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The Reaction in Spain[332]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, September 1, 1854

The entrance into Madrid of the Vicálvaro regiments has encouraged the Government to greater counter-revolutionary activity. The revival of the restrictive press-law of 1837, adorned with all the rigors of the supplementary law of 1842[333], has killed all the "incendiary" portion of the press which was unable to offer the required cautionnement[a]. On the 24th the last number was given out of El Clamor de las Barricadas with the title of Ultimas Barricadas, the two editors having been arrested. Its place was taken on the same day by a new reactionary paper called Las Cortes.

"His Excellency, the Captain-General, Don San Miguel," says the program of the last-mentioned paper, "who honors us with his friendship, has offered to this journal the favor of his collaboration. His articles will be signed with his initials. The men at the head of this enterprise will defend with energy that revolution which vanquished the abuses and excesses of a corrupt power, but it is in the enceinte of the Constituent Assembly that they will plant their banner. It is there that the great battle must be fought."[b]

The great battle is for Isabella II, and Espartero. You will remember that this same San Miguel, at the banquet of the press, declared that the press had no other corrective but itself, common sense and public education, that it was an institution which neither sword nor transportation, nor exile, nor any power in the world could crush. On the very day on which he offers himself as a contributor to the press, he has not a word against the decree confiscating his beloved liberty of the press.

The suppression of the liberty of the press has been closely followed by the suppression of the right of meeting, also by royal decree. The clubs have been dissolved at Madrid, and in the provinces the juntas and committees of Public Safety, with the exception of those acknowledged by the Ministry as "deputations." The Club of the Union 334 was shut up in consequence of a decree of the whole Ministry, notwithstanding that Espartero had only a few days previously accepted its honorary Presidency, a fact which The London Times vainly labors to deny[c]. This club had sent a deputation to the Minister of the Interior[d], insisting on the dismissal of Señor Sagasti, the Jefe Politico of Madrid, charging him with having violated the liberty of the press and the right of meeting. Señor Santa Cruz answered that he could not blame a public functionary for taking measures approved by the Council of Ministers. The consequence was that a serious trouble arose; but the Plaza de la Constitución was occupied by the National Guard, and nothing further occurred. The petty journals had scarcely been suppressed when the greater ones that had hitherto granted their protection to Sagasti, found occasion to quarrel with him. In order to silence El Clamor Público, its chief editor, Señor Corradi, was appointed Minister. But this step will not be sufficient, as all editors cannot be attached to the Ministry.

The boldest stroke of the counter-revolution, however, was the permission for Queen Cristina's departure for Lisbon, after the Council of Ministers had engaged to keep her at the disposal of the Constituent Cortes—a breach of faith which they have tried to cover by an anticipated confiscation of Cristina's estates in Spain, notoriously the least considerable portion of her wealth. Thus Cristina had a cheap escape, and now we hear that San Luis, too, has safely arrived at Bayonne. The most curious part of the transaction is the manner in which the decree alluded to was obtained. On the 26th some patriots and National Guards assembled to consider the safety of the public cause, blaming the Government on account of its vacillation and half and half measures, and agreeing to send a deputation to the Ministry calling upon them to remove Cristina from the Palace, where she was plotting liberticide projects. There was a very suspicious circumstance in the adhesion of two aides-de-camp of Espartero with Sagasti himself, to this proposition. The result was that the Ministry met in council, and the upshot of their meeting was the elopement of Cristina.

On the 25th the Queen appeared for the first time in public, on the promenade of the Prado[e], attended by what is called her husband[f] and by the Prince of Asturias[335]. But her reception appears to have been extremely cold.

The committee appointed to report on the state of the finances at the epoch of the fall of the Sartorius Ministry has published its report in the Gaceta, where it is preceded by an exposé by Senor Collado, the Minister of Finance[g]. According to this the floating debt of Spain now amounts to $33,000,000, and the total deficit to $50,000,000. It appears that even the extraordinary resources of t he Government were anticipated for years and squandered. The revenues of Havana and the Philippines were anticipated for two years and a half. The yield of the forced loan had disappeared without leaving a trace. The Almaden quick-silver mines were engaged for years. The balance in hand due to the Caja[h] of deposits did not exist. Not did the fund for military substitution. 7,485,692 reals were due for the purchase of tobacco obtained, but not paid for. Ditto 5,505,000 reals for bills on account of public works. According to the statement of Señor Collado the amount of obligations of the most pressing nature is 252,980,253 reals. The measures proposed by him for the covering of this deficit are those of a true banker, viz: to return to quiet and order, to continue to levy all the old taxes, and to contract new loans. In compliance with this advice Espartero has obtained from the principal Madrid bankers $2,500,000 on a promise of a pure Moderado policy. How willing he is to keep this promise is proved by his last measures.

