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GASPAR MELCHOR DE JOVELLANOS

GASPAR MELCHOR DE JOVELLANOS

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos was a Spanish writer, jurist and enlightened politician. He was born in Gijon on 5 January 1744. Following the alliance with revolutionary France, Manuel Godoy, Prime Minister under Charles IV, offered him the position of Minister of Grace and Justice. Court intrigue, political enemies, and other accusations led to him not only being removed from his role, but also his jailing in 1801 in the Defence Tower of the Charterhouse of Valldemossa.

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The orders were to prevent him from having any communication with the outside world, and there isolated in his cell, Jovellanos ended up falling ill. The Carthusians then took charge of looking after him. The prior even asked the Court to reduce his sentence. And, without waiting for a response, they provided the prisoner with books and paper for writing, as well as allowing him to walk around the outside area.

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To entertain himself, Jovellanos began to study botany. For this learning, he had the help of the monastery´s apothecary and this study led to the Treatise on Mallorcan Botany and the Medicinal Plants of Valldemossa. He also wrote Public Education: a History of the Charterhouse of Valldemossa and a diary that reflects his stay there.

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The Asturian paid back the monks and financed, using the state salary that maintained him, he funded part of the construction work on the new church, and purchased books for the library. When the King discovered such permissiveness, he ordered for Jovellanos to be moved to Bellver Castle in 1802.

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When the mutiny of Aranjuez put Fernando VII on the throne and just before the rising against the Napoleonic troops, Jovellanos was freed. The order was given on 22 March 1808 and put into practice soon afterwards. Following this period, he had a prominent position in the central government. The man from Gijon died three years later, on 27 November 1811, in Puerto de Vega (Asturias) while fleeing from the French occupying troops.