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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Floridablanca informed the English government of this event


Death of Charles III.]

In December, 1788, Charles III died. As will be made more clear in the chapters dealing with institutions, he had brought Spain forward to the position of a first rank power again,--even though her enjoyment of that high station was to be of brief duration.



[Sidenote: Dominating character of relations with France and their effects upon Spain]

IF the reign of Charles III, despite the close union of the Bourbon crowns, had been characterized mainly in its external manifestations by the hostility of Spain to England, that of Charles IV (1788-1808) was dominated by relations with France. Unaffected for a while by the principles underlying the French Revolution, Spain was toppled from her position as a first-rate power by the Emperor Napoleon, whose designs for world power and whose methods in seeking it were not unlike those followed over a century later by William II of Germany. Meanwhile, the ideas of the American and the French revolutions were permeating the Spanish colonies, and as the wars with England continued during much of this reign, shutting off effective communication between the colonies and Spain, a chance was offered for putting them into effect in the new world. The way was well prepared

in the reign of Charles IV, though the outbreak was postponed until after his fall. The blow struck by Napoleon was not without its compensations, which in the long run may be considered to have outweighed the loss of prestige. Napoleon, quite without intention, gave Spain an impulse to national feeling, in the uprising against French domination, which was greater than any she had formerly experienced, and of sufficient force to endure to the present day. In the same roundabout way Napoleon gave the Spain of the _Dos de Mayo_, or Second of May (the date of the revolt against Napoleon, and the national holiday of Spain), her first opportunity to imbibe democratic ideas.

[Sidenote: The Nootka affair and the virtual repudiation of the Family Compact.]

To cope with the great forces of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, Spain had to rely on the leadership of the weak, timid, vacillating Charles IV. His predecessor had left him a legacy of able ministers, but these were not long sustained by the king. At the outset Floridablanca still ruled as first minister of state. He was liberal-minded as concerned social and economic institutions, but was profoundly royalist in his political ideas and an enemy of anything which represented a diminution in the prerogatives of the crown. He was alarmed by the ideas which were being spread broadcast in France, and took steps to prevent their introduction into Spain, becoming recognized as an opponent of the French Revolution. In the midst of this situation, there occurred the Nootka affair, which obliged him for a time to change his policy. A Spanish voyage of 1789 to the northwest coast of North America had resulted in the discovery and capture of two English ships at Nootka, on the western shore of Vancouver Island. Floridablanca informed the English government of this event, in January, 1790, complaining of the frequent usurpations of Spanish colonial territories by British subjects, and asking for the recognition of Spain's ownership of Nootka, which had been discovered by a Spanish voyage of 1774. What followed was very nearly a duplicate of the Falkland incident, twenty years before. England

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