Spain: Tradition and Enlightenment II

Manuel Godoy

The apparent indifference of many of the top people of Spain to the arts and sciences is reflected in the scant production of much that was memorable. Valencia’s university, long strong in science, benefited from Philip V’s temporary closure of Catalan universities. The medical research of Andres Piquer added to Valencia’s renown and led to improvement in Spanish medical practice. The best known literary figure was a Benedictine professor in Galicia, Padre Benito Feijoo (1676-1764), who wrote critical works about the shortcomings of his countrymen. In music, the Catalan composer Antonio Soler (1729-1783) worked with Domenico Scarlatti in Madrid and headed the choir at the Escorial, where the Bourbons established new royal apartments. The Bourbons also brought opera to Spain, and Spanish composers wrote operas. Architecture had a late Baroque fling with a style named after the brothers Churiguerra, who did the elegant Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. It soon settled into the respectable classicism of the era, as evidenced by the Royal Palace of Madrid. Carlos III imported his chief painters, but he also gave work to a rising Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya, who would prove to be one of the great artists of all time. Under Carlos, Goya began for the royal tapestry factory the Bourbons established in Madrid a series of cartoons that depict scenes of Spanish popular life. The tapestries graced royal apartments; Goya’s cartoons are now in Madrid’s Prado Museum. Commissions from the king introduced Goya to high society, and he painted splendid portraits of the rich, titled, and famous, as well as of the royal family, and circulated in their company.

Beneath a colorful veneer the clash of Enlightenment and Church simmered and took its most dramatic turn with the expulsion and suppression of the Jesuits. In control of secondary education, the Jesuits remained current with developments in philosophy and science but kept them in a religious framework. The Jesuits’ successes earned them the hostility of rival Catholic religious orders and people who believed that Jesuits compromised morality with worldliness. The Jesuits tended to smear any Catholic opponent, including regalists, as “Jansenists.” The papacy had condemned Jansenism, derived from the austere theology of Cornelius Jansen, a seventeenth-century Flemish bishop, and by mideighteenth century, it had become largely confused in politics.

The Jesuits also dominated the Inquisition, which many enlightened ministers found an embarrassment, and they opposed the spread into Spain of freemasonry, which many enlightened ministers found attractive. Freemasonry on the European continent had a decidedly political dimension. In Masonic lodges, differences of creed and social class were suspended, and members talked of the brotherhood of mankind. While Freemasons admitted a Supreme Being, they accepted the validity of many religions. The papacy lost no time in condemning freemasonry for Deism (a belief in God but no single church), immorality, and intent to subvert the true Catholic faith. Among secular rulers, reaction to freemasonry was mixed. While instinctively suspicious of secret societies, many thought freemasonry to be a viable alternative to the power of organized religion as well as a clearinghouse for fresh ideas. In Madrid, the count of Aranda was grand master of the Masonic lodge.

The downfall of the Jesuits began in neighboring Portugal, where the enlightened chief minister, the marquis of Pombal, had them expelled in 1759. In France the Jesuits’ enemies had them expelled in 1764. In Madrid, the Jesuits were made scapegoats for the Esquilache riots of 1766, and the count of Aranda proposed that they be expelled from Spain, too. Aranda had traveled widely, studied military tactics in Prussia, fought in Italy, and met the famous Voltaire, who detested the Jesuits. Aranda arranged an investigation of the Jesuits, which a panel of bishops and councillors hostile to them carried out. As a result, Carlos expelled the Jesuits from Spain in 1767. Aranda then joined with the Bourbon courts of France and the Two Sicilies to pressure the pope to suppress the Jesuit order entirely, which he did in 1773.

