of the north to an enemy whom they despised. But when the Spaniards, quitting the shelter of their mountains, descended into the open plains of Leon and Castile, they found themselves exposed to the predatory incursions of the Arab cavalry. It was not until they had reached some natural boundary, as the river Douro, that they were enabled, by constructing a line of fortifications behind this natural fence, to secure their conquests. Their own dissensions were another cause of their tardy progress. More Christian blood was wasted in these national feuds than in all their encounters with the infidel. The soldiers of Fernan Gonçales, a chieftain of the tenth century, complained that their master made them lead the lives of very devils, keeping them in the harness day and night, in wars not against the Saracens, but one another.

These circumstances so far checked the energies of the Christians, that a century and a half elapsed after the invasion before they had penetrated to the Douro (A. D. 850), and nearly thrice that period before they had advanced the line of conquest to the Tagus (A. D. 1147), notwithstanding this portion of the country had been comparatively deserted by the Mohammedans. But it was easy to foresee that a people living as they did under circumstances favorable to the development of both physical and moral energy, must ultimately prevail over a natior. oppressed by despotism, and the effeminate indulgence to which it was naturally disposed by a sensual religion and a voluptuous climate. Ir. truth, the early Spaniard was urged by every motive which can give energy to human purpose. His cause became the cause of Heaven The church published her bulls of crusade, offering liberal indulgences to those who served, and paradise to those who fell in the battle against the infidel. Indeed, volunteers from the remotest parts of Christian Europe eagerly thronged to serve under his banner, and the cause of religion was debated with the same ardor in Spain as on the plains of Palestine.

To the extraordinary position in which the nation was placed may be referred the liberal forms of its political institutions, as well as a more early development of them than took place in other countries of Europe. From the exposure of the Castilian towns to the predatory incursions of the Arabs, it became necessary, not only that they should be strongly fortified, but that every citizen should be trained to bear arms in their defence. An immense increase of consequence was given to the burgesses, who thus constituted the most effective part of the national militia. To this circumstance, as well as to the policy of inviting the settlement of frontier places by the grant of extraordinary privileges to the inhabitants, is to be imputed the early date, as well the liberal character of the charters of community in Castile and Leon. These, although varying a good deal in their details, generally conceded to the citizens the right of electing their own magistrates for the regulation of municipal affairs. In order to secure the barriers of justice more eflectually against the violence of power, so often superior to law in an imperfect state of society, it was provided in many of the charters that no nobles should be permitted to acquire real property within the limits of the municipality ; that no fortress or palace should be erected by them there; that such as might reside within the territory of a chartered city or borough should be subject to its jurisdiction, and that any violence offered by the feudal lords to its inhabitants might be resisted with impunity. Thus, while the inhabitants of the great towns in other parts of Europe were languishing in feudal servitude, the Castilian corporation, living under the protection of their own laws and magistrates in time of peace, and commanded by their own officers in time of war, were in full enjoyment of all the essential rights and privileges of freemen.

The earliest instance on record of popular representation in Castile, occurred at Burgos in 1169 ; nearly a century antecedent to the first convocation of the English house of commons, in the celebrated Leicester parliament. Each city had but one vote whatever might be the number of its representatives. The nomination of the deputies was originally vested in the householders at large, but was afterward confined to the municipalities ; a most mischievous alteration which subjected their election eventually to the corrupt influence of the crown. They assembled in the same chamber with the higher orders of the nobility and clergy ; but on questions of importance retired to deliberate by themselves. After the transaction of other business, their own petitions were presunted to the sovereign; and his assent gave them the validity of laws. The Castilian commons, by neglecting to make their money grants dependant on corresponding concessions from the crown, relinquished that powerful check on its operations so beneficially exerted in the British parliament, but in vain contended for even there until a period much later than that now under consideration. Whatever may have been the right of the nobility and clergy to attend the Cortes, their sanction was not deemed essential to the validity of legislative acts; for their presence was not even required in many as. semblies of the nation which occurred in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The extraordinary power thus committed to the commons was, on the whole, unfavorable to their liberties. It deprived them of the sympathy and co-operation of the great orders of the state, whose authority alone could have enabled them to withstand the enactments of arbitrary power, and who in fact did eventually desert them in their utmost need.

