Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/385

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holders (hidalgos); and commons, in many cases the descendants of the serfs of the soil.

The privileges of the first two Orders were enormous. They were exempt from direct taxation: their lands were inalienable: they were liable neither to arrest for debt nor to torture. The nobles were bound to the King only by the lands they held from him. The law recognised their right of formally renouncing their allegiance and making war upon the King. Their rights, like those of the municipalities, had been granted to settlers on the frontier. When the frontier moved forward, the right remained undiminished; and the result was anarchy. Under weak Kings the nobles extended their authority over the municipalities, and extorted large grants of lands and incomes guaranteed on the royal patrimony. Strong Kings exacted restitution.

The commons, while still paying as vassals certain dues to the Crown or to nobles, had, by the middle of the fifteenth century, won the right of changing lords, and the ownership of the land on which they lived, with right of transferring it by sale or bequest. Their condition was notably better under the Crown than under the nobles. In order to check desertion, the nobles were forced to follow the more liberal policy of the Kings. Slaves were rare, consisting in the main of foreigners, captives in the Saracen Wars, or negroes imported through Portugal. Jews and Moslems enjoyed the special protection of the Crown.

The Castilian Cortes originated in a Council of prelates and nobles advising the King on all matters civil and religious. In the thirteenth century the commons of the municipalities won the right of assisting, by deputies, at the Council. At first, neither the number of municipalities represented, nor the number of their deputies was limited; for they had no vote. They assembled merely to receive communication of royal decrees, to swear allegiance to the successor to the throne, and to receive confirmation of their charters at the beginning of a new reign. Later, the representatives of the municipalities won the control of direct taxation, to which their Order alone was subject. But by this time many of them, by delegating their powers to their neighbours, or through neglecting the royal summons, had lost the right of representation. Thus by the middle of the fifteenth century the right of sending two deputies to parliament belonged only to the cities of Burgos, Toledo, Leon, Seville, Cdrdova, Murcia, Jaen, Segovia, Zamora, Avila, Salamanca and Cuenca, and the towns of Toro, Valladolid, Soria, Madrid and Guadalajara. Granada was added after the Conquest. The privileged municipalities successfully resisted any addition to their numbers. Large districts remained practically unrepresented; the little town of Zamora spoke in the name of the whole of Galicia. The Proctors were chosen among the municipal magistrates, by vote or lot according to local custom. In some towns the choice was restricted to certain