« ZurückWeiter »
Every foreign power could plunder and insult with impunity the heir of Charles the Fifth. Into such a state had the mighty kingdom of Spain fallen, while one of its smallest dependencies, - a country not so large as the province of Estremadura or Andalusia, situated under an inclement sky, and preserved only by artificial means from the inroads of the ocean, had become a power of the first class, and treated on terms of equality with the courts of London and Versailles.
The manner in which Lord Mahon explains the financial situation of Spain by no means satisfies us. It will be found,' says he, 'that those individuals deriving their chief income from mines, whose yearly produce is uncertain and varying, and seems rather to spring from fortune than to follow industry, are usually careless, unthrifty, and irregular in their expenditure. The example of Spain might tempt us to apply the same remark to states.' Lord Mahon would find it difficult we suspect, to make out his analogy. Nothing could be more uncertain and varying than the gains and losses of those who were in the habit of putting into the state lotteries. But no part of the public income was more certain than that which was derived from the lotteries. We believe that this case is very similar to that of the American mines. Some veins of ore exceeded expectation; some fell below it. Some of the private speculators drew blanks, and others gained prizes. But the revenue of the state depended not on any particular vein, but on the whole annual produce of two great continents. This annual produce seems to have been almost constantly on the increase during the seventeenth century. The Mexican mines were, through the reigns of Philip the Fourth and Charles the Second, in a steady course of improvement; and in South America, though the district of Potosi was not so productive as formerly, other places more than made up for the deficiency.
We very much doubt whether Lord Mahon can prove that the income which the Spanish government derived from the mines of America, fluctuated more than the income derived from the internal taxes of Spain itself.
All the causes of the decay of Spain resolve themselves into one cause, bad government. The valor, the intelligence, the energy, which at the close of the fifteenth and the be. ginning of the sixteenth century, made the Spaniards the first nation in the world, were the fruits of the old institutions of Castile and Arragon, — institutions which were eminently favorable to public liberty. Those institutions the first Princes of the House of Austria attacked, and almost wholly destroyed. Their successors expiated the crime. The effects of a change from good government to bad government is not fully felt for some time after the change has taken place. The talents and the virtues which a good constitution generates may for a time survive that constitution. Thus the reigns of princes who have established absolute monarchy on the ruins of popular forms of government, often shine in history with a peculiar brilliancy. But when a generation or two has passed away, then comes signally to pass that which was written by Montesquieu, that despotic governments resemble those savages who cut down the tree in order to get at the fruit. During the first years of tyranny, is reaped the harvest sown during the last years of liberty.
Thus the Augustan age was rich in great minds formed in the generation of Cicero and Cæsar. The fruits of the policy of Augustus were reserved for posterity. Philip the Second was the heir of the Cortes and of the Justiza Mayor ; and they left him a nation which seemed able to conquer all the world. What Philip left to his successors is well known.
The shock which the great religious schism of the sixteenth century gave to Europe, was scarcely felt in Spain. In England, Germany, Holland, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, that shock had produced, with some temporary evil, much durable good. The principles of the Refor. mation had triumphed in some of those countries. The Catholic Church had maintained its ascendency in others. But though the event had not been the same in all, all had been agitated by the conflict. Even in France, in Southern Germany, and in the Catholic Cantons of Switzerland, the public mind had been stirred to its inmost depths. The hold of ancient prejudice had been somewhat loosened. The Church of Rome, warned by the danger which she had nar. rowly escaped, had, in those parts of her dominion, assumed a milder and more liberal character. She sometimes con. descended to submit her high pretensions to the scrutiny of reason, and availed herself more sparingly than in former times of the aid of the secular arm.,
Even when persecu. tion was employed, it was not persecution in the worst and most frightful shape. The severities of Louis the Fourteenth, odious as they were, cannot be compared with those which, at the first dawn of the Reformation, had been inflicted on the heretics in many parts of Europe.
The only effect which the Reformation had produced in Spain, had been to make the Inquisition more vigilant, and the commonalty more bigoted. The times of refreshing came to all neighboring countries. One people alone remained, like the fleece of the Hebrew warrior, dry in the midst of that benignant and fertilizing dew. While other nations were putting away childish things, the Spaniard still thought as a child, and understood as a child. Among the men of the seventeenth century, he was the man of the fifteenth century, or of a still darker period, - delighted to behold an Auto-da-fe, and ready to volunteer on a Crusade.
The evils produced by a bad government and a bad religion, seemed to have attained their greatest height during
the last years of the seventeenth century. While the kingdom was in this deplorable state, the king was hastening to an early grave. His days had been few and evil. He had been unfortunate in all his wars, in every part of his internal administration, and in all his domestic relations. His first wife, whom he tenderly loved, died very young. His second wife exercised great influence over him, but seems to have been regarded by him rather with fear than with love. He was childless ; and his constitution was so completely shattered, that at little more than thirty years of age, he had given up all hopes of posterity. His mind was even more distempered than his body. He was sometimes sunk in listless melancholy, and sometimes harassed by the wildest and most extravagant fancies. He was not, however, wholly destitute of the feelings which became his station. His sufferings were aggravated by the thought that his own dissolution might not improbably be followed by the dissolution of his empire.
Several princes laid claim to the succession. The King's eldest sister had married Louis the Fourteenth. The Dauphin would, therefore, in the common course of inheritance, have succeeded to the crown. But the Infanta had, at the time of her espousals, solemnly renounced, in her own name, and in that of her posterity, all claim to the succession. This renunciation had been confirmed in due form by the Cortes. A younger sister of the King had been the first wife of Leopold, Emperor of Germany. She, too, had at her marriage renounced her claims to the Spanish crown; but the Cortes had not sanctioned the renunciation, and it was therefore considered as invalid by the Spanish jurists. The fruit of this marriage was a daughter, who had espoused the elector of Bavaria. The electoral Prince of Bavaria inherited her claim to the throne of Spain. The Emperor Leopold was son of a daughter of Philip the Third,
and was therefore first cousin to Charles. No renunciation whatever had been exacted from his mother at the time of her marriage.
The question was certainly very complicated. That claim which, according to the ordinary rules of inheritance, was the strongest, had been barred by a contract executed in the most binding form. The claim of the Electoral Prince of Bavaria was weaker. But so also was the contract which bound him not to prosecute his claim. The only party against whom no instrument of renunciation could be produced, was the party who, in respect of blood, had the weakest claim of all.
As it was clear that great alarm would be excited throughout Europe, if either the Emperor, or the Dauphin should become King of Spain, each of those Princes offered to waive his pretensions in favor of his second son ; the Em. peror, in favor of the Archduke Charles, the Dauphin, in favor of Philip Duke of Anjou.
Soon after the peace of Ryswick, William the Third and Louis the Fourteenth determined to settle the question of the succession, without consulting either Charles or the Emperor. France, England, and Holland, became parties to a treaty by which it was stipulated that the Electoral Prince of Bavaria should succeed to Spain, the Indies, and the Netherlands. The Imperial family were to be bought off with the Milanese, and the Dauphin was to have the two Sicilies.
The great object of the King of Spain, and of all his counsellors, was to avert the dismemberment of the monarchy. In the hope of attaining this end, Charles determined to name a successor. A will was accordingly framed, by which the crown was bequeathed to the Bavarian Prince. Unhappily, this will had scarcely been signed when the Prince died. The question was again unsettled, and presented greater difficulties than before.