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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

And 1818 aldeas and pueblos in seigniorial hands


a law of 1781 provided that

nobles who were arrested as vagabonds should be sent to the army with the rank of "distinguished soldiers." The grandees and the other nobles possessed of seigniorial estates still controlled the appointment of many municipal functionaries; in 1787 there were 17 cities, 2358 _villas_, and 1818 _aldeas_ and _pueblos_ in seigniorial hands, in some of which the king shared jurisdiction with the lords. Similarly, the military orders had the right to appoint the clergymen of 3 cities, 402 _villas_, 119 _pueblos_, and 261 _aldeas_. Many monopolies of a medieval type still survived in favor of the lords, such as those of hunting, fishing, the baking of bread, the making of flour, and the use of streams and forests, and in some cases the lord's vassals were subject to medieval tributes and services. It is rather by comparison with matters as they are today, however, that these incidents loom large; they were but the survivals of a system which was already dead. The worst of these seigniorial rights, the Aragonese lord's power of life and death over his villeins, was abolished by Philip V. The kings did not dare to suppress all of the seigniorial privileges, but took steps to overcome them, as by submitting the rights of certain lords to rigorous proofs, by hindering sales of jurisdiction, by subjecting the appointments of the lords to the approval of the _C?mara_, by naming special royal officials for the various seigniorial holdings, and in general by facilitating the reincorporation
in the crown of such estates. By this time the lesser nobility enjoyed few exemptions of a financial character, but the great nobles still possessed such privileges. The kings employed indirect methods to cause them to submit to taxation. Thus payments were demanded in lieu of military service, and the _media anata_ (half annates) was required for the recognition of the title of a successor to landed estates; certainly the immensely wealthy grandees were able to pay these tributes without serious economic loss to themselves. Furthermore, the great nobles continued to be a court nobility, and were jealously proud of the special privileges of an empty character which marked them off from the classes below them. For example, a grandee had the right to keep his hat on and to sit down in the presence of the king; to be called "cousin" by the king; to have a private guard; to preside over the sessions of the noble branch of the _Cortes_; to be visited and saluted by _ayuntamientos_, viceroys, and other authorities; to have a better place than others, both indoors and out; and to be free from imprisonment except by a special decree of the king.

[Sidenote: Slight gains of the working classes.]

There was no essential change in the composition and character of the middle classes in this era. The working classes of the cities attained to a little more liberty than formerly, as a result of the decline of the guilds, while those of the country, if they had improved their juridical position, continued nevertheless in a state of misery and poverty. The rural wars of past reigns were missing, however. The evil lot of the rural classes was due more to the backwardness of agriculture, the vast extent of unworked lands common, and the widespread practice of entailing estates, than to bonds of a social character. An interesting attempt, at once to raise the urban laborer, and to break down the sharp dividing line between the nobility and the plebeian classes, was a law of 1783, which declared that the trades of artisans--such as those of the carpenter, tailor, and shoemaker--were to be considered honorable, and since municipal offices were usually in the hands of the _hidalgo_ class it was also enacted that the practice of these trades did not incapacitate a man from holding positions in the local government or even from becoming an _hidalgo_. This well-meant law was not able to overcome social prejudices, however, and when an endeavor was made to interpret it in the sense that it authorized the entry of artisans into the military orders, which had always been composed only of nobles, it was decreed in 1803 that it had never been intended to raise them to that degree, for the military orders were founded on the necessity of maintaining the lustre of the nobility.


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