But notwithstanding these defects, the popular branch of the Castilian Cortes, very soon after its admission into that body, assumed functions and exercised a degree of power superior to that enjoyed by the commons in other European legislatures. It was soon recognised as a principle of the constitution, that no tax should be imposed without the consent of the representatives of the people. The commons showed a wise solicitude in regard to the mode of collecting the public revenue. They watched carefully over its appropriation to its destined uses. A vigilant eye was kept on the conduct of public officers, as well as on the right administration of justice, and commissions were appointed by the Cortes to inquire into any suspected abuses of judicial authority. They entered into negotiations for alliances with foreign powers, and by determining the amount of supplies for the maintenance of troops in time of war, preserved a salutary check over military operations. The nomination of regencies was subject to their approbation, and they defined the nature of the authority to be intrusted to them. Their con


cent was esteemed indispensable to the validity of a title to the crown; årtư this prerogative, or at least the shadow of it, long continued to survive the wreck of their ancient liberties. Finally they more than once ser aside the testamentary provisions of the sovereign in regard to the succession.

It would be improper to pass by without notice an anomalous institution peculiar to Castile, wiuchi sought to secure the public tranquillity by means which were themselves scarcely compatible with civil subordination. This was the celebrated Hermandad, or “ Holy Brotherhood," which was designed as a substute for a regularly-organized police. It consisteu of a confederation of the principal cities, bound together by solemn league and covenant for ijte defence of their liberty in seasons of civil anarchy. Its affairs were conducted by deputies, who assembled at stated intervals for the purpose, transacting their business under a common seal, enacting laws which they were careful to transmit to the nobles and the sovereign, and enforcing their measures by an armed hody of dependants. This wild kind of justice, so characteristic of an unsettled state of society, repeatedly received the legislative sanction; and however formidable such a popular engine may have appeared to che eye of a mona

a monarchi, he was often ied to countenance it by a sense of his own impotence, as well as of the overweening power of the nobles, against whom it was principally directed. Hence these associations, though the epithet may seem somewhat overstrained, have received the appellation of " Cortes Extraordinary.”

With these immunities the cities of Castile attained a degree of opulence and splendor unrivalled, unless in Italy, during the middle ages. At a very early period indeed their contact with the Arabs had familiar. ized them with a better system of agriculture and a dexterity in the mechanic arts unknown in other parts of Christendom. Augmentation of wealth brought with it the usual appetite for expensive pleasures but the surplus of riches was frequently expended in useful public works.

The nobles, though possessed of immense estates and great political privileges, did not consume their fortunes or their energies in a life of efteminate luxury. From their earliest boyhood they were accustomed to serve in the ranks against tire infidel, and their whole subsequrnt lives were occupied either with war, or those martial exercises which reflect the image of it. Looking back with pride to the ancient Gothic descent, and to those times when they had stood forward as the peers, the electors of their sovereign, they would ill brook the slightest indig nity at his hand. Accordingly we find them perpetually convulsing the kingdom with their schemes of selfish aggrandizement. The petitions of the commons are filled with remonstrances on their various oppressions, and the evils resulting from their long desolating feuds.

The over-weening self-confidence of the nobles, however, proved their ruin. They disdained a co-operation with the lower orders in defence of their privileges, when both were assailed by the Austrian dynasty, and relied too unhesitatingly on their power as a body, to feel jealous of their exclusion from the national legislature, where alone they could make an effectual stand against the usurpations of the crown.

The long minorities with which častile was afflicted, perhaps more than any country in Europe, frequently threw the government into the hands of the principal nobility, who perverted to their own emolument the high powers intrusted to them. They usurped the possessions of the crown, and invaded some of its most valuable privileges ; so that the sovereign's subsequent life was frequently spent in fruitless attempts to recover the losses of his minority. He sometimes, indeed, in the impotence of other resources, resorted to such unhappy expedients as treachery and assassination.

SECTION XI.--Survey of the Constitution of Aragon.


