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manded, and they would have to send their petition to the
higher authorities. This so angered the crowd that they
attacked the town-hall with stones, severely wounding sev-
eral of the police and the village priest who sought to quell
the disturbance. The next day they broke into the corral
of a cattle-raiser, carried away a drove of cattle, kept them
overnight, and the next day held their bull-fight, in spite of
the authorities and of the terrible epidemic which was
decimating the community.

Soon after my arrival in Spain the whole nation was
thrown into a great state of excitement by three successive
attempts at revolution, which occurred almost simultane-
ously in different and widely separated parts of the country.
I was at La Granja at the time, in attendance on the King
and Court on their summer vacation. The Prime Minister,
Sagasta, was at a French watering-place, and the other mem-
bers of the Cabinet were widely scattered. The King on
receipt of the news rushed off to Madrid, to which place the
Ministry was hastily summoned. In the court and diplo-
matic circles all the conversation was about the revolutionary
movements, and many wild rumors were put in circulation.
These events carried me back in memory to my experiences
in Mexico, which had been the land of pronunciamentos, but
it seemed the mother country had become an apt scholar.


These movements appeared to have been concerted by
Ruiz Zorrilla, a Republican leader then in exUe. But just
as the whole country was being thrown into consternation,
pubhc funds threatened with a panic, and the Government
had taken every precaution and set on foot measures to
resist a widespread and formidable revolution, the move-
ment was found to be a miserable failure. It was not re-
sponded to in any of the strong republican localities, and
Castelar and other prominent leaders of the party declared
against a change of government by force of arms. In my
report of these events to the Department of State, I wrote :
"During the eight years' reign of Alfonso XII, the country
has enjoyed an unprecedented era of prosperity and ad-
vancement, and no inconsiderable share of the credit for this
happy state of affairs is due to the wisdom and prudence of
the young King himself. He has steadily shown thus far a
tendency towards liberal and progressive principles and
practices of government, which has had a marked influence
in reconciling the commercial, industrial, and property inter-
ests of the country to his reign ; and it would prove a public
calamity of no ordinary moment to Spain, if the premature
and futile attempts of extreme republicans should lead him
to reverse his policy and throw himself into the hands of the
Conservative and retrograde elements of the country."

Political parties in Spain are quite complex in their com-
position and their distinctive principles are not easily
defined, but in general terms they may be divided into Con-
servatives, Liberals, and Repubhcans. From time to time
they undergo some transformation, as old issues ^ve place
to new ones. During my residence in the country the Con-
servatives embraced the greater portion of the elements
instrumental in reestabHshing the Bourbon d5Tiasty by
placing the young King Alfonso XII on the throne, and to
them were added such former adherents of Don Carlos as
took any part in public affairs. Under the administration of


this party the Constitution of 1876, still in force, was
framed. In its ranks were to be found the extreme royal-
ists and partisans of the temporal power of the Church of

The Liberal party claimed to be distinctively and uncom-
promisingly monarchical and loyal to the Bourbon dynasty,
but it sought *to harmonize these conditions with the pro-
gressive and liberal tendencies of European governments.
Among the measures which it proposed to the nation was (1)
a law estabhshing civil marriage, (2) a law of associations and
public meetings, (3) establishment of the jury system, (4)
reform of the penal code, in order more fully to protect indi-
vidual rights, and regulate the Hberty of the press, and (5)
enlargement of the right of suffrage. Some of these measures
have been adopted by the country in later years, the elective
franchise especially being greatly enlarged. During my re-
sidence in Madrid the population numbered about 400,000,
but the registry contained only 12,000 voters, of whom a
large number were stipendiaries of the Government.

The Republicans represent a large minority in most of the
cities and manufacturing centres, they are an important
factor in the elections, and a small number of their party are
always chosen to the Cortes. But they exercise very little
direct influence in legislative affairs, because of their internal
differences, being divided into at least three distinct sections
with opposing details of poUcy, and with no concert of action
among themselves. Many real Republicans are found in the
Liberal party, they regarding it as the best medium of pro-
moting repubUcan principles.

