V. CHARLES III: 1759-88

1. The New Government

When he arrived from Naples he was forty-three years old. He was welcomed by all but the Jesuits,28 who resented the sale of their Paraguayan settlements by Spain to Portugal (1750). Otherwise he won all hearts by remitting arrears of taxes, and restoring some of the privileges that the provinces had lost under the centralizing policy of Philip V. His first year as king of Spain was saddened by the death of his wife, Maria Amalia. He never married again. It is to the credit of the Spanish Bourbons of the eighteenth century that they gave the monarchs of Europe an example of marital devotion and stability.

A British diplomat drew a British picture of Charles, who had had some encounters with the English in Naples:

The King has a very odd appearance in person and dress. He is of diminutive stature, with a complexion the color of mahogany. He has not been measured for a coat these thirty years, so that it sits on him like a sack. His waistcoat and breeches are generally leather, with a pair of cloth spatterdashes on his legs. … He goes out a-sporting every day of the year, rain or blow.29

But the Earl of Bristol added, in 1761:

The Catholic King has good talents, a happy memory, and uncommon command of himself on all occasions. His having been often deceived renders him suspicious. He ever prefers carrying a point by gentle means, and has the patience to repeat exhortations rather than exert his authority. . . Yet, with the greatest air of gentleness, he keeps his ministers and attendants in the utmost awe.30

His personal piety gave no warning that he would attack the Jesuits or undertake religious reforms. He heard Mass daily. His “honest and obstinate adherence to all his treaties, principles, and engagements” astonished an English enemy.31 He devoted a large part of each weekday to governmental affairs. He rose at six, visited his children, breakfasted, worked from eight to eleven, sat in council, received dignitaries, dined in public, gave several hours to hunting, supped at nine-thirty, fed his dogs, said his prayers, and went to bed. His hunting was probably a health measure, aimed to dispel the melancholy that ran in the family.

He began with some serious mistakes. Unfamiliar with Spain, which he had not seen since his sixteenth year, he took as his first aides two” Italians who had served him well in Naples: the Marchese de’ Grimaldi in foreign policy, the Marchese de’ Squillaci in domestic affairs.

The Earl of Bristol described Squillaci as “not bright. He is fond of business, and never complains of having too much, notwithstanding the variety of departments that center in him.... I believe he is incapable of taking any bribes, but I would not be equally responsible for his wife.”32 Squillaci did not like the crime, odor, and gloom of Madrid; he organized a zealous police and a street-cleaning squad, and lighted the capital with five thousand lamps. He legalized monopolies for supplying the city with oil, bread, and other necessities; a drought raised prices, and the populace called for Squillaci’s head. He offended the clergy by regulations that checked their privileges and power. He lost a thousand supporters by banning concealed weapons. Finally he stirred up a revolution by attempting to change the dress of the people. He persuaded the King that the long cape, which hid the figure, and the broad hat with turned-down rim, which hid much of the face, made it easier to conceal weapons, and harder for the police to recognize criminals. A succession of royal decrees forbade the cape and the hat, and officers were equipped with shears to cut the offending garments down to legal size.33 This was more government than the proud Madrilenos could stand. On Palm Sunday, March 23, 1766, they rose in revolt, captured ammunition stores, emptied the prisons, overwhelmed soldiers and police, attacked Squillaci’s home, stoned Grimaldi, killed the Walloon guards of the royal palace, and paraded with the heads of these hated foreigners held aloft on pikes and crowned with broad-rimmed hats. For two days the mob slaughtered and pillaged. Charles yielded, repealed the decrees, and sent Squillaci, safely escorted, back to Italy. Meanwhile he had discovered the talents of the Conde de Aranda, and appointed him president of the Council of Castile. Aranda made the long cape and wide sombrero the official costume of the hangman; the new connotation made the old garb unfashionable; most Madrilenos adopted French dress.

