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Interesting Revelations[338]

Karl Marx

London, May 26, 1857

O'Donnell's speech in the Spanish Senate on the 18th of May contains most curious revelations of the secret history of cotemporaneous Spain. His betrayal of Espartero and his coup d'état having paved the way for Narvéez, the Polacos[339], in their turn, are now trying to rid themselves of the latter. To this purpose Gen. Calonge, himself a Christina rebel of 1843[340], and the Captain-General of Pampeluna at the time of the outbreak of the revolution in 1854[341], was induced on the 18th of May, during the Senate's debates on the address to the Queen[a], to move a series of amendments to the paragraph recommending a general amnesty. In a virulent attack on military insurrections in general, and on the military insurrection of 1854 in particular, he demanded "that the policy of conciliation should not go the length to encourage, by granting absolute impunity, incorrigible perturbers." This stroke, premeditated by the friends of Sartorius, was aimed at O'Donnell as well as at the Duke of Valencia (Narvéez). The Polacos had, in fact, ascertained that O'Donnell would seize upon the first occasion to denounce Narváez. as his secret accomplice in the insurrection of the camp of the Guards. Such an opportunity was, accordingly, offered to O'Donnell by General Calonge. To prevent the threatened explosion, Narváez ventured upon a desperate maneuver. He, the man of order, justified the revolution of 1854, which, he said, was "inspired by the loftiest patriotism, and provoked by the excesses of the preceding cabinets." Thus, at the very moment that Mr. de Nocedal, the Minister of the Interior, was proposing to the Cortes a Draconian press-law, Narváez, the chief of the ministry, acted in the Senate as the advocatus diaboli[b]—the vindicator of revolution and military insurrection. But in. vain. During the subsequent sitting of the Senate, on the 18th of May, while forced by the Polacos to recant his censure of "former Cabinets," Narváez had, at the same time, to writhe under O'Donnell's indiscreet revelations, the truth of which. he himself admitted, by complaining that "O'Donnell had revealed private and confidential conversations," and by asking "what confidence could now be placed in friendship!" In the eyes of the Court., Narváez is now a convicted rebel, and before long will have to give way to Bravo Murillo and Sartorius, the sure forerunners of a new revolution.

The following is a literal translation of O'Donnell's speech:

"O'Donnell—I cannot remain silent in this eminently political discussion, after the important -events that. have occurred since the. last meeting of the Senate. The part I have played in these events obliges me to speak. The chief of the rising of the camp of the Guards: the author of the programme of Manzanares[342]; the War Minister in the Cabinet of the Duke of Vittoria[c]; summoned, two years later, by the crown, under solemn circumstances, to save the crown and endangered society; fortunate enough to obtain that result without being forced, after the combat, to shed one drop of blood or to pronounce a single sentence of banishment—I should have felt obliged to take part in the pending discussion. But it would be a crime to keep silence after We accusations directed by General Calonge against myself and the worthy generals who, during two years, were connected with me, and, in the days of the crisis, assisted in saving society and the crown. General Calonge has described as a rebellion the rising of the camp of the Guards. Wherefore? Has .he so soon forgotten all the events that preceded it, and, in due course, would have precipitated the country into a revolution not to be subdued? I thank the President of the Council for the energy with which he has repelled the accusation of General Calonge. It is true that, in thus acting, he displayed the energy of one that defends his own cause [Profound sensation]. Being obliged to crater into details indispensable for the vindication of this fact, wishing above all to dismiss from these debates whatever might bear a personal appearance, I should feel grateful if the President of the Cabinet deigned to answer the following questions: Is it true that the Duke of Valencia[d] was, since 1852, united by close ties to the "Generals of Vicalvaro? Is it true that he was informed of all their undertakings since the closing of the Senate after the vote of the 105? Is it true that he was disposed to join them in the accomplishment of their projects? Is it true that, although prevented from doing so by motives which respect, he, nevertheless, sent later on one of his aides-de-camp to congratulate us upon our triumph?"

"Narváez—After the words the Count of Lucena has addressed to me, must declare that in all he planned and afterward executed, in the form in which he planned and executed it, I did not participate at all, whatever may have been our former relations."

