« PreviousContinue »
how was revolution to be combated without armies, CHAP. themselves the creatures of the wealth which had been lost ? This is the true cause of the ceaseless embar- 1814. rassments of finance, which have ever since distinguished the Spanish government; which led them, as will appear in the sequel, to hazard revolution at home in the desperate attempt to extinguish it in the colonies, and Humboldt,
“Nouvelle has since led them into so many acts alien to the old Espagno,
iii. 361, iv. Castilian honour, and discreditable to subsequent admi- 153, 154. nistrations.1
12. While so many circumstances tended to prognosticate future and fierce dissension in the Spanish penin- Constitu
tion of 1812: sula, the enormous defects of the Constitution of 1812, how it was which was the ruling form of government at the time of form the restoration, rendered it imminent and unavoidable. The circumstances under which that constitution was framed have been already explained, and the calamitous influence they exercised on the deliberations and temper of the Spanish Constituent Assembly. That Assem- ' Hist, of bly-convoked in 1811, at the most disastrous period of 1789.? the contest with France, and when the Imperial armies : occupied the whole country except a few mountain provinces and fortresses on the sea-coast-so far from presenting a faithful representation of the feelings of the majority of the nation, presented the very reverse. Galicia and Asturias alone-evacuated by Ney at the time of the advance of Wellington to Talavera— with the seaport towns of Valencia, Cadiz, and Alicante, were in the hands of the Spaniards : the whole remainder of 3 Toreno,
Histoire de the country was occupied by the French ; and, of la Guerre
m de la Revocourse, the election of members for the Cortes was im- lutions possible from the provinces they were masters of. Thus Start the Cortes was returned only by the seaports of Cadiz, Sur l'Es.
4. pagne, 94, Valencia, and Alicante, and the mountaineers of Galicia 95; Hist.
of Europe, and Asturias; and as they were not a tenth part of 1789-1815,
c. lxv. SS the entire inhabitants of the country,3 the remaining 13, 14. members were all selected by the people of those pro
CHAP. vinces then in Cadiz—that is, by the most democratic
portion of the community. In this extraordinary and unconstitutional device, perhaps unavoidable under the circumstances, the real germ of the whole subsequent calamities of Spain, and of the south of Europe, is to be found.
As might have been expected, from its construction by 21. Its extreme the representatives of little more than the democratic democratic tendency. rabble of three seaport towns, the Constitution of 1812,
formed by the Cortes at Cadiz, was republican in the extreme. It preserved the shadow of monarchy, but nothing more. It did not establish a “throne surrounded with republican institutions,” but a republic surrounded by the ghost of monarchical institutions. The Legislature consisted of a single Chamber, elected by universal suffrage ; there was to be a representative for every 70,000 inhabitants in old Spain ; and the American colonies were also admitted on similar terms to a considerable share in the representation. Every man aged twentyfive, and who had resided seven years in the province, had a vote for the representation of his department in the Cortes. The king had a veto only twice on any legislative measure : if proposed to him a third time by the legislature, he was constrained to pass the measure, whatever it was. There was no House of Peers, or check of any kind on the single Chamber of the Cortes, elected, as it was, by universal suffrage ; and the king's ministers, by becoming such, ipso facto lost their seats in the National Assembly. The Cortes was to be re-elected every two years; and no member who had once sat could be again returned to its bosom. The king had the appointment of civil and military officers, but only out of a list furnished to him by the Cortes, who could alone make regulations for the government of the army. The judges in all the civil courts were to be appointed by the Cortes. The king could declare peace or war, and conclude treaties in the first instance; but his measures in
those particulars required, for their validity, the ratifica- CHAP. tion of the Cortes. Finally, to aid him in the govern- ment of the kingdom, he was empowered to appoint a
* 1 Chateaub. privy council of forty members, but only out of a list of Congrès de
Verone, i. a hundred and twenty furnished to him by the Cortes. 24, 25;' In like manner all diplomatic, ministerial, and ecclesias- 328, 341;
- Toreno, iv. tical appointments were to be made out of a list of three, H. presented to him by the same body; and, to perpetuate is
U 25; Constiits power, a permanent committee was appointed, which tution of
1812; Arexercised, during the intervals of its sessions, nearly the chives Di
plom. iii. whole powers of the administration intrusted to the entire I. 159. body.1 This constitution was so thoroughly democratic in all
22. its parts, that it could not by possibility coexist with a Utter un
suitableness monarchical government in any country of the earth. of the con
in af stitution to Biennial parliaments, universal suffrage, the exclusion of the
