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Adapted from the book The Perils of The Republic of The United States of America by Percy Magan Tilson 1899
The beginnings of Spain-Visigoths become Roman Catholics-The Saracens arrive in Spain-Magnificent civilization of the Spanish Saracens-Their houses, gardens, and libraries, and contributions to science-Their learning contrasted with papistical learning-The Saracens conquered by the Spaniards-The Spaniards attempt to convert the Saracens-Odious persecutions-Expulsion of the Saracens from Spain-Degradation of Spain
Of the powers which rose upon the ashes of the empire of Rome, the kingdom of Spain was one. This people trace their lineage back to the woods of ancient Germania. In that vast cradle of nations they were known as the tribe of the Visigoths. Like all the other German tribes they were intensely fond of liberty, and knew far more of its true and governing principles than did the more highly educated and refined people of the Roman empire.
When Rome had filled her cup of tyranny and despotism to the full, Providence took these barbarous children of the North, and used them as an instrument in the hand of Heaven to wreak vengeance upon the guilty world-power. Under the leadership of the great chieftain, Alaric, the Visigoths everywhere defeated the Roman armies. By the year 436 a. d., they were established in the peninsula of Spain.
For a long time the Visigoths remained true to the Arian faith, to which they had been converted from heathenism. For years they maintained a sturdy and uncompromising warfare against the princes and prelates of the Roman Catholic Church, who left untried no strategy of war, or seductions of peace, to accomplish their conversion and submission to the see of Rome.
Had the Visigoths persevered in their stand, they might have become the liberators, instead of the oppressors, of mankind. Both natural traits and religious tenets had admirably fitted them for this position. But the nation of Visigoths, like many a man, allowed the golden opportunity to pass by; and the opportunity came but once. Neglecting to accept the high and lofty station offered them, they became instruments of the Roman Catholic Church. There is an ancient adage that a good slave always makes a good tyrant, and this has proved itself only too true in the case of the Spanish nation.
The bait of luxury, ease, and power held out by Rome was too tempting; and late in the sixth century they became orthodox, and joined the Latin communion. Then began an era in the history of Spain, continuing through centuries, at times victorious and triumphant, and at times repulsed and defeated, and whether in weal or in woe, ever and always criminal. The story of Spain, from first to last, is the record of a criminal case. Her history is naught but one prolonged crime. Forever has it been her boast that she has uncompromisingly denied freedom of conscience on the one hand, and equality before the law on the other.
In the year 711 a. d., the Mohammedans sailed from Africa, and landed at Gibraltar, which notable rock took its present name-Gebel-al-Tarik, the Rock of Tarik-from Tarik, a lieutenant of the emir. A desperate struggle ensued, and continued for nearly eight centuries. At first victory after victory in rapid succession crowned the arms of the worshipers of Allah. At one time it almost looked as if the Spanish Catholics would be blotted from the face of the earth. A large part of the peninsula fell under the rule of the Saracens. At length the tide of battle turned. Malaga was taken by the Spaniards in 1487, and Granada in 1492, and this, in a certain sense, re-established the old Spanish monarchy.
