In Eighteenth-Century Spain few problems disturbed government authorities and educated opinion more than the presence of mendicants, vagabonds and the idle poor in virtually every city and town of the realm. The persistent importunities of beggars shocked and irritated the sensibilities of both Spaniards and foreign visitors who rarely neglected an opportunity to lament the evil social and moral effects of mendicity. Joseph Townsend, travelling through Spain during the 1780’s, noted with considerable disgust “the multitude of beggars infesting every street” in Málaga and observed that in Alicante “the city swarmed all day with beggars and all night with prostitutes and thieves.”1 Further to the north, in the Castilian city of Burgos, the loud quest of beggars for alms penetrated into the confines of the cathedral itself and upset the order and decorum of the services.2 Complaints were also heard against the more serious depredations of groups of vagabonds wandering through the countryside in search of charity. The Bishop of Barcelona, José Climent, appealed to the state for action against the “murris,” beggars who moved through the Catalan countryside and terrorized the rural clergy into donations of alms. An episcopal colleague of Climent, Felipe Bertrán of Salamanca, similarly denounced the “vexations, larcenies and robberies” carried out in nearby country districts by itinerant mendicants who did not scruple from assaulting parish priests reluctant to contribute alms.3

The problem of mendicity was neither new nor unique to eighteenth-century Spain but had agitated governments in early modern Europe for several centuries. Changing economic and social conditions had left few regions without their populations of beggars, vagabonds and unemployed poor, and everywhere public officials, ecclesiastics and intellectuals reflected upon finding the means of solving the problem.4 In Catholic lands, policy towards mendicants and the poor in general had to be elaborated with particular care because of the importance attached to the spiritual character of almsgiving for both the recipient poor and charitable donors. According to Catholic doctrine, every Christian labored under the obligation to dispense charity in proportion to his means, first as a tribute to the spiritual significance of the poor, and second as a necessary instrument for the attainment of eternal salvation. Religious manuals for the guidance of the faithful referred to the impoverished as “poor men of Christ . . . who represent the Lord and who were made poor in this world for our benefit.”5 To deny alms to the poor was nothing less than to refuse Christ himself.

This view of charity in turn rested upon a doctrine of riches which maintained that men fortunate enough to hold material possessions enjoyed them not to satisfy their selfish interests and pleasures but to assist the poor as providentially appointed “administrators, dispensers and majordomos” of worldly goods.6 Although churchmen treating the question of charity stressed that the obligation applied only after an individual had met the cost of his own necessities compatible “with the decency of his state,” they emphasized that once this had been done, the duty to render charitable assistance was binding under pain of sin—that the individual who refused to give alms “sinned against the providence, mercy and justice of God.”7 Along with negative strictures of this kind, ecclesiastics extolled the spiritual advantages which could be obtained through almsgiving, for charity “frees the individual from many sins, diminishes the penalty imposed by sin,” and acts as “an advocate before the tribunal of God.” In short, “the man who is pious and charitable with the poor of Christ, although he be guilty of many offenses, appears as a saint because according to Saint Peter, charity covers a multitude of sins.”8

Since clerics stressed the immediate and personal spiritual benefits arising from the exercise of charity, it was natural that the most common method of dispensing alms took the form of the direct distribution of money, food, clothing and shelter to the poor by the clergy, religious foundations and laymen. In eighteenth-century Spain perhaps no scene was more familiar than that of the noisy crowd of disheveled mendicants gathered outside the doors of clergymen and laity renowned for their generosity. While in Granada, Townsend observed the charity of the archbishop who distributed bread “to all the poor who assemble at his doors”—an example imitated by the monasteries and convents of the city where food was given “without discrimination to all who present themselves.” And in Málaga, Townsend noted the bountiful charity of one of the city’s most prominent residents: “the poor are at all times welcome at his doors, where money is daily distributed, and for them every day his caldron boils.”9

Hostility towards the exercise of indiscriminate charity by ecclesiastics, laymen and religious confraternities lay behind the concerted effort undertaken by the Spanish crown after 1750 to develop a system of poor relief designed to limit the distribution of alms to the deserving poor, to impose severe restrictions upon mendicity and to establish institutions of confinement for the indigent.10 The basic premises of the state’s poor relief policy were not exclusive to the Spanish monarchy of the eighteenth century. Reform of charitable assistance, especially in the realm of indiscriminate charity, had been a familiar theme of European social thinkers since the sixteenth century, and several attempts had been made to modify poor relief. The reformed systems of public assistance like those established at Ypres in the 1520s from a proposal of the Spanish humanist, Juan Luis Vives, and at Lyon in the form of the Aumône Générale, founded during the 1530s, sought to abolish indiscriminate almsgiving, to establish central organs of charitable administration under municipal direction, and to devise institutional means of preventing the falsely indigent from obtaining alms, though not through the use of massive confinement.11 During the seventeenth century, the economic and social effects of mendicity increasingly concerned central governments which attempted to organize more comprehensive schemes of poor relief through the confinement of the poor in workhouses. In France, for example, the austere and moralistic Company of the Holy Sacrament campaigned actively for harsh and repressive legislation against begging and for the institutional confinement of the indigent, and during the reign of Louis XIV, the state placed thousands of poor swept from the streets by police action into quasi-penal workhouses, the hospices.12

Proposals for the reform of poor relief were also put forward in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spain as the question of charitable assistance aroused the interest of clerics, royal officials and other public spirited figures, although a general reform was never carried out. In 1545, for example, the Benedictine monk, Juan de Medina, called for strict regulations against mendicity and for the confinement of the poor.13 Medina’s plan of reform, however, encountered immediate and tenacious opposition led by the Dominican friar, Domingo de Soto, who objected to depriving the deserving poor who had not committed legally punishable offenses of the personal liberty accorded to every subject by natural law. Soto also complained that removal of the indigent from the streets would result in grave spiritual harm by denying the faithful the opportunity of practicing charity.14 For a brief period there were some signs that the crown would attempt to reform poor relief. In 1540 Charles V issued an order suppressing begging, but the experiment proved to be short-lived as royal policy over the next two centuries generally accepted the legitimacy of alms-seeking and sought to control mendicity through a system of licensing the deserving poor, namely the indigent who could satisfy municipal justices and parish clergy that they merited the charity of the faithful.15 The effectiveness of licensing rested upon the knowledge and hard work of local officials and clergy, but the system proved to be unworkable to judge from repeated royal decrees dealing with the abuse of licenses. There accompanied licensing an extensive body of repressive legislation directed against the so-called undeserving poor, vagabonds, itinerant pilgrims, fraudulent cripples, etc.,-all of whom were subject to harsh penalties if apprehended seeking alms,16 but here too the state found it impossible to enforce its legislation effectively. Prior to the eighteenth century, a few institutions for the confinement of the poor, the casas de misericordia, were established, usually by bishops with the cooperation of municipal authorities. The casas, however, were few in number and often poorly financed and did not serve as effective institutions for controlling mendicity even in local settings.17

The persistence in Spain of an essentially traditional form of poor relief dependent upon the charity of private individuals, the church and pious confraternities had several causes. In spite of the enthusiasm displayed by government authorities, by some laymen, and by clerics for a reform of assistance along the lines of change carried out elsewhere, the classic mode of charity continued to find defenders. Sermons and moral guides for the spiritual direction of the laity extolled the benefits which accrued to the individual who practiced charity, and clergymen referred primarily to the immediate and personal distribution of alms to the physically present poor.18 Moreover, the dominant role of the church and religious confraternities in the dispensation of charity made it unlikely that the monarchy of the Hapsburgs, more solicitous of customary rights and privileges than its Bourbon successor, would seek to create a system of poor relief that would challenge traditional social practices. Finally, the chronic fiscal penury of the state effectively prevented the establishment of a system of assistance based on restrictions on begging and confinement. Such restrictions were a useless expedient unless institutions were available to accommodate the poor taken from the streets and the cost of establishing these houses was enormous as later reformers would discover to their chagrin.

