José de Gálvez: Visitor-General of New Spain (1765-1771)

By Herbert Ingram Priestley | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The reign of Charles III of Spain has long been attractive to students of history by reason of the peculiar fecundity of ideas and interests which characterized that monarch's benevolent efforts to give his country the political greatness, material prosperity, and intellectual freedom which would place it again at the forefront among the nations. His essential worthiness, even greatness, of character, his wisdom in reform, his peculiar problems, his purposes and plans in dealing with them, have been amply set forth by writers who, like Beccatini, Fernán-Nûñez, Ferrer del Río, Danvila y Collado, Rousseau, and Addison, have concerned themselves with the life of Charles or the peculiarly European questions of his reign. From the viewpoint of American affairs, however, little has been written.

The measure of success which attended the work of this the greatest of the Spanish Bourbons was largely due to the sagacity with which he chose his ministers of state, but still more essentially was it due to the faithfulness and loyalty with which he upheld them in the discharge of duties intrusted to them. It is for this reason, as well as because writers have occupied themselves with Charles' European problems chiefly, that we know Esquilache, Grimaldi, Floridablanca, or those two other public servants who were not ministers of state, Aranda and Campomanes, better than we know Arriaga or Gálvez.

A very minor importance has been conceded to José de Gálvez among the ministers of Charles III. He is hardly better known in America than his nephew, Bernardo de Gálvez, whose career in Louisiana and New Spain was due to the consistent protection of the older and more powerful man. And yet José de Gálvez was, with the possible exception of the second Revillagigedo, the most able representative of the Spanish crown in New Spain

-vii-

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