XIX century Carlists Wars – Augusto Ferrer Dalmau
Developments in Spain inspired liberal unrest in the Italian peninsula, Portugal, and elsewhere, and the conservative statesmen of Europe took notice. The Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, the kingdom of Prussia, and the kingdom of France, with its restored Bourbon king Louis XVIII, formed a Quadruple Alliance to uphold the old order. Louis XVIII mobilized an army, the Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis, about 60,000 veteran French soldiers, and prepared to intervene. Attempts to work out an agreeable compromise with San Miguel failed. Disgusted moderates abandoned him, while the royalist cause grew ever stronger in the north. As Madrid became unruly, the government withdrew to Seville, dragging Fernando with it. In April 1823, the French marched into Spain. They maintained discipline and paid for their supplies. The royalist north welcomed them, and Spanish regional captains general who, as General Pablo Morillo put it, preferred a government based on men of property rather than a “hallucinated minority,” came to terms with the invaders. San Miguel’s government retreated to Cadiz, the king in tow, and the French followed. In September, the government surrendered in return for amnesty.
Restored to authority, Fernando established a traditionalist authoritarian regime. Supported from the pulpit, it restored order and proved popular with most. Despite the pledge of amnesty, repression proved brutal. The government was purified of liberals, and the army, under French supervision, was reorganized. Yet ridding the government and army of liberals was easier said than done, since too many civil servants and junior officers were at least moderate liberals. The chief stumbling block to liberal reform had been its anticlericalism, which made enemies of even liberal churchmen. The promotion of liberal ideas through the periodical press could not compete with thunder from the pulpit in reaching a population of whom three fourths were illiterate.
Fernando persisted in his pragmatic absolutism, which proved most effective in fiscal reform, and the increased taxation of the rich to pay government debts. The survival of moderates and liberals in government posts, because of their competence, bothered extreme royalists, who increasingly gathered around the childless king’s brother, Don Carlos. Royalist irregulars called Volunteers, who rallied to Fernando in 1823, wanted places in the army that had been denied them by the professionals, whether conservative or liberal. In 1827 “aggrieved” royalists rebelled in Catalonia and were crushed.
The revolution of 1830 that brought Louis Philippe of Orleans to the French throne as the “bourgeois king” triggered several abortive liberal risings in Spain that served chiefly to provide the liberal cause with martyrs. Spanish clericals and conservatives grew more attached to Don Carlos, whereas their opponents put their hope in the new queen, Maria Cristina of Naples. Aged twenty-three, she had won the heart of the older king. After some wavering, Fernando issued a Pragmatic which declared that her child, whether daughter or son, would succeed to the throne. The tradition of the House of Bourbon was the Salic law-that only a son could succeed to the throne. Maria Cristina had two daughters, Isabel and Luisa. When Fernando VII died in 1833, Isabel, aged three, became Queen Isabel II, and her mother, Maria Cristina, regent. In opposition, Isabel’s uncle. Don Carlos declared himself to be King Carlos V.
The regent soon replaced Fernando’s last chief minister, conservative Francisco Cea Bermudez, with moderate Francisco Martinez de la Rosa, a onetime “jailbird.” He presided over the drafting of the Royal Statute of 1834, a sort of constitution bestowed by the crown. It provided for a twochamber Cortes, with an upper house that resembled the English House of Lords with archbishops, bishops, grandees, and titled nobles, plus designated appointees; and a lower chamber of deputies, to be elected indirectly by a restricted electorate. Its functions were consultative, and the ministers remained responsible to the crown. No bill of rights was included. The liberal direction of Spain was paralleled in Portugal and encouraged by Britain and France. They joined with Spain and Portugal in a new Quadruple Alli ance to preclude foreign interference. Whereas many moderate liberals were satisfied, other liberals were not, and in the provincial capitals the Progressives, the heirs of the exaltados, began to dominate the political debate. The differences of Moderates and Progressives would be played out against the background of the Carlist Wars.
