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Suchet: War in Spain
Chapter 10b

These data, respecting the public revenue in ordinary times, may serve as points of comparison from which to estimate the sums collected by the French administration, notwithstanding the suppression of several taxes effected in favor of local industry, and the exhaustion of other productive means which the war had swept away.

According to a census made by order of the government, in 1776, Arragon contained at that period twelve cities, two hundred and forty boroughs, nine hundred and ninety-five villages, and a hundred and sixty-eight hamlets; and its population amounted to a hundred and seventeen thousand one hundred and twelve heads of families, equivalent to five hundred and twenty-seven thousand and four individuals, exclusively of four thousand five hundred secular priests, four thousand monks, and fifteen hundred religious women.

Another census made in 1788, rates the population of the province at six hundred and twenty-two thousand three hundred and eight individuals. A comparison between the two statements would indicate that the population of Arragon has increased, a result which is confirmed by several writers, who estimate at nearly two millions of individuals, the general increase of population throughout Spain, from the close of the war of the succession to the commencement of the reign of Charles IV. Dating however from the latter period, it has been uniformly on the decrease. There are, besides, in Arragon, 149 villages, long since deserted, and 393 villages in which very few houses are left standing. Nothing, therefore, is so common as to travel a distance of five or six leagues, without meeting with a single habitation.

We have already stated, that the wheat harvest was not only sufficient for the subsistence of the inhabitants, but admitted, moreover, of being exported in quantities which, in ordinary years, amounted to 50,000 cahices for Catalonia, and 20,000 for the kingdom of Valencia. The culture of the vine produced an excess of 80,000 nietros. The growth of olives, likewise, afforded a very considerable surplus, which was chiefly exported to Castille or Navarre. The corregimiento of Alcaniz alone produced what far exceeded the wants of the province of Arragon.

The flocks, which amounted to upwards of 2,000,000 of sheep, furnished about 35,000 quintals of wool, of which only one third was required by the manufactories of the country.

This was also the case with respect to hemp, the crop of which was calculated at 100,000 arrobas, Castillian weight. About 30,000 arrobas were consumed in the province; the remainder was sent to the sea-ports, for the service of the king's navy. The arroba is the fourth part of a quintal.

The annual produce of silk amounted to 200,000 pounds, one half of which was sent to Catalonia.

We might easily quote many other articles of produce. The soil and climate of that beautiful province yield an abundant harvest to labour; the latter alone is wanting to one of the finest countries in Europe.

It can hardly be said that commerce was considered as a distinct profession. Every one sold the excess of his crop. Even the export trade was generally carried on by means of merchants of the provinces of Catalonia and Navarre, who sent their agents every year to collect the rich tributes of raw materials.

With respect to manufacturing industry, it was confined to a very limited number of manufactories, the work of which was of the coarsest kind.

Arragon had two universities, the one at Saragossa, the other at Huesca ; but they imparted neither solid nor brilliant instruction : it was much more calculated to keep youth in the darkness of ignorance, than to extend their natural genius. This defect, however, was common all over Spain.

Although there existed no colleges, nor public schools, teachers of Latin were to be met with in every direction ; the poorest workman could easily, and at a cheap rate, procure his children a knowledge of that language, which was sufficient for the admission into a convent of monks. This mode of education is evidently owing to the wealth and preponderating influence of the clergy. The observer's attention is more particularly attracted to the fact, of the extensive knowledge possessed by the very limited number of those who are really informed, in the midst of so general a state of ignorance. In Spain, there are so many obstacles to conquer on the road to instruction, that none but minds of a very superior order are likely to overcome. There is no limit to the success of those who have once fairly started in the course ; the rest keep in the beaten track of antiquated customs.

The Arragonese are proud, obstinate, jealous of their liberty, and take it for granted that their country surpasses every other in the world. The still powerful influence of their primitive institutions on the national character, raises them in the scale above the other inhabitants of Spain in respect to political customs. In society, they are silent and reserved ; their exterior deportment is grave, cold, and pensive; but they are religious observers of their promise. The rivalries between one province and another subsist, perhaps, in a greater degree in Spain than in any other country. The Arragonese fancy that they possess more physical strength, and spring from nobler blood, than the Castillians, because they are less inclined to bend to their superiors. They are vain of a circumstance that distinguishes them from their neighbours, which is, that the Catalonians and Valencians have a dialect peculiar to their province, whereas in Arragon all classes of the people Speak the purest Spanish.

In no part of Spain is the cause of justice more loudly advocated. The native of Arragon spontaneously yields obedience to what he considers right, but revolts against any arbitrary act. This characteristic feature, added to a natural enthusiasm for glory, explains the conduct of the Arragonese towards the French army during the war of invasion. The name of Saragossa recalls the first and the most strenuous resistance ever offered to the French ; and it also exhibits the first example of candid and sincere submission to the government which the law of necessity had compelled that city to acknowledge. They exerted in their defence every effort that might be expected from a heroic people ; but after they had been reduced to the most dreadful extremity, and had lost all hopes of relief, they opened their gates to the conqueror, and yielded, without reserve, to all the consequences which their situation entailed upon them. Their feelings were of far too dignified a nature to warrant their indulgence of those revengeful acts which exceed the bounds of A legitimate defence, and are alike disowned by the laws of war and of humanity.

