In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte abolished the Inquisition in Spain. King Ferdinand VII re-established the infamous tribunal, but in 1820 the Spanish people rose up and overthrew the hated institution. In 1828, liberated files of the Spanish Inquisition were published in Boston. (Records of the Spanish Inquisition (Translated From the Original Manuscripts). Boston: Samuel G. Goodrich, 1828)
The papers were part of the Records of the Inquisition of Barcelona, obtained during the revolution which had erupted at Cadiz in 1819 and spread through Spain. “The government of the city [Barcelona] being revolutionized, their next thoughts were directed to the Inquisition, the great engine of priestly oppression, and the object of dread and detestation to the friends of liberty, both political and religious. The vast and gloomy piles of this tribunal, which covered a spot of more than ten times the extent of the Massachusetts State Prison, had been too long the terror of the oppressed and restless Catalonians to escape notice on this occasion.”
Akin to later counterpart ultra-secret files in Washington, DC, the Inquisition files in Spain were demanded by the people. “A body of twenty thousand persons rushed to the Inquisition, stormed at the gates, and demanded admittance.” The authorities delayed. Amid mounting frustration “the populace, growing impatient, burst the gates and rushed in.”
A gentleman of Boston, who happened to be in Barcelona at the time, obtained some of these secret files and forwarded them to Boston in 1820. (Consider him perhaps the Julian Assange of his time.) These files were studied and at last it was decided some of them at least deserved to be published.
The publishers, by way of background, first offered an historical sketch of the Inquisition. “In the year 1184, Pope Lucius II, alarmed at the appearance of the new religious sects in Dauphiny and Provence, called a great council at Verona, where a severe decree was issued against them, and the power of the secular princes called to aid in their discovery and punishment.” These “dangerous sects” have been lumped together under the heading of the Cathars. The consequent Albigensian Crusade was the embryo of the Inquisition. It was first established in France, in 1208.
The “Holy” Inquisition did not extend beyond the limits of Provence and Languedoc, however, until 1255, when it absorbed most of France. Elsewhere, in 1224, the Inquisition entered Italy.
But it “was in Spain that this terrible tribunal was destined to obtain the firmest footing, and exercise the bloodiest sway.” In 1481, “upon the union, under Ferdinand and Isabella [Hieza-BAAL-ah], of the Kingdom of Castile and Arragon, the inquisitorial constitution was reformed and modified, with respect to its various limits of territorial jurisdiction, and also by the introduction of new and severe statutes and rules.”
“It is very clear that the people felt a decided aversion to it, which they manifested in violent tumults. Nevertheless force and terror overcame their resistance, and the domineering spirit of the Pope, the avarice of Ferdinand, and the fanaticism of the monks, succeeded in fastening the iron yoke of the Inquisition upon the necks of the Spaniards.”