Friday, March 23, 2012

Defending the Spanish Empire

Today it is fashionable to portray all imperialism as a terrible thing and Spain seems to have a worse reputation than others. Part of this is due to the fact that so much of history has been dominated by the English-speaking world which was very antagonistic toward Spain. Yet, much of it also comes from Spanish-speaking countries as well. Spain is a convenient punching bag to excuse the problems that still exist in many of these countries. Bring up Spain to many Mexicans even today and they will still accuse their poor economy on the fact that Spain “stole” all the gold and silver from their country centuries ago. That, of course, doesn’t wash with me. Becoming independent means you become responsible for your own success or failure from that point on and you can’t keep blaming all your problems on your predecessor. You’re in charge -do something about it. The fact is, this anger toward Spain is entirely misdirected. The Spanish-speaking world is, overall, in a poorer state than the English-speaking world but there are many reasons for that, one of which is anti-Spanish bigotry itself. Allow me to explain.

No matter what sort of system you have (though that certainly matters) any society will be better off if it is united, stable and peaceful. Stability is good for business and as long as things are stable, people can usually adapt to most other problems. The English-speaking world had this and the Spanish-speaking world didn’t partly because, with the exception of the United States, the British Empire did not fall apart with colonial peoples turning against the mother country. In fact, even in the United States, at least after that little spat in 1812, most Americans felt some level of kinship with Great Britain and the British and Americans became close friends and allies. Yet, on the other hand, be it in Mexico, Venezuela or the Philippines there remains a great deal of animosity directed against Spain. The independence movements that led to the breakup of the Spanish Empire also inevitably led to numerous wars between the new countries which also bred long-lasting rivalries and animosities between Spanish-speaking nations which even today hamper efforts to foster greater cooperation between Latin American countries.

We also cannot avoid the racial aspect. This presents some uncomfortable facts and, in a way, does not paint a very good picture for the advocates of racial integration. The Spanish Empire led to the birth of an entirely new ethnic group unseen on such a scale elsewhere, certainly in the British Empire. Although there was always some mixing, for the most part, British colonists kept themselves segregated from the native populations in America, Africa, India or Australia. They also brought over more families (women included) to their New World colonies. The Spanish, largely, did not do this and the Spanish settlers who did come had no hesitation about mixing with the natives. The result was the mestizo ethnicity, originally a half-European, half-native mix but with the native becoming more dominant over time due to their greater numbers. This ethnic group is by far the dominant majority in Latin America and they tend to more closely identify with their native roots than their Spanish ancestry. This has led to some exaggerated nostalgia for the pre-Columbian civilizations in addition to the lingering hostility toward Spain. Again, this hostility is misdirected.

Spain is often criticized for the destruction of the native civilizations of Latin America such as the Incas and the Aztecs, with the Aztecs probably being the most famous. This is unfair, to some extent at least, for two basic reasons. In the first place, one cannot blame an entire nation for the misdeeds of a few. It is also often forgotten that, when Columbus was first dispatched on his famous voyage of discovery, Queen Isabella was adamant that the natives not be enslaved or mistreated but were to be regarded as free peoples “for as such they are”. It is also often forgotten that, initially, such as in Mexico with the Aztecs, the Spanish tried to work through the native leadership. Contrary to popular belief, Montezuma II was not the last Aztec emperor, nor was he even the next-to-the-last. It is also true that the Spanish did not arrive in the New World and immediately carry out a campaign of genocide to wipe out the native people. The vast majority of natives who died did so as a result of disease. Was it the Spanish who brought these new diseases? Yes, but it was inadvertent and the spreading of disease was something even Europeans didn’t fully understand at the time.

Finally, there is the most politically incorrect aspect of Spanish imperialism which was the much lamented destruction of native cultures. Take the Aztecs, again, as an example. I may be mad but I fail to see how this was a bad thing. Although the Aztec civilization was highly advanced in many ways it was also an extremely brutal civilization that practiced mass human sacrifice. They were also brutal in their treatment of conquered peoples which is why so many non-Aztec natives were so willing to ally with the Spanish against their Aztec overlords. Today it has become fashionable to shrug off the human sacrifices as not being terribly important. Unfortunately, it WAS very important. It was the dominant feature of their religion and a constant occurrence. The Aztecs believed people had to be sacrificed just to make the sun rise every morning. The destruction of a civilization like that, even if not always done for entirely pure reasons, was hardly a loss to the world. Although every people everywhere will always have their good points and their faults, whether it is the Spanish and the Aztecs, the British and the Thugee of India or the Romans and the Carthaginians, we should not permit the recent trend of moral relativism to condemn people for putting a stop to clearly vicious and barbaric practices.