Party lines are not very closely observed and they often
overlap each other. Conservatives of the milder type find
little difficulty in transferring their allegiance to the Liberal
leaders on certain questions, and the Liberal party has vari-
ous groups which often become antagonistic to each other.
Even the Republicans are sometimes found voting with the


Conservatives to overthrow the Liberals. These unstable
conditions explain the frequent and sometimes sudden
changes of ministries.

The party in power always carried the elections in my day,
and though the manipulation of the registry had its official
constraint it managed to return a large majority to the
Cortes. But in the course of time disintegration in the ranks
began, and by a combination of the opposite party and the
disaffected elements of the ruling administration some fine
day the latter found itself outvoted in the Cortes, the op-
posite party came to power, ordered an election, and had
a triumphant majority in the new Cortes.

I have mentioned the creation of the extreme Liberal
Ministry of Posada Herrera, imder which I was enabled to
take my first successful step towards the reciprocity treaty.
It was formed out of the Liberal party, of which Sagasta was
the leader. Only a few months sufficed to have it outvoted
in the Cortes. The defeated Ministry tendered its resignation.
The King asked it to continue in office, offering to dissolve
the Cortes and call a new election. There would probably
have been no difficulty in carrying the election, as usual, but
an unexpected obstacle was encountered. Senor Moret, the
Minister of the Interior, whose department had charge of the
election machinery, was a thoroughly conscientious man,
and refused to assume the responsibility of carrying out the
existing campaign practice, and the Ministry had no choice
but to insist upon its resignation.

The Conservatives came into power again, and as soon as
the Cabinet was organized governors were appointed for the
forty-nine provinces of Spain from among the politicians
then in Madrid, belonging to the Conservative party, and
they left at once for their respective districts to assume
charge of their offices and to prepare for the coming elec-
tion. In the Cortes just dissolved, out of a poll of 347
deputies there were only 44 Conservative votes; but the


Ministry was sustained in the next Cortes, with an over-
whelming majority.

The Ministers are required to be members of the Cortes,
but the British practice does not prevail which compels a
member on his appointment to the Ministry to have his ap-
pointment confirmed by a new election. A Minister can take
part in the proceedings of both houses, but he can only vote
in the body of which he is a member. Cabinet members upon
retirement from office receive fifteen hmidred dollars per
year during their lives, and with the frequent changes of
ministries this becomes a serious charge upon the treasury.
A peculiar practice of Spanish ministries was that of the
transaction of business at late hours of the night. It was
quite usual for the Cabinet Ministers to go to their depart-
ments after dinner, or even after the theatre or opera. The
Minister of State received the diplomatic representatives in
the afternoon, but occasionally in that department I had
appointments for an hour after dinner. I had frequent occa-
sions to go to the Department of the Colonies and of the
Interior, and when I asked for an appointment with the
Ministers it was generally fixed for ten o'clock at night, and
sometimes later.

Prince Hohenlohe, German Chancellor, went to Madrid in
1885 to represent the Emperor at the funeral of Alfonso XII.
After a few days' stay in the Capital he records in his "Me-
moirs" his impressions of Spanish politics, after a dinner at
the German Embassy, when the subject was discussed with
the German and Austrian Ministers and other members of the
Diplomatic Corps. The entry in his diary is as follows : "It
appears that here everything depends on satisfying some
hundred thousand Spaniards of the cultivated classes in pro-
viding them with places and opportunities of making money.
The people seem indifferent. The proof is that the present
Government has all the votes in its own hands, and will
itself take care that a certain number of Opposition members


are also elected. The whole thing is a system of exploitation
of the most abominable kind, a caricatm-e of constitutional-
ism, phrases, and thievery."

