Gateway to the Classics: A Child's History of Spain by John Bonner
A Child's History of Spain by  John Bonner

Charles the Third

A.D. 1759-1789

Now we come to a king who surrounded himself with wise counsellors, and who honestly tried to carry out the work which Alberoni and Carvajal and Ensenada had begun. This was Charles the Third, who had been King of Naples, and had had twenty-five years apprenticeship to the business of governing. He knew, when he came to the throne of Spain, that his reign was to be a fight to the death between him and the Church, and though he was a devout Catholic, he went into the fight with a firm purpose to win if he could. There could not be two masters in Spain. He must either put down the Church, or it would put him down.

This fight was going on in Portugal, France, and Italy, as well as in Spain. The strength of the Church grew out of the general ignorance and superstition of the people, who obeyed the priests through their terror of hell in another world. How dense the ignorance was you would not believe if it were not actually proved. There was but one public library in Spain, and that had recently been started at Madrid. No one bought books, except books of devotion. A student at the great University of Salamanca was five years there before he ever heard of mathematics. The priests, who were the only teachers of youth, refused to admit the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, and denied the circulation of the blood. The doctors refused to let the streets of Madrid be cleaned, because that would be flying in the face of Providence. There was no one in Spain who could teach botany or astronomy or physics or public law. There was no one who could make a map of Spain, or build a ship, or rig it after it was built. The peasants did not even know how to build their own houses, or to mend their tools.

A people so ignorant were easily led into superstition, and controlled by priests who claimed to be able to doom then to eternal perdition, or to secure their admission to heaven. Spaniards came to obey their priests as if they had been real agents of God, as they said they were; and when the king went counter to the priests, the people went counter to the king just as far as the priests chose to lead them.

Foremost among these priests were the brotherhood of Jesuits, which, as you remember, had been founded by Ignatius Loyola for the loftiest and purest purposes. Its members had long ago abandoned their original aims, and now openly sought little else besides making themselves all-powerful. Most people in Spain and Portugal, indeed, thought they were stronger than the king.

In the year in which Charles came to the throne, a young lady was found in a street in Lisbon dead, with many wounds on her body, which was wrapped in a sheet; and the same night the king was shot at and severely wounded. The Prime-Minister of Portugal, whose name was Pombal, claimed to have traced the crime to a plot set on foot by the Jesuits. He found passages in their books which justified crime, if the criminal fancied that good would result from it, and, by a single stroke of his pen, he exiled all the Jesuits from Portugal and the colonies, including Brazil. This was in September, 1759.

France followed; the prime-minister, Choiseul, ordered all Jesuits to leave France on a given day.

In Spain, Charles hesitated to break with so powerful a body as the Jesuits. But events forced his hand. His minister ordered the streets of Madrid to be lighted, and forbade the Spaniards from wearing the large cloak and slouch hat with a flapping brim, which often served robbers and murderers as a disguise. At this turmoil arose. It is said—I know not how true or false it may be—that the Jesuits put the notion of rebelling into the minds of the mob. They were apt to object to measures which they had not inspired. However this may be, the mob rose in arms, took possession of Madrid, and drove Charles out of the city. He had to yield to their demands to dismiss his minister, and to let the cloaks and slouched hats remain.


A Spanish Monk.

But he bided his time. He found a stalwart Spaniard, the Count Aranda, who had been abroad, and was a man of intelligence and intrepidity; him he made prime-minister. Aranda had the king write letters with his own hand to the governors of every province in Spain and Spanish America—the letters to be opened in private on a certain day and at a certain hour, and not before.

After sufficient time had elapsed, at midnight, on March 31st, 1769, every Jesuit college in Spain was surrounded by soldiers, the doors broken open, and the Jesuits bidden to rise and dress. When they were gathered in the refectory a royal decree was read to them, expelling them from the Spanish dominions. Every member was allowed to take with him his money, his linen, and his breviary; unŽder the escort of dragoons they were all conveyed in carriages to the sea-coast, where they were shipped in vessels and transported to Italy. I dare say that on that cruel journey some of them remembered how their order had insisted on the expulsion of the Moriscoes, less than sixty years before.

