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William Robertson

A View of the Progress of Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century (1769)

Proofs and Illustrarions XXX-XXXV

Note editoriali

Home | Editorial note | Preface | Section I | Par. i-ii | Par. iii-v | Par vi-x | Section II
Section III (pp. 106-119)
| Section III (pp. 120-139) | Section III (pp. 141-166)
Proofs & Illustrations

Note [XXX], page 71

With respect to the progress of commerce, which I have described, p. 66, &c., it may be observed that the Italian states carried on some commerce with the cities of the Greek empire as early as the age of Charlemagne, and imported into their own country the rich commodities of the East. Murat. Antiq. Ital. vol. II, p. 882. In the tenth century the Venetians had opened a trade with Alexandria in Egypt. Ibid. The inhabitants of Amalfi and Pisa had likewise extended their trade to the same ports. Murat. Ib. pp. 884, 885. The effects of the crusades in increasing the wealth and commerce of the Italian states, and particularly that which they carried on with the East, I have explained, p. 22, of this volume. They not only imported the Indian commodities from the East, but established manufactures of curious [580] fabric in their own country. Several of these are enumerated by Muratori in his Dissertations concerning the arts and the weaving of the middle ages. Antiq. Ital. vol. II, pp. 349, 399. They made great progress, particularly in the manufacture of silk, which had long been peculiar to the eastern provinces of Asia. Silk stuffs were of such high price in ancient Rome, that only a few persons of the first rank were able to purchase them. Under Aurelian, A. D. 270, a pound of silk was equal in value to a pound of gold. «Absit ut auro fila pensentur. Libra enim auri tunc serici fuit». Vobiscus in Aureliano. Justinian, in the sixth century, introduced the art of rearing silk-worms into Greece, which rendered the commodity somewhat more plentiful, though still it was of such great value as to remain an article of luxury or magnificence, reserved only for persons of the first order, or for public solemnities. Roger I, king of Sicily, about the year 1130, carried off a number of artificers in the silk trade from Athens, and settling them in Palermo, introduced the culture of silk into his kingdom, from which it was communicated to other parts of Italy. Giannon. Hist. of Naples, b. XI, c. 7. This seems to have rendered silk so common, that, about the middle of the fourteenth century, a thousand citizens of Genoa appeared in one procession clad in silk robes. Sugar is likewise a production of the East. Some plants of the sugar-cane were brought from Asia; and the first attempt to cultivate them in Sicily was made about the middle of the twelfth century. From thence they were transplanted into the southern provinces of Spain. From Spain they were carried to the Canary and Madeira isles, and at length into the New World. Ludovico Guicciardini, in enumerating the goods imported into Antwerp about the year 1500, mentions the sugar which they received from Spain and Portugal as a considerable article. He describes that sugar as the product of the Madeira and Canary Islands. Descritt. de’ Paesi Bassi, pp. 180, 181. The sugar-cane was introduced into the West Indies before that time; but the cultivation of it was not so improved or so extensive as to furnish an article of much consequence in commerce. In the middle ages, though sugar was not raised in such quantities, or employed for so many purpose, as to become one of the common necessaries of life, it appears to have been a considerable article in the commerce of the Italian states.