Christendom has never yet acknowledged her debt to the Saracens; but that much that is useful and artistic was acquired from them, can never be rightly contested nor successfully denied. During the time that they were masters of Spain they were lenient and merciful to their fallen foe. In the days of their power they accorded far more of civil and religious liberty and toleration than the orthodox church was wont to grant to those whom she subdued. To all who did not wish to turn to Mohammedanism, there was given the choice of paying a slight tribute and continuing as a devotee of their former faith. But few historians have correctly understood or estimated the real services of the Saracens of Spain to civilization and intellectual development. Only one has honestly accorded to them their just and well-won place. I refer to the impartial and ingenuous John W. Draper. He alone has graphically and truthfully described their splendid achievements in material things:—
“Scarcely had the Arabs become firmly settled in Spain when they commenced a brilliant career. Adopting what had now become the established policy of the commanders of the faithful in Asia, the emirs of Cordova distinguished themselves as patrons of learning, and set an example of refinement strongly contrasting with the condition of the native European princes. Cordova under their administration, at its highest point of prosperity, boasted of more than two hundred thousand houses and more than a million inhabitants. After sunset, a man might walk through it in a straight line for ten miles by the light of the public lamps. Seven hundred years after this time there was not so much as one public lamp in London. Its streets were solidly paved. In Paris, centuries subsequently, whoever stepped over his threshold of a rainy day stepped up to his ankles in mud. Other cities, as Grenada, Seville, and Toledo considered themselves rivals with Cordova. The palaces of the khalifs were magnificently decorated. Those sovereigns might well look down with supercilious contempt on the dwellings of the rulers of Germany, France, and England, which were scarcely better than stables,-chimneyless, windowless, with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape, like the wigwams of certain Indians. The Spanish Mohammedans had brought with them all the luxuries and prodigalities of Asia. Their residences stood forth against the clear blue sky, or were embosomed in the woods. They had polished marble balconies, overhanging orange-gardens; courts with cascades of water; shady retreats provocative of slumber in the heat of the day; retiring-rooms vaulted with stained glass, speckled with gold, over which streams of water were made to gush; the floors and walls were of exquisite mosaic. Here, a fountain of quicksilver shot up in a glistening spray, the glittering particles falling with a tranquil sound like fairy bells; there, apartments into which cool air was drawn from the flower gardens, in summer by means of ventilating towers, and in winter through earthen pipes, or caleducts, imbedded in the walls-the hypocaust, in the vaults below, breathing forth volumes of warmed and perfumed air through these hidden passages. The walls were not covered with wainscot, but adorned with arabesques, and paintings of agricultural scenes, and views of Paradise. From the ceilings, corniced with fretted gold, great chandeliers hung, one of which, it is said, was so large that it contained 1,804 lamps. Clusters of frail marble columns surprised the beholder with the vast weights they bore. In the boudoirs of the sultanas they were sometimes of verd antique and incrusted with lapis-lazuli. The furniture was of sandal and citron wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory, silver, or relieved with gold and precious malachite. In orderly confusion were arranged vases of rock crystal, Chinese porcelains, and tables of exquisite mosaic. The winter apartments were hung with rich tapestry; the floors were covered with embroidered Persian carpets. Pillows and couches, of elegant forms, were scattered about the rooms, perfumed with frankincense…. Great care was taken to make due provision for the cleanliness and amusement of the inmates. Through pipes of metal, water, both warm and cold, to suit the season of the year, ran into baths of marble; in niches, where the current of air could be artificially directed, hung dripping alcarazzas. There were whispering-galleries for the amusement of the women; labyrinths and marble play-courts for the children; for the master himself, grand libraries. The Khalif Alhakem’s was so large that the catalogue alone filled forty volumes. PRUS 42.3
“No nation has ever excelled the Spanish Arabs in the beauty and costliness of their pleasure-gardens. To them we owe the introduction of very many of our most valuable cultivated fruits, such as the peach. Retaining the love of their ancestors for the cooling effect of water in a hot climate, they spared no pains in the superfluity of fountains, hydraulic works, and artificial lakes in which fish were raised for the table. Into such a lake, attached to the palace at Cordova, many loaves were cast each day to feed the fish. There were also menageries of foreign animals; aviaries of rare birds; manufactories in which skilled workmen displayed their art in textures of silk, cotton, linen, and all the miracles of the loom; in jewelry and filigree work, with which they ministered to the pride of the sultanas and concubines. Under the shade of cypresses, cascades disappeared; among flowering shrubs there were winding walks, bowers of roses, seats cut out of the rock, and crypt-like grottoes hewn in the living stone. Nowhere was ornamental gardening better understood; for not only did the artist try to please the eye as it wandered over the pleasant gradation of vegetable color and form, he also boasted his success in the gratification of sense and smell by the studied succession of perfumes from beds of flowers. PRUS 44.1
