Spain marks 200th anniversary of a text that defined the nation as the “meeting of all Spaniards in both hemispheres” · The Constitution stated that the Kingdom of Spain could not be split · Two centuries later, nineteen independent states and seven US states have been born out of former Spanish territories
Nothing lasts forever, especially in politics. Spanish leaders mark today the 200th anniversary of the enactment of the first Spanish Constitution, in 1812 by the Cortes of Cádiz. Two relevant aspects emerge from the text: first, the recognition of the "Spanish Nation" (capitalized in the original) as the holder of the sovereignty, and secondly, the territorial boundaries of Spain, extremely diminished since.
The concept of "nation" thus breaks into a text of its kind for the first time in Spanish history. It is defined as "the meeting of all the Spaniards of both hemispheres". "Sovereignty" of the country, says Article 3, "essentially resides" in it. "Essentially", not exclusively. Contrary to what is sometimes said, La Pepa (nickname for the 1812 Constitution) does not describe the nation as indivisible. This is an innovation of the 1978 Constitution currently in force: "The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation", Article 2 says. According to the Constitution of Cádiz, only the "Kingdom of Spain" is "indivisible", a description contained in the title referred to the king, not to the land or the nation. However, in this Constitution, the word "kingdom" is used as an equivalent to the territories that are subject to the king's rule.
An indivisible kingdom? Defeat during the 19th century
The indivisibility of the kingdom was well refuted throughout the 19th century. Out of all the territories that were then part of Spain according to Article 10 of the Constitution of Cádiz, 17 independent states in America, one in Asia (the Philippines) and one in Oceania (Palau) have emerged. Another seven states that are members of the US (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida) and three territories of the US (Puerto Rico in the Caribbean plus the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam in the Pacific Ocean) must be added to this list.
These territorial loses began with the first proclamations of independence of the American colonies (the first ones in 1811, one year before the Constitution of Cádiz was proclaimed) and ended during the 1898-1899 period, when Spain lost the war against the United States and the Spanish territories in the Pacific Ocean were sold to Germany.
(Picture: "Cortes of Cadiz Oath", oil painting by José María Casado del Alisal)