3 NOVEMBER 1866, Page 8


THERE are, we believe, among us men who are to poli- ticians what some collectors are to artists, that is, not politicians but curious in politics, delighted to examine new constitutions, eager to study new statesmen, willing to spend thought and time over new specimens of incident. It is not, to change the figure, that the grand drama interests them profoundly, but that special scenes do, that they like to see how the new trap-door works, what effects the new machinery can produce, what is to be hoped from the hitherto unknown tragedian or actress. To all such, as well as to all setious politicians, we commend for close watchfulness the present situation in Spain. A very great problem is working itself out in that country, which ought to test the truth of many of the laws upon which far-sighted politicians are wont to rely. According to the theories accepted almost universally among Englishmen, a very few months ought to witness the outbreak of a revolution in Spain much more thorough in its ends, in the first changes it will secure and the effect it will exercise upon the national fortunes, than any which has as yet agitated that great country. English Liberals, for example, hold almost as dogmas that it is impossible for an independent European Government to recede fax without imminent danger ; that the reign of obscurantism cannot be reintroduced except temporarily without an outbreak; that a regime of mere repression is certain to end in an explosion ; that government by the sword leads to swift bankruptcy; that no modern people, if really a people, that is independent of external restraints, can be replaced under the re'gime of the Middle Ages. Well, Queen Isabella of Spain, under conditions not unfavourable, is putting all those pro- positions to the test. She is deliberately trying to govern as Philip II. might have tried to govern had he been provoked by sufficient resistance, to carry out the Bull against civili- zation, to transform an organized if imperfect State into a despotism of the older fashion. Inspired, it would seem almost certain, by that passion of bigotry which at forty descends on some Continental women like a cloud, and from which few Bourbons have ever been wholly exempt, the bigotry which springs at once of satiety and faith, she a few months ago dismissed Marshal O'Donnell, who was a despot of the modern or Cassarist type, a man without scruples but with eyes, and called to the Vizierate Marshal Narvaez, with Gon- zales Bravo for Grand Executioner. To them she entrusted the task, of which Louis XIV. once dreamed, of restoring Spain to orthodoxy, of suppressing whatever institutions, or persons, or forms of civilization were inconsistent with the limitless sway of Rome. The Vizier accepted his mission and went to work with that clear-cutting audacity, that supreme confidence in will, that contempt for all rights visibly in the way which characterizes the East. All Spain was treated as if in a state of siege. Decrees were held to be equivalent to laws ; the Cortes was silenced by the simple expedient of dis- pensing with its attendance. The entire system of education was revolutionized in a day, the Supreme Board being sum- marily dismissed, to make room for priests and laymen more fanatical than priests, and all teachers suspbcted by the local priesthood of Liberalism being placed at the disposal of the Bishops. All Liberal newspapers were suppressed, and their editors in many instances deported. All other newspapers and books were placed under a rigid censor- ship. Any expression even in society reflecting on the Queen, or the Church, or established order was declared a crime punishable as treason. All municipal bodies were abolished as "centres of disaffection" and replaced by juntas nominated from Madrid and "amenable to ideas of discip- line." And finally, a reign of terror was established over in- dividuals, families suspected of Liberalism being seized by the score,—more than 150 in Barcelona alone in one day,—and either deported to the tropical island of Fernando Po, a doom almost worse than death, or thrown into prisons which no Howard has ever cleansed. The French papers which still receive some few letters from Madrid declare that the prisons are full to bursting, that the Queen drives out only amidst a guard of cuirassiers, that all Madrid only waits its turn to undergo the penalty of being suspect. All Spain in fact is not only under martial law, but martial law as administered in Jamaica, among negroes, and by Mr. Eyre. Silence reigns throughout the land, silence as of men expecting death, or of troops expecting immediately the order to close for action. The Vizier has done his work thoroughly, has stretched the power of the sword to its logical extent, and Spain is at this moment governed as Philip H. governed her,

on the same principles, more cruelly applied, and for the same ends. The great experiment of open war against modern civilization, of an avowed and determined attempt to restore the past, has been tried by a man competent to his task, with means adequate to his end, and amidst

