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The history of Spain during the middle ages ought to commence with the dynasty of the Visigoths; a nation among the first that assaulted and overthrew the Roman Empire, and whose establishment preceded by nearly half a century the invasion of Clovis. Vanquished by that conqueror in the battle of Poitiers, the Gothic monarchs lost their extensive dominions in Gaul, and transferred their residence from Toulouse to Toledo. But I will not detain the reader by naming one sovereign of that obscure race. It may suffice to mention that the Visigothic monarchy differed in several respects from that of the Franks during the same period. The crown was less hereditary, or at least the regular succession was more frequently disturbed. The prelates had a still more commanding influence in temporal government. The distinction of Romans and barbarians was less marked, the laws more uniform, and approaching nearly to the imperial code. The power of the sovereign was perhaps more limited by an aristocratical council than in France, but it never yielded to the dangerous influence of mayors of the palace. Civil wars and disputed successions were very frequent, but the integrity of the kingdom was not violated by the custom of partition.

Spain, after remaining for nearly three centuries in the possession of the Visigoths, fell under the yoke of the Saracens in 712. The fervid and irresistible enthusiasm which distinguished the youthful period of Mohammedism might sufficiently account for this conquest, even if we could not assign additional causes—the factions which divided the Goths, the resentment of disappointed pretenders to the throne, the provocations, as has been generally believed, of Count Julian, and the temerity that risked the fate of an empire on the chances of a single battle. It is more surprising that a remnant of this ancient monarchy should not only have preserved its national liberty and name in the northern mountains, but waged for some centuries a successful, and generally an offensive warfare against the conquerors, till the balance was completely turned in its favor, and the Moors were compelled to maintain almost as obstinate and protracted a contest for a small portion of the peninsula. But the Arabian monarchs of Cordova found in their success and imagined security a pretext for indolence; even in the cultivation of science and contemplation of the magnificent architecture of their mosques and palaces they forgot their poor but daring enemies in the Asturias; while, according to the nature of despotism, the fruits of wisdom or bravery in one generation were lost in the follies and effeminacy of the next. Their kingdom was dismembered by successful rebels, who formed the states of Toledo, Huesca, Saragossa, and others less eminent; and these, in their own mutual contests, not only relaxed their natural enmity towards the Christian princes, but sometimes sought their alliance.

The last attack which seemed to endanger the reviving monarchy of Spain was that of Almanzor, the illustrious vizier of Haccham II, towards the end of the tenth century, wherein the city of Leon, and even the shrine of Compostella, were burned to the ground. For some ages before this transient reflux, gradual encroachments had been made upon the Saracens, and the kingdom originally styled of Oviedo, the seat of which was removed to Leon in 914, had extended its boundary to the Douro, and even to the mountainous chain of the Guadarrama. The province of Old Castile, thus denominated, as is generally supposed, from the castles erected while it remained a march or frontier against the Moors, was governed by hereditary counts, elected originally by the provincial aristocracy, and virtually independent, it seems probable, of the kings of Leon, though commonly serving them in war as brethren of the same faith and nations

While the kings of Leon were thus occupied in recovering the western provinces, another race of Christian princes grew up silently under the shadow of the Pyrenean mountains. Nothing can be more obscure than the beginnings of those little states which were formed in Navarre and the country of Soprarbe. They might perhaps be almost contemporaneous with the Moorish conquests. On both sides of the Pyrenees dwelt an aboriginal people, the last to undergo the yoke, and who had never acquired the language, of Rome. We know little of these intrepid mountaineers in the dark period which elapsed under the Gothic and Frank dynasties, till we find them cutting off the rear-guard of Charlemagne in Roncesvalles, and maintaining at least their independence, though seldom, like the kings of Asturias, waging offensive war against the Saracens. The town of Jaca, situated among long narrow valleys that intersect the southern ridges of the Pyrenees, was the capital of a little free state, which afterwards expanded into the monarchy of Aragon. A territory rather more extensive belonged to Navarre, the kings of which fixed their seat at Pampelona. Biscay seems to have been divided between this kingdom and that of Leon. The connection of Aragon or Soprarbe and Navarre was very intimate, and they were often united under a single chief.

At the beginning of the eleventh century, Sancho the Great, king of Navarre and Aragon, was enabled to render his second son Ferdinand count, or, as he assumed the title, king of Castile. This effectually dismembered that province from the kingdom of Leon; but their union soon became more complete than ever, though with a reversed supremacy. Bermudo III, king of Leon, fell in an engagement with the new king of Castile, who had married his sister; and Ferdinand, in her right, or in that of conquest, became master of the united monarchy. This cessation of hostilities between the Christian states enabled them to direct a more unremitting energy against their ancient enemies, who were now sensibly weakened by the various causes of decline to which I have already alluded. During the eleventh century the Spaniards were almost always superior in the field; the towns which they began by pillaging, they gradually possessed; their valor was heightened by the customs of chivalry and inspired by the example of the Cid; and before the end of this age Alfonso VI recovered the ancient metropolis of the monarchy, the city of Toledo. This was the severest blow which the Moors had endured, and an unequivocal symptom of that change in their relative strength, which, from being so gradual, was the more irretrievable. Calamities scarcely inferior fell upon them in a different quarter. The Kings of Aragon (a title belonging originally to a little district upon the river of that name) had been cooped up almost in the mountains by the small Moorish states north of the Ebro, especially that of Huesca. About the middle of the eleventh century they began to attack their neigh­bors with success; the Moors lost one town after another, till, in 1118, exposed and weakened by the reduction of all these places, the city of Saragossa, in which a line of Mohammedan princes had flourished for several ages, became the prize of Alfonso I and the capital of his kingdom. The southern parts of what is now the province of Aragon were successively reduced during the twelfth century; while all new Castile and Estremadura became annexed in the same gradual manner to the dominion of the descendants of Alfonso VI.

Although the feudal system cannot be said to have obtained in the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, their peculiar situation gave the aristocracy a great deal of the same power and independence which resulted in France and Germany from that institution. The territory successively recovered from the Moors, like waste lands reclaimed, could have no proprietor but the conquerors, and the prospect of such acquisitions was a constant incitement to the nobility of Spain, especially to those who had settled themselves on the Castilian frontier. In their new conquests they built towns and invited Christian settlers, the Saracen inhabitants being commonly expelled or voluntarily retreating to the safer provinces of the south. Thus Burgos was settled by a Count of Castile about 880; another fixed his seat at Osma; a third at Sepulveda; a fourth at Salamanca. These cities were not free from incessant peril of a sudden attack till the union of the two kingdoms under Ferdinand I, and consequently the necessity of keeping in exercise a numerous and armed population, gave a character of personal freedom and privilege to the inferior classes which they hardly possessed at so early a period in any other monarchy. Villeinage seems never to have been established in the Hispano-Gothic kingdoms, Leon and Castile; though I confess it was far from being unknown in that of Aragon, which had formed its institutions on a different pattern. Since nothing makes us forget the arbitrary distinctions of rank so much as participation in any common calamity, every man who had escaped the great shipwreck of liberty and religion in the mountains of Asturias was invested with a personal dignity, which gave him value in his own eyes and those of his country. It is probably this sentiment transmitted to posterity, and gradually fixing the national character, that has produced the elevation of manner remarked by travellers in the Castilian peasant. But while these acquisitions of the nobility promoted the grand object of winning back the peninsula from its invaders, they by no means invigorated the government or tended to domestic tranquillity.

A more interesting method of securing the public defence was by the institution of chartered towns or communities. These were established at an earlier period than in France and England, and were, in some degree, of a peculiar description. Instead of purchasing their immunities, and almost their per­sonal freedom, at the hands of a master, the burgesses of Castilian towns were invested with civil rights and extensive property on the more liberal condition of protecting their country. The earliest instance of the erection of a community is in 1020, when Alfonso V in the cortes at Leon established the privileges of that city with a regular code of laws, by which its magistrates should be governed. The citizens of Carrion, Llanes, and other towns were incorporated by the same prince. Sancho the Great gave a similar constitution to Naxara. Sepulveda had its code of laws in 1076 from Alfonso VI; in the same reign Logrono and Sahagun acquired their privileges, and Salamanca not long afterwards. The fuero, or original charter of a Spanish community, was properly a compact, by which the king or lord granted a town and adjacent district to the burgesses, with various privileges, and especially that of choosing magistrates and a common council, who were bound to conform themselves to the laws prescribed by the founder. These laws, civil as well as criminal, though essentially derived from the ancient code of the Visigoths, which continued to be the common law of Castile till the fourteenth or fifteenth century, varied from each other in particular usages, which had probably grown up and been established in these districts before their legal confirmation. The territory held by chartered towns was frequently very extensive, far beyond any comparison with corporations in our own country or in France; including the estates of private landholders, subject to the jurisdiction and control of the municipality as well as its inalienable demesnes, allotted to the maintenance of the magistrates and other public expenses. In every town the king appointed a governor to receive the usual tributes and watch over the police and the fortified places within the district; but the administration of justice was exclusively reserved to the inhabitants and their elected judges. Even the executive power of the royal officer was regarded with jealousy; he was forbidden to use violence towards anyone without legal process; and, by the fuero of Logroño, if he attempted to enter forcibly into a private house he might be killed with impunity. These, democratical customs were altered in the fourteenth century by Alfonso XI, who vested the municipal administration in a small number of jurats, or regidors. A pretext for this was found in some disorders to which popular elections had led; but the real motive, of course, must have been to secure a greater influence for the crown, as in similar innovations of some English kings.

In recompense for such liberal concessions the incorporated towns were bound to certain money payments, and to military service. This was absolutely due from every inhabitant, without dispensation or substitution, unless in case of infirmity, flic royal governor and the magistrates, as in the simple times of primitive Rome, raised and commanded the militia; who, in a service always short, and for the most part necessary, preserved that delightful consciousness of freedom, under the standard of their fellow citizens and chosen leaders, which no mere soldier can enjoy. Every man of a certain property was bound to serve on horseback, and was exempted in return from the payment of taxes. This produced a distinction between the Caballeros, or noble class, and the pecheros, or payers of tribute. But the distinction appears to have been founded only upon wealth, as in the Roman equites, and not upon hereditary rank, though it most likely prepared the way for the latter. The horses of these caballeros could not be seized for debt; in some cases they were exclusively eligible to magistracy; and their honor was protected by laws which rendered it highly penal to insult or molest them. But the civil rights of rich and poor in courts of justice were as equal as in England.

