THE LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE
A History of Spain and Portugal
Vol. 2
Stanley G. Payne

Chapter 16
The Eighteenth-Century Bourbon Regime in Spain
 

[351] The eighteenth century began in Spain with a change in dynasty as, in accordance with the will of Carlos II, a grandson of Louis XIV of France ascended the Spanish throne as Felipe V. The advent of a Spanish Bourbon monarchy was eventually decisive in establishing a new and much more effective pattern of government, but in the short run it involved the peninsula in a disastrous thirteen-year succession war that engaged all the great powers. The remaining imperial possessions on the continent were swept away, and the English seized Gibraltar and took over the island of Menorca as well. Thus, paradoxically, a decade of Bourbon regenerationism proved more fatal to the old European inheritance than had a century of Habsburg decadence. The final and irrevocable loss of Spanish Italy and the Spanish Netherlands was, however, an almost inevitable process for which the dynasty could not realistically be blamed. Though the cost of the war did in some ways retard Spanish resurgence for one more generation, the new regime provided leadership and administration so much superior to that of its predecessor that it contributed greatly to the eventual renovation. Spanish America held fast from foreign assault, and its further development after mid-century was a major factor in the later advance of the Spanish economy.

The War of the Spanish Succession, from 1702 to 1714, was made almost inescapable by the mere fact of inheritance of the Spanish [352] crown by a French Bourbon prince. Though the new Spanish dynasty was to be completely separate and independent from that of France, political and family ties were nevertheless close. If Louis XIV's jubilant exclamation "Now there are no more Pyrenees!" proved a considerable exaggeration, other European powers read the darkest omens in the dynastic succession, and were determined not to permit a great new Bourbon power bloc in southwestern Europe. Hence the coalition organized in 1702 ranged nearly all the other states of western and central Europe in a grand alliance against France and Spain, with the aim of annulling the succession and reducing the extent and power of the Bourbon domains.

The young Felipe V, born Philippe d'Anjou, was fully accepted by most opinion in Castile, for his succession promised continuation of an imperial Spain based on traditional unitary Castilian values. By contrast, the rival candidacy of the Austrian Archduke Karl, backed by the anti-Bourbon alliance, stressed Habsburg pluralism and relied to a considerable extent on the main Protestant powers of Europe.

The response of the Aragonese principalities was somewhat less certain. At the beginning of his reign in 1701, Felipe V specifically reconfirmed the traditional privileges and exemptions of the Catalan constitution; in the following year his new queen, María Luisa of Savoy, did the same during his absence with respect to the laws and fueros of Aragón. However, when the war started in 1702, Felipe V hurried to his new Italian possessions to assure their loyalty without having given detailed attention to the Aragonese principalities. Nevertheless, their ruling strata showed little opposition to the Bourbon succession and were swept into the Habsburg cause only after allied forces had landed in eastern Spain. Archduke Karl stressed the traditional Habsburg respect for Aragonese federalism and played upon the fear and hatred of French imperialism and centralization. In Aragón and especially in Valencia, the Habsburg candidacy took full advantage of social tensions and encouraged a peasant revolt against the seigneurial control of the aristocracy. Amid rural social conflict, local districts and towns in Valencia were reincorporated into the royal domain by Archduke Karl, freeing them of many seigneurial exactions. On the other hand, most of the aristocracy, ecclesiastical hierarchy, and state officials in Aragón and Valencia remained loyal to the Bourbon succession; the cause of the Habsburg pretender was embraced particularly by peasants and village clergy. Only in Catalonia did opposition to the Bourbon crown include all social classes, and there, too, it was more intense among the lower classes.





The Spanish phase of the Succession War began in 1705, with the landing of Archduke Karl and strong allied forces in both Valencia and Barcelona. The Habsburg effort was backed by the powerful [354] English fleet, sizable contingents of German professional troops, the armed forces of Portugal, and Catalan and Valencian volunteers. This heterogeneous army advanced deep into Castile and twice occupied Madrid (1706, 1710). At the beginning of the war, the Spanish crown had scarcely 18,000 troops in the peninsula, and these soon had to be reinforced by strong French contingents, who carried the weight of most of the fighting. Given the lack of trained leadership in Spain, most sections of the Bourbon military had to be directed by French and other non-Spanish generals, while French government technicians and advisors reorganized state finance and administration. The Spanish navy was expanded and a start was made in reorganizing the army. Equally or more important was the emotional, patriotic commitment of most Castilian people to the cause of Felipe V, which they identified with Castilian legitimacy and tradition. They were also motivated by a sense of rivalry with the Aragonese and Portuguese, and reacted to the presence of foreign Protestant troops, as well as Portuguese and Catalan soldiers, on Castilian soil. The self-sacrifice of Castilians in the Succession War drew the admiration even of supercilious French courtiers. Strong French assistance, a revitalized government and administration, and popular support in Castile enabled the Bourbon cause to recover from both invasions, each of which was followed by a major Bourbon victory that threw the allied forces back (1707, 1710).

