Mr. Koerner to Mr. Seward.
Sir:The telegraph will have informed you, ere this, that the cabinet of Miraflores has ceased to exist. It was defeated, on Friday last, by a large vote in the Senate. The question on which the vote was given was one arising out of a proposition of the ministry to repeal certain organic laws which had been passed in 1857 under the administration of General Narvaez. By the constitution of 1845 all senators were nominated for life by the Grown, to be taken from certain classes of functionaries or from the grandees of Spain, enjoying a certain fixed income from land or other stable sources. The organic laws of Narvaez, called reforms, provided that the dignity of senators should be hereditary in the family of grandees, upon condition, however, as heretofore, the heir should have the requisite income, and, in order to secure this property qualification, the grandees were permitted to entail their estates.
Another of these reforms of Narvaez provided that the rules of both houses of the Cortes should be established by a law, thus placing it out of the power (as was alleged) of accidental majorities in either house to oppress minorities by arbitrary changes of the rules. These reforms, however, remained a dead letter; neither the administration of Narvaez (which hardly survived the passage of the reforms) nor any of the various subsequent cabinets finding it advisable to even propose a law of entail for the grandees—the common law of Spain forbidding the entailing of estates—nor to offer a law establishing parliamentary rules for the Cortes.
The present ministry, counting upon the support of the O’Donnel party, which was committed in favor of repealing the many reforms, introduced a bill abolishing the provisions allowing grandees to entail, and also the one which provided for a law of parliamentary rules. As it was admitted, on all hands, that the said Narvaez reforms had produced no change, and remained unexecuted, and would in all probability ever so remain, it is very clear that the question of itself was of no great moment. The ministry, however, trying to remove from the organic laws provisions which had become impossible of execution, had undoubtedly the better side of the question. Its motive for raising such an unsubstantial question was probably to obtain some cheap popularity, as the proposition to deprive the grandees of the privilege to entail, and thereby prevent in many instances the inheritance of the senatorial dignity, had a certain odor of liberality about it.
The measure could only have been carried by the assistance of the O’Donnel party, (Union liberal,) but that party almost to a man voted with their chief, O’Donnel, whose only object was to beat the ministry, to which he had of late become very hostile. This conduct was of course inconsistent with their former professions and pledges in regard to the Narvaez reforms, but the ministry must have been very blind if they counted upon political morality in any of the existing parties.
Although the adverse vote was not given directly on the bill proposed by the ministry, but on a preliminary question, which showed, however, pretty plainly what it would be on the main question; the Senate was immediately adjourned and the ministers tendered their resignation, which, under the circumstances, had to be accepted. No cabinet has been formed yet. The probability is that another coalition ministry will be called in, and although such an one offers no stability, yet it is difficult to do anything else at present where neither the conservatives, nor the Progressistas, nor the old O’Donnel compromise party, (Union liberal,) has a majority in either house, or perhaps in the country. If Narvaez, as head of the Moderados, or Olazaga-Prim, as heads of the Progressistas, were to [Page 7] form a cabinet, the present Cortes would, at all events, have to be dissolved, and an appeal made to the people. Should a new election give a decided majority to the ministry, a somewhat more permanent government might be expected.
Personally I regret the retirement of the Marquis of Miraflores. He was a model gentleman of the old school, formal to a certain degree, yet very courteous and even cordial. He was frank, and, I think, a man of honor. His mental capacities were not considered very high, yet he has considerable experience in public affairs, and I think he made, upon the whole, a pretty good minister.
I am just informed of the formation of a new ministry; although Narvaez is not in it, its complexion is “moderado.” President and minister of state is Arrazola, judge of the supreme tribunal of Spain. He was a cabinet minister many years ago. Minister of war is General Lersund, Colonies, Alexander de Castro. The other ministers are gentlemen of whom little is known outside of Spain.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.