The problem of poor relief naturally attracted the renewed attention of the state and of public opinion during the eighteenth century. Although the Spanish Bourbons did not radically transform the governmental structure of the monarchy, they did carry out substantial administrative reforms designed to improve the efficiency of the institutions of state and, by implication, to expand government action into areas left largely untouched by their predecessors.19 The centralizing policies of the Bourbons made themselves felt in virtually every field of administration and the existence of what appeared to be a chaotic system of assistance in the hands of private individuals and quasi-autonomous corporations inevitably came under the scrutiny of bureaucrats desiring the creation of a more rational and organized scheme of poor relief. The determination of the state to assert its right of “supreme inspection” over the administration and dispensation of charity was implicit in the avowed regalism of the Bourbon monarchy.20

It was not until the 1760s, however, that the crown began to put together a coherent program of relief. The expanded role of the government in the field of assistance was due in part to the influence of the Count of Aranda, the enlightened aristocrat who became president of the Council of Castile after the serious urban disorders of the Motín de Esquilache (1766). Aranda believed that the presence of vagabonds and mendicants in the turbulent crowds, which at one point forced the king to withdraw from the capital, had contributed directly to the crisis. He early made known his decision “to restore public tranquility” by taking action against the beggars of Madrid by confining them in a workhouse or hospicio established at nearby San Fernando.21 The essentially pragmatic concern of Aranda was given theoretical justification by the two fiscales or crown attorneys of the Council of Castile, Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes and José Moñino, who in 1769 sketched out a reform of poor relief based on restricting mendicity and confining the poor.22 Campomanes, an intelligent and effective state administrator committed to a regalist polítical philosophy, became the most active advocate of a reformed system of assistance both within the government and outside of it through his publications on the question of the poor.23

The mercantilist and populationist character of government economic policy during the eighteenth century also increased the determination of the state to take action to resolve the problem of mendicity. J.-P. Gutton has noted the connection between state policy and the pressure for the confinement of the indigent which developed in seventeenth-century France. In Spain, similar economic policies followed by the Bourbons contributed to the mounting campaign for the confinement of the poor. Gerónimo de Uztáriz, the foremost mercantilist author of eighteenth-century Spain, thus advocated the creation of workhouses as a means of forcing the indigent into occupations useful to the state.24 The Count of Campomanes later put the question simply when he remarked that “work is not a privilege but an obligation of the citizen,” and conversely, “idleness must be suppressed in every country that wishes to develop its industry.”25 The state, of course, hoped to derive some economic profit from the poor who were regarded in populationist terms as a human natural resource capable of being put to productive use, or in the words of one enthusiastic supporter of institutions of confinement, the idle poor formed “slag heaps of society” capable of being refined “into pure gold with which to enrich and adorn the monarchy.”26

The state also viewed mendicity and idleness as sources of social disorder. The idle poor created “an abyss of discord” within the commonwealth, and willful idleness laid down “the seeds of most crime.”27 Since in the opinion of most government officials, society rested upon “a continuous and mutual dependence of men upon one another,” and the function of the vast majority of the population was clear, “to be useful and necessary to their compatriots, supplying them with clothing and required foodstuffs,” the offense of the individual who did not work represented a serious challenge to the stability of a hierarchical social structure.28 The idler thus sinned “against the interests of society,” and a society with large numbers of idle was one reduced to a state of barbarism, a “republic of caribs” whose members devoured one another without thought of maintaining a harmonious social order.29

The disposition of the state to take decisive action in the field of poor relief was strongly re-enforced by the support rendered by educated opinion. Benito Feijóo, the most significant figure of the early Spanish Enlightenment, set the tone for a subsequent voluminous literature on charity and mendicity by denouncing the willfully idle as “a pestilence” not to be tolerated by any rationally governed society.30 During the reign of Charles III, the public was inundated by a stream of books, pamphlets and articles criticizing indiscriminate charity and demanding reform. So intense was interest in the question of charitable assistance that the Economic Society of Madrid, a semi-official association of enlightened clerics, government officials and other notables, organized a literary competition which attracted numerous entries. The winning submission, a detailed denunciation of indiscriminate charity written by a well-known economist, Juan Sempere y Guarinos, was then published at the Society’s expense.31 Similarly, periodicals and journals of the period carried articles calling for changes in the method of dispensing charity to the indigent.32

The emergence of an intellectual climate favorable to the reform of assistance was also facilitated by the attitude of leading prelates of the Spanish church. Cardinal Lorenzana, archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain from 1772 to 1797, supported restrictions on begging and the confinement of the poor through sermons and pastoral letters. And the primate put his ideas into practice by establishing a workhouse in Toledo at his own expense.33 The example of Lorenzana was followed by other bishops known for their progressive views. Fabián y Fuero, archbishop of Valencia and opponent of the Jesuits, financed a new edition of the work of Vives and wrote a long introduction in which he supported a reform of poor relief along the fines drawn by the sixteenth-century humanist.34 Other clerical advocates of reform were Felipe Bertrán, the bishop of Salamanca, and José Climent of Barcelona. Both prelates wrote extensively on the problem of the poor and appealed for changes in the system of charitable assistance.35 Reform even won the approval of one of the most conservative bishops of the Spanish church, Rodríguez de Arellano of Burgos.36 The support given by distinguished ecclesiastics to the plans of the state for a reform of poor relief was due partially to intellectual conviction. Emanuel Chill has stressed the ascetic character of the movement in seventeenth-century France to confine the poor and has noted that hostility towards the indigent among clerics influenced by the French Counter-Reformation had little to do with pragmatic economic concerns but arose directly from a highly moralistic and abstract interpretation of mendicity and the spiritual evils which resulted from it.37 Spanish churchmen of the eighteenth century advocating confinement shared the same harsh view of begging as a manifestation of impiety and libertinism which could be cured only by placing the indigent in institutions where they would receive moral education.38 The willingness of prominent Spanish prelates to endorse the state’s policy of relief, however, was not without its practical side. Bishops and other church dignitaries owed their positions to a state which made it clear that it expected their cooperation in carrying out reforms in several areas of policy involving the church.39