The invasion of the Peninsula by the French army had, from a combination of circumstances, been the means of introducing extraordinary changes in the situation of Arragon, such as we have just described it. On the one hand, the inhabitants had made the most determined resistance; on the other, the necessity of conquering by force of arms had led us into excesses which it was unhappily beyond our power to avoid. During the siege of Saragossa, the bands of discipline had become relaxed - the military administration was in the utmost disorder, the hospitals without provisions, the distribution of supplies uncertain, and attended with difficulties. The abuses arising out of this state of confusion recoiled upon the inhabitants, and the excitement of the public mind was gradually increasing in consequence of the daily vexatious to which the people were subjected. Accordingly, all the young men of Arragon, who had assembled at Saragossa, were preparing to second general Blake's army whenever it should make its appearance under the ramparts of the city. Notwithstanding this prevalent feeling, it was no sooner perceived, after the defeat of general Blake, that the governor was endeavouring to establish a regular system of administration and discipline, than confidence revived, and a disposition to submit again became manifest. This was the time when the commander-in-chief was called upon to give effect to the emperor's orders.

Unwillingly compelled to embark in an attempt which he had at first considered wholly impracticable, general Suchet drew around him the few men of talent who had remained in the province, and upon whose uprightness of conduct he could place some reliance. Foremost in the list was the titulary bishop of Saragossa, afterwards bishop of Huesca, and appointed archbishop of Seville, the truly venerable father Santander, whose persuasive eloquence instilled a peaceful and conciliatory disposition into his flock. This prelate pointed out the means to be adopted with the view of securing to the clergy a portion of their revenues, and the protection to which they were entitled. At his recommendation, the commander-in-chief appointed to the vacant place of dean of the metropolitan chapter of Saragossa, the curate of Val de Algorfa, don Ramon Segura, a man no less distinguished by his virtues than by his mental accomplishments. The military ex-intendent of general Palafox, don Mariano Dominguez, had recently displayed consummate ability in the defence of Saragossa; he was well acquainted with all the resources of the province, and by attaching himself to France he rendered us very signal services. Villa y Torre, the president of the real audiencia, who had received his appointment from Charles IV, was retained at the head of the department of justice; he was entitled to general esteem. by his profound knowledge, and his attachment to his country. The chief accountant of the province had acquired much practical experience in the mode of apportioning the contributions, and was also retained in his situation. The governor selected for that of general secretary to the government, M. Larreguy the elder, a Frenchman of Spanish origin, and a highly talented and zealous young man, who greatly distinguished himself in that capacity.

We also succeeded, though not without some difficulty, in obtaining the accession of don Agustin de Quinto, one of the lawyers of the province, the most distinguished by his knowledge and the general confidence he enjoyed. He was one of those few individuals in whose person talents and virtue are combined in an equal degree. To the enlightened councils of those meritorious men, the governor is indebted for his having conquered public opinion in the very exercise of the rigorous measures which he was directed to carry into effect. Fully considering the situation of the country, they accepted the honorable mission of interposing moderation and justice, in the intercourse between the inhabitants and the soldiery, and watched the interests of their fellow countrymen with a perseverance which never relaxed in the pursuit of that object. If any odium has attached to the administration, we owe it to ourselves to declare that their character ought to stand unblemished in the minds of the nation; the blame should be ascribed to no other cause than unforeseen circumstances, or the errors into which we may have involuntarily fallen. General Blake's army had scarcely been defeated in the plains of Maria and of Belchite, when it became necessary to advance against Lerida; but the commander-in-chief resolved not to quit the capital of Arragon, until he had first regulated the march of the public administration during his absence.

The order of judicature remained unchanged; a watchful and active police was established ; no alteration was yet introduced in the mode and principle of collecting taxes.

A contribution in kind having been imposed, with a view to secure the subsistence of the army, and the provisioning of the fortresses, a director of supplies residing in Saragossa, was appointed to the duty of opening an account against each district; and the statement of the deliveries made in the province, was compared, each month, with the effective strength of the respective corps.

It was of importance to concentrate the receipts and expenditure, and to confine the latter within proper limits; a general receiver and a general paymaster for the army were installed in Saragossa. These two agents, who had been sent to the army by count Mollien, minister of the imperial treasury, had assistants under their orders who represented them in the local districts ; from that moment all the revenues found their way to one and the same chest, just in the same manner as all the expenses were defrayed by only one agent, upon regular orders and within the limit of the credit which had been assigned for the service.

