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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Including the pseudo constitutional reactionaries


Constitutional changes in the reign of Isabella II.]

The character of the period was reflected in the new constitutions which were drawn up. The constitution of 1845 included the following provisions: the introduction of a property qualification, narrowing the franchise of those electing deputies to the _Cortes_; the nomination of senators by the crown; life tenure of senators; the packing of the senate with grandees, ecclesiastics, successful soldiers, and financial magnates,--reactionary elements; emphasis on the recognition of the Catholic Church as the established religion; an assent to the theory of the sovereignty of the people, but in such an attenuated form as to deprive the right of its vitality; restrictions on the freedom of the press; and the reduction of the national militia--the hope of Liberalism--to an innocuous state by making it subject to the central executive. The church was strengthened still further upon the fall of Narv?ez in 1851, for, reactionary though he was, he did not go far enough in ecclesiastical matters to suit the clergy. The brief term in office of their candidate, Bravo Murillo, resulted in the restoration of part of their former endowment as a result of the concordat of 1851, but their acceptance of this document was denounced by the Carlists and absolutists in general, including the pseudo-constitutional reactionaries, as a betrayal of the cause for which the churchmen had stood. Bravo Murillo proposed a

constitution in 1852 which amounted to a virtual abrogation of parliamentary government, granting the crown the right to enact the budget by royal decree and to propose legislation which must be accepted or rejected by the _Cortes_ without amendment, together with other provisions of a like character. It was Narv?ez who pointed out to the queen that the Bravo constitution would result in disaster to the government, and the instrument was only productive of its proposer's fall. During the period of Liberal control, from 1854 to 1856, at which time Espartero returned to head the ministry, a fresh constitution was presented to the _Cortes_ in 1855. The former provision for life senators was abolished; financial control was vested in the _Cortes_, which was to meet at least once a year; liberty of the press was granted; and it was decided that nobody should be persecuted for his religious views contrary to the Catholic faith, provided he should not manifest them publicly. The constitution of 1855 remained an ideal only, for the _Cortes_ separated without promulgating it. In the next year O'Donnell brought about a restoration of the constitution of 1845, with added enactments providing for the control of national finances by the _Cortes_ and for an elected senate. When Narv?ez returned to power late in the same year, he caused such reform measures of the Liberals as had not already been done away with to be rescinded, and reinforced the constitution of 1845.

[Sidenote: Revolution of General Prim and dethronement of Isabella II.]

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