The relationship of the French crown to Spain was exploitative, as French political and economic influence increased greatly; more than half the bullion arriving from Spanish America during the war years was drained off by payments to France. Yet Louis XIV never had any intention of trying to take over the Spanish government under a direct dynastic union, and ultimately respected the independence and sovereignty of his grandson's new throne. From 1709, French forces began to withdraw from the struggle in Spain, because of the growing strain on French resources and because Louis XIV wished to demonstrate the independence of Bourbon Spain in order to encourage recognition and a settlement from the other powers.

By the end of 1710, the Bourbon forces held all of Spain, save Catalonia. The allies had been generally victorious in the broader European struggle, but all participants were exhausted and increasingly interested in a solution to the conflict. The death of the Habsburg Emperor Josef I in 1711 cleared the path for the Archduke Karl to inherit the Austro-Habsburg empire and removed him from the Spanish struggle. The anti-Bourbon allies were then primarily interested in divesting the new Spanish dynasty of its erstwhile possessions in Italy and the Netherlands and ceased for the most part to contest its sovereignty over the principalities of peninsular Spain.

[355] The chief remaining obstacle facing the regime of Felipe V was Catalonia, which still held firm against it. At a meeting of the Catalan Corts in 1713, the military and ecclesiastic branches at first voted to come to terms. Only the Braç popular, representing the third estate, resisted, and this only by seventy-eight to forty-five votes, but it was enough to turn the tide, bringing the nobility back to a position of all-out resistance.

The crown would have been willing to compromise, and in the face of Catalan intransigence was able to subdue the principality only with the renewed assistance of French arms. The ensuing siege of Barcelona (1713-1714) evoked the wonder and admiration of Europe. It was the last stand of traditional Catalonia, glorious, but doomed to failure under the overwhelming weight of royal arms. The slogan of Privilegis o mort, as some of the Catalan banners read, sustained patriotic fervor but helped make it impossible to come to terms with the new regime. When Barcelona surrendered, the city was a wreck, the region's economy ruined, and the historic Catalonia a thing of the past. The region did not recover for an entire generation or more, but when it did there emerged the beginning of modern Catalonia, for nearly two hundred years the most dynamic region of modern Spain.
 

Unification of Government and Administration

The most enduring achievement of the reign of Felipe V was to establish, for the first time since the Romans, a unified, centralized administration over nearly all of Spain. Spain as a single united polity dates from approximately 1715, and the model for its eighteenth-century royalist regime was the governing system of the Bourbon dynasty of France. The separate fueros of Aragón and Valencia were abolished in 1707 and the administrative system of Castile extended over those territories. This brought abolition of the socially progressive changes in legal jurisdiction over peasant lands that had been decreed by the Habsburg pretender. Catalonia was also incorporated into the central system under terms of the Nueva Planta decree of 1716. The only concession to the particularism of the former Aragonese principalities was retention of their law codes, but these were henceforth applied by the centralized royal administration. The only regions to retain historic fueros more or less intact were Navarre and the Basque country, which had accepted the new dynasty without resistance, but even there royal delegates assumed greater authority than before. All the eastern parliaments were abolished save that of Navarre, which was essentially a council of local aristocrats. Aragonese and Valencian deputies were first summoned to a common [356] all-Spanish Cortes in 1709, and Catalan representatives were incorporated in 1724. A total of eight ceremonial Cortes were called between 1700 and 1789, but they were not permitted, nor did they show any interest in, the slightest political or legislative initiative.

The Bourbon government swept away the old Habsburg council system of executive administration, replacing it in 1714 with four secretarías, the predecessors of a modern ministerial system. The secretaries or ministers together formed a "cabinet council." For the first time in Spanish history the main areas of state administration were directed by specialized authorities personally and directly responsible to the crown. The original ministries were State and Foreign Affairs, Charity and Justice, Army and Navy, and the Indies. A ministry of finance was added in 1754, and under Carlos III, the ministries were increased to seven, splitting Army and Navy into separate departments and dividing that of Indies as well. The traditional Council of Castile, however, was modernized somewhat and retained for general domestic administration.

One of the chief consequences of Bourbon government was to exclude the grandes from major government positions and end their era of political dominance. There was no attack on the social and economic position of the high aristocracy, although a few who rebelled had their properties confiscated. Felipe V was not opposed to nobility, but he demanded an aristocratic elite obedient to royal authority. During his reign approximately two hundred new titles were created as a reward for service and loyalty, not as recognition of wealth and status alone.

The kingdom was divided into eight sections, or reinos, for local administration. Each district was headed executively by a military captain general, with a regional audiencia (court) as advisory and judicial organ. In addition, a separate audiencia was created for Mallorca in 1715. The Castilian institution of appointing corregidores with broad administrative powers in local areas was extended throughout Spain. Urban government was reorganized under the general principle of hierarchy, and urban guilds were also brought under stricter supervision.

The royal fiscal system was reorganized by French officials and centralized much more than it had been under the Habsburgs. Some state bonds were repudiated and others converted to a lower rate of interest. In general, state income approximately doubled during the period of the Succession War, due primarily to greater efficiency of collection and administration. The tax burden of the former Aragonese regions, which had previously not been subject to general royal taxes, was greatly increased, and it has been calculated that the actual levy in Catalonia grew nearly six times heavier under the eighteenth-century [357] regime. A general land cadastre was carried out there in 1717 to serve as a basis for assessment. A unified Junta del Catastro was eventually established for all Spain under Carlos III to work toward a unified tax system.

