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We who are as good as you swear to you who are no better than we, to accept as our king and sovereign lord, provided you accept all our liberties and laws; if not, not.
Aragón headed a Mediterranean empire. It controlled the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Sicily, and the southern half of Italy. It had a quite different focus from Castile because it was oriented towards the Mediterranean. The conquest of much of the New World would change that. The Spanish church was a unifying factor. The Spanish were very devout Christians, who believed that they had the duty to convert others to the faith, by persuasion or force. The Spanish Christian church had been reformed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, incorporated ideas from Erasmus and other Christian humanists. The church did not have to pay attention to the boundaries of the various kingdoms on the peninsula. However, it was almost completely subordinated to the Crown of Castile, which enjoyed the patronado real. This royal patronage gave the Crown to decide which papal bulls would be published in Spain and to appoint high ecclesiastical officials. The Inquisition The Inquisition was a chief instrument of the Crown and the Church. It was an instrument to strengthen monarchy and to unify the two kingdoms. Medieval Spain was one of the most tolerant lands in medieval Europe, a place where Christians, Jews, and Moslems lived in harmony. That had been the policy of the Moslems when they ruled Spain; the Christians continued it. By the 15th century, however, intolerance grew, evidenced by mob violence and persecution laws. In 1492, Castile passed a law requiring Jews to become Christians or go into exile. Spaniards increasingly saw Moslems as a problem. The Moslems rebelled against religious intolerance and were ordered to convert to Christianity or leave. Too many Spaniards were beginning to believe that loyalty to the monarch and to Spain required that everyone believe the same. The Inquisition stood for social justice. It ignored class distinctions, economic status, and other such differences. It tended to reduce all men to a common level before the law (which was a very leftist posture). Judged by the standards of the times, the Spanish Inquisition was neither cruel nor unjust in its procedure and penalties. In many ways, it was more just and humane than almost any other tribunal in Europe. Conviction, for example, required seven witnesses. The accused was allowed the assistance of trained lawyers and an advocate. An accused could challenge a judge because of prejudice and make a list of all his enemies, thus excluding them from testifying. False accusations carried severe penalties. The Inquisition took good care of its prisoners. Unlike other European justice systems, it was very sparing in the use of torture and, when it did, used the more humane forms. What was terrifying about it was its secrecy. People could be arrested and held for years by the Inquisition. Spain In the 16th century, Spain contained about 10 million people of whom about 7 million were in Castile. As a unified kingdom, it was large enough to have weight in world affairs. It supported itself by the production of raw material. Castile, in particular, sold wool. Migratory sheep, usually merino sheep, were a very important part of the economy.. Spanish wool was the best in the world. By the beginning of the16th century, there were millions of sheep. The Mesta, which had royal support, controlled 3.5 million sheep but not all the sheep in the kingdom. Mesta taxes and gifts were a principal source of revenue for the Crown before the Conquest. It used the Consulado of Burgos to market the wool. One common assertion has been that the Mesta destroyed Castilian agriculture because the herds had the freedom to cross fields and destroy crops. The decline, however, was largely due to the traditions of the country which despised the tilling of the soil as a menial occupation fit only for serfs and Moriscos. These attitudes were formed during the centuries-long Reconquista (the reconquering of Spain from the Moslems) during which armies, led by the nobility, regularly trod down crops. Spain was leading the commercial revolution, especially in the Mediterranean, and was the home of early capitalism. However, the discovery of American gold and silver elsewhere and caused such inflation in Spain that it destroyed enterprise. The Spanish military was formidable. It was invested with a halo or romance and chivalry. The horseman or caballero, in other words, a knight, was exalted. He was considered a gentlemen, far above those lowly people on foot, the peones. El Cid was a hero. Spanish soldiers, regardless of rank, possessed religious zeal; they saw themselves as soldiers of God. If asked why they fought, their first answer would be Afor God,@ and they would mean it. Religious zealotry can be difficult for the modern person to understand even though plenty of it exists. Spanish military had a tradition of victory. For 150 years, no Spanish army was defeated in a pitched battle. Spain was the great power of Europe for a long time. Part of the infantry=s success was its organization and weaponry. The Spanish infantry wore defensive armor. It was organized with the coronelías, 6,000 men, until 1634 when it started using the tercio, 3,000 men. An army typically had half the men armed with long pikes, one-third with short sword and javelin, and one-sixth with an arquebus. This army could cut its way through armies larger in size. The conquistadores knew the Spanish military system. Spanish politics, 1504-1598 Isabela died in 1504 and her daughter, Juana la Loca (Crazy Joanie), became queen with Ferdinand as regent. She married Philip I of the Hapsburg dynasty who pushed Ferdinand aside to assume the throne. He died within a year and Ferdinand returned as regent until his death in 1516. Charles of Ghent, Juana's oldest son, inherited the throne but he was Flemish and alien to Spain. Many Spaniards did not want this "foreigner" to assume the throne. Castile was on the verge of rebellion. Spanish xenophobia had grown over the last century. Charles was sixteen years old with a stupid-looking face and the enormous Hapsburg jaw. He was a very quiet person with a coldness of manner. He had gluttonous habits. He aged prematurely. He suffered from gout, which the ignorant thought meant that he overindulged in food and drink. He had an apparent contempt for Spain and did not bother to learn the language in his first years as king. In 1519, he got the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, borrowing substantial sums from the Fugger banking interests. This annoyed the Spanish nobility, for it meant that Spain was not his top priority. In sum, he was king but unpopular. Some of this dislike manifested itself in the comunero revolt. When these townsmen started turning to social revolution, the nobility began to back the Crown. After the revolt was crushed, Castile enjoyed a period of peace and rising prosperity. The failure of the comuneros strengthened the Crown. Reasons for the increase in royal power:
The lesser nobility (hidalgos) took the Crown's side in the comunero revolt. They took control of the towns. Hidalgos (barely noblemen) looked to the Crown for appointments and favors.
