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AUTOCRACY (Gr. abroepareca, absolute ...

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 45 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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AUTOCRACY (Gr. abroepareca, absolute power), a term applied to that form of government which is absolute or irresponsible, and vested in one single person. It is a type of government usually found amongst eastern peoples; amongst more civilized nations the only example is that of Russia, where the sovereign assumes as a title " the autocrat of all the Russias." AUTO-DA-F$, more correctly AUTO-DE-FE (act of faith), the name of the ceremony during the course of which the sentences of the Spanish inquisition were read and executed. The autoda-fe was almost identical with the set-ma generalis of the medieval inquisition. It never took place on a feast day of the church, but on some famous anniversary: the accession of a Spanish monarch, his marriage, the birth of an infant, &c. It was public: the king, the royal family, the grand councils of the kingdom, the court and the people being present. The ceremony comprised a procession in which the members of the Holy Office, with its familiars and agents, the condemned persons and the penitents took part; a solemn mass; an oath of obedience to the inquisition, taken by the king and all the lay functionaries; a sermon by the Grand Inquisitor; and the reading of the sentences, either of condemnation or acquittal, delivered by the Holy Office. The handing over of impenitent persons, and those who had relapsed, to the secular power, and their punishment, did not usually take place on the occasion of an auto-da-fe, properly so called. Sometimes those who were condemned to the flames were burned on the night following the ceremony. The first great .auto-da-fes were celebrated when Thomas de Torquemada was at the head of the Spanish inquisition (Seville 1482, Toledo 140, &c.). The last, subsequent to the time of Charles III., we held in secret; moreover, they dealt with only a very small number of sentences, of which hardly any were capital. The isolated cases of the torturing of a revolutionary priest in Mexico in 1816, and of a relapsed Jew and of a Quaker in Spain during 1826, cannot really be considered as auto-da-fes. (P. A.)
End of Article: AUTOCRACY (Gr. abroepareca, absolute power)
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