“To these Saracens we are indebted for many of our personal comforts. Religiously cleanly, it was not possible for them to clothe themselves according to the fashion of the natives of Europe, in a garment unchanged till it dropped to pieces of itself, a loathsome mass of vermin, stench, and rags. No Arab who had been a minister of state, or the associate or antagonist of a sovereign, would have offered such a spectacle as the corpse of Thomas à Becket when his haircloth shirt was removed. They taught us the use of the often-changed and often-washed undergarment of cotton or linen, which still passes among ladies under its old Arabic name. But to cleanliness they were not unwilling to add ornament. Especially among women of the higher classes was the love of finery a passion. Their outer garments were often of silk, embroidered and decorated with gems and woven gold. So fond were the Moorish women of gay colors and the luster of chrysolites, hyacinths, emeralds, and sapphires, that it was quaintly said that the interior of any public building in which they were permitted to appear, looked like a flower meadow in the spring besprinkled with rain. PRUS 44.2
“The khalifs of the West carried out the precepts of Ali, the fourth successor of Mohammed, in the patronage of literature. They established libraries in all their chief towns; it is said that not fewer than seventy were in existence. To every mosque was attached a public school, in which the children of the poor were taught to read and write, and instructed in the precepts of the Koran. For those in easier circumstances there were academies, usually arranged in twenty-five or thirty apartments, each catalogued for accommodating four students; the academy being presided over by a rector. In Cordova, Granada, and other great cities there were universities presided over by the Jews, the Mohammedan maxim being that the real learning of a man is of more public importance than any particular religious opinions he may entertain…. The Mohammedan liberality was in striking contrast with the intolerance of Europe…. In the universities some of the professors in polite literature gave lectures on Arabic classical works; others taught rhetoric or composition, or mathematics, or astronomy. From these institutions many of the practises observed in our colleges were derived. They held commencements, at which poems were read and orations delivered in presence of the public. They had also, in addition to these schools of general learning, professional ones, particularly for medicine…. PRUS 45.1
“The Saracens commenced the application of chemistry to the theory and practise of medicine, in the explanation of the functions of the human body, and in the cure of its diseases. Nor was their surgery behind their medicine. Albucasis, of Cordova, shrinks not from the performance of the most formidable operations in his own and in the obstetrical art; the actual cautery and the knife are used without hesitation. He has left us ample description of the surgical instruments then employed; and from him we learn that, in operations on females in which considerations of delicacy intervened, the services of properly instructed women were secured. How different was all this from the state of things in Europe; the Christian peasant, fever-stricken, or overtaken by accident, hied to the nearest saint-shrine, and expected a miracle; the Spanish Moor relied upon the prescription or lancet of his physician, or the bandage and knife of his surgeon. PRUS 45.2
“Our obligations to the Spanish Moors in the arts of life are even more marked than in the higher branches of science. They set an example of skilful agriculture, the practise of which was regulated by a code of laws. Not only did they attend to the cultivation of plants, introducing very many new ones, they likewise paid great attention to the breeding of cattle, especially the sheep and the horse. To them we owe the introduction of the great products, rice, sugar, cotton, and also, as we have previously observed, nearly all the fine garden and orchard fruits, together with many less important plants, as spinach and saffron. To them Spain owes the culture of silk; they gave to Xeres and Malaga their celebrity for wine. They introduced the Egyptian system of irrigation by flood-gates, wheels, pumps. They also promoted many important branches of industry; improved the manufacture of textile fabrics, earthenware, iron, and steel; the Toledo sword-blades were everywhere prized for the temper of their steel.” PRUS 46.1
