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  5. Cortes de Cádiz (Cadiz Courts) and the Constitution of 1812


Cortes de Cádiz (Cadiz Courts) and the Constitution of 1812

In January, 1809, the Central Board requests to the American territories to send delegates to attend the meetings of the upcoming Courts.

There is a lack of proportion between the representatives coming from the Peninsula and the ones coming from America. Regarding the peninsular territory, each Board and city could appoint a representative to whom one more will be added for every 50,000 inhabitants. In the other hand, the overseas territories, each of the four viceroyalties (New Spain, Peru, New Granada and Rio de la Plata), as well as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela and the Philippines could elect a congressman, but without any demographic checker. The ones representing America are intentionally less.

The Cortes Generales y Extraordinarias (General and Extraordinary Courts) inaugurated on September 24, 1810 in Cadiz and their duties extended until 1813 and on October 1st were followed by the Cortes Ordinarias -where the Parliament used to meet in order to discuss issues regarding laws- . The peninsular members of the Parliament divided into four trends: the servile or realist -among these were the Spanish-American parliaments Blas Ostolaza (Trujillo, Peru, 1771-Valencia, 1835) and Mariano Rodríguez de Olmedo y Valle (Huancarqui de Majes, Perú, 1771-Santiago, Cuba?, 1831?). The ones with a fluctuated point of view but bet for being part of the Conservative Party: Simón Bolívar´s uncle, Esteban Palacios (Caracas, Venezuela, 1767-Caracas, Venezuela, 1830); the moderated liberals like Antonio Larrazábal y Arrivillaga (Santiago de los Caballeros, Guatemala, 1779-Guatemala, 1830?, Francisco Salazar y Carrillo (Cuzco, Peru, 1767-Lima, Peru, 1826) o Ramón Power (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1775-Cadiz, 1813); and finally, the progressive liberals like José Mejía Lequerica (Quito, Ecuador, 1777-Cadiz, 1813), José Miguel Ramos Arizpe (Valle de San Nicolás, Mexico, 1775-Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico, 1843 o José Álvarez de Toledo (La Habana, Cuba, 1779-Paris, France, 1858).

The Courts will declare the national sovereignty, the powers division; the acknowledgement of Ferdinand VII, equality between Spaniards and Spanish Americans, but will established a second category to deprive black people and castes from obtaining the citizenship that were in fact the majority of the people in America. Amnesty was also denied for those who were prosecuted on insurgent revolts. Also, legislations are made under the immediate publishing of all decrees in America, organize the civil and criminal Courts of Justice; create the Supreme Court as well as the organization of the city councils, the free printing, freedom for growing and industries, the abolition of Manorialism rights as well as colonial ones like encomienda, mit´a, indignity fee, repartimiento. Also trade unions, torture and the Inquisition were abolished.

But the greatest work of these Courts was Constitution of 1812 (best known as La Pepa), proclaimed solemnly on March 19, date in which Ferdinand VII celebrated his accession to throne anniversary. It has 384 sections divided in ten titles of brief effect, since in 1814 was abolished because it penalized a shift from an absolutist monarchy to a constitutional court. In American territories, the Constitution of 1812 was sworn in most of the places that were still kept by the monarchy, resulting in the abolition of the viceroyalties as ownerships of the absolute power once city councils and town councils were settle. For that reason, the elite close to the viceroys show their discomfort and opposition for the loss of their privileges. The influence of the Constitution will be deeper were there the Spanish Crown stilled important such as Peru and Mexico.