A corps of intendants (district administrators) was created on the French pattern to oversee taxation and local security, but it never became a general administrative system for the entire kingdom. Under Felipe V, intendants were named primarily for regions where large military detachments were stationed and where security was a problem, that is, mainly in the former Aragonese principalities. After 1720 their use declined, though there was a partial revival of the intendant system at mid-century to try to stimulate economic development.

Another key institution to be restructured was the armed forces, which had nearly withered away under Carlos II. The Spanish army was slowly reorganized on the modern French pattern and the historic tercios replaced by regiments. This transformation was not completed until the reign of Carlos III, when Prussian influence also became noticeable. Many foreign commanders were appointed, preempting the places formerly held by native grandes, and the military hierarchy was given a major role in regional administration through the naming of district captains general. These served as the chief state executives in every part of the country, and replaced the viceroys formerly appointed for the eastern regions. In Catalonia, local guerrilla bands were still active in 1718-1720 and 1725-1726, and a local Catalan rural militia, the "Mossos d'esquadra," was formed to keep peace in the countryside. Its success encouraged establishment of a local militia system in most other parts of the kingdom by the time of Carlos III.
 

The Reign of Felipe V (1700-1746)

During the first fifteen years of the rule of the first Bourbon king, Spanish government was directed largely by French officials brought in to reform and improve administration. This "French phase" came to an end after the marriage of D. Felipe to his second queen, Isabella Farnese (Maria Luisa having died prematurely). She was the niece and stepdaughter of the Duke of Parma, and brought with her a new cadre of Italian advisors and officials, who replaced most of the French appointees, and inaugurated a brief "Italian phase" of Spanish government. A Parmesan church official, Cardinal Alberoni, became the new primer ministro of the Spanish state.

The crown, like many patriotic Spaniards, much resented the fact [358] that France had made peace with the other powers in 1713-1714 at the expense of Spain and the integrity of its European dominions. At first, the Spanish crown refused to recognize the loss of all the territories that had been seized, particularly those in Italy, and the new Italian queen stimulated plans for restoration of Spanish influence there. Alberoni hastened re-expansion of the armed forces, especially the navy, and adopted a new mercantilist policy to stimulate commerce. In 1717, a surprisingly strong expedition of more than 10,000 men was sent to reoccupy Sicily, and in the following year a great force of 36,000 troops and 8,000 horses was moved in 439 ships for the reconquest of Sardinia. The size of this expedition made it the largest single effort that had yet been made in the military history of the Spanish crown.

Though the returning Spaniards were welcomed in Sicily, it was all for naught. Military and naval competition had grown incomparably stronger in the eighteenth century. Much of the new Spanish fleet was destroyed off Sicily, a large Austrian force successfully launched a counteroffensive in the island in 1719, and a British force actually landed in the Galician port of Vigo. The partition of the Spanish empire at Utrecht had finally to be conceded, together with token British participation in the American trade.

Felipe V was a neurotic, vacillating ruler, concerned with outward decorum and brave only in battle. He had little sense of Spanish interests and needs. After the realities of his shrunken and impoverished realm had become clearer to him, he sank further into melancholy and mental withdrawal. Between 1721 and 1724 he abjured the throne in favor of his eldest son, Luis I, but the latter's death from smallpox required the return of Felipe V in 1724. From that time on the influence of the queen became even stronger, and Spain's first Bourbon ruler passed the last two decades of his reign in a state of intermittent madness.

The phase of recovery from the Succession War was not completed before 1726. In that year the first native Spanish chief minister of Felipe V's reign, Baltasar Patiño, was appointed. The next twenty years, until the death of Felipe V in 1746, were years of modest reform and expansion. The main concern of government lay in improving the state administration itself, but under Patiño the era of foreign advisors and administrators largely came to an end, and the Spanish Bourbon administration was increasingly nationalized. Spanish forces made an unsuccessful attempt on British-held Gibraltar in 1727-1728. Patiño, as minister of the navy, Indies, and finance, concentrated on a policy of state mercantilism, encouraging the colonial trade, new commercial companies, and the expansion of the fleet.

After the death of the duke of Parma in 1731, Spanish forces were [359] authorized to occupy the Italian duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Tuscany to hold for the heirs of Felipe V and Isabella Farnese. During the next major European conflict, the War of the Polish Succession, the Spanish crown joined France against Austria to further its anti-Habsburg interests in Italy. The first Family Compact, or mutual assistance pact, was signed between the French and Spanish Bourbons in 1733. In the ensuing war, the dynasty regained Naples and Sicily as a separate patrimony for Felipe V's second son, D. Carlos, though the north Italian duchies had to be relinquished.

It had long been clear that Spain's main concern was not the Mediterranean but the Atlantic, lifeline to the empire, then as before the kingdom's main source of wealth. Spain could not possibly compete with the British fleet, so Patiño, who dominated foreign policy between 1728 and 1740, followed a policy of peace with Britain, while doing everything possible to exclude interloping British traders. Spanish guardacostas were active in American waters in a vain effort to enforce the trade restrictions. In one of many incidents, a British sea captain, one Jenkins, was said to have had an ear cut off by a Spanish naval commander. This was used by the British parliament as the excuse for an Atlantic naval and commercial war against Spain. The so-called War of Jenkins' Ear was popular in Spain as a struggle against a proud and aggressive naval rival currently occupying Spanish territory, though it proved very costly to Spanish shipping.