This is just such an opinion as is likely to be formed by
even an experienced statesman, who spends but a few days
in Madrid and listens to the gossip and criticism in diplo-
matic after-dinner circles, but it is hardly a correct state-
ment of Spanish politics. There are doubtless many useless
officials in the departments, and the elections are largely
controlled by the party in power ; but there is no wholesale
change of the subordinate officials on the advent of a new
Ministry ; public opinion is often expressed in the elections ;
and the members of the Cabinet are almost uniformly men
of high character and integrity. The two party leaders, who
were almost continuously and alternately at the head of the
Government, hved very plainly ; Sagasta died a poor man,
and Cdnovas only enjoyed wealth in the last few years of his
Ufe through a rich wife.

While the lower house of the Cortes, the Chamber of
Deputies, is elective, and usually changes with each new
Ministry, the Senate is a much more stable body. It is made
up of three approximately equal elements — first, those who
hold seats in their own right, as certain of the hereditary
nobility, archbishops, field-marshals, etc. ; second, life mem-
bers appointed by the Crown ; and, third, elective members
chosen for ten years by corporations of the State, namely,
the Council of State, the judiciary, universities, bar and
medical associations, etc. The Senate is seldom an obstruc-
tion to legislation, as it usually follows the action of the

The grandees, to entitle them to seats, must show that
they possess an income of not less than twelve thousand
dollars and pay certain fees. Many of them, in their impover-
ished condition, cannot show such an income or are not will-
ing to pay the heavy fees, and hence do not qualify. My


attention was attracted to the comparatively slight influence
exercised upon the politics of the nation by the Spanish
nobility, who in the palmy days of the Peninsula were the
great bulwark of the throne. In the ministries of my time
there were few grandees to be found, and in none of them did
the nobility exercise a commanding influence.

The opening of the first session of the Cortes is quite a
brilUant affair and attracts general attention. The King and
Queen and the Infantas, accompanied by the court ladies,
go from the palace to the Chamber of Deputies in antique
state carriages, each drawn by six white horses, and escorted
by a detachment of cavalry, the streets through which they
pass being lined with masses of people. The Diplomatic
Corps are invited to attend in uniform, the ladies in court
dresses, with white mantillas over their heads, and a tribune
is provided for them adjoining the Throne. Every seat in the
chamber is occupied and the galleries are crowded with the
4hte of Spanish society. The King and Queen are seated on
the royal dais and the Infantas below them, supported by
the members of the Cabinet and the court ladies. The prin-
cipal ceremony is the reading by the King of the speech pre-
pared for him by the Ministry. Altogether it constitutes one
of the most attractive monarchical pageants to be seen in

The newspapers of Madrid exercised an important influ-
ence upon public affairs. They were quite numerous and
represented all shades of political sentiment. In my time
telegraphic news was very limited, but they were ably edited,
and much attention was given to the debates in the Cortes
and to political questions. The Government possessed the
power of a severe censorship, but it was seldom enforced, and
the liberty of discussion was freely exercised. A specialty
of the Capital were the comic papers, which often contained
excellent cartoons, generally of a political nature. Long
before they became common in the United States the Span-


ish papers were producing cartoons, and no one prominent
in public life long escaped their notice.

During the turbulent times of Isabella, and up to the
reestablishment of the monarchy under Alfonso XII, the
army was the principal root or instrument of the troubles
of Spain ; and revolutionary movements during my residence,
to which I have referred, all had their origin in the army.
Its reorganization was recognized by all intelligent states-
men as a pressing necessity, but even the most hberal min-
istries have found it a very difficult problem. And, besides,
it did not as a rule suit their purposes to effect any great
reform, as it was through the army they in large measure
manipulated the elections. Through the army also all
important changes of government have been brought about.

In my day the Spanish army numbered about 75,000 men,
but it had more generals than Germany or France. The sta-
tistics of that time showed a total of 20,500 officers. There
was a captain-general for every 11,000 soldiers including
non-commissioned officers, one lieutenant-general for every
1000, a major-general for 693, a brigadier-general for 271, a
colonel for 195, lieutenant-colonel for 99, major for 42, cap-
tain for 18, lieutenant for 15, ensign for 6. These figures
alone were a sufficient justification for the demand of Liberal
statesmen for a reform of the army, without the necessity
of a reference to the deplorable history of the country in
recent times occasioned by it.

