TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE SPANISH VACANCY.
OTHER thrones fall, but Bourbon thrones collapse. Before one clearly realizes in the case of any of them that the monarchy is seriously sick, collapse has set in and all is over. French loyalty collapsed thus under Charles X. in 1830, and almost as soon as he knew his danger he knew that he was an exile. Spanish loyalty collapsed in like fashion under Christina, the Queen Regent of Spain, in 1840, and she, too, was an exile, before the country well knew that she was in open enmity to the nation's will. Louis Philippe, sagacious as he was, found the loyalty of France collapse under him as suddenly as it had collapsed under Charles X., and he, like almost all the other Bourbons, made no last fight to retain it. So, too, the throne of Naples collapsed under the late King, at a mere touch, so to say, of Garibaldi's finger,—though in this case it must be admitted that a tenacious struggle was made for the lost cause. In Spain the revolution has been not an earthquake, but a mere bursting bubble. Isabella, close to the frontier from the first, and never venturing to do more than get into the train that would have taken her to her capital, has vanished from her kingdom without a struggle and apparently without a sigh. She preferred her favourite Marion to her people. She had no wish, so say various reports, either to reign herself or let her son reign over a "shameful people," a nation " of robbers and assassins," and so within twelve days of the landing of the exiled Generals at Cadiz, after only one incidental engagement,—that in the streets of Santander,—for the battle of the bridge of Alcolea, near Cordova, seems to have been a mere mock engagement, in which the royalist troops had no intention of seriously fighting for their Sovereign,—she has departed from her kingdom, hus- band, favourite, son, and all, for a French watering-place, intending, it is said, to join her maternal predecessor in exile. Let us hope that Europe is finally free, at least of this branch of the Bourbons. In the meantime, as a humorous Dean of the last generation said to himself when he suddenly felt himself under the head of an omnibus-horse in a London fog, " there is a vacancy." Europe, however, seems rather tran- quilly curious than anxious to know how the leaders of what is called the revolution in Spain, General Prim and Marshal Serrano, will advise the Constitutional Convention for which they are asking, to fill it up.
If any one thing seems certain concerning the military and popular movement which has thus succeeded almost without an effort in driving the worst monarch left in Europe out of her kingdom, it seems to be that its cry throughout has been, " Down with the Bourbons !" It is unlikely, we think, that any change should be made in that programme. The Duchess of Montpensier might, indeed, have a chance, for she and her husband were almost the last persons whom Isabella and her ministers had the power to insult. That, of course, in the present state of the Spanish mind, would tell in her favour ; but France would certainly be very hostile to a course that would, after all, virtually seat one of the Orleanist family on the throne of the neighbouring kingdom ; nor did the experiment of exchanging a bad Bourbon for another more liberal, answer so well in France, that Spain would be likely to regard the omen as auspicious. This, no doubt, is not a consideration for statesmen, except so far as it tells upon the popular feeling. But it is pretty certain that there would be a natural repugnance to mix up Spain at present with the fortunes of a family supposed to be still candidates for any French vacancy that may occur.
The most rational course of any that should adhere to the Royalist principle, would be to attempt a union with Portugal, and to offer the throne to the dynasty of the weaker State, in return for the almost certain merging of Portugal in Spain, which would, in all probability, result from the union of the two king- doms. We do not know, nor does any one in England appear to know, how far the feeling in favour of a Union with Portugal prevails in the Peninsula. In Portugal there is very naturally a considerable jealousy of a union which must result in making Portugal assume something the same relative political position to Spain which Scotland bears to England. And there is, again, in this solution the obvious difficulty that such a Union could not but irritate the susceptibilities of France, and tend to pro- duce a European war. The Emperor has already precipitated the unification of one great kingdom on his Southern border. And the consequence to French feeling has been anything but agreeable. Probably nothing has shaken his throne so much as the rise of Italy into a great power, so rapidly followed by the rise of Germany into a still greater power. Napoleon would scarcely be allowed by French feeling to look on indif- ferently while Spain and Portugal coalesced into a third great power on the French frontier. Besides, the House of Braganza is already closely allied with the House of Savoy, and France would doubtless see in such an aggrandizement of the former, the certain and immediate downfall of the power she still exercises. at Rome. This objection seems to be so serious that we think it will probably extinguish any hopes which the King of Portugal may indulge of being invited to fill the vacant throne. At the same time, we believe it is true that Marshal. Serrano, in one of his former political freaks, did declare himself in favour of a union with Portugal.
But if neither the one Bourbon still popular in Spain, nor the monarch who would bring an accession of territory, is likely to be chosen, we can see absolutely no reason for fetch- ing in a King from the outside, merely to fill an empty space in the Spanish Constitution. A king who has a great. hold over the affections and imaginations of his people is a real addition, and a great addition, to the strength of national unity. But a king who has been simply advertised for,—a King whom none of his subjects know till he comes among, them, and who has no talisman in his name to strengthen the nation,—a king made for the purpose, and not made,. moreover, for the purpose of ruling, but only for the purpose of looking on while others rule, does not seem to us an element. of strength at all. We believe the wish for such a King to bo- a mere superstition of modern constitutionalists. When we- changed our dynasty in 1688, we sent for a man known to us as a respectable general, a statesman of the first order, and a firm Protestant devoted to a Protestant foreign policy,—and for all these purposes William was to us at the time especially need- ful. We wanted him not as a constitutional pageant, but as a. true ruler. But if we should ever again be so unfortunate as' to wish to change our dynasty, now that the royal power is, well understood to be one exercised overthe society rather than the politics of England, one planted in the affections rather than in the political wants of the people, we do not suppose that• there would be a possibility again of importing a new family merely for the sake of filling the formal vacancy. Certainly- when we hear it said that " the fanciful notion of a republic, if ever entertained, has been postponed," we are quite unable to discover, first, why the notion is fanciful, and next, on what. evidence it is said that it has already been postponed. It is certain that the idea of the revolution is a thoroughly popular- government, that Serrano and Prim have no notion of putting a despot, even if a respectable despot, on the throne. There is no country in Europe where the provincial customs and feelings are so well marked, so jealous of each other, so• anxious for a distinct life as in Spain. If popular strength is wanted, as it surely is wanted, for the new regime, no policy would be likely to bring more of it than an experiment in the direction of closely federated provinces. Certainly, to pass it by, for no reason on earth, as merely " fanciful," would be extremely silly. Greece is by no means prospering under its successive experiments at advertising for kings. And there is something to us at once helpless and humiliating about the process of borrowing a figure-head for a nation that wishes and resolves to govern itself. What is likely to happen no one yet knows. If the union with Portugal be impossible, we sin- cerely hope that the conventional and, as far as regards human beings, very unsuccessful plan of making a Queen-bee, will not. be tried again.