Page:C. Cunningham- "The Institutional Background of Spanish American History".djvu/4

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BACKGROUND OF SPANISH AMERICAN HISTORY

the defense of his domains against the encroachments of the Moors, and the king had to concede extensive powders to them in exchange for their support and allegiance. They were practically supreme within their own dominions: they collected tribute, accepted personal service, and administered justice, aided the king in war and were subject to forfeiture of estate only in case of treason or rebellion. They were practically absolute over their vassals, but the king, even in this early period, preserved the fight to judge in cases of dispute between them. In 1020, at the Council of Leon, the monarch recognized the right of the nobles to administer justice in their own domains, but this was in the nature of a royal concession and was not recognized as an inherent right of the nobles themselves.

The ecclesiastical organization was already well developed at the beginning of the period under discussion. The bishops and abbots exercised a feudal tenure on their estates, exercising there temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction. The ecclesiastical dignitaries ruled within their dominions with the same degree of absolutism as that of. the nobles on their feudal lands, collecting tribute and administering justice. In return for the feudal privileges which were conferred upon them, the bishops sent their vassals to war and they themselves often rode at the head of their troops in the battles against the infidels. There was little or no royal interference with the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but there existed, nevertheless, the nominal condition of the king's headship of the church which set the precedent for, and doubtless contributed later to, the status known as the royal ecclesiastical patronage.

The fourth power, against which the royal authority was obliged to make headway, and that which contributed most to the development of local governmental and judicial institutions was the villa. The villas were towns organized as checks to the rival power of the nobles, founded by persons who wished to escape the exactions of the latter. They were given charters by the king, and these charters varied according to local needs and conditions. These were the early Spanish municipalities. Each had an assembly with legislative, judicial, and administrative