Page images
PDF
EPUB

1901.)
Spain.-The Autumn Session.

[323 Señor Gonzalez, who certainly undertook arduous responsibilities. The religious question had grown envenomed, and the troubles which it excited became more and more anarchical in character. At Saragossa blood had again been shed (July 17), on the occasion of a procession, when a young and impetuous vicar had broken the handle of a banner upon some hostile demonstrators. The state of siege had been proclaimed at Seville. Some Carlist plots had been discovered at the two extremities of the Pyrenees. Nevertheless the vacation passed more quietly than there had seemed reason to hope. The division which occurred at Barcelona between Catalanists and Federalists weakened the attitude of opposition almost immemorially sustained by that town. The newspapers made great capital of an incident which occurred in the waters of Algeciras, where some Spanish Custom-house officers had confiscated a torpedo discharged in the course of manoeuvres by English sailors, and also of the two poor Spanish shepherds who were taken prisoners on the coast of Morocco by some Kabyle brigands. Such events as these, which might pass almost unnoticed in the course of a Parliamentary session, were carefully worked up during the monotonous months of summer. A Carlist movement rapidly arrested in Igualada and a general strike at Seville were the other incidents of the Parliamentary vacation.

The session re-opened on October 21. The Ministers had tried to come to an accord on the Budget, and had arrived at an arrangement reducing expenses as much as possible. This was not until differences in the Cabinet had all but led to its disruption. The Minister of Public Works had refused to submit his Budget to Señor Urzaiz on the pretext that he was the equal of the Minister of Finance. Señor Sagasta, however, had soothed the irritated amour-propre, and the Cabinet appeared, if not very homogeneous, at least unanimous. A prolonged debate began at once in both Chambers. In the Senate the bishops took the Count of Romanones to task with reference to the reforms introduced by him in the curriculum of secondary education. They demanded that public education in all its grades should be submitted to the inspection of the episcopate. The Minister of the Interior was attacked with equal energy by the Bishop of Oviedo. Señor Sagasta explained in a clever, energetic and successful speech that in no other country had the clergy such great immunities as in Spain ; that the invasion by the French orders would result in many inconveniences, and that the heads of those orders had been formally asked not to enter the kingdom. In the Chamber the debate turned equally to the advantage of the Ministry. The majority firmly supported the Liberal Nestor, and approved the financial proposals of Señor Urzaiz. On the other hand, the elections for the municipal councils (Nov. 10) gave a majority to the Opposition at Barcelona, Valencia, Tarragona and Valladolid. Disturb

ances of exceptional gravity agitated the University of Catalonia. The rector was dismissed by the Minister and then re-instated in his office, though the reasons for such a volte-face did not very clearly appear. This affair provoked an important discussion in the Chamber on Catalanism. The head of the newly formed party, Señor Robert, expounded in the tribune the programme of the party : the Catalanists wished to remain Spaniards, but they claimed the right to use their own dialect, to coin money, to be represented by a Parliament and governed by officials entirely Catalonian. Señor Silvela, like Señor Gonzalez, opposed these pretensions, and the Chamber ended the debate by a vote in favour of the Ministry.