Aranda came of an old and wealthy family in Aragon. We have seen him imbibing Enlightenment in France; he went also to Prussia, where he studied military organization. He returned to Spain eager to bring his country abreast of those northern states. His Encyclopedist friends rejoiced too publicly over his accession to power; he mourned that they had thereby made his course more difficult,34 and he wished they had studied diplomacy. He defined political diplomacy as the art of

recognizing the strength, resources, interests, rights, fears, and hopes of the different powers, so that, as the occasion warrants it, we may appease these powers, divide them, defeat them, or ally ourselves with them, depending on how they serve our advantage and increase our security.35

The King was in a mood for ecclesiastical reforms because he suspected the clergy of secretly encouraging the revolt against Squillaci.36 He had permitted the government press to print in 1765 an anonymous Tratado de la regalia de l’amortización, which questioned the right of the Church to amass real property, and argued that in all temporal matters the Church should be subject to the state. The author was Conde Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, a member of the Consejo de Castilla. In 1761 Charles had issued an order requiring royal consent for the publication of papal bulls or briefs in Spain; later he rescinded this order; in 1768 he renewed it. Now he supported Aranda and Campomanes in a succession of religious reforms that for one exciting generation remade the intellectual face of Spain.

2. The Spanish Reformation

The Spanish reformers—perhaps excepting Aranda—had no intent to destroy Catholicism in Spain. The long wars to drive out the Moors (like the long struggle for the liberation of Ireland) had made Catholicism a part of patriotism, and had intensified it into a faith too sanctified by the sacrifices of the nation to admit of successful challenge or basic change. The hope of the reformers was to bring the Church under control of the state, and to free the mind of Spain from terror of the Inquisition. They began by attacking the Jesuits.

The Society of Jesus had been born in Spain in the mind and experiences of Ignatius Loyola, and some of its greatest leaders had come from Spain. Here, as in Portugal, France, Italy, and Austria, it controlled secondary education, gave confessors to kings and queens, and shared in forming royal policies. Its expanding power aroused the jealousy, sometimes the enmity, of the secular Catholic clergy. Some of these believed in the superior authority of ecumenical councils over the popes; the Jesuits defended the supreme authority of the popes over councils and kings. Spanish businessmen complained that Jesuits engaging in colonial commerce were underselling regular merchants because of ecclesiastical exemption from taxation; and this, it was pointed out, lessened royal revenues. Charles believed that the Jesuits were still encouraging the resistance of the Paraguayan Indians to the orders of the Spanish government.37 And he was alarmed when Aranda, Campomanes, and others showed him letters which, they alleged, had been found in the correspondence of the Jesuits; one of these letters, supposedly from Father Ricci, general of the order, declared that Charles was a bastard and should be superseded by his brother Luis.38 The authenticity of these letters has been rejected by Catholics and unbelievers alike;39 but Charles thought them genuine, and concluded that the Jesuits were plotting to depose him, perhaps to have him killed.40 He noted that an attempt had been made, allegedly with Jesuit complicity, to assassinate Joseph I of Portugal (1758). He determined to follow Joseph’s example, and expel the order from his realm.

Campomanes warned him that such a move could succeed only through secret preparations followed by a sudden and concerted blow; otherwise the Jesuits, who were revered by the people, could arouse a troublesome furor throughout the nation and its possessions. On Aranda’s suggestion sealed messages, signed by the King, were sent out early in 1767 to officials everywhere in the empire, with orders, on pain of death, to open them only on March 31 in Spain, on April 2 in the colonies. On March 31 the Spanish Jesuits awoke to find their houses and colleges surrounded by troops, and themselves placed under arrest. They were ordered to depart peaceably, taking only such possessions as they could carry with them; all other Jesuit property was confiscated by the state. Each of the exiles was granted a small pension, which was to be discontinued if any Jesuit protested the expulsion. They were taken in carriages under military escort to the nearest port, and shipped to Italy. Charles sent word to Clement XIII that he was transporting them “to the ecclesiastical territories, in order that they may remain under the wise and immediate direction of his Holiness.... I request your Holiness not to regard this resolution otherwise than as an indispensable civil precaution, which I have adopted only after mature examination and profound reflection.”41