Advocates of reforming charitable assistance based their case upon criticism of indiscriminate charity. They did not suggest that the traditional obligation to assist the poor through almsgiving be forgotten; on the contrary, they maintained almost too vociferously that a Christian society labored under a pressing moral duty to aid the poor. They argued, however, that this obligation did not mean that alms should be distributed to all who presented themselves. Critics of indiscriminate charity assumed that only a small minority of the mendicant population qualified as the deserving poor, “the poor of Christ,” who were entitled to the alms of the faithful. The truly poor were “few in number” and were defined as “honored widows incapable of work, aged artisans who cannot earn enough to sustain their families, improverished peasants who lack the means to sow their fields, the infirm, orphans, young maidens . . . and others of this class.”40 These alone merited the charity of a Christian society; all others were frauds who deceived the charitable into giving them alms. The latter were able-bodied men, women and youths “who confused themselves with the true poor” by feigning necessity and physical handicaps in order “to attract the attention of . . . pious subjects who give them alms without due reflection.”41 Supporters of poor relief reform thus argued that the social and moral evils created by a large and disorderly mendicant population were primarily the responsibility of well-meaning but misdirected charity. Ecclesiastics and religious foundations known for their generous distribution of alms came under special attack for their willingness to aid the poor without ascertaining whether they deserved such assistance. Cardinal Lorenzana did not scruple from taking his own episcopal colleagues to task as he ridiculed the time-honored image of the pious bishop who achieved a reputation for sanctity and heard the “vivas and acclamations of the poor” for kindness toward the indigent. Such generosity, Lorenzana declared, was “the cheapest form of charity” and merely allowed the undeserving poor to continue lives of idleness and dissolution at the expense of the church.42

Supporters of reform continued to emphasize the necessity of assisting the deserving poor partially from conviction, but also because of the realization that opinion would insist upon charity for the truly indigent. To curb mendicity and, at the same time, to satisfy the scruples of the devout, the state promoted the establishment of district charitable boards, juntas de caridad or diputaciones de barrio in Madrid, to deal with the deserving poor.43 These boards, generally composed of a municipal justice, a clergyman and “three prosperous and zealous residents,” were charged with providing assistance to “unemployed artisans and poor convalescents” from the funds received for charitable purposes by district parish priests and religious houses.44 The juntas de caridad thus served to assure the faithful that the “honored poor” were being cared for while allowing the government to exercise control over the local distribution of assistance. The administrative procedures of the juntas were carefully regulated by the crown which either imposed an organizational structure through decree as in Madrid, or which reserved the right to approve and modify the administrative ordinances drawn up in provincial cities for the operation of the juntas.45 Although local charitable boards were not immediately involved in police control over the undeserving poor, they were instructed to cooperate with the officials holding this responsibility and, more importantly, they were ordered to draw up matriculation lists which would provide “complete knowledge of each family” in their districts and which theoretically would make it possible to distinguish the truly indigent from the fraudulent poor.46

Once the state had provided for the poor thought deserving of charity, it turned its attention to the undeserving poor who composed the vast majority of the mendicant population in the opinion of royal administrators. Ideally, the crown hoped to impose an absolute ban on begging—a prohibition which could be justified on the grounds that since the real poor were being accommodated by the local charitable boards, only false mendicants remained on the streets. It was recognized, however, that it would take time for the juntas de caridad and the hospicios to develop into a comprehensive and effective system of relief. The crown admitted grudgingly that some begging might still be permitted to the deserving poor under strict regulation, but the state still assumed that the number of persons eligible to receive this permission was small and that most beggars had no right to wander through the streets seeking alms.47 Such mendicants were to be dealt with summarily. A royal order of 1778, seeking to implement a reformed system of assistance in Madrid, made this clear. To begin the process, the king ordered the posting of placards throughout the city commanding mendicants to find employment or to leave the capital within fifteen days. At the end of this period, mendicity was to be forbidden and the police were instructed to apprehend all beggars. Those fit for military service were to be conscripted into the army and navy, while the others were to be confined in the royal hospicios of Madrid and San Fernando.48

The success of this policy rested upon the institutions of confinement, the hospicios. Government authorities realized that only a small proportion of those apprehended by the police for begging could be impressed into military service and that steps would have to be taken to accommodate the remaining mendicants. The crown lacked the physical facilities to confine beggars in prisons and probably knew that it would be impolitic to incarcerate mendicants with ordinary criminals. The state therefore encouraged the establishment of hospicios and the closely related casas de misericordia, and between 1750 and 1800 the number of these institutions increased substantially.49 In some cases, as in the capital, the central government directly established hospicios; in others, royal officials of the provincial administration took the initiative, while in some localities, bishops and distinguished clergymen assumed the responsibility.50 In each case, however, the crown reserved the right to approve organizational plans.51 Not all the hospicios and casas de misericordia flourished, generally because of financial problems, but several founded in the larger cities became impressive institutions housed in extensive quarters and elaborately organized. Almost 1000 inmates were lodged, for example, in the Casa de Misericordia of Barcelona, while over 1600 persons were confined in the hospicio of Madrid.52 In Cádiz, the hospicio, described by Townsend as “the best conducted of its kind in Spain,” held over 800 inmates in a “large and lofty edifice” which contained forty-five looms, fifteen stocking frames “with a sufficient number of spinning wheels, working benches, tools for carpenters, turners, shoemakers and taylors, a twisting mill, a spinning jenny, and a machine for carding cotton”—all maintained at an annual cost of 1,385,000 reales.53

The hospicios were founded with the encouragement of the state and with the support of local and ecclesiastical notables, but they were not popular. Enthusiastic advocates of confinement had to admit that institutions of confinement were disliked, even hated, by the public. The archbishop of Burgos, recalling opposition to the establishment of a hospicio in his city, observed that “no one can believe the hatred with which hospicios are regarded in Spain without seeing it themselves,” while another supporter of the institution noted that the public regarded hospicios as “houses of abomination.”54 In Alicante, the governor of the city pressed on with plans for a casa de misericordia even though he knew “that prejudices would run strong against him.”55 Officials engaged in the collection of mendicants from the streets often encountered the open hostility of passers-by angered at the brutal methods being employed. Even “persons of circumspection and judgment” were scandalized at the rough treatment meted out to beggars by the arresting officers.56 Supporters of confinement entertained few doubts about the source of this opposition. One objected to the “extravagant” opinion that maintained that the poor could not be deprived of their liberty; another criticized the defense of mendicity based on the contention that acts of charity performed directly for the poor stimulated good example and improved the spiritual condition of the donors.57 The fiscales of the Council of Castile attacked the continued popularity of the opinion “expounded by some theologians at the time of Charles I on the question of whether it was licit to confine beggars in hospicios since this would violate the laws of civil society.”58 Campomanes appropriately resorted to long excerpts from Juan de Medina to refute objections to confinement.59 The eighteenth century did not raise up a Domingo de Soto to oppose the state’s poor relief plans, probably because even conservative clerics hesitated to challenge a policy imposed by the crown and endorsed by leading ecclesiastics, but the ghost of the sixteenth-century friar lingered on in the pages of the moral and spiritual guides issued in voluminous proportions for the guidance of the faithful. Rarely did such works directly condemn restrictions on alms-seeking and confinement, but they continued to preach a doctrine of charity—immediate and personal in its application—which was fundamentally at variance with the attack upon the indiscriminate distribution of alms launched by royal administrators and their supporters.60

