These abuses continued to the last. Cornelius Agrippa tells us that it was customary for inquisitors to convert corporal punishments into pecuniary ones and even to exact annual payments as the price of forbearance. When he was in the Milanese, about 1515, there was a disturbance caused by their secretly extorting large sums from women of noble birth, whose husbands at length discovered it, and the inquisitors were glad to escape with their lives.
I have dwelt at some length upon this feature of the Inquisition because it is one which has rarely received attention, although it inflicted misery and wrong to an almost unlimited extent. The stake consumed comparatively few victims. While the horrors of the crowded dungeon can scarce be exaggerated, yet more effective for evil and more widely exasperating was the sleepless watchfulness which was ever on the alert to plunder the rich and to wrench from the poor the hard-earned gains on which a family
- Cornel. Agrippa de Vanitate Scientiar. cap. xcvi.
XXXIV. 5. It is perhaps worthy of note that Ripoll, in printing this bull of Boniface VIII., T. II. p. 61, discreetly suppresses the details of inquisitorial wrong-doing).— Grandjean, Registres de Benoit XI. No. 169, 509.— Chron. Girardi de Fracheto Contin. ann. 1303 (D. Bouquet, XXL 22-3).— Articuli Transgressionum (Archiv. fiir Litt.- u. Kircliengeschichte, 1887, p. 104). — C. 1, § 4, c. 2 Clement, v. 3.— Bernard. Guidon. Gravamina (Doat, XXX. 118-19).— Coll. Doat, XXXV. 113.— Ripoll, VII. 61.— Archivio di Firenze, Riformagioni, Classe XI. Distinz. I. No. 39. — Villani, Cronica, xii. 58.— Alvar. Pelag. de Planet. Eccles. Lib. ii. art. vii.— Eymeric. Direct. Inq. p. 332. — Decamerone, Giom. I. Nov. 6. — Archives administratives de Reims, III. 641.
The strictness with which the canons against usury were construed is illustrated in a case decided by the University of Paris in 1490. The Faculty of Theology was consulted as to the righteousness of a contract under which a certain church had bought for three hundred livres an annual rent of twenty livres arising from certain lands, with the right of recalling the purchase-money after two months' notice; while by a separate agreement the land-owner had the right of redemption for nine years. This is doubtless a specimen of the means adopted of evading the prohibition of interest payment, which must have grown frequent with the development of commerce and industry. The contract ran for twenty-six years before it was questioned and referred to the University. A commission of twelve doctors of theology was appointed, who discussed the subject thoroughly, and reported, eleven to one, that the contract was usurious, and that the annual payments must be computed as partial payments on account of the purchase-money (D'Argentrg, Collect. Judic. de no v. Error. I. n. 323).