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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!

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