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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Or those Marranos who practised the Jewish faith in secret


time was ripe for the final

step in the measures taken against them, and early in the reign of the Catholic Kings it was decided to expel them from the peninsula. While the religious motive was the principal one, Ferdinand and Isabella were also actuated, as indeed also in the case of the Mud?jares, by their ideal of a centralized absolutism, wherefore an element which was not in sympathy with the religion of the state seemed to them to constitute a political danger. Their action was hastened, no doubt, by popular fanaticism, which expressed itself in numerous acts of violence against the hated race. With Granada conquered the Catholic Kings lost no time in promulgating a decree, dated March 31, 1492, requiring conversion or expulsion, and applicable to both Castile and Aragon. The Jews were granted four months to dispose of their affairs and leave Spain. The blow to them financially was ruinous. Forced sales, especially when there was so much to be sold, could not be expected to yield a fair return, and this was aggravated by prohibitions against carrying away any gold, silver, coin, or other kinds of personalty, except what the laws ordinarily permitted to be exported. The full effect of this harsh legislation was avoided by some through a resort to the international banking agencies which the Jews had established. A number preferred to become Christians rather than go into exile, but thousands took the latter course. Some computations hold that as many as 2,000,000 left the country, but a more careful
estimate by a Jewish historian gives the following figures: emigrants, 165,000; baptized, 50,000; those who lost their lives in course of the execution of the decree, 20,000. The exiles went to Portugal, North Africa, Italy, and France, but were so harshly treated, especially in the two first-named lands, that a great many preferred to return to Spain and accept baptism. Portugal and Navarre soon followed the action of Castile and Aragon, thus completing the cycle of anti-Jewish legislation in the peninsula. In law there were no more Jews; they had become Marranos.

[Sidenote: Activities of the Inquisition in Castile.]

Not a few of the converts, both Mud?jar and Jewish, became sincere Christians, and some of them attained to high rank in the church. Hernando de Talavera, for example, at one time confessor of the queen and one of the most influential men in the kingdom, had Jewish blood in his veins. A great many, very likely the majority, remained faithful at heart to the religion of their fathers, due partly to the lack of Christian instruction, and even when they did not, they were suspected of so doing, or maliciously accused of it by those who were envious of their wealth or social position. This had led the Catholic Kings to procure a papal bull, as early as 1478, granting the monarchs a right to name certain men, whom they should choose, as inquisitors, with power to exercise the usual authority of ecclesiastical judges. This was the beginning of the modern Spanish Inquisition. Leaving aside, for the present, its formal constitution and procedure, its activities against converts may here be traced. The Inquisition began its work in Seville in 1480, with the object of uprooting heresy, especially among the Marranos. Afraid of being accused many fled, but enough remained for scores to be apprehended. In 1481 the first _auto de fe_ (decision of the faith) was held, and sixteen persons were burned to death. From Seville the institution spread to other cities, and the terror became general. There is no doubt that the inquisitors displayed an excess of zeal, of which various papal documents themselves furnish ample proof. A great many were put to death, especially while Juan de Torquemada was at the head of the institution, 1485 to 1494. Some charge his inquisitorial reign with the death of 8000 persons, but more dispassionate estimates reduce the figures greatly, calculating the number to be 2000 for the reign of Isabella, ending in 1504. Very many more were either burned in effigy or put in prison, while confiscation of goods was one of the usual concomitants of a sentence involving loss of life or liberty. Books were also examined and burned or their publication or circulation forbidden, and in every way efforts were made to prevent heresy as well as to stamp it out. By far the greatest number of sufferers were the Judaizantes, or those Marranos who practised the Jewish faith in secret. It must be said that public opinion was not by any means on the side of the Inquisition; in course of time it became universally hated, as also feared, for nobody was entirely safe from accusation before the dread tribunal.


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