These various commodities with which the Italians furnished the other nations of Europe procured them a favourable reception in every kingdom. They were established in France in the thirteenth century with most extensive immunities. They not only obtained every indulgence favourable to their commerce, but personal rights and privileges were granted to them, which the natives of the kingdom did not enjoy. Ordon. tom. IV, p. 668. By a special proviso they were exempted from the «droit d’aubaine». Ibid. p. 670. As the Lombards ( a name frequently given to all Italian merchants in many parts of Europe) engrossed the trade of every kingdom in which they settled, they became masters of its cash. Money, of course, was in their hands not only a sign of the value of other commodities, but became an object of commerce itself. They dealt largely as bankers. In an ordinance, A. D. 1295, we find them styled mercatores and campsores. They carried on this as well as other branches of their commerce with somewhat of that rapacious spirit which is natural to monopolizers who are not restrained by the competition of rival traders. An absurd opinion, which prevailed in the middle ages, was, however, in some measure, the cause of their exorbitant demands, and may be [581] pleaded in apology for them. Trade cannot be carried on with advantage, unless the persons who lend a sum of money are allowed a certain premium for the use of it, as a compensation for the risk which they run in permitting another to traffic with their stock. This premium is fixed by law in all commercial countries, and is called the legal interest of money. But the fathers of the church had preposterously applied the prohibitions of usury in Scripture to the payment of legal interest, and condemned it as a sin. The schoolmen, misled by Aristotle, whose sentiments they followed implicitly, and without examination, adopted the same error, and enforced it. Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. II, p. 455. Thus the Lombards found themselves engaged in a traffic which was everywhere deemed criminal and odious. They were liable to punishment if detected. They were nor satisfied, therefore, with that moderate premium, which they might have claimed if their trade had been open and authorized by law. They exacted a sum proportional to the danger and infamy of a discovery. Accordingly, we find that it was usual for them to demand twenty per cent for the use of money in the thirteenth century. Murat. Antiq. Ital. vol. I, p. 893. About the beginning of that century the Countess of Flanders was obliged to borrow money in order to pay her husband’s ransom. She procured the sum requisite either from Italian merchants or from Jews. The lowest interest which she paid to them was above twenty per cent, and some of them exacted near thirty. Martene and Durand. Thesaur. Anecdotorum, vol. I, p. 886. In the fourteenth century, A. D. 1311, Philip IV, fixed the interest which might be legally exacted in the fairs of Champagne at twenty per cent. Ordon. tom. I, p. 484. The interest of money in Aragon was somewhat lower. James I, A. D. 1242, fixed it b y law at eighteen per cent. Petr. de Marca, Marca sive Limes Hispan. App. 1433. As late as the year 1490, it appears that the interest of money in Placentia was at the rate of forty per cent. This is the more extraordinary, because at that time the commerce of the Italian states was become considerable. Memorie Storiche de Piacenza, tom. VIII, p. 104. Piac. 1760. It appears from Lud. Guicciardini, that Charles V, had fixed the rate of interest in his dominions in the Low Countries at twelve per cent, and at the time when he wrote, about the year 1560, it was not uncommon to exact more than that sum. He complains of this as exorbitant, and points out its bad effects both on agriculture and commerce. Descritt. de’ Paesi Bassi, p. 172. This high interest of money is alone a proof that the profit on commerce were exorbitant; and that it was not carried on to great extent. The Lombards were likewise established in England in the thirteenth century, and a considerable street in the city of London still bears their name. They enjoyed great privileges, and carried on an extensive commerce, particularly as bankers. See Anderson’s Chronol. Deduction, vol. I, pp. 137, 160, 204, 231, where the statutes or other authorities which confirm this are quoted. But the chief mart for Italian commodities was at Bruges. Navigation was then so imperfect, that to sail from any port in the Baltic, and to return again, was a voyage too great to be performed in one summer. For that reason, a magazine or storehouse, half-way between the commercial cities in the North, and those in Italy, became necessary. Bruges was pitched upon as the most convenient station. That choice introduced vast wealth into the Low Countries. Bruges was at once the staple for English wool; for the woollen and linen [582] manufactures of the Netherlands; for the naval stores and other bulky commodities of the North; and for the Indian commodities as well as domestic productions imported by the Italian states. The extent of its commerce in Indian goods with Venice alone appears from one fact. In the year 1318, five Venetian galeasses laden with Indian commodities arrived at Bruges, in order to dispose of their cargoes at the fair. These galeasses were vessels of very considerable burthen. L. Guic. Descritt. de’ Paesi Bassi, p. 174. Bruges was the greatest emporium in all Europe. Many proofs of this occur in the historians and records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But, instead of multiplying quotations, I shall refer my readers to Anderson, vol. I, pp. 12, 137, 213, 246, &c. The nature of this work prevents me from entering into any more minute detail, but there are some detached facts which give a high idea of the wealth both of the Flemish and Italian commercial states. The duke of Brabant contracted his daughter to the Black Prince, son of Edward III, of England, A. D. 1339, and gave her a portion which we may reckon to be of equal value with three hundred thousand pounds of our present money. Rymer’s Fœdera, vol. V, p. 113. John Galeazzo Visconti, duke of Milan, concluded a treaty of marriage between his daughter and Lionel, duke of Clarence, Edward’s third son, A. D. 1367, and granted her a portion equal to two hundred thousand pounds of our present money. Rymer’s Fœdera, vol. VI, p. 547. These exorbitant sums, so far exceeding what was then granted by the most powerful monarchs, and which appear extraordinary even in the present age, when the wealth of Europe is so much increased, must have arisen from the riches which flowed into those countries from their extensive and lucrative commerce. The first source of wealth to the towns situated on the Baltic sea to have been the herring fishery; the shoals of herrings frequenting at that time the coasts of Sweden and Denmark, in the same manner as they now resort to the British coasts. The effects of this fishery are thus described by an author of the thirteenth century. The Danes, says he, who were formerly clad in the poor garb of sailors, are now clothed in scarlet, purple, and fine linen. For they abound with wealth flowing from their annual fishery on the coast of Schonen; so that all nations resort to them, bringing their gold, silver, and precious commodities, that they may purchase herrings, which the divine bounty bestows upon them. Arnoldus Lubecensis ap. Consing. de Urbib. German. § 87.