It was soon followed by participation in the next general European struggle, the War of the Austrian Succession, once more against Austria in the hope of regaining control of the Milanese. A second Family Compact was signed with France in 1743. Felipe V finally entered Milan as an elderly conqueror in 1744, though his forces were driven out the following year. When peace was eventually made in 1748, D. Carlos was fully recognized as king of the Two Sicilies and his younger brother (Isabella Farnese's second son by Felipe V) was awarded the duchies of Parma and Piacenza. This finally satisfied the dynastic ambition of Isabella Farnese, ending Spain's involvement in Italian conflicts.
 

Fernando VI (1746-1759)

Felipe V was succeeded by the last surviving son of his first marriage, Fernando VI , who was married to a Portuguese princess, Barbara de Bragança. Though childless, theirs was a pleasant and harmonious royal household, devoted to music and quiet pleasures. The great virtue of Fernando VI as ruler was that he kept Spain at peace and avoided further entanglement in European struggles. His outstanding [360] ministerial appointee, the Marqués de la Ensenada, was the first high aristocrat to be given a central position in government under the Spanish Bourbons. Ensenada, however, was a reformer who continued the efforts of Patiño and others before him to reform taxes, advance commerce and the navy, and promote the professional interests of the middle classes. Traditionalist foes managed to force Ensenada from government in 1754 after the colony of Sacramento in South America was returned to Portugal. The last five years of the reign of Fernando VI, who ultimately lapsed into madness like his father, were a time of vacuity and inaction.
 

Carlos III (1759-1788)

Fernando VI was succeeded by his half-brother Carlos III, eldest son of Isabella Farnese and until 1759 king of the Two Sicilies. Judged by comparative standards, his was the most enlightened and most prosperous reign in modern Spanish history. This was in part because it spanned the last generation of Spanish history under the Old Regime, while Spanish society was still at peace with itself, but also because of the many enlightened initiatives taken, if not by Carlos III himself, by his chief ministers. Carlos III was an ambitious prince but a very well disciplined one, level-headed, and much given to the out-of-doors and the chase, even to the extent of having a rather rustic air. His record as ruler of the Two Sicilies was good. There he had learned most of the principles of eighteenth-century enlightened despotism, and he brought a number of Italian administrators and reformers to help staff his government in Spain.

Yet the government of Carlos III did not maintain the European neutrality that its predecessor had. Spanish commerce had taken a severe mauling from the British fleet during the wars of the 1740s and l750s. When the British government refused to come to an agreement, Carlos could not resist signing the third Family Compact with the French crown in 1761. Thus Spain became involved in the two concluding years of the Seven Years' War, and suffered on the seas as a result. In the peace treaty of 1763, the Spanish crown had to give up the American territories of Florida (to Britain) and Uruguay (to Britain's ally, Portugal), but received the vast, almost uninhabited territory of Louisiana in return. Uruguay was regained after a brief war against Portugal in 1776-1777; then, after Spain joined the anti-British coalition during the War of American Independence, Menorca and Florida were rewon in 1783. This was the most favorable peace settlement made by the Spanish crown since 1598. During the [361] felicitous reign of Carlos III, the Spanish empire overseas reached its greatest extent.

The crown also enjoyed success in its relations with Muslim northwest Africa. Several assaults on the Spanish presidios earlier in the century had been beaten off, and the reduction of piracy made it possible to complete the resettling of the coastline of Catalonia and the Levant. After the Spanish Moroccan stronghold of Melilla withstood a joint assault from Morocco and Algiers, the crown retaliated with a major expedition of 18,000 troops against Algiers in 1775 which in turn was beaten back. However, Morocco came to terms in 1780, and Algiers, after being bombarded by the Spanish fleet in 1783 and 1784, signed a general treaty in 1785. Satisfactory agreements were also made with Tunis and Tripoli.
 

Expulsion of the Jesuits

Despite its religious orthodoxy and the relative piety of its rulers, the eighteenth-century monarchy, ever jealous of its preeminent authority, was not infrequently involved in conflict with the church or elements thereof. During the feeble reign of Carlos II, the papacy had succeeded in reasserting control over a broad spectrum of Spanish church affairs and appointments. In the eighteenth century, there remained long-standing uncertainties about various areas of jurisdiction, and about such key issues as the extent of the church's liability to taxation and the pase regio, or royal right to regulate or veto publication of non-dogmatic papal pronouncements. Those both inside and outside the church who supported an increase in royal power for purposes of reform were known as regalistas. Local jurisdictional conflicts became so severe that the regalists were wont to say that any corregidor who had not been placed under excommunication for at least half of each year could hardly be discharging his administrative responsibilities zealously. The Concordat of 1753 resolved some of the main points at issue, restoring to the crown control over most major appointments, but other difficulties remained.

