Croly On The Inquisition

We shall conclude this chapter with the subjoined extract from the New

Interpretation of the Apocalypse by the Rev. George Croly.

In our fortunate country, the power of the Romish church has so long

perished, that we find some difficulty in conceiving the nature, and

still more in believing the tyranny of its dominion. The influence of

the monks and the murders of the inquisition have passed into a nursery

tale; and we turn with a generous, yet rash and most unjustifiable

scepticism from the history of Romish authority.

Through almost the entire of Italy, through the Flemish dominions of

Germany, through a large portion of France, and through the entire of

Spain, a great monastic body was established, which, professing a

secondary and trivial obedience to the sovereign, gave its first and

real obedience to the pope. The name of spiritual homage cloaked the

high treason of an oath of allegiance to a foreign monarch; and whoever

might be king of France, or Spain, the pope was king of the Dominicans.

All the other monastic orders were so many papal outposts. But the great

Dominican order, immensely opulent in its pretended poverty; formidably

powerful in its hypocritical disdain of earthly influence; and

remorselessly ambitious, turbulent, and cruel in its primitive zeal; was

an actual lodgment and province of the papacy, an inferior Rome, in the

chief European kingdoms.

In the closest imitation of Rome, this spiritual power had fiercely

assumed the temporal sword; the inquisition was army, revenues, and

throne in one. With the racks and fires of a tribunal worthy of the gulf

of darkness and guilt from which it rose, the Dominicans bore popery in

triumph through christendom, crushing every vestige of religion under

the wheels of its colossal idol. The subjugation of the Albigenses in

1229 had scattered the church; the shock of the great military masses

was past; a subtler and more active force was required to destroy the

wandering people of God; and the inquisition multiplied itself for the

work of death. This terrible tribunal set every principle, and even

every form of justice at defiance. Secrecy, that confounds innocence

with guilt, was the spirit of its whole proceeding. All its steps were

in darkness. The suspected revolter from popery was seized in secret,

tried in secret, never suffered to see the face of accuser, witness,

advocate, or friend, was kept unacquainted with the charge, was urged to

criminate himself; if tardy, was compelled to this self-murder by the

rack; if terrified, was only the more speedily murdered for the sport of

the multitude. From the hour of his seizure he never saw the face of

day, until he was brought out as a public show, a loyal and festal

sacrifice, to do honor to the entrance of some travelling viceroy, some

new married princess, or, on more fortunate occasions, to the presence

of the sovereign. The dungeons were then drained, the human wreck of the

torture and scourge were gathered out of darkness, groups of misery and

exhaustion with wasted forms and broken limbs, and countenances subdued

by pain and famine into idiotism, and despair, and madness; to feed the

fires round which the Dominicans were chanting the glories of popery,

and exulting in the destruction of the body for the good of the soul!

In the original establishment of the inquisition in 1198, it had raged

against the Vaudois and their converts. But the victims were exhausted;

or not worth the pursuit of a tribunal which looked to the wealth as

keenly as to the faith of the persecuted. Opulence and heresy were at

length to be found only to Spain, and there the inquisition turned with

a gigantic step. In the early disturbances of the Peninsula, the Jews,

by those habits of trade, and mutual communion, which still make them

the lords of commerce, had acquired the chief wealth of the country. The

close of the Moorish war in the 15th century had left the Spanish

monarch at leisure for extortion; and he grasped at the Jewish gains in

the spirit of a robber, as he pursued his plunder with the cruelty of a

barbarian. The inquisition was the great machine, the comprehensive

torturer, ready to squeeze out alike the heart and the gold. In 1481, an

edict was issued against the Jews; before the end of the year, in the

single diocess of Cadiz, two thousand Jews were burnt alive! The fall of

the kingdom of Grenada, in 1492, threw the whole of the Spanish Moors

into the hands of the king. They were cast into the same furnace of

plunder and torture. Desperate rebellions followed; they were defeated

and, in 1609, were finally exiled. "In the space of one hundred and

twenty nine years, the inquisition deprived Spain of three millions of


On the death of Leo X. in 1521, Adrian, the inquisitor general was

elected pope. He had laid the foundation of his papal celebrity in

Spain. "It appears, according to the most moderate calculation, that

during the five years of the ministry of Adrian, 24,025 persons were

condemned by the inquisition, of whom one thousand six hundred and

twenty were burned alive."

It is the constant sophism of those who would cast christianity bound

hand and foot at the mercy of her enemies, that the pope desires to

exercise no interference in the internal concerns of kingdoms; that, if

he had the desire, he has not the power; and that, if he possessed the

power, he would be resisted by the whole body of the national clergy.

For the exposure of this traitorous delusion, we are to look to the

times, when it was the will of popery to put forth its strength; not to

the present, when it is its will to lull us into a belief of its

consistency with the constitution, in defiance of common sense, common

experience, the spirit of British law, and the loud warnings of insulted

and hazarded religion.

Of the multitudes who perished by the inquisition throughout the world,

no authentic record is now discoverable. But wherever popery had power,

there was the tribunal. It had been planted even in the east, and the

Portuguese inquisition of Goa was, till within these few years, fed with

many an agony. South America was partitioned into provinces of the

inquisition; and with a ghastly mimickry of the crimes of the mother

state, the arrivals of viceroys, and the other popular celebrations were

thought imperfect without an auto de fe. The Netherlands were one scene

of slaughter from the time of the decree which planted the inquisition

among them. In Spain the calculation is more attainable. Each of the

seventeen tribunals during a long period burned annually on an average

ten miserable beings! We are to recollect that this number was in a

country where persecution had for ages abolished all religious

differences, and where the difficulty was not to find the stake, but

the offering. Yet, even in Spain, thus gleaned of all heresy, the

inquisition could still swell its list of murders to thirty-two

thousand! The numbers burned in effigy, or condemned to penance,

punishments generally equivalent to exile, confiscation, and taint of

blood, to all ruin but the mere loss of worthless life amounted to three

hundred and nine thousand. But the crowds who perished in dungeons, of

the torture, of confinement, and of broken hearts, the millions of

dependent lives made utterly helpless, or hurried to the grave by the

death of the victims, are beyond all register; or recorded only before

HIM, who has sworn that "He who leadeth into captivity, shall go into

captivity: and he that killeth with the sword shall be killed by the


Such was the inquisition, declared by the Spirit of God to be at once

the offspring and the image of the popedom. To feel the force of the

parentage, we must look to the time. In the thirteenth century, the

popedom was at the summit of mortal dominion; it was independent of all

kingdoms; it ruled with a rank of influence never before or since

possessed by a human sceptre; it was the acknowledged sovereign of body

and soul; to all earthly intents its power was immeasurable for good or

evil. It might have spread literature, peace, freedom, and christianity

to the ends of Europe, or the world. But its nature was hostile; its

fuller triumph only disclosed its fuller evil; and, to the shame of

human reason, and the terror and suffering of human virtue, Rome, in the

hour of its consummate grandeur, teemed with the monstrous and horrid

birth of the INQUISITION!