« ForrigeFortsett »
that if any civil warfare ensued they would take the side, Chap.
whichever it was, which was espoused by their spiritual —
10. So great was the influence of the clergy, and so loyal the feelings of the peasantry, that they would in all state of ti.e probability have enabled the king to resist all the efforts nobUltyof the malcontents, had there been any body of efficient and united landed proprietors in the country. But none such existed in Spain. Generally speaking, the clergy were the sole leaders of the people. There were many nobles in Spain, and they were inferior to none in the world in pride and aristocratic pretension; but they had neither political power nor rural influence. Nearly all absentees, residing the whole year round in Madrid, they had none of that sway over the minds of their tenantry which is enjoyed by landed proprietors who have attached them by a series of kind acts during many generations: intrusted with no political power, they had no weight in national deliberations, or authority in the affairs of Government. The grandees of Spain, who cherished the purity of their descent as carefully as the Arabs do the pedigree of their steeds, and who would admit of, and indeed could contract, no marriage where sixteen quarterings could not be counted on both sides, had incurred the penalty prescribed by nature for such overweening pride aud selfishness. They had become a worn-out and degenerate race, considerably below the usual stature of the human frame, and lamentably inferior in vigour, courage, and intelligence. Not one great man arose during the whole of the protracted Peninsular war: few of the generals who did distinguish themselves belonged to the class of grandees. Nevertheless, this selfish faineant race possessed a great part of the landed property in the kingdom, and by the operation of the strict entails under which it was nearly all held, and the constant intermarriage of the nobility among each other, it was every day running more and moro
Chap. into a few hands. The greater part of the remain
ing landed property was in the hands of incorpora1814, tions, municipalities, or the Church; so that there was perhaps no country in the world which, from its political situation, stood so much in need of an efficient body of rural proprietors, and yet was so entirely destitute of it.
11. It was scarcely possible that a monarchy so situHuge gap ated, distracted by such passions, and divided by so many venue from opposite interests, could long escape the convulsions of civil the south war; but it was accelerated, and the means of averting it *TMn"e^n were taken away, by the peculiar circumstances in which, on the restoratiou of Ferdinand in 1814 to the throne of his ancestors, the Finances of the country stood. From the causes which have been mentioned, the industry and resources of old Spain had declined to such a degree, that little revenue was to be derived from taxation at home; while, on the other hand, the gold and silver mines in the hands of Government in the colonies had become so prolific that the chief revenue of the state had long been derived from its transmarine possessions, and the principal attention of Governmentwas fixed on their maintenance. The income derived by Spain from her colonies, anterior to the Revolution, amounted to 38,000,000 piastres, or £9,500,000—fully a half of the whole revenue, at that period, of the Spanish crown. It is true, about £7,500,000 of this sum was absorbed in expenses connected with the colonies themselves, leaving only £2,000,000 available to the royal treasury at Madrid; but still it was by this vast colonial expenditure, and the establishment it enabled the king to keep up, that nearly the whole power and influence of Government was maintained. It was the gold of Mexico and Peru that paid the armies and civil servants, and upheld nearly the entire sway of the court of Madrid. Now, however, this source of influence was gone. The revolution in South America had cut off fully a half of the whole revenue of Spain; and how was revolution to be combated without armies, Chap. themselves the creatures of the wealth which had been YIL lost? This is the true cause of the ceaseless embar- 1814rassments 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 J^TM^'' has since led them into so many acts alien to the old Esp^o, Castilian honour, and discreditable to subsequent admi- 153,154.' nistrations.1
12. While so many circumstances tended to prognos- 20 ticate future and fierce dissension in the Spanish penin- Constitusula, the enormous defects of the Constitution of 1812, how it was which was the ruling form of government at the time offormedthe 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.2 That Assem-»Hist, of bly—convoked in 1811, at the most disastrous period of fj^.fgis, the contest with France, and when the Imperial armies %2l3t23.§§ 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 'HT°re.no,d the country was occupied by the French; and, ofiaGue£ee course, the election of members for the Cortes was im- Mon, possible from the provinces they were masters of. Thus Mart?iL4ac, the Cortes was returned only by the seaports of Cadiz, Sur Valencia, and Alicante, and the mountaineers of Galicia ^Hist.'
... . . , „ of huropo,
and Asturias; and as they were not a tenth part of ma-ms, the entire inhabitants of the country,3 the remaining 13, u. 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
1814. 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 iuextVcmethe representatives of little more than the 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- U1'
ment of the kingdom, he was empowered to appoint a, Chj^b privy council of forty members, but only out of a list of congrcs a» a hundred and twenty furnished to him by the Cortes-. 24*TMe' '* In like manner all diplomatic, ministerial, and ecclesias- sa&ffii-' tical appointments were to be made out of a list of three, ISmXeL presented to him by the same body; and, to perpetuate gl^ti. its power, a permanent committee was appointed, which *»t|on exercised, during the intervals of its sessions, nearly the chive's piwhole powers of the administration intrusted to the entire f^m'"' body.1
This constitution was so thoroughly democratic in all its parts, that it could not by possibility coexist with a utter unmonarchical government in any country of the earth. °" the con-3 Biennial parliaments, universal suffrage, the exclusion of ?he"gei»-t° the king5s ministers from the legislature, a single cham- sjjjj^°f 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