The major church controversy during the first years of Carlos III's reign concerned the power and loyalty of the Jesuit order. For two hundred years, the Jesuits had been the chief institutional representative of papal influence in western and central Europe. Their talent, their control of quality education, and their influence as confessors of aristocrats and royalty had made them a force to be reckoned with and had drawn the suspicion and envy of Catholic rulers in various countries. Some of the strongest opposition to the Jesuits in the 1760s came from within the church itself, for their wealth and influence had [362] also elicited keen rivalry from other orders. In turn, Jesuits called regalists among both government officials and church reformers "Jansenists," illogically applying to them the name of the Jesuits' earlier chief religious foe within French Catholicism. Yet the name stuck, and Spanish regalists have frequently been termed jansenistas.

The beginnings of secularization in Spanish culture and education were just making their appearance, as was Spanish Masonry. The first English-rite lodge had been established in Spain in 1727, followed by influential currents from French Masonry. After papal condemnation, Fernando VI banned Masonry from Spain in 1751, but it returned to the l760s in a number of small lodges. One of the king's chief advisers, the deist grande Conde de Aranda, was the grand orient of the principal Masonic rite. Moreover, steps were being taken to further curb the powers of the Inquisition, which had become relatively inactive. To all this the Jesuits were strongly opposed.

The crown was determined to extend royal power and press positive reforms. In addition to all the common charges, D. Carlos was especially apprehensive of the Jesuits because of two recent developments. First, the Jesuits bad attempted to use the crisis provoked by the Lisbon earthquake to gain further leverage on the neighboring Portuguese monarchy. Second, they had strongly protested the 1763 treaty with England and Portugal (which had given Uruguay to Portugal and so provided further opportunity for Brazilian attacks against the Jesuit settlements in Paraguay).

The latent struggle came to a head after the "Motín de Esquilache" in 1766. The king's Italian finance minister, Squillaci ("Esquilache"), was extremely unpopular because of his enforcement of tax reforms and sumptuary edicts. There had been a long list of such endeavors in the past, but Squillaci was particularly resented as a foreigner and because harvests had been poor for six years in a row, raising the price of bread. A new decree of 1766 forbidding the citizens of Madrid to wear the traditional long cape and broad-brimmed round hat (in order to expose criminals more easily) provoked a popular riot in which Squillaci's house was sacked. The outburst was apparently encouraged by obscure elements drawn from the aristocracy, clergy, and middle classes of Madrid. This was, however, a bread riot as much or more than anything else, and was accompanied by similar disturbances in a number of provincial towns. The king was forced to dismiss his minister, but frightened by the riot and more jealous than ever of royal power, he determined to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.

The deist anti-Jesuit Conde de Aranda was appointed chief minister, and in the months that followed the Jesuits were made scapegoats for the whole affair. The contemporary movement to expel the Jesuits [363] from Portugal was strongly felt in Spain, and the enemies of the Jesuits in the church were eager to be rid of rivals. On the grounds of subversive agitation and plotting for a "universal government," the Jesuits were expelled from Spain in 1767, and after pressure from the crowns of France, Spain, and Portugal, the order was dissolved six years later by the papacy.
 

The Domestic Reforms of Carlos III

Though its achievements on the international plane were notable, the reign of Carlos III owes its fame chiefly to its many domestic reforms. These were predicated on the overriding authority of the crown, which was much more nearly absolute under the eighteenth-century Bourbons than under the Habsburgs. The glory of the monarchy and its concern for a strong, enlightened kingdom were held to require a program of basic reform that would make Spain more orderly, rational, educated, and productive. Monarchist reformism had little to do with representative government or the subsequent era of liberalism, for it functioned almost exclusively from the top downward. Carlos III always remained jealous in the extreme of the prerogatives and majesty of the Spanish monarchy.

The initial phase commenced in the early years of the reign with the revival of the financial and economic reforms of Ensenada, favoring the activity of the middle classes. New efforts were made to improve urban government and administration, encourage better dress and behavior, make taxation more equitable and efficient, and raise the level of church appointments.

For two decades reform policy was led by the Conde de Campomanes, whose post as president (fiscal) of the Council of Castile gave him supervision of much of domestic administration. In general, it was the policy of the crown and some of its ministers to introduce more of the educated hidalgo class into the Council of Castile to get fresher and more objective administration. As the regime wore on, there was increasing rivalry between the educated manteístas or golillas from the middle and hidalgo classes (the names refer to common students and the jurist's collar of law graduates) and the colegiales, aristocrats who came from the exclusive colegio mayor residences of the universities. This rivalry within and behind the government was never resolved, though most of the aristocracy became increasingly hostile to change. The major exception was the small partido aragonés of liberal reformist aristocrats grouped around Aranda.

Between the l760s and the 1780s, the government sketched out an incomplete but basic and far-reaching reform program that anticipated [364] most of the reform goals of Spanish government for the next one hundred and fifty years. The agrarian difficulties of 1760-1766 encouraged the first effort at agrarian reform in modern Spanish history. A law of 1765 established free internal commerce in grain. Between 1766 and 1770, a series of decrees were promulgated to divide up portions of town council and waste land in order to increase direct cultivation. It was also hoped to encourage peasant smallholders, though most of the land divided up in New Castile, Andalusia, and Extremadura seems to have fallen under the control of the aristocracy. Other efforts, somewhat more successful, were made to control peasant land rents, which had been rising rapidly. Later, several small colonies of immigrant German peasants were established in the Andalusian hills to bring barren land under cultivation and encourage a more productive attitude. The imperial canal of Aragón, begun generations earlier, was completed during this reign, and new irrigation projects were started in Aragón and in Murcia.