The Hanseatic league is the most powerful commercial confederacy known in history. Its origin towards the close of the twelfth century, and the objects of its union, are described by Knipschildt, Tractatus Historico-Politico-Juridicus de Juribus Civitat. Imper. lib. I, cap. 4. Anderson has mentioned the chief facts with respect to their commercial progress, the extent of the privileges which they obtained in different countries, their successful wars with several monarchs, as well as the spirit and zeal with which they contended for those liberties and rights without which it is impossible to carry on commerce to advantage. The vigorous efforts of a society of merchants attentive only to commercial objects, could not fail of diffusing new and more liberal ideas concerning justice and order in every country of Europe where they settled.

In England, the progress of commerce was extremely slow; and the causes of this are obvious. During the Saxon Heptarchy, England, split into many petty kingdoms, which were perpetually at variance with each other; exposed [583] to the fierce incursions of the Danes, and other northern pirates; and sunk in barbarity and ignorance, was in no condition to cultivate commerce, or to pursue any system of useful and salutary policy. When a better prospect began to open, by the union of the kingdom under one monarch, the Norman conquest took place. This occasioned such a violent shock, as well as such a sudden and total revolution of property, that the nation did not recover from it during several reigns. By the time that the constitution began to acquire some stability, and the English had so incorporated with their conquerors as to become one people, the nation engaged with no less ardour than imprudence in support of the pretensions of their sovereigns to the crown of France, and long wasted its vigour and genius in its efforts to conquer that kingdom. When by ill success, and repeated disappointments, a period was at last put to this fatal frenzy, and the nation, beginning to enjoy some repose, had leisure to breathe and to gather new strength, the destructive wars between the houses of York and Lancaster broke out, and involved the kingdom in the worst of all calamities. Thus, besides the common obstructions of commerce occasioned by the nature of the feudal government, and the state of manners during the middle ages, its progress in England was retarded by peculiar causes. Such a succession of events adverse to the commercial spirit was sufficient to have checked its growth, although every other circumstance had favoured it. The English were accordingly one of the last nations in Europe who availed themselves of those commercial advantages which were natural or peculiar to their country. Before the reign of Edward III, all the wool of England, except a small quantity wrought into coarse cloths for home consumption, was sold to the Flemings or Lombards, and manufactured by them. Though Edward, A. D. 1326, began to allure some of the Flemish weavers to settle in England, it was long before the English were capable of fabricating cloth for foreign markets, and the export of unwrought wool still continued to be the chief article of their commerce. Anderson, passim. All foreign commodities were brought into England by the Lombards or Hanseatic merchants. The English ports were frequented by ships both from the north and south of Europe, and they tamely allowed foreigners to reap all the profits arising from the supply of their wants. The first commercial treaty of England on record, is that with Haquin, king of Norway, A. D. 1217. Anders. vol. I, p. 108. But the English did not venture to trade in their own ships to the Baltic until the beginning of the fourtheenth century. Ibid. p. 151. It was after the middle of the fifteenth, before they sent any ship into the Mediterranean. Ibid. p. 177. Nor was it long before this period that their vessels began to visit the ports of Spain or Portugal. But though I have pointed out the slow progress of the English commerce as a fact little attended to, and yet meriting consideration, the concourse of foreigners to the ports of England, together with the communication among all the different countries in Europe, which went on increasing from the beginning of the twelfth century, is sufficient to justify all the observations and reasonings in the text concerning the influence of commerce on the state of manners and of society.


