When Charles V. was obliged to renounce the dream of a universal monarchy, and to abandon the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand, he was still able to make over to his son Philip II. territories which rendered Spain the preponderating power in the civilized world. Besides his ancestral dominions in the Peninsula, to which, in 1580, he added Portugal, Philip was master of the wealthy Netherlands, of Milan and Naples, of the Mediterranean islands, and of the New World. His revenues far exceeded those of any other monarch, his armies were admitted to be the most formidable in Europe, and his command of the sea was disputed only by the Turk, whose navy he crushed at Lepanto, until the disasters of the Armada gave warning that the old methods of maritime warfare were becoming obsolete. In every way the supremacy of Spain was the dread of the nations, and its destruction was the cherished object of statesmen for a century. It was not by their efforts, however, that the result was accomplished. Olivares, it is true, was overmatched by Richelieu, but Spain had a vantage-ground enabling her to hold her own against external assault. The causes of her decadence were internal; they were numerous, but may be roughly defined as springing from pride, conservatism, and clericalism.
There is a pride which spurs nations on to great achievements, which reckons nothing done while aught remains to do, and which wisely adapts means to ends. Such was not the pride of Spain: it was proud of what it had done, and imagined that its superiority to the rest of the world left it nothing more to do; it could learn nothing and forget nothing; it had varied the centuries of the Reconquest with endless civil broils, while it left the arts of peace to subject Moors and Jews, until honest labor was regarded with disdain, and trade and commerce were treated in a barbarous fashion that choked all the springs of national prosperity. Derived from this blind and impenetrable pride was the spirit of conservatism which rejected all innovation in a world of incessant change, a world which had been sent by the Reformation spinning on a new track, a world in which modern industrialism was rapidly superseding the obsolescent militarism of Spain. The phrase current throughout Europe in the last century was not without foundation, that Africa began at the Pyrenees. Last, but by no means least, was the clericalism which developed in Spain the ferocious spirit of intolerance; which in 1492 drove out the unhappy Jews, and in 1610 the Moriscos, thus striking at the root of the commercial prosperity and industry of the land; and which surrendered the nation to the Inquisition, paralyzing all intellectual movement, crippling trade, and keeping the people so completely in leading-strings that the three generations since the Napoleonic upheaval have not sufficed for their training in the arts of self-government.