The fact is that the Spanish Empire led to the development of a huge part of the world and had it remained intact longer all Spanish-speaking countries would probably be better off. Whole countries, populations and ethnic groups today would not exist at all were it not for the Spanish Empire and it was more far reaching and successful than most people realize. There were actually Spanish outposts as far north on the Pacific coast as modern-day British Columbia and although many like to portray the history of the Spanish Empire as an inevitable downward spiral after the death of King Felipe II, it actually revived considerably in the Bourbon era, particularly during the reign of King Carlos III when Spain again fought Great Britain, mostly in the Americas, and achieved all of their goals with the exception of the re-taking of Gibraltar. It is also worth remembering that the Spanish Empire was well established long before the first pilgrim fathers ever set foot on the shores of Massachusetts and that New Spain was the most advanced center of learning and technology in all of North America virtually right up to the time of its fall. In North America, the very first universities, medical schools, printing presses and so on were all established in the Spanish colonies.

Far from being blamed, Spain should be credited with the large and advanced empire she built. Where Spain can be blamed to some extent is in allowing it to collapse through a failure in keeping order at home. The Napoleonic invasion was traumatic enough but King Fernando VII did himself no favors with his erratic changes in policy and tinkering with the established rules of succession. After his death the Carlist wars plunged Spain into a very, very long period of internal conflict that prevented them from properly defending her colonies from rebel forces or retaking those colonies when it was still possible to do so. By the time the remnant of the empire was finished off by the United States in the Spanish-American War, Spain was left with only a few minor footholds on the coast of Africa and even then they were still not finished fighting each other until Franco got everyone opposed to the republic on one side (finally) and killed the communist revolutionary beast (yes, with a little help from Hitler and a lot of help from Mussolini, we know, we know…) and even after his decades in power he still didn’t manage to get everyone on the same page. So, from instability in Spain to the influence of revolutionary Freemasonry and intervention from foreign powers, there is blame to go around in determining what brought down the Spanish empire. However, most countries were much better off under the Crown of Spain than they have been since independence and they would be well advised to put past grudges behind them and come to a new understanding with their fellow Spanish-speaking peoples.

15 comments:

  1. "Becoming independent means you become responsible for your own success or failure from that point on and you can’t keep blaming all your problems on your predecessor."

    THAT needs to be engraved in every hall of government around the world. But it is also the bedrock of democracy, blame others for your problems so you don't have to fix them.

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    1. Indeed, it accomplishes nothing and causes only stagnation. You can see it in the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia, nothing is ever "our" fault so "we" do nothing about it, waiting for someone else to solve every problem. It is also, as you say, not unique. It is seen on an almost daily basis in the United States, by both parties. Bush blamed Clinton for not getting Osama bin Laden, Obama blames Bush for our economic woes and I'm sure if Romney is elected (a big "if") he will blame Obama whenever he fails to meet expectations. It happens in Europe too, blame America, blame Israel, blame Russia, blame anyone but "us" for every problem. Even as far as back as World War I; beg and plead and cajole America to get involved and then blame America after she does for ruining everything.

      I *detest* the blame game. It allows problems to fester and grow, it allows the guilty to go unpunished and it allows people like Mugabe in Africa, Castro in the Caribbean and a whole host of others around the world to continue tyrannizing their people while pointing the finger of blame at someone else.

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    2. "blame Israel, blame Russia, blame anyone but "us" for every problem. Even as far as back as World War I; beg and plead and cajole America to get involved and then blame America after she does for ruining everything."

      Exactly, it shows how easily democracies can be influenced by corrupt media and leftists historians. It was their idea to get America involved in things like WW1 and Vietnam, but then they turn traitor and attack the U.S. For it. (I believe it is because leftists have no moral compass and are opportunist jackals)

      Blame is also one of the tools used for Balkanzation, Blame X for Y problems. This will tear countries apart, even Monarchies, although a Monarchy stands a better chance because you have throne to rally around.

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  2. Brilliantly written, sir! I echo Kc Lion's sentiments.

    I know a lot of people who would be quite angered by this post. But often, being right tends to piss people off. But the truth needs to be spoken. Well done, my good man!

