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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Which Floridablanca refused to give


claimed that the British flag

had been insulted, and demanded satisfaction, which Floridablanca refused to give, as it involved the acknowledgment of a doubt concerning Spain's ownership of Nootka. War seemed imminent, and the French government was invoked to stand by the Family Compact. The National Assembly, then in actual control in France, acknowledged the obligation, but attached conditions (having to do with the revolution) to their willingness to declare war,--with the result that Charles IV and Floridablanca decided that it was better to avoid a rupture with England. A series of three treaties, from 1790 to 1794, arranged for the payment of an indemnity by Spain, and among other matters agreed that the ships of both nations should have a right to sail the waters and make landings freely in regions not already settled by either power. In effect, therefore, the lands north of the Spanish settlements were thrown open to the entry of England. These treaties had a significance which was wider than that of the matters directly involved. They marked a new spirit in the direction of colonial affairs. In the early years of the conquest Spain had played an aggressive part, followed soon by the adoption of what might be termed an aggressive defensive, or a willingness to fight for the retention of what she had, leading also to further conquests in order to ward off foreign attack. The Nootka affair was the beginning of a spiritless, waiting kind of defensive, the inevitable outcome of which was disintegration.

style="text-align: justify;">[Sidenote: Floridablanca and Spanish opposition to the French Revolution.]

The Nootka treaties left Spain free, however, to stand in opposition to the French Revolution. Louis XVI of France had written secretly to Charles IV, in 1789, that he had been compelled to agree to measures of which he did not approve. Other European monarchs were also acquainted with the perils of Louis XVI's position, and in the general interests of kingship, all desired to save him, although in the case of Spain there was the strong bond of family ties as well. In 1790 Floridablanca directed a note to the French Assembly requesting greater freedom of action for Louis XVI, making thinly veiled threats in case of a refusal to comply. This action only served to enrage the French government. In 1791 Floridablanca ordered the taking of a census of all foreigners in Spain, about half of whom were Frenchmen, compelling them to swear allegiance to the king, the laws, and the religion of the peninsula. A subsequent order prohibited the entry of any literature of a revolutionary bearing, even going so far as to forbid foreigners to receive letters. When Louis XVI accepted the constitution of 1791 Floridablanca announced that Charles IV refused to recognize that the French king had signed the document of his own free will, and asked that Louis XVI and his family be allowed to go to a neutral land, threatening war if the French government should fail to accede to Charles' wishes. Here was a direct challenge to the revolution, but instead of accepting the gauntlet France sent an agent to Spain who was able to persuade Charles IV that Floridablanca's policy was in fact contributing to the dangerous position of Louis XVI. Floridablanca was therefore relieved from power early in 1792, and Aranda became first minister in Spain.

[Sidenote: Brief ministry of Aranda.]

Aranda, who sympathized to some extent with the revolutionary ideas, placed the relations with France on a more cordial basis, although without relinquishing the efforts which were being made in company with other European sovereigns to save Louis XVI. When the news came of the revolutionary excesses of the summer of 1792 Aranda, who had not expected such a turn of affairs, became more stern, and began to consider the advisability of joint military action with Austria, Prussia, and Sardinia. Meanwhile, the French government demanded the alliance of Spain or offered the alternative of war. Induced in part by a doubt with regard to the best policy to pursue for the sake of Louis XVI, Spain hesitated, and suggested a treaty of neutrality. France imposed conditions which it was impossible for Spain to accept, among them the recognition of the French Republic, which had just been proclaimed. Before Aranda could meet the problem in a decisive manner he was dispossessed of his post as the result of a palace plot in favor of Manuel Godoy.


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