Floridablanca, José Moñino, Count of (1728–1808)
FLORIDABLANCA, JOSÉ MOñINO, COUNT OF (1728–1808)
FLORIDABLANCA, JOSÉ MOñINO, COUNT OF (1728–1808), Spanish statesman and minister to Charles III and Charles IV of Spain. Moñino was born the son of a notary in Murcia. He studied law at the University of Salamanca, and his skill as a lawyer attracted the attention of Charles III's minister Leopoldo di Grigorio, the marqués de Squillace (1700–1785). In 1764, Charles III (ruled 1759–1788) made Moñino a fiscal, 'ministerial official', of the Council of Castile, the supreme executive, legislative, and judicial body in eighteenth-century Spain.
Moñino was a proponent of regalism, which asserted the absolute authority of the sovereign over the temporal affairs of the church. The government of Charles III launched an aggressive regalist program to reform the Spanish church in the 1760s. The Jesuits were the most powerful religious order in Spain and were widely perceived to be most staunchly loyal to the authority of the pope. The order thus became a particular target of the crown, which used a domestic political crisis to expel them from Spain in 1767. As a fiscal of the Council, Moñino took an active role in eliminating the Jesuits. He was sent to Rome in 1773 to negotiate their dissolution, and he convinced the pope to issue the papal brief that suppressed the order entirely. For this success, Charles III granted Moñino the title of count of Floridablanca.
In 1777, Floridablanca replaced Jerónimo Grimaldi (1720–1786) as first secretary of state and became the principal minister to Charles III. His ministry was productive both abroad and at home. Floridablanca was a skilled diplomat who worked to build Spain's position in Europe and assert its independence from the influence of France in matters of foreign policy. He secured alliances with major powers Prussia and Russia. He improved relations with Portugal and secured Spain's sovereignty over the American colony of Sacramento in the Río de la Plata region, a territory that had sparked conflict earlier in the century. He negotiated peace and secured trade relations with the North African kingdoms and Turkey, stabilizing Spain's position in a Mediterranean plagued by decades of military hostility and escalating piracy.
Floridablanca was equally ambitious in domestic policy. Charles III was Spain's "enlightened" eighteenth-century monarch, the Bourbon reformer who introduced sweeping changes to the administration, economy, urban environments, and social practices of Spain and Spanish America. Floridablanca embodied this spirit of reform and led a circle of like-minded ministers. Like his friend and colleague Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes (1723–1803), he believed in the importance of agriculture for the Spanish economy and promoted agrarian reform and innovation. He directed national projects of road building and irrigation, and was instrumental in founding the first national bank, the Banco de San Carlos. In addition, he worked to reform education and to modernize university curriculums, whose traditional focus under the intellectual control of the Jesuits had been theology and canon law, by emphasizing science and the new ideas that were transforming Europe.
Through most of his political career, Floridablanca was a champion of enlightenment and reform, yet he was also an adamant defender of absolute monarchy. This determination guided his reaction to the political turmoil of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. As events unfolded in France, Floridablanca became increasingly fearful of the effects that revolutionary ideology might have in Spain and took steps to stem the "contagion." In 1791, he instituted strict border controls and prohibited the entry into Spain of anything that alluded to events in France.
While opinion in Spain was largely against the cause of revolutionary France, Floridablanca's rabid opposition nonetheless made him a target. In June 1790, a French priest who was a revolutionary sympathizer made an attempt on his life, stabbing him as he walked through the royal palace at Aranjuez. Of more lasting consequence, Floridablanca's hostile policies toward France accelerated the disintegration of its previously amicable relationship with Spain, finally forcing Charles IV (ruled 1788–1808) to succumb to pressure and dismiss him in February 1792.
His successor was Pedro Abarca, count of Aranda (1719–1798), who had long attempted to unseat Floridablanca through court intrigues. Aranda accused Floridablanca of criminal abuses of power and imprisoned him in Pamplona, but he was quickly replaced by Manuel de Godoy (1767–1851) in December 1792. Godoy exonerated Floridablanca of the charges against him in April 1794, whereupon he retired to his native Murcia.
Floridablanca reemerged briefly as a political actor during the crisis of 1808, when Napoleon invaded and divided Spain into anti- and pro-French factions. He was elected to the Supreme Central Junta of the new Spanish government that formed in opposition to Napoleon and his brother Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), whom Napoleon had placed on the Spanish throne. Shortly after his election, however, Floridablanca died in Seville, in December 1808.
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