Post # 58
The following stories, which take place during the 1400s, illustrate the loss of personal freedom. Maria is a sixteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy merchant in Madrid, Spain, and a devout Catholic. She and her two brothers go to dinner at a local inn. Her brothers order pork, but she orders chicken. An official of Queen Isabella, a member of the group ‟who asks questions,” witnesses this from across the room. His job is to seek out heretics. Why does she not order pork? She must be a Jew, or at least accept Jewish beliefs. The authorities arrest, torture, and throw her into prison. Her family comes and pays a large sum of money, hoping to rescue their daughter. Queen Isabella keeps the money, but does not release the daughter. She is set free ten years later, without her youth and beauty. Maria finds her home, but the government has killed her family and confiscated their possessions. She dies within a year after begging in the streets.
The following is an excerpt from The Story of Liberty, page 94, by Charles Coffin, published in 1879. Through the waning summer months of 1492, the stricken Jews take their departure. Five hundred thousand persons are driven from the country! With them go the thrift and industry of Spain. Isabella, Ferdinand, and the Pope, through the Holy Office, have possession of their property, but estates without tenants bring no income to the treasury. In driving them out, Ferdinand and Isabella have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
The above stories illustrate what can occur when a ruling class imposes its will on society and personifies the age-old struggle between freedom and tyranny. It was against such an oppressive system that America rebelled against England during the 1600s and most of the 1700s. During this time, Thomas Jefferson stated, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty, but when the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
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