Bourbon Reforms

During the 1700’s, the Bourbon rulers of Spain carried out many government reforms. They
lowered taxes and collected them more fairly. They also built roads and other public works, and the
economy began to grow. Meanwhile, strong ties developed between Spain and France because the rulers
of both countries were Bourbons. The Bourbon Reforms in Spain were inspired by the French model.
There were three princes of the House of Bourbon : Philip V (1700-1746), and his two sons, Ferdinand VI
(1746-1759), and Charles III (1759-1788). They aimed for a total overhaul of existing political and
economic structures, a total renovation of the natural life. This reform could close the gap that separated
Spain from the foremost European powers and arm the country with weapons- a powerful industry, a
prosperous agriculture, a strong middle class- it needed to prevent its defeat by England and her allies.
The movement for reform was carried out through the framework of royal abso!
lutism and catholic Orthodoxy, and inevitably provoked the hostility of reactionary elements within the
church and the nobility. As a result, they recruited many of their principal ministers and officials from the
ranks of the lesser nobility and the small middle class. They were characteristic of the Spanish
Enlightenment in their rigid orthodoxy in religion and politics combined with enthusiastic pursuit of useful
knowledge, criticism of defects in the church and the clergy, and belief in the power of informed reason to
improve society by reorganizing it along more rational lines. The work of national reconstruction began
under Philip V, but reached its climax under Charles III. He attempted to revive Spanish industry by
removing the stigma attached to manual labor, establishing state-owned textile factories, inviting foreign
technical experts into Spain, and encouraging technical education.

Philip V concentrated his efforts on an attempt to reduce smuggling and to revive the fleet system,
which had fallen into decay in the late seventeenth century. The first Bourbons made few changes in the
administrative structure of colonial government, contenting themselves with efforts to improve the quality
of administration by more careful selection of officeholders. The Bourbon commercial reform ultimately
failed in its aim of reconquering colonial markets for Spain for two basic reasons: first, Spain’s industrial
weakness, which the best efforts of the Bourbons were unable to overcome, and second, Spain’s closely
related inability to keep her sea-lanes to America open in time of war with England, when foreign traders
again swarmed into Spanish American ports.
The Bourbon Reforms, taking place during the Enligntement period brought about material
prosperity and many new opportunities to the upper class creoles of Spanish America. New books, ideas
and opportunities to travel and study in Europe widened the cultural horizons of the Creole youth. There
were several factors leading to the independence of Latin America. First, there were several recent
revolutions in the United States, the French, and the Haitian Revolution. Second, there was extreme
hostility of Creoles as opposed to the Penninsulars (Spanish born). The Penninsulars occupied the highest
positions in the church and in the military. Creoles were denied equal access. Third, Bourbon policy
denied American manufacturers the protection they needed against crippling European competition. The
Creole interests were left unprotected. They had to deal with product dumping, etc. Mining was
controlled by Penninsulars. Entail favored the Penninsulars, which kept them!
in power, and allowed them to stay continuously in power. The fourth factor was the gradual
development of the American identity by place of birth, not by birthright. Next, was the Authoritarian
Monopolistic government. Also, there was corruption itself. Corruption was institutionalized, and it
became a way of life. Finally, the Bourbon reforms did not reform what was needed in the Americas. The
reforms did not go far enough. The Americas wanted free trade and more benefits that would benefit the
Creoles. I also believe that it is important to include the fact that the revolution ideology, leadership, and
financial support was provided by the Creoles. The Creoles did not represent the Latin American Masses.
The Creoles wanted the Penninsulars eliminated so that they can take their place. They succeeded. The
Creoles and their allies are the ones who benefited from the independence. Not everyone was in

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