is doubtful if the law of Charles III. was anything but the one which it was customary for every Spanish monarch to issue against the tribe. Mr. Borrow says: "Perhaps there is no country in which more laws have been framed, having in view the suppression and extinction

of the Gipsy name, race, and manner of life, than Spain. Every monarch, during a period of three hundred years, appears, at his accession to the throne, to have considered that one of his first and most imperative duties consisted in suppressing and checking the robberies, frauds, and other enormities of the Gitanos, with which the whole country seems to have resounded since the time of their first appearance." The fact of so many laws being passed against the Gipsies, is, to my mind, ample proof, as I shall afterwards explain, that few, if any, of them were put, to any extent, in force; and that the act in question, viewed in itself, as distinct from the laws previously in existence, was little more than a form. It contains a flourish of liberality, implied in the Gitanos being allowed to enter, if they pleased, any guilds, (which they were not likely to do,) or communities, (where they were doubtless already;) but it debars, (that is, expels,) them from the king's presence, at the capital or any of the royal residences. Moreover, it allowed the Gitano to be "admitted to whatever office or employment to which he might apply himself," (against which, there probably was, or should have been, no law in existence.) His majesty must also impose his pragmatical conceit upon his loyal subjects, by telling them, that "Gitanos are _not_ Gitanos"--that they "do _not_ proceed from any infected root;" and threaten them, that if they maintain the contrary, and call them Gitanos, he will have them punished for slander!

The Gipsies, after a residence of 350 years in the country, would have comparatively little notice taken of them, under this law, except when they made themselves really obnoxious, or gave an official an occasion to display his authority, or his zeal for the public service.[272] Whatever may have been the treatment which the Gipsies experienced at the hands of the _civil_ authorities, the _church_ does not seem to have disturbed, and far less distressed, them. Mr. Borrow represents a priest of Cordova, formerly an Inquisitor, saying to him: "I am not aware of one case of a Gitano having been tried or punished by the Inquisition. The Inquisition always looked upon them with too much contempt, to give itself the slightest trouble concerning them; for, as no danger, either to the State or to the Church of Rome, could proceed from the Gitanos, it was a matter of perfect indifference to the holy office whether they lived without religion or not. The holy office has always reserved its anger for people very different; the Gitano having, at all times, been _Gente barrata y despreciable_."

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