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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The Cortes of 1820 satisfied nobody


The Liberal _Cortes_ of 1820 and the triumph of the reaction.]

In July, 1820, the _Cortes_ met. Its earliest measures aimed to restore the legislation of the _Cortes_ of 1810, together with other laws of a similar character. The _Cortes_ of 1820 has been charged with being anti-clerical, as indeed it was, for the church was the most serious opponent of Liberalism, still able to dominate the opinions of the masses. Notwithstanding all it accomplished, the _Cortes_ of 1820 satisfied nobody. Like most new-born democracies Spain found herself splitting on the rock of divergent opinions. The Liberals broke up into various well-defined groups: the Radicals felt that the _Cortes_ had been too moderate and cautious; the Moderates found the new laws dangerously radical; still others wished for a reform of the constitution in the direction of yet greater moderation than most of the Moderates desired. These were only a few of the groups to spring up. Meanwhile, the king and the absolutists, who had never intended to abide by the revolution, began to turn these divisions to account. Armed bands favorable to the king were formed, while others representing other factions also came into existence, and a state of anarchy ensued. The crisis was settled from abroad, however. From the first, Ferdinand had sent appeals to the reactionary kings of Europe, representing himself to be a prisoner, much as Louis XVI had been at the outbreak of the French Revolution. At

length his appeals were listened to, and France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia joined together to restore matters to the situation they were in prior to 1820. It was as a result of this decision that a French army invaded the peninsula in the spring of 1823. No effective resistance was offered; indeed, the country seemed rather to second the French efforts and to facilitate their advance. No better proof could be furnished that the revolution of 1820 did not represent the sentiment of the people; the masses were yet steeped in ignorance and weighed down by traditional influences, so that they rejected a system intended for their benefit in favor of one which had lost even the benevolent disposition of the eighteenth-century Bourbons; the intellectual elements which had promoted the revolution had shown an incapacity to face realities or to compromise with the full meed of their ideals. Thus had the revolution of 1810 been re-enacted. The example was to be many times repeated in the course of the next two generations. The constitution and the laws of the _Cortes_ were abolished, and savage persecution of Liberalism began. From 1823 to 1829 the political history of Spain was a series of alternations between terrorism and a relaxation of coercive measures, according as one group or another prevailed with the king, but the dominant note was at all times that of absolutism. It is to be noted that Spain had scarcely had a moment's respite from domestic difficulties since the invasion of Napoleon in 1808. In the meantime, between 1810 and 1824, the American colonies of the mainland had seized their opportunity to separate from the mother country forever.

[Sidenote: Mar?a Cristina and the Carlist wars.]

[Sidenote: Progress of Liberalism.]

[Sidenote: Rule of Espartero.]

Reactionary as Ferdinand had shown himself to be, he did not go far enough to suit the extremists in the absolutist faction

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