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Moderantism was, together with Progressivism, one of the two main currents of 19th century Spanish liberalism. It had its origins in the so-called moderates during the Liberal Triennium, who during the reign of Isabella II formed a party, the Moderate Party, which was the party that remained in power the longest and managed to integrate the "reformist" absolutists into its ranks. The less conservative sector of the Moderate Party formed the Liberal Union in 1854. During the Restoration, the members of the Moderate Party joined Antonio Cánovas del Castillo's Liberal-Conservative Party.

Their European points of reference were French doctrinairianism and British conservatism. Their adversary in Spanish public life was progressive liberalism, although both constituted the only part of the political spectrum institutionally accepted for the political game, the so-called dynastic parties.[1]


Moderantism, although its origins can be traced back to the Spanish War of Independence, in the position of the Jovellanistas (through Jovellanos), intermediate between absolutists and liberals in the debates at the Cortes de Cádiz, did not become explicit as a political movement until the Liberal Triennium (in which the moderates opposed the exalted). Even then it did not take shape in its definitive form. This took place in the last years of the reign of Ferdinand VII, when the Elizabethan group within the court, around the future regent María Cristina de Borbón, tried to attract the most moderate among the liberals (Francisco Martínez de la Rosa), obtaining an amnesty to allow their return from exile (1832, first restricted and then extended in 1833)[2] to support the succession of the king's only daughter, Isabella. The Carlist group, clearly absolutist, supported the application of the Salic Law, which provided for the succession of the king's younger brother, Charles. The evidence of the need for mutual support between the moderate liberals and the Elizabethan aristocracy made it possible to find a possible expression of the common ideology, far removed from any extremism. Among his adversaries, this exchange of favours, conciliation or convergence of interests around an equidistant position was called pasteleo, a term popularised to such an extent that it became an offensive synonym for moderantism itself, and the moderates were called pasteleros; while Martínez de la Rosa was nicknamed Rosita la pastelera and Barón del bello rosal (Baron of the beautiful rosebush).[3][4]

Political agenda

Having become a true political party of elites with a presence in the provinces and an effective propaganda apparatus, they won the elections of 1834. The founders of the party at that time have been described as the best generation of conservative liberals of the Spanish 18th century: Antonio Alcalá Galiano,[5] Francisco Javier de Istúriz, Andrés Borrego, Antonio de los Ríos Rosas, Martínez de la Rosa, Joaquín Francisco Pacheco and Nicomedes Pastor Díaz.[6]

The moderates remained in power for much of the reign of Isabel II (moderate decade, 1844–1854, and the period 1856–1868), resorting to military pronunciamientos when necessary, led by their chief swordsman, Narváez. From the government they had the opportunity to develop the programmatic principles of moderantism, identified with the Constitution of 1845, which maintained a balance of power between king and parliament that was much more favourable to the monarch than the Constitution of 1812 and even the Constitution of 1837. A small group of moderates in favour of continuing with this document (on the grounds that it benefited consensus and political stability) was contemptuously accused of puritanical prejudices by Narváez, who ignored them, and from then on they became known as Puritans or Puritan dissidents; led by Joaquín Francisco Pacheco and Pastor Díaz, they had personalities such as Istúriz, José de Salamanca, Patricio de la Escosura and Claudio Moyano, and the support of Generals Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha and Ros de Olano, and they would end up joining the most moderate of the progressives in the strategies of the Liberal Union led by General Leopoldo O'Donnell.[7]

A strong restriction of suffrage was forced by economic criteria, reserving it for the wealthiest; and a policy of public order was promoted, entrusted to a newly created body, the Civil Guard. Moderantism was markedly centralist, reducing the municipal powers that the progressives sought to expand; and it maintained an economic policy favourable to the interests of the Castilian-Andalusian landowning oligarchy (depending on the circumstances, between protectionism and free trade), which in fiscal matters translated into a greater indirect tax burden (consumption, paid by all) than direct (contributions, paid in relation to wealth). The tax reform of 1845, carried out by Alejandro Mon y Menéndez and Ramón de Santillán, perpetuated this fiscal system.

