history 8A–Discussion of Lecture/Reading 12

Discussion Question(s)

Could Latin American reactions to the Bourbon (Caroline era) Reforms be attributed to intellectual change (Enlightenment), religious changes (expulsion of the Jesuits, for instance), economic change (taxes), or political change (taking criollos off their prestigious jobs and replacing them with Peninsulars)? Was it any one of these specifically? All of them? (and if you are going to say “all of them,” do you think one might have had more influence than the others?) Why?

Lecture 12

This is where things start to get serious, because Spain isn’t playing around anymore. Yes, we are still talking about the Bourbon Reforms- but more specifically, the Caroline Reforms (which happened during the reign of King Charles III, from 1759-1788). The reason that this is so important is because there was a lot of stuff happening during this period: rebellions, revolts, the expulsion of the Jesuits (a specific Catholic order of priests) from Spanish America and Spain, and perhaps most of all, more political reorganization. 

But the question is the same as it was last week: why? Well, as we noted last week, there were a lot of conflicts in which Spain had found itself on the wrong side. Take, for example, The Seven Years’ War: this particular war is known these days as the first true World War, but for a long time it was called the French and Indian War.

Oooh!!!!— why was it called the “French and Indian War”? Because the people who named it that (British and British colonists in North America) believed that the world revolved around them. “we are fighting the French and the Indians– let’s call it the French and Indian War!” Of course, when you call it that you are ignoring the fact that it wasn’t just the French, Indians, and British fighting one another. In fact, here is who was fighting:

1) France 

2) Native Americans (on both sides in North America)

3) Britain

4) Saxony

5) Sweden

6) Russia

7) Prussia (basically Germany)

8) Hanover (basically more Germany)

9) Spain (later)

10) Portugal (later)

And this war (the fighting), with all these people involved, took place in:

1) Europe

2) Africa

3) North America

4) Philippines

5) India

6) Central America

The war was happening everywhere, it seems. And yet, people in the United States called it The French and Indian War. Dorks. I kind of want to tell the British and their colonists in North America this:

But that’s why they called it the French and Indian War for so long. 

In any case, Spain– as noted above– came late to the party, and joined the war on the French side in 1762. 

As you might have predicted, this did not go well. France lost, but more importantly for our purposes, Spain lost by extension. And they lost big! First and foremost, they lost Cuba (albeit temporarily), they lost Florida– gone forever in the Spanish empire (however, considering what it turned into in the 21st century, maybe they dodged a bullet (this link is not for the faint of heart) (Links to an external site.).

Sure, they got Cuba back (which was good for them, because Cuba was making them a lot of money through sugar and tobacco!), but the bottom line is that being in a war, especially after the losses they sustained, costs a lot of money. In this sense, the Caroline Reforms were crucial to the continued well-being of Spain. 

The political position of Spain vis a vis the rest of Europe wasn’t the only thing that was changing. The Spanish crown was also interested in reorganizing the colonies. Sure, as mentioned last week, the Spanish crown wanted to modernize and rationalize the colonies, but they did this for a reason. See, from the “conquest” of the Americas up until this point, the conquerors and their descendants liked to think that their heroic forefathers had carved out rich New World kingdoms for their monarchs, kingdoms equal in importance and dignity to Old World kingdoms. To the Bourbon reformers, and especially those involved in the reorganization that happened during the Caroline Era of reforms, this was NOT the case. These new leaders wanted colonies to act…well, they wanted them to act like colonies, which is to say that colonies were, by design, supposed to support the kingdom in Europe first. the idea of a strong New Spain, or Viceroyalty of Peru was dismissed out of hand as an old-fashioned idea.

This was a rather convenient change in philosophy, since it benefitted the Spanish crown and gave them exactly what they needed: revenue to make up for their losses in the Seven Years’ War, and reinforce their own power in Europe, which was flagging.

So the reformers (Bourbon Reformers– which again, is not about people who want better alcohol, as I once thought) main concern was increasing the profitability of the colonies for Spain and Portugal. So they raised taxes across the board, and introduced a bunch of new ways to make tax collection more effective. So King Philip and then King Charles II were like:

But it wasn’t only about taxes, it was also about finding other ways to make sure that whatever profits there were to be had in Spanish America, that they were going to the Spanish crown. So in addition to taxes, the king and reformers tightened limitations on the production of certain goods, such as cloth or wine, in the Americas. They wanted people in the colonies to buy cloth and wine from Spain, and didn’t want to have to compete with anyone else.

Now, in a way, this makes sense. A colony is a colony is a colony, right? And paying taxes and doing more business with Spain than other countries had a certain logic to it– because they are a colony!

But there is a twist here. See, Spain (and even Portugal) didn’t really have a good idea what was happening in “their” colonies. In fact, before the Bourbon Reforms, the hold that Spain had on “their” colonies was not all that tight. (Again, I feel I must mention “obedezco pero no cumplo”). Because of this, there were a lot of developments that occurred in the colonies that the Bourbons (rulers in Spain) did not really consider: first, the expansion of businesses. For example, some folks made their money through the importation of goods from places other than Spain. The Bourbon Reforms made it tough to keep that kind of business going. 