Don Carlos, a vain, closed-minded man, soon had followers in arms, chiefly in the Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, and rural Catalonia. These were regions where the Church was strong and with significant populations of poor but proud smallholders, regions that enjoyed historic privileges which seemed threatened by the centralizing policies of impatient liberals. Their battle cry proclaimed God, king, fatherland, and regional privileges (fueros). Conservative soldiers, former guerrilleros, and sometime bandits formed the core of the Carlist forces. While Don Carlos announced that their commander in chief was the Virgin of Sorrows, their best general was a professional soldier and hero of the War of Independence, “Uncle” Tomas Zumalacarregui. He drove government forces from the countryside of Navarre and the Basque Country but lacked the heavy equipment necessary to conquer the well-garrisoned and liberal capitals of Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Pamplona. When Don Carlos arrived in Spain in 1835, he pressured Zumalacarregui to assault Bilbao. The assault failed, and Zumalacarregui died of wounds. The First Carlist War sputtered on until 1840. Both sides massacred prisoners and terrorized civilians. Attempts at compromise based on the betrothal of Queen Isabel II to Don Carlos’s son, Carlos Luis, count of Montemolfn, foundered on Don Carlos’s intransigence. In 1837 the Carlists paraded to the outskirts of Madrid, but found no popular support and withdrew. By 1839, on the northern front the government arrayed 100,000 men and 700 guns, under General Baldomero Espartero, against the Carlists’ 32,000 men and 50 guns, under Rafael Maroto. A professional officer, Maroto knew his side had no chance; so with Espartero he signed the compromise of Vergara, which allowed the Carlists to lay down their arms, and the regular officers who had served Don Carlos to return to the army without loss of rank. This gave the Spanish army a notoriously high ratio of officers to men. By 1840 the war was over. Don Carlos fled to France, where he settled at Bourges, under the gaze of an unfriendly French government.
‘While their future depended on the defeat of the Carlists, the politicians in Madrid wrangled over revenues and constitutional questions. The task of finding money to meet war costs went to an energetic banker of Cadiz and London, Juan Alvarez Mendizabal. His enemies noted that he was both a Jew and a Freemason. Early in 1836 he rammed through a measure that had profound consequences: the disamortization (release from mortmain, a kind of entail), appropriation, and sale of all Church lands that did not di rectly support parishes, hospitals, or schools. For an idea long around, the moment had come. Mendizabal and his allies hoped that the chief beneficiaries of disamortization would be members of the middle class, who would purchase Church lands and become wedded to the liberal cause in order to keep them. For the Church hierarchy it was the last straw. The bishops broke irrevocably with liberalism and privately put their hopes on the Carlist side. Rome refused to confirm many of the Spanish crown’s episcopal nominees, and half of Spain’s dioceses were soon without bishops. As Church wealth dwindled, perhaps one-third of Spain’s clergy renounced their vows and quit.
The disamortization of Church lands formed part of the liberal economic program to encourage increased agricultural productivity through greater private entrepreneurial activity. The common lands of the former Church domains were also privatized, which led to more peasant unrest and several violent insurrections over the following thirty years. The same environmental and technological constraints that had always affected Spanish agriculture persisted, and the new patterns of ownership led to no marked increase in productivity.
In elections under the Royal Statute of 1834, the Progressives got the edge in the municipalities, and the unruly urban militias they dominated demanded the restoration of the Constitution of 1812. Demonstrations in Madrid in August 1836 caused the sergeants of the Royal Guards at the summer palace at La Granja to confront the regent over the matter. Faced with the “Sergeants’ Revolt,” she agreed to accept it and made it the business of the Cortes to undertake the necessary revisions. In 1837 she promulgated a new Constitution that provided a Cortes with a senate, appointed by the crown from lists submitted by designated provincial electors, and a Congress of Deputies, for which 4 percent of the male population could vote.
Dominated by Moderates, the Cortes gave the central government tighter control over Spain’s municipalities in 1840. Progressives took to the streets and rioted. Much of the tinder for riot and unrest was provided by office seekers. In Spain, as in the United States at the time, the spoils system reigned. The party that won power dismissed officeholders of the losing party and rewarded its own followers with their jobs. Government jobs had long been the chief aspiration of ambitious university graduates in a Spain that produced more lawyers than engineers, physicians, or scientists. Called pretendientes, those out of office became a fixture on the Spanish scene. Depending on family support to eat, they conspired and agitated to restore their party to power. With the transfer in 1836 of the University of Alcala to Madrid, as the Universidad Central, university students joined the politically restless elements of the capital.
To restore order, the regent in desperation appointed General Espartero as prime minister. The first of the political generals who dominated Spanish politics for the next two dozen years, he was the son of a carter of La Mancha and identified with the Progressives. Given his humble origins, he also made clear that the army provided a career open to talent. When Espartero and the regent differed, he used the need to end disorder to coerce her into yielding the regency to him. Maria Cristina’s position was already compromised by her marriage, soon after Fernando’s death, to Augustin Munoz, a sergeant of the Guards, whom she had her daughter make a duke and grandee. Maria Cristina and Munoz departed for France.
