History and Historiography

ON THE SPANISH INQUISITION by Joseph de Maistre

It’s always interesting to check out what those on the losing side of history had to say.

    • Description

The Spanish Inquisition calls to mind cruelty, injustice, and religious persecution, but in On the Spanish Inquisition, Maistre shows us that the facts are quite different. So far from being cruel, he says, “nothing in the universe can really be more calm and gentle—more impartial and humane—than the tribunal of the Inquisition.” Over the course of five letters, Maistre patiently reveals the Inquisition as it actually was, arguing that it was moderate, necessary, and in the fullness of time, a shield against the far bloodier and more destructive French Revolution.

This alone would command our attention, but On the Spanish Inquisition is much more than that; it is a defense of authority against the whim of private judgement—a defense of Catholicism against Protestantism. And in the heart of the work, the fifth letter, Maistre demonstrates how recourse to private judgement can only ever lead to indifferentism, unbelief, and atheism.

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