The progress of the Christian arms in Spain may in part be ascribed to another remarkable feature in the constitution of that country, the military orders. These had already been tried with signal effect in Palestine; and the similar circumstances of Spain easily led to an adoption of the same policy. In a very few years after the first institution of the Knights Templars, they were endowed with great estates, or rather districts, won from the Moors, on condition of defending their own and the national territory. These lay chiefly in the parts of Aragon beyond the Ebro, the conquest of which was then recent and insecure. So extraordinary was the respect for this order and that of St. John, and so powerful the conviction that the hope of Christendom rested upon their valor, that Alfonso the First, king of Aragon, dying childless, bequeathed to them his whole kingdom; an example of liberality, says Mariana, to surprise future times and displease his own. The states of Aragon annulled, as may be supposed, this strange testament; but the successor of Alfonso was obliged to pacify the ambitious knights by immense concessions of money and territory; stipulating even not to make peace with the Moors against their will. In imitation of these great military orders common to all Christendom, there arose three Spanish institutions of a similar kind, the orders of Calatrava, Santiago, and Alcantara. The first of these was established in 1158; the second and most famous had its charter from the pope in 1175, though it seems to have existed previously; the third branched off from that of Calatrava at a subsequent time. These were military colleges, having their walled towns in different parts of Castile, and governed by an elective grand master, whose influence in the state was at least equal to that of any of the nobility. In the civil dissensions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the chiefs of these incorporated knights were often very prominent.

The kingdoms of Leon and Castille were unwisely divided anew by Alfonso VII between his sons Sancho and Ferdinand, and this produced not only a separation but a revival of the ancient jealousy with frequent wars for near a century. At length, in 1238, Ferdinand III, king of Castile, reunited for­ever the two branches of the Gothic monarchy. He employed their joint strength against the Moors, whose dominion, though it still embraced the finest provinces of the peninsula, was sinking by internal weakness, and had never recovered a tremendous defeat at Banos di Toloso, a few miles from Baylen, in 1210. Ferdinand, bursting into Andalusia, took its great capital, the city of Cordova, not less ennobled by the cultivation of Arabian science, and by the names of Avicenna and Averroes, than by the splendid works of a rich and munificent dynasty. [a.d. 1236.] In a few years more Seville was added to his conquests, and the Moors lost their favorite regions on the banks of the Guadalquivir. James I of Aragon, the victories of whose long reign gave him the surname of Conqueror, reduced the city and kingdom of Valencia, the Balearic isles, and the kingdom of Murcia; but the last was annexed, according to compact, to the crown of Castile.

It could hardly have been expected about the middle of the thirteenth century, when the splendid conquests of Ferdinand and James had planted the Christian banner on the three principal Moorish cities, that two hundred and fifty years were yet to elapse before the rescue of Spain from their yoke should be completed. Ambition, religious zeal, national enmity, could not be supposed to pause in a career which now seemed to be obstructed by such moderate difficulties; yet we find, on the contrary, the exertions of the Spaniards begin from this time to relax, and their acquisitions of territory to become more slow. One of the causes, undoubtedly, that produced this unexpected protraction of the contest was the superior means of resistance which the Moors found in retreating. Their population, spread originally over the whole of Spain, was now condensed, and, if I may so say, become no further compressible, in a single province. It had been mingled, in the northern and central parts, with the Mozarabic Christians, their subjects and tributaries, not perhaps treated with much injustice, yet naturally and irremediably their enemies. Toledo and Saragossa, when they fell under a Christian sovereign, were full of these inferior Christians, whose long intercourse with their masters has infused the tones and dialect of Arabia into the language of Castile. But in the twelfth century the Moors, exasperated by defeat and jealous of secret disaffection, began to persecute their Christian subjects, till they renounced or lied for their religion; so that in the southern provinces scarcely any professors of Christianity were left at the time of Ferdinand’s invasion. An equally severe policy was adopted on the other side. The Moors had been permitted to dwell in Saragossa as the Christians had dwelt before, subjects, not slaves; but on the capture of Seville they were entirely ex­pelled, and new settlers invited from every part of Spain. The strong fortified towns of Andalusia, such as Gibraltar, Algeciras, Tariffa, maintained also a more formidable resistance than had been experienced in Castile; they cost tedious sieges, were sometimes recovered by the enemy, and were always liable to his attacks. But the great protection of the Spanish Mohammedans was found in the alliance and ready aid of their kindred beyond the Straits. Accustomed to hear of the African Moors only as pirates, we cannot easily conceive the powerful dynasties, the warlike chiefs, the vast armies, which for seven or eight centuries illustrate the annals of that people. Their assistance was already afforded to the true believers in Spain, though their ambition was generally dreaded by those who stood in need of their valor

Probably, however, the kings of Granada were most indebted to the indolence which gradually became characteristic of their enemies. By the cession of Murcia to Castile, the kingdom of Aragon shut itself out from the possibility of extending those conquests which had ennobled her earlier sovereigns; and their successors, not less ambitious and enterprising, diverted their attention towards objects beyond the peninsula. The Castilian, patient and undesponding in bad success, loses his energy as the pressure becomes less heavy, and puts no ordinary evil in comparison with the exertions by which it must be removed. The greater part of his country freed by his arms, he was content to leave the enemy in a single province rather than undergo the labor of making his triumph complete.

If a similar spirit of insubordination had not been found compatible in earlier ages with the aggrandizement of the Castilian monarchy, we might ascribe its want of splendid successes against the Moors to the continued rebellions which disturbed that government for more than a century after the death of Ferdinand III [a.d. 1252.] His son, Alfonso X, might justly acquire the surname of Wise for his general proficiency in learning, and especially in astronomical science, if these attainments deserve praise in a king who was incapable of preserving his subjects in their duty. As a legislator, Alfonso, by his code of the Siete Partidas, sacrificed the ecclesiastical rights of his crown to the usurpation of Rome; and his philosophy sunk below the level of ordinary prudence when he permitted the phantom of an imperial crown in Germany to seduce his hopes for almost twenty years. For the sake of such an illusion he would even have withdrawn himself from Castile, if the states had not remonstrated against an expedition that would probably have cost him the kingdom. In the latter years of his turbulent reign Alfonso had to contend against his son. The right of representation was hitherto unknown in Castile, which had borrowed little from the customs of feudal nations. By the received law of succession the nearer was always preferred to the more remote, the son to the grandson. Alfonso X had established the different maxim of representation by his code of the Siete Partidas, the authority of which, however, was not universally acknowledged. The question soon came to an issue: on the death of his elder son Ferdinand, leaving two male children, Sancho their uncle asserted his claim, founded upon the ancient Castilian right of succession; and this, chiefly no doubt through fear of arms, though it did not want plausible arguments, was ratified by an assembly of the cortes, and secured, notwithstanding the king’s reluctance, by the courage of Sancho. But the descendants of Ferdinand, generally called the infants of la Cerda, by the protection of France, to whose royal family they were closely allied, and of Aragon, always prompt to interfere in the disputes of a rival people, continued to assert their pretensions for more than half a century, and, though they were not very successful, did not fail to aggravate the troubles of their country.

The annals of Sancho IV [a.d. 1284] and his two immediate successors, Ferdinand IV [a.d. 1295] and Alfonso XI [a.d. 1312], present a series of unhappy and dishonorable civil dissensions with too much rapidity to be remembered or even understood. Although the Castilian nobility had no pretence to the original independence of the French peers, or to the liberties of feudal tenure, they assumed the same privilege of rebelling upon any provocation from their sovereign. When such occurred, they seem to have been permitted, by legal custom, to renounce their allegiance by a solemn instrument, which exempted them from the penalties of treason. A very few families composed an oligarchy, the worst and most ruinous condition of political society, alternately the favorites and ministers of the prince, or in arms against him. If unable to protect themselves in their walled towns, and by the aid of their faction, these Christian patriots retired to Aragon or Granada, and excited an hostile power against their country, and perhaps their religion. Nothing is more common in the Castilian history than instances of such defection. Mariana remarks coolly of the family of Castro, that they were much in the habit of revolting to the Moors. This house and that of Lara were at one time the great rivals for power; but from the time of Alfonso X the former seems to have declined, and the sole family that came in competition with the Laras during the tempestuous period that followed was that of Haro, which possessed the lordship of Biscay by an hereditary title. The evils of a weak government were aggravated by the unfortunate circumstances in which Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI ascended the throne; both minors, with a disputed regency, and the interval too short to give ambitious spirits leisure to subside. There is indeed some apology for the conduct of the Laras and Haros in the character of their sovereigns, who had but one favorite method of avenging a dissembled injury, or anticipating a suspected treason. Sancho IV. assassinates Don Lope Haro in his palace at Valladolid. Alfonso XI invites to court the infant Don Juan, his first-cousin, and commits a similar violence. Such crimes may be found in the history of other countries, but they were nowhere so usual as in Spain, which was far behind France, England, and even Germany, in civilization.

But whatever violence and arbitrary spirit might be imputed to Sancho and Alfonso was forgotten in the unexampled tyranny of Peter the Cruel, [a.d. 1350.] A suspicion is frequently intimated by Mariana, which seems, in more modern times, to have gained some credit, that party malevolence has at least grossly exaggerated the enormities of this prince. It is difficult, however, to believe that a number of atrocious acts unconnected with each other, and generally notorious enough in their circumstances, have been ascribed to any innocent man. The history of his reign, chiefly derived, it is admitted, from the pen of an inveterate enemy, Lope de Ayala, charges him with the murder of his wife, Blanche of Bourbon, most of his brothers and sisters, with Eleanor Gusman, their mother, many Castilian nobles, and multitudes of the commonalty; besides continual outrages of licentiousness, and especially a pretended marriage with a noble lady of the Castrian family. At length a rebellion was headed by his illegitimate brother, Henry Count of Trastamare, with the assistance of Aragon and Portugal. This, however, would probably have failed of dethroning Peter, a resolute prince, and certainly not destitute of many faithful supporters, if Henry had not invoked the more powerful succor of Bertrand du Guesclin, and the companies of adventure, who, after the pacification between France and England, had lost the occupation of war, and retained only that of plunder. With mercenaries so disciplined it was in vain for Peter to contend; but, abandoning Spain for a moment, he had recourse to a more powerful weapon from the same armory. Edward the Black Prince, then resident at Bordeaux, was induced by the promise of Biscay to enter Spain as the ally of Castile; and at the great battle of Navarette he continued lord of the ascendant over those who had so often already been foiled by his prowess. [a.d. 1367.] Du Guesclin was made prisoner; Henry fled to Aragon, and Peter remounted the throne. But a second revolution was at hand: the Black Prince, whom he had ungratefully offended, withdrew into Guienne; and he lost his kingdom and life in a second short contest with his brother.

A more fortunate period began with the accession of Henry. [a.d. 1368.] His own reign was hardly disturbed by any rebellion; and though his successors, John I [a.d. 1379] and Henry III [a.d. 1390], were not altogether so unmolested, especially the latter, who ascended the throne in his minority, yet the troubles of their time were slight in comparison with those formerly excited by the houses of Lara and Haro, both of which were now happily extinct. Though Henry II’s illegitimacy left him no title but popular choice, his queen was sole representative of the Cerdas, the offspring, as has been mentioned above, of Sancho IV’s elder brother, and, by the extinction of the younger branch, unquestioned heiress of the royal line. Some years afterwards, by the marriage of Henry III with Catherine, daughter of John of Gaunt and Constance, an illegitimate child of Peter the Cruel, her pretensions, such as they were, became merged in the crown.

