No. 521.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish.

No. 211.]

Sir: I inclose herewith the following documents, which exhibit the present general diplomatic situation of Spain relatively to other governments, including the United States, namely:

Copy of a circular communication from the Marquis de Molins, as minister of state ad interim under the regency ministry, received by me on the 5th instant.
A communication from the proprietary minister of state, D. Alejandro Castro, received on the 7th instant.
A decree of the new King, issued after his arrival in Spain, which officially constitutes the new government, as published in the Gaceta de Madrid of the 10th.
My response to the note of the Marquis de Molins, and to that of Mr. Castro.

* * * * * * *

I speak of the change as a revolution, for such in fact it is in a constitutional sense. Although the ministers assume a regular transmission of sovreignty by descent from Queen Isabel to her eldest son and legitimate heir, Don Alfonso, and while, in doing so, they pass over the constitution of 1869, as a nullity, to go back to the last previous constitution in force, that of 1845, yet, according to this last constitution, the theory of succession would be defective by reason of the irregularity of the abdication of Queen Isabel, since that constitution provides as follows:

Art. 46. The King requires (necesita) to be authorized by a special law—

  • “1. To alienate, cede, or exchange any part of the territory of Spain.
  • “2. To admit foreign troops into the kingdom.
  • “3. To ratify treaties of offensive alliance, special ones of commerce, and those which stipulate the payment of subsidies to any foreign power.
  • “4. To abdicate the crown in favor of his immediate successor.”

Now, Isabel has abdicated, it is true, but by a mere private act, without authority of any previous law, in consequence of which the point has been made, again and again, that her abdication might at any time [Page 1090] be revoked by her, and she might at will re-assume the crown. To be sure, there is now no cause to apprehend any such act on her part, she having, in various forms, accorded her assent and approval to the accession of Don Alfonso. Notwithstanding which, however, as a question of constitutional right, the flaw in the succession still remains to the effect of imparting a shade at least of revolutionary quality to the dynastic restoration.

In various other respects the accession of Don Alfonso involves departure from constitutionalism.

Thus, in the circular note of the Marquis de Molins, he speaks of the regency ministry as an organization “provided for by all the constitutions in the event of the absence of the King.”

I cannot find any such provision in the constitution of 1845, or in any other constitution.

The constitution provides that, in case of a minority of the King, his father or mother, or, in defect of them, the next heir to the crown, shall enter at once on the exercise of the regency. But that provision does not legally apply here, because by the same constitution the King arrives at majority at the age of fourteen. Besides which, this provision of the constitution has not been observed in fact by calling the King’s father or mother to the regency. (Arts. 55 and 56.)

Another article (60) provides that, if there be no other person to whom of right belongs the regency, the Cortes shall nominate one, to be composed of one, three, or five persons. But here has been no nomination by the Cortes, and the present regency consists of nine persons.

Article 61 again provides that, “when the King shall be in a state of impossibility to exercise his authority, and that impossibility shall have been recognized by the Cortes,” then also the royal authority shall be exercised by a regent or a regency. But that is in no respect the present case.

Meanwhile the constitution does not provide for any such regency as the Marquis de Molins suggests, “in the absence of the King;” and absence from where? From Madrid? Clearly not; for it has been the practice of the King to act wherever he might be in any part of Spain. Absence from Spain? But there is no such provision in the constitution; and, in point of fact, the decree appointing the regency ministry expressly purports to be founded on an act of Don Alfonso performed outside of Spain.

Finally, add to all this the consideration that it was not a regency appointed, as a regency only could be, by the Cortes, but a regency ministry combining with the quality of a ministry the incompatible one of a regency, and its members designated in fact by a volunteer reunion of important persons under the auspices of the captain-general of New Castille; and we shall thus be constrained to conclude that the change has really been a revolutionary one.

It must be conceded at the same time that this revolution approaches nearer to legality than any previous one; that it has been accomplished without the effusion of a drop of blood, or the occurrence of the slightest breach of the peace or other disorder 5 and that it appears to be generally acceptable in all parts of Spain, outside of the immediate theater of civil war, and recognized as a consummated political fact by the rest of Europe.