And that’s just one example. 

From the Spanish crown’s point of view, none of the colonial subjects should have had a problem with this, least of all criollos (Remember: criollos= people of pure Spanish blood, but were born in the Americas). 

But there was a double standard here. Sure, the Spanish crown would officially say that colonial subjects were Europeans (especially criollos), but in reality, the crown didn’t really trust them. The Bourbon reformers reasoned, logically enough, that colonial officials would have European interests most at heart when they were themselves actual Europeans, which is to say, born in Spain. In contrast, the native born elites (criollos) were much more likely to defend their own local interests. Because European-born Spaniards were regarded as superior agents of imperial control, they could be trusted– which meant that they would receive systematic preference throughout civil and church structures.

As a result, the proud heirs of the conquerors– people who, although of European blood and descended from the conquistadors themselves– began to lose judgeships and administrative positions that they had previously enjoyed, a tremendous blow to their pride, and to their opportunities for social advancement.

Can you feel it? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

No, movements for independence did not start happening quite yet– calm down, Michael Cera!

No, there was another level of things going on, outside of the major political and administrative changes in Spanish and Portuguese America. 

The Expulsion of the Jesuits

Alright, this is one of those things that seems like it is not a big deal, but it really is: The expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish America.

Now, for those of you who do not know, the Catholic church is quite organized. I won’t go through the entire hierarchy of the church, but we can start with what I bet you know already: the Pope is at the top. Now, the people below the church (Archbishops, Bishops, etc) are all fine and good, but most catholic clergy belong to a “regular order”– for example, there are Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, and Jesuits. Your reading will tell you more about what kind of people the Jesuits are, but the point is, Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America because they posed a challenge to the authority of the Spanish crown in the colonies. As your reading states, “in 1749 Ferdinand VI decreed that all parishes in Peru and New Spain still ministered by regular orders (think “friars” to get  picture of what they look like) should be transferred to secular clergy (think, the guy at the local church who wears the collar– that you likely see on TV) (p. 314).

Our reading goes on to tell us that the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America because some municipal riots were influenced by the Jesuits. However, as the reading goes on, we find out that the real reason was most likely because the Jesuits were not bowing to royal authority (this is something that Jesuits rarely do, by the way), and it was messing up what the Bourbons were trying to do– keep tighter control over the colonies to make sure that they all stayed loyal to Spain. After the expulsion, the crown confiscated the Society of Jesus’s (Jesuits) estates and assets, including colleges, land, haciendas, and slaves. 

Now think about this: the church is an institution throughout Spanish America that not only wielded a great deal of influence, but they also had a lot of people who were dedicated to the church itself– they took their religion seriously. How can they read this and other apparently anti-religious actions as a violation of their beliefs, or at the very least, direct aggression against the church and its members?

So to recap:

1) Bourbon reforms change administration, favoring European-born elites rather than American-born elites. This angers the American-born elites, especially since losing their positions means that they will always be second class citizens (and this is only the wealthy elites I’m talking about)

2) Expulsion of the Jesuits and a lot of other supposedly anti-Catholic activity (taking away land, positions, assets, etc) leads to a lot of religious folk being quite unhappy with the Spanish crown.

What logically comes next?

NOT YET THEODEN!! (yes, I’m a Lord of the Rings nerd. Whatever).

There is one more thing: 

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment a period in the 18th century when philosophers took the principles and curiosity that came with the Scientific Revolution in the previous century and applied it to politics and social life—it gave them an opportunity to question humanity, which only seemed new to them, but in reality it was just restarting what older philosophers like Plato and Aristotle did in classical Greece. However, this is the key thing—what makes the Enlightenment in the 18th century so damn special: that they wanted not just to convey new ideas to the elite, but also to spread them widely. This was new.

“Whoa” is right, Keanu! Because in Latin America, a set of Spanish and Portuguese colonies that are, during this period, constantly reminded that they are a colony (and not really a part of Spain), people are starting to think twice about Spain. They are reading the Enlightenment literature that questions the notion of “divine right” (that Kings and Queens are chosen by God, meaning that they could not be questioned), the rights of man, and what humanity really means. And with all of this, the colonists started to think about Independence.

This is the last few sentences, and read this carefully, because it is going to get tricky: while technically most people living in Spanish America had a reason to be unhappy with Bourbon rule, the people who it affected the most were the people who were, in fact, the most powerful (outside of the European Spanish): the criollos. They had hit a glass ceiling of sorts– politically (losing positions to Peninsulars), socially (by losing positions to Peninsulars), and economically (rising taxes, restrictions on trade, etc). 

So really, the people who are the angriest now are the wealthy white elites. Sure, the expulsion of the Jesuits might have angered some mestizos and indigenous folks, but at best they just wanted better priests. It was the criollos  that, in the wake of the Bourbon Reforms, were ready for change. 

And that is what we are going to talk about Next week– Independence!


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