No kingdom could be worse prepared to meet the disorders of a minority than Castile, and in none did the circumstances so frequently recur. John II was but fourteen months old at his accession; and but for the disinterestedness of his uncle Ferdinand, the nobility would have been inclined to avert the danger by placing that prince upon the throne, [a.d. 1406.] In this instance, however. Castile suffered less from faction during the infancy of her sovereign than in his maturity. The queen dowager, at first jointly with Ferdinand, and solely after his accession to the crown of Aragon, administered the government with credit. Fifty years had elapsed at her death in 1418 since the elevation of the house of Trastamare, who had entitled themselves to public affection by conforming themselves more strictly than their predecessors to the constitutional laws of Castile, which were never so well established as during this period. In external affairs their reigns were not what is con­sidered as glorious. They were generally at peace with Aragon and Granada; but one memorable defeat by the Portuguese at Aljubarrota disgraces the annals of John I, whose cause was as unjust as his arms were unsuccessful, [a.d. 1385.] This comparatively golden period ceases at the majority of John II. His reign was filled up by a series of conspiracies and civil wars, headed by his cousins John and Henry, the infants of Aragon, who enjoyed very extensive territories in Castile, by the testament of their father Ferdinand. Their brother the King of Aragon frequently lent the assistance of his arms. John himself, the elder of these two princes, by marriage with the heiress of the kingdom of Navarre, stood in a double relation to Castile, as a neighboring sovereign, and as a member of the native oligarchy. These conspiracies were all ostensibly directed against the favorite of John II., Alvaro de Luna, who retained for five-and-thirty years an absolute control over his feeble master. The adverse faction naturally ascribed to this powerful minister every criminal intention and all public mischiefs. He was certainly not more scrupulous than the generality of statesmen, and appears to have been rapacious in accumulating wealth. But there was an energy and courage about Alvaro de Luna which distinguishes him from the cowardly sycophants who usually rise by the favor of weak princes; and Castile probably would not have been happier under the administration of his enemies. His fate is among the memorable lessons of history. After a life of troubles endured for the sake of this favorite, sometimes a fugitive, sometimes a prisoner, his son heading rebellions against him, John II suddenly yielded to an intrigue of the palace, and adopted sentiments of dislike towards the man he had so long loved. No substantial charge appears to have been brought against Alvaro de Luna, except that general malversation which it was too late for the king to object to him. The real cause of John’s change of affection was, most probably, the insupportable restraint which the weak are apt to find in that spell of a commanding understanding which they dare not break; the torment of living subject to the ascendant of an inferior, which has produced so many examples of fickleness in sovereigns. That of John II is not the least conspicuous. Alvaro de Luna was brought to a summary trial and beheaded; his estates were confiscated. He met his death with the intrepidity of Strafford, to whom he seems to have borne some resemblance in character.

John II did not long survive his minister, dying in 1454, after a reign that may be considered as inglorious, compared with any except that of his successor. If the father was not respected, the son fell completely into contempt. He had been governed by Pacheco Marquis of Villena, as implicitly as John by Alvaro de Luna. This influence lasted for some time afterwards. But the king inclining to transfer his confidence to the Queen Joanna of Portugal, and to one Bertrand de Cueva, upon whom common fame had fixed as her paramour, a powerful confederacy of disaffected nobles was formed against the royal authority. In what degree Henry IV’s government had been improvident or oppressive towards the people, it is hard to determine. The chiefs of that rebellion, Carillo Archbishop of Toledo, the admiral of Castile, a veteran leader of faction, and the Marquis of Villena, so lately the king’s favorite, were undoubtedly actuated only by selfish ambition and revenge. They deposed Henry in an assembly of their faction at Avila with a sort of theatrical pageantry which has often been described. [a.d. 1465.] But modern historians, struck by the appearance of judicial solemnity in this proceeding, are sometimes apt to speak of it as a national act; while, on the contrary, it seems to have been reprobated by the majority of the Castilians as an audacious outrage upon a sovereign who, with many defects, had not been guilty of any excessive tyranny. The confederates set up Alfonso, the king’s brother, and a civil war of some duration ensued, in which they had the support of Aragon. The Queen of Castile had at this time borne a daughter, whom the enemies of Henry IV, and indeed no small part of his adherents, were determined to treat as spurious. Accordingly, after the death of Alfonso, his sister Isabel was considered as heiress of the kingdom. She might have aspired, with the assistance of the confederates, to its immediate possession; but, avoiding the odium of a contest with her brother, Isabel agreed to a treaty, by which the succession was absolutely settled upon her. This arrangement was not long afterwards followed by the union of that princess with Ferdi­nand, son of the King of Aragon, [a.d. 1469.] This marriage was by no means acceptable to a part of the Castilian oligarchy, who had preferred a connection with Portugal. And as Henry had never lost sight of the interests of one whom he considered, or pretended to consider, as his daughter, he took the first opportunity of revoking his forced disposition of the crown and restoring the direct line of succession in favor of the Princess Joanna. Upon his death, in 1474, the right was to be decided by arms. Joanna had on her side the common presumptions of law, the testamentary disposition of the late king, the support of Alfonso King of Portugal, to whom she was betrothed, and of several considerable leaders among the nobility, as the young Marquis of Villena, the family of Mendoza, and the Archbishop of Toledo, who, charging Ferdinand with ingratitude, had quitted a party which he had above all men contributed to strengthen. For Isabella were the general belief of Joanna’s illegitimacy, the assistance of Aragon, the adherence of a majority both among the nobles and people, and, more than all, the reputation of ability which both she and her husband had deservedly acquired. The scale was however pretty equally balanced, till the King of Portugal having been de­feated at Toro in 1476, Joanna’s party discovered their inability to prosecute the war by themselves, and successively made their submission to Ferdinand and Isabella.

The Castilians always considered themselves as subject to a legal and limited monarchy. For several ages the crown was elective, as in most nations of German origin, within the limits of one royal family. In general, of course, the public choice fell upon the nearest heir; and it became a prevailing usage to elect a son during the lifetime of his father, till about the eleventh century a right of hereditary succession was clearly established. But the form of recognizing the heir apparent’s title in an assembly of the cortes has subsisted until our own time.

In the original Gothic monarchy of Spain, civil as well as ecclesiastical affairs were decided in national councils, the acts of many of which are still extant, and have been published in ecclesiastical collections. To these assemblies the dukes and other provincial governors, and in general the principal indi­viduals of the realm, were summoned along with spiritual persons. This double aristocracy of church and state continued to form the great council of advice and consent in the first ages of the new kingdoms of Leon and Castile. The prelates and nobility, or rather some of the more distinguished nobility, appear to have concurred in all general measures of legislation, as we infer from the preamble of their statutes. It would be against analogy, as well as without evidence, to suppose that any representation of the commons had been formed in the earlier period of the monarchy. In the preamble of laws passed in 1020, and at several subsequent times during that and the ensuing century, we find only the bishops and magnats recited as present. According to the General Chronicle of Spain, deputies from the Castilian towns formed a part of cortes in 1169, a date not to be rejected as incompatible with their absence in 1178. However, in 1188, the first year of the reign of Alfonso IX, they are expressly mentioned; and from that era were constant and necessary parts of those general assemblies. It has been seen already that the corporate towns or districts of Castile had early acquired considerable importance, arising less from commercial wealth, to which the towns of other kingdoms were indebted for their liberties, than from their utility in keeping up a military organization among the people. To this they probably owe their early reception into the cortes as integrant portions of the legislature, since we do not read that taxes were frequently demanded, till the extravagance of later kings, and their alienation of the domain, compelled them to have recourse to the national representatives.

Every chief town of a concejo or corporation ought perhaps, by the constitution of Castile, to have received its regular writ for the election of deputies to cortes. But there does not appear to have been, in the best times, any uniform practice in this respect. At the cortes of Burgos, in 1315, we find one hundred and ninety-two representatives from more than ninety towns; at those of Madrid, in 1391, one hundred and twenty-six were sent from fifty towns; and the latter list contains names of several places which do not appear in the former. No deputies were present from the kingdom of Leon in the cortes of Alcala in 1348, where, among many important enactments, the code of the Siete Partidas first obtained a legislative recognition. We find, in short, a good deal more irregularity than during the same period in England, where the number of electing boroughs varied pretty considerably at every parliament. Yet the cortes of Castile did not cease to be a numerous body and a fair representation of the people till the reign of John II. The first princes of the house of Trastamare had acted in all points with the advice of their cortes. But John II, and still more his son Henry IV, being conscious of their own unpopularity, did not venture to meet a full assembly of the nation. Their writs were directed only to certain towns—an abuse for which the looseness of preceding usage had given a pretence. It must be owned that the people bore it in general very patiently. Many of the corporate towns, impoverished by civil warfare and other causes, were glad to save the cost of defraying their deputies’ expenses. Thus, by the year 1480, only seventeen cities had retained privilege of representation. A vote was afterwards added for Granada, and three more in later times for Palencia, and the provinces of Estremadura and Galicia. It might have been easy perhaps to redress this grievance while the exclusion was yet fresh and recent. But the privileged towns, with a mean and preposterous selfishness, although their zeal for liberty was at its height, could not endure the only means of effectually securing it, by a restoration of elective franchises to their fellow-citizens. The cortes of 1506 assert, with one of those bold falsifications upon which a popular body sometimes ventures, that “it is established by some laws, and by immemorial usage, that eighteen cities of these kingdoms have the right of sending deputies to cortes, and no more”; remonstrating against the attempts made by some other towns to obtain the same privilege, which they request may not be conceded. This remonstrance is repeated in 1512.

From the reign of Alfonso XI, who restrained the govern­ment of corporations to an oligarchy of magistrates, the right of electing members of cortes was confined to the ruling body, the bailiffs or regidores, whose number seldom exceeded twenty-four, and whose succession was kept up by close election among themselves. The people therefore had no direct share in the choice of representatives. Experience proved, as several instances in these pages will show, that even upon this narrow basis the deputies of Castile were not deficient in zeal for their country and its liberties. But it must be confessed that a small body of electors is always liable to corrupt influence and to intimidation. John II and Henry IV often invaded the freedom of election; the latter even named some of the deputies. Several energetic remonstrances were made in cortes against this flagrant grievance. Laws were enacted and other precautions devised to secure the due return of deputies. In the sixteenth century the evil, of course, was aggravated. Charles and Philip corrupted the members by bribery. Even in 1573 the cortes are bold enough to complain that creatures of government were sent thither, “who are always held for suspected by the other deputies, and cause disagreement among them.”

