Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

nounced, I have resolved to swear to the constitution promulgated by the General and Extraordinary Cortes in the year 1812, which you are to hold as understood, and to order its prompt publication.

"I, THE KING.

"At the Palace, March 7th, 1820."

Thus was established, without any modification, the constitution of 1812. Under the circumstances of tardy and enforced acceptance on the part of the King, there was scarcely room for the formation of any other. Having refused the slightest concession, till he felt the sword at his breast, he was of course, when matters came to that crisis, obliged to accept any thing which they chose to dictate. Even the people themselves had scarcely a choice. To have entered upon the tedious and difficult task of forming a new constitution, to which the only power yet organized was decidedly hostile, would have been too hazardous. They had scarcely an alternative but to take the constitution which they found ready made. The choice, or the accident, was, in our opinion, not fortunate. The constitution had been formed by men of intelligence and reflection, but of little political experience, and too deep ly imbued with the principles which dictated the French constitution of 1791. Being formed in Cadiz, while all the leading points of the Peninsula were occupied by French armies, it was organized without any concur rence, either of the King or the aris tocracy; so that the interests of those bodies, particularly the latter, were very little regarded. The defects ari sing from these circumstances, will, we think, appear on an examination of its particular clauses,ignorant 1:

[ocr errors]

As a representative system, it pro ceeded upon the broadest principle of universal suffrage. Every citizen, ar rived at full age, and holding a domi cile within the kingdom, had an equal

།ས་བདག་ས།

vote. Not only was property not required as a qualification; it was not even allowed as a ground of preference. This, we conceive, must, as society is now constituted, be a radical defect in every representative system. Intelligence, and a certain degree of property. must, at the long run, go together. The system of universal suffrage necessarily throws the entire nomination into the hands of the lowest, because greatly the most numerous class; a class of all others the least qualified to judge well of men and measures. In hopes of breaking the force of the democratic impulse, a cumbrous machinery was adopted of election by stages. The body of voters in each parish chose an electoral body, which elected an elector to be sent to the assembly of the district. The district electoral assembly chose a member for the electoral assembly of the province, which assembly at last nominated the deputies to the Cortes in the proportion of one to every 70,000 of the population. Into all these elaborate p processes, however, no element ever entered, except that of the original democratic electing body, which, though it might at first, by these arrangements, be kept in some degree under influence, could not fail soon to learn its strength. A peculiar inconvenience seems to arise from all the deputies of a province being elected by one assembly met in the capital. The deputies to the Cortes, instead of being of different views and tempers, according to the different districts of the province, will be all of that party which has obtained a majority, however small, in the one electoral assembly. The deputies from any province would thus afford no View the variety of sentiment prevailing in that province; a great part, sometimes nearly the half of its districts, would be left without any representation in the national Cortes.

21

of

The next peculiarity in the Spanish constitution, consisted in the entire

exclusion of any other legislative as sembly, except the one of the Commons, thus constituted by universal suffrage. The aristocracies of the clergy and nobles have neither a separate House to themselves, nor any power of sending deputies to the one assembly, which constitutes the entire Cortes. Now, we believe that in all sober, and practical systems, two Houses are con sidered essential to good legislation. Even America, whose constitution is entirely formed on a republican basis, has its Senate, to share and balance the power of the House of Representatives. In Spain, the aristocracies of the nobles and clergy possessed such extensive wealth, that the denial of all voice in the national assembly placed them in a state peculiarly defenceless; while the high influence which the latter especially possessed over the minds of the people, rendered it exceedingly difficult to maintain any system, to which they were essentially hostile. It is indeed currently reported, that the nobility of Spain are so far corrupted and degraded, as to be incapable of that manly and dignified exercise of their powers, which is required in a legislative body. Considering how much it has been the fashion of the present age to decry all privileged bodies, we are led to doubt, after all, whether the Spanish nobility be, materially worse than other nobilities. Several of the highest rank, Romana, Albuquerque, Parque, &c. distinguished themselves by their military talents, in the war of liberation; others have been eminent for their literary qualifications. Among such a body, in every country, there is a great deal of idleness and dissipation; and the Spanish nobility, possessed of immense wealth, without any political action or influence, were naturally thrown more particularly into these habits. But if they had been placed in a more dignified situation, and one affording scope

[ocr errors]

for the display of their powers, we have no doubt that they would have been found to be composed of the same materials as the rest of mankind.

