1. Rules of Charles IV:
When the French Revolution started in 1789, Spain was being ruled by Charles IV (1788-1808). He was boorish, foolish and easily duped.
His Queen was a coarse sensuous woman “with a tongue like a fishwife’s.”
Their heir was Prince Ferdinand who was a conceited, irresponsible young braggart in his early twenties.
The true ruler of Spain was Godoy, a vain adventurer who was loved by the Queen, shielded by the king and envied by Prince Ferdinand. From 1795 to 1808, Spain was a vassal of France. No wonder. Napoleon was able in 1807 to secure the approval of the king of Spain to the partition of Portugal of which a liberal share was promised to Godoy. The French troops were allowed to pass through Spain in October 1807 to invade Portugal. On 1 December 1807, Lisbon was occupied and the continental system was proclaimed in force.
2. Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain:
In spite of that, French troops continued to cross the Pyrenees and possess themselves the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. Public opinion in Spain blamed the king and Godoy for the invasion of their country. Prince Ferdinand supported the people. There were riots in Spain. In order to save Godoy, the king abdicated and announced the succession of Prince Ferdinand as Ferdinand VII on 17 March 1808. On the pretext of mediating between the rival factions in Spain, Napoleon lured King Charles IV, Ferdinand and Godoy to Bavonne on the French frontier.
By threats and cajolery Napoleon persuaded both Charles and Ferdinand to resign all of their claims to the throne of Spain’ Charles retired to Rome on a pension from Napoleon. Ferdinand was kept for six years under strict military guard in France. The Bourbons ceased to reign in Spain. Napoleon appointed his brother Joseph Bonaparte the king of Spain.
In July 1808, Joseph Bonaparte was crowned King of Spain at Madrid. Soon after his accession to the throne, Joseph granted to the people of Spain the favours of the Napoleonic regime. He decreed equality before the law, individual liberties, abolition of feudalism and serfdom, educational reforms, suppression of the Inquisition, diminution of monasteries, confiscation of church property and public improvements.
3. Spanish Resistance to Joseph Bonaparte:
It is true that Napoleon was able to put his brother on the throne of Spain without much difficulty but he had now to face opposition from the people of Spain. The Spanish people hated their late king for his weakness and treachery. They hated Joseph Bonaparte as a foreigner and an upstart. They were devoted to the cause of Spain. Priests and nobles made common cause with the common people.
They were all agreed that they would not allow a foreigner to rule over them. Spain blazed forth in angry insurrection. Revolutionary committees were set up in the provinces. People were recruited to fight for their country. A nationalist reaction was in full swing. By August 1808, Joseph Bonaparte was forced to run away from Madrid and the French troops were in retreat towards the Pyrenees.
It was at this time that George Canning, the Foreign Minister of England, promised help to the people of Spam. He declared, “We shall proceed upon the principle that any nation of Europe which starts up to oppose a power which, whether professing insidious peace or declaring open war, is the common enemy of all nations, becomes instantly our ally.”
In August 1808, a British army under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) landed in Portugal and proceeded to cooperate with the Portuguese and the Spaniards against the French. It was the beginning of the Peninsular War which was to last until 1813 and spell disaster for Napoleon.
Joseph Bonaparte driven from Spain:
Within three weeks after their landing, the British were in possession of Portugal. Realising the gravity of the situation. Napoleon assumed personal command of the French forces m the Peninsula. So great was his vigour and resourcefulness that Napoleon was able to reinstate his brother Joseph in Madrid in December 1808 and drove the main British army out of Spam.
Early m 1809, Napoleon had to go away from Spain on account of developments in another part of Europe. The Marshals whom Napoleon left behind quarreled with one another and they were not able to put up a united front against the people of Spain who were being helped by the people of Great Britain.
The French troops had to face many difficulties in Spain. The nature of the country created many obstacles Farms were poor. Settlements were sparse and provisions were scarce. The French armies were not able to support themselves at the cost of the people of Spain. There were sudden alternations of heat and cold in Northern Spain. There were insanitary conditions in many towns m Spain.
The result was that disease spread among the French soldiers. The succession of fairly high and steep mountain ranges in Spain prevented any campaigning on a large scale to which the soldiers and generals of Napoleon were accustomed. The result was that the French troops were not able to meet the Spaniards who were adepts in irregular guerrilla fighting.
The fierce patriotic determination f the people of Spam to drive out the foreigners was an additional advantage for them. They were also helped by England with arms and trained commanders. The warfare in Spain dragged on. In 1812, Wellington, with his allied British and Spanish troops, won a great victory at Salamanca. He captured Madrid and drove Joseph Bonaparte and the French to Valencia.
