Spain – Government And Administration

SINCE September, 1818, when a revolution upset the Government of Isabella II., Spain has passed through a series of revolutions and convulsions, terminating in December, 1874, in the accession of Alfonso XII., a son of Isabella. Soon afterwards the revolt in the Basque provinces raised by Don Carlos, the ” legitimate ” king of the country, was suppressed, and the work of internal organization could begin. The legislative power is rested in the King and the Cortes. These latter include a Senate and a House of Deputies. The Senate consists of hereditary members (such as royal princes and grandees), of life members chosen by the King, and of senators elected by corporations. The members of the House of Deputies are elected for five years. The President and Vice-President of the Senate are appointed by the King, who enjoys the right of dissolving the Cortes on condition of fresh elections being ordered within three months.

These governmental revolutions scarcely affected the administration of the country. The treasury is always empty, the annual receipts do not suffice to pay the interest upon. the national debt, taxes have increased, the conscription demands more men than ever, and the schools diminish in numbers.

The political and administrative divisions of the country have remained the same since 1841. Spain is divided into forty-nine provinces, including the Canaries. Each province is subdivided into districts, and has its civil governor. The communes are governed by an alcalde, or mayor, assisted by an ayuntamiento, or municipal council, of from four to twenty-eight members. The judicial administration is modelled on that of France. There are 9,100 justices of the peace (one for each commune), abolit 500 inferior courts, 15 courts of appeal, and a supreme court sitting at Madrid.

For military purposes continental Spain is divided into twelve districts, each under a captain-general. These are New Castile, Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, Valencia with Murcia, Galicia, Granada, Old Castile, Estremadura, Burgos, Navarra, and the Basque provinces. The Balearic Isles, the Canaries, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines constitute five additional districts. Military service is compulsory, but substitutes are admitted on payment of a heavy ransom. The annual levy varies exceedingly, and as many as 80,000 men are officially stated to have been levied in a single year, though 60,000 would appear to be the utmost the population can supply. The terni of service is seven years in the cavalry and artillery, eight years in the infantry, of which three are passed in the “provincial militia.” About 100,000 men are supposed to be actually under arms in the peninsula, 130.000 are on furlough, -and 70,000 men are stationed in the colonies, mostly iii Cuba, where about one-fourth of the total strength perish annually.

The principal fortresses are St. Sebastian, Santona, and Santander, on the Bay of Biscay ; Ferrol, La Coruna, and Vigo, on the rias of Galicia ; Ciudad Rodrigo, on the Portuguese frontier; Cadiz and Tarifa, at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar ; Malaga, Cartagena, Alicante, and Barcelona, on the Mediterranean ; Figueras, Pamplona, and Zaragoza, at the foot of the Pyrenees.

The navy consists of l23 steamers, propelled by engines of 24,694 horse-power, armed with 755 guns, and manned b% 14,000 sailors and 5,500 marines. Six of these vessels are ironclad frigates. The number of superior officers is exceedingly large, and their salaries weigh heavily upon the treasury.

Officially the privileges of the nobility have been abrogated. The number of ” noblemen ” is, perhaps, larger in Spain than anywhere else in Europe, for the population of entire provinces, such as the Vascongadas and the Asturias. claims to have ” blue blood ” in its veins. In 1787 no less than 480,000 ” gentlemen ” were enumerated, not including minors, and if the proportion is the same now, there must exist at the least 3,000,000 Spaniards who claim to be hidaljos, or ” sons of somebody.” About 1,500 grandees are privileged by custom to remain covered in the presence of the King, and about 200 of these belong to the highest rank. All of these do not, however, owe their rank to birth, for many plebeians, taking advantage of the financial miseries of the country, have succeeded in getting themselves ennobled. The order of the Golden Fleece, founded in 1431 by Philip the Good, is one of the distinctions most coveted by princes and diplomatists.

The Roman Catholic religion is that of the State, and its prelates enjoy great privileges, but all other confessions are supposed to be tolerated. The schools, unfortunately, still remain in the hands of ecclesiastics, who likewise exercise a censorship with respect to pieces to be produced on the stage. Formerly Spain was the most priest-ridden country in Europe. At the close of last century there were 144,000 priests, 71,000 monks, and 35,000 nuns, but only 34,000 merchants. War and revolutions played havoc with the conventual institutions, but as recently as 1835 they still harboured 50,000 inmates. Subsequently the whole of them were suppressed, and in 1869 the last Spanish monk retired from the Carthusian monastery of Granada to find a refuge in Belgium. Since then, however, the laws of the land have again been relaxed in favor of monks and priests. There are 9 archbishops and 54 bishops.