Such were some of the splendid achievements of the Saracens of Spain. Many more of the material benefits which they conferred upon Christendom might be mentioned, but the above will suffice for this sketch, which is not designed to be exhaustive. These are the things with which the Saracens occupied themselves, while Christendom sat in squalor and superstition. While Rome was asserting the flatness of the earth, the Spanish Moors were teaching geography from globes. To say that the earth was globular in form was held to be heretical by monks and patristic teachers. They said in the words of Lactantius: “Is it possible that men can be so absurd as to believe that the crops and the trees, on the other side of the earth, hang downward, and that men have their feet higher than their heads?” They taught that the edge of the sea was protected by a wall of weeds in order to keep the ships from tumbling into space. While the Arab was studying physiology and the use of the lancet, in order that he might the better treat disease, the Christian of the West was prostrating himself before the shrine of some bleeding, sweating, winking image, with the hope and expectation that the doing of this would cause his bodily woes to vanish. If a pious Catholic could only kiss a lock of the hair of Saint Peter or a piece of a bone of Saint Paul, he would confidently expect that his diseases would disappear like frost before the morning sun. PRUS 46.2
But the learning of the Arabs really forced Christendom to cast aside its superstition, and to study in a rational way. The Arabian system was undoubtedly one of the chief causes of the Renaissance. And the lasting benefits which the Saracens conferred upon Europe can be clearly traced, even at the present time. PRUS 47.1
It made no difference to the Spanish Christians, however, how much the Saracens were the benefiters of mankind. They were heathen, and must be persecuted for that; and being heathen, they had no equal rights with others before even the civil law. With the Spaniards these were cardinal principles. There were no real and substantial grounds of complaint against the Saracens as competitors and neighbors. They differed from the Spaniards in religion. This was the only thing that could be said against them. They were kind, industrious, and peaceful; but all of this availed them nothing. Spain could not and would not allow the principle of freedom of conscience and of equality before the law. PRUS 47.2
At first the Spaniards attempted to convert the Saracens to their own religion. Exhortations and arguments were the first weapons, but when these means failed, she had resource to other means; viz., she persecuted those whom she was unable to persuade. This method seemed to be more successful, since we are told by good authority that after the year 1526 “there was no Mohammedan in Spain who had not been converted to Christianity.” That is to say, in other language, that every Mohammedan in Spain professed to be a papist. PRUS 47.3
Some, however, were difficult subjects for conversion. They would not willingly submit to be baptized. The water might be “holy,” but holy or unholy, they wanted none of it. Nevertheless, baptized they must be, so they were forcibly seized, and the ordinance was forcibly administered. This was done in an immense number of cases. Then the church and state united, proceeded to doubt the genuineness of their forced conversion, and began to inquire into their sincerity. They were ordered to relinquish everything that might have the most remote tendency to remind them of their former religion. They were forced, under severe penalties, to learn Spanish, and to deliver over to their persecutors all their Arabic books. They were forbidden to read Arabic, they were forbidden to write it, or even to converse in it in the sanctuary of their own homes. The ceremonies and games in which their ancestors had delighted were forbidden them. They were prohibited from wearing clothes of the same pattern as those worn by their fathers. “Their women were to go unveiled; and, as bathing was a heathenish custom, all public baths were to be destroyed, and even all baths in private houses.” PRUS 48.1
All of this was more than Saracenic flesh and blood could stand. In 1563 they rose in rebellion, and so desperately did their arms maintain the unequal contest that it was 1571 ere the insurrection was quelled. By this rising, their numbers were greatly reduced. The remnant appear to have lapsed into the quiet, every-day walks of life. But the Spaniards were not satisfied yet. The obnoxious Morisco, as these converted Mohammedans were termed, must be pursued to the grave with torture and civil disability, and even beyond that portal of darkness as far as the unrelenting hand could reach. PRUS 48.2
Whatever ills befell the arms or diplomacy of Spain were charged to the account of these unfortunates:— PRUS 48.3
“The archbishop of Valencia … assured the king that all the disasters which had befallen the monarchy had been caused by the presence of these unbelievers, whom it was now necessary to root out, even as David had done to the Philistines, and Saul to the Amalekites. He declared that the Armada, which Philip II sent against England in 1588, had been destroyed because God would not allow even that pious enterprise to succeed, while those who undertook it left heretics undisturbed at home. For the same reason the late expedition against Algiers had failed, it being evidently the will of Heaven that nothing should prosper while Spain was inhabited by apostates.” 1 PRUS 48.4
For these reasons, it was urged that the whole of them, men women, and children, should be put to the sword:— PRUS 49.1
“Bleda, the celebrated Dominican, one of the most influential men of his time, wished this to be done, and to be done thoroughly. He said that, for the sake of example, every Morisco in Spain should have his throat cut, because it was impossible to tell which of them were Christians at heart, and it was enough to leave the matter to God, who knew his own, and who would reward in the next world those who were really Catholics.” 2 PRUS 49.2