4. The Spanish Constitution of 1812:
In 1812, radical groups of Spaniards who had learnt revolutionary doctrines from the French assembled at Cadiz and drafted a constitution for their country. This Spanish Constitution of 1812 served for long as a model for liberal constitutions throughout Southern Europe The Constitution proclaimed the basic principle of the French Revolution “Sovereignty is vested essentially in the Lion and accordingly it is to the nation exclusively that the right of making its fundamental laws belongs.” The legislative power was to be exercised by the Cortes, a single chamber Parliament elected for two years by indirect suffrage.
The executive power was to be exercised by the king through his ministers. He was to have only a suspensive veto on the acts of the Cortes. The Constitution proclaimed the principles of individual liberty and legal equality and sought to abolish the old regime completely. Provision was made for a thorough reorganisation of courts, local administration taxation, the army and public education.
The Constitution provided that “the religion of the Spanish nation is and always will be the Apostolic Church of Rome, the only true Church.” However, the Inquisition was suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised.
In 1813, Wellington started from Portugal for Spain and drove the French before him. In the Battle of Vittoria, Joseph Bonaparte lost all his artillery and stores. Wellington s campaign of 1814 began in the South of France but by that time the Battle of Nations was going on and Napoleon himself was overthrown in 1814.
5. Restoration of Ferdinand VII:
After the downfall of Napoleon, Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne of Spain in 1814. Not through any efforts on his part but rather through the efforts of Wellington and the British and his own patriotic subjects, he found a robust sense of nationalism and constitutional Government in the country. The Constitution of 1812 which was largely the work of middle class persons, scholars, theorists and army officers was in force.
It had been tolerated by most Spaniards so long as it seemed necessary for the whole nation to present a united front against the French. However, as soon as peace was restored and national independence of the country was assured, the nobles and the clergy protested against the Constitution.
Ferdinand VII who has been described by one historian as “cowardly in adversity and in prosperity tyrannical,” declared the Constitution of 1812 null and void and abolished the Cortes. Ferdinand surrounded himself with advisers drawn exclusively from officials of the old regime, and instituted a thoroughly reactionary policy. He was not prepared to compromise with revolutionary principles.
He restored the old system of absolute Government with all its inequalities and injustices. The privileges of the clergy and nobility, including exemption from taxation, were restored. The Inquisition was reestablished. Individual liberties were taken away. The press was placed under strict censorship. The Liberals, who had assisted in making the royal restoration possible, were arbitrarily arrested. They were banished from the country or thrown into prison. It is true that there was not much bloodshed but that was due to the role of Wellington.
6. Reactionary Policy of Ferdinand:
Ferdinand was unscrupulous. He was vindictive and not gifted with prudence and foresight. Instead of following a middle path between the extremists and those seeking to consolidate the whole nation, he threw all his weight on the side of reactionaries. He took so strong action against the liberals that even Metternich advised him to be moderate. Instead of trying to repair the injuries inflicted on his country by the Peninsular War, he hampered trade and industry.
He squandered enormous sums of money upon himself and his favourites. Instead of adopting a policy of conciliation towards the Spanish colonies in America, he neglected them at the beginning and when it was too late, tried to subjugate them by force of arms. The result was that within five years of his restoration, Spain was hopelessly divided into two camps of conservatives and liberals.
There were grave scandals and abuses in administration. The Spanish army was honeycombed with disaffection. The treasury was bankrupt. The Spanish colonies in America were in open revolt. The liberals started agitation against the king. As there was no right of public meeting and there was no freedom of the press, the agitators gradually were attracted to such secret societies as the Carbonari and Freemasons.
The lodges were centres of revolutionary propaganda. The liberals also carried on their propaganda throughout the country by means of signs and grips and mysterious passwords. They were able to communicate to the people of Spain the teachings of liberty, equality and fraternity. Spain was faced with a civil war.
7. Surrender of Ferdinand to Liberals:
In 1819, Ferdinand assembled at Cadiz an army for the subjugation of the Spanish colonies in America. There was a mutiny in that army. It was a signal for a general insurrection in the country. There was trouble m Seville, Barcelona, Saragossa and the Asturias. Instead of facing the revolt Ferdinand surrendered in March 1820. He took an oath to support the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and appealed to the Liberals in these words: “Let us advance frankly, myself leading the way along the constitutional path.” The rebels believed in him and laid down their arms.
Although Ferdinand surrendered in 1820, he had no intention of keeping his pledge. For two years (1820-1822), he ruled the country in accordance with the statutes of the newly convened Cortes and under the direction of his liberal ministers. However, during that time, he kept on strengthening reactionary forces in the country.
