Page images
PDF
EPUB

fest electoral interest.” He dwelt on the scandalous manner in which, in various Departments, the work of corruption had been done. “Tell me that I am wrong," said M. Thiers, “ but when I see lying (le mensonge) carried to this point, I can no longer contain myself.” He then attacked the Right Centre, which lately signed a Liberal manifesto mainly (so far as a majority of its members were concerned) because it thought it was pleasing to the Emperor, and which, since then, had missed few opportunities of belying its sig, nature. A prominent article of that programme was early electoral reform, with the special object of determining by law the number and extent of the circumscriptions, and to insure liberty of election. In the teeth of this declaration, and before its ink was well dry, those very men had been approving elections at which every species of malpractice was perpetrated by the Government and its agents. “The changes in the circumscription,” said M. Thiers, “must have been a very great scandal, since you have placed among the essential articles of your political creed or desires the withdrawal from the executive power of the faculty of determining the electoral circumscriptions. I have had the honour," he continued, " to be your colleague for six years; I have been present and participated in all your votes, and I have recognized in you a sentiment that I respect, although I have not partaken it—the scrupulousness, that is to say, with which, even when you were convinced, you restrained yourself from yielding to your convictions for fear of shaking the Government. Since, in spite of that sentiment, you have inscribed in your programme that the executive power should be deprived of the faculty of fixing the electoral circumscriptions, you certainly must have felt very strongly that it had been unworthily abused.” After showing the malpractices of the authorities at the election in question, in which the Government candidate, in spite of all those iniquities, had an absolute majority of only 187 votes, M. Thiers declared that to approve the election would be an act of the grossest injustice, and appealed to the majority to show itself consistent with the manifesto, at the foot of which the greater part of its members had signed their names. For your own sake, for that of the country,” he exclaimed, “annul the election."

M. de Forcade, the Minister of the Interior, defended the election, and it was confirmed by the Legislative Body by a majority of 120 against 91 votes.

Other discussions on different election returns revealed still further the corrupt influence of Government interference, and damaged the Ministry, which felt itself constrained to uphold the system. But it became obvious that, under the new constitutional régime, a

In one of the parishes of the Haute Garonne 141 electors had placed their voting tickets in the urn, which the mayor then put away in his bedroom! “ Une urne,” a Paris paper remarks, “qui s'aventure dans une chambre à coucher avec un maire, s'expose à donner le jour à un candidat officiel.” And so it fell out. When the 141 votes came to be examined, 133 were for M. de Campaigno, and only five for the Opposition candidate, M. de Remusat. But 41 of the electors went before a notary and signed a solemn declaration that they had voted for M. de Remusat.

change was necessary, and the result was that M. de Forcade de la Roquette and his colleagues tendered their resignations, which were accepted by the Emperor. He wrote to the Minister of the Interior, saying, “It is not without regret that I accept your resignation and that of your colleagues. It is a pleasure to me to acknowledge the services you have rendered to the country and to myself by faithfully carrying out the latest reforms, and by firmly maintaining public order."

The Emperor then addressed himself to M. Emile Ollivier, who, formerly one of the most active opponents of his Government, had for some time past distinguished himself as one of its liberal supporters. He wrote to him the following letter, dated the 27th of December :

“Sir,- Ministers having given me their resignation, I address myself with confidence to your patriotism, in order to request you will designate the persons who can, in conjunction with yourself, form a homogeneous Cabinet, faithfully representing the majority of the Legislative Body, and resolved to carry out in the letter as well as in the spirit, the Senatus Consultum of the 8th of September

"I rely upon the devotion of the Legislative Body to the great interests of the country, as well as upon yours, to aid me in the task I have undertaken to bring into regular working order a constitutional system.

“Accept my sentiments, &c.,

“ NAPOLEON.The new Ministry, however, was not constituted until the present year had passed away.

CHAPTER III.

SPAIN.