The death of Pi y Margall, and the imposing obsequies which were celebrated over his body at Madrid, gave the Republicans an opportunity for a demonstration, which the Government allowed without difficulty, and which ended without disorder. The same cannot be said for the ceremonies at the christening of the Infanta of Spain, born November 30, her mother being the Countess of Caserta. The University of Madrid, in particular, was the theatre of wild and tumultuous scenes, of which the enemies of the Minister of Education sought to take advantage for the purpose of upsetting him ; this plot did not succeed any better than that which was directed against the Minister of Finance. Señor Urzaiz had brought in a bill authorising the Custom houses to exact the payment in gold of the duties imposed on goods entering and leaving the kingdom. While waiting for this sanction the Minister issued a decree (Dec. 1) ordering the collection in gold provisionally. The Opposition seized the opportunity to propose a vote of censure, which was rejected in the Chamber by 113 votes to 63, the Conservatives having refrained from voting so as to avoid a crisis. Señor Urzaïz wished to resign, but the Premier intervened personally, and arranged that the commission appointed to inquire into the bill should be composed of his own friends. This arrangement satisfied nearly everybody—the President of the Council, as showing that he still maintained supreme authority; the Opposition, because it had proved its moderation; and the Minister of Finance, because he was able to collect his gold. The taxpayers alone thought themselves injured ; but in Spain, as elsewhere, it is almost always at their expense that political quarrels are settled. Thanks to these arrangements the Budget was voted in the Chamber on December 27, and on the 30th in the Senate. It amounted to 936,000,000 pesetas of receipts and 933,000,000 pesetas expenditure. The most noticeable change was that which handed over for the future to the State the payment of the teachers of primary education, which had hitherto been a charge on the communes.

Even in Spain the subject of education and technical instruction took a leading place in public attention.

1901.)

Portugal.- Religious Troubles.

[325

VI. PORTUGAL.

The century opened in Portugal with an act of mercy. The King granted (Jan. 1) a general amnesty to all those convicted of political and Press offences; a remission of a quarter of their penalty was granted to those convicted under the common law. On the following day the session of the Legislature opened; the King congratulated himself on the visit of the British fleet, and pointed out that in regard to the South African war Portugal had been able to maintain its neutrality, and at the same time practise those duties of hospitality which good international relations suggest. During the debate on the Address, the Deputy Fetschin, a partisan of the English alliance, vainly urged the Cortes to demand from the Government new bills aiming at that alliance. His proposal was negatived, and the neutral policy maintained ; as a sequence of this vote diplomatic relations were renewed with the Low Countries, and the Count of Selir returned to his post at the Hague.

The King, who went to London on January 24 to be present at the funeral of Queen Victoria, was obliged to hurry back because of disturbances at home which were surprisingly like those in Spain. In both countries the dynastic and monastic questions are apt to become merged. A fresh instance of this was seen in the Chamber (Feb. 8) when a bill was introduced to repeal the sentence of banishment formerly pronounced against the descendants of Dom Miguel of Braganza. This proposal was rejected by a majority of 21 to 17. Such a small majority appeared alarming, and the Liberal party proclaimed the danger. Just at the

moment the Brazilian Consul at Oporto, Senhor Calmon, wished to oppose the entrance of his daughter into a convent; whereon a party of fanatics, among whom was the editor of a Catholic newspaper, tried to enter the house of the Consul and to carry off the young girl. On February 24 serious disturbances took place. The police intervened with some roughness, and, as usual, arrested chiefly the Republican demonstrators.

The Council of the Industrial Institute met and urged the Government to prosecute the authors of the illegal arrests. On February 26 there were renewed disturbances ; questions were asked of the Government in the Chamber, and the President of the Council announced that they were determined to make the law respected by the religious orders, and so much the more as they had no legitimate existence in the country. The Government of Brazil ordered Senhor Calmon to return to Rio de Janeiro, and demanded explanations. A fresh interpellation was made (March 5). Senhor Fernandez attributed the violence committed at Oporto to the boldness of the Ultramontanes and the weakness of the Government, which had not enforced the law of 1834 as to the congregations. The mob turned these arguments into violent action. There

same

were riots at Oporto (March 9); the Colleges of the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family were pelted ; at Lisbon there were demonstrations in which cries hostile to the Queen were heard.

The Queen was supposed to be à Clerical and the King a Freemason, particularly since his visit to London. The report (March 13) that, under Jesuit influence, a very rich girl had entered a convent in spite of the opposition of her parents completed the public excitement. A deputation of thirty persons, belonging to the business section of Oporto, went to Lisbon, obtained an interview with the King, and demanded from him that order should be established and the laws enforced. The religious orders, on their part, complained of persecution ; and announced that, if the Franciscans were banished, Cardinal Netto, the Archbishop of Lisbon, would follow them into exile. Nevertheless, new members of the orders were arriving by every steamer, attracted to Portugal by the climate and the power of the congregations.