He also wrote letters to the great Powers, especially the ruler of France to help him. The liberals in Spain started quarrelling among themselves. The clergy and the nobles resisted the execution of reform legislation. The Catholics in Spain treated as sacrilege and blasphemy the anti-clerical tendencies of the new Parliament. In many districts, there were riots. There was anarchy in the country.
The reactionary powers of Europe considered the situation in Spain to be grave and decided to interfere Tsar Alexander I offered to lead a Russian army across Europe to reinstate Ferdinand VII to absolutism. Both Metternich and the King of France were opposed to that proposal. At the Congress of Verona held in 1822, it was proposed that a French army, acting on a general European mandate, should intervene in Spain.
The advantage in the proposal was that France would be spared the humiliation of seeing foreign troops cross her borders. Ferdinand VII, a Bourbon king, would be restored in absolutism. The cause of reaction would be successful in Spam. The monarchy of France would get the credit and hence would be strengthened. The proposal was accepted by Metternich but objected to by Britain.
8. French Intervention in Spain:
Early in 1823, the Governments of France, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Prussia presented separate notes to the liberal ministry of Spain and demanded the abolition of the Constitution of 1812 and liberation of Ferdinand VII from the restraints which had been put on him.
The liberals of Spain protested against unwarranted interference in their domestics affairs. However, the French army under the Duke of Angouleme, a nephew of Louis XVIII crossed the Pyrenees.
In May, 1823, Angouleme was in possession of Madrid. The liberal ministry and Cortes fled to Cadiz and took away along with them Ferdinand VII as a hostage. From June to October 1823, Cadiz was closely besieged by the French. On 1 October 1823, the liberals released the king on the understanding that he would grant a general pardon and set up a “moderate Government.” Ferdinand promised and Cadiz immediately capitulated. The liberals laid down their arms.
As soon as Ferdinand VII found himself safe within the French lines, he repudiated all his promises and pronounced sentence of death upon all “constitutionalists.” Angouleme asked Ferdinand VII to be moderate and conciliatory. The representatives of Metternich, Tsar Alexander and Frederick William III of Prussia urged vigour to the royal arm. Ferdinand VII could always, be vigorous.
In 1824, there was a reaction throughout Spain. The recent liberal measures were abrogated. The revolutionaries and the sympathizers with constitutional Government were hunted out with cleverness. Hundreds were put to death arbitrarily. Hundreds more were exiled and jailed. By the time the French army withdrew from the country, Ferdinand VII had broken the back of liberalism in Spain.
9. Revolt of Spanish Colonies in America:
There was a sort of revolution in Spanish colonies for about two decades from 1810 to 1830. There were many reasons for that. Some of the upper-class Spanish colonists had become infected with the enlightened political philosophy of the eighteenth century. They were also inspired by the successful revolt of the English colonies in North America in the latter half of the eighteenth century.
They were influenced by the French Revolution to become independent of Spain. The conditions prevailing in Spain during the Napoleonic era and the fighting between the French and the English, gave rise to disputes concerning the authority of the Spanish Governors in America and enabled Spanish colonial leaders to direct their affairs in Mexico, New Granada, Peru and Buenos Aires without any reference to Madrid.
Moreover, the Spanish colonies who were accustomed to free trade with Great Britain during the Napoleonic era were not willing to return to the mercantilist system of Spain and exclude British goods from their ports. They were encouraged by British traders and even by the British Government to disobey Spanish Government.
In 1806, colonial patriots of Argentina expelled from Beunos Aires an invading British expedition. In Venezuela, Francisco Miranda who had served under Washington in the War of American Independence and under Dumouriez in the Wars of French Revolution undertook to overthrow Spanish rule and set up a republic with the help of Britain. By 1810, there were widespread unrest and revolts throughout Spanish America.
In Mexico, Miguel Hidalgo led thousands of peasants in an uprising against colonial landlords and the Spanish Government. In Argentina, the Spanish colonists set up a local committee as a provisional government and adopted a blue and white national flag. In Chile, a similar revolutionary committee was set up, including Bernardo O’Higgins, an able military leader. In Venezuela and Mexico Miranda resumed his seditious efforts with the cooperation of Bolivar who had taken an oath to “liberate” all Spanish America.
To begin with, the revolutionary disturbances were repressed by royalists and reactionaries among the Spanish colonists in America. Hidalgo was captured, tried and put to death in Mexico in 1811. Morelos, another priest who had incited a similar insurrection, was put to death in 1815. Miranda was taken prisoner in 1812 and he died four years after. The revolutionary committee or Junta of Chile was overthrown in 1814. O’Higgins ran away to Argentina. In the same year, Bolivar ran away and took refuge in Haiti.
