Robert Walter Bruère.

The Century, Volume 31 online

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* Father, forgive my executioners, pardon my
persecutors, for they know not what they dol'
Great is the religion of power, but greater is
the religion of love. Great is the religion of
implacable justice, but greater is the religion
of pardoning mercy. And I, in the name of
that religion, — I, in the name of the Gospel,



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C A STELA R. THE ORATOR.



appeal to you, legislators of Spain, tp place in
the front of your fundamental constitution
liberty, equality, fraternity with all mankind! "
Then, facing the clerical deputies, he ex-
claimed: "Gentlemen, you are at war with
the Head of your church ! Were I a priest, I
would pray, * God bless these legislators, who
are enacting on earth thy justice and thy
grace ! ' "

The utterances of Castelar, as strong and
rhetorically surpassing as they must be ac-
knowledged to be in any tongue, lose some-
thing of their proper cadence and effect in
translation. His diction, converted into Eng-
lish, has frequently the appearance of redun-
dance, and even of hyperbole. He should be
heard and read in Spanish. No language but
the sonorous and poetic speech of Castile,
majestic as Homer, musical as the plashings
of the Mediterranean on the shores of his
native land, could fitly voice his eloquence.*

In the temperature of his opinions Castelar
belongs both to the older and newer time. As
a mere artist of expression he bears traces of
kinship to three literary men of modem Europe
besides Victor Hugo. These are Lamartine,
Henri Taine, and John Ruskin. His diction
more than theirs, however, is instinctively that
of the forum. But his utterances, like theirs and
imlike the froth of reputed eloquence, will go
into the history of literature.

Compared with Gambetta, his only con-
temporaneous rival as an orator, it may be

* The following description of Castelor's personal
appearance is given by Colonel John Hay, in his
"Castilian Days": «*0n the extreme left of the
chamber is a young face that bears an unmistakable
seal of distinction. It reminds you instantly of Chan-
trey's bust of the greatest of the sons of men. The
same pure oval outhne, the arched eyebrows, the piled-
up dome of forehead stretching outward from the eyes
until the glossy black hair, seeing the hopelessness
of disputing the field, has retired discouraged to the back
ofthenead. This is Emilio Castelar, the inspired tribune
of Spain. This people is so given to exaggerated phases
of compliment, that the highest-colored adjectives have
lost their power. They have exhausted their lexicons
in speaking of Castelar, but in this instance I would
be inclined to say that exaggeration was well-nigh im-
possible. It is true that his speech does not move
with the powerful, convincing momentum of the great-
est English and American orators. It is possible that
its very brilliancy detracts somewhat from its effect
upon a legislative body. When you see a Toledo blade
all damaskeened with frondage and flowers and stories
of the gods, you are apt to think it less deadly than
one glittering in nakea blueness from hilt to point.
Yet the splendid sword is apt to be of the finest tem-
per. Whatever may be said of his enduring influence
upon legislation, it seems to me there can be no differ-
ence of opinion in regard to his transcendent oratori-
cal gifts. There is something almost superhuman in
the delivery. He is the only man I have ever seen
who produces, in very truth, those astounding effects
which I have always thought the inventions of poets
and the exaggerations of biography. Robertson,
speaking of Pitt's oratory, said, ' It was not the tor-



said that Castelar's genius is far less purely
administrative and political than was Gam-
betta's.

If the effects aimed at by the oratory of
Gambetta were more immediate, those pro-
duced by Castelar are farther reaching. If
there wasmore terror in the Gaul, there is
more grandeur in the Goth. Gambetta spoke
always to France ; Castelar to the world. The
Frenchman was the embodied genius of poht-
ical force achieving instant ends by the weight
of a mighty and aggressive personality ; the
Spaniardis a scholar, a poet, a philosopher who
entrances his fellows with the spell of ideas.

As a statesman Castelar is marked not only
by the catholicity but by the sanity of his in-
tellect. With an imagination as radiating as
light, a tolerance liberal as air, and a spirit of
deathless insurgence against every form of
unrighteous authority, he has not been led to
the Utopias. He has said, " I have never be-
lieved that to dethrone the kings of the earth
it was necessary to destroy the idea of God
in the conscience nor the hope of immortality
in the soul."

