to Mr. Evarts.
Madrid, October 29, 1878. (Received November 18.)
Sir: The telegraph will have long ago informed you of the attempt made last Friday (25th) upon the life of the King. As the minister of foreign affairs at once sent off’ telegrams to all Spanish ministers abroad, I did not think it necessary to send a cable dispatch.
The King was making his entry into Madrid on his return from a tour of several weeks in the northern provinces, in the course of which he had directed the autumn manœuvers of the troops at Vitoria. It was his first public appearance in Madrid since the death of his Queen on the 26th of June, and it was no doubt hoped, if not expected, that the still surviving sympathy with that great calamity would communicate some of its warmth to the crowd which lined the streets through which he passed. In spite of the officially-reported enthusiasm, the young monarch’s reception in the north had been more than cool. His tour, so far as concerns any political effect, had been so complete a failure that the original route sketched out for him had been changed, and he forbore to visit certain towns rather than run the risk of hostile demonstrations more emphatic than silence. Perhaps Madrid would be less indifferent. Friday was a chilly and lowering day, but the profound silence of the [Page 802] throng which had gathered to see the pageant go by added a chill to that of the weather. The official cheers from the government buildings but emphasized the general silence.
The King was passing along the Calle Mayor, and drawing near to the palace. Hitherto he had gone at a foot pace, but now, as he said afterwards, “he began to be impatient to get home,” and spurred his horse to a trot. Just as he did so, a shot was heard. The King, who showed great coolness, reined up, and faced in the direction from which it came. The would-be assassin, who had moved a few paces from where he had been standing, and had put on the air of an interested spectator, was pointed out by some women who had seen him fire, and at once arrested. No pistol was found upon him (though there were caps and cartridges in his pocket), nor has any since been traced. He is said to have fired twice, but only one ball has been found, and this had apparently rebounded after striking the house opposite. At first it was reported that a soldier had been slightly wounded; then that the ball had passed through the sleeve of his coat, and now even this seems doubtful.
The criminal is a young man named Oliva, a Catalonian, and by trade a cooper. He belongs to a respectable family in easy circumstances, who found it impossible to restrain his irregular tendencies, and to give him a career more suitable to their own condition in life. He at once avowed his crime, and with melodramatic dignity announced himself a socialist and member of the International. He denied having accomplices, though the disappearance of his pistol seems to imply it. It is a curious illustration of the artificial state of politics here, that, although the King would naturally be glad to pardon the criminal, it is said that he will be unable to do so lest the whole affair should seem a tragic comedy arranged beforehand between the ministry and the actors as a test of popular sentiment.
On Saturday, the 26th, the King received the felicitations of the diplomatic body. Among other things he said to me, “I almost wish he had hit me, I am so tired.” Indeed, his position is a trying one, and I feel sure that if he were allowed more freely to follow his own impulses and to break through the hedge of etiquette which the conservative wing of the restoration have planted between him and his people, his natural qualities of character and temperament would make him popular.
On the same afternoon (Saturday) the King drove out with his sister the Princess of Asturias, himself holding the reins and without guards. He was well received by the people, though the effect was dampened by the factitious enthusiasm of some soldiers, who, it is said, had been blunderingly detailed for the purpose by the captain-general of the province.
The only possible effect, or perhaps I should say consequence, of the event of Friday, would be to make the policy of the present ministry more reactionary and repressive. Already the Politica, the organ, as it is called, of Señor Canovas, is urging such a course, and declaring that the act of Moncasi is but a symptom of the general feeling of Catalonia, with which province severe measures should be taken. But the majority even of the ministerial press is more sensible and not yet ready to identify political opposition either with regicide or rebellion.
Mr. Seward’s telegram directing me to convey to His Majesty the congratulations of the President and people of the United States on his providential escape was received on Sunday morning. I at once communicated it to the minister of state in the note of which a copy is inclosed, and on the following day received Mr. Silvela’s reply, a copy and translation of which are also hereto annexed.
I have, &c.,