When the first vessel, bearing six hundred Jesuits, sought to deposit them at Civitavecchia, Cardinal Torrigiani, papal secretary, refused to let them land, arguing that Italy could not so suddenly take care of so many refugees.42 For weeks the ship roamed the Mediterranean seeking some hospitable port, while its desperate passengers suffered from weather, hunger, and disease. Finally they were allowed to debark in Corsica; and later, in manageable groups, they were absorbed into the Papal States. Meanwhile the Jesuits experienced similar banishment from Naples, Parma, Spanish America, and the Philippines. Clement XIII appealed to Charles III to revoke edicts whose suddenness and cruelty must shock all Christendom. Charles replied: “To spare the world a great scandal I shall ever preserve, as a secret in my heart, the abominable plot that necessitated this rigor. Your Holiness ought to believe my word: the safety of my life exacts of me a profound silence.”43

The King never fully revealed the evidence upon which he had based his decrees. The details are so controverted and obscure that judgment is baffled. D’Alembert, no friend of the Jesuits, questioned the method of their banishment. On May 4, 1767, he wrote to Voltaire:

What do you think of the edict of Charles III, so abruptly expelling the Jesuits? Persuaded as I am that he had good and sufficient reasons, do you not think that he ought to have made them known, and not shut them up in his “royal heart”? Do you not think he ought to have allowed the Jesuits to justify themselves, especially since everyone is sure they could not? Do you not think, too, that it would be very unjust to make them all die of starvation if a single lay brother, who perhaps is cutting cabbage in the kitchen, should say a word, one way or the other, in their favor? … Does it not seem to you that he could act with more common sense in carrying out what, after all, is a reasonable matter?44

Was the expulsion popular? A year after its completion, on the festival of St. Charles, the King showed himself to the people from the balcony of his palace. When, following custom, he asked what gift they desired of him, they cried out “with one voice” that the Jesuits should be allowed to return, and to wear the habit of the secular clergy. Charles refused, and banished the Archbishop of Toledo on charge of having instigated the suspiciously concordant petition.45 When, in 1769, the Pope asked the bishops of Spain for their judgment on the expulsion of the Jesuits, forty-two bishops approved, six opposed, eight gave no opinion.46 Probably the secular clergy were content to be relieved of Jesuit competition. The Augustinian friars of Spain approved the expulsion, and later supported the demand of Charles III that the Society of Jesus be completely dissolved.47

No such summary action could be taken with the Inquisition. Far more deeply than the Society of Jesus it was mortised in the awe and tradition of the people, who ascribed to it the preservation of morals and the purity of their faith—even of their blood. When Charles III came to the throne the Inquisition held the mind of Spain by a severe and watchful censorship. Any book suspected of religious heresy or moral deviation was submitted to calificadores— qualifiers, or examiners; if they thought it dangerous they sent their recommendations to the Consejo de la Inquisición; this could decree the suppression of the book and the punishment of the author. Periodically the Inquisition published an Index of prohibited books; to own or read one of these without ecclesiastical permission was a crime that only the Inquisition could forgive, and for which the offender could be excommunicated. Priests were required, especially in Lent, to ask all penitents whether they had, or knew anyone who had, a prohibited book. Any person failing to report a violation of the Index was considered as guilty as the violator, and no ties of family or friendship could excuse him.48

Charles’s ministers here accomplished only minor reforms. In 1768 the Inquisitorial censorship was checked by requiring that all edicts prohibiting books should secure royal approval before being put into effect. In 1770 the King ordered the Inquisition’s tribunal to concern itself only with heresy and apostasy, and to imprison no one whose guilt had not been conclusively established. In 1784 he ruled that proceedings of the Inquisition regarding grandees, cabinet ministers, and royal servants must be submitted to him for review. He appointed Inquisitor generals who showed a more liberal attitude toward diversities of thought.49

These modest measures had some effect, for in 1782 the Inquisitor General sadly reported that fear of ecclesiastical censure for reading forbidden books was “nearly extinct.”50 In general the agents of the Inquisition, after 1770, were milder, its penalties more humane, than before. Toleration was granted to Protestants under Charles III, and in 1779 to Moslems, though not to Jews.51 There were four autos-da-fé during the reign of Charles III, the last in 1780 at Seville, of an old woman accused of witchcraft; and this execution aroused such criticism throughout Europe52 that the way was prepared for the suppression of the Spanish Inquisition in 1813.

