spain helps america -- 12/09/19

Today's selection -- from The Mexican Wars for Independence by Timothy J. Henderson. Spain helped liberate America in its revolution against Britain, yet America almost immediately became a thorn in Spain's side:

"In 1779, Spain joined its French allies in aiding Britain's North American colonists to gain their independence. It was certainly not admiration for the rebellious colonists' cause that inspired Spain's intervention, but rather a fear that Britain, should it defeat the colonists, would have a large army in place in America which it could easily use to menace Spain's own American possessions.

Painting of Gálvez at the Siege of Pensacola by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

"As it turned out, however, the triumph of the American Revo­lution brought Spain no relief. Britain did not cease its scheming to relieve Spain of its New World possessions, and the erstwhile colony soon emerged as a still more worrisome predator. Even as the ink was drying on the Treaty of Paris, Spain's top diplomat, the Count of Aranda, fretted famously that 'this federal republic [the United States] has been born a pigmy, so to speak ... the time will come when she will be a giant, and even a colossus, much to be feared in those vast regions.' Events soon justified this anxiety. In 1787, aspiring Mexican revolutionaries approached Thomas Jefferson in Paris to request U.S. aid in revolutionizing Mexico -- a request Jefferson, convinced that the Mexicans were unfit to govern themselves, refused. In 1792, George Rogers Clark, a hero of the American Revolution who felt his services had been slighted by the United States, took part in a scheme abetted by France to liberate Louisiana and New Mexico from Spanish domination. Eight years later an American mustang smuggler named Philip Nolan assembled a private army -- known as fili­busters -- and invaded the northern Mexican province of Texas, where he was killed by Mexican troops in early 1801. And in 1805, former U.S. vice president Aaron Burr hatched yet another scheme to seize Texas from Spain.

"The American Revolution was also a harbinger of trends that threatened not only Spain's vast empire, but the very foundations of its political and social order. The most fearsome manifestation of those trends erupted in 1789, when revolutionaries in neigh­boring France made King Louis XVI -- cousin of the Spanish king -- a prisoner and published a plan to destroy nearly every ves­tige of the 'old regime.' Spain's ruling classes shuddered at the thought of what might become of them should that contagion spread. It threatened to put an end to several cherished institutions and customs: the absolutist monarchy ordained by God, the spe­cial privileges of the nobility, the religious monopoly of the Catholic Church."



Timothy J. Henderson


The Mexican Wars for Independence


Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Copyright 2009 by Timothy J. Henderson


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