Opposition to the hospicios focused upon the crucial issue of whether or not these institutions were penal in character. Government authorities and other advocates of confinement made no secret of their belief that forceable institutionalization was designed to punish the falsely indigent-individuals who could work but who refused to do so and who resorted to fraud and deceit to solicit alms from the public. If the matter had been left at that, it is likely that hostility towards confinement would have been less vociferous for even conservative defenders of the traditional method of charity believed it necessary to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor and probably would have grudgingly accepted the confinement of the latter.61 The fact was, however, that both categories of poor were confined in the hospicios. Theoretically, the true poor were to be assisted in their neighborhoods by the juntas de caridad. In practice, the juntas were unable to provide assistance to all the “honored poor” for financial reasons and, more significantly, it became clear that the charity of the local charitable boards was to go not to all the deserving poor but only to those suffering “temporary and accidental necessity,” namely artisans out of work for a short time and convalescents expected to return eventually to their occupations.62 The deserving poor without regular occupations, the aged, handicapped, children, were ineligible for assistance and were left with no other alternative than to take to the streets to seek alms thereby becoming liable to confinement. Advocates of confinement did not attempt to disguise the presence of the deserving poor in the hospicios, but they were painfully aware that forceable incarceration of this category of indigents challenged a social attitude which continued to view the deserving poor as “the poor of Christ and which looked upon confinement as a flagrant violation of the charitable obligation incumbent upon every Christian society. Supporters of the hospicio realized that they would have to justify confinement to the public and at all costs to avoid admitting that the deserving poor were being confined as a punishment for mendicity.

Defenders of the hospicios and of restrictive measures against begging rested their case upon the traditional doctrine of charity. It was obviously prudent to reply to critics of confinement in their own terms, although it is clear that most reformers were at least theoretically still committed to the classic view of charity. Some advocates of reform, in fact, were shocked at the suggestion advanced in certain quarters that the new system of assistance annulled the obligation to charity because the poor had been removed from the streets and were being cared for by the state.63 Replying to this contention, they argued that institutional confinement was perfectly compatible with the traditional concept of charity, and, moreover, that it allowed the obligation to be better fulfilled. The archbishop of Burgos declared that confining the indigent would allow the church to put them on the road to salvation,” while Fabián y Fuero discoursed on the necessity of remedying the scandalous state of mendicants “filled with spiritual and physical evils.”64

Supporters of confinement stressed that religious education would be provided to the inmates of the hospicios, and, in fact, the state required administrators to appoint priests and religious to oversee the spiritual welfare of their charges.65 This obligation appears to have been taken seriously. Townsend noted on his visit to the hospicio of Cádiz that “care is taken to instruct them [the inmates] in Christian doctrine, and every six months the young people are publicly examined.”66 To its advocates, the hospicio thus appeared as an institution which served a proper religious purpose by freeing the indigent from the moral temptations created by mendicity. It was also emphasized that charity directed towards the hospicios by the faithful would bring more spiritual benefits than those produced by the personal distribution of alms. Ecclesiastical defenders of confinement maintained that the hospicios were “worthy depositaries of the piety of the faithful and even are to be preferred to other objects which excite the spirit of mercy.”67 Similarly, it was argued that the charitable donor to the hospicios “increased his spiritual merit through the sacrifice of hiding his piety” instead of ostentatiously dispensing alms personally to the poor.68

These arguments sought to assuage the scruples of the devout who feared the detrimental spiritual effects of removing the poor from the streets and along with them the opportunity to fulfill the obligation of charity. Defenders of the hospicio were more taxed, however, to justify abolishing the personal liberty of the poor who had not committed specific offenses traditionally punishable by law. Popular opinion saw the hospicios simply as prisons, and arbitary prisons at that, filled with unfortunates seized indiscriminately in periodic and often brutal roundups, and even worse, with individuals, the aged, children and the handicapped, who were part of the “honored poor.” A few supporters of confinement dealt with the question in philosophical terms. Fabián y Fuero asserted that it was proper to confine mendicants and that in doing so the state did not violate the right to personal liberty accorded by natural law. The Valencian archbishop admitted that society had to grant every individual “prudent and regulated liberty,” but he contended that mendicity was not “a rational liberty to which beggars have a right” but was rather “libertinism”—a disordered manifestation of the passions which could not be tolerated by any society.69 Government authorities, imbued with the regalism of the eighteenth century, rejected the personal liberty objection on the simple grounds that “the government possesses the right to reduce mendicants to hospicios.”70

Most advocates of confinement, however, took a different approach and emphasized the numerous and positive benefits which the poor themselves would derive from being confined. The hospicio was held up as an institution of social transformation which would educate the poor in their religious duties and which would provide the vocational training necessary for them to obtain decent employment upon their release. Cardinal Lorenzana thus maintained that “these houses are not to be regarded as places where penalties are imposed, but as refuges of the poor, not as punishers of evil but as restrainers of idleness.”71 Lorenzana saw the hospicio as a “seminary of good vassals and neighbors, of useful artisans and well-educated Christians.”72 This view of the hospicio did not represent a cynical attempt to deceive the public. Virtually all supporters of confinement assumed that inmates of the hospicios would be released once they had learned a trade and were able to return to the outside world and take a respectable position in society. There was general agreement that “reclusion is a medicine of correction, and once it has achieved its purpose, the remedy need no longer be applied; the hospicio must not become a prison for the useful, but must be a seminary to serve the commonwealth.”73

Proponents of confining the poor also tried to appease popular opinion by insisting upon suitable procedures of arrest to avoid the scandals which so disturbed the public. Campomanes laid down detailed instructions for the seizure of mendicants and warned that “violence must be avoided in these operations.”74 Another advocate of confinement advised the state to see to it that collection was carried out by properly supervised personnel authorized to seize individuals only after ascertaining through investigation whether they were liable to confinement. Any other method, he declared, would undermine the confidence of the public.75 Stress was also placed upon the humane conditions prevailing in the hospicios. Fabián y Fuero, lamenting “the terrible injustice of labelling these esteemed houses with the odious name of prisons,” extolled the quality of accommodation, food and sanitary conditions,76 while another admirer of the hospicio emphasized the necessity of “encouraging personal cleanliness, courtesy and other circumstances of reasonable treatment” in order “to win the comprehension and to attract the benevolence of the public.”77 He further suggested the annual publication of a Noticia General which would provide information on conditions in the hospicios and thus would serve “to destroy the perplexity of the public” by proving that “the poor were being treated with humanity.”78 To stress further the positive and beneficial aspects of confinement, its supporters attempted to assure popular unease over the apparent lumping together in the hospicios “of the deserving poor, innocent orphans and children with adults submerged in vice.” Virtually all agreed that “the legitimate poor who have a right to hospitality” must be separated from undeserving indigents.79 Distinguishing the two categories of poor was regarded as absolutely necessary if the public was to be persuaded that the poor who merited assistance were being treated as they should and were not suffering from the penal measures directed against the fraudulent poor.