Nevertheless even under Charles III freedom of thought, if expressed, was still legally punishable with death. In 1768 Pablo Olavide was denounced to the Inquisition as having pornographic paintings in his Madrid home—perhaps some copies of Boucher’s nudes, for Olavide had traveled in France, even to Ferney. A more serious charge was laid against him in 1774—that in the model villages established by him in Sierra Morena he had allowed no monasteries, and had forbidden the clergy to say Mass on weekdays, or beg for alms. The Inquisition notified the King that these and other offenses had been proved by the testimony of eighty witnesses. In 1778 Olavide was summoned to trial; he was accused of upholding the Copernican astronomy, and of corresponding with Voltaire and Rousseau. He abjured his errors, was “reconciled” with the Church, suffered confiscation of all his property, and was sentenced to confinement in a monastery for eight years. In 1780 his health collapsed, and he was allowed to take the waters at a spa in Catalonia. He escaped to France, and received a hero’s welcome from his philosophic friends in Paris. But after some years of exile he grew unbearably lonesome for his Spanish haunts. He composed a pious work, The Gospel Triumphant, or The Philosopher Converted, and the Inquisition permitted his return.53

We note that the trial of Olavide occurred after the fall of Aranda from his place at the head of the Consejo de Castilla. In his final years of power Aranda founded new schools, taught by secular clergy, to supply the void left by the Jesuits; and he reformed the currency by replacing debased coins with money of good quality and superior design (1770). However, his sense of his superior enlightenment made him in time irritable, overbearing, and presumptuous. After making the power of the king absolute, he sought to limit it by increasing the authority of the ministers. He lost perspective and measure, and dreamed of bringing Spain, in one generation, out of its contented Catholicity into the stream of French philosophy. He expressed too boldly his heretical ideas, even to his confessor. Though many of the secular clergy supported some of his ecclesiastical reforms as beneficial to the Church,54 he frightened many more by disclosing his hope of completely disbanding the Inquisition.55 He became so unpopular that he did not dare go out of his palace without a bodyguard. He complained so often of the burdens of office that at last Charles took him at his word and sent him as ambassador to France (1773-87). There he predicted that the English colonies in America, which were beginning their revolt, would in time become one of the great powers of the world.56

3. The New Economy

Three able men dominated the ministry after Aranda’s departure. José Monino, Conde de Floridablanca, succeeded Grimaldi as secretary of state for foreign affairs (1776), and dominated the cabinet till 1792. Like Aranda, but in less degree, he felt the influence of the philosophes . He guided the King in measures for improving agriculture, commerce, education, science, and art; but the French Revolution frightened him into conservatism, and he led Spain into the first coalition against Revolutionary France (1792). Pedro de Campomanes presided over the Council of Castile for five years, and was the prime mover in economic reform. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, “the most eminent Spaniard of his age,”57 came into public view as a humane and incorruptible judge in Seville (1767) and Madrid (1778). Most of his activity in the central government followed 1789, but he contributed powerfully to economic policy under Charles III with his Informe sobre un proyecto de ley agraria (1787); this proposal for a revision of agricultural law, written with almost Ciceronian elegance, gave him a European reputation. These three men, with Aranda, were the fathers of the Spanish Enlightenment and the new economy. On the whole, in the judgment of an English scholar, their “result for good rivals that achieved in an equally short time in any other country; and in the history of Spain there is certainly no period which can compare with the reign of Charles III.”58

The obstacles to reform in Spain were as great in economy as in religion. The concentration of inalienable ownership in titled families or ecclesiastical corporations, and the monopoly of wool production by the Mesta seemed to be insurmountable barriers to economic change. Millions of Spaniards took pride in indolence, and showed no shame in begging; change was distrusted as a threat to idleness.* Money was hoarded in palace coffers and church treasuries instead of being invested in commerce or industry. The expulsion of Moors, Jews, and Moriscos had removed many sources of agricultural betterment and commercial development. Difficulties of internal communication and transport left the interior a century behind Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid.

