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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Charles III favored the project


as the model for other like institutions in Spain, all of them devoted philanthropically to the encouragement of agriculture and other phases of the economic life of their particular district. Nobles, churchmen, and members of the wealthy middle class formed the backbone of these societies, of which there were sixty-two in 1804. Many of them published periodicals, or founded schools for the study of such subjects as agriculture, botany, chemistry, the various trades, stenography, and economics. To promote the cultivation of the soil the state itself assisted in schemes for the colonization of waste lands. The most famous instance was that of the government colonies in the Sierra Morena country of northern Andalusia. In 1766 a certain Bavarian adventurer offered to bring six thousand German and Flemish laborers to settle that district. Charles III favored the project, and it was at once undertaken. For a time it was successful; a number of settlements were made,--there were forty-one in 1775,--and considerable crops were raised. In the end the project failed, due to bad administration, lack of funds, the imposition of heavy taxes, the opposition of the clergy to the predominantly lay spirit of the undertaking, the jealousies arising between the Spanish and foreign elements (for many of the colonists were Spaniards), and the failure to provide adequate means of communication whereby the colonists could export their surplus products. Some of the towns continued to exist, however, and the project was influential in causing private individuals to attempt colonizations, several of which were successful. Among other constructive governmental measures were the removal of the legal obstacles to the sale or division of waste lands or lands common, the restriction of the privileges of the _Mesta_, the betterment of the conditions surrounding leases (favoring the prolongation of the period of the lease, and aiming to assist the individual who actually cultivated the soil), and the reduction of customs duties or a grant of complete freedom of entry in the case of certain raw materials used in Spanish manufacturing establishments. Public works were also undertaken, such as the construction of irrigation canals, though many were not completed or were made so imperfectly that they soon went to ruin; great highways to open up the peninsula were planned, and under Charles III much work upon them was done, though not enough to meet the needs of the country; an efficient mail service was developed by Floridablanca; shipbuilding was encouraged; banditry and piracy were to a great extent suppressed; government support was given to commercial companies; and a national bank was established by Charles III,--which failed in the reign of Charles IV. The government also intervened in problems of local subsistence, with a view to maintaining articles of prime necessity at a low price and in sufficient quantity, but its action in this particular did not always produce the desired result. Finally, the government interested itself in charity. Benevolent institutions were founded, not only with a view to checking mendicancy and vagabondage, but also to provide homes for unfortunate women, insane persons, and orphans. Private individuals gave liberally for these purposes, or founded charitable organizations, which rendered service of a somewhat remarkable character in succoring the poor, building hospitals, and rescuing children. Mutual benefit societies were formed, reaching into every walk of life, and some of these, termed _montep?os_ or _montes de piedad_, were made compulsory for the employes of the government; thus the _montep?o_ for soldiers, dating from 1761, served as a pension system whereby some provision was made for the widows and orphans of the deceased. All of these reforms encountered the difficulties arising from ignorance, conservatism, the resistance of vested interests, graft, and bureaucratic cumbersomeness which have already been discussed. The very immensity of the reforms projected was against their satisfactory execution, for more was tried than could be done well. Other obstacles already mentioned, such as bad administration, insufficiency of funds, and lack of persistence, contributed to the same result. Nevertheless, though plans outran accomplishment, a vast amount was done, especially in the reign of Charles III, when the spirit of the era reached its culminating point.

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