Note [XXXI], page 132

I have not been able to discover the precise manner in which the justiza was appointed. Among the claims of the junta or union formed against James I, A. D. 1264, this was one: that the king should not [584] nominate any person to be justiza, without the consent or approbation of the ricos hombres, or nobles. Zurita, Anales de Aragon, vol. I, p. 180. But the king in his answer to their remonstrance asserts, «that it was established by immemorial practice, and was conformable to the laws of the kingdom, that the king, in virtue of his royal prerogative, should name the justiza». Zurita, Ibid. p. 181. Blanca, p. 656. From another passage in Zurita, it appears that while the Aragonese enjoyed the privilege of the union, i. e. the power of confederating against their sovereign ad often as they conceived that he had violated any of their rights and immunities, the justiza was not only nominated by the king, but held his office during the king’s pleasure. Nor was this practice attended with any bad effects, as the privilege of the union was a sufficient and effectual check to any abuse of the royal prerogative. But when the privilege of the union was abolished as dangerous to the order and peace of society, it was agreed that the justiza should continue in office during life. Several kings, however, attempted to remove justizas who were obnoxious to them, and they sometimes succeeded in the attempt. In order to guard against this encroachment, which would have destroyed the intention of the institution, and have rendered the justiza the dependent and tool of the crown, instead of the guardian of the people, a law was enacted in the cortes, A. D. 1442, ordaining that the justiza should continue in office during life, and should not be removed from it unless by the authority of the cortes. Fueros y Observancias del Reyno de Arag. lib. I, p. 22. By former laws, the person of the justiza had been declared sacred, and he was responsible only to the cortes. Ibid. p. 15. b. Zurita and Blanca, who both published their histories while the justiza of Aragon retained the full exercise of his privileges and jurisdiction, have neglected to explain several circumstances with regard to the office of that respectable magistrate, because they addressed their works to their countrymen, who were well acquainted with every particular concerning the functions of a judge, to whom they looked up as to the guardian of their liberties. It is vain to consult the later historians of Spain, about any point with respect to which the excellent historians whom I have named are silent. The ancient constitution of their country was overturned, and despotism established on the ruin of its liberties, when the writers of this and the preceding century composed their histories, and on that account they had little curiosity to know the nature of those institutions to which their ancestors owed the enjoyment of freedom, or they were afraid to describe them with much accuracy. The spirit with which Mariana, his continuator Miniana, and Ferreras, write their histories, is very different from that of the two historians of Aragon, from whom I have taken my account of the constitution of that kingdom.

Two circumstances concerning the justiza, besides those which I have mentioned in the next, are worthy of observation.

1. None of the ricos hombres, or noblemen of the first order, could be appointed justiza. He was taken out of the second class of cavalleros, who seem to have been nearly of the same condition or rank with gentlemen or commoners in Great Britain. Fueros y Observanc. del Reyno, &c. lib. I, p. 21, b. The reason was, by the laws of Aragon, the ricos hombres were not subject to capital punishment; but as it was necessary, for the security of liberty, that the justiza should be accountable for the manner in which he executed the high trust reposed in him, it was a powerful restraint upon him to know that he was liable to be punished capitally [585]. Blanca, pp. 657, 756. Zurita, tom. p. II, 229. Fueros y Observanc. lib. IX, p. 182, b. 183. It appears, too, from many passages in Zurita, that the justiza was appointed to check the domineering and oppressive spirit of the nobles, as well as to set bounds to the power of the monarch, and therefore he was chosen from an order of citizens equally interested in opposing both.

