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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

This was especially true of the full Consejo


[Sidenote:

Expansion of the royal judiciary.]

The expansion of officialdom in the peninsula made its presence felt in the judiciary as elsewhere. The three judicial _salas_ of the _Consejo Real_ and in some cases the _Sala de Gobierno_ as well became the fountain-head of justice, under the king. This was especially true of the full _Consejo_, which met weekly. This body also named special judges, such as _visitadores_, both to procure information for the _Consejo_ and to inspect the tribunals of lower grade. The number of _audiencias_ was increased until there were five in the peninsula and one each in Majorca and the Canary Islands, besides a number in the Americas.[55] Below these was the hierarchy of the lesser officials. There were still various outstanding jurisdictions, such as those of the towns, the military orders, the Inquisition, and the church, but one of the keynotes of the era was the advance of the royal courts at the expense of the others. The administration of justice left much to be desired, however. As a result of the wars and civil conflicts and the general state of misery and lack of discipline, public security was almost non-existent. Banditry and crime went unsuppressed, and legislation served for little in the face of the corruption of officials and the lack of means to make the laws effective.

[Sidenote: Vastness of the royal expenditures.]

Frequent references

have already been made to the desperate state of Spanish finances in the era of the House of Austria and to its importance as an ultimate factor affecting Spanish dominion in the Americas. Vast sums were expended for political and military ends, the only compensations for which were extensions of territory and power and a satisfaction of the desire for glory, without reflecting themselves in an increase of public wealth, the well-being of Spaniards, or even in commercial advantage; on the contrary, economic development was checked or hindered by the continual wars in which the kings engaged. Expenditures very greatly increased over what they had been before. It will be sufficient to explain this if some comment is made on two noteworthy objects to which state revenues were devoted: the maintenance of the court; and the cost of the wars. The ordinary expenses of the royal family jumped under Charles I to about 150,000 ducats ($2,250,000) a year,--more than ten times the amount required by the Catholic Kings. To this should be added the vast sums granted to the princes; in 1550 Philip (the later Philip II) received 55,000 ducats (over $800,000) in the course of four months. The expenditures of the court constantly increased. In 1562 the ordinary court expenses amounted to 415,000 ducats (well over $6,000,000), and under Philip III they were 1,300,000 (nearly $20,000,000) annually. In addition there were the _fiestas_ (festivities) and royal marriages, on which tremendous sums were squandered. As for military expenditures the war in Flanders alone consumed 37,488,565 ducats (nearly $600,000,000) in the space of eleven years, 1598 to 1609, and other campaigns were costly in proportion,--and this in spite of the fact that supplies were often not provided and salaries were left unpaid, leading to tumults on the part of the soldiery. To gain an adequate idea of the vastness of these sums one must bear in mind, not only the greater purchasing power of money in that day and the comparatively small population of the peninsula, especially the small number of taxpayers, but also the fact that the resources of the Spanish state then were as little, as compared with those of the present day, as they were great in comparison with those of medieval Spain.


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