Conservative in social and religious matters, the Spanish moderates did not seek the separation of Church and State, but rather a redirection of the anticlerical policy of the progressive liberals, which took shape in the Concordat of 1851. The Spanish Catholic Church continued to enjoy a preponderant role in public life, respecting its privileged position in education and guaranteeing its economic survival after having been deprived of its sources of wealth with the confiscation. By means of the cult and clergy budget, the State was obliged to pay the salaries of priests and bishops and to maintain the immense real estate patrimony that still remained under its control. Ideologically, the so-called neo-Catholics represented the right wing of moderantism, seeking a difficult balance between Catholicism and liberalism, which for their opponents was a simple masking of traditionalist, ultramontane or reactionary positions.


During the revolutionary six-year period the moderates only obtained a marginal parliamentary representation, but the role of Cánovas del Castillo was decisive for the return of Alfonso XII as king, reorganizing that political space in what during the Restoration would be called the Liberal-Conservative Party, which would take turns in power with the Fusionist Liberal Party of Sagasta. The Constitution of 1876 would include a good part of the moderate political ideology, which from then on would be known as conservative or Canovist.


The centrist nature of moderantism meant that, in addition to the moderates who were so from the beginning of their political or intellectual careers, some of the most outstanding personalities in this political and ideological sphere came from the ranks of their political adversaries. Some followed a political path to the right, coming from the exalted liberalism or from the different progressive groups; others, a path to the left, arriving at moderantism coming from Carlism.

In addition to those mentioned above, the following can be mentioned:


The history of the press in Spain was characterized in the 19th century by the predominance of the party press, the newspapers being clearly aligned with a certain political position, although none of them was exactly an official organ. Among the media identified as being aligned with moderantism, both in Madrid and in the provinces, were:[10][11][12]


  • El Censor.
  • El Universal.



  • El Porvenir.
  • El Correo Nacional.


  • El Heraldo.
  • El Sol.
  • El Castellano.
  • El Conservador (Weekly magazine on politics, science and literature -Puritan group-)


  • El Heraldo.
  • El Correo Nacional.
  • La Época.
  • El Diario Español.


  • La España.
  • El Parlamento.
  • La Verdad.
  • La Época.
  • El Diario Español.1856-1868:
  • La España.
  • El Conciliador.
  • La Época (Sold by subscription only, by the aristocratic Unión Liberal).

Other moderated newspapers and magazines, no period indicated:

  • El Vapor (Barcelona).
  • El Guardia Nacional (Barcelona).
  • El Papa-Moscas (Burgos).
  • La Correspondencia de España.
  • La Colmena.
  • El Redactor General.
  • El Mundo.
  • El Eco del Comercio (in other sources it appears as a progressive newspaper -Fermín Caballero-.).
  • Revista de España y del Extranjero.


  1. ^ Texts from Francisco Tomás y Valiente, El derecho penal de la monarquía absoluta (in Spanish), Madrid, Tecnos, 1969, pgs. 431-432 as quoted in this study. but these paragraphs do not appear in the google books preview. The second paragraph, on the other hand, is a direct quote from José María Jover (Política, diplomacia y humanismo popular en la España del siglo XIX (in Spanish), 1976, pg. 348-349), as can be verified by this other source.

    In Spain there was a very firm adherence to this adulterated form of political liberalism, tailor-made for the conservative bourgeoisie. The most enduring Spanish Constitutions of the 19th century obeyed this theoretical model in their entirety. What is more, in Spain the conservative tendency of doctrinaire liberalism was accentuated in several respects, and its temporal validity was much more lasting than in France. The main theoreticians of doctrinaire liberalism in Spain were, according to Díez del Corral, Jovellanos, Martínez de la Rosa, Donoso Cortés and Cánovas del Castillo. As can be seen, a string of names that links on the one hand with the learned of the late 18th century and on the other with the most important politician of the last quarter of the 19th century. José María Jover has called the Spanish version of doctrinaire liberalism 'moderantism'. There was in Spain a party, the Moderado, which was only moderately (i.e., scarcely) liberal.


    Moderantism is the political regime of an oligarchy that wishes to keep the forms of a representative regime without prejudice to renouncing in advance the results that a sincere application of this regime would bring.

  2. ^ Canavaggio, Jean (1995). Historia de la literatura española (in Spanish). Grupo Planeta (GBS). ISBN 978-84-344-7458-1.
  3. ^ Puig, Valentí (2007-02-27). "Tanto pastelero equidistante". Diario ABC (in Spanish).
  4. ^ Serrano, Carlos Seco (1984). Militarismo y civilismo en la España contemporánea (in Spanish). Instituto de Estudios Ecónomicos. p. 85. ISBN 978-84-85719-45-7.
  5. ^ His life trajectory is highly significant: a long-time liberal in the Trienio, he went from carbonari to Freemasonry and moderantism, approaching English conservatism -Edmund Burke- in his London exile.