With Espartero regent and Progressives once more in control of the Cortes, the number of men enjoying the franchise was doubled. A pronunciamento by Moderates in the Basque Country was quickly squelched, and Basque privileges were curtailed. Concern over a swing to the right in Barcelona led to a more radical Progressive rising and the establishment of a popular junta, with budding labor unions involved. Unruly mobs dismantled part of the royal citadel erected by Philip V, and the Barcelona junta challenged the liberal doctrine of free trade and called for protectionism. Then tax riots broke out, and by the end of 1842, order had collapsed. Angry, Espartero refused to compromise with Barcelona, turned his artillery on the city, then stormed it.
Many Progressives abandoned Espartero in disgust and joined the Moderates. When their coalition won control of the Cortes, Espartero dissolved it. All over Spain disgruntled garrisons and municipalities pronounced against him. Moderate General Ramon Narvaez returned from exile in France and engineered Espartero’s fall. Rather than make Narvaez regent, his rivals had the Cortes declare Queen Isabel II to be of age, a year early since she was only thirteen. But Narvaez would dominate the government for most of the next ten years.
Spain’s economy began a slow expansion with the restoration of order in most of the country, which was maintained by the newly established paramilitary Civil Guard. Growth was more pronounced on the periphery: Catalonia and Valencia on the Mediterranean, western Andalusia, and the Basque Country. Old and New Castile remained poor, and Madrid seemed bloated by contrast. Also poor were Aragon and Galicia; Extremadura and rural Andalusia were the poorest of all. By midcentury, Spain’s population neared 15 million, an increase of more than 3 million since 1800.
Spain’s political elite, centered on Madrid and including the court, the politicians, the army, the bureaucracy, and the press, now fussed about the queen’s marriage. The Church hierarchy was not out of the picture, though it was still offended by its loss of landed wealth and the restrictions placed on religious orders. Great Britain and France also had ideas. Isabel II, with her mother remarried and exiled to France, grew up spoiled, indulged, overweight, and sensual. To every candidate for her hand objections sprouted. What seemed most logical, her marriage to the Carlist heir, Mon- temolfn, foundered on his claim that he was already King Carlos VI. In the end she married the least objectionable candidate, her first cousin Don Francisco de Asfs, son of her uncle, the duke of Cadiz. Aged twenty-four, Don Francisco de Asis was a fastidious army officer whose sexual relations with the queen derived from his sense of duty. Many attributed her unhappy situation to duplicitous French diplomacy. When Britain objected to a French proposal that she marry a son of King Louis Philippe, his son, the manly duke of Montpensier, married her sister, the Infanta Luisa. Suspicion grew that the French hoped Isabel and her ascetic consort would be childless and that Montpensier’s offspring would succeed to the Spanish throne. Isabel II and Don Francisco de Asis soon lived in separate quarters, but she bore four daughters and a son who survived early childhood and, despite questions regarding their paternity, were accepted as legitimate. Notoriously she took many lovers, mostly macho army officers. Although most regarded her behavior as scandalous, they admitted her marriage was unhappy.
Following Isabel’s marriage in 1846, a Carlist rising surfaced in Catalonia on behalf of Montemolin. Called the Second Carlist War and fueled by peasant unrest, it peaked in 1848 but was quelled by 1849. Coping with it brought Narvaez back to power in late 1847. In 1848, a year of revolution in much of Europe (which cost King Louis Philippe his throne in France), he kept a firm grip on the political life of Spain and sent an expeditionary force to Rome in 1849 to support the pope against revolutionaries there. In 1851 a coalition of disgruntled Moderates and ultraconservatives forced him from office once more. They were aided by court cabals that included Francisco de Asis, who found his niche in government through intrigue. The new government of Antonio Bravo Murillo dismissed the Cortes, which had a splendid new palace, and attempted to rule by decree, influenced by developments in France where Napoleon III seized power.
The more liberal Moderates joined with the Progressives in opposition. Financial scandals associated with the building of Spain’s first railroads and involving much foreign capital touched the court and engulfed the queen mother and Munoz, whom Isabel had allowed back to Spain. As the government fell into confusion, unrest spread. On June 30, 1854, General Leopoldo O’Donnell, at the head of an army column at Vicalvaro outside Madrid, pronounced against the government. In Madrid rioting erupted and raged for four days. In desperation, Isabel called the popular Espartero from retire ment. He revived the urban militias, a mainstay for the Progressives, and restored order. An election in which 700,000 Spaniards cast votes returned a Cortes dominated by Progressives, who drew up the Constitution of 1855. Sovereignty was, as in 1812, placed in the nation, which would be a constitutional monarchy with a two-chamber Cortes. It broadened civil liberties, although it slightly narrowed the franchise and reserved the Senate for the well-to-do. The new Cortes passed legislation that privatized yet more Church lands and favored free trade. Although it addressed complaints of the poor over taxes, in particular the consumos levied on basic consumer goods, it continued to restrict labor union activity.
