Jovellanos y Ramirez, Gaspar Melchor de

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Jovellanos y Ramirez, Gaspar Melchor de (1744-1811): Spanish, Statesman and Author.

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos was born into an aristocratic family in Gijon on the 5th of January, 1744. At the age of 13 he received a scholarship and studied Law for two years at the Colegio de San Idefonso at the Universidad de Alcala. While at this University he began his poetic career with the publication of “Treparose al Parnaso.” In 1767 he became a judge in the criminal court in Sevilla. There, he began studying languages and wrote the majority of his literary works containing his views on social improvements. These works include: El delincuente honrado (1773), Epistolas de Jovino a sus amigos salmantinos y a sus amigos de Sevilla, A batilo, and the Epistola del Paular. His satires include: Arnesto, Cartas (1767-1811), and Diario (in 14 volumes 1790-1811). In 1778 he was transferred to a judicial post in Madrid where he wrote many influential works for the Sociedad Patriotica, the Academy of History, Academy of San Fernando, Academy Española, and Academies of Cannons and Law. In 1790, after unsuccessful intervention on behalf of his disgraced friend, Count Cabarrus, he was himself banished from Madrid and returned to Asturias as a commissioner in the district coal-mining. In Asturias he founded the Instituto Asturiano, an institution to promote reform and completed Diario, a book of great biographical and ideological interest. His most influential work is Informe de la sociedad economica de Madrid al real supremo consejo de Castilla en el expediente de la Ley Agraria (1795). In this work he argued for Spanish agricultural reform on the basis of liberal economic principles.

Because of his friendship with Godoy, Jovellanos was designated in 1797 ambassador to Russia. He never assumed this position due to his appointment as Ministro de Gracia y Justicia (Minister of Justice, November 1797-August 1798). His political views, especially his opposition to the Inquisition and advocacy of the emancipation of the Spanish national church from Rome, contributed to his fall and imprisonment. He was arrested on the 13th of March 1801 and taken to Mallorca, first to the Cartuja de Jesus Nazareno and later to the castle of Bellver, where he was freed during the uprising at Aranjuez in 1808. Jovellanos refused a position in the government under the French invaders and joined the Junta Central. He played a key role in this national governmental group opposing the French and played a part in convening a national assembly (Cortes). He believed in monarchical sovereignty balanced by a national assembly with the power to check arbitrary royal power.

In other writings, he advocated reform deal with education, Memoria sobre la educacion publica (1801), architecture, Memorias historico-artisticas de arquitectura (1804-08) and politics, Memoria en defensa de la Junta Central (1811). When the Junta Central dissolved, he fled to Galicia and then to Gijon. Pursued by the French, he embarked for Cadiz and took refuge from a storm in the small port of Vega where he died on the 29th of November 1811.

Further Reading

G. de Artinano y Galdacano:Jovellanos y su Espana, J. Rates, Madrid, 1913.

F. Bareno: Ideas pedagogicas de Jovellanos, Gijon, 1910.

A.M. Camacho Perea: Estudio critico de las doctrinas de Jovellanos en lo referente a las ciencias morales y politicas. J. Rates, Madrid, 1913.

Christine Bridges-Esser

Lamar University