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SPAIN UNDER THE HOUSE OF AUSTRIA AND THE
BOURBONS. THE perpetual struggles of France and Spain constitute a theme of no ordinary interest. True, that in modern times armed interventions and dynastic and family tendencies have attested the political predominance of the former, but it was not so in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the haughty Philip viewed himself as the head of all Catholicism, and the vice-gerent of God on earth. The general character of the struggle, the events, the men and the results, are all worthy of consideration, and replete with illustrations of historical and political adventure. Every effort made by the two great adversaries shook the entire of Europe, and the ultimate result of each has always been in favour of the great cause of religious and political freedom. Two centuries of warfare between two absolute governments
, and two states so profoundly Catholic, gave birth to the first European republic, Holland ; and served to confirm the power of the great Protestant state, England, and to establish religious liberty in Germany.
Thanks to the causes for distrust and opposition which Spain and France, each in their turn, gave to the other European powers, whether Philip II. or Louis XIV., which ever triumphed in their struggles against one another, the result was ultimately alike beneficial to political and religious liberty. We have as actors in this great drama the greatest men of the two countries, Charles V. and Philip II., Henry IV., Richelieu, and Louis XIV.; and it is seldom that in
historical episode so much that is unprecedented and strange is met with, or that results arose which so utterly disconcerted all political anticipations. Francis I. succumbing before Charles V. ; Henry II. compelled to make peace at Saint Quentin, are not more humiliating to France than was the vast superiority of Philip II. over Henry III.
It constitutes at once one of the most varied and comprehensive historical tasks that can be entered upon to trace the causes and events which have led to reverse the position of the two rival nations, and which have so degraded Spain from its former lofty position. Montesquieu and Voltaire have signalised some of the features of this great drama ; Schlegel has pointed out its undoubted relation to the great cause of Protestantism ; Ranke has, in still more modern times, paved the way for demonstrating the triumph of France as having its origin in the decline of Spain, and M. Weiss* may be said to have almost exhausted the subject. He has not recoiled before the immensity of the task or the number and variety of materials. These materials were mainly also only to be obtained in Spain itself. In what regards pure politics his chief resources appear to have been the despatches of ambassadors and consular reports, and more especially the NS. of Deny's “Godefroi,” preserved in the library of the Institute, and the papers of Simancas, also so largely used by Mignet. But M. Weiss had, besides this, to investigate closely the internal condition of the country, its domestic institutions, its commerce, its industry, its agriculture, and its arts and sciences. There existed in Spain a variety of resources illustrative of this particular portion of his subject which are unknown elsewhere. Such are the learned dissertations published by the Historical Academy of Madrid, the
* L'Espagne depuis le Règne de Philippe II., jusqu'à l'avenement des Bourbons. Par M. Ch. Weiss, Professeur d'histoire au College Royal de Bourbon.
“ Memoirs of the Economical Society,” the ancient treatises of Ustariz, of Ulloa, of Navarrête, of Moncada, of Campomanes, and the more recent works of Capmany, of Sempère, of Agustin de Blas, of Jovellanos. Indeed, travels, accounts of buccaneer and smuggling enterprises, manuscripts, and books of trifling details, but important as illustrative of manners, have been made to contribute to the one great object--the solving the problem of the decline of Spain.
“ In her own interior,” says Schlegel,“ Spain had also an arduous problem to solve ; she had to overcome the old energetic resistance of a whole people, the tolerably numerous descendants of the former lords and conquerors of the country, who still adhered to the Arabian manners and language, and even, in part, professed the doctrines of Mohammedanism. This struggle, which commenced under Philip II. by very severe laws against the Moriscoes, terminated, under Philip the Third, with the barbarous expulsion of the whole Moorish population to the coasts of Africa. That from the intimate and manifold relations which existed between Spain and Germany under Charles V., the armies of the emperor may have introduced into Spain the opinions of the new German Gospellers to a greater extent perhaps than can be now stated with certainty, or than is now susceptible of minute and accurate proof, is by no means improbable ; and this fact would serve to explain, though not entirely to justify, many acts of the Spanish government. At any rate, the Spanish mind and character, in other respects so generous and upright, so little prone to selfish cunning or fickle frivolity, became, in the long strife and animosities of a fierce religious war, more and more partial and exclusive, arbitrary and violent. There yet lingered, however, many chivalrous virtues peculiar to this high-minded nation-many extraordinary and lofty effüsions of religious genius, such as are displayed in the wonderful writings of St. Theresa, whose holy meditations are couched in language of such inimitable beauty. Among no other people did the spirit and character of the middle age, in its most beautiful and dignified form, so long continue and survive in manners, ways of thinking, intellectual culture, and works of imagination and poetry, as among the Spaniards ; and it is not the mere effect of chance, but it is a very remarkable and characteristic fact, that in Spain alone the peculiar poetry of the middle age attained to its utmost perfection, and reached its last exquisite bloom.”