Defending his favorite idea of government
— the government that shall " accord liberty
to every manifestation of the human spirit " —
he exclaims : " We must have an end of all
persecution of ideas. I condemn the govern-
ments of France and Prussia when they op-
press the Jesuits ; I condemn the government
of Russia when it oppresses the Jews ; I af-

rent of Demosthenes, nor the splendid conflagration
of Tully.' This ceases to be an unmeaning metaphor
when you have heard Castelar. His speedi is like a
torrent in its inconceivable fluencv, like a raging 6re
in its brilliancy of color and terrible energy of passion.
Never for an mstant is the wonderful current of dec-
lamation checked by the pauses, the hesitations, the
deliberations that mark all Anglo-Saxon debate. An
entire oration will be delivered with precisely the
fluent energy which a veteran actor exhibits in his
most passionate scenes ; and when you consider that
this is not conned beforehand, but is struck off instantly
in the very heat and srasm of utterance, it seems little
short of inspiration. The most elaborate filing of a
fastidious rhetorician could not produce phn^ of
more exquisite harmony, antitheses more sharp and
shining, metaphors more neatly fitting, all uttered with
a distinct rapidity that makes the despair of stenogra-
phers. His memory is prodigious and under proper
discipline. He has the world's history at his tongue's
end. No fact is too insignificant to be retained nor too
stale to do service.

" His action is also most energetic and impassioned.
It would be considered redundant in a Teutonic
country. If you do nut understand Spanish, there
is something almost insane in his gesticulation. I
remember a French diplomat who came to see him
in one of his happiest days, and who, after look-
ing intently at the orator for a half hour, trying
to Iff what he was saying, said at last in an injured
tone, ' Mais ! c'est un polichinelle, ceIui-14.' It had
not occurred to me that he had made a gesture.
The whole man was talking from his bead to his
feet"



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CA STELA R, THE ORATOR.



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firm that to persecute ideas is like persecuting
light, air, electricity, or the magnetic fluid, —
because ideas escape all persecution; when
repressed they explode like powder." But he
has ever repelled that delirium of liberty which
is the dream of the communist, the socialist,
and the intransigeant.

Nothing has more marked the public ca-
reer of Castelar than his friendship for Amer-
ica. He neglects no opportunity to express
with glowing words his admiration of the in-
stitutions of the United States. There are single
sentences in which he has analyzed to the core
the history and character of our Anglo-Saxon
democracy, and which contain .the most master-
ful descriptions ever drawn of our national life.*

In addition to the numerous volumes of
his speeches, the literary works of Senor Cas-
telar, consisting of novels, dramas, reviews,
and essays on government, composed in the
hours seized from public duties, constitute a
small library in the Spanish language. Those
of his writings accessible in English are his
essays contributed to EngUsh and American
magazines, his papers on Byron and Dumas,
and a portion of his notable Recuerdos de
Italia^ translated some years since by Mrs.
Arthur Arnold, under the tide of " Old Rome
and New Italy."

In these latter years the utterances of

* In a recent letter to an American residing in
Madrid (as correspondent of the New York Herald)^
answering his request for Sefior Castelar*s views on
the prop>osed commercial treaty with the United
States, he says :

•* It pleases me as regards the United States, the
nation of my predilection being, as I am, republican,
for its stipulations tend toward fuller politico-economic
relations, thus inaugurating a new and progressive
mercantile policy with the nation which discovered the
New Worla, and which, by reason of that discovery,
should justly exert great influence therein. . . .



Castelar are listened to by his partisans in
Spain with almost that worshipful enthusiasm
accorded to those of Victor Hugo in France.
It is conceived of him by his countrymen
what Cicero saidof Ennius, " that with him will
die an art of word-painting which no coming
man can restore ! " The more memorable of
Castelar's recent public appearances are the
occasions on which from time to time he has
delivered addresses before the Royal Academy
of Madrid, and those of his speeches on his
tours through the provinces.

Like Cavour and Gambetta, whom in so
many respects of person and career 'he re-
sembles, Castelar is a bachelor. In a quiet
street of Madrid he keeps his modest home,
supporting himself, at the age of fifty-three as
at thirty, with tireless literary labors. The ser-
vice of his country has left him rich only in
honor. Every worthy book issued from either
the English or American press, as from that of
the Continent, he acquires for his ample library.