The religious question has always played an important
part in Spanish politics. Since the extermination of the Pro-
testants by the Inquisition under Phifip II, the country has
remained almost wholly Catholic, and has been one of the
most devoted adherents of the Pope and his temporal power.
After the overthrow of Isabella II, liberty of worship was
proclaimed, but only temporarily, as with the reestablish-
ment of the Boiu-bons in the person of Alfonso XII, the su-
premacy of the Cathofic Church was recognized. The article


of the Constitution of 1876 on the subject, still in force, is as
foUows: "The Cathohc Apostolic Roman religion is that of
the State. The nation obhgates itself to maintain the wor-
ship and its ministers. No person shall be molested in the ter-
ritory of Spain for his religious opinions, nor for the exercise
of his particular worship, saving the respect due to Christian
morality. Nevertheless, no other ceremonies nor manifesta-
tions in public will be permitted than those of the religion of
the State."

This article has been the subject of much discussion, and
its somewhat ambiguous and evasive character has enabled
the different Ministries to place upon it a liberal or restrict-
ive character, as suited their purposes. It was in my day
construed to prevent any outward manifestation of Protest-
ant worship. No church edifice could be erected, nor could
any sign be placed on the outside of a house in which such
worship was held ; and no bell-ringing or religious procession
on the streets was allowed to Protestants. The British Gov-
ernment provided a chaplain to its Legation, but as there
was no suitable room for pubhc service in the Legation pre-
mises, a hall was rented in a private house, but no outward
sign was allowed on the street to direct the worshipers to it.
It was the custom of my family to attend this chapel or the
Protestant Spanish service, which was hkewise held in a
private house.

While considerable freedom of the press was allowed in
political matters, no attacks were permitted on church
dogma or the clergy. A case came under my observation of
the arrest and condemnation to two years' imprisonment of a
native pastor for publishing a reply to an attack of a priest
on the Protestants. An inteUigent Spanish statesman once
remarked to an American diplomat, in discussing the article
of the Constitution above quoted: "The provision for free-
dom of worship in the Constitution is a mere abstract pro-
position — it can never have any practical value except for


foreigners. I cannot conceive of a Spaniard being anything
but a Catholic."

The experience of one of the secretaries who served under
me in the Legation illustrates the strictness with which the
laws relating to the Church were enforced. He became
enamoured of a Spanish young lady, who had been baptized
in the Catholic Church, but as he had been reared in the
Presbyterian Church he was unwilling to be married by
the priests, with Cathohc ceremonies, and desired to have the
marriage in conformity with the civil forms and by a Pro-
testant clergyman, to which the young lady was agreed. He
went to the authorities and procured all the forms and in-
structions required, to conform to which two months were
consumed in securing the necessary certificates.

When he thought all was in due form and they were ready
to be married, the magistrate discovered that there was a
law which forbade a Protestant from marrying a Cathohc.
He thereupon had to resort to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
to have the King call a Council of State and issue a royal
decree, thereafter permitting Protestants and Catholics to
marry by civil process. This consumed more weeks, but
served the good purpose of modifying the old law. The
Secretary said the documents and certificates he was re-
quired to procure made a pile a foot high, and as all had to
be on stamped paper the cost to him for stamps amounted
to about sixty dollars.

The expense and delay in these ceremonies are not con-
fined to the persons who resort to the civil marriage, but like-
wise attend those performed by the Catholic clergy. In the
vicar's office a fee of twelve dollars was charged. An extra
fee of thirty dollars was charged if haste was desired by the
omission of the pubhcation of the banns, and the priest who
performed the ceremony received six dollars. The delays
and expense attending marriages are the chief cause of the
unlawful unions in Spain. The rate of illegitimacy is very


high in the country, especially in Madrid, where it was com-
puted to be twenty per cent of the births.