circumstances singularly propitious. Spain, however dis- affected it may be to the reigning Sovereign, and we question whether active dislike is not confined to the cities, is essentially monarchical, and is, moreover, hampered by accident in its choice of Sovereigns. It has no cadet branch to use of the sacred House. One Bourbon of the Spanish branch is as bad as another, and of the French branch there is but one re- maining, a childless and feeble old man. The Italian Bourbons are the Spanish branch over again, with their bad qualities intensified ; and against the Orleanists, who stand next, the Emperor of the French has either issued his veto or is fully believed in Spain to have issued it. The Duke de Montpensier is not worth a war with France, and no idea of the Hapsburgs, who failing the Bourbons would be the " legitimate " Sovereigns of Spain, seems ever to cross the Spanish mind. The malcontents are thrown back as it were violently on the idea of a Republic, which would in a month be Federal, and is therefore out of the question ; or on a totally new election, which would not impress the populace ; or on the House of Braganza, which would bring a glorious dowry, but is as much disliked in Spain as the Stuarts were in England, and has as its head a man who—who is not fitted at all events to regenerate an empire. Then the mass of Spaniards are still orthodox to a certain degree, and regard oppression in the name of the Church much as Scotchmen regard oppression upon Catholics,—as something which is disagreeable to their judgments rather than revolting to their secret instincts of right. The Church is of course strongly on the side of the experiment, and the Church, powerless for initiative, is still strong to paralyze popular emotion, while the Army all over the Continent obeys, for a time at all events, the power which avowedly makes the sword supreme.

Why, then, do we, in common with all Liberals, believe that the experiment must fail, must sooner or later pro- duce an explosion amidst which the last Bourbon throne left standing in Europe will probably disappear ? Because right is stronger than wrong? Scarcely, for though that is an ultimate law, still Ferdinand of Naples, who did all Isabella of Spain is attempting to do, died quietly in his bed a crowned King, and the penalty fell only on his comparatively guiltless successor. Because a people can never be kept down for long by a national army Scarcely, for France is so kept down, and we have no more proof that the Spanish peasant hates despotism than that the French peasant detests 0838ariSM as long as it benefits himself. It is because we believe that no despotism, and especially no Legitimist despotism, and most especially no Legitimist despotism seeking clerical ends, can in these days keep itself from going too far. It is too con- scious of the permeating power of light, and therefore too timid, too suspicious, too violent and revolutionary in objects and modes of action. Sooner or later, and usually very soon, it goes too far, does something which alienates the people to such a degree that it is left without foothold, like a tree sawn through, which falls if a bird but light on a drooping branch. In Spain the momentum which will overturn the tree is pretty sure to come from the side of the Church, which, being guided by what it deems conscience, and not by earthly wis- dom, cannot rest until its conscience is satisfied, which, again, when the Church is the Roman, can never in modern society occur. Either the soldiery will be irritated—as the Legion of Antibes have been—by the interference of priests, or the towns will be excited by some tax essential to the rehabilita-

tion of the Church, or, what is most probable of all, some menace will be held out to the lay owners of clerical pro- perty, one-third of Spain. The priests will never surrender their design of recovering their vast estate, the Queen never be convinced that she did not sin in sanctioning that "spolia- tion," the new owners never be satisfied that they have a shilling secure while Father Claret reigns in the Queen's closet. It is in that direction that the explosion ought to come, but even if fire be kept from that magazine, the explo- sion, by all the laws which govern political forethought, cannot be long delayed. Despotism such as that of Narvaez, a despotism radically different from Cassarism, because it seeks the welfare of the throne and the Church instead of that of the masses, may be borne resignedly for years by the passive section of the people, but it does not attract them, while it stings every other section into strong hostility. It excites deadly dislike in all Liberals, in all sceptics, in all secularists, and even in Spain those three classes make up a great section of the people. It irritates statesmen by superseding them for soldiers, worries the cities by restricting municipal movement and making securities worthless, frets the squirearchy and the peasants by making the titles to estates uncertain. Above all, it alienates the Army, by making it feel that it is amenable to priests, by shutting up all roads to success save one, and that one of which soldiers are always impatient, and by the favouritism which inevitably follows on a triumph of per- sonal rule. Every natural defence of the throne is struck with dry-rot, till, as in the Neapolitan case, a King sur- rounded by tried counsellors, by a great army, and by the prestige of centuries, may be banished from his throne by a mutineer who arrives in a railway carriage.

The explosion is certain, and we judge that this time it will be fatal to the Bourbons, simply because they are, in this instance, the incumbent matter. The Queen, and not the Cabinet, is sitting upon the valve. A mere Legitimist might be forced to change her Cabinet, but how is a Catholic lady to be forced to change her confessor I—and while the con- fessor remains the system of which he is the keystone will remain also. The Church will, and indeed can, compromise nothing ; and the Queen having identified herself with the Church, the nation can meet only the inexorable non-possumus, against which reason and menace and prayer alike dash in vain. Force alone remains, and the recent coup d'etat has brought the Queen of Spain face to face with a-. people who, in that very coup d'itat, see that there is no security save in her dismissal, no compromise possi- ble between civilization and the Church which does not com- mence with her dethronement. She is accumulating on herself all the hatred which priestly government engenders plus all the risks to which the old despotisms are exposed, is defying the nation without relying heartily on the Army. If the Liberal tests are true, and we believe them, the hour is fast approaching when the last reigning Bourbon, the last of the House which in 1848 filled four thrones, will have passed unregretted into the exile which swallows kings.