The young King was received with royal honors in his passage through France to Marseilles, on his way to Barcelona. It seems undeniable that his reception at Barcelona was thoroughly cordial, as it will undoubtedly be at Valencia, where he arrived yesterday by water from Barcelona, [Page 1091] and, meanwhile, unequivocal manifestations of support of him continue to arrive from all parts of Spain.

According to announcements made, he is to reach Madrid on Thursday, the 14th, where the most extensive arrangements and preparations have been made for his reception with all imaginable manifestations of loyalty and welcome. And, after remaining here a few days, he will proceed, by way of Zaragoza, to present himself to the army of the north.

* * * * * * *

The chiefs of all the legations held a meeting yesterday at the residence of Mr. le Comte de Chandordy, the French ambassador, to decide what course we shall take in the matter of the reception of King Alfonso.

We have all received individual cards of invitation to occupy a balcony of the ministry of Gobernacion, for the purpose of witnessing the processional entrance of the King into Madrid, and have accepted the invitation.

Question then arose whether we should call on the King, as proposed by the Austrian minister; but the French, Russian, British, and some other ministers, myself included, opined that it did not become us to take any such step until officially instructed or authorized so to do by our respective governments, and that proposition was rejected.

Next came the question whether we should partake in any of the forms of demonstration customary in Madrid on occasions of this nature, such as placing hangings at the windows, hoisting flags in the day-time, and illuminating our houses or offices in the night.

The conclusion was unanimous to hoist no flag, to put out hangings at discretion, it we found it convenient, but not otherwise; but to illuminate as a matter of unexceptional conformity with social usages in Europe.

I annex, in justification of my own act in this respect, an extract from the last edition of Marten’s Guide Diplomatique, with the very significant explanatory note of the annotator Pinheiro.

I reserve for another dispatch some more confidential observations in reference to the special position of the United States in Spain at this time.

I have, &c.,


P. S.—January 13, 1875. While this dispatch is being copied there comes to hand a note from the minister of state, under date of the 12th, in reply to mine of the 11th, to which J refer in this postscript in order to save the loss of time which would be produced by recopying the dispatch itself.

You will perceive, I think, that Mr. Castro meets me more than half way in the expression of readiness to proceed in this transaction of matters pending between the ministry and this legation. I shall therefore call upon him at the earliest convenient opportunity, and proceed at once to business.

[Inclosure 1 in No. 211.—Translation.]

The Marquis de Molins to Mr. Cushing.

Sir: The events which have just been realized in Spain are so clear and evident that they need no demonstration; so legal and necessary, that they require no apology; and, nevertheless, so great a desire animates the regency ministry not to interrupt the [Page 1092] friendly relations which unite Spain with other countries, that, even in the absence of the king and of the minister especially charged with international affairs, it has the honor to address you through my channel.

Since the time when the dynasty of which Don Alfonso is the representative set foot, he being yet a child, on foreign soil, every kind of government has been tried in Spain without any success, or rather, let us say, with deplorable and ruinous result. Elective monarchy, federal republic, cantonal republic, unitarian republic, civil dictatorship, military dictatorship, and even the absolutist system, which a family of pretenders symbolizes in our country, and which, in spite of all efforts, although it is potent to occupy and ruin a portion of our territory, is powerless to establish itself throughout the whole kingdom—all has been inefficacious as well as dolorous.

Meanwhile the hearts and desires of all the world were turned with sorrow from the spectacle of present things toward the heir of our ancient kings, to Don Alphonso do Borbon y Borbon, who, by the abdication of his august mother, united in his person the monarchical right and the parliamentary tradition.

Those who, see in the religious principle the mainspring of our national history, and whose sensibilities were wounded by the excesses which in this respect were committed by the revolution, reasonably set their hopes in him, who, being the worthy heir of Catholic monarchs, abounded in the faith of Ms fathers without, however, seeking to make thereof an instrument and a standard for his political aspirations.

Those who, giving due heed to this same national history and still more to the just exigencies of the present age, believe to be impossible every form of government not founded in the parliamentary doctrines which the ancient Cortes foreshadowed, and which are realized among modern nations, also turned their eyes trustingly toward the king, the immediate descendant of two illustrious princesses, who, now more than forty years ago, bound together indissolubly the interests and the existence of their throne with the interests and the existence of parliamentary principles.

