« ForrigeFortsett »
able deeds, and has, beyond almost any other of his con- Chap. temporary princes, been the object of impassioned invec
tire on the part of the liberal press in Europe. Placed 1814in the very front rank of the league of princes, ruling a country in which the vast majority were decidedly monarchical—a small minority vehemently democratic—brought, the first of all the monarchs of Europe, in contact with the revolutionary spirit by which they were all destined to be so violently shaken, it was scarcely possible it could be otherwise. But the character of Ferdinand was, perhaps, the most unfortunate that could have been found to tread the path environed with dangers which lay before him. He had neither the courage and energy requisite for a despotic, nor the prudence and foresight essential in a constitutional sovereign: he had neither the courage which commands respect, the generosity which wins affection, nor the wisdom which averts catastrophe. Indolence was his great characteristic; a facility of being led, his chief defect. Incapable of taking a decided line for himself, he yielded easily and willingly to the representations of those around him, and exhibited in his conduct those vacillations of policy which indicated the alternate ascendancy of the opposite parties by which he was surrounded. His inclination, without doubt, was strongly in favour of despotic power; but he had great powers of dissimulation, and succeeded in deceiving Talleyrand himself, as well as the liberal ministers subsequently imposed upon him by the Cortes, as to his real intentions. Supple, accommodating, aud irresolute, he had learnt ,Marl. hypocrisy in the same school as the modern Greek has 100, m. learned it from the Turk—the school of suffering.1
The treaty of Valencay, as narrated in a former work,* restored Ferdinand VII. to liberty, and he re-entered the Ferdinand-* kingdom of his fathers on the 20th March 1814, just ten Spain, and days before the Allies entered Paris. This treaty had b°tnTMont been concluded with Napoleon while the monarch was0"^*
* History of Europe, 1789-1815, chap- lxxxvii. § 71.
Chap. still in captivity, and it was a fundamental condition of it that he should cause the English to evacuate Spain.
i8H. rp^ SuDSequent fall of the Emperor, however, rendered this stipulation of no effect; and, after having been received with royal honours by the garrisons, both French and Spanish, in Catalonia, the monarch proceeded by easy journeys to Valencia, where he resided during the whole of April. The reason of this long sojourn in a provincial town was soon apparent. He was there joined by the Duke del Infantado, and the leading grandees of the kingdom, as well as many of the chief prelates. Meanwhile the Cortes, who had testified the greatest joy at the deliverance of the king, refused to ratify the Treaty of Valen9ay, as having been concluded without their consent —continued resident at Madrid, without advancing to meet their sovereign—and soon began to evince their imperious disposition, and to show in whom they understood the real sovereignty to reside. At the moment when Ferdinand reentered his kingdom, they published of their own authority a decree, in which they enjoined him to adopt, without delay, the Constitution of 1812, and to take the oath of fidelity towards it. Until he did so, he was enjoined not to adopt the title, or exercise the power, of King of Spain; and they even went so far as to prescribe the itinerary he March2& vas to foNow on l"s route to the capital, the towns he ,.8U; ¥,S" was to pass through, and the expressions he was to use in
tignac, 107; ', ,? 1 .