"O'Donnell—The President of the Cabinet has answered in the manner he thought the most opportune. I should have liked not to be obliged to give further explications, but, as I am driven to it, I shall give them. Everybody knows that, in the year 1852, there reigned in politics the most profound calm. Unfortunately for the Government and the country, then, for the first time, began to be whispered the words, 'Constitutional Reform.' The gentlemen of the Senate will recollect the agitation produced by the apprehension of a coup d'état. They will not have forgotten the numerous re-unions then taking place between political men, and in which an address to the Queen was resolved upon. To that address were appended many signatures, but it was not presented. The Cortes were convoked, and some days afterward, the Gaceta published the projects which produced such an effect in this very Chamber that, the Government suffered a serious defeat in the election of the President. The Cortes were then dissolved. The most important men of the moderate party united then in order to protest against that measure; the Duke of Valencia being nominated as the President of the re-union. For fear lest the Government should obstruct the re-unions, a committee was appointed, over which the Duke of Valencia was again elected to preside, and of which Messrs. Mon, Pidal, and other important personages, were the most active members, Beside the protest, the legality of the new elections was mooted in this committee. Two or three days after the Duke of Valencia's departure for Bayonne, the Bravo Murillo Cabinet retired. The Count d'Alcoy succeeded Bravo Murillo. The Opposition remained the same, and when the Cortes assembled, a manifest, drawn up by the Duke of Valencia, was handed to the Senate. The Senate dropped it, but it became then evident that the Opposition was assuming formidable proportions. The Cabinet of Count d'Alcoy was succeeded by that of Gen. Lersundi; then the Ministry of the Count of San. Luis was installed. I regret being obliged to enter into certain details, but the moment has arrived of speaking of my own political relations with those who joined me in the camp of the Guards. I received, and all of us received, before the Duke of Valencia's return to Spain, one of his confidants, with whom he had had a long conversation, and to whom, while deploring the lamentable situation in which the country was placed, and uttering apprehensions as to the dangers menacing the throne and the Constitution, the Duke said that there remained one escape only—the to force [Sensation]. The Sartorius Ministry authorized the return to Spain of the Duke of Valencia. He went first to Madrid, and then retired to Aranjuez. There we had a conference with him. He communicated to us his patriotic feelings, which I am ready to admire, although I am unable to support the Cabinet he actually presides over. He declared to us that the situation made an appeal. to force inevitable: that, from particular motives, he could not pronounce first, but that the second sword to leave the sheath should be his; adding that, in. the present state of things, the rising of two regiments of cavalry would suffice to decide the revolution. This declaration was made to us in the mariner the most categorical. The Cortes were opened. Fully convinced that all legal means would be, tried in vain, the Duke of Valencia, instead of entering the Senate and taking the lead of the Opposition, withdrew to Loja. Everybody knows what then occurred in the Cones; all remember the famous vote of the 105. The Government, nevertheless, thought not fit to resign. The Cortes were dismissed, and then a regime of unheard-of persecutions was initiated. The Generals who had voted against the Cabinet, the most eminent political men, the journalists of the Opposition, were sent into exile; organic changes in every direction were announced: the forced loan was proclaimed; in one word, the Government outlawed itself. Now, I ask you, clan' you affirm that in this country, where all parties, when in opposition, did always conspire, there has ever been a revolution more legitimate than that of 1854? As to myself, 1 left the modest abode where I had hidden myself during six months. I left it on horseback, followed by some generals and some regiments, with a view to overturning a Government that so shamefully was trampling down a constitution 1 had sworn to defend as a general and a senator. We arrived at Vicalvaro, where, to my great regret, the combat was engaged. There were neither victors nor vanquished. On both sides the troops fought gallantly. The garrison had to return to Madrid, while we remained at Vicalvaro. On the following day, according to what was agreed upon with the Duke of Valencia, we marched through Aranjuez in the direction of Andalusia. In the province of Jaen there sojourned Gen. Serrano, who had promised us his support. We arrived at Manzanares, where he met us, saying that those who had promised to follow him had disbanded, and that he came alone to share our lot. It was then that I published a manifest, and, as I am not used to deny my own acts, I shall tell what was at that moment preparing. By emissaries I was informed of all Madrid occurrences. All important men of the moderate party were involved in the movement. Only it happened—what is sure to happen—that on the planning a thing, you may rely on the concourse of a great number of men, the most zealous of whom disappear when the hour of action sounds. I was told that we were not likely to be seconded by the people, whom the Ministry endeavored to persuade that the movement arose out of merely personal squabbles, and lacked any fixed political principle. This was the motive of the publication of the manifest of Manzanares, which contained two important points:

"Constitutional Reform, such as I in my quality of President of the Cabinet, later on, proposed to her Majesty; and the

"National Militia, not as it was actually "organized, but, as I intended making it, a true element of order.

