The 1839 Legal Text and the Compromise of Vergara

The proposed legal text is a primary source and it was written in 1839 by the Courts of María Cristina, the widow regent of Queen Isabel II. It was intended for the nation, so it is a public document with great political relevance.

FIRSTLY, I’m going to analyze the main ideas of the text to understand it properly. First, the article 1 claims that Basque fueros will be sanctified, as long as they don’t go against the new 1837 Constitution, since the constitution was more important than fueros. In the second article, it is explained that if there is any kind of issue due to the opposition of some Fueros and the 1837 Constitution, the governments will ask the Courts to modify them provisionally to keep them up with the constitution. This law comes from the Compromise of Vergara previously arranged, where Carlos V caved in and ended the Carlist War against Isabel II. Carlists will have partially some of their interests safe as they rely on fueros. SECONDLY, I’m going to contextualize the text to understand properly how we reached it. Fernando VII, before he died in 1833, signed The Pragmatic Sanction Law to change the traditional Salic Law, a Bourbon’s law which established that only males can inherit the throne. In this way, he allowed her daughter Isabel II, regented by her widow mother Maria Cristina as she was 3, to be the Queen of Spain.

Carlos V, Fernando VII’s brother, rejected Isabel as Queen and he claimed he was the legitimate king of Spain according to the Salic Law. At that moment, the 1st Carlist War (1833-39) was taking place in Spain due to a division in society. Due to the previous division of society during the War of Independence (liberals and traditionalists), a similar division was followed: On the one hand, Carlists, Carlos V’s (Fernando’s VII brother) supporters, traditionalist and conservatives who defended absolutism. Carlism was led by priests, land-owners, and village notables. And on the other hand, the moderate liberals (people from cities, bourgeoisie, and militaries…) who were loyal to Isabel II (daughter of Fernando VII, who needed to be regented by her widow mother María Cristina and made some changes in the government in their favor). So, in the end, these two laws (Pragmatic and Salic) played as an excuse to support liberalism or traditionalism.

Carlists were opposed to liberalism but did not have a clear plan to return to absolutism. Although they were successful on defense relied in guerrillas (ordinary people without knowledge about wars), they never developed effective offensive strength and did not reach to win over cities. Moreover, Carlos V destructed his own cause due to the fact that he was an incompetent military chief and without political perception.

At the same time of the 1st Carlist War, there were ups and downs in the government, which switched from moderate prime ministers (for example Martinez de la Rosa), to progressive prime ministers once and again due to some mutinies (La Granja Pronunciamiento). One of the most relevant incidents was Mendizabal’s disentailment. It was made by Mendizabal, a progressive minister of María Cristina who wanted to finance the war and also create a new lower-middle-class of land-owning-peasantry. That caused the loss of monastic lands, what made them support Carlos “V”. Because of that, it triggered the creation of a new constitution in 1837 (1837 Constitution), which was written by progressive liberals and included a great deal of progressive ideas: national sovereignty, division of powers…

Coming back to the Carlist War, as Carlists noticed they could not win because they were not able to obtain enough money to finance it, Maroto (the general leading Carlist force after Zumalacarregui’s death in Basque Country), was offered by Espartero (the general of María Cristina) a peace compromise (Compromise of Vergara). In that compromise, it was claimed that: reprisals would be avoided, Basque fueros respected (what had a great importance for Carlists), and Carlist officers would be incorporated to the regular army. With this agreement, the 1st Carlist War ended in 1839, Isabel II was the official Queen, and later the Ley del 25 de Octubre de 1839 was applied. Nevertheless, this law was not over the current 1837 Constitution and some fueros needed to be revised in order to respect it.

In conclusion, this law has a great importance because it was the law which made official the peace between Carlists and liberals and ended with the 1st Carlist War. Thanks to this law, some of the Carlists were satisfied with the preservation of the fueros and they found a kind of balance between Carlists and liberals. However, a different problem is going to finish the balance: a new municipalities’ law ended with the hope of maintaining the fueros. This law was an amendment (correction) of the constitution by which the mayors of the cities were going to be chosen by the minister. It triggered the abdication of María Cristina as the regent and Espartero became the regent of Isabel II. He quitted the fueros, which were sanctified in the law we are commenting. So, the revolt was an excuse to end with the fueros in Basque Country. Nevertheless, Fueros of Basque Country were sanctified again but modified. Later, the 2nd Carlist War broke later in 1846.