It must not be imagined that these reactionary measures have remained altogether unresisted by the people. When the departure of Cristina became known, on the 28th August, barricades were erected again; but, if we are to believe a telegraphic dispatch from Bayonne, published by the French Moniteur,

"the troops, united to the National Guard, carried the barricades and put down the movement."[i]

This is the cercle vicieux[j] in which abortive revolutionary governments are condemned to move. They recognize the debts contracted by their counter-revolutionary predecessors as national obligations. In order to be able to pay them they must continue their old taxes and contract new debts. To be able to contract new loans they must give guaranties of "order", that is, take counter-revolutionary measures themselves. Thus the new popular Government is at once transformed into the handmaid of the great capitalists, and an oppressor of the people. In exactly the same manner was the Provisional Government of France in 1848 driven to the notorious measure of the 45 centimes[336], and the confiscation of the savings banks' funds in order to pay their interest to the capitalists.

"The revolutionary governments of Spain," says the English author of the Revelations on Spain[k], "are at least not sunk so deep as to adopt the infamous doctrine of repudiation as practiced in the United States."

The fact is that if any former Spanish revolution had once practiced repudiation, the infamous Government of San Luis would not have found any banker willing to oblige it with advances. But perhaps our author holds the view that it is the privilege of the counter-revolution to contract, as it is the privilege of revolution to pay debts.

It appears that Saragossa, Valencia and Algeciras do not concur in this view, as they have abrogated all taxes obnoxious to them.

Not content with sending Bravo Murillo as Embassador to Constantinople, the Government has dispatched González Bravo in the same capacity to Vienna.

On Sunday, 27th August, the electoral reunions of the District of Madrid assembled in order to appoint, by general 'suffrage, the Commissioners charged with the superintendence of the election at the capital. There exist two Electoral Committees at Madrid—the Liberal Union, and the Union del Comercio.

The symptoms of reaction above collected appear less formidable to persons acquainted with the history of Spanish revolutions than they must to the superficial observer since Spanish revolutions generally only date from the meeting of the Cortes, usually the signal for the dissolution of Government. At Madrid, besides, there are only a few troops, and at the highest 20,000 National Guards. But of the latter only about one half are properly armed, while the people are known to have disobeyed the call to deliver up their arms.

Notwithstanding the tears of the Queen, O'Donnell has dissolved her bodyguard[l], the regular army being jealous of the privileges of this corps, from whose ranks a Godoy, noticed as a good player upon the guitar and a singer of seguidillas graciosas y picantes, could raise himself to become the husband of the King's niece[m], and a Muñoz, only known for his private advantages, become the husband of a Queen Mother.

At Madrid a portion of the republicans have circulated the following Constitution of a Federal Iberian Republic:

TITULO I. Organization of the Federal Iberian Republic.

Art. 1. Spain and its isles and Portugal will be united and form the Federal Iberian Republic. The colors of the banner will be a union of the two actual banners of Spain and Portugal. Its device will be Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Art. 2. The sovereignty resides in the universality of the citizens. It is inalienable and imprescriptible. No individual, no fraction of the people can usurp its exercise.

Art. 3. The law is the expression of the national will. The judges are appointed by the people through universal suffrage.

Art. 4. All citizens of 21 years of age and enjoying their civil rights to be electors.

Art. 5. The punishment of death is abolished, both for political and common crimes. The jury is to judge in all cases.

Art. 6. Property is sacred. The estates taken from political emigrants are restored to them.

Art. 7. The contributions will be paid in proportion to incomes. There will be one tax only, direct and general. All indirect contributions, octroi, and on consumption are abolished. Likewise abolished are the Government monopolies of salt and tobacco, the stamps, the patent dues, and the conscription[337].

Art. 8. The liberty of the press, of meeting, of association, of domicile, of education, of commerce, and of conscience, is granted. Every religion will have to pay for its own ministers.

Art. 13. The administration of the republic is to be federal, provincial and municipal.

TITULO II. Federal Administration.

Art. 14. It will be intrusted to an Executive Council appointed and revocable by the Central Federal Congress.

Art. 15. The international and commercial relations, the uniformity of measures, weights and coins, the Post-Office, and the armed force are the domain of the Federal Administration.

Art. 16. The Central Federal Congress will be composed of nine Deputies for every province, elected by universal suffrage and bound by their instructions. Art. 17. The Central Federal Congress is in permanency.

Art. 20. Whenever a law is to be enacted, the Administration thinking it necessary will bring the project under the cognizance of the confederation six months before if it be for the Congress, and three months if it be for the Provincial Legislation.