o the genethe king's ministers from the legislature, a single cham- hadits ber, the practical appointment to all offices, civil and military, by a Cortes thus popularly elected, and the eternal succession of new and inexperienced persons into the legislature, by the self-denying ordinances which they had passed, were amply sufficient to have overturned society in Great Britain—long as its people had been trained to popular institutions—in six months. What, then, was to be expected when such a constitution was suddenly imposed on a country inured to political nullity by centuries of absolute government—by a so-styled National Assembly, elected, during the whirl of the French war, almost entirely by the populace of Cadiz, when crowded to suffocation by all the most ardent spirits in the Peninsula refluent within its walls from the effects of the French invasion ? It was impossible to imagine a constitution more at variance with the ancient institutions, or repugnant to the present feelings of nineteen-twentieths of the Spanish people. It was like a constitution for Great Britain formed by a parliament elected by the inhabitants of the Tower Hamlets, Marylebone, and Manchester, with
CHAP, a few returned from the mountains of Cumberland and
_ Wales. But, unfortunately, in proportion to its utter 1814,
unsuitableness for the entire inhabitants of the Peninsula, and the abhorrence of the vast majority of the people to its provisions, it was the object of impassioned attachment on the part of the democratic populace in the capital and a few seaport towns. It was so for a very obvious reason : it promised, if established in a lasting way, to put the whole power and patronage of the state at their disposal. Therein the seeds of a lasting division of opinion, and of a frightful civil war at no distant period in the Peninsula, in which it might be expected that 12,000,000 bold, hardy, and loyal peasants, scattered over the whole country, would be arrayed on one side ; while 500,000 ardent and enthusiastic democrats concentrated in the capital and chief fortresses, and having the command of the army, were in arms on the other.
The proceedings of the Cortes, and the democratic 23. Universal character of the measures they were pursuing, was well unpopu
the known to the Duke of Wellington, and discerned by Cortes and him with his wonted sagacity. He repeatedly warned
the government of Great Britain, that while the spirit of the nation was anti-Gallican, not democratic, that of the Cortes and its narrow body of constituents was democratic, not anti-Gallican ; and that it would be their wisdom, without sanctioning in any shape, or interfering at all with the proceedings at Cadiz, to turn their attention exclusively to the expulsion of the French from the Peninsula. * They did so, and with what effect need be
*« The natural course of all popular assemblies of the Spanish Cortes among others—is to adopt democratic principles, and to vest all the powers of the state in their own body; and this Assembly must take care that they do not run in this tempting course, as the wishes of the nation are decidedly for a monarchy. By a monarchy alone it can be governed ; and their inclination to any other form of government, and their assumption of the power and patronage of the state into their own hands, would immediately deprive them of the confidence of the people, and render them a worse government, and more impotent, because more numerous, than the Central Junta."-WELLINGTON to H. WELLESLEY, Nov. 4, 1810; GuRwOOD, iv. 559. “The Cortes are unpopular everywhere, and, in my opinion, deservedly so.
larity of t
told to none; but though Spain marched under his CHAP. guidance in the career of conquest, and, to external appearance, was enveloped in a halo of glory, the working of the democratic constitution was not the less felt, and it had become beyond measure repugnant to the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Peninsula. What chiefly excited their indignation was the selfishness and rapacity of the half-starving employés, who, issuing from Cadiz, overspread the country in every direction, like an army of locusts, and ate up the fruits of their industry, by exactions of every description, from the suffering inhabitants. The general abhorrence in which these rapacious employés were held, recalls the similar indignation excited in Flanders by the Jacobin commissioners sent down there by Danton, when the country was overrun by the republican armies in 1792.1 It will be so to Hist. of
Europe, the end of the world, in all governments, monarchical c. x. $ 55. and republican, where the executive and legislative func- Chateaub. tions are united in one person or assembly ; for then Verone, i. there is no possible check upon the misdeeds of either. Martignac,
'99, 100; The only security which can be relied upon is to be Ann. Reg.
1812, 67, found in their separation and mutual jealousy, for then 68. they act as a check upon each other.2
The proceedings of the Cortes, and the republican , spirit with which they were animated, acted in a still Influence of
the Cortes more important way upon the destinies of the New on South World than those of the Old. The deputies from the Transatlantic provinces, to whom, in a liberal and worthy spirit, the gates of the national representation at Cadiz Nothing can be more cruel, absurd, and impolitic than those decrees respecting the persons who have served the enemy. It is extraordinary that the revolution has not produced one man with any knowledge of the real situation of the country. It appears as if they were all drunk, thinking and speaking of any other subject than Spain."—WELLINGTON to H. WELLESLEY, Nov. 1, 1812; GURWOOD, ix. 524.
" It is impossible to describe the state of confusion in which affairs are at Cadiz. The greatest objection I have to the new constitution is, that in a country in which almost the whole property consists in land-and these are the largest landed proprietors which exist in Europe-no measure has been adopted, and no barrier provided, to guard landed property from the