Franco dissolved the Cortes, and on May 10, 1907, published a decree declaring the “administration to be a dictatorship.”
Continuing Portugal’s 1910 Revolution,
our selection from Portugal by William Archer. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Portugal’s 1910 Revolution.
Then came the scandal of the adeantamentos, or illegal advances made to the King, beyond the sums voted in the civil list. It is only fair to remember that the king of a poor country is nowadays in a very uncomfortable position, more especially if the poor country has once been immensely rich. The expenses of royalty, like those of all other professions, have enormously increased of late years; and a petty king who is to rub shoulders with emperors is very much in the position of a man with £2,000 a year in a club of millionaires. He has always the resource, no doubt, of declining the society of emperors, and even fixing his domestic budget more in accord with present exigencies than with the sumptuous traditions, the palaces and pleasure-houses, of his millionaire predecessors. It is said of Pedro II. that “he had the wisdom and self-restraint not to increase the taxes, preferring to reduce the expenses of his household to the lowest possible amount.” But Dom Carlos was not a man of this kidney. Easy-going and self-indulgent, he had no notion of appearing in forma pauperis among the royalties of Europe, or sacrificing his pleasures to the needs of his country. Even his father, Dom Luis, and his uncle, Dom Pedro, had not lived within their income; and expenses had gone up since their times. The king’s income, under the civil list, was a “conto of reis” a day, or something over £80,000 a year. Additional allowances to other members of the royal family amounted to about half as much again; and there was, I believe, an allowance for the upkeep of palaces. One would suppose that a reasonably frugal royal family, with no house-rent to pay, could subsist in tolerable comfort on some £2,250 a week; but as a matter of fact, Dom Carlos made large additional drafts on the treasury, which servile ministries honored without protest. He had expensive fantasies, which he was not in the habit of stinting. The total of his “anticipations” I do not know, but it is estimated in millions of pounds.
These eccentricities, combined with other abuses of finance and administration, rendered even the cacique-chosen Cortes unruly, and our Charles I. looked about for a Strafford who should apply a “thorough” remedy to what he called the parliamentary gâchis. He found his man in João Franco. This somewhat enigmatic personage can not as yet be estimated with any impartiality. No one accuses him of personal corruption or of sordidly interested motives. His great private wealth enabled him the other day to find bail, at a moment’s notice, to the amount of £40,000. On the other hand, his enemies diagnose him after the manner of Lombroso, and find him to be a degenerate and an epileptic, ungovernably irritable, vain, mendacious, arrogant, sometimes quite irresponsible for his actions. A really strong man he can scarcely be; scarcely a man of true political insight, else he would not have tried to play the despot with no plausible ideal to allege in defense of his usurpation. Be that as it may, he agreed with the King that it was impossible to carry on the work of government with a fractious Cortes in session, and that the only way to keep things going was to try the experiment of a dictatorship. Dom Carlos, in his genial fashion, overcame by help of an anecdote any doubt his minister may have felt. “When the affairs of Frederick the Great were at a low ebb,” said the King, “he one day, on the eve of a decisive battle, caught a grenadier in the act of making off from the camp. ‘What are you about?’ asked Frederick. ‘Your Majesty, I am deserting,’ stammered the soldier. ‘Wait till to-morrow,’ replied Frederick calmly, ‘and if the battle goes against us, we will desert together.'” Thus lightly was the adventure plotted; and, in fact, the minister did not desert until the King lay dead upon the field of battle.
Franco dissolved the Cortes, and on May 10, 1907, published a decree declaring the “administration to be a dictatorship.” The Press was strictly gagged, and all the traditional weapons of despotism were polished up. In June, the dictator went to Oporto to defend his policy at a public banquet, and on his return a popular tumult took place in the Rocio, the central square of Lisbon, which was repressed with serious bloodshed. This was made the excuse for still more galling restrictions on personal and intellectual liberty, until it was hard to distinguish between “administrative dictatorship” and autocracy. As regards the adeantamentos, Franco’s declared policy was to make a clean slate of the past, and, for the future, to augment the civil list. In the autumn of that year, a very able Spanish journalist and deputy, Señor Luis Morote, visited most of the leading men in Portugal, and found among the Republicans an absolute and serene confidence that the Monarchy was in its last ditch and that a Republic was inevitable. Seldom have political prophecies been more completely fulfilled than those which Morote then recorded in the Heraldo of Madrid. Said Bernardino Machado:
“The Republic is the fatherland organized for its prosperity…. I believe in the moral forces of Portugal, which are carrying us directly toward the new order of things…. We shall triumph because the right is on our side, and the moral idealism; peacefully if we can, and I think it pretty sure that we can, since no public force can stop a nation on the march.”
Said Guerra Junqueiro, the leading poet of the day: “Within two years there will be no Braganzas or there will be no Portugal….The revolution, when it comes, will be a question of hours, and it will be almost bloodless.”
I could cite many other deliverances to the same effect, but one must suffice. Theophilo Braga, the “grand old man” of Portugal, said: “To stimulate the faith, conscience, will, and revolutionary energies of the country, I have imposed on myself a plan of work, and a mandate not to die until I see it accomplished.”
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