Ann. Reg. answer to the addresses he was expected to receive. It 68.' ' is not surprising that he turned aside from such taskmasters.1
^ Scarcely had the monarch set his foot in Spain when Universal he received the most unequivocal proofs of the detestation HtyTAhe m which the constitution was generally held, and the univercortes. sal hatred at the subordinate agents to whom the Cortes had intrusted the practical administration of government. From the frontier of Catalonia, to Valencia—in the fortresses, the towns, the villages, the fields—it was one continual clamour against the Cortes: "Viva el Rey
Assoluto," was the universal cry. The king was literally Chap. besieged with petitions, addresses, and memorials, in which YI1' he was supplicated, in the most earnest terms, to annul all 1814, that had been done during his captivity, and to reign as his ancestors had done before him. The constitution was represented—and with truth—as the work of a mere revolutionary junta in Cadiz, in a great measure self-elected, and never convoked either from the whole country or according to the ancient constitution of the kingdom. There was not a municipality which did not hold this language as he passed through their walls; not a village which did not present to him a petition, signed by the most respectable inhabitants, to the same effect. The generals, the army, the garrisons, besieged him with addresses of the same description. The minority of the Cortes, consisting of sixty-nine members, presented a supplication beseeching the king to annul the whole pro- iMartignac ceedings of their body, and to reign as his fathers had ^ ^ done. From one end of the kingdom to the other but }f,i4,68;
one voice was heard, that of reprobation or the Cortes congrea de and the constitution, and prayers to the king to resume 26,27!'' the unfettered functions of royalty.1
Impelled in this manner by the unanimous voice of the nation, not less than his own secret inclination, to Decree of annul the constitution, and grasp anew the sceptre May"?''1' of his ancestors, Ferdinand ventured on the decisive act.1814. On the 4 th May 1814 appeared the famous decree of Valencia, which at once annulled the whole acts of the Cortes, and restored absolute government over the whole of Spain. In it the king, after recapitulating briefly the principal events which had occurred in the Peninsula since his treacherous seizure and captivity by Napoleon in 1808, declared that he had, by a decree of 5th May in that year, convoked the Cortes; but the French invasion prevented it from being assembled, and compelled the several provinces to elect juntas, and severally provide for their own defence. "An extraordinary Cortes," said the
Chap. monarch, "was subsequently convoked in the island of VI1' Leon, when nearly the whole country was in the hands of 1814- the French, consisting of 57 proprietors, 104 deputies, and 47 supplementary members,* without either the nobles or the clergy being summoned to their deliberations, and convoked in a manner wholly illegal and without a precedent, even in the most critical and stormy days of the monarchy. The first step of this illegal assembly was to .usurp the whole powers of sovereignty on the very first day of their installation, and to strip me of nearly my whole prerogatives; and their next, to impose on Spain the most arbitrary laws, and compel it to receive a new constitution, unsanctioned cither by the provinces, the provincial juntas, or the Indies. By this constitution was established, not anything resembling the ancient constitution, but a republican form of government, presided over by a chief magistrate, deprived alike of consideration and power, and framed entirely on the principle and form of the democratic French constitution of 1791. Force alone compelled the members to swear to the constitution: the Bishop of Orense refused to take the oath, and Spain knows what was the fate of that respectable prelate.
"Nothing has consoled me amidst so many calamities, King's de- but the innumerable proofs of the loyalty of my faithful favour of subjects, who longed for my arrival, in the hope that it and promise might terminate the oppression under which they groaned, a°iegaivcor-aQd restore the true happiness of the country. I promise— tes- I swear to you, true and loyal Spaniards—that your hopes shall not be deceived. Your sovereign places his chief glory in being the chief of a heroic nation, which, by its immortal exploits, has won the admiration of the whole world, and at the same time preserved its own liberty and honour. I detest, I abhor despotism: it can never be reconciled neither with civilisation, or the lights of
* Members chosen in the Isle of Leon, to represent the provinces in the bands of the French.
the other nations in Europe. The kings iever have been Chap. despots in Spain; neither the sovereign nor the consti- N"'
tution of the country have ever authorised despotism, 18R although unhappily it has sometimes been practised, as it has been in all ages by fallible mortals. Abuses have existed in Spain, not because it had no constitution, but from the fault of persons or circumstances. To guard against such abuses in future, so far as human prudence can go, while preserving the honour and rights of royalty (for it has its own as well as the people have theirs, which arc equally inviolable), / will treat with the deputies of Spain and the Indies in a Cortes legally assembled, composed of the one and the other, as soon as I can convoke them, after having re-established the wise customs of the nation, established with the consent of the kings our august predecessors. Thus shall be established, in a solid and legitimate manner, all that can tend to the good of my kingdoms, in order that my subjects may live happy and tranquil under the protection of our religion and our sovereign, the only foundation for the happiness of a king and a kingdom which are rightly styled Catholic. No time shall be lost in taking the proper measures for the assembly of the Cortes, which I trust will insure the happiness of my subjects in both hemispheres." The decree concluded with declaring the resolution of the king not to accept the constitution; to annul all the acts of the Cortes; and declaring all persons guilty ofJ^T"' high treason, and punishable with death, who should i8u; Xwb. attempt, by word, deed, or incitement, to establish the 64,P6°9?''"' constitution, or resist the execution of the present decree.1 No words can describe the universal transport with
which this decree was received, or the loyal enthusiasm Universal which the prospect of the re-establishment of the ancient '^spa?^ constitution and customs of the monarchy excited in the and\hoCree' nation. The joy was universal: it resembled that of the Jjj^tJ*" English when they awoke from the tyranny of the long JJj^Parliament and Cromwell to the bright morning of the
VOL. II. c