Without its Jesuits, the Inquisition investigated the bishops who recommended their expulsion but failed to find sufficient evidence. They also went after Aranda and his colleagues until Carlos III stopped them. Yet he and Aranda both knew that the Inquisition remained popular among ordinary Spaniards and would not abolish it. The days of burning heretics and torture waned as even inquisitors yielded to Enlightenment ideas. Still, a woman was burned as a witch in Seville in 1787, though she was strangled before the fire was lit. The most sensational case involved Pablo Olavide, royal. intendant of the province of Seville. Peruvian born, Clavicle, like Aranda, had met Voltaire and knew the intellectual life of the Parisian salons. In Seville he held salons to discuss new ideas and the arts in his home, which he hung with contemporary French paintings. At the same time, he made vigorous efforts to improve provincial agriculture, which aroused opposition from many landlords, including churchmen. His enemies had him hauled before the Inquisition for the possession of pornographic pictures and forbidden books, for unorthodox ideas, and for interfering with the Church in the management of its lands. The number of witnesses ready to testify against Olavide convinced even the king to let the trial proceed. It was held behind closed doors and resulted in his conviction. Humiliated, forced to wear the sanbenito and dunce cap, Olavide protested that he had not lost his Catholic faith. He was stripped of his offices and confined to a monastery for reeducation. He escaped to France and was lionized by the intellectual set. Not until 1798 was he allowed, at age seventy-three, to return to Spain.

The cases of Olavide and several other intellectuals convicted by the Inquisition chilled but did not stop the spread of the Enlightenment among its small Spanish following. Not only public servants and some of the better educated clergy but also many members of the prosperous middle class continued to seek the latest ideas in the press and periodicals, although they remained wary. Even though religious censorship prevented the publication of Denis Diderot’s French Encyclopedia, lesser encyclopedias that emphasized science and technology and avoided criticism of religion and the Church did appear. However, the prosperity that permitted a few to keep up with new ideas and developments did not extend to the many, whose incomes failed to keep pace with inflation. Envious of the few whose lives seemed ever more dedicated to private fulfillment and pleasure, the many clung to Spain’s old traditions and considered the new ideas disturbing, foreign, atheistic, and potentially dangerous to the God-given order of society.

However disturbing some of their ideas and reforms seemed to many, Carlos and his ministers persisted in what they believed best for Spain. After Aranda went to Paris as ambassador, the counts of Campomanes and Floridablanca and Asturian legal expert Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos emerged as the ministers with the greatest influence over policy. Floridablanca provides a good example of the kind of men who served the eighteenth-century Bourbon kings. Born Jose Monino to a hidalgo family of Murcia, he studied law at Salamanca, proved a successful lawyer, and was brought into government by Esquilache. Jovellanos was arguably the most brilliant of Carlos’s ministers, with the broadest range of knowledge. Though his father wanted him to be a priest, he pursued the study of law with the support of his uncle, a duke. He wrote essays, poetry, dramas, and histories and was active in the royal academies of language and history, founded by the Bourbons to promote scholarship.

Carlos III remained interested in foreign policy and kept Spain in the company of the great powers when he joined France in 1778 against Great Britain during the War of American Independence. In Paris, Aranda met Benjamin Franklin and John Jay and favored the American cause, though he acknowledged the differences between Spain and the infant republic over Florida and the Mississippi Valley. Unlike Louis XVI of France, Carlos did not recognize or directly ally with the new United States, because of territorial issues and because he did not wish to encourage his own American colonies to seek independence. In Spain there was talk that Spanish America should be divided into three independent kingdoms, each under a younger son of the king, but the most obvious candidates all died young.

In the war the Spanish army and navy failed to recover Gibraltar, despite a bitter siege. The Spaniards did combine with the French to take Minorca, and in the Atlantic the Spanish and French fleets joined to threaten England with invasion, which prevented the English from sending General Charles Cornwallis needed reinforcements and led to his surrender in 1781 at Yorktown. The Spanish navy also found time to bombard Algiers and force its corsairs to forgo further raiding of Spanish commerce and coasts. The Spanish governor of New Orleans defeated the British in the Mississippi Valley, then took Mobile, and proceeded to reconquer Florida. The 1783 Peace of Paris, which recognized the independence of the United States, conceded Florida and Minorca to Spain, although Britain kept Gibraltar. Carlos earlier recovered Uruguay from Portugal but failed to get the Falkland Islands back. Disputes between Spain and the United States over Florida and the Mississippi, valley remained unsettled, despite negotiations in 1785-1786 between Spain’s emissary, Diego de Gardoqui, and John Jay, appointed by Congress to deal with him.

Under Carlos III Spain’s overseas empire reached its greatest extent. In distant Alta, California, Franciscan friars established missions as far north as San Francisco, where a statue of Carlos III, a recent gift from Spain, graces the Embarcadero. To defend California the Spaniards had fewer than 200 soldiers, scattered among the presidios of San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco and doing sentry duty at the missions. Unruly California Indians were their chief concern. Only three cannons defended the Golden Gate, although both Great Britain and Russia had interests in the Pacific that potentially menaced California and New Spain.