The anxiety felt by advocates of a reformed system of poor relief at the obvious hostility of opinion did not lack a practical side. Although the reform of assistance carried out during the second half of the eighteenth century was due to the initiative of the state, the royal administration lacked the resources to finance the activities of the juntas de caridad and hospicios. Indeed, the state made it clear that it would not finance poor relief and that the cost of a reformed system of assistance would not be “onerous to the public.”80 In the view of government officials the burden of financing had to fall upon the traditional disposition of the public to contribute alms, and hence the extraordinary efforts made to prove to a suspicious popular opinion that the hospicios merited their support as charitable institutions contributing to the welfare of the deserving poor and to the spiritual benefit of those donating alms for their maintenance in institutions of confinement. It was this appeal to the charitable nature of the hospicios which allowed the state to justify laying its hands upon the endowments held by certain pious associations or confraternities for the relief of the poor. Critics of these associations of laymen, led by Campomanes, alleged that their revenues were often improperly spent on extravagant ceremonial functions and that when alms were distributed, they were dispensed indiscriminately to both the deserving and undeserving poor.81 In 1769 Charles III established the position of Promotor de Obras Pías to supervise the expenditures of pious endowments and, as a matter of course, the Council of Castile ordered local authorities to survey the revenues of the confraternities in their districts upon receipt of requests to approve the foundation of hospicios.82 The state also turned to the revenues of the church to finance poor relief by claiming some episcopal revenues. In 1783, the king created a Fondo Pío Beneficial “to maintain the deserving poor” from the funds of cathedral and collegiate chapters. Over the next decade, 10,000,000 reales were collected from this source.83

The state succeeded in re-allocating some ecclesiastical and confraternity revenues because it held effective regalisi dominion over religious institutions and because the diversion of clerical funds into poor relief was justified by an appeal to the charitable responsibilities of the church. The crown also turned to revenues of this kind as an easily available means of financing assistance, but it recognized that its ambitious and costly scheme of juntas de caridad, hospicios and casas de misericordia would require more fiscal resources than the church could provide from its already heavily encumbered finances.84 In these circumstances, the crown turned naturally to a campaign to persuade the public to donate the alms previously dispensed to the poor gathered outside their doors. Churchmen were urged “to assure the consciences of all and to animate devotion to so pious an object [the hospicio].”85 In Madrid, the Council of Castile placed special poor boxes in the city’s churches for the support of the capital’s hospicio and contemplated the creation of a confraternity to circulate through the streets collecting alms for this purpose.86 José Climent suggested the formation of a similar group in Barcelona to sustain the local casa de misericordia.87 From the viewpoint of the state, an appeal to the charitable sensibilities of the public provided a convenient fiscal expedient for resolving the financial problems created by a reformed system of poor relief. Defenders of the hospicios on theoretical grounds went beyond this and argued that public support for these institutions in the form of voluntary contributions of alms was necessary if society was to live up to its moral obligations towards the poor. Thus, advocates of confinement protested against the opinion that the public did not have to contribute to the maintenance of the hospicios since the poor had been taken from the streets and thus the faithful had been deprived of the opportunity of exercising charity.88 José Climent went even further and opposed supporting the hospicios through taxation or the sale of goods made by their inmates on the grounds that society was obliged to provide for the poor through voluntary donations which were “true acts of mercy.”89

In spite of the efforts of the royal administration, the public remained skeptical that the hospicios represented legitimate objects of Christian charity. Attempts to raise funds through voluntary gifts did not prove successful. The alms boxes deposited optimistically by the Council of Castile in the churches of Madrid remained empty, while in Barcelona the casa de misericordia found itself in serious fiscal difficulties because of the unwillingness of the devout to contribute alms for its maintenance.90 Government efforts to keep the public from distributing alms in the old manner proved equally unsuccessful. Even in Madrid, where the police operated with some degree of efficiency against mendicants, begging continued as the indigent discreetly withdrew to the vestibules and porticoes of the churches where they sought and received alms from the faithful entering and leaving the services.91

The failure of the crown to win public support for the hospicios and to break the habit of indiscriminate almsgiving arose directly from the ambiguous nature of the campaign for institutional confinement. The reform of poor relief carried out after 1750 clearly represented a stage in the secularization of assistance. The state had important reasons, far removed from and, to some extent, incompatible with the traditional doctrine of charity, for wishing to curb mendicity. Specifically, royal administrators wished to eliminate the social danger posed by a large and often turbulent mendicant population and to promote the economic development of the kingdom by compelling the idle poor to work at productive occupations. In order to attain these objectives, they believed that a highly organized and quasi-penal approach to the problem of the poor was both necessary and justified. While pursuing this policy, however, the state could not directly challenge traditional and still deeply rooted ideas on the question of charity, hence the extraordinary efforts undertaken to convince a skeptical public that the reformed system of assistance was compatible with the charitable obligations of a Christian society.

The state thus sought to strike a delicate balance between traditional religious attitudes and its own social and economic concerns in the elaboration of poor relief measures after 1750. The task, however, was difficult. An observing public noted all too well that conditions within the hospicios fell far short of the idealized picture drawn by apologists of these institutions. Most workhouses lacked the fiscal means to implement projects for redeeming the poor, and many of the inmates, especially the aged and handicapped, were destined to remain confined indefinitely and could be employed only at simple manual tasks designed to keep them occupied. Moreover, even inmates who received vocational training could look forward to little but chronic unemployment upon their release as a dreary pattern of collection, confinement, release and reconfinement developed.92 The situation of the hospicios, then, far from convincing the public of the beneficial value of confinement as far as the poor were concerned, served instead to confirm the widely held impression of the workhouse as a kind of prison in which the indigent were being maltreated.