Despite these deterrents, in Madrid and other centers men of good will—nobles, priests, and commoners, without distinction of sex—formed Sociedades Económicas de los Amigos del País to study and promote education, science, industry, commerce, and art. They founded schools and libraries, translated foreign treatises, offered prizes for essays and ideas, and raised money for progressive economic undertakings and experiments. Acknowledging the influence of French physiocrats and Adam Smith, they condemned the national accumulation of gold as a monument to stagnation, and one of them asserted: “The nation that has the most gold is the poorest, … as Spain has shown.”60 Jovellanos hailed “the science of civil economy” as “the true science of the state.”61Economic treatises multiplied. Campomanes’ Discurso sobre el fomento de la industria popular inspired thousands, including the King.

Charles began by importing grain and seed for regions where agriculture had decayed. He urged towns to lease their uncultivated common lands to peasants at the lowest practical rent. Floridablanca, using crown revenues from vacant ecclesiastical benefices, established in Valencia and Málaga montes píos (pious funds) for lending money to farmers at low interest. To check deforestation and erosion, Charles ordered all communes to plant, each year, a fixed number of trees; hence came that annual celebration of “Arbor Day” which was still, in both hemispheres, a wholesome custom in our youth. He encouraged the disregard of old entails, discouraged new ones, and thereby facilitated the breakup of large estates into peasant properties. The privileges of the Mesta sheep monopoly were sharply reduced; large tracts of land formerly reserved by it for pasturage were opened to cultivation. Foreign colonists were brought in to people sparsely inhabited areas; so, in the Sierra Morena region of southwestern Spain, hitherto abandoned to robbers and wild beasts, Olavide created (1767 f.) forty-four villages and eleven towns of French or German immigrants; these settlements became famous for their prosperity. Extensive canals were dug to connect rivers and irrigate large tracts of formerly arid land. A network of new roads, which for a time were the best in Europe,62 bound the villages and the towns in a quickened facility of communication, transport, and trade.

Governmental aid went to industry. To remove the stigma traditionally attached to manual labor, a royal decree declared that craft occupations were compatible with noble rank, and that craftsmen were henceforth eligible to governmental posts. Model factories were established: for textiles at Guadalajara and Segovia; for hats at San Fernando; for silks at Talavera; for porcelain at Buen Retiro; for glass at San Ildefonso; for glass, cabinetry, and tapestry at Madrid. Royal edicts favored the development of large-scale capitalistic production, especially in the textile industry. Guadalajara in 1780 had eight hundred looms employing four thousand weavers; one company at Barcelona managed sixty factories with 2,162 cotton-weaving looms; Valencia had four thousand looms weaving silk, and, favored by its facilities for export, was cutting into the silk trade of Lyons. By 1792 Barcelona had eighty thousand weavers, and ranked second only to the English Midlands in the production of cotton cloth.

Seville and Cadiz had long enjoyed a state-protected monopoly of commerce with Spain’s possessions in the New World; Charles III ended this privilege, and allowed various ports to trade with the colonies; and he negotiated a treaty with Turkey (1782) that opened Moslem harbors to Spanish goods. The results were beneficial to all parties. Spanish America grew rapidly in wealth; Spain’s income from America rose eight hundred per cent under Charles III; her export trade was tripled.63

The expanding activities of the government required enlarged revenues. These were raised in some measure by state monopolies in the sale of brandy, tobacco, playing cards, gunpowder, lead, mercury, sulfur, and salt. At the outset of the reign there were sales taxes of fifteen per cent in Catalonia, fourteen per cent in Castile. Jovellanos aptly described sales taxes: “They surprise their prey … at its birth, pursue and nip it as it circulates, and never lose sight of it or let it escape, until the moment of its consumption.”64Under Charles the sales tax in Catalonia was abolished, and in Castile it was reduced to two, three, or four per cent.65 A moderate graduated tax was laid upon incomes. To secure additional funds by putting the savings of the people to work, Francisco de Cabarrús persuaded the Treasury to issue interest-bearing government bonds. When these fell to seventy-eight per cent of their par value, he founded (1782) the first national bank of Spain, the Banco de San Carlos, which redeemed the bonds at par and restored the financial credit of the state.