There seems to be a considerable obscurity about the constitution of the cortes, so far as relates to the two higher estates, the spiritual and temporal nobility. It is admitted that down to the latter part of the thirteenth century, and especially before the introduction of representatives from the commons, they were summoned in considerable numbers. But the writer to whom I must almost exclusively refer for the constitutional history of Castile contends that from the reign of Sancho IV. they took much less share and retained much less influence in the deliberation of cortes. There is a remarkable protest of the archbishop of Toledo, in 1295, against the acts done in cortes, because neither he nor the other prelates had been admitted to their discussions nor given any consent to their resolutions, although such consent was falsely recited in the laws enacted therein. This protestation is at least a testimony to the constitutional rights of the prelacy, which indeed all the early history of Castile, as well as the analogy of other governments, conspires to demonstrate. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, they were more and more excluded. None of the prelates were summoned to the cortes of 1299 and 1301; none either of the prelates or nobles to those of 1370 and 1373, of 1480 and  1505. In all the latter cases, indeed, such members of both orders as happened to be present in the court attended the cortes—a fact which seems to be established by the language of the statutes. Other instances of a similar kind may be adduced. Nevertheless, the more usual expression in the preamble of laws reciting those Summoned to and present at the cortes, though subject to considerable variation, seems to imply that all the three estates were, at least nominally and according to legitimate forms, constituent members of the national assembly. And a chronicle mentions, under the year 1406, the nobility and clergy as deliberating separately, and with some difference of judgment, from the deputies of the commons. A theory, indeed, which should exclude the great territorial aristocracy from their place in cortes, would expose the dignity and legislative rights of that body to unfavorable inferences. But it is manifest that the king exercised very freely a prerogative of calling or omitting persons of both the higher orders at his discretion. The bishops were numerous, and many of their sees not rich; while the same objections of inconvenience applied perhaps to the ricoshombres, but far more forcibly to the lower nobility, the hijosdalgo or caballeros. Castile never adopted the institution of deputies from this order, as in the States General of France and some other countries, much less that liberal system of landed representation, which forms one of the most admirable peculiarities in English constitution. It will be seen hereafter that spiritual and even temporal peers were summoned by English kings with much irregularity; and the disordered state of Castile through almost every reign was likely to prevent the establishment of any fixed usage in this and most other points.

The primary and most essential characteristic of a limited monarchy is that money can only be levied upon the people through the consent of their representatives. This principle was thoroughly established in Castile; and the statutes which enforce it, the remonstrances which protest against its violation, bear a lively analogy to corresponding circumstances in the history of English constitution. The lands of the nobility and clergy were, I believe, always exempted from direct taxation—an immunity which perhaps rendered the attendance of the members of those estates in the cortes less regular. The corporate districts or concejos, which, as I have observed already, differed from the communities of France and England by possessing a large extent of territory subordinate to the principal town, were bound by their charter to a stipulated annual payment, the price of their franchises, called moneda forera. Beyond this sum nothing could be demanded without the consent of the cortes. Alfonso VIII, in 1177, applied for a subsidy towards carrying on the siege of Cuenca. Demands of money do not however seem to have been very usual before the prodigal reign of Alfonso X. That prince and his immediate successors were not much inclined to respect the rights of their subjects; but they encountered a steady and insuperable resistance. Ferdinand IV, in 1307, promises to raise no money beyond his legal and customary dues. A more explicit law was enacted by Alfonso XI in 1328, who bound himself not to exact from his people, or cause them to pay any tax, either partial or general, not hitherto established by law, without the previous grant of all the deputies convened to the cortes. This abolition of illegal impositions was several times confirmed by the same prince. The cortes, in 1393, having made a grant to Henry III, annexed this condition, that “since they had granted him enough for his present necessities, and even to lay up a part for a future exigency, he should swear before one of the archbishops not to take or demand any money, service, or loan, or anything else, of the cities and towns, nor of individuals belonging to them, on any pretence of necessity, until the three estates of the kingdom should first be duly summoned and assembled in cortes according to ancient usage. And if any such letters requiring money have been written, that they shall be obeyed and not complied with.” His son, John II, having violated this constitutional privilege on the allegation of a pressing necessity, the cortes, in 1420, presented a long remonstrance, couched in very respectful but equally firm language, wherein they assert “the good custom, founded in reason and in justice, that the cities and towns of your kingdoms shall not be compelled to pay taxes or requisitions, or other new tribute, unless your highness order it by advice and with the grant of the said cities and towns, and of their deputies for them.” And they express their apprehension lest this right should be infringed, because, as they say, “ there remains no other privilege or liberty which can be profitable to subjects if this be shaken.” The king gave them as full satisfaction as they desired that his encroachment should not be drawn into precedent. Some fresh abuses during the unfortunate reign of Henry IV produced another declaration in equally explicit language, forming part of the sentence awarded by the arbitrators to whom the differences between the king and his people had been referred at Medina del Campo in 1465. The catholic kings, as they are eminently called, Ferdinand and Isabella, never violated this part of the constitution; nor did even Charles I, although sometimes refused money by the cortes, attempt to exact it without their consent. In the Recopilacion, or code of Castilian law published by Philip II, we read a positive declaration against arbitrary imposition of taxes, which remained unaltered on the face of the statute-book till the present age. The law was indeed frequently broken by Philip II; but the cortes, who retained throughout the sixteenth century a degree of steadiness and courage truly admirable when we consider their political weakness, did not cease to remonstrate with that suspic­ious tyrant, and recorded their unavailing appeal to the law of Alfonso XI, “so ancient and just, and which so long time has been used and observed.”

The free assent of the people by their representatives to grants of money was by no means a mere matter of form. It was connected with other essential rights indispensable to its effectual exercise; those of examining public accounts and checking the expenditure. The cortes, in the best times at least, were careful to grant no money until they were assured that what had been already levied on their constituents had been properly employed.? They refused a subsidy in 1390 because they had already given so much, and, “not knowing how so great a sum had been expended, it would be a great dishonor and mischief to promise any more.” In 1406 they stood out a long time, and at length gave only half of what was demanded. Charles I attempted to obtain money in 1527 from the nobility as well as commons. But the former protested that “their obligation was to follow the king in war, wherefore to contribute money was totally against their privilege, and for that reason they could not acquiesce in his majesty’s request.” The commons also refused on this occasion. In 1538, on a similar proposition, the superior and lower nobility (los grandes y caballeros) “begged with all humility that they might never hear any more of that matter.”

The contributions granted by cortes were assessed and collected by respectable individuals (hombres buenos) of the several towns and villages. This repartition, as the French call it, of direct taxes is a matter of the highest importance in those countries where they are imposed by means of a gross assess­ment on a district. The produce was paid to the royal council. It could not be applied to any other purpose than that to which the tax had been appropriated. Thus the cortes of Segovia, in 1407, granted a subsidy for the war against Granada, on condition “that it should not be laid out on any other service except this war;” which they requested the queen and Ferdinand, both regents in John II’s minority, to confirm by oath. Part, however, of the money remaining unexpended, Ferdinand wished to apply it to his own object of procuring the crown of Aragon; but the queen first obtained not only a release from her oath by the pope, but the consent of the cortes. They continued to insist upon this appropriation, though ineffectually, under the reign of Charles I.

The cortes did not consider it beyond the line of their duty, notwithstanding the respectful manner in which they always addressed the sovereign, to remonstrate against profuse ex­penditure even in his own household. They told Alfonso X in 1258, in the homely style of that age, that they thought it fitting that the king and his wife should eat at the rate of a hundred and fifty maravedisa day, and no more ; and that the king should order his attendants to eat more moderately than they did. They remonstrated more forcibly against the prodigality of John II. Even in 1559 they spoke with an undaunted Castilian spirit to Philip II:—“Sir, the expenses of your royal establishment and household are much increased; and we conceive it would much redound to the good of these kingdoms that your majesty should direct them to be lowered, both as a relief to your wants, and that all the great men and other subjects of your majesty may take example therefrom to restrain the great disorder and excess they commit in that respect.”

The forms of a Castilian cortes were analogous to those of an English parliament in the fourteenth century. They were summoned by a writ almost exactly coincident in expression with that in use among us. The session was opened by a speech from the chancellor or other chief officer of the court. The deputies were invited to consider certain special business, and commonly to grant money. After the principal affairs were despatched they conferred together, and, having examined the instructions of their respective constituents, drew up a schedule of petitions. These were duly answered one by one; and from the petition and answer, if favorable, laws were afterwards drawn up where the matter required a new law, or promises of redress were given if the petition related to an abuse or grievance. In the struggling condition of Spanish liberty under Charles I, the crown began to neglect answering the petitions of cortes, or to use unsatisfactory generalities of expression. This gave rise to many remonstrances. The deputies insisted in 1523 on having answers before they granted money. They repeated the same contention in 1525, and obtained a general law inserted in the Recopilacion enacting that the king should answer all their petitions before he dissolved the assembly. This, however, was disregarded as before; but the cortes, whose intrepid honesty under Philip II so often attracts our admiration, continued as late as 1586 to appeal to the written statute and lament its violation.

According to the ancient fundamental constitution of Castile, the king did not legislate for his subjects without their consent. The code of the Visigoths, called in Spain the Fuero Jusgo, was enacted in public councils, as were also the laws of the early kings of Leon, which appears by the reciting words of their preambles. This consent was originally given only by the higher estates, who might be considered, in a large sense, as representing the nation, though not chosen by it; but from the end of the twelfth century by the elected deputies of the commons in cortes. The laws of Alfonso X in 1258, those of the same prince in 1274, and many others in subsequent times, are declared to be made with the consent (con acuerdo) of the several orders of the kingdom. More com­monly, indeed, the preamble of Castilian statutes only recites their advice (consejo); but I do not know that any stress is to be laid on this circumstance. The laws of the Siete Partidas, compiled by Alfonso X, did not obtain any direct sanction till the famous cortes of Alcala, in 1348, when they were confirmed along with several others, forming altogether the basis of the statute-law of Spain.d Whether they were in fact received before that time has been a matter controverted among Spanish antiquaries, and upon the question of their legal validity at the time of their promulgation depends an important point in Castilian history, the disputed right of succession between Sancho IV and the infants of la Cerda; the former claiming under the ancient customary law, the latter under the new dispositions of the Siete Partidas. If the king could not legally change the established laws without consent of his cortes, as seems most probable, the right of representative succession did not exist in favor of his grandchildren, and Sancho IV cannot be considered as an usurper.

