It was, as we have already suggested, the very opportuneness with which the trial and sentence of those concerned in the affair of La Guardia came to afford Torquemada an additional argument to plead with the Sovereigns his case against the Jews, which has led so many historians—prior to M. Fidel Fita’s discovery—to reject the story as an invention. Another reason to discredit it lay in the circumstance that it was circulated in Spain together with a number of other stories that were obviously false and obviously invented expressly for the purpose of defaming the Jews and exciting popular indignation against them.

Meanwhile Ferdinand and Isabella pressed triumphantly forward on their conquering progress through Andalusia. Lucena, Coin, Ronda, and scores of other Moorish strongholds in the southern hills had fallen before the irresistible arms of the Christians; and the Sovereigns, aided by Jewish gold—not merely the gold extorted by confiscations, but moneys voluntarily contributed by their Hebrew subjects—pushed on to the reduction of Malaga, as the prelude to the leaguer of Granada itself, the last bulwark of Islam in Spain. This fell on January 2, 1492, and with it fell the Moslem dominion, which had endured in the peninsula, with varying fortunes, for nearly 800 years.

It might well have seemed to the Catholic Sovereigns that the conquest of Spain and the victory there of Christianity were at last accomplished, had not Torquemada been at their elbow to point out that the triumph of the Cross would never be complete in that land as long as the Jews continued to be numbered among its inhabitants.

He protested that the evils resulting from intercourse between Christian and Jew were notorious and unconquerable. He declared that in spite of the Inquisition, and in spite of all other measures that had been taken to keep Christian and Jew apart, the evil persisted and was as rampant as ever. He urged that the Jews continued unabatedly to pervert the Christians, and that they must so continue as long as they were tolerated to remain in the peninsula. Particularly was this notorious in the case of the Marranos or New-Christians, to whom the Israelites gave no peace until—by indoctrination or by the scorn and abuse they heaped upon them—they had seduced them back into error.

And in proof of what he urged he was able to point to the affair of La Guardia, to the outrage to the crucifix at Casar de Palomero, and to other matters of a kindred nature that had lately been brought to light.

He called upon the Sovereigns to redeem the promise they had made to give consideration to this matter—a consideration which, in answer to his earlier pleadings, they had postponed until the war against Granada should have been brought to its conclusion.

In the meantime the Jews themselves had fought strenuously against the banishment with which they saw themselves threatened. Eloquent had been their appeals to the Sovereigns. And the Sovereigns could hardly turn a deaf ear to the intercessions of subjects to whom they owed so much. For was it not the very Jews who had supplied the Spanish crown with the sinews for this campaign against the enemies of the Cross? Was it not owing to wonderful Hebrew administration—an administration gratefully surrendered to them—that the army of the Cross was equipped, maintained, and paid out of moneys that the Jews themselves had provided?

They found means to bring this to the attention of the Sovereigns, as a proof of the loyalty of their devotion, as a proof of their value to the Spanish nation. And the Sovereigns had other experiences of the loyalty and affection which had ever been manifested towards them by their long-suffering Hebrew subjects. When, for instance, their son, the Infante Don Juan was proclaimed in Aragon, after the Cortes of Toledo, the Jews had been foremost in the jubilant and loving receptions that everywhere met their Highnesses in the course of their progress through the kingdom of Ferdinand. Whilst the Spaniards were content to greet their Sovereigns with acclamations, the Jews went to meet them with valuable gifts.226 Bernaldez tells us227 of the splendid offering made to their Highnesses by the Aljama of Zaragoza. It consisted of twelve calves, twelve lambs, and a curious and very beautiful service of silver borne by twelve Jews, a rich silver cup full of gold castellanos228 and a jar of silver—“all of which the Sovereigns received and prized, returning many thanks.”

Loyalty so tangibly manifested, of which this is but an instance, must have some weight in the scales against fanaticism; further, it seems impossible that the Sovereigns should have been altogether blind to the possible jeopardizing of the industrial prosperity of the kingdom if those chiefly responsible for it were driven out.

So they had put off their decision in the matter, urging that the present war demanded their full attention. But now that the conquest of Granada was accomplished, they were forced to look the matter in the face. For Torquemada was giving them no peace. Hard-driven by his fanatical hatred of the Israelites, the Grand Inquisitor had resolved upon his course and was determined that nothing should turn him aside.

Constantly were his arguments—all founded upon the love of Christ—poured into the ears of the Sovereigns, and to prove the soundness of these arguments he was able to bring forward concrete facts—or, at least, matters upon which the courts of the Inquisition had pronounced—prominent among which would be the affair of La Guardia.

And what Torquemada was doing by the Sovereigns, the brethren of his order were doing by Spain. Popular indignation against the Jews, so easy to arouse, already inflamed by the outrage at Casar de Palomero and the crucifixion at La Guardia, was further and unscrupulously excited by false stories that were set in circulation. It was even alleged that the illness of the Prince Don Juan was the result of Hebrew infamy, and to explain this a foolish, wicked story was invented, put about and universally accepted.

