Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/331

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311
ITINERANT INQUESTS.

methods of what we call the Inquisition, erected on these foundations.[1]

Theoretically there also existed a thorough system of general inquisition or inquest for the detection of all offences, including heresy; and as it was only an application of this which gave rise to the Inquisition, it is worth our brief attention. The idea of a systematic investigation into infractions of the law was familiar to secular as well as to ecclesiastical jurisprudence. In the Roman law, although there was no public prosecutor, it was part of the duty of the ruler or proconsul to make perquisition after all criminals with a view to their detection and punishment, and Septimius Severus, in the year 202, had made the persecution of Christians an especial feature of this official inquisition. The Missi Dominici of Charlemagne were officials commissioned to traverse the. empire, making diligent inquisition into all cases of disorder, crime, and injustice, with jurisdiction over clerk and layman alike. They held their assizes four times a year, listened to all complaints and accusations, and were empowered to redress all wrongs and to punish aU offenders of whatever rank. The institution was maintained by the successors of Charlemagne so long as the royal power could assert itself; and after the Capetian revolution, as soon as the new dynasty found itself established with a jurisdiction that could be enforced beyond the narrow bounds set by feudalism, it adopted a similar expedient of " inquisitors," with a view of keeping the royal officials under control and insuring a due enforcement of the law. The same device is seen in the itinerant justiciaries of England, at least as early as the Assizes of Clarendon in 1166, when, utilizing the Anglo-Saxon organization, they made an inquest in every hundred and tithing by the lawful men of the vicinage to try and punish all who were publicly suspected of crime, giving rise to the time-honored system of the grand-jury — in itself a prototype of the incipient papal Inquisition. Similar in character were the "Inquisitors and Manifestors" whom we find in Verona in 1228, employed by the State for the detection and punishment of blasphemy; and a still stronger resemblance is seen in the Jurados of Sardinia in the fourteenth century — inhabi-


  1. Fournier, Les Officialités du moyen âge, Paris, 1880, pp. 256 sqq., 273-4. Cap. 19, 21, §§ 1, 2, Extra v. 1.