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José Moñino, 1st Count of Floridablanca

 

José Moñino, 1st Count of Floridablanca

José Moñino, I conde de Floridablanca, painted by Goya
José Moñino, conde de Floridablanca
Count of Floridablanca, painted by Goya

José Moñino y Redondo (es: José Moñino y Redondo, conde de Floridablanca) (October 21, 1728 – December 30, 1808) was a Spanish statesman. He was the reformist chief minister of King Charles III of Spain, and also served briefly under Charles IV. He was arguably Spain's most effective statesman in the eighteenth century. In Spain, he is simply known as Conde de Floridablanca.

Contents

  • Early life 1
  • Chief minister 2
    • American War of Independence 2.1
    • French Revolution 2.2
  • Later life 3

Early life

He was born at Murcia in 1728 as the son of a retired army officer. He studied in Murcia and Orihuela, and later law at the University of Salamanca and was an esteemed advocate in the Spanish courts. He became a criminal prosecutor in Castile in 1766. He was given the task of investigating the Esquilache riots that same year and acquired a reputation as a supporter of the king's reformist policies. He defended the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. The chief minister at the time, the Marquis of Esquilache, recognized his ability and made Moñino Spanish ambassador to Pope Clement XIV in 1772. He was rewarded with the title "Count of Floridablanca" in 1773 for succeeding in obtaining the support of the Pope in suppressing the Jesuits.

Chief minister

Floridablanca was named chief minister in 1777. He embarked on a thorough reform of the Spanish bureaucracy, establishing a true cabinet in 1787 (the Supreme Council of State). He established commercial freedom in the American colonies in 1778, founded the National Bank of San Carlos in 1782. He involved himself in university reform (Spain's universities had become increasingly lax since the 16th century) and improved press liberties. After the expulsion of the Jesuits, Spain's higher education system was left woefully understaffed; Floridablanca worked to hire new teachers and administrators and to modernize pedagogical methods. He also established new schools throughout Spain.

During his tenure, Madrid was rebuilt; a great deal of the city dates from this period. Floridablanca regulated the Madrid police and encouraged public works in the city.

American War of Independence

As master of Spain's foreign policy, Floridablanca sought prominently to restore the economic well-being of Spain. He concluded trade agreements with Morocco and the Ottoman Empire and believed that good relations with Great Britain were key to Spain's growth. In spite of this, he was drawn reluctantly into the American War of Independence on the side of France and the American rebels. The war generally went well for Spain and Floridablanca succeeded in restoring much of Spain's prestige during the conflict and in 1782 Britain returned the island of Minorca, in the Baleares, and Florida to Spain. However attempts to capture Gibraltar, Jamaica and invade Britain met with failure. During the war Spain negotiated for a separate peace with Britain, in spite of its alliance with France, with talks held between Richard Cumberland and Thomas Hussey. These discussions ultimately fell through, and Spain was a signatory of the Peace of Paris in 1783.

Long-standing disputes with Portugal over the American colonies were resolved under Floridablanca's ministry and in the process Fernando Poo, Annobón, and Rio Muni (modern Equatorial Guinea) were acquired from Portugal. Floridablanca strove to carve out an independent foreign policy for Spain, distancing the country from France which Spain had been a virtual satellite of since the War of the Spanish Succession.

French Revolution

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 the liberal movement in Spain - which, in his own way, Floridablanca personified - was shocked to a halt. Floridablanca was forced to react to the situation and supported the First Coalition against revolutionary France. The events in France discredited the reformers at court and contributed to their downfall in the following years.

Later life

His centralist policies brought him into conflict with regional interests and he was often at odds with the

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