2. A magistrate possessed of such vast powers as the justiza, might have exercised them in a manner pernicious to the state, if he himself had been subject to no control. A constitutional remedy was on that account provided against this danger. Seventeen persons were chosen by lot in each meeting of the cortes. These formed a tribunal, called the court of inquisition into the office of justiza. This court met at three stated terms in each year. Every person had liberty complaining to it of any iniquity or neglect of dutyy in the justiza, or in the inferior judges, who acted in his name. The justiza and his deputies were called to answer for their conduct. The members of the court passed sentence by ballot. They might punish by degradation, confiscation of goods, or even with death. The law which erected this court, and regulated the form of its procedure, was enacted A. D. 1461. Zurita, Anales, IV, 102; Blanca, Comment. Rer. Aragon. p. 770. Previous to this period, inquiry was made into the conduct of the justiza, though not with the same formality. He was, from the first institution of the office, subject to the review of the cortes. The constant dread of such an impartial and severe inquiry into his behaviour, was a powerful motive to the vigilant and fasithful discharge of his duty. A remarkable instance of the authority of the justiza, when opposed to that of the king, occurs in the year 1386. By the constitution of Aragon, the eldest son or heir apparent of the crown possessed considerable power and jurisdiction in the kingdom. Fueros y Observan. del Reyno de Arag. lib. I, p. 16. Peter IV, instigated by a second wife, attempted to deprive his son of this, and enjoined his subjects to yield him no obedience. The prince immediately applied to the justiza; «the safeguard and defence,» says Zurita, «against all violence and oppression». The justiza granted him the firma de derecho, the effect of which was, that, upon his giving surety to appear in judgment, he could not be deprived of any immunity or privilege which he possessed, but in consequence of a legal trial before the justiza, and of a sentence pronounced by him. This was published throughout the kingdom; and notwithstanding the proclamation in contradiction to this which had been issued by the king, the prine continued in the exercise of all his rights, and his authority was universally recognised. Zurita, Anales de Aragon, to. II, 385.


Note [XXXII], page 133.

I have been induced, by the concurring testimony of many respectable authors, to mention this as the constitutional form of the oath of allegiance, which the Aragonese took to their sovereigns. I must acknowledge, however, that I have not found this singular oath in any Spanish author whom I have had an opportunity of consulting. It is mentioned neither by Zurita, nor Blanca, nor Argensola, nor Sayas, who were all historiographers appointed by the cortes of Aragon to record the transactions of the kingdom. All these writers possess a merit which is very rare among historians. They are extremely accurate in tracing the progress of the laws and consitution of their country. Their silence with respect to this creates some suspicion concerning the genuineness of the oath. But as it is mentioned by so many authors, who [586] produce the ancient Spanish words in which it is expressed, it is probable that they have taken it from some writer of credit, whose works have not fallen into my hands. The spirit of the oath is perfectly agreable to the genius of the Aragonese constitution. Since the publication of the first edition, the learned M. Totze, professor of history at Batzow, in the duchy of Mecklenburgh, has been so good as to point out to me a Spanish author of great authority, who has published the words of this oath. It is Antonio Perez, a native of Aragon, secretary to Philip II, The words of the oath are, «Nos que valemos tanto como vos, os hazemos nuestro rey y seńor, con tal que nos guardeys nuestros fueros, y libertades, y si No, No». Las Obras y Relaciones de Ant. Perez, 8vo. por Juan de la Planche, 1631, p. 143.