Llorente quotes this story from the “Anonymo de Zaragoza.”229 It is to the effect that the prince coveted a golden pomander-ball worn by his physician, who was of a Jewish family, and this gewgaw the physician ended by relinquishing to his patient. One day, moved by youthful curiosity, the boy wished to see what the pomander contained. Opening it, he discovered an indecent and blasphemous picture, insulting to the divinity of Christ. The sight of it inspired the princeling with such horror and grief that he fell sick. Nor would he divulge the origin of his illness until the instances of his father succeeded in drawing the secret from him, whereupon “it was resolved to take proceedings against the physician and to sentence him to the fire.”

This trivial, scurrilous, and obviously untruthful story would not be worth repeating did it not serve the purpose of showing the sort of rumours that were being propagated to the hurt of the Israelites.

Another story that was circulated alleged that in Valencia there had also been an attempt by a number of Jews to crucify a Christian boy. This is recorded in that scurrilous, infamous publication, “Centinela contra Judios,” by Frey Francisco de Torrejoncillo. We have already referred to it more than once. It was first printed in 1676, and is the book of a friar of the Order of St. Francis, a disgraceful work which proves its author to have been as barefaced as he was barefooted. It is a collection of stupid lies and forgeries, and, it is scarcely an exaggeration to add, obscenities; it may be another instance of those frauds termed pious, but it is scarcely to the credit of a Church exercising, by means of the “Index Expurgatorius,” a censorship of the press—to have permitted the circulation of a work of this order from the pen of a churchman.

This, however, is by the way.

The story here to be recorded is taken, Torrejoncillo tells us, from the “Sermon de la Cruz” by Frey Felipe de Salazar.230 On a Good Friday evening a youth who was in a street of Valencia observed several men entering a house. Considering this to be strange—although no suspicious circumstance is mentioned—he approached the door and listened. He heard them say, “There seems to be some one at the door.” Fearing that a brawl might be the result if he were discovered there when they opened, he drew his sword and fled. (How the drawing of his sword was calculated to assist his flight the author does not think it worth while to inform us.) As he was running he came upon a patrol, which seized him, demanding to know whither he was hurrying in this fashion with a naked sword in his hand. He related what he had witnessed, whereupon the officer, not only for the purpose of testing the truth of the story but also that he might ascertain to what end so many men should be assembling, went to the house and knocked.

The door was opened by a Jew, who began to make obvious excuses to him. Suddenly the officer heard a child’s voice within the house, crying, “These men want to crucify me.”

The Jews were taken, the house demolished, and on the site of it was built the Church of Santa Cruz.

In this collection of lies and forgeries are included the “letter of Christ to Abgarus,” another letter of Pontius Pilate to Tiberius dilating upon the miracles of the Saviour, and a letter from the Jews of Constantinople to those of Toledo, which played an important part in this anti-semitic campaign.

It was the Cardinal-Archbishop Juan Martinez Siliceo who was alleged to have discovered this letter in Toledo. We are to suppose that he also found in Toledo the letter to the Jews of Constantinople to which this is a reply, for the chroniclers are able to supply us with the texts of both,231 a circumstance which no one at the time appears to have considered strange.

The letter to Constantinople ran as follows:

“The Jews of Spain to The Jews of Constantinople

“Honoured Jews, health and grace.—Know that the King of Spain compels us to become Christians, deprives us of property and of life, destroys our synagogues and otherwise oppresses us, so that we are uncertain what to do.

“By the Law of Moses we beseech you to assemble, and to send us with all speed the declaration made in your assembly.

“Chamarro, Prince of the Jews of Spain.”

To this the answer received from Constantinople was in the following terms:

“The Jews of Constantinople to The Jews of Spain

“Beloved Brethren in Moses,—We have your letter in which you tell us of the travail and suffering you are enduring there.... The opinion of the Rabbis is that since the King of Spain attempts to make you Christians, you should become Christians; since he deprives you of your goods and property, you should make your children merchants, that they may deprive the Christians of theirs; since you say that they deprive you of your lives, make your sons apothecaries and physicians to deprive the Christians of theirs; since they destroy your synagogues, make your sons clerics that they may destroy the Christian temples; since you say that you suffer other wrongs, make your sons enter public offices that thus they may render the Christians subject to them.

“Do not depart from these orders, and you will see that from oppressed you will come to be held of great account.

“Husée, Prince of the Jews of Constantinople.”

The matter of these letters—so very obviously forged—was freely circulated. Being accepted, public indignation was suddenly increased by fear. Imaginations were stimulated, and stories based upon these injunctions of Prince Husée became current, nothing being ever too flagrant for popular consumption. It was related that a Jewish physician in Toledo carried poison in one of his finger-nails, and that with this he touched the tongues of the patients he visited, thus killing them. Of another physician it was reported that he deliberately poisoned the wounds he was desired to heal.232 And that there were many other such stories current is beyond all doubt.

What use, if any, Torquemada made of those forged letters and the stories that were their offspring, we do not know. But it would be strange if the circulation and acceptance of such matters displeased him, since they were plainly calculated to forward his aims and compel the Sovereigns to lend an ear to his insistent denunciations of the Jews.