Nine years ago, moved with a consciousness
that he might again be of service to his coun-
trymen, Castelar returned to Spain from a two
years' absence on his second wanderings over
Europe, and took his seat in the Cortes, deputy
elect from the republican city of Barcelona.
Making a vow to accept himself no office
under any form of government save that

I believe that the United States will esteem Spain the
more as their relations with us, here or in tne New
World, increase. . . . These are my hopes and
my desires ; for, as when slavery was abolished in
Porto Rico during my administration and preparations
made for doing awav with slavery in Cuba which
could not be realized for want of time, and as when
initiating and concluding the negotiations in the cele-
brated Plrginius case, it has ever been my purpose as
a liberal, as a republican, as a democrat, to strengthen
more and more the constant historical friendship be-
tween our people and the American people."



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REMINISCENCES OF CASTELAR.



of a republic, with the keen sagacity of a
practical statesman he allied himself with
Sagasta, chief of the dynastic Liberals, to
regain such liberties for his country as were
possible under the monarchy of the restored
Bourbon. Once more the thunders of his elo-
quence, rising above the walls of the chamber
of the Cortes, rang over Spain in appeal for
the lost rights of the Revolution. By that



spiral law of history which he confidently in-
voked, the appeal has been measurably
answered. Led by the Latin Qladstone, Sa-
gasta, and cheered on by the Republican
chiefs, the forces of Liberty in Spain have
made undoubted progress, — though again
and again this progress has been doomed to
undergo temporary eclipses under such reac-
tionary administrations as those of Canovas.

William Jackson Armstrong,



REMINISCENCES OF CASTELAR.



MUCH as an enthusiastic collector of art-
treasures possesses some inestimable gem,
to be carefully guarded from profane touch
and exhibited on occasions for the applause
and, it may be, the envy of less fortunate
collectors, Spain has its Castelar. Next to
Cervantes, his name has become known abroad
better than that of any other Spaniard. To the
people of the United States, especially, it has
become endeared ; for Castelar is in our eyes
the embodiment of the republican idea, in a
land where traditional religious faith and in-
grained obedience to the extremest tenets of
absolutism offered an unpromising soil for the
development of democracy. In this stony
ground Castelar has long been a tireless worker,
but the sowing of the seed has been done by
other hands. Orense, Figueras, Pi y Margall
were the creators, the prime movers of modem
Castilian republicanism; but to the marvelous
eloquence of Castelar is due most of the
fructifying growth that culminated in the Re-
public of 1873, and, unfortunately, in the
communistic excesses that undermined it to
its fall.

Spaniards call him " the glory of the Cas-
tilian rostrum." In a land where fluency
is a national trait, where the caf6s with
their nightly crowds are nurseries of debate,
where the political clubs are the scene of
maturer flight, and where the populace judge
of the merits of candidates for municipal
and national representation almost wholly
by their merits as public speakers, it is
no slight triumph to tower above all, and
stand alone and imapproachable, as the one
great orator. Athens, say the Spaniards, had
its Demosthenes, Rome its Cicero, and we
have our Castelar. As one of this godlike
trinity, the world at large is invited to admire
him. No stranger has seen Spain who has not
seen Castelar.

Qaien no ha visto Sevilla
No ha visto maravilla.



It was my good fortune to meet Castelar
in the autumn of 1869, when he was flushed
with the triumph of " the greatest effort of
his Hfe," his fervid speech on the Spanish
Constitution. The first impression one has
on seeing him is that nature has exhausted
herself in building a perfect machine for hu-
man vocal utterance. Slightly above the
middle height, and stoutly built without posi-
tive corpulence, his notably erect carriage
gives to his splendidly rounded chest seemingly
titanic proportions. The effect is enhanced,
perhaps, by his habit of wearing a low-cut
waistcoat and a slender necktie, leaving a
snowy expanse of linen, on which a rare ink-
spot at times attests the absorbing character
of his studious pursuits. A low collar shows
the prominent sinews of a neck of almost
taurine contour. Square, powerful jaws en-
frame a large, straight-cut mouth. The lips,
slightly sensuous in their fullness, are half-
hidden by a heavy moustache of wiry, dark-
brown hair, curved enough to relieve it from
the suspicion of bristliness. He is alwa)^
clean-shaven as to cheek and chin, which
makes the clearness of his slightly florid com-
plexion more noticeable, and brings into relief
a rounded button of a mole just below the
left corner of his mouth. I saw no trace of
stubble on his face, even in the saddest days
of the Republic, when he, the responsible
head of its power, saw the inevitable end ap-
proaching, and, like poor Lincoln after Fred-
ericksburg, might have said, "If there is a
soul out of hell that suffers more than I, God
pity him!" His head, thrown well back,
tip-tilts his nose more than nature intended.
It might be a better nose, but he seems to be
satisfied with it. The eyes are limpid, neither
strikingly large nor dark, but they have a
way of looking one frankly through and
through, as with self-consciousness of integrity
of convictions. Well-rounded brows slope
upwards into a somewhat receding forehead.