Insurrection at Malaga - Result of the General Elections Murder of the Governor

of Burgos-Opening of the Constituent Cortes, and Speeches of Marshal SerranoQuestion of Amnesty—The Duke of Montpensier-Disturbance at Xeres de la Frontera-Report of the Committee on the New Constitution-Question of the future Monarch -Budget-Promulgation of the Constitution-Marshal Serrano appointed Regent-His Speech on the occasion-Speech of President Rivero-New Ministry-'The “Volunteers of Freedom” at Madrid - The Duke of Genoa proposed as King-Insurrectionary Movements in the Provinces-Speech of General Prim in the Cortes.

At the beginning of the year, an insurrectionary movement took place at Malaga, which was only suppressed after some severe fighting and loss of life. Bourbon conspiracies existed at Pampe

a

are not

luna, Burgos, and Barcelona, to which the Government attributed this and similar outbreaks. In a circular issued by Señor Sagosta, Minister of the Interior, he said, « The Government has no intention of making a coup d'état, or of disarming the citizen militia. The present agitation tends to prevent the carrying out of universal suffrage in Spain, the meeting of the Cortes, and the definitive constitution of the country, and has, moreover, the effect of paralyzing Spanish credit. The Government, aware of the maneuvres which are being employed, is resolved to preserve intact the sacred deposit of the National Sovereignty, and to maintain order until the assembling of the Cortes, whose decision it respectfully awaits, and does not desire to influence.”

The general election to the Constituent Cortes took place in January, and the result was estimated to give to the Monarchical party (not including a few supporters of the claims of Don Carlos) about 250 votes against 75 or 80 Republicans. The Government majority was divided into two parties—the Unionists and the Progressistas. The Unionists are composed of what remains of the “Union-Liberal” party of Marshal O'Donnell in 1854, and such advanced Liberals as the Progressistas, who belong to the old party of Espartero.

At the latter end of January the Civil Governor of Burgos, S. Gutierrez de Castro was brutally murdered in the Cathedral by some priests, and the people in consequence became furious against the clergy. Cries of “ Death to the Papal Nuncio” resounded in the streets of Madrid, and the Pope's arms at the Consulate there were torn down and burnt. A court-martial was appointed to try the assassins, and several were condemned, and one of them was sentenced to death.

The Constituent Cortes were opened on the 11th of February by Marshal Serrano, the President of the Provisional Government, with a speech in which he said, “The nations of Europe, on

“ attaining a higher degree of civilization, threw off the traditional bonds which fettered the public mind. Spain delayed for a long time following their example; but the day has now come; the obstacles to progress are removed, and the representatives of the nation are called upon to construct a new edifice, of which the Provisional Government has prepared the foundations and sketched the outline. This victory has been achieved without bloodshed, but certain disturbances which have occurred and the extravagance of some former Administrations have placed the finances in an embarrassed condition. The Government relies on the Cortes to remedy this state of things by economical reforms, thorough changes in the administration, and by legislation relative to the interest on the Public Debt and the expenditure for the Army and Navy. The Government recommends to the Cortes to be united in the task before them. It has adopted and proclaimed with ardent faith and enthusiasm the essential principles of the most Radical liberalismnamely, liberty of worship, of the press, of public education, of

public meeting and association. These reforms the deputies must proceed to consolidate. The partial disturbances which originated in the impatience of some parties have been repressed, and the Government has acted with energy and patriotism.”

Referring to the insurrection which had broken out in Cuba, Marshal Serrano said, “The Revolution is not responsible for this rising, which is due to the errors of past Governments; and we hope that it will speedily be put down, and that tranquillity, based upon liberal reforms, will then be durable

. Slavery will be abolished, but without precipitation and without compromising the prosperity of the Antilles.”

Marshal Serrano concluded by stating that the relations of Spain with all foreign Governments were satisfactory, and with some had become even more intimate than formerly.

Señor Rivero was elected President of the Chamber; and General Prim declared that the late dynasty should never reascend the Throne of Spain, and that he would never, directly or indirectly, aid in endeavours in favour of the Prince of Asturias.

