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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The various Cortes of Aragon


The

royalist ideal was manifested strikingly in the relations of the Catholic Kings with the Castilian _Cortes_. From 1475 to 1503 the _Cortes_ was summoned but nine times, and during the years 1482 to 1498, at a time when Granada was being conquered, America discovered and occupied, the new Inquisition instituted, and the Jews expelled, it did not meet even once. Its decline was evidenced still further in the increasingly respectful language employed whenever it addressed the monarch and its growing dependence on the _Consejo Real_, which body subjected the acts of the _Cortes_ to its own revision and whose president acted in a similar capacity for the _Cortes_.

[Sidenote: Decline of the Aragonese _Cortes_ and of the power of Barcelona.]

Ferdinand followed the same policy in Aragon. The various _Cortes_ of Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia and the general _Cortes_ of all three were infrequently called; the king acted in an arbitrary manner in his methods of raising funds, without observing the spirit of the laws. It was in his dealings with Barcelona that he most clearly manifested the royalist tendency, for that city was the most powerful element in the kingdom. Through his intervention the practice of electing the five _concelleres_, or councillors, was suspended in favor of royal appointment, and the _Consell_, or council of a hundred, was altered so that it was no longer democratic but represented the will of

the monarch. The fact that these changes were made without provoking resistance and almost without protest shows how utterly dead were the political ideals of the past.

[Sidenote: The new bureaucracy.]

The concentration in royal hands of so many powers which were formerly exercised by the lords and towns made necessary the development of a numerous and varied officialdom to assist the monarch. As the basis of the new bureaucracy in Castile the Catholic Kings had at hand the _Consejo Real_, which with some changes was admirably adapted to the purpose. The first step was to rid it of the great nobles. In 1480 the untitled _letrados_ became a majority in this body. The counts, dukes, and marquises were still allowed to attend, but were deprived of the right to vote. Shortly afterward they were excluded altogether, and the _Consejo Real_ now responded without question to the will of the king. It served as the head of the various branches of the bureaucratic organization, with the final decision, subject to the wishes of the king, in all matters of government. Pressure of work led to the formation of three additional councils, those of the Inquisition (_Inquisici?n_), the military orders, (_?rdenes Militares_), and the Americas, or Indies (_Indias_), while there were still others in the kingdom of Aragon. Particularly important among the other officials was the monarch's private secretary, who came to have a very nearly decisive influence, owing to the favor he enjoyed with the head of the state. A horde of other officers, old and new, made up the ranks of the bureaucracy. Among the older group it is to be noted that the _adelantados_ were supplanted by _alcaldes mayores_, until only one of the former was left. Among newer officials the important inquisitors and _veedores_, or _visitadores_, should be noted.


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