The Federal Republic in Spain: Pi Y Margall and the Federal Republican Movement, 1868-74

By C. A. M. Hennessy | Go to book overview

I
The Formative Years, 1833-66

(1) THE EMERGENCE OF THE DEMOCRATS

IN September 1868 Isabella II was driven from the Spanish throne by a coalition of discontented generals and civilian politicians. Although during her reign of twenty-five years Spain had become a byword for endemic civil disturbance, racked by internal wars, revolutions, and military risings, the ease with which the monarchy fell brought excited comment from home and abroad:

To-day [wrote the republican orator Castelar]1 we are the first of the great nations of Europe since the opening of this new period of contemporary history in 1852 to start on its own a popular revolution as a substitute for the governmental and diplomatic revolutions realized in Piedmont and Prussia.

The Times immediately compared it to the French Revolution:2

It is not difficult to foresee that it will stand out in future days as one of the most terrible judgements and warnings of history. . . . Since the first fall of the French Monarchy in 1792 there has been no Revolution so indicative of a transformation in the popular character of the nation that has effected it.

Isabella's fall was not only due to her personal unpopularity but also to the failures of parliamentary liberalism.

The early promise of Spanish liberalism, expressed first in the reforms of the Enlightenment and then in the Cádiz Cortes of 1810- 12, was blighted by the restoration of Ferdinand VII. The experiment of constitutional monarchy between 1820 and 1823 had shown that the Liberals were an almost insignificant minority. It was not until after Ferdinand VII's death and the return of the exiles that parliamentary liberalism revived in the unpropitious atmosphere of the struggle for the throne between Don Carlos,

____________________
1
La Igualda, 18 Jan. 1870, quoting an earlier letter to the Neue Freie Presse.
2
The Times, 1 Oct. 1868.

-1-

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