Taken in a political point of view, there can be no doubt but that the rise of Protestantism and the establishment of powerful independent Protestant states struck a fatal blow to the power of Spain. At the same time, Protestantism was not the only cause of the rupture of the Netherlands with Spain; for even in earlier times the Burgundian spirit had been prone to turbulence, and the arbitrary rule of the Spaniards had excited in other countries also general dissatisfaction, aversion, and resistance. In England a Catholic reaction had taken place under Queen Mary, wife of Philip II. of Spain, but this was again succeeded by a Protestant reaction under Elizabeth, whose steady and inflexible policy lent strength to the opponents of Spain on the continent, and defeated the bold attacks made upon the immediate independence of Great Britain itself.
Opposed to those striking signs of the times, were the national pride and religious fervour of Spain, engaging its monarch in an impossible enterprise of subjugating the world in the name of religion, and wasting in such a vain-glorious undertaking the resources of the country and of the monarchy itself. When we see Philip II., the proudest of kings,
daily kissing the hand of the priest who officiated before him ; when we see him rudely drawing back a lady who had ventured to place her foot on the steps of the altar, and saying to her, “ This is neither your place nor mine," we can readily understand how a mind in which the bigotry natural to Spaniards was augmented by superstitious terrors, and a blind devotion to the church, should identify the cause of Spain with that of religion. Yet, notwithstanding this individual impulse which itself received strength from the actual position
of the monarchy and the passions of the people, for nearly twenty years Philip held the opposing interests of the Duke of Alva and of Ruy Gomez in check, and pursued his comprehensive design of universal dominion without involving himself in an European war. It was only when his intellectual
powers became impaired, when his devotion assumed the character of a mere superstition, when his conscience called loudly for atonements, and his physical force was giving way before an hereditary affliction, that men like Moura and Ydiaquez were called to his councils, to represent the passions of the populace, and by over-taxing the strength and resources of the empire, to lay the seeds of an irrecoverable decay.
At this great epoch in the history of Spain, and from that time henceforth, the influence of the court and the power of ministers cannot be separated from the acts of the monarchy. It was to the Duke of Lerma, all-powerful with Philip III., and who alone could dare the popular clamour, that Spain was indebted for fifteen years of peace, which alone prevented its casting away at once its few remaining political
With the overthrow of the Duke of Lerma, and the rise of Olivarès, a minister who courted popularity, general hostilities recommenced. The position of Spain already, in the time of Philip IV., was so grievous, as only to admit of being explained by reference to those illusions into which a nation is drawn by an overweening vanity and confidence, and a profound ignorance of its real strength and resources. War was exhausting the country; to no people was peace more necessitous; none were so exasperated against the government which imposed it upon them. Army, navy, finances, commerce, industry, were all destroyed, but national pride and vanity were as active as ever. Nothing remained to feed the heart of the Spaniard but the glory of having attempted the conquest of the world, and the indignation of having most signally failed in accomplishing it. It was from this that sprang the feverish desire to recommence the same struggle without even the slightest hopes of success.
During the whole time, that, with the exception of the brief periods of repose above alluded to, Spain was thus, by the vain-gloriousness of its external policy, sapping its strength to its basis; equally influential causes of decline presented themselves within the country itself. One of the most striking of these was the depopulation of the country, and its influence on agriculture and other branches of industry;
The portions of M. Weiss's work and they include the greater part of the second volume) which are devoted to the consideration of the causes of decline in agriculture, industry, and commerce of the country, are among the most satisfactory of all. The details exceed in minuteness and completeness any thing that has been before presented to the public. Holding, as we have ever done, that Providence has something to do with the prostration of a once great and populous country, for a guilt of bigoted persecution without parallel elsewhere, we even ourselves feel astounded to read that, in one single year, the so-called “Holy” Inquisition, at Seville, caused 2000 heretics to be burnt, and 16,000 to be condemned to punishments, which entailed moral degradation and confiscation of property. According to Llorente, the Inquisition, from its origin to its abolition in 1808, caused 31,912 Spaniards to be burnt alive, and condemned 291,450 persons, thus ruining upwards of 340,000 persons, whose shame was visited upon their families, for whom nought remained but disgrace and misery.
The number of the Moors who were expelled the country has never been exactly known. But M. Weiss says, that if we add to the 800,000 Jews who left the country in 1492, the numberless hosts of Moors who perished in the insurrections of the sixteenth century, and the still greater number of those whom Spain cast from out of her bosom in the reign of Philip III., it will be seen that this kingdom lost in the space of a hundred and twenty years, about three millions of its most laborious inhabitants. This is independent of the thousands of Spaniards who lost their lives on fields of battle in France, in Germany, in Flanders, in Ireland, in Africa, and at sea ; in upholding the gigantic struggle for the supremacy of the house of Austria, and the Roman Catholic faith, a struggle which was altogether beyond the strength of the monarchy.
