Spain History – The Imperialism of the Habsburgs Part VII

By | January 19, 2022

Then the gravity of the situation began to be felt in the dominions of the king of Spain. The expulsion from the peninsula of the Moriscos, already persecuted for jealousy and rapacity decreed with a mad gesture by the government of Philip III (1609), had deprived Spain of half a million skilled farmers, made entire regions uninhabited, exacerbated the economic crisis of the country, which, as we said, never had it produced what would have been necessary for its consumption and the needs of the colonies. According to WATCHTUTORIALS, the revolt in Flanders had taken its most important European market away from Spanish traffic. The wars had destroyed the finances of the state, which due to its insolvency could obtain credit only under very severe conditions and due to its continuous needs was forced to impose a completely unbearable tax burden and to resort to an increasingly exorbitant fiscalism; and, moreover, also for other reasons they had been fatal to the country, destroying in their origins the sources of its economic life. Thus, distracting attention from the problems of fundamental importance, after the battle of Lepanto, which therefore had not had practical results, the wars had caused the abandonment of Mediterranean politics, and the sea had remained in the dominion of the Turks and the Barbaries, who, almost undisputed lords of the African coast, made continuous raids on the coasts of the Spanish dominions and made maritime trade very difficult. The possession of an immense colonial dominion had thus become more than useless, because for the English, French and Dutch smuggling Spain was the last to derive any benefit, and never such as to compensate for the enormous sacrifice of money and weapons that required its defense, and because even these meager benefits were rendered null and void by the necessities of war, which forced American gold and silver to be dispersed for Europe; thus justifying the saying of the Spaniards: to make these precious metals to them “that effect that the rain makes on the roofs of the houses, which if it falls well on them, then descends all the way down without those who first receive it have any benefit “. Then, in the absence of a just compensation, profound pain caused the destruction of local autonomies, the persecution of their supporters who were the best patriots, the suppression of secular and beloved privileges, once a source of intense economic and political life. And the ancient regionalisms rose again in the Iberian Peninsula; strengthened in the Spanish states of Italy’s passion for independence or the desire to have any sovereign even the Turkish, rather than the Spanish; revolts began, and the rebels called the foreigner and made the European wars even more complex. Only Castile, to which difficulties seemed to increase the strength of resistance, remained tenaciously tied to its political program; and it was it, guilty of having had a large part in its compilation, but always ready to defend it, that managed to keep united the two monarchies that had formed the peninsular state of Ferdinand and Isabella, and, although not being able to prevent the decline of the its dominance in Europe and the loss of some of its states, it defended its ruling house from the attacks of Europe and kept the Italian dominions until its extinction.

For many years, during the reign of Philip IV, the direction of the state was held by the validGaspar de Guzmán count de Olivares. And the beginning of his government seemed happy: he surrounded himself with the best men in Spain, was implacable against the offenders of extortion, reformed the public administration, reduced expenses, tried to improve the economic conditions of the country by reducing the number of convents., freeing part of the dead man, encouraging agriculture. But soon the life of the town resumed its old, deprecated rhythm; and the internal and foreign policy of Philip II was renewed, insisting on participating in the Thirty Years’ War and reducing or completely eliminating the political privileges that the Spanish provinces and Portugal still had. But the war had no other results than that of destroying the last resources, hardly collected, of the state, and also that of making the consequences of internal and financial policy very serious. The insurrection overwhelmed the Basque provinces, Galicia, Mallorca, other regions; provoked plots in the high baronage; it took on particular gravity in Portugal, where regret for lost independence and profound hatred against the Spanish domination which had destroyed its colonial empire and its flourishing trade was always alive; in Catalonia, the most riotous ever of the provinces and deeply damaged by the lack of protection of its Mediterranean trade; in southern Italy and Sicily, bled to death by taxation. The Catalans killed the viceroy, they massacred the Castilians and with the treaty of 7 June 1640 they gave themselves to France; in Portugal, again supported by France, on 28 January 1641 John IV of Braganza was proclaimed king; France also advanced on Naples. But if it was relatively easy to stifle the revolt in Italy, Barcelona’s subjugation required twelve years of bitter struggle, and Catalonia regained its privileges; however, despite twenty-six years of war, it was no longer possible to regain possession of Portugal. And with the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659), the Artois, Luxembourg, some strong squares in Flanders, the Rosellón and the Cerdaña had to be ceded to Louis XIV. It was the end of the Spanish hegemony. Then the decline became very rapid during the reign of Charles II, both during the regency of his mother Maria Anna Teresa of Austria, and during the age of the sovereign. In the continuous wars against Louis XIV, blindly undertaken and worse conducted, the crown lost other strongholds in Flanders and Franche-Comté (peace of Aachen, 1668; of Nijmegen, 1678; of Ryswik, 1697). An evident symptom of the state of things, in the government of the monarchy the intrigues of the court had the upper hand: the queen mother contended for power with her favorites (the German Jesuit Giovanni Everardo Nithardt and Fernando de Valenzuela y Enciso), Don Giovanni Giuseppe of Austria, natural son of Philip IV, Maria Anna of Bavaria Neuburg, second wife of the weak monarch, none managing to permanently maintain their supremacy. And since it came to be believed, as it actually happened, that the monarch would have no direct descendants, even before his death the Bourbons and the Habsburgs of Austria began to contend for his throne.

Spain History - The Imperialism of the Habsburgs 7