ARAGON was first raised to political importance by its union with Catalonia, including the rich country of Barcelona, and the subsequent conquest of the kingdom of Valencia. The ancient country of Barcelona had reached a higher degree of civilization than Aragon, and was distinguished by institutions even more liberal than those we have described in the preceding section as belonging to Castile. It was in the maritime cities, scattered along the coasts of the Mediterranean, that the seeds of liberty, both in ancient and modern times, were implanted and brought to maturity. During the middie ages, when the people of Europe generally maintained a toilsome and unfrequent intercourse with each other, those situated on the margin of this great inland sea found an easy mode of communication across the great highway of its

Among these maritime republics, those of Catalonia were eminently conspicuous. By the incorporation of this country, therefore, with the kingdom of Aragon, the strength of the latter was greatly augmented. The Aragonese princes, well aware of this, liberally fostered the institutions to which the country owed its prosperity, and skilfully availed themselves of its resources for the aggrandizement of their dominions. The Catalan navy disputed the empire of the Mediterranean with the fleets of Pisa, and still more with those of Genoa. With its aid the Aragonese monarchs achieved successfully the conquest of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic isles, which they annexed to their empire. It penetrated into the farthest regions of the Levant, and a Catalan armament conquered Athens, giving to their sovereign the classical title of duke of that city.

But though the dominions of the kings of Aragon were thus extended abroad, there were no sovereigns in Europe whose authority was so limited at home. The national historians refer the origin of their government to a written constitution of about the middle of the ninth century, fragments of which are still preserved in certain ancient documents and chronicles. On the occurrence of a vacancy in the throne at this epoch, a monarch was elected by the twelve principal nobles, who prescribed a code of laws, to the observance of which he was compelled to swear before assuming the sceptre. The import of these laws was to circumscribe within very narrow limits the authority of the sovereignty, distributing the principal functions to a justicia or justice ; and these peers were authorized, if the compact should be violated by the monarch, to withdraw their allegiance, and in the bold language of the ordinance to substitute


other ruler in his stead, even a pagan if they listed." The great barons of Aragon were few in number, they claimed


descent from the twelve electoral peers we have described, and they very reluctantly admitted to equality those whom the favor of the sovereign raised to the peerage. No baron could be divested of his fief unless by public sentence of the justice and the cortes. The nobles filled of right the highest offices in the state ; they appointed judges in their domains for the cognizance of certain civil causes, and they exercised an unlimited criminal jurisdiction over certain classes of their vassals. They were excused from taxation, except in specified cases ; were exempted from all corporal and capital punishments ; nor could they be imprisoned, though their estates might be sequestrated, for debt. But the laws conceded to them privileges of a still more dangerous character. They were entitled to defy and publicly renounce their allegiance to their sovereign, with the whimsical privilege in addition, of commending their families and estates to his protection, which he was obliged to protect until they were again reconciled. The mischievous right of private war was repeatedly recognised by statute. It was claimed and exercised in its full extent, and occasionally with circumstances of peculiar atrocity.

The commons of Aragon enjoyed higher consideration, and still larger civil privileges, than those of Castile. For this they were perhaps somewhat indebted to the example of their Catalan neighbors, the influence of whose democratic institutions naturally extended to other parts of the Aragonese monarchy. The charters of certain cities accorded to their inhabitants privileges of nobility, particularly those of immunity from taxation ; while the magistrates of others were permitted to take their seats in the order of the lesser nobles. By a statute passed in 1307, it was ordained that the cortes should assemble triennially. The great officers of the crown, whatever might be their personal rank, were jealously excluded from their deliberations. It was in the


of to defeat the passage of a bill, by opposing to it his veto or dissent formally registered to that effect. He might even interpose his negative on the proceedings of the house, and thus put a stop to the prosecution of all further business during the session. During the interval of the sessions of the legislature, a committee of two from each department was appointed to preside over public affairs, particularly in regard to the revenue and the security of justice; with authority to convoke a cortes extraordinary, whenever the exigency might demand it.

The cortes exercised the highest functions, whether of a deliberative, legislative, or judicial nature. It had a right to be consulted on all matters of importance ; especially on those of peace or war.

No law was valid, no tax could be imposed without its consent; and it carefully provided for the application of the revenue to its destined uses.

It determined the succession to the crown; removed obnoxious ministers ; reformed the household and domestic expenditure of the monarch; and exercised the power in the most unreserved manner of withholding supplies, as well as of resisting what it regarded as an encroachment on the liberties of the nation.

The governments of Valencia and Catalonia were administered independent of each other long after they had been consolidated into one

narchy, but they bore a very near resemblance to the constitution of Aragon.' The city of Barcelona, which originally gave its name to the

any member



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