It appears, upon the whole, to have been a constitutional principle, that laws could neither be made nor annulled except in cortes. In 1506 this is claimed by the deputies as an established right. John I had long before admitted that what was done by cortes and general assemblies could not be undone by letters missive, but by such cortes and assemblies alone. For the kings of Castile had adopted the English practice of dispensing with statutes by a non obstante clause in their grants. But the cortes demonstrated more steadily against this abuse than the English parliament, who suffered it to remain in a certain degree till the Revolution. It was several times enacted upon their petition, especially by an explicit statute of Henry II, that grants and letters-patent dispensing with statutes should not be obeyed. Nevertheless, John II, trusting to force or the servility of the judges, had the assurance to dispense explicitly with this very law. The cortes of Valladolid, in 1442, obtained fresh promises and enactments against such an abuse. Philip I and Charles I began to legislate without asking the consent of cortes; this grew much worse under Philip II, and reached its height under his successors, who entirely abolished all constitutional privileges. In 1555 we find a petition that laws made in cortes should be revoked nowhere else. The reply was such as became that age: “To this we answer, that we shall do what best suits our government. But even in 1619, and still afterwards, the patriot representatives of Castile continued to lift an unavailing voice against illegal ordinances, though in the form of very humble petition; perhaps the latest testimonies to the expiring liberties of their country. The denial of exclusive legislative authority to the crown must, however, be understood to admit the legality of particular ordinances designed to strengthen the king’s executive government. These, no doubt, like the royal proclamations in England, extended sometimes very far, and subjected the people to a sort of arbitrary coercion much beyond what our enlightened notions of freedom would consider as reconcilable to it. But in the middle ages such temporary commands and prohibitions were not reckoned strictly legislative, and passed, perhaps rightly, for inevitable consequences of a scanty code and short sessions of the national council.

The kings were obliged to swear to the observance of laws enacted in cortes, besides their general coronation oath to keep the laws and preserve the liberties of their people. Of this we find several instances from the middle of the thirteenth century, and the practice continued till the time of John II, who, in 1433, on being requested to swear to the laws then enacted, answered that he intended to maintain them, and consequently no oath was necessary; an evasion in which the cortes seem unaccountably to have acquiesced. The guardians of Alfonso XI not only swore to observe all that had been agreed on at Burgos in 1315, but consented that, if any one of them did not keep his oath, the people should no longer be obliged to regard or obey him as regent?

It was customary to assemble the cortes of Castile for many purposes besides those of granting money and concurring in legislation. They were summoned in every reign to acknowledge and confirm the succession of the heir apparent; and upon his accession to swear allegiance.” These acts were, however, little more than formal, and accordingly have been preserved for the sake of parade after all the real dignity of the cortes was annihilated. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they claimed and exercised very ample powers. They assumed the right, when questions of regency occurred, to limit the prerogative, as well as to designate the persons who were to use it. And the frequent minorities of Castilian kings, which were unfavorable enough to tranquillity and subordination, served to confirm these parliamentary privileges. The cortes were usually consulted upon all material business. A law of Alfonso XI in 1328, printed in the Recopilacion or code published by Philip II, declares, “Since in the arduous affairs of our kingdom the counsel of our natural subjects is necessary, especially of the deputies from our cities and towns, therefore we ordain and command that on such great occasions the cortes shall be assembled, and counsel shall be taken of the three estates of our kingdoms, as the kings our forefathers have been used to do.” A cortes of John II, in 1419, claimed this right of being consulted in all matters of importance, with a warm remonstrance against the alleged violation of so wholesome a law by the reigning prince; who answered, that in weighty matters he had acted, and would continue to act, in conformity to it. What should be intended by great and weighty affairs might be not at all agreed upon by the two parties; to each of whose interpretations these words gave pretty full scope. However, the current usage of the monarchy certainly permitted much authority in public deliberations to the cortes. Among other instances, which indeed will continually be found in the common civil histories, the cortes of Ocaña, in 1469, remonstrate with Henry IV for allying himself with England rather than France, and give, as the first reason of complaint, that, “according to the laws of your kingdom, when the kings have anything of great importance in hand, they ought not to undertake it without advice and knowledge of the chief towns and cities of your kingdom.” This privilege of general interference was asserted, like other ancient rights, under Charles, whom they strongly urged, in 1548, not to permit his son Philip to depart out of the realm. It is hardly necessary to observe that, in such times, they had little chance of being regarded.

The kings of Leon and Castile acted, during the interval of the cortes, by the advice of a smaller council, answering, as it seems, almost exactly to the king’s ordinary council in Eng­land. In early ages, before the introduction of the commons, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish this body from the general council of the nation; being composed, in fact, of the same class of persons, though in smaller numbers. A similar difficulty applies to the English history. The nature of their proceedings seems best to ascertain the distinction. All executive acts, including those ordinances which may appear rather of a legislative nature, all grants and charters, are declared to be with the assent of the court (curia), or of the magnats of the palace, or of the chiefs or nobles. This privy council was an essential part of all European monarchies; and, though the sovereign might be considered as free to call in the advice of whomsoever he pleased, yet, in fact, the princes of the blood and most powerful nobility had anciently a constitutional right to be members of such a council, so that it formed a very mate­rial check upon his personal authority.

The council underwent several changes in progress of time, which it is not necessary to enumerate. It was justly deemed an important member of the constitution, and the cortes showed a laudable anxiety to procure its composition in such a manner as to form a guarantee for the due execution of laws after their own dissolution. Several times, especially in minorities, they even named its members or a part of them, and in the reigns of Henry III and John II they obtained the privilege of adding a permanent deputation, consisting of four persons elected out of their own body, annexed as it were to the council, who were to continue at the court during the interval of cortes and watch over the due observance of the laws. This deputation continued as an empty formality in the sixteenth century. In the council the king was bound to sit personally three days in the week. Their business, which included the whole executive government, was distributed with consider­able accuracy into what might be despatched by the council alone, under their own seals and signatures, and what required the royal seal. The consent of this body was necessary for almost every act of the crown: for pensions or grants of money, ecclesiastical and political promotions, and for charters of pardon, the easy concession of which was a great encouragement to the homicides so usual in those ages, and was restrained by some of our own laws. But the council did not exercise any judicial authority, if we may believe the well-informed author from whom I have learned these particulars; unlike in this to the ordinary council of the kings of England. It was not until the days of Ferdinand and Isabella that this, among other innovations, was introduced.

Civil and criminal justice was administered, in the first instance, by the alcaldes, or municipal judges of towns; elected within themselves, originally, by the community at large, but, in subsequent times, by the governing body. In other places a lord possessed the right of jurisdiction by grant from the crown, not, what we find in countries where the feudal system was more thoroughly established, as incident to his own territorial superiority. The kings, however, began in the thirteenth century to appoint judges of their own, called corregidores, a name which seems to express concurrent jurisdiction with the regidores, or ordinary magistrates. The cortes frequently remonstrated against this encroachment. Alfonso XI consented to withdraw his judges from all corporations by which he had not been requested to appoint them. Some attempts to interfere with the municipal authorities of Toledo produced serious disturbances under Henry III and John II. Even where the king appointed magistrates at a city’s request, he was bound to select them from among the citizens/ From this immediate jurisdiction an appeal lay to the adelantado or governor of the province, and from thence to the tribunal of royal alcaldes. The latter, however, could not take cognizance of any cause depending before the ordinary judges; a contrast to the practice of Aragon, where the justiciary’s right of evocation (juris firma) was considered as a principal safeguard of public liberty. As a court of appeal, the royal alcaldes had the supreme jurisdiction. The king could only cause their sentence to be revised, but neither alter nor revoke it. They have continued to the present day as a criminal tribunal; but civil appeals were transferred by the ordinances of Toro in 1371 to a new court, styled the king’s audience, which, though deprived under Ferdinand and his successors of part of its jurisdictions, still remains one of the principal judicatures in Castile.

No people in a half-civilized state of society have a full practical security against particular acts of arbitrary power. They were more common perhaps in Castile than in any other Euro­pean monarchy which professed to be free. Laws indeed were not wanting to protect men’s lives and liberties, as well as their properties. Ferdinand IV, in 1299, agreed to a petition that “justice shall be executed impartially according to law and right; and that no one shall be put to death or imprisoned, or deprived of his possessions, without trial, and that this be better observed than heretofore.” He renewed the same law in 1307. Nevertheless, the most remarkable circumstance of this monarch’s history was a violation of so sacred and apparently so well established a law. Two gentlemen having been accused of murder, Ferdinand, without waiting for any process, ordered them to instant execution. They summoned him with their last words to appear before the tribunal of God in thirty days; and his death within the time, which has given him the surname of the Summoned, might, we may hope, deter succeeding sovereigns from iniquity so flagrant. But from the practice of causing their enemies to be assassinated, neither law nor conscience could withhold them. Alfonso XI was more than once guilty of this crime. Yet he too passed an ordinance in 1325 that no warrant should issue for putting any one to death, or seizing his property, till he should be duly tried by course of law. Henry II repeats the same law in very explicit language. But the civil history of Spain displays several violations of it. An extraordinary prerogative of committing murder appears to have been admitted in early times by several nations who did not acknowledge unlimited power in their sovereign. Before any regular police was established, a powerful criminal might have been secure from all punishment but for a notion, as barbarous as any which it served to counter­act, that he could be lawfully killed by the personal mandate of the king. And the frequent attendance of sovereigns in their courts of judicature might lead men not accustomed to consider the indispensable necessity of legal forms to confound an act of assassination with the execution of justice.

Though it is very improbable that the nobility were not considered as essential members of the cortes, they certainly attended in smaller numbers than we should expect to find from the great legislative and deliberative authority of that assembly. This arose chiefly from the lawless spirit of that martial aristocracy which placed less confidence in the constitutional methods of resisting arbitrary encroachment than in its own armed combinations. Such confederacies to obtain redress of grievances by force, of which there were five or six remarkable instances, were called Hermandad (brotherhood or union), and, though not so explicitly sanctioned as they were by the celebrated Privilege of Union in Aragon, found countenance in a law of Alfonso X, which cannot be deemed so much to have voluntarily emanated from that prince as to be a record of original rights possessed by the Castilian nobility. “The duty of subjects towards their king,” he says, “ enjoins them not to permit him knowingly to endanger his salvation, nor to incur dishonor and inconvenience in his person or family, nor to produce mischief to his kingdom. And this may be fulfilled in two ways: one by good advice, showing him the reason wherefore he ought not to act thus; the other by deeds, seeking means to prevent his going on to his own ruin, and putting a stop to those who give him ill counsel, forasmuch as his errors are of worse consequence than those of other men, it is the bounden duty of subjects to prevent his committing them.” To this law the insurgents appealed in their coalition against Alvaro de Luna; and indeed we must confess that, however just and admirable the principles which it breathes, so general a license of rebellion was not likely to preserve the tranquillity of a kingdom. The deputies of towns in a cortes of 1445 petitioned the king to declare that no construction should be put on this law inconsistent with the obedience of subjects towards their sovereign; a request to which of course he willingly acceded.

