Cortes of Cádiz

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Cortes of Cádiz

The placement of Joseph Bonaparte on the throne of Spain in 1808 by his brother Napoleon resulted in widespread resistance to the French organized by provincial juntas of Spanish patriots. With French troops occupying nearly all of the country by January 1810, the Central Junta of resistance at Seville turned authority over to a five-member regency to rule in the name of the captive Spanish Bourbon, Ferdinand VII. This regency, however, lacked the legitimacy of the popular resistance juntas, and thus it called for election of deputies to a General and Extraordinary Cortes that convened in Cádiz beginning on 24 September 1810. While British forces attacked the French in Spain through Portugal, the Cortes (Congress) of Cádiz directed loyalist guerrilla resistance to the French and sought to maintain the loyalty of Spain's American dominions.

The Cortes of Cádiz claimed legitimacy as the sole representative of Spanish sovereignty, assuming administration of the American dominions and granting them representation in the Cortes. In fact, colonial deputies to the Cortes played an important role in its deliberations, even though many did not reach Cádiz for some time. The Cortes supervised elections in the Cádiz region (the only area of Spain not held by the French) and throughout Spanish America for municipal offices and for the Cortes of 1812. These elections established an influential precedent for the subsequent political history of Spanish America. Many of the Cortes's actions reflected compromise between conservative and liberal deputies, but the Cortes had a discernible liberal tone, and its Constitution of 1812 became the fundamental charter of nineteenth-century liberalism in Spain and Spanish America. Colonial representation in the Cortes and the attack on aristocratic privilege and monopolies were especially important liberal advances. Although the Cortes retained the Roman Catholic Church as the established church, it suppressed the Holy Office of the Inquisition and limited the regular orders. The American representatives pressured their peninsular counterparts on free trade, on ending restrictions on agriculture and manufacturing in the colonies, and on granting them a guaranteed percentage of bureaucratic appointments.

With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Ferdinand VII replaced Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain. He immediately dissolved the Cortes and nullified all of its acts with a single decree on 4 May 1814. He refused to recognize the constitution or the Cortes, beginning a period of strong repression that lasted until the Riego Revolt of 1820, which forced Ferdinand to accept restoration of the constitution.

See alsoBonaparte, Joseph .


The primary sources for research on the Cortes are Actas de las Cortes de Cádiz, 2 vols. (1964) and El Perú en las Cortes de Cádiz, 2 vols. (1974). Among secondary works, Mario Rodríguez, The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1808 to 1826 (1978), is especially perceptive.

See also Cesareo De Armellada, La causa indígena americana en las Cortes de Cádiz (1959); Daniel A. Moreno, Las Cortes de Cádiz y la Constitución de 1812 (1964); Nettie Lee Benson, ed., Mexico and the Spanish Cortes, 1810–1822 (1966); Dardo Pérez Guilhou, La opinión pública española y las Cortes de Cádiz frente a la emancipación hispanoamericana, 1808–1814; (1981); Raymond Carr, Spain 1808–1975, 2d ed. (1982); María Teresa Berruezo, La participación americana en las Cortes de Cádiz, 1810–1814 (1986); Jorge Mario García La Guardia, La Constitución de Cádiz y su influencia en América (175 años 1812–1987) (1987).

Blanco Valdés, Roberto Luis. El "problema americano" en lasprimeras cortes liberales españolas, 1810–1814. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1995.

Chust Calero, Manuel. La cuestión nacional americana en las Cortes de Cádiz (1810–1814). Valencia, Spain: Fundación Instituto Historia Social, 1999.

                                      Heather Thiessen

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Cortes of Cádiz

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