11

The Sovereign, the third branch of the political system, was by no means left in the same destitute situation. He wanted indeed some powers which belong to the British Sovereign. He had not the power to prevent the assembling of the Cortes, nor, when it was assembled, to dissolve it. That body, after completing its annual session of three months, left a permanent deputation of seven, with instructions to watch over the maintenance of the constitution; and, if it should appear necessary, to call upon the King to convoke an extraordinary Cortes. In the passing of laws, he was allowed only. a limited veto. He might reject a law presented to him by the Cortes during two successive sessions; but if again presented in the third session, his sanction could no longer be refused. The royal patronage was limited by the nomination of a Council of State, consisting of forty members, each of whom were to be chosen by the King, out of a list of three furnished by the Cortes. Whenever an ecclesiastical or judicial office was to be filled, this body furnished to the King a list of three, out of which he made the selection. As he retained, however, the uncontrouled disposal of all civil and military appointments, his patronage could not be said to be reduced within very narrow limits. No treaty of offensive alliance was valid, without the approbation of the Cortes. In other respects the Spanish Monarch had the same powers as the King of Great Britain. The limitations actually fixed seem founded upon good reasons; and leave still untouched the most important attributes. The want under which the Spanish King laboured, was that of a graduation of powers; of something intermediate, to connect him with that

purely popular body, which held the sole legislative supremacy. Elements so opposite brought into mutual ac tion, could scarcely escape collision, and were inconsistent with any smooth and regular movement of the political machine. to bubuos ve

..

[ocr errors]

those which will render you worthy of the love of your fellow-citizens in peace, and redoubtable to yourenemies in war; such, in fiue, are the duties which the King expects from you, and of which your first companion in arms will make it his ambition to set you an example. "It is thus that the august throne of Alphonso and of Ferdinand will shed a lustre on this heroic nation, unknown in the most glorious ages of the monarchy; and Ferdinand VII., our beneficent King, the founder of Spanish liberty, the father of the country, will be one of the happy the most powerful of monarchs, since he rests his high authority on the indestructible basis of the love and ve neration of his people.'

[ocr errors]

most h

.879 S

A general jubilee now took place among the friends of liberty. The government, with apparent good will, began to undo all that for the last six years it had been busied in doing. The dungeons of Madrid, of Cadiz, and of Ceuta, gave up the tenants who, for so many years, had been unjustly immersed in their gloomy cells. A royal decree suppressed the Inquisition, and ordained the public sale of all property belonging to it. The liberty of the press was established on the same footing as by the former Cortes; several political journals were established; the coffee-houses of Madrid were converted into political clubs. The King and Royal family studiously exhibited every symptom of a cheerful acquiescence in the new system. The Infant Don Carlos, on being appointed to the command of the national army, made an address to them, in which he said, "Equally faithful as yourselves to the solemn oath which I have to-day taken before his Majesty, you will find me a leader who willever conduct you in the path which honour and duty prescribe. To love and defend the country; to support, with unalterable loyalty, they throne, and the sacred person of the monarch, who is the support of civil liberty and the national grandeur; to respect the laws; to maintain public order to submit to all sacrifices which the common weal requires to unite in affection and sentiment with other Spaniards, and to concur with them in General Freyre, who had hitherto the establishment and consolidation of acted steadily in support of the royal the constitutional system; to observe authority, appears, on receiving intelan exact discipline, and the subordina-ligence of the desertion of Absbal, to tion so necessary in troops;-such, sol- have suddenly formed an opposite rediers, are your sacred duties; such are solution. On the 9th, he entered Ca

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In the provinces, the constitution had been either established before the notice from Madrid arrived, or was then instantly and harmoniously accepted. At Saragossa and Navarre, it was proclaimed several days previ ous. At Barcelona, on the 10th March, the people, though ignorant of the events at Madrid, compelled General Castanos to follow th the example. At Valencia, Elio with difficulty escaped from the fury of the populace to save him, it was necessary to lodge him in the prison. In Galicia, San Roman, who still headed troops in opposition to the new system, instantly called upon them to give their oath in support t of the the constitution. In Andalusia, a friendly correspondence suc ceeded to the hostile operations between Riego and O'Donnell. One dismal event interrupted the general harmony, and cast a gloom overla change that wore otherwise so auspicious an aspect.