Castile, it will be apparent, bore a closer analogy to England in its form of civil polity than France or even Aragon. But the frequent disorders of its government and a barbarous state of manners rendered violations of law much more continual and flagrant than they were in England under the Plantaganet dynasty. And besides these practical mischiefs, there were two essential defects in the constitution of Castile, through which perhaps it was ultimately subverted. It wanted those two brilliants in the coronet of British liberty, the representation of freeholders among the commons, and trial by jury. The cortes of Castile became a congress of deputies from a few cities, public-spirited indeed and intrepid, as we find them in bad times, to an eminent degree, but too much limited in number, and too unconnected with the territorial aristocracy, to maintain a just balance against the crown. Yet, with every disadvantage, that country possessed a liberal form of government, and was animated with a noble spirit for its defence. Spain, in her late memorable though short resuscitation, might well have gone back to her ancient institutions, and perfected a scheme of policy which the great example of England would have shown to be well adapted to the security of freedom. What she did, or rather attempted, instead, I need not recall. May her next effort be more wisely planned, and more hap­pily terminated!

Though the kingdom of Aragon was very inferior in extent to that of Castile, yet the advantages of a better form of gov­ernment and wiser sovereigns, with those of industry and commerce along a line of seacoast, rendered it almost equal in importance. Castile rarely intermeddled in the civil dissensions of Aragon; the kings of Aragon frequently carried their arms into the heart of Castile. During the sanguinary outrages of Peter the Cruel, and the stormy revolutions which ended in establishing the house of Trastamare, Aragon was not indeed at peace, nor altogether well governed; but her political consequence rose in the eyes of Europe through the long reign of the ambitious and wily Peter IV, whose sagacity and good fortune redeemed, according to the common notions of mankind, the iniquity with which he stripped his relation the King of Majorca of the Balearic islands, and the constant perfidiousness of his character. I have mentioned in another place the Sicilian war, prosecuted with so much eagerness for many years by Peter III and his son Alfonso III. After this object was relinquished James II undertook an enterprise less splendid, but not much less difficult: the conquest of Sardinia. That island, long accustomed to independence, cost an incredible expense of blood and treasure to the kings of Aragon dur­ing the whole fourteenth century. It was not fully subdued till the commencement of the next, under the reign of Martin.

At the death of Martin King of Aragon, in 1410, a memorable question arose as to the right of succession. Though Petronilla, daughter of Ramiro II, had reigned in her own right from 1137 to 1172, an opinion seems to have gained ground from the thirteenth century that females could not inherit the crown of Aragon. Peter IV had incited a civil war by attempting to settle the succession upon his daughter, to the exclusion of his next brother. The birth of a son about the same time suspended the ultimate decision of this question; but it was tacitly understood that what is called the Salic law ought to prevail. Accordingly, on the death of John I in 1395, his two daughters were set aside in favor of his brother Martin, though not without opposition on the part of the elder, whose husband, the Count of Foix, invaded the kingdom, and desisted from his pretension only through want of force. Martin’s son, the King of Sicily, dying in his father’s lifetime, the nation was anxious that the king should fix upon his successor, and would probably have acquiesced in his choice. But his dissolution occurring more rapidly than was expected, the throne remained absolutely vacant. The Count of Urgel had obtained a grant of the lieutenancy, which was the right of the heir apparent. This nobleman possessed an extensive territory in Catalonia, bordering on the Pyrenees. He was grandson of James, next brother to Peter IV, and, according to the rules of inheritance, certainly stood in the first place. The other claimants were the Duke of Gandia, grandson of James II, who, though descended from a more distant ancestor, set up a claim founded on proximity to the royal stock, which in some countries was preferred to a representative title; the Duke of Calabria, son of Violante, younger daughter of John I (the Countess of Foix being childless); Frederic Count of Luna, a natural son of the younger Martin King of Sicily, legitimated by the pope, but with a reservation excluding him from royal succession; and finally, Ferdinand, infant of Castile, son of the late king’s sister. The Count of Urgel was favored in general by the Catalans, and he seemed to have a powerful support in Antonio de Luna, a baron of Aragon, so rich that he might go through his own estate from France to Castile. But this apparent superiority frustrated his hopes. The justiciary and other leading Aragonese were determined not to suffer this great constitutional question to be decided by an appeal to force, which might sweep away their liberties in the struggle. Urgel, confident of his right, and surrounded by men of ruined fortunes, was unwilling to submit his pretensions to a civil tribunal. His adherent, Antonio de Luna, committed an extraordinary outrage, the assassination of the Archbishop of Saragossa, which alienated the minds of good citizens from his cause. On the other hand, neither the Duke of Gandia, who was very old, nor the Count of Luna, seemed fit to succeed. The party of Ferdinand, therefore, gained ground by degrees. It was determined however, to render a legal sentence. The cortes of each nation agreed upon the nomination of nine persons, three Aragonese, three Catalans, and three Valencians, who were to discuss the pretensions of the several competitors, and by a plurality of six votes to adjudge the crown. Nothing could be more solemn, more peaceful, nor, in appearance, more equitable than the proceedings of this tribunal. They summoned the claimants before them, and heard them by counsel. One of these, Frederic of Luna, being ill-defended, the court took charge of his interests, and named other advocates to maintain them. A month was passed in hearing arguments; a second was alloted to considering them; and at the expiration of the prescribed time it was announced to the people, by the mouth of St. Vincent Ferrier, that Ferdinand of Castile had ascended the throne. [a.d. 1412.]

In this decision it is impossible not to suspect that the judges were swayed rather by politic considerations than a strict sense of hereditary right. It was, therefore, by no means universally popular, especially in Catalonia, of which principality the Count of Urgel was a native; and perhaps the great rebellion of the Catalans fifty years afterwards may be traced to the disaffection which this breach, as they thought, of the lawful succession had excited. Ferdinand, however, was well received in Aragon. The cortes generously recommended the Count of Urgel to his favor, on account of the great ex­penses he had incurred in prosecuting his claim. But Urgel did not wait the effect of this recommendation. Unwisely attempting a rebellion with very inadequate means, he lost his estates, and was thrown for life into prison. Ferdinand’s successor was his son, Alfonso V, more distinguished in the history of Italy than of Spain, [a.d. 1416.] For all the latter years of his life he never quitted the kingdom that he had acquired by his arms; and, enchanted by the delicious air of Naples, intrusted the government of his patrimonial territories to the care of a brother and an heir. John II. [a.d. 1458], upon whom they devolved by the death of Alfonso without legitimate progeny, had been engaged during his youth in the turbulent revolutions of Castile, as the head of a strong party that opposed the domination of Alvaro de Luna. By marriage with the heiress of Navarre he was entitled, according to the usage of those times, to assume the title of king, and administration of government, during her life. But his ambitious retention of power still longer produced events which are the chief stain on his memory. Charles Prince of Viana was, by the constitution of Navarre, entitled to succeed his mother. [a.d. 1420.] She had requested him in her testament not to assume the government without his father’s consent. That consent was always withheld. The prince raised what we ought not to call a rebellion; but was made prisoner, and remained for some time in captivity, [a.d. 1442.] John’s ill disposition towards his son was exasperated by a stepmother, who scarcely disguised her intention of placing her own child on the throne of Aragon at the expense of the eldest born. After a life of perpetual oppression, chiefly passed in exile or captivity, the Prince of Viana died in Catalonia, at a moment when that province was in open insurrection upon his account. [a.d. 1461.] Though it hardly seems that the Catalans had any more general provocations, they persevered for more than ten years with inveterate obstinacy in their rebellion, offering the sovereignty first to a prince of Portugal, and afterwards to Regnier Duke of Anjou, who was destined to pass his life in unsuccessful competition for kingdoms. The King of Aragon behaved with great clemency towards these insurgents on their final submission.

It is consonant to the principle of this work to pass lightly over the common details of history, in order to fix the reader’s attention more fully on subjects of philosophical inquiry. Perhaps in no European monarchy except England was the form of government more interesting than in Aragon, as a fortunate temperament of law and justice with the royal au­thority. So far as anything can be pronounced of its earlier period before the capture of Saragossa in 1118, it was a kind of regal aristocracy, where a small number of powerful barons elected their sovereign on every vacancy, though, as usual in other countries, out of one family; and considered him as little more than the chief of their confederacy. These were the ricoshombres or barons, the first order of the State. Among these the kings of Aragon, in subsequent times, as they extended their dominions, shared the conquered territory in grants of honors on a feudal tenures For this system was fully established in the kingdom of Aragon. A ricohombre, as we read in Vitalis Bishop of Huesca, about the middle of the thirteenth century, must hold of the king an honor or barony capable of supporting more than three knights; and this he was bound to distribute among his vassals in military fiefs. Once in the year he might be summoned with his feudatories to serve the sovereign for two months (Zurita says three); and he was to attend the royal court, or general assembly, as a counsellor, whenever called upon, assisting in its judicial as well as deliberative business. In the towns and villages of his barony he might appoint bailiffs to administer justice and receive penalties; but the higher criminal jurisdiction seems to have been reserved to the crown. According to Vitalis, the king could divest these ricoshombres of their honors at pleasure, after which they fell into the class of mesnadaries, or mere tenants in chief. But if this were constitutional in the reign of James I., which Blancas denies, it was not long permitted by that high-spirited aristocracy. By the General Privilege or Charter of Peter III it is declared that no barony can be taken away without a just cause and legal sentence of the justiciary and council of barons. And the same protection was extended to the vassals of the ricoshombres.

Below these superior nobles were the mesnadaries, corresponding to our mere tenants in chief, holding estates not baronial immediately from the crown; and the military vassals of the high nobility, the knights and infansones; a word which may be rendered by gentleman. These had considerable privileges in that aristocratic government; they were exempted from all taxes, they could only be tried by the royal judges for any crime; and offences committed against them were punished with additional severity.” The ignoble classes were, as in other countries, the burgesses of towns, and the villeins or peasantry. The peasantry seem to have been sub­ject to territorial servitude, as in France and England. Vitalis says that some villeins were originally so unprotected that, as he expresses it, they might be divided into pieces by sword among the sons of their masters, till they were provoked to an insurrection, which ended in establishing certain stipulations, whence they obtained the denomination of villeins de parada, or of convention.

Though from the twelfth century the principle of hereditary succession to the throne superseded, in Aragon as well as Castile, the original right of choosing a sovereign within the royal family, it was still founded upon one more sacred and fundamental, that of compact, No King of Aragon was entitled to assume that name until he had taken a coronation oath, administered by the justiciary of Saragossa, to observe the laws and liberties of the realm. Alfonso III, in 1285, being in France at the time of his father’s death, named himself king in addressing the States, who immediately remonstrated on this premature assumption of his title, and obtained an apology. Thus, too, Martin, having been called to the crown of Aragon by the cortes in 1395, was especially required not to exercise any authority before his coronation.