They were ferried across to Civita Vecchia, in the dominions of the pope, but his holiness refused to allow them to land, saying that he could not support all the priests who were driven out of other countries. For three months they were tempest-tossed on the Mediterranean, vainly trying to get permission to land somewhere, and being refused everywhere. At last they were allowed to set foot in Corsica, where they slept in warehouses and barns and stables, and were fed by charity. Many of them who were old died of exposure and privation. The end of it was that the King of Spain agreed to pay the pope so much a head for each of them, and on this condition they were let into Italy.

The King of Naples and the Duke of Parma followed. the example of Spain, and expelled the Jesuits. But the simple people of Spain stood by them in their afflictions, and when the king, as the custom was, asked the people what boon he should grant them on his birthday, the mob replied with one voice:

"Give us back the Jesuits!"

The police discovered that they had been tutored to say this by the Archbishop of Toledo, and Aranda very quickly sent hint out of the kingdom to join his friends.

At last the pope himself became disgusted with the evidence of the Jesuit intrigues, and by a formal bull he suppressed the order. So for a time there was peace, as far as they were concerned.

Having got rid of the chief obstacle to reform, Aranda Set to work to improve the condition of Spain. He abolished the pope's court. Up to his time every church was a sanctuary where a criminal could defy arrest. He provided that there should not be more than two sanctuaries in capital cities, and one in smaller cities. In our time, the police would consider that more than ample In the Morena Mountains, which was a haunt of robbers, he founded a manufacturing city, which, he called La Carolina; and, as there were no Spaniards who could be trusted to handle looms or machinery, he imported six thousand Germans and Swiss to carry on the business.

The misfortune was that most of these new-comers were Protestants, and when Aranda retired from office the Inquisition swooped down upon them and scattered them. Olavide, Aranda's friend, tried to protect them; but the Inquisition laid hands on him, confiscated his property, shut him up in a monastic prison for eight years, and pronounced him incapable of ever holding any office of power or profit.

Aranda's successor was another gallant Spaniard, named Florida Blanca. It was his sad fate to engage in more wars than Spain could rightfully afford. He joined the French in war against England at the time of the American war of Independence, and accomplished no results. He tried more than once to take Gibraltar from the English; but always without success. He put down a rising of the native Peruvians in South America, and I am sorry to say that the Peruvian chief, Tupac-Amara, was inhumanly butchered with all his family. He took Minorca from the English.

But his chief work was at home. He did his best to encourage manufactures; and though he pursued his object in the wrong way, namely, by levying high protective duties on foreign goods, he did get some branches of industry on their feet. He was able to reduce the taxes without impoverishing the treasury. He brought in foreigners to work the mines. He improved the roads and canals, and reorganized the police. He compelled the wealthy clergy to make provision for the poor.

With the Inquisition he was always at war. That body accused Charles, who was a man of devout piety, of being an infidel tainted with French heresies; and, among the people, many were ignorant enough to believe it. Florida Blanca retaliated by requiring the Inquisition to submit their sentences to the king before they could be executed. Thus he held a rod over their head which curbed their blood-thirstiness. In the reign of Philip the Fifth, the Inquisition burned or sent to the galleys or imprisoned for life the enormous number of three thousand persons; in Ferdinand the Sixth's reign, only eighty persons were so punished; in Charles the Third's reign, only sixty. Sixty seems a terrible number of victims to have been sacrificed to bigotry in twenty-nine years; but the grand inquisitor was disgusted, and thought the business of the Inquisition was going to the dogs.

In the year 1789, Charles's son, Gabriel, whom he loved with a passionate love, caught smallpox from his wife, and died. The broken-hearted father went back to his palace, and never concerned himself about anything afterwards. In less than a month he was seized with inflammation of the lungs, and died.

He was one of the best kings Spain ever had, but he could not raise his people to the level of his own intelligence. He had but one passion, which was hunting. Shortly before he died, he wrote to his brother that he had killed with his own hand, in the course of his life, five hundred and fifty-nine wolves, and fifty-three hundred and twenty-three foxes.

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