Sometime after 1556, Castile industry declined because:The king devoted himself to Spain and learned Spanish, having realized that it was in his self-interest to do so. At first, Spanish prosperity was based on American bullion plus increased demands for manufactured goods from America. Profit rate was 166%. Spanish wool and silk industries grew.
Charles I and Wars Spain was constantly embroiled in wars because Charles I was also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles ruled, directly or indirectly, the Spanish New World, the Philippines, half of Italy, part of North Africa, parts of the Germanies and Austria, and the Netherlands. He fought the Turks and Protestants in the wars of the Counter-Reformation. He was involved in English and French affairs as well as the rest of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1556, Charles, tired of the enormous burdens of ruling such a vast empire and of the constant warfare, retired to a monastery, where he could devote his life to Christianity. He yielded the Spanish throne to his son, Philip, and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand. Philip II (1556-98) Philip became Spain's greatest king, arriving in 1559 and never leaving it again. He was fair-haired, growing prematurely bald, fresh complexioned, blue-eyed, shorter than average, and had the Hapsburg jaw. His health was poor. Philip II has been given bad press by non-Spanish historians and publicists. He was an exceptionally dutiful son, devoted husband, and understanding and affectionate father. He led a sexually moral life except briefly after the death of his first wife, María of Portugal. He was kind to the poor and interested in the welfare of his servants. He had a zeal for social justice. He was truthful, devout, and frugal while being generous to others. He had a comparatively high education and culture. He read and wrote Latin extremely well. He also wrote Spanish, French, and Italian. His library contained 4,000 volumes. He liked paintings and music and played the guitar. Philip believed that divine right meant that he had to look after the welfare of every subject. He worked tirelessly on their behalf, rising early and going to bed late. Self-abnegation and self control were hallmarks of his character. To help him rule, he used a councilor form of government. There were twelve councils with the Consejo de Estado being the lead. For America, there was the Real y Supremo Consejo de las Indias. Although these councils were large bureaucracies and worked hard, they were entirely dependent on the king. Philip trusted no one but himself. He read everything; nothing escaped his attention. He did not prioritize what he read; he did not distinguish between the important and the trivial. The Spanish government fell further and further behind. His viceroy in Naples remarked "if death came from Spain, we should live to a very great age." Philip was a devout Christian who heard Mass every day. In his view, not to be a Catholic was to be a traitor. His foreign policy was also motivated by his Christianity, but he modified it at times for reasons of state. He favored Elizabeth I of England over Mary, Queen of Scots, because Mary, through the Guise family, had ties to France, a chief rival. He also followed an anti-papal policy, for the Pope was a secular prince as well as a religious ruler. Besides, he was not convinced that the Pope was as Christian as he was. His aims were to strengthen royal power, acquire Portugal, and dominate the British Isles and France by intervening in their religious struggles. Most of all, he wanted to make Spain great.The influx of the bullion raised Spanish prices making it a bad market to buy from but a good seller=s market. This ruined the Spanish export trade to Europe. Unsound economic policy of the government was a factor. The hidalgos were interested in lower prices and used laws to lower prices and put prohibitions on the colonials. The hidalgos sacrificed agriculture to the Mesta, the sheep herding guild. The upper-class (and therefore, Spanish) attitudes looked down on industry and commerce. The American colonies increasingly turned to domestic production. The Crown taxed too much.
You can read about this and other topics in colonial Latin American history by buying and reading Colonial Latin America by Don Mabry.
Click on the book cover or the title to go to Llumina Press.