No. 525.
Mr. Cushing to Mr. Fish.

No. 259.]

Sir: I annex hereto copy and translation of a circular of which the professed object is to check, if possible, the tendency to military pronunciamientos, which constitutes one of the chronic evils of Spain.

Inasmuch as the acclamation of Don Alfonso was in its inception an act of military pronunciamiento, many persons criticise the circular as being illogical on the part of his government.

As regards theory or doctrine there is nothing new in the measure; every previous government in Spain has applied to defeated political [Page 1102] generals the same discipline of exile or of enforced quarters in the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, or the Filipinas.

In execution of this circular three officers of the army, who were present at a political demonstration accompanying the departure of Mr. Ruiz Zorrilla from Madrid, as spoken of in my No. 256, namely, Generals Lagunero and Izquierdo and Colonel Camona, have been ordered into quarters at the Canaries or to leave Spain.

Measures of this character have this much of extenuation in Spain, that defeated or minority parties appear to be intellectually or morally incapable of legal opposition to the government of the time being, but recur at once to conspiracy and to mutinous insurrection as the means of regaining power. Mr. Castelar well said, in one of his best speeches, that in the crisis of every party question here, it is reduced to the inquiry, which has the cannons at its disposition $ The patient electoral efforts of party minorities, which one sees in the United States, and the courteous and tolerant appeal to public opinion on the part of opposition parties in Great Britain, are traits of constitutional government quite unknown and almost incomprehensible in Spain.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 259.—Translation.]

Forbidding army officers to participate in party contentions.

[From the “Gaceta de Madrid” February 5, 1875.]


Your Excellency: The participation of military men, whatever maybe their rank, in the various and continuous agitations of public life, carries with it grave inconveniences, experienced at all times, and in Spain especially as never before and more than in any other country. To remedy such evils, whose own evidence needs no extensive demonstration, many measures have been directed, both in Spain and without; it being an established principle that the chiefs, officers, and soldiers of the armed forces should remain in total separation from party strife and from political ambition, so that they may give no thought save to the exalted duty of defending the social order, the laws, and the integrity and independence of their country. From this principle, which is regarded as fundamental in every well-ordered nation, exception is only admissible in the case of general officers, for they may be, and frequently are, appointed responsible ministers, or become members of the political assemblies in virtue of the free suffrage of their constituents. Thus it has come about in Spain until now, and thus it will be in future, especially if the coming Cortes admit the compatibility of military office with legislative functions, which is admitted, in greater or less degree, on all hands. But while the Cortes of the nation are not convoked, and while liberty of suffrage is temporarily suspended by the rigor of royal ordinances and of military discipline, which is and should ever be still greater in the high grades of the army than in the lower grades, equally for chiefs, officers, and soldiers, the generals themselves, whatever be the elevation of their post, should abstain from taking part in the contests of parties. This is exacted of them by sound military principles, and even by those of public right in normal times, and to-day it is moreover exacted in a more stringent manner, by the perilous state of war in which the nation now is. To meet the war with whatever elements of utility the country holds, it is indispensable that the government of the King may count alike upon all the generals, without distinction, giving heed solely to their merits and military qualifications; and this cannot, in point of fact, be reconciled with their participation in active politics, however loyal may be their intentions. As was said more than six years ago to the army, and by a minister certainly in no wise suspicious for the most advanced political schools, “What is lawful to citizens, who cannot exert upon the opinions of the rest other pressure than that of their doctrines or their isolated influence, may be deemed even punishable in those who wield the influence of command or of rank in the element armed by the state to make the law respected by those who fail to obey it or who forget it.’

Starting from this proper consideration and from recognized sound military principles, which have been recalled to mind, and whose observance has been already commanded in different circulars, the regency-ministry of the kingdom has accorded to [Page 1103] order that with the zeal which distinguishes your excellency, and using all the efficacious means which are within the reach of your authority, you will prevent military men of all classes from taking part in reunions, manifestations, and any other acts whatsoever of a public character, it being your excellency’s duty, In case of controvention of this royal order, to proceed to the detention of those who may fall into such culpability, and to give account immediately to the government for the action which may be in order.

By order of the aforesaid regency-ministry, communicated by the president thereof, minister of war ad interim, I say this to your excellency for your cognizance and the consequent effects.

May God guard your excellency many years.

The secretary—