Even the popular classes and the most advanced parties, already taught by the experience of unfounded hopes and of deceitful promises, had sadly learned that the government most prodigal of those hopes and promises was the one that most trampled them under foot when the opportunity occurred, and exacted the greatest sacrifices of principles, of men and of interest; and they too turned their gaze toward the young heir to a constitutional throne, under the shadow of which great development had been successfully given to the public wealth, and credit had been maintained, without forgetting, however, either to spare Spanish blood or to defend sacred and still glorious interests. All opinions, in fine, and all classes had a unanimous although secret desire to return with Don Alfonso to constitutional order and to hereditary right; tore-establish with the throne the principal agent and the best supporter which, by a singular exception, the public liberties have ever had in our country. There are well-founded motives to believe that the depositaries of public power themselves knew and confessed that the proclamation of Don Alfonso, made in one way or another, was the only solution of the Spanish crisis.

There is foundation also for presuming that, if the foreign powers benevolently recognized the last dictatorship, it was in the understanding that it would lead to a monarchical solution.

That which may indeed be questioned, and does in truth appear strange, is, that the evil being so great, the remedy so evident, and the desire for it so unanimous, King Alfonso XII was not sooner proclaimed; and the explanation is at once simple and honorable. It neither comported with his decorum nor with his interests, nor with the good of the country, that the soil whereon he had been born should through his fault be stained with blood, or that his good right should be weakened by impositions of force or by melancholy excesses.

But the limit of public suffering having been reached, and the general conviction being ripe, as you have seen, it was enough that at a point distant from this capital the name of Don Alfonso should be pronounced to cause that, without violence of any kind, and without any promise whatever, in a few hours, all the great cities, although ungarrisoned, and all the lesser villages, even those governed by revolutionary authorities, and the armies themselves, without any action that might have tended to produce indiscipline, should proclaim as legitimate, constitutional king, Don Alfonso. Nor is this strange, because the traditional and hereditary right is an irresistible force, and the names, the personal qualities, and the dynastic antecedents of the King, Don Alfonso de Borbon, are a political programme. His very name, the most gloriously repeated in our history, exerts a prestige, and his education also, received during misfortune and in several capitals of Europe, is a guarantee of culture and of skill.

Of these circumstances was the product, and was born and constituted the present public power, with the sole aim of reuniting the monarchical and constitutionally, hereditary tradition by bringing to Spain the King Don Alfonso XII, assuming forthwith the character of regency ministry, provided for by all the constitutions in the event of the absence of the King.

No further than this, Mr. Minister, extend either the faculties or the plans of the [Page 1093] regency ministry, and for this reason they are not more explicitly expressed; but the public events are in themselves of too much gravity, and too keen our desire to surround, as soon as possible, the legitimate and constitutional throne of Don Alfonso with the good international relations which before existed, for us to longer delay giving you information of these facts, which we doubt not and hope you will bring to the knowledge of your Government, re-inforced, perhaps, with the influential testimony of that which you may have seen and appreciated for yourself in a country in which you have already resided for some time, and where you are justly esteemed.

The government has been constituted in the following manner:

  • President of the regency ministry, Don Antonio Cánovas del Castillo;
  • Minister of state, Don Alejandro Castro;
  • Of grace and justice, Don Francisco de Cárdenas;
  • Of war, the lieutenant-general Don Joaquin Jovellar;
  • Of finance, Don Pedro Salaverria;
  • Of gohernacion, Don Francisco Romero Robledo;
  • Of public works, Don Manuel de Orovio, Marques de Orovio;
  • Of ultramar, Don Adelardo Lopez de Ayala; and
  • Minister of marine and of state ad interim, the undersigned.

I avail myself of this occasion to oiler to you the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


The Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 211.—Translation.]

Mr. Castro to Mr. Cushing.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to address myself to your excellency with the object of stating to you that yesterday I took charge of the ministry of state, to which I was appointed by decree of December 31, ultimo.

In bringing this to your knowledge, I improve the occasion to offer to your excellency the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


The Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 211.—Translation.]

