Gateway to the Classics: Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain by Charles F. Horne
Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain by  Charles F. Horne

Spain as a Republic—Eclipse of Carlism


Don Carlos directing his troops.

The success of the revolution of 1868 was absolute, over-whelming, and complete. The mushy Isabella, still clinging to her lover and lamenting the misfortunes which she had deserved ten times over, was across the border, fortunately never again to trouble the people whom she had misruled so long.

But what next? While all were united in the resolution to hustle the intolerable nuisances out of the country, there was no agreement as to the nature of the government that was to replace the old. The majority of the leaders favored a constitutional monarchy, but there were many republicans. Eight candidates were discussed, among whom were three Bourbons, but they were speedily dropped. Three princes and Espartero, who were named, declined a candidature. Meanwhile, a provisional government was formed with Serrano as president of council and Prim as minister of war. They summoned a Cortes which met in the beginning of 1869, and took up the question as to the form of the government which should be established in Spain.

It was decided to restore a monarchical form with constitutional guarantees, the constitution which was accepted establishing freedom of conscience, replacing the principle of legitimacy with the sovereignty of the people, and organizing a Senate and a Council of State to act in conjunction with the House of Representatives. This constitution was adopted on the 2nd of June, 1869. Meanwhile, Marshal Serrano was appointed regent until the right sovereign could be found, and General Prim was delegated to set out on a hunt for a king.


Marshal Serrano directing his troops at Arcolea.

His choice was Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern, a man of fine capacity and every way fitted to govern the kingdom. He was grand-nephew of William, King of Prussia, and the throne was offered to him; but the moment the news reached Emperor Napoleon of France, he boiled over with indignation. You remember how he instructed his minister at Berlin to warn the King of Prussia that if he did not forbid the young man to accept the throne, it would be taken as an unfriendly act and war would follow. This demand upon the aged monarch was made with insulting brusqueness, for Napoleon wanted a war and the Empress Eugenie clapped her hands with delight and called it her own war.

Well, it came, and France was ground to powder. Louis Napoleon was made prisoner, and his Empress saved her life by a midnight flight from Paris. So the dethronement of Isabella in one sense brought about the downfall of Napoleon III. as well.

Prince Leopold never wanted the Spanish crown and expressed his pleasure years afterward that he had refused it. The choice narrowed down to one or two and then settled upon Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, the second son of Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy; and Amadeus, born in 1845, was a fairly able and conscientious man. Like nearly all the rest to whom the crown was offered, he did not wish it, and refused it four times before he yielded to the urgency of his father.

Just before his arrival in Madrid, a shocking crime was perpetrated. General Prim, on the evening of December 27, 1870, when in a cab that was to take him to the Ministry of War, was fired upon by unknown persons and so sorely wounded that he lived but a short time. When the new King arrived he was greatly depressed by the occurrence, and wept over his dead friend as the body lay in the coffin in the church ready for burial.

Amadeus entered Madrid and was proclaimed King January 2, 1871. From the first he was subjected to the most vexatious annoyances. The fact that he was a foreigner made it impossible, no matter how discreet and praiseworthy his course, to win the good will of his subjects; his father was at that time under the ban of excommunication, and Spain is essentially a Catholic country; his wife was snubbed, and at times neither of them was treated with common courtesy. More than once a man on the street was kicked and cuffed for no other cause than that he had saluted the King. His elevation to the throne brought about such a mixing, overturning, mingling, and recasting of parties that no person unless a Spaniard (and not always he), could comprehend their principles. A traveller once asked an intelligent countryman to draw the distinctions for him, and he did so in this style:

"There are five principal parties,—the Absolutists, the Moderates, the Conservatives, the Radicals, and the Republicans. These are subdivided until there are twenty-two parties already formed or in process of formation. Add to these those who desire a republic with Amadeus for president; the partisans of the Queen (Isabella); the partisans of Montpensier (Isabella's sister); those who are Republicans on condition that Cuba be retained; those who are Republicans on condition that Cuba be given up; those who have not yet renounced Prince Leopold; those who wish for a union with Portugal,—and you will have thirty parties. As for their leaders, Sagasta inclines toward the Unionists; Zorilla toward the Republicans; Serrano is disposed to join the Moderates; the Moderates, if they had the chance, would join hands with the Absolutists, who, in their turn, are disposed to coalesce with the Republicans, who would be glad to join the Radicals to blow up Sagasta, who is too conservative for the Democratic Progresistas and too liberal for the Unionists, who are afraid of the Federal Republicans, who place no confidence in the Radicals, who are always vacillating between the Democrats and the followers of Sagasta."

