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Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 4

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During the reign of Louis Philippe the French chamber was little better than a mockery of representative government. It contained 200 members who were government functionaries, two-thirds of them being removable at pleasure. An eight-pound qualification was required for the suffrage; and such is the minute sub-division of land, that this gave only 280,000 electors for a population of 32,000,000. This number was subsequently reduced to 180,000 by the operation of the law of inheritance, which, by compelling the division of a farm between the children, continually disfranchised numbers, and thrust them out of the pale of the constitution. The extent to which this sub-division of land was carried is shown by the fact that 10,200,000 distinct properties were registered as paying land-tax, and of this number not more than 1,000 paid £40, which proves the paucity of large estates. These legal impediments to agricultural progress were not counteracted in their influence by facilities for the creation of national wealth by means of manufactures and commerce, because the French statesmen and people were wedded to the system of protection, and were as jealous of anything like reciprocity of commercial advantages as the most ignorant and stationary people in the world. Yet such was the effect of only five years of public tranquillity under the government of Louis Philippe, that the country enjoyed unexampled prosperity; and M. Thiers, the minister of the interior, could say at the commencement of the session of 1835, " If any man had predicted in July, 1830, a revolution will take place - it will subvert a throne, and yet for four years not a scaffold will be erected - for four years the country will be in security, and not only in the enjoyment of peace, but surrounded with a cordon of constitutional states - tranquillity will prevail throughout Europe - the national prosperity will be superior to anything known under the restoration, after fifteen years of peace - instead of national bankruptcy, the deficiency in the revenue caused by the restoration gradually will be reduced: had such language been held, would it have been credited? And yet these results were not imaginary; they were real, and admitted of incontestable proof. In Switzerland aristocratic government had been replaced by popular government; the hostile kingdom of the Netherlands had been dissolved; the monkish government of Ferdinand of Spain had been replaced by a constitutional monarchy; Don Miguel had been replaced on the throne of Portugal by Donna Maria. How had these results been accomplished without a war, and with the consent of Europe? By the wisdom of the ministerial system. "

M. Thiers had not much to boast of in the constitutional monarchy of Spain. For, whatever were its merits in comparison with the systems that preceded it, it had not the merit of securing good government, protecting life and property, and maintaining public tranquillity. During the summer of 1836 that unhappy country, always more or less disturbed, was the scene of fresh tumults and insurrections, breaking out at different points, at Malaga, Cadiz, Seville, and Cordova. The constitution of 1812 was proclaimed, and provincial juntas established in defiance of the queen's authority. Madrid was also the scene of insurrection, which was repressed, and the city was put in a state of siege. Soon after, a more determined demand was made for the constitution of 1812, when a regiment of militia forced themselves into the apartments of the queen regent, in spite of the remonstrances of the French and English ambassadors, and extorted from her a promise to accept that constitution. This daring act was the signal for a general rising in the capital. The prime minister, Isturitz, fled to Lisbon, and there took his passage for England. He was fortunate in escaping with his life, for had he fallen into the hands of the enraged populace, he would probably have shared the fate of general Quesada, the military governor of Madrid, who was caught about three miles from the capital, and killed. Order was at length restored by the queen regent proclaiming the constitution, subject to the revision of the cortes and by the appointment of a decidedly liberal administration, which commenced by calling for a conscription of 50,000 men to carry on the war against the Carlists, whose property was, to a large extent, confiscated. The constitution so imperatively demanded by the people was first proclaimed at Cadiz in 1812, and again by Riego in 1820. It was now brought forward once more, and on the 24th of February, 1837, adopted by the general cortes assembled for the purpose, having been previously revised by a committee. According to this constitution, all Spaniards might freely print and publish their opinions, provided they were not contrary to the religion of the state; all the provinces were to be subjected to a uniform code of laws; and all Spaniards were to be alike eligible for public offices, according to their merit and capacity. The penalty of confiscation was prohibited. The cortes was to consist of two legislative assemblies - a senate and a congress of deputies - possessing co-ordinate rights and powers. The senators were to be chosen for life, must be possessed of independent fortunes, and not under forty years of age. One deputy was to be returned for every fifty thousand souls in the population, and they were to be elected for three years, parliament meeting annually. The powers of the crown were analogous to those of a British sovereign. He was not to be responsible, and his person was to be sacred and inviolable. The succession was to be in the order of primogeniture, preferring in the same degree the older to the younger, and the male to the female branch. If a queen regnant marries, her husband cannot take any part in the government of the kingdom. The independence of the judges and judicial administration were secured. A remarkable tribute to patriotism was paid by the new legislature. An act was passed providing that the orphans of all those who had died " martyrs to the cause of liberty " since 1823 should be adopted by the nation, and that the names of Riego, Empecenedo, Torrijos, Mina, and others, should be inscribed in the churches.

The Spanish revolution had a marked effect on French politics. M. Thiers and his colleagues had been pressing for an effective intervention against Don Carlos; but they were unable to overcome the reluctance of the king to send a French army into Spain, even to sustain the regime which the king had recognised and approved. This was completely superseded by the changes that had just taken place. He should now interpose, not to protect the reigning dynasty against pretenders, but to take part in a war between constitutionalists and liberals of different shades. When, therefore, Louis Philippe was asked to send aid to the French legion of volunteers serving as auxiliaries in Spain, and to adopt other measures against the Carlists, as the only means of preventing the queen's government from being carried away by the torrent of revolution, he positively refused; whereupon M» Thiers and five of his colleagues resigned, having been in office for nine months. In the new administration, the name of M. Guizot appears as minister of public instruction.

Spain and Portugal are so bound together by natural sympathy, that they generally share the same vicissitudes. Bad feeling had arisen between the national party and the government in consequence of the appointment of prince Ferdinand, the husband of the queen, to be commander- in-chief of the army. Other causes increased the popular discontent, which was at its height when the public was electrified by the news of the Spanish revolution. The ministers were obliged to make concessions; but, besides being inadequate, they were too late. The steamboat from Oporto was loaded with opposition members, who were received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of welcome. On the 9th of September the clubs had everything arranged for a revolution, and a mixed array of troops of the line, caçadors, and national guards, proclaimed the constitution adopted by John VI.; and, having sung a constitutional hymn, they appointed a deputation, headed by viscount La Bandiera, to wait upon queen Donna Maria. She had first contemplated resistance, but the army would not act against the people. The national guards were in possession of the city, having occupied the Rocio Square all night, and in the morning they were informed that the queen had yielded to their wishes, appointing a new ministry, with Bandiera at its head. Some of the most obnoxious of the ex-ministers took refuge from popular vengeance on board the ships of the British squadron lying in the Tagus. Most of the peers protested against the revolution; but it was an accomplished fact, and they were obliged to acquiesce.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 4

Louis Philippe
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Attempt to assassinate Louis Philippe
Attempt to assassinate Louis Philippe >>>>

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