Blancas quotes a noble passage from the acts of cortes in 1451. “We have always heard of old time, and it is found by experience, that, seeing the great barrenness of this land, and the poverty of the realm, if it were not for the liberties thereof, the folk would go hence to live and abide in other realms and lands more fruitful.” This high spirit of freedom had long animated the Aragonese. After several contests with the crown in the reign of James I, not to go back to earlier times, they compelled Peter III in 1283 to grant a law, called the General Privilege, the Magna Charta of Aragon, and perhaps a more full and satisfactory basis of civil liberty than our own. It contains a series of provisions against arbitrary tallages, spoliations of property, secret process after the manner of the Inquisition in criminal charges, sentences of the justiciary without assent of the cortes, appointment of foreigners or Jews to judicial offices, trials of accused persons in places beyond the kingdom, the use of torture, except in charges of falsifying coin, and the bribery of judges. These are claimed as the ancient liberties of their country. “Absolute power (mero imperio e mixto)”, it is declared, “never was the constitution of Aragon, nor of Valencia, nor yet of Ribagorça, nor shall there be in time to come any innovation made; but only the law, custom, and privilege which has been anciently used in the aforesaid kingdoms.” A country, barren and ill-peopled. The kings were forced to go to Catalonia for money and indeed were little able to maintain expensive contests. The wars of Peter IV in Sardinia, and of Alfonso V with Genoa and Naples, impoverished their people. A hearth-tax having been imposed in 1404, it was found that there were 42,683 houses in Aragon, which, according to most calculations, will give less than 300,000 inhabitants. In 1429, a similar tax being laid on, it is said that the number of houses was diminished in consequence of war.

The concessions extorted by our ancestors from John, Henry III, and Edward I were secured by the only guarantee those times could afford, the determination of the barons to enforce them by armed confederacies. These, however, were formed according to emergencies, and, except in the fa­mous commission of twenty-five conservators of Magna Charta, in the last year of John, were certainly unwarranted by law. But the Aragonese established a positive right of maintaining their liberties by arms. This was contained in the Privilege of Union granted by Alfonso III in 1287, after a violent conflict with his subjects; but which was afterwards so completely abolished, and even eradicated from the records of the kingdom, that its precise words have never been recovered. According to Zurita, it consisted of two articles: first, that in the case of the king’s proceeding forcibly against any member of the union without previous sentence of the justiciary, the rest should be absolved from their allegiance; secondly, that he should hold cortes every year in Saragossa. During the two subsequent reigns of James II and Alfonso IV little pretence seems to have been given for the exercise of this right. But dissensions breaking out under Peter IV in 1347, rather on account of his attempt to settle the crown upon his daughter than of any specific public grievances, the nobles had recourse to the Union, that last voice, says Blancas, of an almost expiring state, full of weight and dignity, to chastise the presumption of kings. They assembled at Saragossa, and used a remarkable seal for all their public instruments, an engraving from which may be seen in the historian I have just quoted. It represents the king sitting on his throne, with the confederates kneeling in a suppliant attitude around, to denote their loyalty and unwillingness to offend. But in the background tents and lines of spears are discovered, as a hint of their ability and resolution to defend themselves. The legend is Sigillum Unionis Aragonum. This respectful demeanor towards a sovereign against whom they were waging war reminds us of the language held out by The Long Parliament before the Presbyterian party was overthrown. And although it has been highly censured as inconsistent and hypocritical, this tone is the safest that men can adopt, who, deeming them­selves under the necessity of withstanding the reigning monarch, are anxious to avoid a change of dynasty, or subversion of their constitution. These confederates were defeated by the king at Epila in 1348. But his prudence and the remaining strength of his opponents inducing him to pursue a moderate course, there ensued a more legitimate and permanent balance of the constitution from this victory of the royalists. The Privilege of Union was abrogated, Peter himself cutting to pieces with his sword the original instrument. But in return many excellent laws for the security of the subject were enacted;  and their preservation was intrusted to the greatest officer of the kingdom, the justiciary, whose authority and pre­eminence may in a great degree be dated from this period. That watchfulness over public liberty, which originally belonged to the aristocracy of ricoshombres, always apt to thwart the crown or to oppress the people, and which was afterwards maintained by the dangerous Privilege of Union, became the duty of a civil magistrate, accustomed to legal rules and responsible for his actions, whose office and functions are the most pleasing feature in the constitutional history of Aragon.

The justiza or justiciary of Aragon has been treated by some writers as a sort of anomalous magistrate, created originally as an intermediate power between the king and people, to watch over the exercise of royal authority. But I do not perceive that his functions were, in any essential respect, different from those of the chief justice of England, divided, from the time of Edward I, among the judges of the King’s Bench. We should undervalue our own constitution by supposing that there did not reside in that court as perfect an authority to redress the subject’s injuries as was possessed by the Araonese magistrate. In the practical exercise, indeed, of this power, there was an abundant difference. Our English judges, more timid and pliant, left to the remonstrances of parliament that redress of grievances which very frequently lay within the sphere of their jurisdiction. There is, I believe, no recorded instance of a habeas corpus granted in any case of illegal imprisonment by the crown or its officers during the continuance of the Plantagenet dynasty. We shall speedily take notice of a very different conduct in Aragon.

The office of justiciary, whatever conjectural antiquity some have assigned to it, is not to be traced beyond the capture of Saragossa in 1118, when the series of magistrates commences. But for a great length of time they do not appear to have been particularly important; the judicial authority residing in the council of ricoshombres, whose suffrages the justiciary collected, in order to pronounce their sentence rather than his own. A passage in Vitalis Bishop of Huesca, whom I have already mentioned, shows this to have been the practice during the reign of James I. Gradually, as notions of liberty became more definite, and laws more numerous, the reverence paid to their permanent interpreter grew stronger, and there was for­tunately a succession of prudent and just men in that high office, through whom it acquired dignity and stable influence. Soon after the accession of James II, on some dissensions arising between the king and his barons, he called in the justiciary as a mediator whose sentence, says Blancas, all obeyed. At a subsequent time in the same reign the military orders, pretending that some of their privileges were violated, raised a confederacy or union against the king. James offered to refer the dispute to the justiciary, Ximenes Salanova, a man of eminent legal knowledge. The knights resisted his jurisdiction, alleging the question to be of spiritual cognizance. He decided it, however, against them in full cortes at Saragossa, annulled their league, and sentenced the leaders to punishment. It was adjudged also that no appeal could lie to the spiritual court from a sentence of the justiciary passed with assent of the cortes. James II is said to have frequently sued his subjects in the justiciary’s court, to show his regard for legal measures; and during the reign of this good prince its authority became more established. Yet it was not perhaps looked upon as fully equal to maintain public liberty against the crown, till in the cortes of 1348, after the Privilege of the Union was forever abolished, such laws were enacted, and such authority given to the justiciary, as proved eventually a more adequate barrier against oppression than any other country could boast. All the royal as well as territorial judges were bound to apply for his opinion in case of legal difficulties arising in their courts, which he was to certify within eight days. By subsequent statutes of the same reign it was made penal for any one to obtain letters from the king, impeding the execution of the justiza’s process, and they were declared null. Inferior courts were forbidden to proceed in any business after his prohibition. Many other laws might be cited, corroborating the authority of this great magistrate; but there are two parts of his remedial jurisdiction which deserve special notice.

These are the processes of jurisfirma, or firma del derecho, and of manifestation. The former bears some analogy to the writs of pone and certiorari in England, through which the Court of King’s Bench exercises its right of withdrawing a suit from the jurisdiction of inferior tribunals. But the Aragonese juris­firma was of more extensive operation. Its object was not only to bring a cause commenced in an inferior court before the justiciary, but to prevent or inhibit any process from issu­ing against the person who applied for its benefit, or any molestation from being offered to him; so that, as Blancas expresses it, when we have entered into a recognizance (firme et graviter asseveremus) before the justiciary of Aragon to abide the decision of law, our fortunes shall be protected, by the interposition of his prohibition, from the intolerable ini­quity of the royal judges. The process termed manifestation afforded as ample security for personal liberty as that of jurisfirma did for property. “To manifest any one,” says the writer so often quoted, “is to wrest him from the hands of the royal officers, that he may not suffer any illegal violence; not that he is at liberty by this process, because the merits of his case are still to be inquired into; but because he is now detained publicly, instead of being as it were concealed, and the charge against him is investigated, not suddenly or with passion, but in calmness and according to law, therefore this is called manifestation.” The power of this writ (if I may apply our term) was such, as he elsewhere asserts, that it would rescue a man whose neck was in the halter. A particular prison was allotted to those detained for trial under this process.

Several proofs that such admirable provisions did not re­main a dead letter in the law of Aragon appear in the two historians, Blancas and Zurita, whose noble attachment to liberties, of which they had either witnessed or might foretell the extinction, continually displays itself. I cannot help illustrating this subject by two remarkable instances. The heir apparent of the kingdom of Aragon had a constitutional right to the lieutenancy or regency during the sovereign’s absence from the realm. The title and office indeed were permanent, though the functions must of course have been superseded during the personal exercise of royal authority. But as neither Catalonia nor Valencia, which often demanded the king’s presence, were considered as parts of the kingdom, there were pretty frequent occasions for this anticipated reign of the eldest prince. Such a regulation was not likely to diminish the mutual and almost inevitable jealousies between kings and their heirs apparent, which have so often disturbed the tranquillity of a court and a nation. Peter IV removed his eldest son, afterwards John I, from the lieutenancy of the kingdom. The prince entered into a firma del derecho before the justiciary, Dominic de Cerda, who, pronouncing in his favor, enjoined the king to replace his son in the lieutenancy as the undoubted right of the eldest born. Peter obeyed, not only in fact, to which, as Blancas observes, the law compelled him, but with apparent cheerfulness. There are indeed no private persons who have so strong an interest in maintaining a free constitution and the civil liberties of their countrymen as the members of royal families, since none are so much exposed, in absolute governments, to the resentment and suspicion of a reigning monarch.

John I, who had experienced the protection of law in his weakness, had afterwards occasion to find it interposed against his power. This king had sent some citizens of Saragossa to prison without form of law. They applied to Juan de Cerda, the justiciary, for a manifestation. He issued his writ accordingly; nor, says Blancas, could he do otherwise without being subject to a heavy fine. The king, pretending that the justiciary was partial, named one of his own judges, the vice-chancellor, as coadjutor. This raised a constitutional question, whether, on suspicion of partiality, a coadjutor to the justiciary could be appointed. The king sent a private order to the justiciary not to proceed to sentence upon this interlocutory point until he should receive instructions in the. council, to which he was directed to repair. But he instantly pronounced sentence in favor of his exclusive jurisdiction without a coadjutor. He then repaired to the palace. Here the vice-chancellor, in a long harangue, enjoined him to suspend sentence till he had heard the decision of the council. Juan de Cerda answered that, the case being clear, he had already pronounced upon it. This produced some expressions of anger from the king, who began to enter into an argument on the merits of the question. But the justiciary answered that, with all deference to his majesty, he was bound to defend his conduct before the cortes, and not elsewhere. On a subsequent day the king, having drawn the justiciary to his country palace on pretence of hunting, renewed the conversation with the assistance of his ally the vice-chancellor; but no impression was made on the venerable magistrate, whom John at length, though much pressed by his advisers to violent courses, dismissed with civility. The king was probably misled throughout this transaction, which I have thought fit to draw from obscurity, not only in order to illustrate the privilege of manifestation, but as exhibiting an instance of judicial firmness and integrity, to which, in the fourteenth century, no country perhaps in Europe could offer a parallel.