Anxieties about Espartero’s Progressive regime caused the queen to replace him arbitrarily with General O’Donnell, a Moderate who embraced the politics of reconciliation developed by journalist and historian Antonio Canovas del Castillo. While most Progressives went along, riots in Madrid and ‘Barcelona required the use of armed force. When O’Donnell suspended the Constitution, popular clamor forced the queen to bring Narvaez back to power. In 1858, differences with her brought Narvaez’s resignation. O’Donnell returned and, through a blatantly rigged election, brought his party of reconciliation, dubbed the Liberal Union, into control of the Cortes. Elections were often dominated by the rich and influential of each region, eager for government patronage and favor, but no one had previously so successfully orchestrated the outcome. It was no mean feat for local political bosses, called caciques (a term for a Caribbean Indian chief), to deliver the votes of a relatively extensive electorate, which required a wide range of controls that ran from bribery to intimidation.
Secure with the Cortes, O’Donnell dazzled Spain with military successes abroad. A short, triumphant war in Morocco in 1859-1860 brought Tetuan and its vicinity under Spanish control. Spanish and Filipino troops fought alongside the French in Viet Nam in 1859-1863 to prevent the repression of Christianity, although they left the colonization of Viet Nam to France. In 1862 Spanish troops joined the French in Mexico to force the repayment of debt claims. However, General Juan Prim, commander of the Spanish expeditionary force, refused to participate in the French overthrow of President Benito Juarez and their installation of Maximilian of Austria as emperor. Over petty incidents the revived Spanish navy fought the War of the Pacific (1865-1866) against Chile and Peru and bombarded Callao and Valparaiso.
In Spain, O’Donnell’s virtual one-party rule bred too much opposition from all sides and led between 1863 and 1865 to his replacement by others, lastly Narvaez. Student demonstrations and clashes with soldiers in 1865 brought Narvaez down and O’Donnell back to power. Constitutional issues, sniping by an unrestrained press, and the alienation of devout Catho- lies after O’Donnell extended diplomatic recognition to the new kingdom of Italy, which the pope opposed, kept unrest alive. He tried to placate the Progressives, who found a new hero in General Prim, by enlarging the electorate. He posted Prim to distant Asturias. However, in June 1866, a military conspiracy inspired by Prim came to a head at the San Gil Barracks near Madrid’s Royal Palace, when officer conspirators lost control of the ranks. Several officers were shot and mutineers took to the streets. Bloody fighting ensued against forces loyal to O’Donnell. After losing over 200 dead and wounded, some 500 mutineers surrendered. Seventy-six were executed by firing squad. When O’Donnell refused to execute more, the queen summoned Narvaez to power. O’Donnell died the next year, a bitter exile in Biarritz.
An economic downturn in 1866-1868 kept all the currents of unrest alive. Narvaez struggled to maintain order but died in April 1868. Faced with a budget crisis, the new prime minister, Luis Gonzalez Brabo, a civilian who had been Narvaez’s right-hand man, trimmed military expenditures, which turned both army and navy against him. He ordered the more political generals to the Canaries and Balearics. In defiance, Admiral Juan Topete, hero of the Pacific War and naval commandant at Cadiz, sent warships to return the generals. Joined by Prim and General Francisco Serrano, Topete then issued a pronunciamento. The main opposition parties-the Liberal Unionists, Progressives, and Democrats (formed from the ranks of the Progressive left) banded together, while Serrano led mutinous troops north from Andalusia and Prim raised the banners of revolt in the Levant and Catalonia. As government forces marched against the rebels, Queen Isabel II and her court undertook a trip from La Granja to San Sebastian. At Alcocea, near Cordoba, Serrano defeated the government’s army and marched into Madrid. There he and Prim proclaimed the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy to cheering throngs. Receiving the news at San Sebastian, Queen Isabel II fled with her husband, her children, and her current lover to France, where her onetime lady-in-waiting, Eugenie de Montijo, was empress of the French, as wife of Napoleon Ill.
The revolution of 1868 brought Spain to a seeming crossroads.