28 de October de 1760 - La laboriosidad de los catalanes, consecuencia de una falta de juicio político: a vuestra empresa, pobres (748 + 30)

Barcelona, Oct. 28, 1760.

Those who charge the Spaniards with idleness, ought at least to make arr exception in favour of the Catalonian rusticks, whom I found this morning at work by moon-light in the fields, as I walked out of Piera by four o’clock.

How, said I, does it happen, that these people are so diligent in quitting their beds, and rise so early for such a purpose? Surely the fellows get up thus betimes to their labours, that they may avoid fatiguing themselves during the burning hours of the noon.

See how travellers are quick in finding out the reason of things! I had scarce formed the thought, when I laughed at my ill-natured sagacity, as I recollected that the weather was then so cold, that the mid-day hours could not prove troublesome to the husbandmen. Let therefore the honest fellows have the praise they so well deserve of an activity and industry, which is perhaps not to be matched any where.

Nor is that activity the only quality in them that merits my commendation. Their piety has likewise a just claim to it, as I heard them loudly recite their prayers while they busied themselves with their lopping-knives about their vines and mulberry-trees.

I have been at times an early riser myself in several countries, most especially when on a journey. But although the peasantry of every country be in general very ready to get up betimes to their works, yet I never observed them any where to rise so early, as I find them to do in the neighbourhood of Piera.

My good Canon assures me, that the Aragonians do not yield much to the Catalans in this particular; yet he owns that the Catalans are the most active people throughout Spain, and assigns a good reason for it. The reason is, says he, that, from the age of fifteen to sixty, the poor Catalans are obliged to pay a capitation of forty four reals annually, besides their quota of the taxes that are laid in common on all subjects. That heavy capitation, continues the Canon, was laid on the Catalans by Philip V, to punim them for their obstinate adherence to his competitor Charles in the long succession-war as they call it.

See what the little get by meddling in the contests of the great! The common people of Catalonia, and the peasantry especially, had surely no need of concerning themselves about the succession, as, whoever conquered, they were still to continue under an uncontroled government. But the multitude was always foolish throughout the world, and is always made a tool to carry points that concern them but very little, or very remotely: nor will they ever be persuaded, that with respect to them, it matters but very little how and by whom they are governed. Instead of holding their peace, and playing merely the spectators, as some other Spaniards did upon that occasion; instead of leaving the two princes to fight it out as well as they could, the silly Catalans listened to the seducive voice of numerous emissaries from Austria and from England, who made them believe they would all be rich, all happy, all glorious, if Charles could prevail. The effect of such promises was, that the poor fellows quitted their ploughs and their looms, took up swords and firelocks, and marched bravely against Philip, declaring that they would have a German king, and not a French one.

But what availed their declarations and their fighting! Philip prevailed, because the Germans could do but little for Charles; and the English, who had long supported him powerfully, grew at last tired of it, and dropped him. Deserted and given up by the allies of Charles, the wretched Catalans were considered by the victor as rebels and traytors. Many of them had fallen in war; but they were now hanged, beheaded, sent to the gallies, and harasled and tormente’d in other various ways. Then a capitation was laid upon them, and entailed upon their posterity, are now forced to get up long before the sun to earn it, and atone for the great folly of their forefathers. Tuas res age is the best general advice that prudence can give; and if every Catalan, instead of Biva el Rey Don Carlos, had said to himself and to his countrymen tuas res age, they might have prevented the great calamities that overtook them for the want of such an advice.

, A journey from London to Genoa, through England, Portugal, Spain, and France (1770).

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