In 1812, San Martin, a selfless colonial patriotic leader, came to the help of the Junta at Buenos Aires. Under his guidance, Argentina was cleared of royalist opposition and was proclaimed an independent republic in 1816. After that, San Martin carried the struggle against Spain into Chile and Peru. The independence of Chile was secured in 1818. Lima was captured by San Martin and the independence of Peru was declared in 1821. In the meantime, Paraguay had asserted its independence in 1811 and had entrusted dictatorial powers in Jose Francia.
In 1817, Bolivar returned to Venezuela. He was instrumental in the creation in 1819 of the independent republic of Colombia embracing New Granada, Panama, Venezuela and Equador, in the completion of the work of San Martin and freeing Peru in 1824 and in the erection of upper Peru into another independent republic named Bolivia in 1825. There were quarrels amongst his lieutenants and the people whom he had liberated. When he died in 1830, Colombia was already breaking up into three separate republics of Colombia, Venezuela and Equador. However, his achievements against Spanish rule in America were lasting and his tomb is a shrine for all Spanish Americans.
Florida was ceded to the United States in 1819. Santo Domingo rebelled against Spain in 1821 and was conquered by the Negro republic of Haiti in 1822. In Mexico, the conservative Spanish colonists took matters in their own hands and established in 1821 an empire with Iturbide as Emperor. The Spanish colony of Guatemala revolted and was incorporated in the Mexican empire. In 1823, there was a revolution in Mexico. Iturbide was overthrown and executed. Central America seceded and formed an independent union of its own. Mexico adopted a republican constitution.
When all this was happening, Ferdinand VII of Spain could not do anything to re-establish his authority in the new world. He wished to do so and Metternich and Tsar Alexander encouraged him to do so. In 1819, he assembled an army at Cadiz for the subjugation of the American colonies, but there was a mutiny in the army and that precipitated the revolutionary regime of 1820-23 in Spain. By the time Ferdinand VII was restored to absolutism in 1823 by the French forces, the way to intervention and restoration in Spanish America was barred by Great Britain and the United States.
So far as Great Britain was concerned, British traders and manufacturers were carrying on flourishing business with Spanish America during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. They were opposed to the restoration of Spanish control in Spanish America as that was against their economic interests. Great Britain was motivated by commercial considerations.
However, the fear of the United States was that she did not want Metternich’s policy of intervention to be extended to Spanish America. Whatever the differences in the aims of the two countries, they stood for the liberation of the Spanish colonies and prevention of foreign intervention in their internal affairs. With the backing of the British Government, the United States formally recognised in 1822 the independence of Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Mexico.
In December 1823, President Monroe enunciated the famous Monroe doctrine in these words. “In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy SO to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparations for our defence. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers (Austria, Russia and Prussia), is essentially different in this respect from that of America….We owe it, therefore, to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers, to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.
With the existing colonies and dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it and whose independence we have on great consideration and on just principles acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them or controlling in any other manner their destiny by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States.”
In 1824, Great Britain formally recognised the independence of Mexico and Colombia. Her recognition of the independence of other Spanish colonies was temporarily withheld. Metternich gave up all hope of using the concert of Europe for the suppression of liberalism beyond the seas. Spain also made no efforts to subdue her colonies in America although she delayed for a long time the recognition of their independence.
10. Isabella (1833-68.):
Ferdinand VII died in 1833. He had only one daughter at the time of his death. However, before his death, he annulled the Salic law which restricted the succession only to the male line. He summoned the great officers of the state, the grandees of Spain and the members of the Cortes to take a solemn oath of allegiance to his daughter as the future ruler of Spain. The result was that after his death, his daughter was proclaimed Queen as Isabella II with her mother Maria Christina as regent.
This was resented by Don Carlos, the younger brother of Ferdinand VII, who wanted to become the king of Spain after the death of his brother in 1823. His claim was supported by the church and the great nobles while the claim of Isabella was upheld by a large part of the army, by the Cortes and by most of the middle class. This led to a civil war which lasted for 7 years. There was a lot of ferocity during this civil war but ultimately Isabella II won.
In 1843, Isabella attained the age of 13 and was declared of age. She continued to occupy the throne for the next 25 years. As a Queen, Isabella was foolish and frivolous. She was impulsive and impatient of restraint. At the age of 16, she was married to Don Francisco, a cousin. When the marriage proved unhappy, she threw away all restraint and moved from one affair to another. She shocked Europe with the scandals of her private life. On account of increasing financial difficulties and endless changes of ministries, there was a revolt against Isabella in 1868 and she was driven into exile.