Aged seventy-two, Carlos III died in December 1788. To Spaniards, his reign in retrospect seemed a second golden age, at least in international prestige, prosperity, and domestic tranquility, if not in literature and the arts. While the reign of his son, Carlos IV, began with good reason for hope, it would end in national calamity and the terrible war that gave the world the word guerrilla.

Carlos IV kept his father’s principal ministers of state, with Floridablanca as chief. Yet during the first year of his reign, revolution erupted in France and threatened the throne of his Bourbon cousin, Louis XVI. News of developments in France caused great stir in Spain and alarmed Floridablanca. Though he favored reform, it was reform from the top directed by an absolute sovereign, not reform promoted by an unruly constitutional legislature. Alarmed by the irreligion of many French revolutionary leaders, the Spanish Church shared Floridablanca’s fears. The French Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 caused many French clergymen to seek refuge in Spain, where they spread horror stories about the revolution. Floridablanca put the Inquisition to the vain task of keeping news of French developments from Spain. Enemies of enlightened reform in Spain linked reformist ideas with revolution, and leading ministers began to waffle. Floridablanca censored new ideas in Spanish periodicals. Campomanes refused to support a minister under attack from the Inquisition, and Jovellanos, who defended the minister, was ordered home to Asturias.

In February 1792, Carlos IV replaced Floridablanca with Aranda, whose connections in Paris seemed helpful to Louis XVI. Aranda restructured Spain’s government around the Council of State, which unfortunately put more power into the hands of the weak-willed king and allowed less independence to ministers. Aranda pursued a friendly policy toward France until events overwhelmed him. In September 1792, France became a republic and put Louis XVI on trial. War had broken out between France and a coalition headed by Austria and Prussia. Carlos IV intervened on behalf of Louis XVI, who was guillotined in January 1793. French propaganda aimed at Spain called for the Cortes to arise, overthrow the Bourbon dynasty, and end the Inquisition. In Spain the most effective response came from the pulpit. Inspired by their priests, most Spaniards saw the brewing conflict as a struggle on behalf of God, fatherland, and king, against a nation of regicides leagued to the devil. Even enlightened Spaniards like Jovellanos were appalled by the spectacle of the Reign of Terror in France. Lingering sympathy for the ideals of the French revolution was reduced to university students, whom the Inquisition hounded.

In March 1793, France declared war on Spain. Spanish troops invaded Languedoc, while French troops occupied two enclaves in the Pyrenees. In 1794 the death of Spanish General Antonio Ricardos and the appearance of more aggressive French commanders led to a French invasion of Catalonia. While French officers spread revolutionary propaganda, French soldiers plundered the countryside and aggravated the hatred already incited by the clergy. French promises of Catalan independence fell on deaf ears. The French invasion of Navarre and the Basque Country met similar popular resistance.

The cost of war was stiff, and in early 1794 Aranda proposed that Spain seek peace. By then Aranda had been supplanted as chief minister by Manuel de Godoy, newly made duke of Alcudia. A handsome, twenty-five-year-old guards officer of rough charm, from a poor but proud hidalgo family of Extremadura, Godoy had become the favorite of the queen, Maria Luisa of Parma, sixteen years his senior. They met when she was still princess of Asturias, her looks not yet faded, and became constant companions and perhaps lovers. The king accepted and genuinely liked Godoy, which caused people to call him “the royal cuckold.” In Godoy’s explanation, Carlos IV and Maria Luisa knew that he was utterly loyal to them. They promoted him to ever higher posts and gradually demoted or eliminated the ministers who had served Carlos III. When Carlos IV rejected Aranda’s proposed peace with France and dismissed him, an uproar followed. Almost everybody-nobles, intellectuals, clergymen, and commoners-clamored for Godoy’s removal.

