No. 522.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish.

No. 220.]

Sir: I annex hereto a series of acts and decrees of the highest political importance, touching the relations between the new government of Don Alfonso and the Roman Catholic Church.

Appendix A and B consists of original and translation of a circular, under date of the 2d instant, addressed to the Spanish cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and capitular vicars, assuring them that the accession of Don Alfonso involves the termination of all persecution of the church and the restoration of cordial relations with the See of Rome, and invoking their aid for the re-establishment of peace and order in Spain.
To this circular most of the persons addressed have already responded in terms of cordial adhesion to the government.
Appendix C and D contain original and translation of a decree, of the 9th instant, restoring to the church all ecclesiastical edifices or other property not disposed of by proceeding’s of desamortization, nor covered by concordat with the See of Rome, with exception only of such as have actually been applied to the service of the state.
Appendix E and F consists of exposition and decree of January 15, appropriating the sum of 41,611,674 pesetas to satisfy the legal obligations of the government to the clergy for the present year, and providing for liquidation in due time of the long arrears due the clergy under the existing legislation for the secularization of ecclesiastical property, and the consequent undertaking of the state for the maintenance of the church.
In addition to this, the government has ordered that the archives of all the cathedrals and collegiate establishments of Spain which had been taken away from them under the administration of Mr. Ruiz Zorrilla, and stowed away as old lumber in the cellars of the ministry of fomento, shall be restored to the ecclesiastical corporations to which they respectively belong.

I have not time to comment at length on these great measures, which, independently of their intrinsic interest, are expected to exercise potential influence toward putting an end to the war in the northern and northeastern provinces of Spain.

I have, &c.,

[B.—Inclosure 1 in No. 220.—Translation.]

Circular of the minister of grace and justice to the clergy.—Dated January 2, 1875.

[From the “Gaceta de Madrid,” January 7, 1875.]

The regency-ministry being constituted, I have believed it my duty to give official information to your ——— of the fortunate occurrence to which it owes its origin. In the relations of the Catholic states with the church, that which is a prosperous event for the former cannot be other than a happy augury of success for the latter. If the church has suffered in common with the Spanish nation the countless ills of sterile political convulsions, with the advent to the throne of an illustrious prince, Catholic, like his pre-eminent ancestors, and resolved to repair of, in so far as may be possible, the injuries which have been caused, should lead us to hope for days of tranquillity and [Page 1096] better fortune. The proclamation of our King, Don Alfonso XII, being the true end of those disturbances, shall, for the same reason, be the beginning of a new era, in which shall be seen the re-establishment of our good relations with the common Father of the faithful, which have been unfortunately interrupted by the unjust acts and the excesses of these latter times. All that can affect these reciprocal relations shall be forthwith carried out with the counsel of wise prelates and in accord with the Holy See, and the church and her ministers shall be given all the protection which is due to them in an eminently Catholic nation like ours. To this end the government counts upon the efficient co-operation of your———and of your worthy companions in the episcopate, upon the assistance of the high corporations of the state, and upon the aid of all good Catholics. I take pleasure in communicating to your———the happy news of this salutary change in our political situation, which permits us to hope for more favorable days for the nation and for an epoch of better fortune for the church.

May God guard your———many years.


To the most eminent cardinals, the very reverend archbishops, the reverend bishops, and the capitular vicars.

[D.—Inclosure 2 in No. 220.—Translation.]

Decree dated January 9, 1875, restoring to the church certain real property held by the stale.

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


When, in 1860, by agreement with the Holy See, the real estate of the clergy was transferred to the state, exception was made of such only as by its nature and conditions could not enter into commerce nor subserve any economical necessity, remaining in consequence and thenceforth completely effected the desamortization of all its real property. Subsequently, and by different authorities, various measures were adopted, by virtue of which much of the property not comprised in the transfer returned to the power of the state, some of the buildings thereon being demolished, others set apart for public uses, and the rest subsisting in the power of the state.

The regency-ministry desires to remedy, so far as may be possible, the effect of those measures, because, if it be not done, monuments which to their religious character add the merit of being artistic and historical will disappear, as many others have done, to the dishonor of the nation.

For these considerations it has decreed the following:

  • Article 1. The financial administrators, in accord with the very reverend archbishops and reverend bishops, shall put at the disposal of the same those estates of the clergy which, having been excepted from the transfer agreed upon with the Holy See in 1860, are to-day in the power of the state in consequence of subsequent measures, and which are not now applied to public uses.
  • Art. 2. If the demolition of any of the edifices on such estates shall have been begun, the financial administrators shall order the suspension of work thereon, reporting the same to the ministry of finance. Likewise they shall give account of those now employed for the public service.
  • Art. 3. The necessary measures shall be adopted by the ministry of finance for the execution of this decree.

The president of the regency-ministry,

The minister of finance,

[F.—Inclosure 3 in No. 220.—Translation.]

Royal decree of January 15, 1875, charging the clerical establishment to the state as formerly.

[From the “Gaceta de Madrid,” January 17, 1875.]

Regency Ministry.—Ministry of Finance.


Señor: The advent of Your Majesty to the constitutional throne signifies, in the political sphere, concord, order, and liberty; in the moral sphere, the affirmation of these sentiments of piety, honor, and highmindedness which ever constitute the character of the Spanish people; in the economical sphere, the development of our national wealth and material interests, probity in the administration, and the fidelity of the state in the fulfillment of all its obligations.