Try as much as he might, Amadeus could not govern this muddle acceptably. Against his will he was compelled to make changes in his ministry, but most of the new men proved as worthless as those they displaced. It was a sad truth that the King found it impossible to secure a dozen competent, patriotic, unselfish, and honest men in the whole kingdom of Spain. No doubt there were many in the country, but Amadeus could not find them at his court.


Amadeus welcomed to Madrid as King.

Some of those associated with him lost heart, and urged him to a coup d'tat. He repelled the suggestion with scorn, declaring that if he could not reign constitutionally he would resign. Thereupon his ministers resigned, and he was obliged to form a new cabinet, which was no better than the other. His position became more intolerable every day. Not only did his subjects refuse to appreciate him, but his life was attempted, and even the Republicans and Carlists partially fused in order to get rid of him. Forbearance finally ceased to be a virtue. He sent his wife to southern Spain in order to have her near the Portuguese frontier, and on the 11th of February, 1873, he took a seat in a railway carriage, joined her, and they quietly entered Portugal. Thus vanishes Amadeus from Spanish history.

The King having abdicated, the Cortes immediately proclaimed the Republic by a vote of nearly eight to one. In doing so they astonished themselves, Spain, and the world, for such a form of government in that country was to many unthinkable. Some looked upon the step as a grim jest. Perhaps it was, for it was the first time in the history of the kingdom that such a thing had been done, and it seems unlikely that it will soon be repeated. The Spaniard is not constructed for democracy.

Having solemnly adopted a republic, it remained to decide whether it should be a centralized or a federal one. The people preferred the latter, but the men of affairs were certain that nothing would answer except the former. While the problem was brewing, it was necessary to form a provisional government, in order to prevent the country from crumbling to ruin. This was done with Marshal Serrano at the head, and, amid ferment and fierce turmoil, Spain once more accepted the republic.

And now we must give attention to the Carlists, who were making matters lively throughout the kingdom. Let us briefly recapitulate. The original Carlos V., after an unsuccessful war for his rights, had renounced them, in 1844, in favor of his son, made his bow and walked off the stage, to die in 1855. The son Don Carlos, born in 1818, was better known as the Count de Montemolin, and led a revolt in 1849, only to fail as his father had done. Another revolution was tried in 186o, and not only came to naught, but the Count de Montemolin and his brother Don Fernando, to save their heads, renounced all claim to the throne. Another brother, Don Juan, was with them, but he took no part in the renunciation. As soon as the Count de Montemolin reached England he, as might have been expected, tried to retract his renunciation. This exasperated Don Juan, who felt that he was now the rightful heir, and he denounced the double dealing of his brother, with whom his relations became "strained." On the 1st of January, 1861, Don Fernando suddenly died. His death greatly depressed the Count de Montemolin and his wife, who both fell ill and passed away within a fortnight of the death of Don Fernando. They had no children, and the strange series of fatalities left Don Juan and his two sons the only representatives of the Carlist line of succession to the throne.

After the abdication of Isabella, Don Juan renounced his claims in favor of his son Don Carlos, born in 1848. (He is married and has four daughters and a son, Prince Jamie, born in 1870.) This present Don Carlos, or Duke of Madrid, following the order, assumed the title of Charles VII. He deemed the time favorable for an uprising, and the attempt was made in 1872, but the insurgents were poorly armed and equipped, the conduct of Don Carlos was cowardly, and Marshal Serrano with little trouble quelled the revolt.

The proclamation of the republic was followed by a good deal of disorganization among the government troops. This encouraged the Carlists, who carried on a partisan warfare with great vigor. Beginning in the latter part of the reign of Amadeus, it continued, and was accompanied by numerous raids in Catalonia, which was always ready to assail any government established in Castile. Neither side had a fixed plan of campaign, and for a time no decisive engagements took place. In July, 1873, Don Carlos, who had fled from Spain, returned and took command of an army of 16,000 men, with several excellent officers as his assistants. Opposed to them was Marshal Serrano, Commander-in-chief in the Basque provinces. Being recalled to Madrid by political necessity, Serrano left his army in charge of Marshal Concha, an able and energetic leader, who was killed in the battle of Abazuza, fought in the latter part of June, 1874. His army suffered a disastrous repulse. A lamentable part of this woeful business was that little or no quarter was shown by either side, all fighting with the ferocity of red savages.