There were, of course, other reasons to account for the disappointing results of a poor relief system based on confinement. The state rarely considered the deeper economic causes of mendicity, preferring instead to see begging as a manifestation, and a perverse one at that, of the individual beggar’s refusal to accept his social, religious and economic obligations toward society. The crown also lacked the fiscal and bureaucratic means to make the system operate with any measure of efficiency, for there were never enough hospicios and casas de misericordia to make restrictions on mendicity effective.93

The state’s intervention into poor relief, although disappointing in terms of immediate results, was not, however, without significance. Although the royal administration fell short of achieving its goal of a well-organized and comprehensive system of assistance, it nevertheless established its dominance in clear and unmistakeable terms over the church in the distribution of charity. The state could not afford to dispense with ecclesiastical support for its plans and hence it allowed churchmen a place, but a controlled one, in its scheme of assistance. It is interesting to note that the leading episcopal advocates of confinement showed little concern with the effect upon the church of a state dominated system of poor relief. The one important exception was the bishop of Barcelona, José Climent, who shrewdly perceived that the church would lose much of its moral credit by allowing the secular authorities to organize the distribution of assistance. Climent made his objections known upon the presentation of a proposal for the administration of the local casa de misericordia—a project which in his view would make the institution “a purely polítical establishment” by placing it exclusively under the patronage of the crown and its representatives.94 Climent remarked with considerable bitterness “that the persons who wish to deprive bishops and clerics of the care of the hospicios are the same ones who assign them the responsibility for providing the funds for their maintenance.”95 Climent had thus perceived the contradiction present in a system of relief administered by the state with the resources of the church and its charitable members. Although Climent supported institutional confinement, he believed that the church should continue to hold primary responsibility for the care of the indigent. He rejected the contention advanced by partisans of the secular administration of the casa de misericordia that churchmen had no business involving themselves in the management of poor relief for “this is not a temporal affair, but an affair of God.”96 The struggle in which Climent was involved was not repeated elsewhere. Most prelates accepted the role of the state in poor relief and government officials had too much sense to quarrel with churchmen whose support was needed for the maintenance of the hospicios. Climent, however, had touched upon one of the fundamental ambiguities of the reformed system of poor relief and had seen that the church would derive little profit from it.

In a European setting, charitable assistance based on confinement began to fall into disrepute just at the time that the hospicios were being created on a large scale in Spain. Enlightened French critics, Montesquieu and Voltaire, for example, questioned the utility and morality of confinement and specifically cited the Spanish hospicios to confirm their argument. Opinion gradually was moving toward a “tender” view of the poor which was unsympathetic to the allegedly cruel treatment accorded the indigent confined in institutions. Stress began to be placed upon aiding the poor through the provision of employment opportunities and acts of private, philanthropic assistance.97

This view of the role of charity superficially resembled traditional thought on the question, but the intellectual assumptions upon which it rested were of a very different kind. The theological considerations which had made charity obligatory for spiritual reasons began to give way to a secular concept of assistance derived from a rational and humane interpretation of society. The individual who wished to provide assistance to the poor was now to do so not to save his soul, but to fulfill a philanthropic desire “to improve the condition of the unfortunate ... without considering their religious beliefs and opinions.98 These ideas made an appearance in Spain toward the close of the eighteenth century. Several significant figures of enlightened views expressed opposition to institutional confinement as a means of solving the problem of mendicity. Francisco Cabarrús, a naturalized Spaniard of French origins and a prominent personality in progressive circles during the 1780’s and 1790’s, attacked confinement in Rousseau’s terms as a violation of nature founded “on coldness and calculation,” while Valentín de Foronda, a writer known for his liberal opinions, criticized the practice “of enclosing the poor in these magnificent prisons decorated with the beautiful name of houses of mercy.”99

In spite of the criticism against the hospicios moved by the new intellectual currents of the age, however, the most intense and tenacious opposition to the system of poor relief encouraged by the state after 1750 came from that large and silent public which shared with Domingo de Soto the belief that “we must carry out works of mercy toward the poor with our own hands.”100


Joseph Townsend, A Journey through Spain in the Years 1786 and 1787 (2nd ed.; 2 vols.; London, 1792), III, 16-17, 183.


José Xavier Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, pláticas y declamaciones que hacía a su diócesi (7 vols.; Madrid, 1775), III, 185.


José Climent, Colección de las obras (3 vols., Barcelona, 1788), III, 32-33; Felipe Bertrán, Colección de las cartas pastorales (2 vols., Madrid, 1783), I 334-335. In the city of Zamora so numerous were mendicants that they circulated through the streets at night disturbing the repose of the residents “with their incessant appeals at the doors of houses.” Expediente sobre el establecimiento de un hospicio en la ciudad de Zamora, 1777. Archivo Histórico Nacional (henceforth referred to as AHN), leg. 913, exp. 7.


C. R. Steinbicker has summarized the sixteenth-century situation in Poor Relief in the Sixteenth Century (Washington, 1937). For more detailed local studies see: J. Nolf, La réforme de la bienfaisance publique à Ypres au XVI siècle (Ghent, 1915); N. Z. Davis, “Poor Relief, Humanism and Heresy: the case of Lyon,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History (1968), V, 217-275.


Antonio Arbiol, La familia regulada con doctrina de la sagrada escritura (7th ed.; Zaragoza, 1729), p. 315. To illustrate church attitudes towards charity, I have drawn upon Spanish spiritual guides of the eighteenth century. Similar literature was, of course, produced in other Catholic lands. For France, see: B. Groethuysen, La formación de la conciencia burguesa en Francia durante el siglo XVIII, tr. J. Gaos (México, 1943), 239 ff.


Pedro de Calatayud, Doctrinas prácticas que suele explicar en sus misiones (2 vols., Valencia, 1737-39), II, 122.


Gregorio Baca de Haro, Empresas morales para explicación de los mandamientos de la ley de Díos (2 vols., Valladolid, 1703), I, 145.


Calatayud, Doctrinas, II, 130-131; Arbiol, La familia regulada, p. 311.


Townsend, A Journey through Spain, III, 16, 57.


A summary of eighteenth-century legislation on poor relief can be found in Fermín Hernández Iglesias, La beneficencia en España (2. vols., Madrid, 1876), I, 27-37. See also: Jean Sarrailh, “Note sur la réforme de la bienfaisance en Espagne à la fin du XVIIIe siècle,” Eventail de l’histoire vivante: Hommage à Lucien Febvre (2 vols.; Paris, 1953), II, 371-380.


Steinbicker, Poor Relief in the Sixteenth Century, pp. 101-32; Davis, “Poor Relief, Humanism and Heresy: the case of Lyon,” 217 ff.


Emanuel Chill, “Religion and Mendicity in Seventeenth-Century France,” International Review of Social History (1962), VII, 400-25; Camille Bloch, L’assistance et l’état à la veille de la Révolution (Paris, 1908), pp. 47-50.


Juan de Medina, De la orden que en algunos pueblos de España se ha puesto en la limosna para remediar de los verdaderos pobres (Salamanca, 1545).


Domingo de Soto, Deliberación en la causa de los pobres (Salamanca, 1545), chapter XI For an analysis of the writings of other Spanish authors who dealt with the problem of mendicity during this period, see: Antonio Rumeu de Armas, Historia de la previsión social en España (Madrid, 1944), chapter X.


María Jiménez Salas, Historia de la asistencia social en España (Madrid, 1958), pp. 127, 139.


In 1552, for example, the penalty for vagabondage was four years on the galleys for the first offense, eight for the second, and life for the third. I.A.A. Thompson, “A Map of Crime in Sixteenth-Century Spain,” Economic History Review (1969), 2nd ser., XXI, 245.


José Climent recalled that on one occasion in seventeenth-century Barcelona the municipal councillors forbade begging and placed the poor apprehended seeking alms in the local casa de misericordia. The attempt to olear the streets was not successful as the city’s mendicants simply took temporary refuge in Gerona and Vique where casas did not exist. Climent, Colección de las obras III, 25.


