"We Are Now the True Spaniards": Sovereignty, Revolution, Independence, and the Emergence of the Federal Republic of Mexico, 1808-1824

By Jaime E. RodrÍguez O. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Cádiz Revolution

THE GENERAT and extraordinary Cortes of the Spanish Monarchy faced an uncertain future. At the end of January 1810, French troops were approaching Seville and, after taking it, would march to Cádiz where the Cortes planned to convene. The vecinos of the port worked zealously to strengthen its defenses, but their forces were unlikely to withstand the fury of a French attack. Fortunately, an army under the command of the Duque de Alburquerque was racing from Estremadura to defend Cádiz. The exhausted Spanish troops arrived on February 4, the day before Marshall Claude Victor’s French forces reached the outskirts of the city. The reinforced garrison supported by the cannons of the Spanish and British fleets stationed on each side of the isthmus held the French at bay. However, the twenty thousand–man French army was not defeated and formed an arc around Cádiz. The situation was so uncertain that the Cortes, inaugurated September 24, 1810, met on the Isle of León in the Bay of Cádiz. Even there the deputies were not free from French heavy artillery, which continuously rained fire on both areas.1


The Cortes of Cádiz

Unlike earlier Cortes, the congress that met on the Isle of León was a modern national assembly.2 It met as one body and its members represented the entire Spanish world. When the Cortes convened, 104 deputies were present, thirty of whom represented the overseas territories. Twenty-seven Americans and two Filipinos had been selected as suplentes (substitutes) in Cádiz. Only one of the 38 proprietary deputies elected in America, Ramón Power from Puerto Rico, arrived in time to attend the opening session. The others were admitted as they arrived. Approximately 220 deputies, including 67 Americans, eventually participated in the General and Extraordinary Cortes in Cádiz. The delegates to the Cortes were one-third clergymen, about one-sixth nobles, and the remainder members of the third estate who, because of their professions, might be called “middle class.”3

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