[graphic]

diz at twelve o'clock, and announced his determination to proclaim the constitution. As the people, who assembled in crowds, appeared impatient of any delay, he solemnly made oath to it, and promised that the remaining so lemnities should be duly performed on the following day. The people immediately raised a flag, inscribed Long live the constitution, and Freyre our regenerator. At the same time, they promised to bury all past enmities in oblivion, An invitation was soon sent to the chiefs of the army on the Isle of Leon, to be present at the solemnity of the approaching day. Quiroga, however, declined attending himself, but sent San Miguel, Arco Aguerro, Galiano, and another of his principal officers. The night was now spent in joyful preparations for to-morrow's festival; the fronts of the houses were lavishly adorned, and the whole body of the people, in their festal dresses, filled at ten o'clock the square of St Antonio. As they were waiting there for the arrival of General Freyre to begin the ceremony, a report of mus-89 The nation now occupied itself quetry was suddenly heard, and the troops instantly began to fire on the multitude. The affrighted crowd fled in all directions, pressed and overturnsed upon each other; while the troops pursued, massacring all whom they encountered Even the houses did not shelter the wretched inhabitants; and Cadiz was for several hours like a city given up to pillage. The carnage of this dreadful day was afterwards found to amount to 460 killed, and upwards of 1000 wounded. The deputies from the national army called upon General Freyre for his pledged protection, which he was able to make good only by conveying them out of his house oby the roof, and thence to the fort of St Sebastian. Notwithstanding a long investigation afterwards carried on, the origin of this dreadful affair was never fully ascertained. General Freyre's

[ocr errors]

succeeded in dispersing the rest. The Marquis d'Alazan, to whose dissensions with Haro this disturbance was partly attributed, was removed from his situation as governor of the province.

In Galicia, matters threatened to assume a more serious character. Don Manuel Chantre, whose zeal has been already commemorated, united himself with some other chiefs, who assumed the title of the "Apostolical Junta of Galicia." They collected within the frontiers of Portugal a body of scattered troops and peasantry, with which they crossed the Minho, and endea voured to rouse Galicia into insurrec tion. In fact, before Espinosa could collect his troops, they had swelled to between 2000 and 3000 men, and were threatening Tuy. Here, however, several encounters took place, in which they were completely worsted, and obliged to re-enter Portugal, with the loss of their standards and baggage, Two of their chiefs were afterwards delivered up by the Portuguese govern ment, at the urgent request of Spain, They were found to maintain secret correspondence with malcontents in Andalusia, and even with secret committees in the capital.

[ocr errors]

The 6th of June formed the important and long expected day of the meeting of the Cortes. A fortnight was consumed in the examination of their powers, and other preliminary matters; and it was not till the 9th July, that the solemn opening took place. The King was attended by the Queen, the royal family, and the corps diplomatique. After renewing the oath of fidelity to the constitution, he made his opening speech, in which he strongly expressed his attachment to, and determination to support, the new order of things. At length," said he, "has come the day, the object of my ardent wishes, when I see myself sur

[ocr errors]

rounded by the representatives of the heroic and generous Spanish nation ; and when a solemn oath identifies my interests and those of my family with the interests of my people. Since the excess of the evil has called forth the unequivocal expression of the general wish of the nation, an expression long dimmed by deplorable circumstances, i that are now banished from our memory, I have determined to embrace the system which the nation desired, and to swear to the political constitution of the monarchy, sanctioned by the general and extraordinary Cortes of the year 1812, since the crown and the nation have both recovered their legitimate rights, my resolution being the more free and spontaneous, as it is more conformable to the interests of the Spanish people, whose happi ness never ceased to be the object of my sincerest intentions." After ta king a view of the state of the differ ent branches of administration, he concluded: "It is to the establishment and the entire and inviolable maintenance of the constitution, that I will consecrate the powers which this same constitution assigns to the royal authority; in it I will concentrate my power, my happiness, and my glory.

The address to be made in reply was the subject of some discussion; and that finally agreed upon, while it very strongly expressed the feelings of duty and attachment, failed not to insinuate pretty decided lessons as to what was their opinion of past events, and what conduct they now expected. to meet with from the King and his Ministers. "While," it is said, "they. act with the prudence and dignity worthy the representatives of a great and generous nation, the Cortes expect to find in your Majesty's govern, ment that vigour and co-operation which are absolutely necessary for the establishment of a new system, and for

« AnteriorContinua »