Domingo de Soto attached the greatest importance to the direct and personal distribution of alms. He would not even allow charitably inclined persons to dispense alms through the intermediary of servants. Deliberación en la causa de los pobres, chapter XI.


For the administrative reforms of the Bourbons, see: G. Desdevises du Dézert, L’Espagne de l’ancien régime (3 vols., Paris, 1897-1904), II, 60 ff.


Expediente promovido por el Señor Conde de Aranda . . . para la conservación de los R. Hospicios de Madrid y San Fernando, 1769. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


Memorial of Aranda to the Council of Castile, June 12, 1769 in ibid. The exact cause of the disturbances of 1766 has been a source of controversy. For two differing interpretations, see: Vicente Rodríguez Casado, La política y los políticos en el reinado de Carlos III (Madrid, 1962); C. Eguía Ruiz, Los jesuitas y el motín de Esquilache (Madrid, 1947).


Opinion of the fiscales of the Council, August 28, 1769 in Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


The views of Campomanes on the poor are stated in detail in Discurso sobre la educación popular de los artesanos y su fomento (Madrid, 1775) and in Apéndice a la educación popular (4 vols., Madrid, 1775-76).


J.-P. Gutton, ‘A l’aube du XVIIIe siècle: Idées nouvelles sur les pauvres,” Cahiers d’Histoire (1965), X, 87-97; Gerónimo de Uztáriz, Theórica y práctica de comercio y de la marina (3rd ed., Madrid, 1757), chapter LIV.


Campomanes, Apéndice, III, ccxxxiii, lxxi.


Teodoro Gil de Jaz, Ordenanzas del hospicio de Oviedo (Oviedo, 1752), p. 4. This view of the economic benefits to be obtained from the poor was given widespread popularity by the work of Bernardo Ward, a minister of Ferdinand VI: Obra pía: medio de remediar la miseria de la gente pobre de España (Published as an appendix to the same author’s Proyecto económico: Madrid 1782) chapter II.


Antonio Javier Pérez y López, Discurso sobre la honra y deshonra legal (Madrid, 1781), p. 20; Campomanes, Apéndice, II, clxxxii.


Nicolás de Arriquíbar, Recreación política (2 vols., Vitoria, 1779), I, 48.


Ibid., p. 50.


Benito Feijóo, Theatre crítico universal (9 vols., Madrid, 1726-40), I, 66. Feijóo was an early and enthusiastic advocate of institutional confinement of the poor. Ibid., VI, 40-41.


Memoria premiada por el Señor D. Juan Sempere y Guarinos (Madrid, 1784).


See, for example, “Discurso XIX” of the enlightened periodical El Censor (Madrid, 1781-87), 283-296.


Francisco Antonio Lorenzana, Cartas, edictos y otras obras sueltas (Toledo, 1786), pp. i-viii. Townsend has left a description of the hospicio founded by the Cardinal. A Journey through Spain, I, 305-307.


Francisco Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector” in Juan Luis Vives, Tratado del socorro de los pobres (Valencia, 1781), pp. i-xxxii.


Bertrán, Colección de cartas pastorales, I, 322-339; Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 5 ff.


Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, III, 193-199; V, 489-93; VI, 325-326.


Chill, “Religion and Mendicity in Seventeenth-Century France,” 420-421.


Bertrán, Colección de cartas pastorales, I, 330-331; Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, III, 188-189; Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector,” p. xv.


Lorenzana, to cite but one example, approved the expulsion of the Jesuits and supported the attempt of the state to reform the archaic structure of the colegios mayores of the University of Salamanca to the disappointment of several conservative clerics who had counted upon his assistance as former member of a colegio to block the crown’s scheme of reform. Luis Sala Balust, Visitas y reforma de los colegios mayores de Salamanca en el reinado de Carlos III (Valladolid, 1957), pp. 113-115.


Ignacio Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político sobre el establecimiento de los hospicios en España (Madrid, 1768), p. 47; Lorenzana, Cartas, p. vi.


Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político, p. 48. Nothing aggravated critics of indiscriminate charity more than the so-called undeserving poor who feigned illness or handicaps. According to Cortines, they owed their success in soliciting alms to their ability to imitate “the groans and clamors of the lame and the blind.” See also the bitter denunciation of Tomás Anzano, Elementos preliminares para poder formar un sistema de gobierno de hospicio general (Madrid, 1778), p. 20.


Lorenzana, Cartas, pp. ii-iii. Criticism of the charitable practices of clerics was a familiar theme of eighteenth-century writing on poor relief. Ward, Obra pía, p. xxi; Campomanes, Apéndice, II, cli-clv; Sempere y Guarinos, Memoria premiada, pp. 12-13.


In 1778 the Council of Castile ordered the establishment of diputaciones de barrio in the sixty-four districts of Madrid. Because of the number of local charitable boards in the capital, a central junta was created to supervise the entire operation. Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XXII. Novísima recopilación de las leyes de España (6 vols.; Madrid, 1805), III, 714-7. Outside of the capital, initiative for the creation of the juntas was often taken by the local representatives of the crown. In the town of Mancha Real, for example, the corregidor presented the original proposal and then forwarded it to the Council of Castile for approval. AHN, Consejos, leg. 827, exp. 6, fol. 7-8.


Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XXII. Novísima recopilación, III, 714-717.


In Siruela, the corregidor presented a plan for a junta de caridad to a gathering of local notables, including the municipal justices, councillors and prominent members of the local clergy. The group agreed upon a set of ordinances and sent them to Madrid for the consideration of the Council of Castile. Expediente en que da noticia de haberse formado una Junta de Caridad para el socorro de los verdaderos pobres 1780. AHN, Consejos, leg. 797, exp. 13, fol. 2-7.


Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XXII. Novísima recopilación, III, 716.


Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XVIII. Ibid., p. 710.


Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XIX. Ibid., pp. 710-711.


By 1798 they had been established in Madrid, San Fernando, Toledo, Valencia, Zaragoza, Barcelona, León, Salamanca, Badajoz, Cádiz, Oviedo, Santiago, Murcia, Jaen, Barbastro, Gerona, San Felipe, Segorbe, Orihuela, Granada, Sigüenza, Burgos, Cuenca, Palencia and Valladolid. Joaquín de Murcia, Discurso político sobre la importancia y necesidad de los hospicios, casas de expósitos y hospitales (Madrid, 1798), p. 64.


The capital naturally attracted large numbers of mendicants, and it was logical for the central government which held direct responsibility for policing the city to establish and administer its houses of confinement. For the interest of the state in the hospicios of Madrid, see: Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2; Marcelin Defourneaux, Pablo de Olavide ou l’Afrancesado, 1725-1803 (Paris, 1954), pp. 89-90. In Zamora, the initial proposal came from the alcalde mayor, an officer of the crown; in Oviedo, from a crown attorney in the provincial administration; in Las Palmas, from the local Economic Society. In each case, however, proposals were sent to Madrid for the approval of the Council of Castile. Expediente sobre el establecimiento de un hospicio en la ciudad de Zamora, 1777. AHN, Consejos, leg. 913, exp. 7; Expediente sobre . . . hospicio de la ciudad de Oviedo, 1775. Ibid., leg. 815, exp. 11; Expediente por la Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País de las Palmas sobre los medios oportunos para el establecimiento de un hospicio, 1778. Ibid., leg. 759, exp. 17.