In church affairs, government administration intervened directly to strengthen discipline among the orders, reduce the number of monks (one order of which was abolished entirely), reconfirm the pase regio that restricted publication of papal pronouncements, and limit the legal power of the church, including the right of asylum. There was also a great deal of intervention in details of payment of priests and the administration of charity. Like that of the Catholic Kings, the government of Carlos III endeavored to raise the level of appointments, improve the qualifications of priests, and discourage the grosser forms of popular superstition. A good deal had been accomplished, at least among the higher clergy, by the close of the reign. Yet there was little effort to curb the Inquisition, which remained popular, respected, and potentially powerful. During the eighteenth century, the Holy Office was exercised with comparative restraint, but in 1778 it still retained the power to try, disgrace, and force from Spain Pablo de Olavide, Campomanes's chief collaborator in agrarian and educational reform. That Spanish regalism provoked no more reaction from the church than it did was due to the undeniable orthodoxy and reputation of the Spanish crown and to the tact shown by some government officials, especially the king, whose personal piety was irreproachable.

Spanish enlightened despotism had no more of a theory of politics or representative constitutionalism than did any other contemporary continental monarchy, but the crown's ministers saw the wisdom of involving the more capable middle class subjects in decisions on the lower levels of administration. A decree of 1766 provided for vecinos (heads of houses or householders) and pecheros (taxpayers) to choose local electors who would elect diputados de común in every town to [365] consult with municipal regidores about local problems. It also arranged for election of district alcaldes de barrio (aldermen) in the larger towns. Two diputados de común were to be chosen in towns with less than one thousand vecinos, and four in the larger towns. Yet there was almost no interest in representative government in eighteenth-century Spain, and little enthusiasm or concern demonstrated in the selecting of these municipal diputados.

The royal government took direct measures to improve education. Official recognition had earlier been given to learning and the arts by the establishment of the royal academies (Real Academia de la Lengua, 1713; Real Academia de la Historia, 1736; Real Academia de Bellas Artes, 1744), and in 1759 the Barcelona Academia de Buenas Letras was raised to royal status. During the reign of Carlos III, the government intervened directly in the university system for the first time in Spanish history. An effort was made to modernize administration, appointments, and curriculum, and later some of the endowments were taken over for reorganization. There were positive accomplishments, but in general, the university reform was undertaken only in bits and pieces. Higher education remained retrograde in Spain, though it was closer to modern knowledge by the l780s than it had been earlier. In addition, ministers encouraged development of new secondary schools and institutes, with several new schools of mining, engineering and surgery. Further general plans were made by Godoy in the following reign but came to naught.

The government also prepared the first really reliable Spanish censuses, carried out basic work in peninsular cartography, and organized the historical archives of the Indies and the crown of Aragón. It subsidized foreign travel and study and paid for new pilot projects in the improvement of agriculture and artisanship. A national road network was planned, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to set up a corps of engineers. The idea of trade schools was encouraged, but there were severe limits to state resources. The two most important new scientific and economic institutes, the Basque Seminario de Vergara and the Instituto Jovellanos, were both the result of private initiative.

The financial reform instituted earlier in the century was carried still further. No new taxes were imposed, but assessment and collection were somewhat improved, even though local resistance prevented the planned national land register, or cadastre, from ever being completed. Paper money was first introduced in 1780 for war expenditures, and the first attempt at a national bank, the Banco de San Isidro, was formed to support state finance in 1782. During the course of the century, currency was slowly becoming standardized in the peseta (a unit of coinage taken from the Catalan silver pecete).

[366] Campomanes eagerly encouraged local commercial and economic improvement societies. The first had been founded by a small group of hidalgos and priests who met in the town of Azcoitia (Guípuzcoa) in 1748 to discuss social and economic problems. This body was officially organized in 1765 as the Sociedad Vascongada de Amigos del País, setting itself the goals of studying the principles and bases of economics, gathering more precise information about local conditions and problems, fostering technological improvement and better use of labor, and promoting government assistance and tariff protection. During the reign, approximately seventy local Sociedades de Amigos del País were formed, engaging in technical education, charity, and sometimes in agricultural improvement.

The reforms of the reign of Carlos III were as important for Spanish America as for the home kingdom. Beginning in the 1720s, the Bourbon regime had encouraged intra-Hispanic trade through the formation of new trading companies. Some efforts were made to improve administration of the colonies during the reign of Felipe V, but reform and regeneration blossomed in the l760s and 1770s. The intendant system was extended to America in 1768, and administrative units were reorganized. The level of appointments, efficiency, and supervision was raised. Most important, the volume of trade increased greatly and facilities were broadly liberalized, as new regulations of 1765 and 1778 finally broke the Board of Trade monopoly through Cádiz and opened direct American commerce to thirteen major ports along the Spanish coastline. The opportunity for direct American trade was one of the major single factors in the resurgence of the eighteenth-century Catalan economy.