    A middle-class, educated man, Galiano was, as a boy, a witness in Madrid to the Second of May; then, back home in Cadiz, he observed the events of the Cortes, writing among deputies and soldiers. A Freemason, conspirator, tavern orator, tough parliamentarian, sometimes incendiary, he proposed the disqualification of Ferdinand VII in the midst of the invasion of the Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis. Exiled to London, having learned from the errors of the Trienio and his English experience, he returned to Spain in 1834 as a different type of politician, more temperate and pragmatic. He accompanied Istúriz in the government of 1836, and drew up a draft constitution which the golpe de estado de La Granja, in August of that year, prevented it from reaching the Cortes. Second exile and second reflection. He returned with learned doctrinaire and constitutionalism. He was at times a friend of Argüelles, and of Donoso Cortés from afar. His prologue to El moro expósito, by the Duque de Rivas, constitutes the authentic manifesto of Spanish romanticism, as Sánchez-Prieto has written.

    Jorge Vilches Alcalá Galiano. La historia le hizo conservador (in Spanish), inLibertad Digital.

  6. ^ Vilches, Jorge (2009-04-23). "La historia le hizo conservador". Libertad Digital (in European Spanish). Retrieved 2024-04-11.
  7. ^ "Los puritanos y el liberalismo conservador". La Ilustración Liberal (in Spanish). Archived from the original on June 21, 2008.
  8. ^ Cortes, España (1844). Diario de las sesiones de Cortes: 1844/45 (in Spanish).

    I recognize that there must be perfect equality in the granting of civil rights. I recognize that the last beggar in Spain has the same rights to have the rags he wears respected as a potentate has to have the magnificent furniture that adorns his palace... but not in political rights. Political rights are not granted as privileges to every class of persons, no; they are a means of attending to the happiness of the country, and it is necessary that they should be circumscribed to those classes whose interests, being the same as those of society, cannot be turned against it.

  9. ^ González Lonor, Carmen (2014). El pensamiento de los primeros administrativistas españoles (PDF) (PhD, directed by Juan Pablo Fusi thesis) (in Spanish). Universidad Complutense.

    Silvela, who is unquestionably an almost prototypical representative of the Spanish moderate liberalism of the regency of Maria Cristina, is, even biologically, a descendant of the enlightened Frenchmen who had to go into exile with the fall of the Josephine government and the return of Ferdinand VII. But Silvela's ideological approach clearly shows the overcoming of the ideology of the Enlightenment, professed by the men of the previous generation among whom he grew up and was formed. That is why he affirms that we must move from the Enlightenment maxim of "everything for the people but without the people" to "everything for the people and as much as possible by the people", qualifying his statement by clarifying that he understands by people "not the plebs, but the universality of those associated in a common pact" 290. Furthering this idea, Silvela, referring to the pages alluded to in the Introduction of his Collection of opinions, projects and organic laws or practical studies of administration, reiterates in relation to the possibility of participation of towns and provinces through corporations of popular origin (Town Councils and Provincial Councils) that in no case should this constitute an obstacle to the development of central power; he establishes as a principle that the people should not interfere in doing "what they should not do, what they cannot do: we do not want the democratic element to predominate in such a way in the municipal and provincial corporations as to make the exercise of the central authority completely impossible". Silvela is a true representative of that new generation of temperate liberals, which constituted the ideological base of the moderate party. He is in favor of the government of the best, of the most intelligent, under the form of constitutional monarchy. In this sense he states in the Introduction of his work that:

    . "Representative governments are founded mainly on two bases: the harmonious division of powers, and the necessary intervention of the wisest and most virtuous in the direction and management of common affairs in the different grades of the social scale" and that "In such governments the king and the Cortes exercise legislative power.... In this class of governments there is no sovereign; unless by such a name is designated the moral entity resulting from the convenience of the wills of the king and the courts on the same point".