We left Manzanares, and wrote to the Duke of Valencia a letter, signed by myself and four other generals, declaring that if he presented himself we should appoint him our commander-in-chief. The Duke sent us an aide-de-camp with the message that he had fallen sick and was narrowly watched. It has been said that we were resolved upon flying to Portugal. This is false. We had, on the contrary, resolved to withdraw to the Sierra Morena, to establish our cavalry at Barrios, to stop all the wagons loaded with provisions, and to improve the first occasion for presenting ourselves before Madrid, when suddenly the news of the fall of the Sartorius Cabinet and the appeal made by the Queen to the Duke of Vittoria was imparted to us. From that moment my mission was put an end to. Gen. San Miguel, the Minister per interim[e], sent me word to return to Madrid. I obeyed, with the firm resolution of not entering the Cabinet. The Crown had removed the Duke of Vittoria, all relations with whom I had dropped since 1840. The same men who afterward accused me of having joined his Cabinet, came, on the very night of my arrival at Madrid, supplicating me to accept the War Ministry, as the only, means of saving order and society. All these men belonged to the moderate party. I saw the Duke of Vittoria, and, at this point of my relation, I should feel much embarrassed if his own manifest did not warrant me in clearing myself front malignant imputations. Espartero embraced me cordinally, and said that the time had arrived of dropping all dissensions between Spaniards; that it had become impossible to govern with one single party, and that it was his firm resolution to appeal to all men of influence and morality. I observed the situation at Madrid. The barricades stood still erect, the garrison was but very small, but the people, always judicious, inspired me with great confidence. My second interview with Espartero was rather cool; he offered me the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and of the Colonies. I made him aware that, on entering the Cabinet, I should decline every other place but that of War Minister. Then he told me that of all men I was most fit for fulfilling the functions of Captain-General of Cuba. I replied that, having already served in that quality, I should not like to return to Havana, and rather withdraw to private life; but I entreated him immediately to form a Ministry, and not any longer to abandon the nation to the dangers of a provisional state. Shortly afterward General Salanza, the originally-appointed War Minister, called upon me, in the name of Espartero, to accept the place of War Minister, and the same night I was sworn in with my colleagues. There were only two courses for me to take—either to leave the revolution to itself until its own excesses engendered a reaction, or to stop it in its march. The former part was the easier one; my honor and the interest of the country made me adopt the latter. I do not repent it. Our first discussion took place in regard to the Constituent Cortes. Mr. Collado, who sits among us, knows all our disputes on this point. Our efforts were baffled. The decree for the convocation of the Cortes was signed. The general election took place—not, as Mr. Tidal said, under governmental pressure, but with an unlimited liberty. The majority of representatives was composed of men sincerely wishing the welfare of the country. With a firm government, the Constitution would have been established in four months. But Espartero's proverbial weakness of character—not as a military man, but as a politician—rendered every governmental action impossible. I did not continue forming part of the Ministry with a view to betray my colleagues, as the Duke of Vittoria erroneously supposes. I clung to my post- from the very motives which had made me canvass it. I remained in order to check the overflow of the revolution."

After a very clumsy apology for his coup d'état, O'Donnell concluded his speech with the declaration that he could not support the Cabinet of Marshal Narvéez,

"since it had announced its intention of following a line of policy not in harmony with representative government."

Written on May 26, 1857
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5038, June 12, 1857


[a] Isabella II.—Ed.

[b] Devil's advocate.—Ed.

[c] Espartero.—Ed.

[d] Narváez.—Ed.

[e] In the meantime.—Ed.

[338] Marx's Notebook has the following entry concerning this article: "May 26. O'Donnell's speech in the Senate, on the 18th of May."

[339] The Polacos was the name adopted in the mid-eighteenth century by the admirers of the de la Cruz theatre in Madrid. In the mid-nineteenth century it was applied to the coterie of the Count San Luis (former journalist Sartorius), whose government ruled Spain from September 1853 to July 1854, i.e., up to the outbreak of the fourth Spanish revolution (1854-56).

[340] Marx is referring to the counter-revolutionary mutiny (pronunciamiento) organised in May 1843 by generals Narváez, Conche and others against the dictatorship of Espartero, leader of the Progresistas. Some of the Progresistas, dissatisfied with the dictator's policy, supported the mutiny. On July 30, 1843, Espartero fled from the country and General Narváez, a leader of the Moderados (see Note 136↓), who found support among the big landowners, became dictator. The reaction set in till the fourth revolution (1854-56).

[341] Marx means the beginning of the fourth bourgeois revolution in Spain (1854-56) (see notes 137↓ and 342) which brought to power the Espartero government of the Progresistas and Right-wing liberals.

[342] A reference to the proclamation issued by generals O'Donnell and Dulce on July 1, 1854 after the mutiny of the Madrid garrison on June 28 with the aim of overthrowing San Luis' ministry and seizing power. On July 7 in Manzanares, La Mancha, the proclamation, known as the Manzanares programme was adopted. It envisaged the preservation of the monarchy, but the removal of the Court camarilla, the observance of the laws, formation of a national militia and other points. By adopting this programme O'Donnell and his followers sought to win the support of the masses.

[136] Moderados, a party advocating a constitutional monarchy and representing the interests of the big bourgeoisie and liberal nobility, was organised at the beginning of the bourgeois revolution of 1820-23. In the 1840s and 1850s one of its leaders was General Narváez. The liberal-bourgeois Progresista party was formed in the 1830s. The Progresistas found support among the urban middle and petty bourgeoisie, intellectuals and some officers. Their principal demand was for restriction of the powers of the monarchy.

[137] A reference to the events in Madrid in June-July 1854 which started the fourth bourgeois revolution in Spain (1854-56). In July 1854 the Cabinet reshufflings caused by an uprising in the army and disturbances in the city brought to power the Ministry of the Duke of Rivas (Ryos y Rosas also became its member). It was nicknamed "the shrapnel ministry" for the way it suppressed the uprising. The Ministry's activity led to a new uprising, and the Ministry had to resign.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.284-288), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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