The serious step taken deliberately and very respectfully by the delegates from Oporto drove the Government to take action. An inquiry was opened (March 21). Two days later some chapels which had been illegally opened were closed ; French ladies of the Réparatrice Order, German Benedictines, Italian Franciscans, Jesuits from all countries, were ordered to disperse. But the British Minister protested against the inspection of the Irish monasteries, which were under the protection of the British flag; the Spanish Minister also interfered in defence of the members of the orders. Blood was shed at Setubal, where lancers charged the mob. The Catholics organised themselves for resistance. A deputation was sent to the King, and the Pope wrote to Cardinal Netto to express to him his pleasure in seeing that the bishops, the clergy, and the faithful were defending the entire preservation of the congregations and their rights. This letter had been addressed directly, without passing through the hands of the Foreign Minister, which was a new grievance for the patriots, to whom the Government gave compensation by issuing (April 20) a decree as to the conditions imposed on the congregations before they could get authorisation. A six months interval was allowed before the property of the refractory orders would be secularised.

The Cortes had been prorogued on March 27 ; it was not summoned again, and after an interval of some weeks was dissolved (June 2), and the elections fixed for October 6. The Parliamentary vacation was occupied by a state journey of the King and Queen to the Azores, whither their squadron was escorted by the British fleet. The elections strengthened the position of the War Minister, Senhor Pimentel Pinto, but did not restore confidence to the business world. In December the general assembly of the Bank of Portugal gave evidence of their uneasiness by a vote refusing to approve the

1901.) Denmark.-Budget and Taxation Bills. [327 new agreement proposed by the Government. The question of finance remained a constant difficulty.

VII. DENMARK.

In the history of Denmark 1901 will stand out as a year marked by a political event of greater importance than any to be found in the record of the last half of the preceding century. For in this year there was at last brought about the consummation of the hopes and the labours of two or three previous decades—the overthrow of the Conservative Government and the acceptance by the King of a Liberal Ministry in harmony with the sentiment of an overwhelming majority of the Lower House and of the nation at large. For a number of years the Conservative party had been losing ground, but the leaders were loath to relinquish office, and the King was not supposed to be in favour of a Ministry chosen from the Opposition, who, it must be admitted, more especially in former years, had shown but scanty consideration to the Throne. The Conservatives, however, were at last obliged to give way, and the King, in the most cordial and gracious manner, acquiesced in what had become the only natural solution.

The untenable and unenviable position of the Government and the approaching general election robbed the latter part of the Parliamentary session of 1900-1 of any special interest. On January 8 the Financial Committee had completed their report on the Budget. As in former years, the Government proposals had been in various ways curtailed, but no serious exception was taken to this, and on March 16 the discussion was brought to an end. M. Hage, of the Left Reform party, commented in landatory terms upon the financial policy of the Folkething during the last few years, when his party had influenced the proceedings in the House ; whilst M. Harold Holm, Moderate Left, severely criticised both the financial doings of the Reform party and the Government's impotence. The Social Democrat, M. Klausen, strongly condemned the Budget. The Minister of Finance pointed out that although the financial position was by no means alarming, the Folkething had made it somewhat difficult for the Exchequer to find the money for some of the expenses they recommended. The Budget was then passed unanimously by 62 votes, and forwarded to the Landsthing, which did not think it expedient to raise any serious opposition, but passed it on March 27. The auxiliary Budget was also in due course disposed of by both Chambers. The Taxation Reform Bills again occupied much of the Rigsdag's attention, but although the Government took up a conciliatory position, and although three important measures were under consideration in a joint-committee of Members of both Chambers, the question was left undecided. The Taxation Bills, however, had no small share in upsetting the Conservative Government, inasmuch as

« PreviousContinue »