In 1869, a constitution based on popular sovereignty was promulgated. It was decided to offer the crown of Spain to some prince other than Alfonso, the son of Isabella in whose favour she had abdicated. However, the choice of finding a suitable ruler for Spain was found to be very difficult. In the words of Prim, the Minister of War, “Finding a democratic king on earth is like looking for an atheistic king in Heaven.” The crown was offered to a number of persons including Prince Leopold of Hohenzollem, whose candidature was the immediate cause of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.
Finally, Amadeo, the second son of Victor Emmanuel II, accepted the crown and he has proclaimed King in 1871. However, he realised soon that the throne was not a bed of roses. He tried to placate all factions but failed. His highest disqualification was that he was a foreigner. He resigned and a republic was proclaimed in Spain. However, the people were not willing to have a republic and that led to the restoration of the Bourbons in the person of Alfonso XII, the son of Isabella.
11. Alfonso XII (1874-1885):
During his reign, Spain attained some degree of stability. A constitution was drawn up by the Cortes in 1876 which limited the powers of the king, provided for a ministry responsible to the lower house of the Cortes and granted individual liberty. This constitution remained m force until after World War I.
The Senate was partly appointive and partly elective. The members of the House of Representatives were elected for 5 years. In spite of the new constitution, there were disorders in the administration. Spain made some recovery during his reign. He died in 1885 at the age of 28.
12. Alfonso XIII (1886-1931):
A few months after the death of Alfonso, a son was born to his wife, Maria Christina of Austria. The mother acted as regent during his childhood. It was during this period that Spain lost her remaining colonies. The important colonies of Spain were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Cuba had risen in revolt in 1868. Fighting ceased after a decade but there was no peace.
In 1895, rebellion broke out on a large Scale in Cuba. When the Government resorted to savage repression, the Americans grew indignant over the treatment of the Cubans. The American battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbour. Public opinion in the United States demanded the evacuation of the Spaniards from Cuba.
War was declared in 1898. Admiral Dewey won the Battle of Manila and Admiral Sampson destroyed the Spanish fleet. The Spaniards gave up the fight. By the provisions of the peace treaty, Spain gave up her sovereignty not only over Cuba, but also over Puerto Rico and the Philippines. A little later Spain sold most of the scattered remnants she still held.
In 1902, the regency came to an end and the young Prince took his place among the monarchs of Europe as Alfonso XIII. As a Youngman, he excelled in polo, tennis, hunting and yachting. As a King he insisted upon playing a vigorous role in the solution of the problems of his country. No less than ten attempts were made to assassinate him but he remained unhurt. He gave peace to his country which for decades was torn by dynastic, religious, personal, economic and regional hatreds. Spain made steady progress in the development of her industries, in the expansion of her foreign trade, in removing illiteracy and other respects.
There was an increase in enterprises of every kind—bank, financial establishments, industries and mines. 15,000 kilometers of rail road’s stretched across Spain in 1920. Spanish trade increased considerably. Her credit recovered as a result of a vigorous reorganisation of finance and budgets.
However, the condition of the masses left much to be desired. The agricultural labourers lived just above the subsistence level. Agriculture suffered from the systems of land tenure. The proprietors of the large estates were mostly absentee landlords. Total production was very low.
The condition of the industrial worker was a little better. Laws were passed to protect the workers against accidents Old age pensions were established. The hours of Work in the mines were limited. In these conditions socialism began to make progress. Most of the recruits of socialism were workmen. The Socialist Labour Party of Spain had one member elected to the Cortes in 1910.
In general, there was considerable friction between the church and the state in Spain The view of Madariaga is that “the history of the nineteenth century in Spain would have been much quieter and much richer in results had the evolution of the Spanish people taken place in the absence of clericalism and militarism”
The power of the Roman Catholic Church in Spain was very great and the Church interfered in the administration in every way. In 1913, there were about 3,800 religious orders in Spain with some fifty-five thousand members, almost three-quarters of them being women. There were many causes of friction between the clericals and anti-clericals. Some of the liberals were frankly anti-clerical.
There was a lot of resentment as religious orders were allowed to engage in trade without being taxed. The reactionary attitude of the orders in the field of education created much opposition. Many Spaniards, particularly the working classes, were enemies of the monastic orders.
In 1910, the Government passed the Congregations Act which provided that no new congregations could establish houses without authorisation from the Government and orders engaged in trade or manufacture of any kind must pay taxes and submit to inspection like other individuals. All orders were forbidden to own any property which was not absolutely necessary for the purpose to which the association was devoted.