Llorente, Don Juan Antonio
Llorente, Don Juan Antonio, the noted author of a history of the Inquisition, etc., was born at Rincon del Soto, near Calahorra, Spain, March 30, 1756. He studied at Tarascone with great success, and received the tonsure when but fourteen years of age. In 1779 he was ordained priest, and took his degree in canon law. At this time the liberal ideas prevailing in France were beginning to make their way into Spain, and Llorente became interested in them. In 1781 he was named advocate of the Council of Castile, and in the year following was made general vicar of the bishopric of Calahorra. While in this position he appears to have connected himself with the Freemasons, and, although this rumor seems to have been generally credited, he was nevertheless appointed commissary of the Inquisition in 1785, and general secretary in 1789. After the downfall of the grand inquisitor he attached himself to the Liberal minister Jovellanos, who contemplated a religious and political regeneration of Spain. The minister fell, and Llorente was involved in his fall, the more surely as he openly expressed his sympathy for him. Suspected by his superiors, he was closely watched. He was subjected to innumerable petty annoyances, his letters were opened, and, without any reason being given for the measure, was deposed from his situation, and imprisoned in a convent for one month. In 1805 he was again received into favor as the reward of a literary service of a very questionable character which he rendered to the minister Godoy. The latter purposed abolishing the ancient privileges of the Basque Provinces, and carrying out in Spain a thorough system of centralization; to accomplish this, he deemed it advantageous to prepare the way by means of a historical essay, disproving the ancient liberties of those provinces. The mission was given to Llorente, who wrote Noticias historicas sobre has tres provincias Bascongadas (Madrid, 1806-8, 3 volumes, 8vo), a work not in any way remarkable for historical truthfulnessp Llorente was now again favored with several high offices. His tendency towards the French ideas, centralization among others, led him perhaps to accept offers which he would otherwise have rejected. Upon the intrusion of the French (1807), Llorente found himself placed between the national government which opposed all progress, and that of a foreign sovereign which offered both political and religious liberty. Unable to serve at once the cause of the hereditary monarch and that of progress, Llorente and the Josephinos chose the latter; but the accusation preferred against them of having sold themselves to France (Hefele, in Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, 6:557 sq.) is unsupported by proof, and unlikely; they simply chose a foreign master rather than religious and political slavery. In 1809 the Spanish Inquisition was abolished in Spain, and Llorente was commissioned to search its records for the purpose of writing a history of that tribunal. He had already, as early as 1789, began to collect materials for this purpose, yet two more years were spent, with the aid of several assistants, in compiling the voluminous records. When the convents were abolished he was given the direction of the proceedings, and the charge of the sequestered goods, as also the administration of the national properties, an ungrateful and not very creditable task, for these properties were the result of sequestration; yet he claimed afterwards to have introduced many favorable changes in the administration, such, for instance, as that of leaving the management of the property belonging to parties put under the ban to the members of their family, and the many distinguished persons of Spain to whom he appealed in corroboration of his assertion have never denied its truth. He was, however, accused of embezzlement to the amount of 11,000,000 reals, and lost his position; but the accusation not being substantiated, he was indemnified by another situation. In the mean time he continued to advocate the cause of Joseph Bonaparte both by his pen and in public addresses, and when the celebrated Constitution of the Cortes of Cadiz was proclaimed he was one of its most zealous opponents. When Joseph lost the Spanish throne (1814) Llorente was obliged to quit the country in haste. After his flight, banishment was pronounced against him, and his property, and his library of 8000 volumes, some of which were rare and costly manuscripts, were sequestered. After stopping a short time in London, Llorente settled in Paris, where he completed the work of which he had published a sketch in Spain: Histoire critique de l'Inquisition d'Espagne (4 volumes, 8vo). It was written in Spanish, but was immediately translated into French by Alexis Pellier, under Llorente's own supervision (Par. 1817-18). Translations into most of the languages of Europe were made shortly afterwards. One of the best English editions was published in London in 1826. (For a review, see British Critic, 1:119.) Llorente was now the outspoken enemy of the Church, and he was forbidden to officiate as priest in Paris, and thus deprived of his regular means of support. He next attempted to earn a living by teaching Spanish, but the University of Paris forbade him teaching in public, and he became altogether dependent on his literary labors and the assistance of his masonic brethren for a support. To what straits he found himself reduced is seen in the fact that lie translated Faublas into Spanish. In 1822 he published his Portraits politiques des Papes, which still increased the animosity of the clergy against him, and in this instance it must be granted that he recklessly provoked this enmity by accepting as undoubted facts such legends as that of the popess Joanna, etc., while his friends were obliged to admit that the nature, tendencies, and even the tone of the work were not becoming the character of a priest. In December of the same year (1822) he received orders to leave France within three days. Exiled from the land of his adoption, he returned to that of his birth, but died shortly after (February 5, 1823) at Madrid, in consequence of the hardships he had undergone during his journey.
Llorente's character and writings have been the object of as extravagant praise by some as of extravagant censure by others. He lived in a time of great fermentation, and in a country where the struggle between progress and conservatism gave rise to innumerable parties: under these circumstances he remained true to progress, and if he did not remain true also to any of the divers political parties, it was because he could not maintain his fidelity to both. When writing the history of the Inquisition, he was yet a fervent Roman Catholic; and in attacking an institution which he considered and proved to have been more political than religious, he undeservedly received the censure of a large proportion of the Roman Catholic world; he did not mean to attack the Romish Church, but, on the contrary, to vindicate it from the imputation of having been solidly concerned in the transaction of that fell tribunal. If in his subsequent works he went further, and attacked the Roman Catholic Church itself, the reason is to be found in the persecutions he endured at the hands of that Church. Llorente is not to be considered as a historian; neither his literary talents, nor his historical knowledge, nor the gift of correctly combining and connecting events, gave him any title to that appellation. His greatest production, the Critical History of the Inquisition, such Protestant historians as Prescott and Ranke judge to be of but little value, because of its partisan character, and the exaggerations in which it abounds, and, as the readers of this Cyclopeadia must have noticed, in the article INQUISITION SEE INQUISITION, he has rarely been quoted. His only credit in the work is that he brought together much material before inaccessible. We might say Llorente was a good and diligent compiler, but too ardent a partisan to be aught of a historian. See his autobiography entitled Noticias biographica o Memorias para la Historiat de su Vida (1818); Mahul, Notice biographique sur Don J. II Lorente (1823); Prescott, Hist. of Ferdinand and Isabella, 1, part 1; Rlanke, Hist. of the Papacy, 1:142, 272; 2:293; Monthly Review, 91 (1820), Append.; Revue Encyclopedique (1823). (J.H.W.)