Art. 21. Any Deputy of the people failing to adhere to his instructions is handed over to justice.

Titulo III refers to the Provincial and Municipal . Administration, and confirms similar principles. The last article of this chapter says:

There are to be no longer any colonies; they will be changed into provinces and administered on provincial principles. Slavery shall be abolished.

TITULO IV. The Army.

Art. 34. The whole people will be armed and organized in a National Guard, one portion to be mobile and the other sedentary.

Art. 35. The mobile guard to consist of the solteros between the ages of 21 and 35; their officers to be chosen in the military schools by election.

Art. 36. The sedentary militia consists of all citizens between 35 and 56 years; officers to be appointed by election. Their service is the defense of the communities.

Art. 38. The corps of artillery and engineers are recruited by voluntary enlistment, permanent, and garrisoning the fortresses on the coast of the frontiers. No fortresses shall be suffered in the interior.

Art. 39, alluding to the marine, contains similar provisions.

Art. 40. The staffs of the provinces and captain-generalcies[338] are suppressed.

Art. 42. The Iberian Republic renounces all wars of conquest, and will submit its quarrels to the arbitration of Governments disinterested in the question.

Art. 43. There shall be no standing armies.

Written on September 1 and 2, 1854
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4185, September 16;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 972, September 19
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 680, September 23, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] Caution money.—Ed.

[b] The quotation from Las Cortes is probably taken from L'Indépendance belge, No. 244, September 1, 1S54.—Ed.

[c] Report of the Madrid correspondent of August 23, 1854. The Times, No. 21832, August 29, 1854.—Ed.

[d] Rios y Rosas.—Ed.

[e] A boulevard in Madrid.—Ed.

[f] Francisco de Asis.—Ed.

[g] The committee's findings on the state of the finances in Spain and the account addressed by the Minister of Finance to the Crown (August 25; 1854) from the Spanish Gaceta are probably taken from a report from Madrid of August 26 published in The Times, No. 21836, September 2, 1854.—Ed.

[h] Bank.—Ed.

[i] Telegram from Paris of August 30, 1854. L'Indépendance belge, No. 243, August 31, 1854.—Ed.

[j] Vicious circle.—Ed.

[k] Probably [Hughes,] Revelations of Spain in 1845.—Ed.

[l] Isabella II. Royal decree of August 25, 1854, countersigned by Leopoldo O'Donnell, Le Moniteur universel, No. 245, September 2, 1854.—Ed.

[m] Maria Teresa de Borbón.—Ed.

[332] This article is entered in the Notebook as "Freitag. 1. September. Spanien Revolution. Constitutientwurf [?]". Marx seems to have finished the article in the morning of September 2, as he used information published in the September 2 morning issue of The Times and Le Moniteur universel of the same date. The title was probably supplied by the Tribune editors.

[333] The press law promulgated in Spain on March 22, 1837 abolished preliminary censorship, but imposed high caution money and stipulated strict responsibility of authors and editors for the material published. Later several supplementary laws were passed making the prescriptions of the 1837 law more rigid; the most severe of them was the law of 1852, which reintroduced preliminary censorship. The reference is presumably to this law and not that of 1842.

[334] The Union Club—one of more democratic of the organisations which appeared at the beginning of the 1854-56 bourgeois revolution in Spain. Its members included republicans and also the utopian socialists Figueras, Pi y Margall, Orense and others. The organisation demanded universal suffrage, freedom of conscience, of the press, assembly and petition, abolition of indirect taxes and capital punishment, and also the arming of the people. At the same time it completely ignored the agrarian question. The club was closed at the end of 1854.

[335] The Prince of Asturias—a title bestowed on the Crown prince in Spain since 1850. If there were no male heirs the title was conferred on the eldest princess who lost it if a male heir was born. Here the reference is to Isabel Francisca de Asis de Borbón, Isabella II's eldest daughter.

[336] The reference is to the 45-centime tax—an addition to the four direct taxes on landowners (land tax, real estate tax, window and door tax, patent dues) the burden of which fell mostly on the peasants. The decree introducing this addition was issued by the Provisional Government of the French Republic on March 16, 1848.

[337] Octrois—tolls levied by a city on imported consumer goods, existed in France from the thirteenth century. It was repealed in 1791 during the French Revolution, but later reintroduced on some foodstuffs (salt, wine, fish, etc.).

The conscription—here a military tax on persons freed from military service.

[338] The captain-generalcies—administrative areas established in Spain in the sixteenth century in which the supreme military and administrative authority belonged to captain-generals.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.447-454), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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