Before the cortes of 1348 it seems as if the justiciary might have been displaced at the king’s pleasure. From that time he held his station for life. But in order to evade this law, the king sometimes exacted a promise to resign upon request. Ximenes Cerdan, the justiciary in 1420, having refused to fulfil this engagement, Alfonso V gave notice to all his subjects not to obey him, and, notwithstanding the alarm which this encroachment created, eventually succeeded in compelling him to quit his office. In 1439 Alfonso insisted with still greater severity upon the execution of a promise to resign made by another justiciary, detaining him in prison until his death. But the cortes of 1442 proposed a law, to which the king reluctantly acceded, that the justiciary should not be compellable to resign his office on account of any previous engagement he might have made.

But lest these high powers, imparted for the prevention of abuses, should themselves be abused, the justiciary was responsible, in case of an unjust sentence, to the extent of the injury inflicted; and was also subjected, by a statute of 1390, to a court of inquiry, composed of four persons chosen by the king out of eight named by the cortes; whose office appears to have been that of examining and reporting to the four estates in cortes, by whom he was ultimately to be acquitted or condemned. This superintendence of the cortes, however, being thought dilatory and inconvenient, a court of seventeen persons was appointed in 1461 to hear complaints against the justiciary. Some alterations were afterwards made in this tribunal. The justiciary was always a knight, chosen from the second order of nobility, the barons not being liable to personal punishment. He administered the coronation oath to the king and in the cortes of Aragon the justiciary acted as a sort of royal commissioner, opening or proroguing the assembly by the king’s direction.

No laws could be enacted or repealed, nor any tax imposed, without the consent of the estates duly assembled. Even as early as the reign of Peter II, in 1205, that prince having attempted to impose a general tallage, the nobility and commons united for the preservation of their franchises; and the tax was afterwards granted in part by the cortes. It may easily be supposed that the Aragonese were not behind other nations in statutes to secure these privileges, which upon the whole appear to have been more respected than in any other monarchy. The General Privilege of 1283 formed a sort of groundwork for this legislation, like the Great Charter in England. By a clause in this law, cortes were to be held every year at Saragossa. But under James II. their time of meeting was reduced to once in two years, and the place was left to the king’s discretion. Nor were the cortes of Aragon less vigi­lant than those of Castile in claiming a right to be consulted in all important deliberations of the executive power, or in remonstrating against abuses of government, or in superin­tending the proper expenditure of public money. A variety of provisions, intended to secure these parliamentary privileges and the civil liberties of the subject, will be found dispersed in the collection of Aragonese laws, which may be favorably compared with those of our own statute-book.

Four estates, or, as they were called, arms (brazos), formed the cortes of Aragon—the prelates and commanders of military orders, who passed for ecclesiastics; the barons or ricos-hombres; the equestrian order or infanzones; and the deputies of royal towns. The two former had a right of appearing by proxy. There was no representation of the infanzones, or lower nobility. But it must be remembered that they were not numerous, nor was the kingdom large. Thirty-five are reckoned by Zurita as present in the cortes of 1395, and thirty-three in those of 1412; and as upon both occasions an oath of fealty to a new monarch was to be taken, I presume that nearly all the nobility of the kingdom were presents The ricos-hombres do not seem to have exceeded twelve or fourteen in number. The ecclesiastical state was not much, if at all, more numerous. A few principal towns alone sent deputies to the cortes; but their representation was very full; eight or ten, and sometimes more, sat for Saragossa, and no town appears to have had less than four representatives. During the interval of the cortes a permanent commission, varying a good deal as to numbers, but chosen out of tire four estates, was empowered to sit with very considerable authority, receiving and managing the public revenue, and protecting the justiciary in his functions.

The kingdom of Valencia, and principality of Catalonia, having been annexed to Aragon, the one by conquest, the other by marriage, were always kept distinct from it in their laws and government. Each had its cortes, composed of three estates, for the division of the nobility into two orders did not exist in either country. The Catalans were tenacious of their ancient usages, and averse to incorporation with any other people of Spain. Their national character was high-spirited and inde­pendent; in no part of the peninsula did the territorial aristocracy retain, or at least pretend to, such extensive privileges, and the citizens were justly proud of wealth acquired by industry, and of renown achieved by valor. At the accession of Ferdinand I, which they had not much desired, the Catalans obliged him to swear three times successively to maintain their liberties, before they would take the reciprocal oath of allegiance, For Valencia it seems to have been a politic design of James the Conqueror to establish a constitution nearly analogous to that of Aragon, but with such limitations as he should impose, taking care that the nobles of the two kingdoms should not acquire strength by union. In the reigns of Peter III and Alfonso III, one of the principal objects contended for by the barons of Aragon was the establishment of their own laws in Valencia; to which the kings never acceded. They permitted, however, the possessions of the natives of Aragon in the latter kingdom to be governed by the law of Aragon, These three states, Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, were perpetually united by a law of Alfonso III; and every king on his accession was bound to swear that he would never separate them. Sometimes general cortes of the kingdoms and prin­cipality were convened; but the members did not, even in this case, sit together, and were not otherwise united than as they met in the same city.

I do not mean to represent the actual condition of society in Aragon as equally excellent with the constitutional laws. Relatively to other monarchies, as I have already observed, there seem to have been fewer excesses of the royal prerogative in that kingdom. But the licentious habits of a feudal aris­tocracy prevailed very long. We find in history instances of private war between the great families, so as to disturb the peace of the whole nation, even near the close of the fifteenth century. The right of avenging injuries by arms, and the ceremony of diffidation, or solemn defiance of an enemy, are pre­served by the laws. We even met with the ancient barbarous usage of paying a composition to the kindred of a murdered man. The citizens of Saragossa were sometimes turbulent, and a refractory nobleman sometimes defied the ministers of justice. But owing to the remarkable copiousness of the principal Aragonese historian, we find more frequent details of this nature than in the scantier annals of some countries. The internal condition of society was certainly far from peaceable in other parts of Europe.

By the marriage of Ferdinand with Isabella, and by the death of John II, in 1479, the two ancient and rival kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were forever consolidated in the mon­archy of Spain. There had been some difficulty in adjusting the respective rights of the husband and wife over Castile. In the middle ages it was customary for the more powerful sex to exercise all the rights which it derived from the weaker, as much in sovereignties as in private possessions. But the Castilians were determined to maintain the positive and distinct prerogatives of their queen, to which they attached the independence of their nation. A compromise therefore was concluded, by which, though, according to our notions, Ferdinand obtained more than a due share, he might consider himself as more strictly limited than his father had been in Navarre. The names of both were to appear jointly in their style and upon the coin, the king’s taking the precedence in respect of his sex. But in the royal scutcheon the arms of Castile were pre­ferred on account of the kingdom’s dignity. Isabella had the appointment to all civil offices in Castile; the nomination to spiritual benefices ran in the name of both. The government was to be conducted by the two conjointly when they were together, or by either singly in the province where one or other might happen to reside. This partition was well preserved throughout the life of Isabel without mutual encroachments or jealousies. So rare a unanimity between persons thus circumstanced must be attributed to the superior qualities of that princess, who, while she maintained a constant good under­standing with a very ambitious husband, never relaxed in the exercise of her paternal authority over the kingdoms of her ancestors.

Ferdinand and Isabella had no sooner quenched the flames of civil discord in Castile than they determined to give an unequivocal proof to Europe of the vigor which the Spanish mon­archy was to display under their government. For many years an armistice with the Moors of Granada had been uninterrupted. Neither John II nor Henry IV had been at leisure to think of aggressive hostilities; and the Moors themselves, a prey, like their Christian enemies, to civil war and the feuds of their royal family, were content with the unmolested enjoyment of the finest province in the peninsula. If we may trust historians, the sovereigns of Granada were generally usurpers and tyrants. But I know not how to account for that vast populousness, that grandeur and magnificence, which distinguished the Mohammedan kingdom of Spain, without ascribing some measure of wisdom and beneficence to their governments. These southern provinces have dwindled in later times; and in fact Spain itself is chiefly interesting to many travellers for the monuments which a foreign and odious race of conquerors have left behind them. Granada was, however, disturbed by a series of revolutions about the time of Ferdinand’s accession, which naturally encouraged his designs. The Moors, contrary to what might have been expected from their relative strength, were the aggressors by attacking a town in Andalusia. Predatory inroads of this nature had hitherto been only retaliated by the Christians. But Ferdinand was conscious that his resources extended to the conquest of Granada, the consummation of a struggle protracted through nearly eight centuries. Even in the last stage of the Moorish dominion, exposed on every side to invasion, enfeebled by civil dissension that led one party to abet the common enemy, Granada was not subdued without ten years of sanguinary and unremitting contest. Fertile beyond all the rest of Spain, that kingdom contained seventy walled towns; and the capital is said, almost two centuries before, to have been peopled by 200,000 inhabitants. Its resistance to such a force as that of Ferdinand is perhaps the best justification of the apparent negligence of earlier monarchs. But Granada was ultimately to undergo the yoke. The city surrendered on the 2nd of January, 1492—an event glorious not only to Spain but to Christendom—and which, in the political combat of the two religions, seemed almost to counterbalance the loss of Constantinople. It raised the name of Ferdinand and of the new monarchy which he governed to high estimation throughout Europe. Spain appeared an equal competitor with France in the lists of ambition. These great kingdoms had for some time felt the jealousy natural to em­ulous neighbors. The house of Aragon loudly complained of the treacherous policy of Louis XI He had fomented the troubles of Castile, and given, not indeed an effectual aid, but all promises of support, to the princess Joanna, the competitor of Isabel. Rousillon, a province belonging to Aragon, had been pledged to France by John II for a sum of money. It would be tedious to relate the subsequent events, or to discuss their respective claims to its possession. At the accession of Ferdinand, Louis XI still held Rousillon, and showed little intention to resign it. But Charles VIII, eager to smooth every impediment to his Italian expedition, restored the province to Ferdinand in 1493. Whether by such a sacrifice he was able to lull the king of Aragon into acquiescence, while he dethroned his relation at Naples, and alarmed for a moment all Italy with the apprehension of French dominion, it is not within the limits of the present work to inquire.