The old contadoria was a kind of office of accounts, and justly enjoyed the confidence of the inhabitants. It was however divided in such a manner that each administrator had his separate accountant. With a view to concentrate the mode of superintendence, and simplify the machinery of that useful establishment, all the private accountants were united under the direction of the accountant of the province, and this functionary, in virtue of fresh powers, was invested with the right of deciding upon every difficult question, of investigating the abuses which might obstruct the progress of the collection of the revenue, and of securing a more effectual assessment of the public burdens. Monopoly, which exercises an arbitrary controul over the wants or tastes of the people at large, and checks the natural tendency of commerce to satisfy them, had secured to itself every channel of public consumption and closed all the avenues to industry ; it was partly suppressed.

After having thus broken some of the chains which curbed the faculties of the people, and confided to the Spaniards themselves the care of watching over their interests, the commander-in-chief took his departure in the month of April, 1810, for the purpose of attacking Lerida, and left the public mind, hitherto so much agitated, more favourably disposed towards us. Having obtained possession of Lerida on the 14th of May, he imposed upon that town and upon the 149 villages, forming its corregimiento, a war tax of four millions of reales, and lost no time in organising the departments of justice, police, and finances upon the same footing as in Arragon, a uniformity of system which had become indispensable to the government over both provinces.

The public revenues, however, yielded no returns ; the arrear was daily increasing, and it became necessary that we should take advantage of the moment for creating new resources.

On the 12th of June an extraordinary contribution of 3,000,000 of reales per month was imposed upon Arragon. It was painful to resort to this extremity - but whilst we were before Lerida, numerous Guerilla bands had penetrated into the province, and prevented the collection of the regular taxes. The privations to which the army was exposed afforded a ready excuse for a measure which was moreover founded upon the wants created by a state of warfare. The basis adopted for the apportioning of this tax was the land tax, which extended to all classes of people without any distinction. The clergy being called upon to contribute towards it, fixed their own quota, and displayed on this occasion a disinterestedness highly creditable to them.

But it was not sufficient to impose fresh taxes, and to compel the people to pay them. It was of importance that the money with which they were obliged to part should return to them, and that a constant circulation should prevent any stagnation, and supply the wants of the military chests without uselessly encumbering them. The commander-in-chief ordered that the pay of the troops should be issued every five days : soldiers are not slow in disbursing the money they receive. The inhabitants were soon convinced that the tax levied upon them was no more than an advance, which would shortly revert to their hands by their bringing supplies to our cities and camps. Upon the same principle, every article manufactured in the country for the clothing or equipment of troops, was carefully sought and paid for to the furnishers in ready money.

At the end of every month, when an account of the pay of the army was drawn up, the retired allowances and the pensions to widows of military men, such as they had been granted by the former government, were punctually liquidated. The salaries of those who were employed in the various branches of the administration, almost exclusively composed of Spaniards, were paid with the same regularity and at the same period. These arrangements produced all the good effect that might be expected ; industry and commerce revived; the circulation of money became more rapid than before, and the recovery of taxes was no longer attended with the same difficulties.

At the end of 1810, the commander- in -chief solicited of the French government an indemnity for the supply of 10,000 quintals of corn, which he was obliged to give up to the army of Catalonia, and for replacing to a certain extent the resources of which he was now deprived by the cession of the corregimiento of Lerida. He only obtained 300,000 francs; nevertheless this relief, however small, was not wholly without its influence, by increasing the amount of coin in circulation.

The siege of Tortosa, which was undertaken in the month of June, having been suspended until the month of December, the commander-in-chief attempted to turn this compulsory delay to the advantage of the administration. He summoned to his head-quarters at Mora, on the Ebro, the principal authorities of Arragon, in order to regulate, in concert with them, the budget of 1811, to consider of the means best calculated for facilitating the collection of taxes, and to grant to the inhabitants whatever relief might be compatible with the existing state of affairs.

In furtherance of this object, indispensable alterations were effected in the division of the territory, and in the civil and judicial functions. Fraga, which derived from Philip V the prerogatives attached to a chief town, was created into a corregimiento. The fourteen corregirnientos, of which the province of Arragon at that time consisted, were separated into two grand divisions, the one on the right, the other on the left bank of the Ebro. M. Menche, a man of high character, who had been sent to Madrid as intendent of Arragon, was retained in his situation, with the title of head commissioner of the province. M. Dominguez and Quinto, in their capacity of superior commissioners, were respectively entrusted with the duty of superintending the administration of both banks. The judicial powers were withdrawn from the corregidors and alcaldes, who remained invested with the civil authority only, whilst the principal alcaldes were exclusively charged with the duty of administering justice under the direction of the regent of the audiencia. The corregidors of districts received the appellation of principal corregidors, and the alcaldes that of corregidors of communes.

A correct idea may be formed of these various functions by observing that the superior commissioners might be compared to our prefects, the principal corregidors to our sub-prefects, the corregidors of communes to our mayors, the principal alcaldes with the judges of first instance, and the real audiencia with the courts of appeal. These changes tended to establish a clearer line of distinction between the several powers, and to give a more efficient impulse to the administration.
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