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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Except for the discredited Carlists


Isabella II and the rule of the generals.]

[Sidenote: Narv?ez and O'Donnell.]

[Sidenote: Rise of General Prim.]

[Sidenote: Character of the queen.]

The overthrow of Espartero had been accomplished by a combination of the extreme conservative and the radical elements, which aimed to prevent the recurrence of a regency by illegally proclaiming the thirteen-year-old Isabella II to be of age. Such widely divergent groups could not long remain harmonious, and the conservatives were soon in the saddle. The twenty-five year period of Isabella's active reign, from 1843 to 1868, was one in which reactionary forces were almost constantly in control under constitutional forms. Except for the discredited Carlists, who engaged in several minor outbreaks during these years, no party stood frankly for absolutism, although that form of government was in fact the wish of many and the virtual type of rule employed. The real master was, not the queen, but the army through its generals. The saving factor in the situation was that the latter were not united; while certain of them were ultra-reactionary, others were Liberal, though none of those who attained to power went the lengths of the radicals. In the numerous ministries of the era an occasional non-military individual was at the head of the state,--such as the reactionary Gonz?lez Bravo, or the clerically

backed Bravo Murillo, but the terms of these and other civilian ministers were brief. The two principal rulers of the times were General Narv?ez and General O'Donnell. Narv?ez, who had won notoriety for his severity against the Carlists, was six times in office (1844-1846, 1846 again, 1847-1851, 1856-1857, 1864-1865, and 1866-1868). It became the habit of the queen to send for him whenever the monarchy was in danger, not only because he could control the army, but also because he invariably struck hard and successfully against Liberalism at the same time that he upheld constitutional government, though disregarding its mandates as suited his pleasure. Execution or exile followed swiftly where Narv?ez was displeased with an individual. Meanwhile, he made meritorious reforms which tended to restore good order and check anarchy, such as his success in stamping out brigandage and revolution. The ability of this despotic veteran was well displayed when he saved Spain from the storm which shook other European thrones in 1848. O'Donnell, who came into prominence in the temporarily successful Liberal revolution of 1854, was three times in office (1856, 1858-1863, 1865-1866), once holding power for five years. While far more liberal than Narv?ez he was a staunch supporter of the Bourbons. He sought to divert public attention from domestic affairs by laying stress upon foreign policy, as witness his well-advertised refusal to sell Cuba to the United States, his plans to join France in the latter's intervention in Mexico, and especially his engaging in a war with Morocco (1859-1860). The chief political result of the war was to make a popular hero of General Prim, a man of Liberal tendencies and of less resolute devotion than O'Donnell to the Bourbons. Prim was the third of the great military figures who, together, explain this era. Beside them must be considered the queen. The former regent, Mar?a Cristina, had not been free from charges of immorality, but her daughter Isabella was notorious for her bad conduct. Furthermore, she was perfidious, selfish, superstitious, and lacking in principle. Withal she was devoutly religious. The result was that her opinions were swayed by her numerous transitory lovers or by her confessors, and ministries rose and fell according to the dictates of the _camarilla_. Even O'Donnell declared it was impossible to govern under her, for no dependence could be placed upon her word.

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