    Probably one of the most synthetic definitions of the ideology and the program of government promoted by the moderates in 1838 can be found in the pages of this work by Silvela, in which he summarizes in a single paragraph the principles inspiring the actions of the moderates, already defined as totally liberal: government of the best and shared sovereignty. However, Silvela had qualified in his proposal for an indirect electoral system the positions held by the most characteristic representatives of Spanish doctrinarism of the time, advocates of census suffrage; specifically, he criticizes Donoso's thesis (of whom he confesses to be a friend) of the government of the most intelligent: he agrees that the management of public affairs should be entrusted to the wisest and most capable, but disagrees on the procedure to decide who those most capable are:

    . "It is not enough to allege, in magnificent and brilliant prose, that the best among the good exercise a right of their own and not delegated; that intelligence carries with it legitimate arrogance (in all of which there could not be the least doubt) but then to constitute and preserve political society, it is necessary to descend from such lofty regions, to knock at the doors of those same intelligences and make them take command and govern.... Property and capacity, in the sense in which these words are used, are not assurances of knowledge... they are vague indications, general presumptions". Consequently, he opts for an indirect system in which all men in possession of their civil rights enjoy the right of active and passive suffrage, in the first round, considering that a broad-based indirect election system does not originate anarchy but organization. He affirms, in this sense, that in his opinion no obstacle should be placed on the elector in the exercise of his right; the inconveniences that universal suffrage could present would later be corrected in the second degree of election, so that in the first degree the electors would vote for those who, among those they know, they consider the best, and the electoral body formed by these, would elect the members of the legislating body. Thus would be achieved, according to Silvela, the government of the best among the good:

    . "Public confidence, the confidence of the majority of voters in the first degree, is the only rule, the only unfailing thermometer of aptitude, of suitability, of the ability to be a voter in short; the only means that we must use to find that class of educated, honest and patriotic voters that we uselessly seek by indirect and deceitful ways". And in the face of criticism of the indirect election system, he opined that the indirect system had more tradition and roots in Spain than the direct system, and further argued that:

    . "It is false to maintain, as has been said, that by means of the indirect election the fact of voting is made illusory, because it reduces to little or nothing what the voter votes first degree. In my opinion, quite the contrary: each voter votes as much as he can and therefore as much as he should, since he votes as much as he knows.... It is also false that the indirect election is less popular than the direct, as proposed ... the most popular of both would be the direct; but under the assumption of universal suffrage". But the recognition of the right of active suffrage to all Spaniards who enjoy their civil rights, in short, of universal suffrage in the first degree election, does not mean that Silvela adheres to the progressive thesis of popular sovereignty. He clearly states that sovereignty does not reside in the people:

    . "The people are not sovereign nor do they have the right to exercise sovereignty, because there can never be a right to an impossible thing; but the people are the origin of sovereignty...Under a representative regime is when the citizens each of themselves, as separate units, have greater and more useful intervention in the direction and management of common affairs, without for that reason, on any occasion the people are sovereign."

    In any case, and in spite of the aforementioned differences of nuance, Francisco Agustín Silvela was one of the representatives of this third way, in which the concept of order was so important, as opposed to the positions held by the exalted liberals under the motto of freedom. In this sense he pronounced himself clearly in 1836 in the introduction to his draft electoral law: "If this is what they call moderation; if the just European middle ground strives only for this; if it clamors for the strict and severe observance of beneficial laws; if it is irritated to see the rights of humanity trampled underfoot and some regions threatened by the most dreadful anarchy, I am also a moderate revolutionary, I want to belong to the just middle ground". And in 1838 he ratified the same position, defending the liberal condition of his ideas against those who might label them as too moderate: "There is no contradiction in professing the incontestable dogma of national sovereignty with all its legitimate consequences; in desiring the abolition of the tithe and all disproportionate contributions; the complete ecclesiastical and civil disentailment; the extinction of all privileges, legal equality; in being a man of the people, determined to support the interests of that immense majority, wretched in all countries, destined, if not to abjection, to ignorance, and to horrid privations; in a word in being just, beneficent, tolerant, a lover of humanity; in belonging to progress, to which we are honored to belong understood as we understand it, and wanting order, government, administration."

  10. ^ Alonso, Jesús Longares (1976). Política y religión en Barcelona, (1833-1843) (in Spanish). Editora Nacional. p. 152. ISBN 978-84-276-0364-6.
  11. ^ Calero, Manuel Chust (2004). Federalismo y cuestión federal en España (in Spanish). Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I. p. 68. ISBN 978-84-8021-452-0.
  12. ^ See also Orígenes del periodismo (in Spanish) to see an overview of trends and periods.
  13. ^ Aguilar Gavilán, Enrique. "Perfil biográfico de un político andaluz" (PDF) (in Spanish).
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