The effect of the Caroline reforms in Spanish America was not merely to stimulate the American economy but also to awaken new feelings of resentment and patriotic identity among Spanish Americans. The reasons for this were several. The administration of Carlos III was much more overtly interventionist in the affairs of colonial Spanish America than its predecessors had been, and pursued an avowed policy of colonial development that made the object status of the colonies explicit. Under the Habsburgs, Spanish America had increasingly been allowed to deal with its own affairs as part of the pluralistic patrimony of the crown. By the time of Carlos III, the imperial patrimony in Europe had been lost, and the idea of autonomous pluralism had been replaced by that of centralized authority. Spanish imperial economic policy stimulated parts of the Spanish American economy, but the controls and limitations that it imposed restricted other parts and required costly adjustments. Moreover, the Caroline reform period coincided with the first reception of critical Anglo-French ideas of enlightenment in Spanish America. Perhaps [367] most important of all was that the prosperity of the late eighteenth century served to develop a Spanish creole elite in America with the income and culture to exist as a separate society, no longer merely an appendage of peninsular Spain. The era of Carlos III brought the Spanish empire to its climax and sowed the seeds of Spanish American independence.

Within the peninsula, this was one of the two greatest reform periods in Spanish history, surpassed only by that of the Catholic Kings. It was not a time of political change but of institutional, legislative, and educational improvement, designed to permit the existing Spanish society to increase its talents and opportunities and raise its level of achievement. The enlightened ministers of Carlos III were indeed social reformers, but they never envisaged any drastic reordering of society as a whole. Just as government was based on the firmest of autocratic monarchist principles, so enlightened despotism was conceived as operating within the framework of the traditional three-class society. Though, as will be discussed in the next chapter, fiscal and economic reforms had the effect of shrinking the numbers of those who claimed aristocratic status, there was no direct assault on the prerogatives of nobility itself. A decree of 1716 had declared that all criminal jurisdiction in Spain, without exception, pertained to the crown, but in practice there was never a concerted effort to limit the extent or prerogatives of seigneurial domain. The hierarchic order remained unaltered. Carlos III was himself quite rigid regarding the principles of authority and obedience, and became considerably more cautious with respect to reform during the last years of his reign. Very few government appointments of any importance were made from among the middle classes. The state was administered mainly by nobles and hidalgos, especially the latter, for appointments were drawn increasingly from among the hidalgos of the northern regions. Their attitudes may have become increasingly like those of the middle classes, but the state appointees were not themselves genuinely middle class or bourgeois.
 

The Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment in Spain

The century from 1650 to 1750 may be seen as the last phase of classical Spanish culture. Though relatively sterile and uncreative, with the possible exception of a few late achievements of the Golden Age, Spanish culture retained its traditional structure during those years. When finally that form began to change during the second half of the eighteenth century, it was not from the sudden victory of an aggressive new rationalist culture, but was rather a natural death [368] from general exhaustion of a traditionalist Catholic culture unable to sustain itself.

The reformist, quasi-rationalist culture of the enlightenment began to make significant progress in Spain only with the reign of Carlos III. Those new ideas that penetrated Spain from abroad had to do almost exclusively with natural science, especially physics and medicine, and with abstract philosophy. The religious criticism applied by French philosophers was almost completely rejected, even by rationalistic Spanish reformers themselves. The enlightenment in Spain was a Catholic enlightenment, in some respects reminiscent of Erasmianism but altogether different in character from the deistic, anti-Catholic, increasingly radical enlightenment of the French philosophers.

The precursor of the Spanish enlightenment was a Benedictine monk and professor at the University of Oviedo, Benito Gerónimo Feyjóo, whose multivolume Teatro crítico universal and Cartas eruditas first set the tone for a more critical and empirical attitude in eighteenth-century Spanish thought. Feyjóo was in no way an original thinker. In the sciences he was a dilettante, and his opposition to traditional scholasticism was that of a moderate reformer, but he proved an extraordinarily able publicist who touched on a great variety of topics and was rarely afraid to speak out. He encouraged a more critical and empirical attitude toward knowledge and laid particular stress on the improvement of medicine. He was especially concerned to get rid of the innumerable superstitions and false religious beliefs plaguing Spanish Catholic thought and practice. Feyjóo was more destructive of the old than constructive of the new, but served the important function of preparing the way in intellectual circles for rationalist and reformist ideas. A royal decree of Fernando VI in 1750 forbidding restrictions upon or denunciation of Feyjóo's writings may be taken as the turning point that marked the official beginning of the Spanish enlightenment.

The main cultural influence on Spanish reformism came from France, with considerable influence also from Italy, especially through the Parmesan and Neapolitan connections of Carlos III. Italian officials, as well as Italian musicians and artists, were prominent in Madrid. The principal inspiration for juridical reform came from Beccaria and Filangieri. English theorists and reformers, too, were by no means ignored.

After Feyjóo, the three leading figures of the Spanish enlightenment were Andrés Piquer, Gregori Mayans, and Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos. Piquer, who taught medicine and philosophy at the University of Valencia, was a Catholic traditionalist who introduced modern physics to Spain and did much for the reform of medicine. The Valencian Mayans was the first great modern polymath in Spanish [369] culture and has sometimes been called the Menéndez y Pelayo of the eighteenth century. Jovellanos was Spain's greatest didactic prose writer of the century and the leading philosopher of economic liberalism and economic reform. His In forme sobre Ja ley agraria became a prose classic.