At a sitting of the Cortes on the 25th of February, Marshal Serrano announced his assumption of the executive power, which, he said, he had accepted solely from motives of patriotism, and with an entire feeling of unselfishness. He insisted upon the fact that it was impossible for him to abuse the power conferred upon him, as none of the prerogatives of supreme power, such as the right of veto, the right of making peace or war, had been granted him. added, “Were the Assembly to offer me those prerogatives I should refuse them. I desire to walk hand in hand with the Cortes, the minority acting as the legitimate censor of the Ministry, and the majority as its sovereign judge. I shall remain at my post as long as may be necessary, with no care but for the welfare of the nation, with no ambition but that of withdrawing into private life after having accomplished my duty to my country.” A vote of confidence was carried by a majority of 180 against 62, thanking the Provisional Government.

Next day Marshal Serrano delivered a speech, in which he said that it was not necessary for the Government to announce a programme, as they would follow the principles laid down by the Revolution ; adding that they would use every endeavour to disarm by a liberal policy the attacks of the Republican party. He further declared that it was the intention of the Government to introduce Bills with the object of effecting economy in the expenditure, and he reminded the country that it would have to make sacrifices if it wished sincerely for the maintenance of liberty. He also promised that the liberal reforms which had been delayed in consequence of the insurrection in Cuba should speedily be proclaimed in that island.

In the beginning of March a Commission was appointed to prepare a draught of the New Constitution.

Two days afterwards Señor Castelar brought forward a proposal to proclaim an amnesty for political offences. Señor Sagosta, in

[ocr errors]

reply, delivered a speech in which he stated that the Government had intended to celebrate the opening of the Constituent Cortes by granting an amnesty, but that this course had been delayed in consequence of the conspiracies which had lately been discovered. The Minister of the Interior, however, promised that as soon as the real motive of these conspiracies should be discovered, the Government would propose to the Cortes to proclaim an amnesty for all political offences. The proposal of Señor Castelar was subsequently rejected by 135 votes against 94.

At a subsequent sitting of the Cortes, some members of the Republican party asked by what right the Duke of Montpensier was still Captain-General of Spain. A title given for family considerations, and not for military achievements, should cease with the fallen dynasty. The Duke of Montpensier should be neither Marshal nor King

General Prim answered that the Duke of Montpensier's position was made by the late dynasty, by which he was banished, and the Provisional Government was unauthorized to interfere with it.

Admiral Topete said he would rather have Montpensier than a Republic.

Fresh disturbances broke out at Xeres de la Frontera, between Cadiz and Seville. Barricades were erected, which were attacked by the troops and carried at the point of the bayonet. The ostensible cause of the revolt was the publication of a decree by the Government for the levy of 25,000 soldiers, to be drawn by lot on the 1st of April. This was considered a violation of the principles of the Revolution in last September, when one of the most popular cries was, “Down with the Conscription !” The movement, however, was speedily suppressed.

The Report of the Committee on the New Constitution was read in the Cortes on the 31st of March. It proposed an hereditary monarchy,and a Cortes, consisting of a Senate and a Chamber, to make laws, which were to receive the King's sanction and to be promulgated by him, and the Monarch was to exercise the executive power through his Ministers. The Catholic religion to be maintained by the nation, but Spaniards and foreigners were to be guaranteed free exercise of other forms of belief, subject only to the laws of universal morality and right.

The difficulty, however, was to find a suitable person who would accept the Crown of Spain. It was first offered to Dom Fernando, the ex-king of Portugal, but he positively declined it. Other overtures were made which met with no favourable response; and at a sitting of the Cortes on the 21st of April, Señor Figueras, a member of the Republican party, made a speech in which he argued that as the majority who wished for a monarchy could not find a candidate who would accept the Crown, the only alternative that remained was, to restore the Bourbon dynasty or to proclaim a Republic. Señor Zorilla, Minister of the Interior, in reply, declared that the restoration of the Bourbons was impossible, and that a Republic

a

« PreviousContinue »