A notable religious event occurred during my residence in
Spain. St. James the Greater, or Santiago, has been for ages
the patron saint of the nation and his anniversary is always
greatly honored. The Cathedral of Santiago in GaUcia has
been one of the most celebrated among the Catholic sanctu-
aries as the burial-place of St. James. For many centuries
an incessant stream of pilgrims flowed to this remote place,
and especially the gallant young gentlemen, not only of
Spain but of France and Italy, came in great numbers to
pay due honors at the tomb of the great miUtant saint. On
account of these pilgrimages a great number of wealthy
monasteries were established, at which the pilgrims were
entertained, and a thriving business was maintained.

Up to comparatively recent times no one wished or dared
to inquire as to the genuineness of the relics said to be repos-
ing under the high altar, but in the iconoclastic period of the
French Revolution doubts began to arise, and some investi-
gation was made into the history of the Apostle James, the
son of Zebedee. From the Gospel narratives he was found to
be of a fiery temper, favored extreme measures, and was
credited with worldly ambition ; all of which qualities fitted
him to be the patron saint of Spain. But unfortunately the
history of his career as an apostle after the death of his Mas-
ter was very defective, he being only twice mentioned, once
just after the ascension, and then about ten years later when
he was put to death by Herod. No Catholic writer of emin-
ence asserted that there was any authentic history to show
that he was ever in Spain, but there was an abundance of
legends to show that he brought the Gospel to its people, and
it could not be proved that he was never in the Peninsula.

Nevertheless the stream of pilgrimage in great measure
ceased, the monasteries fell into decay, and Santiago lost
much of its importance as a sanctuary. In this condition of


affairs the energetic and pious Archbishop of Santiago set to
work to establish the authenticity of the sacred rehcs and
restore the decaying fortunes of the cathedral and its ap-
pendages. In excavating under the high altar the bones of
three persons were discovered, and the Archbishop caused
a prods verbal to be drawn up to show that they were the
veritable remains of the Apostle James and his disciples
Athanasius and Theodore, and this was transmitted to
Rome. After four years of study by the Sacred Congregation
of Rites, the Pope, on the twenty-second of May, 1884, con-
firmed the proces verbal, and from one end of the Peninsula
to the other there were great rejoicings, and the famous
patron saint was restored to the confidence and veneration
of the whole nation. It does not appear, however, that there
has been a great revival of industries in the precincts of the
sacred city of Santiago. The era of pilgrimages seemingly has

The devotion of the ruling pohtical parties to the Church
and their close attachment to the Papal Concordat have had
more than one deleterious effect upon the country. Probably
the most serious of these is the iUiterate condition of the
people, Spain being the least educated of the nations of
Western Europe. Such has not always been its condition.
In the time of the Empire the Roman cities of the Peninsula
were the centres of learning. The names of Lucan and Mar-
tial, the Senecas and Quintilian, natives of Spain, bear evi-
dence of the intelligence of its sons. During the Arab domin-
ation its civilization, its universities, schools, and hbraries
were so celebrated that they were frequented by Christian
students from all countries of Europe, while the latter slept
in ignorance. In Spain the mediaeval Hebrew literature also
reached its highest development. In its golden age, following
the expansion in America, the universities of Spain were again
the centres of learning, and the Spanish language and liter-
ature, as well as its customs, controlled the Courts of Europe.


Until very recently the education of the people has been
under the control of the Church. Even so enlightened a
statesman as Senor C^novas, at the restoration of the mon-
archy, reversed the liberal policy as to educational matters
which had been established after the expulsion of Isabella,
and he caused a series of religious test acts to be passed and
enforced them vmflinchingly upon the imiversities and high
schools. As a result a considerable number of professors who
refused to submit, including some of the most eminent names
in Spain, were ejected from their chairs and thrown into
prison. Senor Juan F. Riano, who at various times was
Director of Public Instruction in the Sagasta ministries,
sought to mitigate these enactments, and of late years the
control of the Church in educational matters has been

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Online LibraryJohn Watson FosterDiplomatic memoirs → online text (page 23 of 27)