In the case of Las Palmas, the Council was not satisfied with the administrative and fiscal arrangements made by the Economic Society and ordered the project for a hospicio suspended until these problems were resolved. Expediente por la Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País de las Palmas. Ibid., leg. 759, exp. 17.


Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 8; Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


Townsend, A Journey through Spain, II, 350-355.


Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, II, 208; Anzano, Elementos preliminares, p. 62.


Townsend, A Journey through Spain, III, 183.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, p. 62.


Ibid., pp. 9-10; Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político, p. 45.


Opinion of the fiscales of the Council of Castile in Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


Campomanes, Apéndice, II, ccxvii-ccxxvi.


The celebrated Jesuit missionary preacher of the mid-eighteenth century, Pedro de Calatayud, warned his auditors complaining of the undeserving poor who solicited alms that they must not inquire “with too much care” into the necessity of mendicants, “first, because you may encounter a truly deserving person and may not assist him because of your fear of being deceived . . . and, second, even if you are deceived, it is a fortuitous deception since it provides you with an opportunity to win merit in heaven.” Doctrinas, II, 129. At least five editions of the Doctrinas were published between 1737 and 1800. Antonio Arbiol in perhaps the most popular spiritual guide of the century, La familia regulada, stressed the personal nature of charity by urging his readers to take “un pobre de Cristo” into their domiciles-the most perfect manifestation of charity possible for a Christian in his view. It also should be noted that pious biographies of ecclesiastics continued to appear and to extol the indiscriminate charity practiced by saintly clerics in spite of the disapproval of churchmen like Lorenzana. See, for example, Antonio Cordomiu, Vida del Ilustrísimo y Venerable Señor D. Raimundo de Marymon y de Corbera, Obispo de Vique (Barcelona, 1763), pp. 144-156.


Even Calatayud admitted: “I do not deny that it is an act of prudence to give alms only to the needy and just poor.” Doctrinas, II, 128-9.


Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XXII. Novísima recopilación, III, 716.


Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, III, 194.


Ibid., p. 199; Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector, p. xv.


Campomanes, Apéndice, II, clxxvi.


Townsend, A Journey through Spain, II, 351.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, p. 144. See also: Campomanes, Apéndice, II, clxviii; Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, III, 194; Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político, p. 91; Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector,” p. xxxii; Count of Carpio, “Memoria sobre el problema propuesto por la Sociedad de Sevilla acerca de la conveniencia de los hospicios y utilidades que produce,” Memorias de la Real Sociedad Patriótica de Sevilla (Seville, 1779), p. 349.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, p. 145.


Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector,” p. xiv.


Opinion of the fiscales of the Council of Castile in Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


Lorenzana, Cartas, p. vii.


Ibid., p. vi.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, p. 69.


Campomanes, Apéndice, II, cxci.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, pp. 63-64.


Fabián y Fuero, “Aviso al lector,” p. xvi.


Anzano, Elementos preliminares, pp. 5-6, 101.




Ibid., pp. 46-47. Campomanes laid down specific regulations for the separation of the poor in the hospicios, observing that “the very first rule must be to separate the innocent from those living in vice.” Apéndice, II, clxxvii. See also: Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político, p. 114; Count of Carpio, “Memoria sobre el problema ... de los hospicios,” p. 353; Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 33-4.


Opinion of the fiscales of the Council in Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2. Literature on poor relief repeatedly stressed that the cost of assistance would not be assumed by the state. See, for example, Arriquíbar, Recreación política, I, 51; Anzano, Elementos preliminares, pp. 144 ff.; Cortines y Andrade, Discurso político, pp. 114, 142.


Campomanes complained that the confraternities spent their endowments “on parasitic and superfluous expenses.” Apéndice, II, clxxxx.


Hernández Iglesias, La beneficencia en España, I, 30-31. In Seville, such a survey was undertaken by Pablo de Olavide, the progressive asistente or intendant of the city. He found 1120 confraternities in existence and accused them of spending more on ostentatious religious processions than on charitable works. Defoumeaux, Pablo de Olavide, p. 269.


Hernández Iglesias, La beneficencia en España, I, 34-5.


The Council of Finance thus refused Cardinal Lorenzana permission to appropriate 220,000 reales from certain of his episcopal revenues for the maintenance of the hospicio of Toledo. The Council was sympathetic to the Cardinal’s desire to find adequate financing for the institution, but believed that the revenues of the bishopric were too heavily committed to allow further encumbrances. Consulta de la Cámara y del Consejo de Hacienda acerca de los medios propuestos por el Arzobispo de Toledo para la dotación del hospicio de aquella ciudad. Biblioteca Nacional, ms. 11265. The unwillingness of the state to finance the establishment of hospicios was especially evident in Las Palmas where the Economic Society told the Council of Castile that it could not obtain fiscal support from the city’s modest pious endowments. The Society then asked the Council for a grant of 200,000 pesos, but met a firm refusal and received an order to suspend the project until the problem of finances was resolved by the local authorities. Expediente . . . por la Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País . . . de las Palmas, 1778. AHN, Consejos, leg. 759, exp. 17.


Count of Carpio, “Memoria sobre el problema ... de los hospicios,” p. 349.


Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2.


Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 43-46.


Rodríguez de Arellano, Pastorales, edictos, III, 194.


Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 35-39.


Expediente promovido por el Conde de Aranda. AHN, Consejos, leg. 490, exp. 2; Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 43-46.


In 1779, a year after the issuance of the decrees forbidding mendicity in Madrid, the king complained that begging had continued because “of the improper concept of piety” of certain persons who persisted in donating alms to beggars. Libro VII, título XXXIX, ley XXI. Novísima recopilación, III, 713.


Many of the poor held in the hospicio of Madrid were chronic mendicants confined for periods ranging up to ten years. Reclusos mandados poner en libertad en dho. día 10 Septembre de 1780. AHN, Consejos, leg. 49667.


Bernardo Ward believed that fifty hospicios would be necessary. There were only half this number, and many of these barely survived because of financial problems. Ward, Obra pía, p. xxviii.


Climent, Colección de las obras, III, 54.




Ibid., p. 58.


Bloch, L’assistance et l’état en France, pp. 143-144.


Ibid., p. 145.


Sarrailh, “La réforme de la bienfaisance en Espagne,” p. 376; Valentín de Foronda, “Paralelo de la Sociedad de S. Sulpicio de Paris con la casa de misericordia de la ciudad de Victoria,” Miscelánea o colección de varios discursos (Madrid, 1787), p. 25.


Soto, Deliberación en la causa de los pobres, chapter XI.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Toronto.