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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The municipalities also erected public edifices


[Sidenote: Scant attention to public works.]

The national record of the House of Austria in public works cannot be said to have been good. The need for more and better roads was generally recognized, but unless they suited military purposes or were to be made use of in a royal progress, or journey, the state would rarely build them. Municipalities and groups of merchants (especially the _consulados_) did something, but were hampered by the centralizing spirit of the government. A license from the _Consejo Real_ was required, even though the state were not to pay. There were too few roads, and existing highways were as a general rule in a bad state of repair. Many bridges were constructed by the government in the sixteenth century, but only a few in the century following. Plans were also discussed for deepening the channels of Spain's great rivers, but that of the Tagus alone received attention, and the work to that end by Philip II was destroyed by the negligence of his successors. In like manner irrigation on a large scale was planned, but scarcely anything was accomplished. On the other hand this period marked the beginning of a mail service as an auxiliary of economic life; it was due to the state only in that the government granted a monopoly of the privilege to a private individual. Between 1580 and 1685 the extension of the service to foreign countries was brought about. Naturally the whole system was as yet defective from the modern standpoint. The government did expend moneys, however, for military objects and state buildings. Forts were built the length and breadth of the Spanish world, although many of them were allowed to decay in the seventeenth century. Royal palaces and houses of recreation and several splendid churches for royal use, all of which added to the glamor of monarchy, were built at state expense. The municipalities also erected public edifices, such as merchants' exchange buildings and city halls.

[Sidenote: Foreigners in Spain and legislation concerning them.]

One of the most controversial questions of the era was that of the entry of foreigners into the economic life of the peninsula. This had begun to be a factor (without referring now to the earlier arrival of Moslem and Jewish elements) in the reign of the Catholic Kings, but it was a much more prominent issue in the period of the House of Austria. It was complicated by the fact that certain groups of foreigners might be welcomed (laborers for example), while others (merchants and manufacturers in particular) were not, but all elements would be both wanted and opposed by some class of the Spanish people at any given time. In general, popular opinion whether of rich or poor was adverse to foreigners. At times the kings yielded to the complaints of the people and passed restrictive laws, but at other times, urged on by financial needs and political aims, they took the contrary course. Dependent as they were upon foreign money-lenders the kings could not refuse to grant the privileges and monopolies which their creditors exacted as security. It would seem, however, that by far the greater number of the foreigners were engaged in the less remunerative occupations. A writer of the seventeenth century says that there were 120,000 foreigners in domestic service, and goes on to say that they also engaged in such occupations as street hawking, the keeping of retail shops of all varieties (sellers of meat, wine, cakes, etc.), and the mechanical trades, including even those of porter and vendor of water. In 1680 the French ambassador estimated that there were 77,000 of his countrymen in Spain, many of whom were farm laborers, but there were considerable numbers in various other occupations, ranging from the wealthy merchant down to the lowly shepherd or peddler. Other nationalities were also prominent. Laws were passed limiting the number of trades in which foreigners could engage, but they seem to have been without avail, for both the complaints and the legislation were often repeated. The victory of the foreign element began to be more apparent by the middle of the seventeenth century. Philip IV enacted laws to encourage immigration, because of the scarcity of labor, and permitted a foreigner who had lived for many years in Spain and married a Spanish woman to enjoy privileges little short of those of a native. Similar laws were made in the reign of Charles II.


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