Spain in the 19th Century Part I

By | January 4, 2022

Then, against the foreign sovereign imposed by the emperor, Spain rose together, giving rise to a terrible revolt, which Napoleon tried in vain to suffocate, exhausting his army in the struggle (1808-13); and it was a war that was rightly called the war of independence because it seemed that the country in the defense of the noble end would find its true unity, even if the struggle in its development was localized in the individual historical regions and these gave themselves their own government, largely autonomous. The collapse of the Napoleonic empire, of which Spain was one of the major architects, finally made possible the return of the Bourbons to the throne, and Ferdinand VII (1814-33) on March 22, 1814 returned to the peninsula. But during the struggle, the American colonies had begun to separate from the motherland; and the movement in Spain, at least in its leaders, had taken on the character of a real revolution, with many points of contact with the French one, even if it was said that it was only a return to ancient medieval freedoms: a revolution, it should be noted, not imposed, but spontaneous and, as such, having in itself the reason for its existence and the means of its development; so that the country had made its monarchy constitutional and in the Cortes of Cadiz in 1812 it had given it orders that had similarities with those assigned to the French monarchy in 1791 and had a distinctly democratic character. Moreover, the long years of war, on the one hand, had ruined the country economically and, on the other, led to the formation of a strong contingent of militias, which the victory had made proud and which by now considered themselves authorized to take part in the political life of their homeland, and in general they had given the country a good experience of civil war and had made him, in this matter, the most well-informed in all of Europe. In such conditions, doceañistas), who had fought in favor of their sovereign and had given a national character to their movement, and not instead wisely tempering what they had deliberated driven by circumstances and their own revolutionary rationalism, had very serious consequences, which explain the whole history Spanish of the nineteenth century and of our times. Leaning on the old-fashioned monarchists, on a large part of the clergy and on the popular mass who, while providing them all their help, had remained extraneous to the doceañistas movement and they continued to be tied to their own traditions, the king abolished all the work of the Cortes of Cadiz and established an absolutist regime, which seemed, and in many points was, a return to the conceptions prior to the Enlightenment.

But this policy did not find its justification even in some military success that would bring its dominions back under the subjection of Spain: also stirred up by England, ready to take advantage of the situation, and taking advantage of the troubles that broke out in the motherland and the removal from its political life of the men of 1812, who were the best politicians and military in the country, the American colonies became independent. In 1820 also in Spain the revolution broke out which forced Ferdinand VII to re-enforce the constitution of 1812 and the movement, pronunciamientos, sad peculiarity of Spanish life; the struggle that broke out in the death of Fernando VII between his wife Maria Cristina, who defended the rights of his daughter Isabella, and the brother of the deceased king Don Carlos, who aspired to succession contributed to making this life more complex – the two contenders attributed a political program, the Carlists absolutist, the Cristini in some way liberal, and the war, which ended in 1839 with the victory of Isabella (Vergara convention of August 31), also later had various resumptions – and the separatist revolts particularly serious in the provinces Basque and Catalonia, so that we came to speak of a federation of Spanish states; the dissensions in the liberal party, in which since 1820 a more radical current had formed, of “exalted”, of “progressives”, since 1854 also of republicans. Spain then lost almost all importance in the political life of Europe, drawing its attention only because the political principles which fought for triumph in it were also in conflict elsewhere, and when it came to giving a husband to Isabella. In fact, on this occasion, a Franco-English conflict did not break out, having taken over the French party, and having married Isabella II with her cousin Francisco de Asís, and her sister Luisa with the Duke of Montpensier.

The policy of the crown, aimed at finding a compromise between absolutism and liberalism, with manifest conservative tendencies, was all a failure. In 1848, it is true that Narváez succeeded in stifling some revolutionary attempts: repercussions of the general European crisis of that year, and made more complex by a participation in the British conspiracy, still mindful of the previous setback, by a resumption of the Carlist movement and by a separatist revolt in Catalonia.

Spain in the 19th Century 1