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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Colonel Riego raised the standard of revolt on January 1


[Sidenote:

Despotic rule of Ferdinand VII and the revolution of 1820.]

Early in 1814 Ferdinand VII was freed by Napoleon, and allowed to return to Spain. It was inevitable that he should adopt a reactionary policy, toward which his own inclinations, the attitude of other continental monarchs, and the overwhelming majority of the clergy, nobles, and the people themselves of Spain impelled him. He had hardly reached the peninsula when he declared the constitution of 1812 and the decrees of the _Cortes_ of no effect. This was followed by the arrest of the Liberal deputies and by the beginning of a series of persecutions. All might have been well, but the personal character of the rancorous, cruel, disloyal, ungrateful, and unscrupulous king and the blindness of the absolutists drove the reaction to extremes. Ferdinand not only restored absolutism, but also attempted to undo the enlightened work of Charles III for the economic and intellectual betterment of the people. Liberalism in every form was crushed, and in accomplishing it such ferocious severity was displayed that the government of Ferdinand was discredited both at home and abroad, even in countries where the reactionary spirit was strongest. Back of the established forms of the restored absolutism stood the unofficial _camarilla_ (small room), or "kitchen cabinet," of the king's intimate friends, but back of all was the king. So suspicious was Ferdinand that more than thirty royal secretaries, or ministers,

were dismissed from office between 1814 and 1820, and dismissal was usually accompanied by a sentence of exile or imprisonment. Periodical literature of a political character was suppressed, although the bars began to be let down for magazines of a scientific or literary type. Despite the rigors of the administration--in a measure because of them--there were insurrections each year from 1814 to 1817, all led by military chieftains of Liberal ideas. They were put down, for in no case was there a popular uprising; the people were as yet little affected by the new doctrines. Meanwhile, secret plots against the government were fostered, in part as the result of Spanish American influences which desired to prevent the sending of troops to suppress the revolutions of the new world, but more largely related to the Liberal ideal in Spain. This activity seems mainly to have been the work of societies of Freemasons, in which military men were strongly represented. Many other elements had also become pro-Liberal by this time, including prominent representatives of the middle class, almost all of the patriots who had organized the resistance to the French in 1808, and the young men of education. The storm broke when orders were given in 1819 for the assembling of an army at C?diz for the extremely unpopular service of the wars in the Americas. Colonel Riego raised the standard of revolt on January 1, 1820, proclaiming the constitution of 1812. The government seemed paralyzed by the outbreak. Uncertain what to do it waited. Then late in February the example set by Riego was followed in the larger cities of northern Spain. The king at once yielded, and caused an announcement to be made that he would summon a _Cortes_ immediately and would swear his adhesion to the constitution of 1812. Thus, without a battle, it seemed as if the revolution had triumphed.


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