Peace did not come until the regicide government in Paris fell. By the Treaty of Basel made with the new French government in July 1795, Spain recovered the Pyrenean regions lost but ceded Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, where France already possessed what is today’s Haiti. Carlos bestowed on Godoy the title prince of the Peace and elevated him above all other grandees of Spain. In October, Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo with the United States, represented by minister-extraordinary Thomas Pinckney, that settled differences over Florida and the Mississippi Valley. Spanish Florida’s border was adjusted roughly along the line of the thirty-first parallel. Spain accepted the Mississippi as the western boundary of the United States and permitted Americans free navigation through New Orleans.

The restoration of peace stifled the opposition to Godoy, who now opened negotiations with the French for an alliance. Spain had too many outstanding differences with Great Britain and feared for the future of Bourbon Parma when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded northern Italy. In August 1796, Spain and the French Republic became allies through the Treaty of San Idlefonso. Spain declared war on Britain, for which the price proved to be not o my higher taxes but a British blockade of Spanish commerce. In February 1797, off Cape St. Vincent, the Spanish battle fleet was beaten by a British squadron and the heroics of its Rear Admiral, Horatio Nelson. The English captured Trinidad and in 1798 again seized Minorca. The combined fleets of Spain and France could not match Britain’s, and Spain’s century-long effort to recover the Spanish-American market for Spanish shipping and manufactures collapsed. Under pressure, Carlos IV allowed his colonists to trade legally with neutrals, which benefited the merchant marine of the United States. Great Britain came to dominate the Spanish-American market and encouraged the tendencies of Spain’s colonies to seek independence.

Finding Spain pressed by war and its costs, Godoy sought the assistance of experienced ministers who had served Carlos III, including Jovellanos and his associate Mariano Luis de Urquijo. Jovellanos had refined his economic theories by reading Adam Smith and the French physiocrats, who favored the combination of free enterprise and private property. Smith emphasized commerce and manufacture, whereas the physiocrats held that all wealth came from the soil. Jovellanos drafted a detailed proposal for agrarian reform in Spain that became gospel for future reformers and anathema to the old landowning class. He believed that the system of entail, legitimized in the late Middle Ages, had resulted in the indifferent management of land, since the great clerical and noble landowners ran no risk of losing their estates, however encumbered they became with debt. Jovellanos argued that independent farmers with smaller estates, operating in a free market with its risks and profits, would prove more productive, and all Spain would benefit. Despite stubborn opposition, the needs of war forced the implementation of some of Jovellanos’s ideas to pay off government bonds. The crown appropriated some 10 percent of the Church’s property, sold it to private investors, and compensated the Church with low-paying annuities.

When Godoy fell victim to French intrigue and left court, Jovellanos and Urquijo carried on but were soon overwhelmed by religious issues thought dormant. When the French occupied Rome, in a gesture of charity Carlos IV allowed exiled Spanish Jesuits to return on an individual basis to Spain. They returned with a vengeance, leagued with the Inquisition, and pursued their enemies. They reached the ear of Carlos, who caved in to their demands. In 1798, he forced Jovellanos to resign and retire to Asturias. To placate Pope Pius VII, who negotiated with Napoleon Bonaparte a concordat that restored harmony between France and Rome, Carlos sacrificed Urquijo. Urquijo went to jail, and Jovellanos was sent to prison on Majorca. Rome and the Spanish Church had the upper hand over regalists and reformers.

Carlos recalled Godoy to power. Although his youthful instincts favored reform, Godoy cannily steered a cautious course between reformers and traditionalists. He won a bit of military glory in the brief War of the Oranges (1800-1801) against Portugal, when Carlos made him generalisimo of Spain’s army and began to see himself as Spain’s Napoleon. The war netted Spain the border district of Olivenza, although Carlos refused to annex Portugal from his son-in-law, the prince-regent, as Napoleon urged him to do.

In 1800 concern for another son-in-law, the duke of Parma, caused Carlos to cede Louisiana back to France. Bonaparte had annexed Parma to France but promised to establish an Italian kingdom of Etruria for the duke. Although Bonaparte agreed not to surrender Louisiana to a third party, in 1803 he sold it for hard cash to President Thomas Jefferson of the United States.

In March 1802, Spain and France made peace with Great Britain at Amiens. Spain recovered Minorca but not Trinidad. Peace did not last, and Spain’s renewal of war in December 1804 put an end to a brief recovery of prosperity and resumption of trade with Spanish America. In war, all the conflicting currents that developed during the eighteenth century would come to a violent head.

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