The privilege of union which I have mentioned in the preceding note, and alluded to in the text, is indeed one of the most singular which could take place in a regular government, and the oath that I have quoted expresses nothing more than this constitutional privilege entitled the Aragonese to perform. If the king or his ministers violated any of the laws or immunities of the Aragonese, and did not grant immediate redress in consequence of their representations and remonstrances, the nobles of the first rank, or ricos hombres de natura, y de mesnada, the equestrian order, or the nobility of the second class, called hidalgos y infanciones, together with the magistrates of cities, might either in the cortes, or in a voluntary assembly, join in union, and binding themselves by mutual oaths and the exchange of hostages to be faithful to each other, they might require the king, in the name and by the authority of this body corporate, to grant them redress. If the king refused to comply with their request, or took arms in order to oppose them, they might, in virtue of the privilege of union, instantly withdraw their allegiance from the king, refuse to acknowledge him as their sovereign, and proceed to elect another monarch; nor did they in cur any guilt, or become liable to any prosecution on that account. Blanca, Com. Rer. Arag. pp. 661, 669. This union did not resemble the confederacies in other feudal kingdoms. It was a constitutional association, in which legal privileges were vested; which issued its mandates under a common seal, and proceed in all its operations by regular and ascertained forms. This dangerous right was not only claimed, but exercised. In the year 1287, the Aragonese formed a union in opposition to Alfonso III, and obliged that king, not only to comply with their demands, but to ratify a privilege so fatal to the power of the crown. Zurita, Anales, tom. I, p. 322. In the year 1347, a union was formed against Peter IV, with equal success, and a new ratification of the privilege was extorted. Zurita, tom. II, p. 202. But soon after, the king having defeated the leaders of the union in battle, the privilege of union was finally abrigated in the cortes, and all the laws or records which contained any confirmation of it were cancelled or destroyed. The king, in presence of the cortes, called for the act whereby he had ratified the union, and having wounded his hand with his poniard, he held it above the record, «that privilege (says he) which has been so fatal to the kingdom, and so injurious to royalty, should be effaced with the blood of a king». Zurita, tom. II, p. 229. The law abolishing the union is published. Fueros y Observanc. lib. IX, p. 178. From that period, the justiza became the constitutional guardian of public liberty, and his power and jurisdiction occasioned none of those violent convulsions which the tumultuary [587] privilege of the union was apt to produce. The constitution of Aragon, however, still remained extremely free. One source of this liberty arose from the early admission of the representatives of cities into the cortes. It seems probable from Zurita, that burgesses were constituent members of the cortes from its first institution. He mentions a meeting of cortes, A. D. 1133, in which the procuradores de las ciudades y villas were present. To. I, p. 51. This is the constitutional language in which their presence is declared in the cortes, after the journals of that court were regularly kept. It is probable, that an historian so accurate as Zurita would not have used these words, if he had not taken them from some authentic record. It was more than a century after this period before the representatives of cities formed a constituent part in the supreme assemblies of the other European nations. The free spirit of the Aragonese government is conspicuous in many particulars. The cortes not only opposed the attempts of their kings to increase their revenue, or to extend their prerogative, but they claimed rights and exercised powers which will appear extraordinary even in a country accustomed to the enjoyment of liberty. In the year 1286, the cortes claimed the privilege of naming the members of the king’s council, and the officers of his household, and they seem to have obtained it for some time. Zurita, tom. I, pp. 303, 307. It was the privilege of the cortes to name the officers who commanded the troops raised by their authority. This seems to be evident from a passage in Zurita. When the cortes, in the year 1503, raised a body of troops to be employed in Italy, it passed an act empowering the king to name the officers who should command them, Zurita, tom. V, p. 274; which plainly implies, that without this warrant it did not belong to him in virtue of his prerogative. In the Fueros y Observancias del Reyno de Aragon, two general declarations of the rights and privileges of the Aragonese are published; the one in the reign of Pedro I, A. D. 1283, and the other in that of James II, A. D. 1325. They are of such a length, that I cannot insert them; but it is evident from these, that not only the privileges of the nobility, but the rights of the people, personal as well as political, were, at that period, more extensive and better understood than in any kingdom in Europe. Lib. I, pp. 7, 9. The oath by which the king bound himself to observe those rights and liberties of the people, was very solemn. Ibid. p. 14, b, and p. 15. The cortes of Aragon discovered not only the jealousy and vigilance which are peculiar to free states, in guarding the essential parts of the constitution, but they were scrupulously attentive to observe the most minute forms and ceremonies to which they were accustomed. According to the established laws and customs of Aragon, no foreigner had liberty to enter the hall in which the cortes assembled. Ferdinand, in the year 1481, appointed his queen, Isabella, regent of the kingdom, while he was absent during the course of the campaign. The law required that a regent should take the oath of fidelity in presence of the cortes; but as Isabella was a foreigner, before she could be admitted, the cortes thought it necessary to pass an act, authorizing the serjeant-porter to open the door of the hall, and to allow her to enter: «so attentive were they (says Zurita) to observe their laws and forms, even such as may seem the most minute». Tom. IV, p. 313.