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made more conspicuous by baldness. One
looks, and sighs for the superhuman frontal
bulk of Webster. Castelar's chin, too, is inad-
equate. It is delicately rounded, but there
ought to be more of it. If he had possessed
Serrano's forehead and chin, the Spanish
Republic might have been a living thing
to-day.

But his voice ! Like Salvini's, once heard it
is never to be forgotten. Whether in the softly
modulated tones of conversation, when the
peculiar Andalusian accentuation is now and
then characteristic, or rising to the sober force
of demonstrative declamation, or trembling
with feeHng, or sweeping all before it in a wild
Niagara of invective, it is always resonant.
His slightest whisper pierces to the farthest
comer of the Hall of Deputies, his fiercest
Boanerges-blast is never harsh. This orator
found his chiefest implement ready fashioned
to his use. He never had to fill his mouth with
sea-shore pebbles.

I saw him make his famous speech on the
bill for Cuban emancipation. Madrid was
agog for weeks beforehand. It was announced
that Castelar was to make the grandest effort
of his life. Tickets for the galleries were
eagerly sought. Every deputy was in his
seat, every nook was filled. The initial pro-
ceedings interested no one. A Spaniard said
to me, " All Madrid has come to a Castelar
matinee."

His gestures, like those of most Castilian
speakers, were ceaseless and somewhat exag-
gerated. Some seemed to be peculiar to him-
self. I remember one in particular, when,
with fingers loosely interlaced and palms
upturned, he seemed to winnow a double
handful of nothing for a minute or two. It
accompanied a passage of marvelous pathos,
descriptive of the sad condition of the slave.
Another, which is, I think, a national gesture,
consists in taking an idea, as it were, between
the forefinger and thumb of the right hand,
holding it up, turning it around, showing it
on this side and that, above and below, as if
it were a gem with many facets, and at the
last releasing it, high in air, like some living
thing, to speed through space. This generally
accompanies some didactic demonstration.
At times the redundancy of gesture is almost
pantomimic. One would, perhaps, then recall
Salvini's description of his escape in " La
Morte Civile." The grandest part of that
emancipation speech was the apostrophe to
Lincoln. Step by step he drew the picture
of the great emancipator's life and life-work,
** until, at the last, that nothing might be
wanting to his glory, not even martyrdom,
like Socrates, like Christ, like all redeemers,
he fell at the foot of his finished work, his work.



upon which humanity will forever shower its
tears and God his benedictions I " And the
prolonged thunders of applause that followed
did an American heart good.

The speech accomplished little. It passed
as a splendid pageant. Castelar advocated
immediate emancipation in Cuba and Puerto
Rico; the measure for gradual enfranchise-
ment prevailed. Oratory like Castelar's is
mostly on the side of the minority, and not,
as a rule, to be measured by results. Its
faculty seems to be critical and subversive,
rather than creative and conservative. If
Castelar were not in opposition, he would not
be Castelar.

Perhaps the most vivid association I have
of Castelar belongs to the memorable night
after King Amadeo's abdication, when the
Spanish Republic was formed. The Senate
and House met in the Hall of Deputies and
coalesced, with doubtful constitutionaHty, to
form a Constituent Assembly. The result was
known to be a foregone conclusion, and as
the hours wore on in routine and in needless
debate, the impatience of the Assembly and
auditors increased. Castelar spoke but little.
As reporter of an appointed committee, he
presented a finely turned address to Amadeo,
accepting the renunciation of the crown.
Later he spoke, urging moderation and the
adoption of federal organization. It was late
at night when the vote was reached, to choose
between the Republic and the monarchy. It
was overwhelmingly for the Republic, 259 yeas,
32 nays. Estanislao Figueras, the grand, con-
sistent Federalist, to whom more than any
man Spain owes what it has of true democratic
teaching, was elected President of the Execu-
tive Power of the Spanish Republic. The cab-
inet was chosen too, Castelar being Minister
of State. One by one, as their names were an-
nounced, they left their seats in the Assembly
to range themselves on the Blue Bench where
royal ministers had sat. There was silence in
the auditory, save a brief applause as each
name was called, but it was a silence of emo-
tion, and strong men hugged each other and
wept because the Republic had come at last.
And the main figure in my recollection is that
of Castelar, more erect than ever, his eyes
brimming, his hands tightly closed, moving
down the central passageway from the seat
he modestly occupied on the left at the rear,
and entering the Blue Bench next after Fi-
gueras. His dream had come true !