It is well to remember, however, that at no time had the most resourceful elements among the Spanish intellectuals completely lost touch with the advances of modern European culture. In 1697 a new philosophical society in Seville, striving to study recent European achievements in science and philosophy, was granted the protection of the crown. The University of Valencia, possibly because of the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of a port that never fully lost its trade connections, maintained better contact with the main currents of modern science than did most Spanish schools. Though the traditional Catalan universities were closed by the repression of Felipe V, the one new Catalan university that was authorized (at Cervera, outside Barcelona) had the advantage of developing when it could be open to contemporary ideas. Moreover, the Jesuits, who were somewhat more sophisticated than other teaching orders, played a major role there.

The formation of the seventy-odd Sociedades de Amigos del País and of a considerable number of schools and training institutes was of course an expression of "enlightened," critical, and reformist attitudes. There was considerable interest also in certain practical fields of knowledge such as chemistry, which was especially useful for mining and the nascent metallurgical industry. In general, however, the enlightenment touched only a few hundred thousand people of the upper and upper-middle classes, probably little more than 5 percent of the population.

The fine arts followed the vogues of neoclassicism and then of romanticism, restrained to an almost purely esthetic level, with the sole transcendant exception of Goya, who sounded the only really jarring notes in the Spanish culture of the late-eighteenth century with his Caprichos, Disparates, and Pinturas negras. Goya has often been called the first modern painter for his creation of new forms employing both realism and subjective expression rather than the stilted motifs of formal style. He was an artist of more profound insight than the European painters of his time, drawing attention to the irrational and demonic beneath the surface of the enlightened century.

Modern Spanish journalism had its roots in the second half of the eighteenth century. Periodic newspapers were already being published by 1700, but systematic Spanish journalism began with Francisco Mariano Nipho in the years 1750-1770. Nipho strove for originality [370] and explicit didacticism in laying the groundwork for a regular press in Madrid.

Spanish conservatives and anti-reformist traditionalists by no means simply accepted the critical attitudes of the enlightenment, even in its moderate Catholic Spanish form. By the 1770s, they launched all-out assaults on heterodoxy and reformism, assisted socially and politically by some aristocrats who feared economic and administrative change. State censorship of all printed material was maintained, and the Inquisition showed its power by the trial and disgrace of the prominent intendant Olavide in 1778.

Though the absolute orthodoxy of Spanish culture and religion was maintained, by the midpoint of the reign the Spanish elite was nonetheless beginning to split between modernist and traditionalist attitudes. As Andrés Piquer wrote in 1771,

 Piquer exaggerated the influence of the modernists. Fifteen years later the conflict was commented upon by the chief literary historian of the time, Sempere y Guarimos: Conflict between intransigent traditionalists and uncritical imitators of foreign ideas was already beginning during the reign of Carlos III, though it would not become violent until after the turn of the century.

The article "Espagne" in the first geographical volume of the Parisian Encyclopédie méthodique, appearing in 1783, had an almost traumatic effect on both traditionalists and reformers, for it was devoted to a hyperbolic, one-sided denunciation of Spanish ignorance, sloth, cruelty, bigotry, and tyranny. This led to a series of replies by Spanish writers and induced a more critical approach to [371] French ideas and fashions among the Catholic reformers of Spain, incensed at the injustice done their country.

Though Spain in the l780s was still quite backward compared with northwestern Europe, a great deal of progress had been made in the preceding thirty years. Among the most striking characteristics of the country during the last years of Carlos III were the unity of the people and the solidity of the regime, especially when contrasted with France of the 1780s. Carlos III was probably the most successful European ruler of his generation. He had provided firm, consistent, intelligent leadership. He had chosen capable ministers and then supported their authority effectively, thus preventing the development of political factions at court. Almost as much a non-Spanish ruler in 1759 as Felipe V in 1700 or Carlos I (V) in 1517, he learned to Hispanize himself, and his sober, pious, firm rule and simple, chaste personal life had won the respect of his people. In Spain both traditionalists and reformers were agreed upon devotion to orthodox Catholic religion and the authority of the throne. There was no division of major importance between court and country, and less tension between the intellectual elite and established values than in France. The prosperity of the 1770s and 1780s accommodated the interests of landholding aristocracy and mercantile middle classes alike, discouraging the sense of conflict that was developing north of the Pyrenees. The government of Carlos III had shown that in Spain being non-noble was not necessarily a barrier to advancement. There was much less selling of places in court, church, and army and there were more merit appointments than in pre-revolutionary France. The great gap between the high and low French clergy scarcely existed in Spain, and recent fiscal reform had probably made the Spanish tax system generally more equitable than that of France. Though its society and economic structure were much less developed than those of its northern neighbor, Spain by 1788 had achieved unity, order, and progress under the most enlightened of contemporary European "despotisms."
 


Notes for Chapter 16

1. Andrés Piquer, Lógica moderna (Madrid, 1771), pp. 184-85.

2. Juan Sempere y Guarinos, Ensayo de una biblioteca de los mejores escritores del

remado de Carlos III (Madrid, 1786), 4:5-6.