The Aragonese were no less solicitous to procure the personal rights of individuals, than to maintain the freedom of the constitution; and the spirit of their statutes with respect to both was equally liberal. Two facts relative to [588] this matter merit observation. By an express statute in the year 1335, it was declared to be unlawful to put any native Aragonese to the torture. If he could not be convicted by the testimony of witnesses, he was instantly absolved. Zurita, tom. II, p. 66. Zurita records the regulation with the satisfaction natural to an historian, when he contemplates the humanity of his countrymen. He compares the laws of Aragon to those of Rome, as both exempted citizens and freemen from such ignominious and cruel treatment, and had recourse to it only in the trial of slaves. Zurita had reason to bestow such an encomium on the laws of his country. Torture was at that time permitted by the laws of every other nation in Europe. Even in England, from which the mild spirit of legislation has long banished it, torture was not, at that time, unknown. Observations on the Statutes, chiefly the more ancient, &c., p. 66.

The other fact shows that the same spirit which influenced the legislature prevailed among the people. In the year 1485, the religious zeal of Ferdinand and Isabella prompted them to introduce the inquisition into Aragon. Though the Aragonese were no less superstitiously attached than the other Spaniards to the Roman catholic faith, and no less desirous to root out the seeds of error and of heresy which the Jews and Moors had scattered, yet they took arms against the inquisitors, murdered the chief inquisitor, and long opposed the establishment of that tribunal. The reason which they gave for their conduct was, that the mode of trial in the inquisition was inconsistent with liberty. The criminal was not confronted with the witnesses, he was not acquainted with what they deposed against him, he was subjected to torture, and the goods of persons condemned were confiscated. Zurita, Anales, tom. IV, p. 341.

The form of government in the kingdom of Valencia, and principality of Catalonia, which were annexed to the crown of Aragon, was likewise extremely favourable to liberty. The Valencians enjoyed the privilege of union in the same manner with the Aragonese. But they had no magistrate resembling the justiza. The Catalonians were no less jealous of their liberties than the two other nations, and no less bold in asserting them. But it is not necessary for illustrating the following history to enter into any further detail concerning the peculiarities in the constitution of these kingdoms.


Note [XXXIII], page 134.

I have searched in vain among the historians of Castile for such information as might enable me to trace the progress of laws and government in Castile, or to explain the nature of the constitution with the same degree of accuracy wherewith I have described the political state of Aragon. It is manifest, not only from the historians of Castile, but from its ancient laws, particularly the fuero juzgo, that its monarchs were originally elective. Ley. pp. 2, 5, 8. They were chosen by the bishops, the nobility, and the people; ibid. It appears, from the same venerable code of laws, that the prerogative of the Castilian monarchs was extremely limited. Villaldiego, in his commentary on the fuero juzgo, produces many facts and authorities in confirmation of both these particulars. Dr. Geddes, who was well acquainted with Spanish literature, complains that he could find no author who gave a distinct account of the cortes or supreme assembly of the nation, or who described the manner in which it was held, or mentioned the precise number of members [589] who had a right to sit in it. He produces, however, from Gil Gonzales d’Avila, who published a history of Henry II, the writ of summons to the town of Abula, requiring it to choose representatives to appear in the cortes which he called to meet A. D. 1390. From this we learn that prelates, dukes, marquises, the masters of the three military orders, condes, and ricos hombres, were required to attend. These composed the bodies of ecclesiastics and nobles, which formed two members of the legislature. The cities which sent members to that meeting of the cortes were forty-eight. The number of representatives (for the cities had right to choose more or fewer according to their respective dignity) amounted to a hundred and twenty-five. Geddes, Miscellaneous Tracts, vol. I, p. 331. Zurita having occasion to mention the cortes which Ferdinand held at Toro, A. D. 1505, in order to secure for himself the government of Castile after the death of Isabella, records, with his usual accuracy, the names of the members present, and of the cities which they represented. From that list it appears that only eighteen cities had deputies in this assembly. Anales de Aragon, tom. VI, p. 3. What was the occasion of this great difference in the number of cities represented in these two meetings of the cortes, I am unable to explain.


