Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8 >> Civil List to County Government In The >> Cortes


king, constitution, people, spain, portugal and nobility

CORTES, lthefes, the old assembly of the in Spain and Portugal, the representa Lives chosen by the to assist in the making and administering of the laws of Spain and Portugal. In Spain the cortes of Castile, which was composed of the higher nobility, the superior ecclesiastics, the knights of the orders of Saint James, Calatrava and Alcantara and the representatives of certain cities held the first rank during the time of the united Spanish monarchy. In early times the king was very dependent upon the cortes; indeed, they were invested with the power of making war and fre quently exercised it in opposition to the throne. In the original constitution of Aragon the form of government was very remarkable, a supreme judge, called the justina, selected from persons of the second class, presided over the admin istration of the government. He decided all questions and disputes between the king and his subjects, and confined the royal power within the constitutional limits. King Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile succeeded in rendering themselves independent of the ges tates) (los cortes); and afterward, when the Castilians dared to resist an unconstitutional tax at a meeting convoked at Toledo by Charles in 1538 the king abolished this assembly of the sta t e s ?) After this neither the clergy nor nobility were assembled. Deputies from 18 cities were sometimes, however, convened, but this only in case subsidies were to be granted. Philip II restrained the liberties of the Ara gonese in 1591. After the Spanish war of suc cession Philip V deprived those provinces which had adhered to the Austrian party of the privi leges that still remained to them. From that time the cortes were convened only to pay hom age to the king or the Prince of Asturias, or when a question respecting the succession to the throne was to be determined. But when Napoleon attempted to extend his influence over Spain he convoked (15. June 1808) a junto of

the cortes at Bayonne. In their last session, 7 June 1812, a new constitution was adopted by them. The ninth article regulated the powers and duties of the cortes, and provided that they should consist of 25 archbishops, 25 nobles and 122 representatives of the people. Napoleon afterward attempted, by offering to restore the cortes to their ancient importance, to gain over the Spanish nobility, and through them the people, but failed. The constitution of 1826 was suppressed; but it was restored by Dom Miguel in 1842. The constitution of the Republic (21 Aug. 1911) provides for a cortes consisting of two bodies, an upper and a lower house. The former is chosen by the municipalities and the latter by the people; and the two jointly elect the president for a term of four years. The Portuguese cortes is coeval with the monarchy. In 1143 the assembly at Lamego was asked to confirm the elevation of Alphons9 I to the throne, and replied: We resolve that he shall be king during his life, and his children after him.) The general prosperity of the country made the people less interested in the cortes, their representatives; and the kings, elated with success, paid attention to them only when in need of money. Dom Pedro formulated a new constitution in 1826, called the cortes together and abdicated in favor of his daughter, Maria da Gloria. In 1828 Dom Miguel assembled the cortes, in order to be acknowledged by them, and to give his usurpation an appearance of legitimacy. Consult Colmeiro, (Cortes de los antiguos reins de Leon y de Castilla' (Madrid 18133-84); Desdevises du Dezert, 'L'Espagne de l'ancien regime' (Paris 1897-99); Muro y Martinez, 'Constitutions de Espafie (Madrid 1881) ; Prescott, 'Ferdinand and Isabella) • Stephens, 'Portugal' (in the 'Stories of the Nations See PORTUGAL ; SpArx.