I’ve just finished reading half of Rose Wilder Lane’s book, Discovery of Freedom, that I wrote about a few days ago. The book belied the high expectations I had of it, at least at the beginning. It started slowly, even erratically, and while otherwise well-written, was repetitive and uninspiring.
However, from somewhere in the middle, it has perked up and is, in patches, actually quite good.
Below an excellent section that describes what happened when free and tolerant Islamic Spain was torn down by fanatic Christians. Note how Spain suffered, and how deeply and quickly it was destroyed. This passage is a salutary lesson for India. I’ve snipped out unnecessary words/sentences from this extract to keep it short and crisp.
The decline of Spain after the violent destruction of tolerant Islam
The Moriscos were … driven from their homes and herded to the seacoast. Starving, dying of thirst, and robbed, beaten, murdered along the way, few of them lived to reach the African deserts. Not one was left alive in Spain.
All Spanish intellectuals burst into one great song of joy and hope. Now Spain was clean. Now every Spaniard was wholly obedient to Church and King. Alone of all European countries, Spain was now one united mass of loyal men, believing and acting as one being. Every thinker and poet in Spain celebrated in book and song this glorious event, this blessed time, the dawn of Spain’s Golden Age.
It was the end of Spain.
The loss of a million Moriscos was not so important. But hardly one was left who knew that men are free.
The Moriscos, with their secret thoughts, were gone.
And human energy in Spain simply ceased to work.
Great stretches of the Morisco’s fertile land, depopulated then, have never again been plowed. When Spaniards were hungry, they flocked to the cities, to The Church, to the King, who should feed them. As if fishermen should come to the cities, for fish.
Thirty years after the last knowledge of freedom was gone from Spain, the Government could not get even a dribble of taxes from provinces that once had filled the Royal treasury to overflowing, and outfitted in addition all the ships and thousands of men who sailed to the New World. In Seville, where two thousand looms had been working, barely three hundred moved. The whole civilized world had been buying Spanish gloves; now Spain produced no gloves.
Travelers report that monasteries were enlarging and multiplying everywhere; property was flowing to The Church; hordes of priests thronged the streets; villages were dwindling, fields poorly cultivated, the people were hungry. Protestant writers say that The Church was devouring Spain.
Madrid’s population declined from half a million to 200,000. In the middle of Spain’s second century, the 200,000 were starving, and the Governor of Castille with armed troops and executioners was scouring the countryside and seizing food from the peasants, to feed Madrid. Why did he not buy it? He could collect no more taxes.
Tax collectors were tearing down houses and selling the materials for anything they could get, to apply on the owner’s taxes. In some towns they demolished more than two-thirds of the houses. And where would they get taxes next year?
Villages were completely deserted. Villagers wandered in bands, looking for food. They died along the roadsides, all over Spain. The King slashed official salaries, even of the highest nobles, even of the Royal household; and slashed them again, two-thirds; and could not pay them. Unpaid soldiers left the frontiers unguarded and ravaged the country, for food.
For almost eight hundred years, human energy in Spain had produced such an abundance of food, comforts and luxuries as the world had never before imagined. After Granada fell, human energy continued to operate in Spain and through Spain upon the New World and Europe, for two more generations. The third generation no longer knew that men are free, and energy weakened in Spain. The fifth generation could no longer support the Government, and their children died of starvation.
In 1699, the British Minister to the Spanish Court could not buy bread in Madrid. Like everyone else, he had to ask the Government for bread. The Corregidor gave him an order for bread, and he was obliged to send men conspicuously armed with “long guns” two leagues from the city to get the bread and bring it back, for only armed men could protect bread in the streets of the capital of Spain.
Twenty thousand starving peasants came into Madrid that day, from the country where the plows were rotting in the weedy fields.
From that time, foreigners ruled the Spanish people. Spain’s Prime Ministers were French, Italian, Austrian; Irish soldiers propped up the Spanish monarchy. The ambassadors of Spain were not Spaniards.
When the French were losing the war that Americans know as the French and Indian wars, France slipped Louisiana to Spain—in order not to lose it at the peace conference. And the Lord High Admiral of Spain, who sailed into Lake Pontchartrain to take possession of this continent west of the Mississippi for the Spanish Crown—and who quelled rebellious New Orleans by hanging nineteen leading men from his yard-arm—was Admiral O’Reilly from Ireland.
Spain had practically ceased to exist.