Note [XXXIV], page 136.

A great part of the territory in Spain was engrossed by the nobility. L. Marinęus Siculus, who composed his treatise De Rebus Hispanię during the reign of Charles V, gives a catalogue of the Spanish nobility, together with a yearly rent of their estates. According to his account, which he affirms was as accurate as the nature of the subject would admit, the sum total of the annual revenue of their lands amounted to one million four hundred and eighty-two thousands ducats. If we make allowance for the great difference in the value of money in the fifteenth century from that it now bears, and consider that the catalogue of Marinęus includes only the titulados, or nobility whose families were distinguished by some honorary title, their wealth must appear very great. L. Marinęus, ap. Schott. Script. Hispan. vol. I, p. 323. The commons of Castile, in their contests with the crown, which I shall hereafter relate, complain of the extensive property of the nobility as extremely pernicious to the kingdom. In one of their manifestos they assert, that from Valladolid to St. Jago in Galicia, which was a hundred leagues, the crown did not possess more than three villages. All the rest belonged to the nobility, and could be subjected to no public burden. Sandov. Vida del Emperador Carl. V, vol. I, p. 422. It appears from the testimony of authors quoted by Bovadilla, that these extensive possessions were bestowed upon the ricos hombres, hidalgos, and cavalleros, by the kings of Castile, in reward for the assistance which they had received from them in expelling the Moors. They likewise obtained by the same means a considerable influence in the cities, many of which anciently depended upon the nobility. Politica para Corregidores. Amb. 1750, folo. vol. I, pp. 440. 442.


Note [XXXV], page 138.

I have been able to discover nothing certain, as I observed Note XVIII, with respect to the origin of communities or free cities in Spain. It is probable, that as soon as the considerable towns were recovered from the Moors, the inhabitants who fixed their residence in them, being persons of distinction and credit, had all the privilege of municipal government and [590] jurisdiction conferred upon them. Many striking proofs occur of the splendour, wealth, and power of the Spanish cities. Hieronymus Paulus wrote a description of Barcelona in the year 1491, and compares the dimensions of the town to that of Naples, and the elegance of its buildings, the variety of its manufactures, and the extent of its commerce, to Florence. Hieron. Paulus, ap. Schott. Scrip. Hisp. vol. II, p. 844. Marinęus describes Toledo as a large and populous city. A great number of its inhabitants were persons of quality and of illustrious rank. Its commerce was great. It carried on with great activity and success the manufactures of silk and wool; and the number of inhabitants employed in these two branches of trade amounted nearly to ten thousand. Marin. ubi supr. p. 308. «I know no city» says he, «that I would prefer to Valladolid for elegance and splendour». Ibid. p. 312. We may form some estimate of its populousness from the following circumstances. The citizens having taken arms in the years 1516, in order to oppose a measure concerted by Cardinal Ximenes, they mustered in the city, and in the territory which belonged to it, thirty thousand fighting men. Sandov. Vida del Emper. Carl. V, tom. I, p. 81. The manufactures carried on in the towns of Spain were not intended merely for home consumption, they were exported to foreign countries, and their commerce was a considerable source of wealth to the inhabitants. The maritime laws of Barcelona are the foundation of mercantile jurisprudence in modern times, as the Leges Rhodię were among the ancients. All the commercial states in Italy adopted these laws, and regulated their trade according to them. Sandi, Storia Civile Veneziana, vol. II, p. 865. It appears from several ordinances of the kings of France, that the merchants of Aragon and Castile were received on the same footing, and admitted to the same privileges with those of Italy. Ordonnances des Roys, &c. tom. II, p. 135, tom. III, pp. 166, 504, 635. Cities in such a flourishing state became a respectable part of the society, and were entitled to a considerable share in the legislature. The magistrates of Barcelona aspired to the highest honour a Spanish subject can enjoy, that of being covered in the presence of their sovereign, and of being treated as grandees of the kingdom. Origin de la Dignidad de Grande de Castilla por Don Alonso Carillo. Madr. 1657, p. 18.

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