Spanish Texas, 1519-1821

By Donald E. Chipman | Go to book overview
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FIVE
International Rivalry and the East Texas Missions, 1689-1714

THE LAST THIRD OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY MARKED A crisis in the effectiveness of Spanish imperial policy. Symptomatic of the problem was a malaise of government rooted in the king himself, for on September 17, 1665, a four-year-old sickly child "retarded by rickets, and mentally subnormal" ascended the Spanish throne. Charles II was the tragic product of incestuous marriages that had linked the Hapsburg families of Spain and Austria for nearly two centuries. Seven of the king's eight great-grandparents were direct lineal descendants of one woman, the psychologically unstable Spanish queen, Juana la Loca ( 1479-1555). Known in history as el Hechizado (the Bewitched), Charles was incapable of ruling and of fathering an heir. During his reign ( 1665-1700), Spain had been viewed as a corpse, picked at by internal parasites and foreign marauders. This conventional picture is no doubt overdrawn, for the country began a slow, painful upturn in the 1680s. 1Recovery, however, would take decades. By 1695 the moribund Spanish government felt obliged to auction the top offices in the viceroyalties of Mexico and Peru to the highest bidder from the ranks of the wealthy nobility. To make matters worse, Spain was a pawn in the ambitions of the French king, Louis XIV. The first three wars of the Sun King made France and Spain almost constant enemies. 2 That enmity was also reflected in America. With the death of Charles II in 1700, Louis XIV maneuvered his grandson, the Duke of Anjou, to the Spanish throne as Philip V. The union of Spain and France under the same ruling family created a preponderance of Bourbon power in Europe as well as in America. The ensuing War of Spanish Succession ( 1702-1713) made allies of the former antagonists, but on the North American continent the two countries continued to compete for control of the lower Mississippi Valley and Texas. The establishment of the first missions in East Texas, their subsequent failure, and the stimulus to reestablish them should be viewed against this backdrop of internal conditions in Spain and shifting international alignments.

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