In the year 1609, when Philip III was king, Lerma, his minister, at the instigation of the clergy, announced to the king that the expulsion of the Moriscos had become necessary. “The resolution,” replied Philip, “is a great one; let it be executed.” And executed it was, with unflinching barbarity. PRUS 49.3
“About one million of the most industrious inhabitants of Spain were hunted out like wild beasts, because the sincerity of their religious opinions was doubted. Many were slain as they approached the coast; others were beaten and plundered; and the majority in the most wretched plight, sailed for Africa. During the passage, the crew, in many of the ships, rose upon them, butchered the men, ravished the women, and threw the children into the sea. Those who escaped this fate landed upon the coast of Barbary, when they were attacked by the Bedouins, and many of them put to the sword. Others made their way into the desert, and perished from famine. Of the number of lives actually sacrificed we have no accurate account; but it is said on very good authority that on one expedition in which one hundred and forty thousand were carried to Africa, upward of one hundred thousand suffered death in its most frightful forms, within a few months after their expulsion from Spain.” 3 PRUS 49.4
“Now, for the first time, the church was really triumphant. For the first time, there was not a heretic to be seen between the Pyrenees and the Strait of Gibraltar. All were orthodox, and all were loyal. Every inhabitant of that great country obeyed the church, and feared the king. And from this happy combination, it was believed that the prosperity and grandeur of Spain were sure to follow. The name of Philip III was to be immortal, and posterity would never weary of admiring that heroic act by which the last remains of an infidel race were cast out from the land. Those who had even remotely participated in the glorious consummation were to be rewarded by the choicest blessings. Themselves and their families were under the immediate protection of heaven. The earth should bear more fruit, and the trees should clap their hands. Instead of the thorn, should come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier, the myrtle. A new era was now inaugurated, in which Spain, purged of her heresy, was to be at ease, and men, living in safety, were to sleep under the shade of their own vineyards, sow their gardens in peace, and eat of the fruit of the trees they had planted.” PRUS 50.1
These were the promises which the united church and state held out, and which the people believed. It was told how that now the arts, the commerce, the wealth, and magnificence of Spain would flourish and increase as never before, since heretical Jew, and idolatrous Mohammedan had been cast out of the land. Her ships were to plow the seas, and crowd the ports of other shores. Her soldiers were to wreath themselves with laurels of victory till the sun should never set on her dominions, and all earth should do homage at the feet of her scepter of greatness. PRUS 50.2
But 1613, instead of being the beginning of the greatness and power of Spain, was the apex of her glory, and that glory was one of infamy. In that boasted hour of her might-all heretics dead or driven out-can be heard, even at this late day, the death knell of her prestige and glory. From that day forth her glory began to wane, till naught is left to-day, save the mistiest shade of a shadow. The kingdom of Spain had driven out the men who cultivated her rice and her cotton, and not being cultivated, they grew no more. She had expelled from her borders those who had manufactured her silk and paper, and the ceaseless humming of the looms and buzzing of the mills no longer reverberated upon the breezes. The olives and the vines ceased to yield their increase, for they were neglected. PRUS 50.3
“In the sixteenth century and early in the seventeenth, Spain enjoyed great repute for the manufacture of gloves, which were made in enormous quantities and shipped to many parts, being particularly valued in England and in France, and being also exported to the Indies. But Martinez de Mata, who wrote in the year 1655, assures us that at that time this source of wealth had disappeared, the manufacture of gloves having quite ceased, though formerly, he says, it had existed in every city in Spain. PRUS 51.1
“In every department all power and life disappeared. The Spanish troops were defeated at Rocroy in 1643; and several writers ascribe to that battle the destruction of the military reputation of Spain. This, however, was only one of many symptoms. In 1656 it was proposed to fit out a small fleet; but the fisheries on the coasts had so declined that it was found impossible to find sailors enough to man even the few ships which were required. The charts which had been made were either lost or neglected, and the ignorance of the Spanish pilots became so notorious that no one was willing to trust them. As to the military, service, it is stated, in an account of Spain late in the seventeenth century, that most of the troops had deserted their colors, and that the few who were faithful were clothed in rags, and were dying of hunger. Another account describes that once mighty kingdom as utterly unprotected; the frontier towns ungarrisoned; the fortifications dilapidated and crumbling away, the magazines without ammunition, the arsenals empty, the workshops unemployed, and even the art of building ships entirely lost.” 4 PRUS 51.2
This is only one chapter in the history of Spain, but if it is not criminal history, bearing its legitimate mark, then none has ever been enacted. PRUS 51.3