By John Kendrick
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Extra resources for Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary
Unlike Floridablanca, who had been born a commoner, Aranda was an Aragonese soldier of the old nobility. He had a long political history, having been brought into the ministry in 1766 after the dismissal of the Italian advisers. After losing a political battle in 1773, he was made ambassador to France and sent to Paris, where he became an admirer of Voltaire, an enthusiast for the Enlightenment, and a clandestine adviser to the future Charles IV, who was on poor terms with his father. Aranda recommended the appointment of a confidential minister, with himself in mind to the exclusion of Floridablanca, for whom he had little respect.
Alcaraz claimed that Malaspina read foreign books, was perfunctory in his religious duties, and had the statue of the ship's patron saint removed from the wardroom while the commander was absent. This may have been nonsense put out by a disgruntled member of the crew, but it is one of several shadowy indications that Malaspina was not an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholic authorities. The Inquisition had lost much of its power when the Jesuits were expelled in 1767, so nothing came of Alcaraz's accusation at the time.
The first concern of the early societies was the improvement of agriculture through theoretical and experimental science, but this was impossible in Spain without education and without reform of the landholding system which concentrated huge holdings of untaxed ownership or rights to land in the hands of the church and the grandees. The Amigos del Pais thus became involved in the most important domestic political issues in Spain. One of these was education, and the Amigos established the first secular schools, emphasizing science.