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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

As in his opposition to the calling of the Castilian Cortes


[Sidenote:

Continuance of loose practices and bad habits.]

But the dances, masked balls, the theatre, evening parties, and promenades furnished occasion for vicious practices. Immorality was not so brazen and unashamed as formerly, but was very nearly as prevalent. In vain were laws passed with a view to checking the evil. The lax practices continued, and received a kind of sanction during the reign of Charles IV from the example set by the queen, of which everybody except the king seemed well aware. Gambling was also the subject of restrictive legislation which failed of its design. In this respect the state was morally estopped from making complaint, because it was in this period that the national government lottery was founded. This institution, which still exists, was established, strange to say, by Charles III, in 1763, following the example of the court of Rome. Gambling, and especially the lottery, soon became the passion it has ever since remained. Smoking had long before gotten to be general among the lower classes, particularly among the already mentioned _majo_ element; but the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie had been little inclined to the habit. They were soon to surrender to the influence of _majismo_, however, with the result that Spaniards and their Hispanic kinsfolk have come to be enumerated among the most inveterate smokers in the world, so far as the men are concerned. Drunkenness was not a very prevalent vice, any more than it is today,

although the same could not be said with respect to the Spanish colonies.

[Sidenote: Influence of Spanish customs on the Americas.]

It only remains to add that these social practices were to be found in much the same form in the Americas. Fondness for showy feast-days was even greater there, and it is also to be noted that the improvements in Spanish cities had their counterpart in the embellishment of several of those overseas.

CHAPTER XXXV

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, 1700-1808

[Sidenote: Overwhelming success of the absolutist ideal.]

The Bourbon kings aimed to complete the long evolution, dating from centuries before, toward the personal authority of the monarch in a pure absolutism. This movement had gone farther in other countries, although the current had set the other way in England. France under Louis XIV, if not the most extreme example of an absolute government, was certainly the most influential, and the phrase "I am the state!" attributed to the great French monarch, was (whether in fact uttered by him or not) symbolic of his ideal. It was in the atmosphere of the court of Versailles that Philip V spent his youth, wherefore it was the most natural thing in the world for him to desire the establishment in Spain of a system which he had always been accustomed to believe was the only true method of rule. Even had Philip ever doubted it, Louis XIV took care to inculcate in him the concept of absolutism. Philip showed on various occasions that he understood the French ideal of kingship,--as in his opposition to the calling of the Castilian _Cortes_, his denial of the right of the _Consejo_ to share in certain governmental functions, and his habitual employment of such phrases as "for such is my will" in royal decrees. The same criterion was followed by his successors. Charles IV ordered certain laws which were inconsistent with the absolutist ideal to be stricken out of the _Nov?sima Recopilaci?n_, or Latest Compilation of the Laws (1805), before he would allow that code to be published, stating that those acts (which had been incorporated in the _Nueva Recopilaci?n_ of 1567) were representative of a time when the weakness of the monarchy had compelled the kings to make concessions which were inconsistent with their sovereign authority. The laws referred to concerned the intervention of the _Consejo_ in royal donations, the obligation of the king to consult with the three estates of the _Cortes_ in dealing with momentous affairs, and the injunction that no new taxes should be levied without the grant of a _Cortes_. In the statement of their ideal the kings met with little opposition, for this view was generally supported by all classes of society. Men who were liberal reformers in other ways were rigid in their maintenance of the principle of absolutism, and the people themselves, not only Castilians, but others as well, even including the Catalans, were intensely royalist.


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