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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Privileges of the Mesta


Relations of church and state.]

Although the piety of Ferdinand and Isabella earned them the sobriquet of the "Catholic Kings," particularly merited in the case of Isabella, they did not let their regard for the church interfere with their conceptions of the royal authority. Something has already been said about their resistance to the intrusions of ecclesiastical courts and their objection to appointments of foreigners to Spanish benefices. The same conflict with the pope was maintained with regard to papal appointments of Spaniards. In the case of Granada and the Americas the crown gained the _patronato real_, or royal patronage, in such degree that the monarch became the virtual administrative head of the church, but the concession for the rest of Spain was not so complete. Nevertheless, the royal nominees were usually appointed. The Catholic Kings displayed great consideration for the church when the interests of the latter did not run counter to the monarchical ideal, and in Castile the confessors of the queen obtained a certain ascendency which made them among the most powerful individuals in the state. They proved to be well deserving of their influence, however, notably cardinals Mendoza, Talavera, and Xim?nez, of whom the last-named was, after the Catholic Kings, by far the most important figure of the times.




[Sidenote: Economic medievalism.]

[Sidenote: Privileges of the _Mesta_.]

The Catholic Kings attacked the economic problems of their era with much the same zeal they had displayed in social and political reforms, but without equal success, for medievalism in material affairs was more persistent than in social, political, and intellectual institutions. The same false economic ideas of the past were still operative. Especially was this manifest in the belief that legislation and state intervention in business provided a panacea for all evils, when the real needs were the development of the wealth at hand and the modification of geographical conditions in such a way as to permit of additional productivity. Protection and excessive regulation were the keynote of the laws. As a result manufactures were stimulated on the one hand, and various cities of the two kingdoms became notable industrial centres, but on the other hand, these same industries were hindered by inspections, by laws regulating the fashion and style of goods and fixing prices, wages, and the hours of labor, and by a host of other measures which killed initiative and hindered rapidity of work. In part to promote this artificial industrial life, so that raw wool might be readily procured, the Catholic Kings recognized and even extended the privileges of the great corporation of the _Mesta_. Starting from La Mancha and Extremadura in April, flocks of sheep annually ravaged Castile, returning in September to the place whence they had come. The _ca?ada real_, or royal sheepwalk, was set aside for their exclusive use, and a prohibition was placed on clearing, working, or enclosing any part of that strip. In fact the sheepmen ventured beyond the legal limits, and although required by law to pay damages in such cases were so powerful that they rarely did so. Withal, the stimulus to manufacturing was almost purely artificial, and the Spanish cities, even Barcelona, found competition with foreign cloths and other goods too keen. In the main, Spain continued to be a raw material land, exporting primary articles to foreign countries, in return for manufactures.

[Sidenote: Lack of progress in agriculture.]

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