Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/556

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


Spaniards themselves appear to have regarded it as an intrusion, and to have resented it accordingly. The Spanish gentry had no means of paying the increased prices which the colonial demand had occasioned, for natural economy was still in vogue in many rural districts, Indeed, this revolution in industry must have given rise to many social grievances; the craftsman of the old school would suffer from the competition of the capitalist in his own trade, while the great rise of prices to consumers was attributed to the greed of the foreigner. The government was persuaded to pass measures which imposed disabilities on foreign capitalists; it succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of the French and Italian workmen, as well as in expelling the Moriscos. As these changes ensued, the foreign capitalists were doubtless successful in transferring large portions of their capital to other lands; but the decline of alien competition on Spanish soil did riot enable native manufacturers to take their place or to recover the lost ground. With the new scale of outlay they had little opportunity for forming capital, and the bourgeois class may not have had the skill for organising business on the new lines. On the whole it appears that the large colonial demands for food on the one hand, and the large supplies of foreign manufactures on the other, prevented a healthy reaction of commercial on agricultural and industrial development; Spain was left •exhausted by the feverish activity which had been temporarily induced, and which passed away.

The Spanish government was firmly convinced that the best means of promoting the power of the country was by hoarding the large share of the produce of the mines which came into their possession, and they made frequent efforts to prevent the export of any bullion into other parts of Europe, though the Genoese and German capitalists had special licenses which allowed them to transmit it. It is obviously impossible that the government could have succeeded in enforcing this prohibition, under the existing conditions of trade; most of the bullion which arrived at Seville belonged to the merchants and manufacturers who were concerned in supplying the colonial demand for goods. The ingots which were not taken to the mint may have been hoarded for a time; but the foreign capitalists would not allow their money to lie idle, and much of it must have been exported, in spite of all laws to the contrary, to pay for the cheaper manufactures which were coming in from abroad. Comparatively little coin could have passed into general circulation in Spain itself; payments from the towns for agricultural produce would scarcely overbalance the payments due from the country for the dearer manufactured goods.

The Spanish rulers had ignorantly and unintentionally pursued the precise course of policy recommended by Machiavelli. They had sought to accumulate treasure in the coffers of the State, and they had by their mistaken measures allowed the subjects to continue poor.