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The Decline Of Spanish Rule, 1762-1898

Spanish East Indies Spain was never been able to direct her resources well, save for very brief and exceptional periods in the country's annals. Halcyon eras she has had, of course, with an old-time national prestige which was the glory of the Peninsular kingdom, and gave to it historic and romantic interest. But after Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholics, Charles V. and Philip II., — excepting the era of Charles III., — there came centuries of decrepitude, with governments of debauchees and thieves, of superstition made darker by the spread of light in the world around it, of boastful impotence and pride in rags.

The torpor and feebleness into which the realm sank, together with the violence of its lawless and illiterate people, repeatedly convulsed by dynastic and civil strife, so suppressed or diverted the nation's old-time honorable energies that deterioration seemed persistently to have set in, with the absence of all healthful civic life and any longings for or aptitude in self-government. With these deteriorations naturally came a decline in national prestige, with the loss of the nation's New World colonies, added to the loss of Portugal, which by nature belongs to her, and of her former dominion in the Netherlands.

In 1762 Spain became involved in the Seven Years' War (1756-63) on the side of France against Britain; in October 1762, forces of the British East India Company captured Manila after fierce fighting. Spanish resistance continued under Lieutenant Governor Simón de Anda, based at Bacolor in Pampanga Province, and Manila was returned to the Spanish in May 1764 in conformity with the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war. The British occupation nonetheless marked, in a very significant sense, the beginning of the end of the old order.

Spanish prestige suffered irreparable damage because of the defeat at British hands. A number of rebellions broke out, of which the most notable was that of Diego Silang in the Ilocos area of northern Luzon. In December 1762, Silang expelled the Spanish from the coastal city of Vigan and set up an independent government. He established friendly relations with the British and was able to repulse Spanish attacks on Vigan, but he was assassinated in May 1763. The Spanish, tied down by fighting with the British and the rebels, were unable to control the raids of the Moros of the south on the Christian communities of the Visayan Islands and Luzon. Thousands of Christian Filipinos were captured as slaves, and Moro raids continued to be a serious problem through the remainder of the century. The Chinese community, resentful of Spanish discrimination, for the most part enthusiastically supported the British, providing them with laborers and armed men who fought de Anda in Pampanga.

After Spanish rule was restored, José Basco y Vargas one of the ablest of Spanish administrators, was the governor from 1778 to 1787, and he implemented a series of reforms designed to promote the economic development of the islands and make them independent of the subsidy from New Spain. In 1781 he established the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, which, throughout its checkered history extending over the next century, encouraged the growth of new crops for export--such as indigo, tea, silk, opium poppies, and abaca (hemp)--and the development of local industry. A government tobacco monopoly was established in 1782. The monopoly brought in large profits for the government and made the Philippines a leader in world tobacco production.

The venerable galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico continued as a government monopoly until 1815, when the last official galleon from Acapulco docked at Manila. The Royal Company of the Philippines, chartered by the Spanish king in 1785, promoted direct trade from that year on between the islands and Spain. All Philippine goods were given tariff-free status, and the company, together with Basco's Economic Society, encouraged the growth of a cash-crop economy by investing a portion of its early profits in the cultivation of sugar, indigo, peppers, and mulberry trees for silk, as well as in textile factories.

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Page last modified: 12-07-2012 17:02:18 ZULU