Spain – The Present And Future Of Spain

CONTEMPORANEOUS Spain is full of disorder. The political, financial, and social machinery is out of joint, and civil war, active or latent, is carried on almost in every province. The ruin wrought by these incessant domestic wars is incalculable.

Successive Governments have had recourse to miserable expedients without being able to disguise the bankrupt condition of’ the country. The creditors of the State, no legs than the Government officials, remained unpaid, and even schools had to be closed because the pittance due to the schoolmaster was not forthcoming.

But in spite of this apparent ruin read progress has been made. In order to fairly judge Spain we must remember that the period when the Inquisition was permitted to commit its judicial murders is not very remote. In 1780 a woman of Seville was burnt at the stake for ” sorcery and witchcraft.” At that time the greater part of Spain was held in mortmain, and the cultivation of the remainder was very indifferently attended to. Ignorance was universal, more especially at the universities, where science was held in derision.

The great events in the beginning of the nineteenth century have roused the Spaniards from their torpor, and the country, in spite of temporary checks, has increased in population and wealth. Labour is more highly respected now than it was formerly, and whilst monasteries and convents have been emptied, the factories are crowded with workmen. For much of this progress Spain is indebted to foreigners. Millions have been invested by them, and, though the expected profits have scarcely ever been realised, the country at large has permanently profited from this inflow of capital. The English have given an immense impetus to agriculturo by buying the wines of Andalusia, the coin and flour of the Castilians, and the cattle of the Galicians. They have likewise developed the mining industry of Huelva, Linares, Cartagena, and Somorrostro. The French have vastly aided the manufacturing industry. Foreign capitalists and engineers have established steamboat lines and railways. The small towns of the interior are am awkening from their lethargy, and modern life is beginning to pulsate through their veins.*

In intellectual matters Spain has made even greater progress. Ignorance is still a great power, especially in the Castiles, where schoohmasters are little respected, populous towns are without libraries, and catechisms and almanacs are the only literature of the peasantry. But the position which Spain now holds in literature and the arts sufficiently proves that the country of Cervantes and Velasquez is al out to resume its place amongst the other countries of Europe. In science, however, Spain lags far behind, and Michael Servetus is the only Christian Spaniard whose works mark an epoch in the progress of human knowledge. But the spirit of inquiry at one time alive amongst the Moors of Andalusia may possibly revive amongst their descendants.

It is very much to be desired that intellectual progress should mollify the manners of the pcople. It is a scandal that the ” noble science of bull-baiting” should still meet with so large a measure of support in Spain. These bull-fights, as well as the cock-fights so popular in Andalusia, are sports unworthy a great nation, and should be put down, just as the autosdafe have been put down.

Since a generation or two Spain has got rid of most of her colonies, which only hindered her moral and material progress. The metropolis is no longer called upon to uphold slavery, the Inquisition, commercial monopolies, and similar institutions, ” devised to insure the happy government of these colonies.” These latter certainly have had their revolutions and counter-revolutions, but they have made some progress in population and wealth. Unfortunately the entire colonial empire was not lost. Cuba and the Philippine Islands are frequently represented as adding to the wealth of Spain, and large sums have certainly been paid by them into the treasury. But these results have been achieved at the cost of fearful suffering and demoralisation to governors and governed, and unless Spain adopts the colonial system of England, by granting self-government to colonies, it will to a certainty lose the last shreds of its colonial empire, after having exhausted its strength in vain efforts to maintain it.

But though the colonies be lost, the influence of Spain upon the rest of the world will endure for centuries. Spain has impressed her genius upon every country subjected at one time or other to her power. Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, and even Lombardy still exhibit traces of Spanish influence in their architecture and customs. In Spanish America we find towns inhabited by Indians which are quite Spanish in their aspect, and almost resemble detached portions of Badajoz and Valladolid. The Indians themselves have adopted the Castilian tongue, and with it Castilian manners and modes of thought. A vast territory, twice the size of Europe, and capable of supporting millions of inhabitants, is occupied now by Spanish-speaking peoples.