Spanish liberalism

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Ol d and New Liberalism. The making of the liberal Revolution 1808-1844

1 The purpose of the essay is to examine the development of Spanish liberalism in the period 1808 to 1844 and the nature and origins of the constitutional system which was created during this period

2 The authors argue that the introduction of a liberal parliamentary system in Spain was actually oligarch and in manyrespects anti democratic. However it was revolutionary, “modern” and, in their view, gave Spain a longer period of representative government than most other European governments

3 They also maintain that the triumph of the liberal revolution was that it was built on the old political social and cultural characteristics peculiar to the regions . It was the regions which provided the contextfor Spanish liberalism and social and political life .This was reflected in the regional Juntas which were a feature of political life during the 19th century. In fact the strength of regional and municipal government is a much debated feature of contemporary Spain

4 The main thesis of the authors is that liberalisation of the Spanish constitution could not have taken place without the impetusof absolute monarchy as well as revolutionary movement

5 The liberal revolution took place against the background of the Peninsular War which started in 1808. As far as the Spanish were concerned it was a war of independence from the absolute and corrupt monarchical regime characterised by the Bourbons and Joseph Bonaparte who had been being installed on the Spanish throne by the French.

6With backing from the wealthy and land-owning classes in particular in Valencia, the Central Junta of deputies , based in Cadiz, called for a Cortes(or parliament)to be convened with representatives from all the provinces to establish a new constitutional system. The result was the Constitution of 1812 ,

7 The Constitution , one of the earliest examples of classic liberalism, provided for aconstitutional monarch with limited powers governing through ministers and subject to parliamentary control. It also introduced, amongst other things, the principle of equality before the law and democratic voting rights, established a new administrative system based on a new structure of provincial government and municipalities and repealed the old system of feudal property rights

8 Theliberalised system introduced by the Cadiz Constitution was not without opposition from the conservative traditionalists, in particular from Valencia, where the changes introduced under the Constitution created a focal point for opposition to the changes to seigniorial right and the opportunity for the aristocratic community to benefit from property rights. Within two years what the authors call the“absolutist opposition” had gained control of the State and following a coup d’etat the 1812 constitution was suspended and Ferdinand V11 was restored as absolute monarch

9 The re-establishment of the absolute monarchy however proved to be the catalyst for the beginning of significant reorganisation of the state structure which was at the heart of the liberal revolution . Ferdinand sought toend the division of power between the monarch and the nobles by restoring their historic rights to revenues and land rights but transferring to the Crown all judicial rights and the authors argue that without the powers conferred by absolute sovereignty the revolution needed to establish the new liberal system would never have happened.

10 It was not an easy process There was continuedopposition to the reforms in particular those regarding taxation,property and constitutional powers at the local level, There was urban insurrection and political conflict and there were the beginnings of a consensus between those of a moderate and extremist nature in particular in relation to the issue of feudal estates.

11 The pace of change was slow and it is said that the lack of political...
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