It has been calculated that in the seventeenth century upwards of 40,000 men were sent annually out of Spain either as defenders or colonists of America and Africa, or as soldiers, to keep in subjection Flanders, Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, and the many other countries which were then subject to the Spanish monarchy. Few of these ever returned, and the emigrations to America increased with the external reverses and internal decay of the country.
The multiplication of convents, the results of superstition and national idleness, must be also placed in the same category as the evils of depopulation ; for the inhabitants of these monastic establishments contributed in no way to the productiveness or prosperity of the country, but, on the contrary, by consuming the work of the industrious, acted more banefully on the country than if actually withdrawn from the population. Yet in the time of Charles II., when Spain had lost 30,000,000 of men in war and colonisation, 180,000 men and women were inhabitants of monasteries and convents out of a population of 5,700,000!
Besides the expatriation of the most skilful and industrious husbandmen in the persons of the Moors, and the loss of the adult strength of the country in foreign military service, Spain possessed elements adverse to its agricultural prosperity, which were almost peculiar to itself. Such were the international hostility of its separate kingdoms and the force of national antipathies. The Castilians affected to despise all mercantile and industrial occupations whatsoever, and it was this exaggerated pride, and the belief in their vast superiority over all other nations, which blinded them to their own downfall.
The accumulation of property in the hands of the nobility and of the priesthood also contributed, according to M. Weiss, to the decline of agriculture as much as the depopulation of the country. According to the energetic formula of the middle ages, all that went to the church fell into a dead hand (main morte). A custom, the fatal working of which is less easily comprehended in all its ramifications, was the institution of what is termed the majorats of the nobility, by which services on the field were remunerated by usurpations of land. The privilege of the mesta granted in the good old times of Alphonso the Wise, who lived in the thirteenth century, and by which it was forbidden to enclose lands in those vast tracts which were traversed by the flocks which quitted the mountains of the Asturias and Leon in winter to pasture in the sunny plains of Andalusia and Estremadura, has also always had a bad effect upon the agricultural prosperity of Spain, and contributed, with the before-mentioned causes, to keep this otherwise fine country in a state of comparative sterility.
It is impossible for us to follow M. Weiss in his detailed exposition of the causes of the decline of industry and commerce in the same country. The causes which appear to have acted most disadvantageously upon the progress of the industrial arts in Spain have been the high prices of national manufactures brought about by the abundance of the precious metals; the prejudices against mechanical arts (possibly also the climacteric and national inaptitudes), and heavy taxation. This low condition of arts and manufactures, combined with high imposts, soon led the way to that system of smuggling which has ever been a main feature in Spanish international dealings and commerce. Strange to say “national prejudices” are also again adduced by M. Weiss as one of the prominent causes of the decline of commerce as well as of every other branch of prosperity. What may not these “national prejudices” be one day expected to lead to ?
The fate of the house of Austria appears to have conveyed no practical lesson to that of the Bourbons. The portraits of the kings from Charles V., by Titian, to that of Phillip IV., and of Charles II., by Velasquez and Carreño, may be seen in the museum of Madrid. The gradual degradation of intelligence and of physical forms is visible to the most superficial contemplator of these portraits. The features are the same, the resemblance is very great, but the expression dwindles away gradually from genius to nullity. “Charles V.," says Mignet, in his usual forcible manner, “was a general and a king ; Philip II. was a king only ; Philip III. and Philip IV. were not even kings ; Charles II. was not even a man. Not only did he not know how to reign, but he did not know how to reproduce himself.”
To the question, as to whether Spain has been raised from its fallen condition by the new dynasty, its present position furnishes a sufficiently negative answer. A hundred
years have now elapsed since a grandson of Louis XIV. was called to the throne of Charles VI., and Spain has remained stationary among nations, or if called to life, it has been to witness civil discords and internecine wars, and as a climax, the court and the highest personages of the realm, actors or agents in intrigues which would disgrace the lowest ranks of society.
The expeditions into Sardinia and Sicily, in 1717; the conquest of Naples, in 1734; the effectiveness of its privateersmen, in 1739 ; the reliefs accorded to the burdens of taxation by the enlightened administration of Philip V.; the impulse given to commerce by Charles III. ; the commencement of national undertakings, great roads and canals, by the same well-intentioned prince; the great struggle engaged in by their navy, when combined with that of France, in an unjust war against the liberties of the world ; are features that relieve and adorn the history of the reigning family; but which appear to have been insufficient to ward off the invariable deterioration, ever consequent upon a law upholding dynastic intermarriages ; or to arouse government to a more liberal sense of that which would be really beneficial to the country, a wise and domestic policy, which should devote itself solely and vigorously to internal reforms, and to communicating a steady and permanent impulse to agriculture, to industry, to commerce, and to literature and art.