A few days later General Sickles was form-
ally received by Figueras as envoy of the
United States. The President was surrounded
by his cabinet, after the traditional Spanish
fashion, Castelar on his right. The speeches
made and hands shaken, Castelar violated all



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REMINISCENCES OF CASTELAR.



rules of ministerial decorum by hugging me,
in the odd Castilian way, patting my back
with one hand, and crying, " We have lived to.
see this day at last ! "

We lived to see other and darker days for
the Republic. Administration succeeded ad-
ministration with the shifting indistinctness
of a nightmare. The phantasm of Carlism
loomed ominously on the northern horizon.
The work of framing a Constitution aroused
hopeless dissensions in the party. Casielar's
idea was a true federation, each of the old
kingdoms of Spain to be a sovereign state,
and all banded in a common pact. Of the
ultra states-rights doctrine was bom the
hydra of communistic secession. It was
Castelar's fate to be chosen President in sea-
son to confront the Commune of Murcia.
His rule was undeniably weak. Contrary to
all the teachings of his life, he found himself
reduced to the obnoxious resort of a central-
ized military autocracy, and compelled to lean
for aid on generals of royalist proclivities. To
add to his perplexity came the disastrous inci-
dent of the Virginius, He did his best to
avert a rupture with the United States, but at
the cost of prestige at home and in the Antilles.
At length, outvoted in the Assembly, he retired
to private life with unfeigned relief, and with
him the Republic fell. It would have been
better for him had he never felt the burden
of responsible power.

Since then Castelar's position in the political
world of Spain has been anomalous. Opposed
by his own party in Barcelona, he has been re-
turned to the Chamber through the toleration
of the monarchy. Abstaining from all revolu-
tionary plottings, he has proclaimed himself
a " Possibilist," unprepared to actively com-
bat any government which may bring consti-
tutional peace to Spain. Formerly a bitter
opponent of army power, and enthusiastic in
his admiration of the absence of a great stand-
ing army in the United States, he came to
advocate a military government like that of
Germany as the highest human achievement,
and contrasted the compulsory service of the
Landwehr and Landsturm with that of Eng-
lat^d and the United States, whose soldiers he
said were "mercenaries and hirelings." Once



steadfastly opposed to the death penalty in
the army, he later urged it because, he
said, " the soldier would not face death
unless certain death were behind him if he
recoiled."

Castelar does not appear to have been re-
garded by the royalist governments of later
Spain as a dangerous opponent. On the con-
trary, there has been something akin to and
perhaps overpassing toleradon, in his conser-
vation of a place in the passive minority. He
speaks as of old, but rarely, and is ever " the
glory of the Spanish rostrum."

Of the character of his oratory it is not
easy to speak. His discourses do not bear
close analysis. Cdnovas, Alonso Martinez,
Sagasta, Mdrtos, and many others are his mas-
ters in debate. In fact, Castelar is not a good
debater. Set speeches are his peculiar province.
I have heard it said that they are written and
committed to memory. Taken unawares by a
shrewd logician, whom florid generalities will
not silence, he does not show to advantage.

His style is, to our more sober Saxon think-
ing, redundant, and laden with tropes and
metaphors. His reasoning is essentially poet-
ical ; imagination outweighs logic, and similes
and illustrations take the place of argument.
His rhetorical manner may be evidenced by a
sentence I find in an album, — and, by the
way, I know of no man more ready than
Castelar to give his autograph, with a senti-
ment attached :

" Faith," he writes, " may change its aim,
but ever remains in the depths of human
nature as the supremest virtue, impelling to



Online LibraryRobert Walter BruèreThe Century, Volume 31 → online text (page 138 of 168)