The result of statesmanship and enterprise was a substantial rise in the prosperity of the nation as a whole. The middle classes profited most, for it was their organizations that remade the Spanish economy. At Madrid 375 businessmen composed five great merchant guilds—the Cinco Gremios Mayores—which controlled most of the trade of the capital; we may judge their wealth from the fact that in 1776 they lent thirty million reales to the government.66

Generally the government favored this rise of the business class as indispensable to freeing Spain from economic and political dependence upon states with a more advanced economy. Here, as there, the growing proletariat had little share in the new affluence. Wages rose, especially in Catalonia, where the well-to-do complained that servants were hard to find and hard to keep;67 but, by and large, prices rose faster than wages, and the “working classes” were as poor at the end of the reign as at the beginning. An Englishman traveling in Valencia in 1787 remarked the contrast between “the opulence of … merchants, manufacturers, ecclesiastics, the military, or gentlemen of landed property,” and the “poverty, wretchedness, and rags” visible “in every street.”68 So the middle classes welcomed the Luces—the Enlightenment coming in from France and England—while their employees, crowding the churches and kissing the shrines, comforted themselves with divine grace and hopes of paradise.

The cities expanded under the new economy. The great maritime centers—Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Cadíz—had populations ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 (1800). Madrid in 1797 had 167,607, plus 30,000 foreigners. When Charles III came to the throne the city had the reputation of being the dirtiest capital in Europe. In the poorer quarters people still emptied their garbage into the streets, relying upon wind or rain to distribute it; when Charles forbade this they denounced him as a tyrant. “The Spaniards,” he said, “are children, who cry when they are washed.”69 Nevertheless his agents established a system of garbage-collection and sewage, and scavengers were organized to gather offal for fertilizer.70 An effort to suppress mendicancy failed; the people refused to let the police arrest beggars—especially the blind ones, who had formed themselves into a powerful guild.

Year by year Charles improved his capital. Water was led from the mountains into seven hundred fountains, from which 720 water carriers laboriously delivered it to the houses of the city. The streets were lighted by oil lamps from nightfall to midnight during six months of autumn and winter. Most streets were narrow and tortuous, following old and devious paths and hiding from the summer sun; but some fine avenues were laid out, and the people enjoyed spacious parks and shady promenades. Especially popular was the Paseo del Prado, or Meadow Walk, cooled with fountains and trees, and favored for amorous reconnaissance and rendezvous. There, in 1785, Juan de Villanueva began to build the Museo del Prado. And there, almost any day, four hundred carriages drove by, and, any evening, thirty thousand Madrilenos gathered. They were forbidden to sing ribald songs, or bathe nude in the fountains, or play music after midnight; but they enjoyed the melodious cries of women selling naranjas, limas, and avellanas—oranges, limes, and hazelnuts. At the end of the eighteenth century, said travelers, the spectacle visible daily on the Prado equaled that which in other cities of that period could be seen only on Sundays and holidays.71 Madrid became then, as it has again become in our time, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

Charles III was not as successful in foreign policy as in domestic affairs. The revolt of the English colonies in America seemed to offer a chance to avenge the losses suffered by Spain in the Seven Years’ War; Aranda urged Charles to help the revolutionists; the King secretly sent the rebels a million livres (June, 1776). Attacks by English corsairs upon Spanish shipping finally led Spain to declare war (June 23, 1779). A Spanish force recaptured Minorca, but an attempt to take Gibraltar failed. An invasion of England was prepared, but was frustrated by “Protestant” storms. In the Peace of Versailles Spain (1783) withdrew its demand for Gibraltar, but regained Florida.

The failure to restore Spain’s territorial integrity saddened the King’s final years. The wars had consumed much of the wealth which the new economy had produced. His brilliant ministers had never overcome two powerful forces of conservatism—the grandees with their vast estates, and the clergy with their vested interest in the simplicity of the people. Charles himself had seldom wavered in his basic fidelity to the Church. His people never admired him so much as when, meeting a religious procession, he gave his coach to the prelate who was carrying the Host, and then joined the retinue on foot. His religious devotion won the affection which had been withheld from him, as a stranger from Italy, in the first decade of his reign. When he died (December 14, 1788), after fifty-four years of rule in Naples and Spain, there were many who reckoned him, if not the greatest, certainly the most beneficent king that Spain had ever had. His kindly nature shone out when, on his deathbed, he was asked by the attending bishop had he yet pardoned all his enemies. “How should I wait for this pass before forgiving them?” he asked. “They were all forgiven the moment after the offense.”72

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