[Page 1097]

The undersigned minister, being charged with the realization of the great and just aspirations of Your Majesty, in so far as refers to the economical adjustment and better management of the public finances, deems that no measures can be received by Your Majesty with livelier interest, at the moment of occupying the throne, than these which I, to-day, have the honor to submit to the high consideration of Your Majesty.

They aim at demonstrating that the government of Your Majesty aspires, in its very first acts, to repair the lessons which the turbulences of these latter times have caused in the rights of the creditors of the state; to make it patent that no obligation is to remain ignored or forgotten; that, according to the measure of our present poverty or of our future prosperity, all these obligations will be equitably fulfilled, and, in fine, that not for a single moment, or under any pretext whatever, can doubt or dispute arise respecting the compromises contracted in the name of the nation by the powers which have successively governed, constituting, in virtue thereof, obligations/for the public treasury.

Reducing, señor, these general ideas to determinate cases, the government of Your Majesty has found it necessary in the first instance to take up the anomalous situation in which it finds the payment of the appropriations for worship and the clergy, which are sacred for many reasons, and which should therefore be punctually satisfied, thus relieving so venerable a class from the state of abandonment and misery in which they now are.

Such obligations, by virtue of the laws of the kingdom, and of treaties with the Holy See, were previously comprised in the general estimates of the state, and were discharged without interruption for the space of many years.

The last estimates in which they figured as a whole were those of 1870–’71. But, before then, the law of December 18, 1869, which deprived of their offices and of their salaries or pensions all those functionaries who did not swear fidelity to the constitution of that year, was applied to the clergy, without taking into account the fact that the sums assigned to them were not the recompense of an administrative function, but were in compensation of ancient rights and properties which the church had ceded to the state in the interest of the general public welfare.

Notwithstanding that measure, the clerical allowances were paid in some dioceses in part, thus establishing unjust inequalities.

At this stage of the matter there was a government which proposed to the Cortes to transfer to the provincial and municipal exchequer the totality of the ecclesiastical obligations; the project, although discussed by the Cortes, did not go so far as to receive the sanction of the crown, doubtless because, on better appreciation of its inconveniences from every point of view, it was abandoned, with the intention of returning to the regular and just order of things, and of making the state alone responsible for what was its own and unavoidable obligation.

The result was, therefore, that at one time, because of the exigency of a political oath, and at another by reason of the ecclesiastical estimates being separated from the general estimates, in the expectancy, perhaps, of the adoption of a definitive form of payment, the obligations of worship and the clergy were the only ones for which, during the last five years, no financial appropriation was made, nor payments, except those made as before stated, to a limited number of dioceses.

The last administration, with the view, doubtless, of putting an end to such a state of things, embodied in the present budget a provision according to which the estimates for the ecclesiastical obligations were to be considered augmented in the amount necessary for their payment, in conformity to the arrangement between the government and the Holy See; but the government of Your Majesty deems that it is its duty, in the fulfillment of laws and solemn stipulations, which cannot be ignored, to comprise forthwith in the current estimates the necessary credits for the appropriations for public worship and the clergy, which shall be payable from the present month, and executing an early liquidation which shall determine the sum of the particular and general arrears of these obligations, in order to establish the form in which the treasury may meet, according as its resources permit, so considerable a deficit.

The government trusts that, at the conclusion of the war, when it becomes possible to fix the sure and permanent resources upon which the state is to count for meeting the general expenditures for which it is answerable, the church, as it has itself shown in past times, will not be the last to lend its aid, without sparing sacrifices, to placing the public treasury in a condition to bear, with economy and order, the weighty burden which has been cast upon it by the political disturbances of every epoch and the misfortunes of the kingdom.

For these considerations, the undersigned, in accord with the council of ministers, has the honor to submit to the approbation of Your Majesty the annexed draught of a decree:

Señor: At the royal feet of Your Majesty.
The minister of finance—
[Page 1098]

Royal decree.

In view of the representations of the minister of finance, and in accord with my council of ministers, I decree the following:

  • Article 1. The estimate of ecclesiastical obligations corresponding to the current economical, year, which is embraced in the third section of obligations of the ministerial departments, minis try of grace and justice, to the amount of pesetas 3,251,014.46, is hereby declared augmented to the sum total of pesetas 41,611,674, which is the amount of the same appropriation in the budget of 1870–’71, the last in which were consigned all the allowances for public worship and the clergy. This augmentation shall be understood as relating exclusively to the proportional part necessary to satisfy the obligations falling due from the first of the present month to the end of the economical year, and with the same detailed distribution as in the aforesaid budget of 1870–’71.
  • Article 2. The obligations proper to the budget, re-established by the foregoing article, shall be paid to the clergy in the accustomed form and at the same times when payment shall be made of the salaries of all the active classes of the state, according as the same shall be permitted by the preferent needs of the civil war.
  • Article 3. The arrears which may result in favor of the clergy on account of obligations in the previous budgets, and for sums due but not paid by the public treasury in the course of the current one, shall be the object of a liquidation which shall be effected at once, to the end that, the amount thereof being determined, the form in which satisfaction is to be made may be decided upon.
  • Article 4. The minister of finance shall order whatever is requisite for the execution of this decree, of which he shall in due time give account to the Cortes.

Rubricated by the royal hand.
The minister of finance—