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    1. True, and while I've moved my controversial opinions unrelated to monarchy off-site I will continue to defend the record of the colonial empires of the monarchies of Europe because these are so often used to attack the monarchies themselves. It is a terribly unpopular point of view to have these days but, as I've said many times, show me the long list of former colonies that improved after gaining independence, suddenly and totally. No one can. What they can do is blame their problems on colonialism -and that and $1.50 will buy you a bottle of Coke.

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  3. MM,
    Great post. I am a great fan of your site. I came from one of those South American republics, and am also indignant when anyone, especially Americans (nation to which I now belong) criticize the "bloodthristiness and greed" of the Spanish conquest. The evidence is that, of all the conquests, it has been by far the least brutal and humanitarian. That the ethnic composition of Latin America includes the blood of the conquered peoples is evidence of that. No such mix exists in the ethnically cleansed English North America. The Black Legend is still very much alive.
    Full disclosure: in movies I futilely hope that the Spanish Armada lands in Spain, that Mary Tudor lives to really old age, that William of Orange's fleet sinks to the bottom of the English Channel, and that all those English pirates are captured and hanged by the Spaniards.
    My only disagreement is that, had I been born in the late 1700's, I would have only remained a royalist in Latin America up to 1812-1814. I believe that Charles IV and Ferdinand VII are the worst that monarchy can offer, and their absolute incompetence was partially responsible for the bloodbath that was the independence war. In Venezuela, where I come from, a third of the white population was wiped out. This was, in part, due to the intransigence of FVII and the brutality that the royalist inflicted on the land (not saying that the rebels were saints either, by the way). However, in good conscience, I could not have supported the Spanish crown. That being said, I think that a monarchy, like envisioned by Francisco de Miranda, who came up with the name Colombia, would have been a good alternative to the disastrous breakup of the empire.

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    1. I don't feel it my place to judge the sovereign, incompetent or not I would have been bound to obey. That being said, once there was no stopping independence I would taken the side of those who wishes to establish a more traditional monarchy as opposed to a republic.

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    2. I would have been right next to yo M.M. the thing about being a Monarchist is that you don't ditch your soverign for one who will bow to the whims of current political expedience, which changes constantly.

      All Royal authority must be respected and obeyed, however as you have said to establish Monarchy in place of a doomed republic is always preferable.

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  4. My studies of the Spanish Empire have led me to believe that the Spanish crown was a firm, but stabilizing hand. I'm always hearing from the atheist crowd about the Inquisition, but they don't mention the five-hundred years of Moorish Domination of the Iberian Peninsula that spurred the Reconquista of the area by Spain and eventually Portugal. As for the Aztecs, They were a psychotic culture, steeped in blood, every bit as vicious as The Nazis and Communists when it comes to violence, and the fact that so many Indian tribes joined Cortes is testimony to the enemies Tenochitlan made with its bloodthirsty practices. Spain narrowly missed becoming a Communist state in the 1930's, and its lucky that the Fascists still are not in control. That's what happens when one abolishes the Monarchy. May take a few years, but dictatorship is always the end result of democracy.

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    1. As in almost every other case one could mention, the Crown was often the protector of native peoples and when the revolutionary wars came many of these American Indians remained loyal to the Spanish Crown and fought for the King against the rebels.

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  5. That was because the American Colonists did not want to adhere to treaties made by the English Crown.

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  6. Doctor madd, THis is True. However, I think you will find that that is another argument for Monarhcy that is ignroed thanks tpt he colonialisation Myth.

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  7. Today many people in Latin America believe that kings and emperors are evil, and they trumpet excessively the republican system, despite the fact it has brought instabilty and civil wars.

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  8. An excellent article as always; I enjoy perusing your site. It's such a breath of fresh air from what you usually find on the internet when reading commentaries on monarchies of the past. I don't mean to tell a blogger how to run his site, but have you ever considered putting footnotes into your articles? Everyone enjoys a good book, and I'd love to see where you get the vast majority of your information so I can throw a book at someone.

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  9. I for one think this site is most invigorating it talks about monarchies and history which are two of the many things I enjoy. And also my friends and I (with the exception of one so far) are related to just about every royal family. Of course not that close but not too far away ether. But the thing that I like most about this site is that you talk about things that are relevant and make sense and I agree with you in practically every way. In the time of monarchies and empires the world was a simpler place and if you compare the map of Europe today to that of it back in 1914 you find it is a lot more orderly in 1914. So I just have to say that what you do and talk about probably opens people’s eyes to something they may not have known about, “Kudos!”

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