Incessantly he preached the need for religious unity in a united Spain. Indeed, Spain, he urged, never could be united, never could deserve the blessing of Heaven, until all men in that land were the children of God, true believers in the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith. God had greatly favoured Ferdinand and Isabella, the friar continued. He had collected the various elements of the peninsula into one mighty kingdom, which He had subjected to their sceptre. Let them fuse those elements into a solid whole, rejecting all those who resist this fusion—and this for the honour and glory of God and of their own kingdom.

Before this terrific gospel of Religious Unity nothing could stand. Humanitarian considerations, principles of equity, indebtedness and gratitude are mere trifles to be swept away by that hurricane of religious argument.

The Sovereigns found themselves face to face with an issue of such a magnitude that no temporal considerations could be allowed to weigh. And to the pressure of Torquemada’s fierce arguments was added now the pressure of public opinion, cunningly excited by his lieutenants. To the voice of God from the lips of the Grand Inquisitor was added now the vox populi—the voice of God from the lips of the people.

And so clamorous was this popular voice, so insistent were the accusations which it levelled against the Israelites, of ritual infamies and of seducing back to the Law of Moses their apostate brethren, that the Jews were warned of the storm that was about to break over their luckless heads.

Torquemada’s demand was that they must receive baptism or go.

The Sovereigns hesitated still. In Isabella perhaps the voice of humanity was too strong to be entirely stifled by the dictates of bigotry.

But Torquemada’s strength of purpose was the greater and more irresistible by virtue of its purity and singleness of aim. Obviously he was no self-seeker. Obviously he had no worldly ends to serve. What he demanded, he demanded in the name of the religion which he served—solely for the greater honour and glory of his God; and to sovereigns of the temper of Ferdinand and Isabella demands so inspired are not easily resisted.

And although it was clear that he sought no worldly advantage for himself, he did not scruple to use the prospect of the Sovereigns’ worldly advantage as a weapon to combat their reluctance; he did not hesitate to dangle before their eyes temporal advantages that must result from the banishment of the Israelites. To arguments upon religious grounds he added arguments of worldly expediency, arguments which cannot have failed of effect upon the acquisitive nature of the King.

Never, urged the Grand Inquisitor, would Spain know tranquillity whilst she harboured Jews. They were predatory; they were untrustworthy; their sole objective was the satisfaction of their pecuniary interest—the only interest they knew; and their acquisitiveness would always dispose them to serve any enemy of the crown so that it should profit them to do so.233

But Torquemada was not the only advocate before the royal court. The Jews were there, too, pleading on their own behalf, with an eloquence that seemed for a moment on the point of prevailing—for the seductive chink of gold was persuasively intermingled with their protestations.

They urged their past services to the crown, and promised even greater services in the future; they swore that henceforth they would be more observant of the harsh laws formulated by Alfonso XI—that they would keep to their ghettos as prescribed, withdrawing to them at nightfall, and abstaining rigorously from all such intercourse with Christians as was by law forbidden. Last and most eloquent argument of all, they offered through Abraham Seneor and Isaac Abarbanel—the two Jews who had undertaken and so admirably effected the equipment of the Castilian army for the campaign against Granada—that in addition to giving this undertaking they would subscribe 30,000 ducats towards the expenses of the war against the Moslem.

Ferdinand’s hesitation was increased by this offer. Ever in need of money as the Sovereigns were, the consideration of this gold not only tempted them, but it would undoubtedly have conquered them had not Torquemada been at hand. But for his violent intervention it is more than probable that the cruel edict of banishment would never have been promulgated.

The Dominican, learning what was afoot, thrust himself into their Highnesses’ presence to denounce their hesitation, and to put upon it the name which in his opinion it deserved.

It is not difficult to picture him in that supreme moment. It is one of those rare occasions on which this being whom we have compared to a Deus ex machina, a cold stern spirit ruling and guiding the terrible organization of the Inquisition which he has himself established, steps forth in the flesh, a living, throbbing man.

You behold him pale, a little breathless in the excitement and anger by which he is possessed. His deep-set eyes glow sombrely with the fever of fanatical zeal and indignation. He draws his lean old frame erect. In his shrivelled, sinewy old hands he flaunts aloft a crucifix.

It is an intense moment. Everything contributes to it: the long-drawn duel between religion and humanity, between clericalism and Christianity, of which this is at last the climax; and nothing so much as the figure offered by the Jews. This thirty thousand is unfortunately reminiscent. It permits the Prior of Holy Cross to draw a very daring parallel.

“Judas,” he cries, “once sold the Son of God for thirty pieces. Your Highnesses think to sell Him again for thirty thousand. Here you have Him. Sell Him, then, but acquit me of all share in the transaction.”

And, crashing the crucifix upon the table before their startled Highnesses, he abruptly leaves the chamber.234

Thus Torquemada conquered.

The edict of expulsion was signed at Granada on March 31 of that year 1492—that glorious year in which Spain finally completed the erection of her monarchy upon the ruins of the old Visigothic kingdom, and in which the navigator Columbus laid a new world at the foot of the throne of the Catholic Sovereigns.235

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