Royal decree appointing a ministry.

[From the “Gaceta de Madrid,” January 10, 1875.]

Royal decree.

The Minister of Marine to the President of the Regency-Ministry, Madrid:

His Majesty has deigned to issue the following royal decree:

“Having happily arrived upon the territory of my country, and after giving thanks to the Divine Providence for the visible protection accorded to me and also to the people and the sea and land forces for the constant adhesion and the enthusiastic affection they show j exercising the prerogatives which, as constitutional King, pertain to me—

“I hereby nominate president of my council of ministers Don Antonio Canovas del Castillo; and minister of state, Don Alejandro Castro; of grace and justice, D. Francisco de Cárdenas; of war, Don Joaquin Jovellar; of finance, Don Pedro Salaverria: of marine, Don Mariano Roca de Togores, Marques de Molins; of gohernacion, Don Francisco Romero Robledo; of fomento, Don Manuel de Orovio, Marques de Orovio; and of ultramar, Don Adelardo Lopez de Ayala, who shall continue exercising, as hitherto, their respective attributions during my absence from the capital of the Kingdom, while I visit, as I propose, the armies of the center and of the north. Given in Barcelona, the 9th of January, 1875.

Rubricated by the royal hand.

The minister of marine—


And by order of His Majesty I communicate it to your excellency for your cognizance.

[Page 1094]
[Inclosure 4 in No. 211.]

Mr. Cushing to Mr. Castro.

Sir: I had the honor, on the 5th instant, to receive from his excellency the Marques de Molins, as minister of state ad Interim, a communication under date of the 3d, in which he informed me of the acclamation of Don Alfonso de Borbon y Borbon to the throne of Spain—of the antecedents and inducements of that event—and of the consequent organization of a regency ministry in the absence of Don Alfonso; with expressions of desire for the continuance of the good international relations heretofore existing between foreign governments and that of Spain.

Reciprocating earnestly this desire, in so far as regards the United States of America, I hastened to transmit the note of his excellency to my Government.

I had the honor, further, on the 7th instant, to receive the note of your excellency under date of the 5th, apprising me of your having taken charge of the ministry of state, in pursuance of appointment, which I have also transmitted to my Government.

I have authority to remain at my post discharging my present functions as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States in Spain.

I assume, however, that in accordance with the general diplomatic usage of Europe, new letters of credence will be requisite for my formal presentation to His Majesty the King.

Meanwhile, I assume also, that in like accordance with diplomatic usage, officious intercourse between this legation and the ministry may still be maintained, with advantage to both countries, for the transaction of ordinary business, in the manner heretofore practiced in similar circumstances on the occasion of material changes of government. In this conception, and if your excellency entertains similar views on the subject, it will gratify me to be able at an early day to pay my respects in person at the ministry of state.

I avail myself of this opportunity to tender to your excellency the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency Señor Don Alejandro Castro, Minister of State.

[Inclosure 5 in No. 211.—Translation.]

Mr. Castro to Mr. Cushing.

Your Excellency: I have had the honor to receive the note of your excellency, dated yesterday, in which you are pleased to acknowledge reception of the communications from this ministry of the 3d and 5th instant, giving you knowledge of the acclamation of His Majesty Don Alfonso de Borbon y Borbon as King of Spain, of the antecedents of this fortunate event, and, lastly, of the organization of a regency-ministry during the absence of His Majesty.

I take note, with the greatest satisfaction, of what your excellency is pleased to state to me with respect to the instructions which you have received from your Government to remain at your post, discharging your present functions of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States, and I am of accord with the opinion of your excellency as to the necessity of new credentials, conformably with diplomatic usage, for the official presentation of your excellency to His Majesty the King, continuing meanwhile in the officious transaction of the matters between this ministry and the legation under the worthy charge of your excellency, as equally convenient for the interests of both nations.

In this conception, not only shall I have great pleasure in continuing to contribute to the cultivation of the friendly relations which have ever existed between Spain and the United States of America, but I earnestly desire to have the honor of making the acquaintance of your excellency, as I already have had occasion to make that of the greater part of your worthy colleagues of the diplomatic body.

I improve this opportunity to offer to your excellency the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.