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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

A very notable reform was the introduction of the pesquisa

regard left much to be desired,

and these also had their separate jurisdictions.[45] The current toward centralization was very strong, however, being aided by the education in the Roman law of the _letrados_, whom the king employed as his officials (for these men were pronouncedly monarchical in sentiment), and by the increase in powers to which the _adelantados_ and _merinos mayores_ were attaining at the expense of the semi-independent elements. The successors of Alfonso X, especially Alfonso XI, furthered this policy of centralization. Royal judges began to appear in the towns, either taking the place of the formerly elected officials, or acting concurrently with them, for the kings took advantage of one pretext or another to make an opening for their own appointees. Another important reform was the division of the _audiencia_ into two sections, one of which remained in Segovia, while the other went on circuit for brief periods in Andalusia. Under Juan II there appeared in the _audiencia_ the official known as the _fiscal_, who at this time was a royal prosecuting attorney, but who later was to become one of the most important all-round administrative officials in Spanish and Spanish colonial government. As an example, too, of the extension of royal jurisdiction may be mentioned the so-called recourse of _fuerza_ in cases of usurpation (by force,--hence _fuerza_) of lands or jurisdiction by the clergy. The trial of these cases was ordered to be held in the royal courts.


Judicial procedure.]

Punishments for crime continued to be atrocious, and torture was still employed, but only in the case of persons of bad reputation or when the accused bore the evidences of crime. Privilege still obtained to modify the punishment of the upper classes. A very notable reform was the introduction of the _pesquisa_, or inquisitorial investigation, for the bringing of an indictment, or accusation, of crime. Formerly the state had intervened when one individual charged another with crime, a process which resulted to the detriment of the weak, who would not dare to accuse the more powerful. The _pesquisa_ not only introduced the grand jury function of an accusation by the state, without necessarily involving any individual accusers, but it also made crime partake more of the nature of a public offence than of a mere infringement of individual rights. The vulgar proofs, with one exception, were abolished, and the importance of written documents and the testimony of witnesses became more generally recognized. This also caused the rise of the lawyers, who, after a lapse of centuries, began again to be a noteworthy element in judicial affairs. The _riepto_, or duel, a special form of the wager of battle, was the only one of the vulgar proofs to remain in existence. This was a special privilege enjoyed only by those of noble blood. The duel was hedged in by a number of rules, one of which was that it must take place in the presence of the king. If the challenger were killed, the innocence of his opponent was proclaimed, but if the latter were killed, still protesting innocence, he was in this case, too, declared guiltless. The challenger could win by defeating his opponent without killing him, in which event the latter was banished, and half of his goods were granted to the king.

[Sidenote: The new system of taxation.]

Although the expenses of the state were greater than formerly, the income was also greater. Many new forms of taxation were introduced: the royal monopolies on salt and mines; the _alcabala_, or tax on sales, which first became general in the reign of Alfonso XI; stamp taxes; and the _consumo_, or tax on all merchandise entering the city. These taxes fell upon goods or upon acts of individuals in connection with the state (as distinguished from the king) differing radically from the services of a feudal character, with a multitude of exceptions and privileges, which had formerly been the basis of the public income. Owing to the turbulence of the era and the excessive alienation of public wealth by grants of the kings to the nobles, receipts did not equal the royal needs, and resort was had frequently to loans, debasement of the coinage, and arbitrary confiscations of property. Even under the new system of taxation the nobles and clergy very rarely had to pay any of the numerous taxes, and privileges and exemptions were granted, much as before. Nevertheless, the methods employed contained the germ of a sound financial system, which was to develop in succeeding centuries. The collection of taxes was rented out as formerly, being given in charge usually of Mud?jares, Jews, or Marranos. Complaints against these collectors were so insistent that at one time churchmen were substituted for them,--without diminishing the complaints, for the fault lay in the system. There were royal financial officials for receiving the funds and examining accounts, but no organized treasury department was as yet developed.

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