Carlists slaying their republican prisoners at Abazuza.

Great confusion followed in the Republican ranks, and the prospects of the Carlists were never brighter, but toward the close of 1874 signs of weakness appeared in their ranks. True, they had met with successes, some of them considerable, but they were still outside the shell of the government they were seeking to break. They could not reach the core, which still defied them. Discipline became lax and here and there was open disaffection. It should be noted, moreover, that two months after Abazuza, Marshal Serrano gained an important political triumph in securing the recognition of his government by all the European powers with the single exception of Russia. This recognition of the Serrano government made a strict blockade of Spain probable, and the Carlist forces would find it almost impossible to procure arms and supplies. They were deficient in field artillery and cavalry, but, worst of all, they were deficient in an able, vigorous leader, who would open the way to Madrid. All appeals to General Cabrera, the staunch commander of other days, were vain, for he had given up hope, and could not be induced to draw his sword again for the cause he once loved so well. The disintegration of the army proceeded rapidly. Officers resigned and soldiers deserted by the score. Several failures by Don Carlos to capture towns which he attacked added to the demoralization of his cause.

Meanwhile, the Republicans felt the necessity of some decisive success on their part. Serrano again left Madrid, and in the latter part of 1874 took command of the northern army. He knew when he did so that a revolution was likely to break out in Madrid, where the dissatisfaction with the Republic was fast drawing to a head. He was still in the north with his troops, when news reached him that a pronunciamento had been issued on December 31, 1874, and that the son of the expelled Isabella, the Prince of the Asturias, had been proclaimed king with the title of Alfonso XII.

Alfonso was born in 1857, and had therefore been a boy of eleven years when he accompanied his mother into exile. His choice was the act of the army, which pronounced in his favor. Serrano accepted the situation, and, without any attempt to oppose the movement which ended his dictatorship, declared his adhesion to the new government and crossed the border into France. The armed forces everywhere welcomed the new order of things with enthusiasm, and thus, after an existence of two years, the Spanish Republic quietly passed out of existence.

The way being opened, Alfonso XII. sailed from Marseilles, January 7, 1875, pausing at Barcelona, whence he continued his voyage to Valencia, where he took train to Madrid, which he entered on the 14th of the month. He was received with shouts and rejoicings, and no ruler could have asked for more ardent proofs of loyalty than greeted him. He at once announced his intention of going to the seat of war, and a few days later he departed to take nominal command of the army of the north, where he found the same joyous welcome awaiting him. As has been said, his accession was due to the army, with whom he was more popular at all times than with the civilians. His elevation to the throne strengthened the cause of Don Carlos, who denounced with vehemence the outrage upon his rights.

Like young and ardent leaders, Alfonso thought he could win over his rebellious subjects by soothing proclamations, but they produced no effect and the third Carlist war went on. The battle of Lucar was the first in which the young King took part, and though it was a repulse for his army, he displayed marked personal bravery and added to his popularity with the troops.

It would take too long to narrate the details of the numerous campaigns which followed. Before the close of 1875 the Carlist army in Catalonia existed only in name. Martinez Campos, the royal commander in that section, sent a despatch to Madrid to this effect, adding the proud and, under the circumstances, unusual declaration that in securing peace he had not bribed nor purchased a single guerrilla leader, but had won by arms alone.

In the midst of the fighting, Don Carlos made a most remarkable proposition to his cousin Alfonso. War with the United States over Cuba seemed so imminent that he proposed they should unite their forces against the young giant of the West, and, after he was soundly trounced, Carlos and Alfonso should resume fighting for their respective rights. No one knows how the scheme struck the Madrid authorities, for they sent back no reply. Everywhere the Carlists lost ground, until at last Don Carlos saw all hope vanish, fled from Spain, and so follows his predecessors off the stage. As has been said, he has four daughters and a son, Prince Jamie, to whom it is believed he has transferred his "rights." Whether Jamie will ever make a stir in the world remains to be seen, but it seems hardly probable that he will vex Spain as his ancestors have done.

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