David profile2


David Manzano Cosano is a researcher affiliated with the Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos (School for Hispanic-American Studies) of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Higher Scientific Research Council, CSIC), in Seville and Associate Professor of Economic History at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He recently received his Ph.D. in Contemporary History from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, after obtaining a Licenciatura in History and a Licenciatura in Political Science and Public Administration from the Universidad de Granada in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

He started his scholarly activities in 2010, when he joined as a trainee researcher an Excellence Project sponsored by the Junta de Andalucía (Regional Government of Andalusia) entitled “El Pacífico hispano: imágenes, conocimiento y poder (Spain in the Pacific: Images, Knowledge and Power)” and implemented by the Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos

It was at the School that he carried out his doctoral studies, which examined the idea of the Pacific held by 19th-century Spaniards and Spanish colonial history in contemporary Micronesia.

David title

A content analysis of 19th century Spanish Constitutions (the 1812 Constitution, the 1834 Royal Statute, and the Constitutions of 1837, 1845, 1869, 1873 and 1876) shows that Philippine participation in the Spanish Cortes depended upon two variables: 1) the political current that dominated the government; and 2) the degree of knowledge of the colonial reality on the part of Spanish elites. The above-mentioned Constitutions made it possible for the Philippines to be represented in the Cortes whenever there was a combination of the dominance of progressive ideas in government and the existence of laws, even if compliance with them was impossible. If we apply this theory to different historical periods, we see that the Philippines would be granted representation in the Cortes solely during the period of the Cadiz Constitution, under the “absent king”, Ferdinand VII (1810-14); during the Liberal Triennial (1820-23); and during the period of the Royal Statute (1834-36), under Isabella II.


The first Spanish Constitution, that of 19 March 1812 (popularly known as “La Pepa”), was the culmination of a constitutional process that sought to overthrow the French-sponsored regime of Joseph I by creating institutions representative of the will of all Spanish territories. Thus the Council of Spain and of the Indies drew up “Instructions for Elections in America and Asia” on 14 February 1810. Its aim was to fill the gap created by the absence of Spain’s overseas territories in the first electoral regulations in Spanish history,  adopted on 1 January 1810 in order to permit the convening of a special and constituent session of the Cortes in that year. However, the problem of communications made it impossible for the overseas representatives to arrive on time. Thus, the Regency Council promulgated the Edict and Decree of 9 September 1810, “setting the number of alternate representatives for North and South America and the provinces occupied by the enemy, and laying down the rules for their election.” The Regency was aware that many regions could not assemble in Cadiz the number of electors necessary to elect their alternates; hence, Article 13 of the edict allowed different electoral districts that were distant from each other to be grouped together. This was the case of the Philippines, which was grouped with the electors of Guatemala and Mexico for purposes of the election on 20 September 1810 of their two alternate representatives: José Manuel Couto Avalle y Bravo and Pedro Pérez de Tagle. Both alternate representatives shortly afterwards requested that they be allowed to return to the Americas. But the refusal of the Cortes to leave the Philippine district unrepresented prevented Pérez de Tagle from carrying out his plan, until the arrival on 6 December of the representative duly elected in the Council (cabildo) of Manila, Ventura de los Reyes. De Los Reyes participated fully in the sessions that would lead to the promulgation of the 1812 Constitution.

“La Pepa” is the Spanish constitution that afforded the greatest protection to the Philippines and all overseas territories in Spanish history. It governed the Spanish legal system until 1837, but it did so only in intermittent fashion, because it was abrogated by moderate- or absolutist-leaning governments. For example, Ferdinand VII declared null and void the work of the Cadiz Cortes and abrogated the Cadiz Constitution upon his return to Spain in 1814. For six years, Spain returned to the political structures of the Ancien Régime. Such practices were ended by pressure from the military, led by Rafael de Riego, who in March 1820 compelled Ferdinand to swear allegiance to the 1812 Constitution. This marked the start of the so-called Liberal Triennial (1820-23), when the Philippines would resume election of its representatives to the Spanish Cortes, pursuant to laws based on the 1812 Constitution. But owing to the problem of communications and political obstacles, only three Philippine representatives, from among the seventeen elected in the colony, were able to participate in legislative sessions during the Liberal Triennial: Bringas y Taranco, Posadas Fernández de Córdoba and Sáenz de Vizmanoz. The 1812 Constitution was again abrogated and the work of the Liberal Triennial nullified with the invasion of the troops called “One hundred thousand sons of Saint Louis” in 1823. The invasion enabled Ferdinand VII to return to absolutist practices for a decade, until his death in 1833.

The strong conservative leanings of the Carlists and Spain’s membership in the Quadruple Alliance were the influences that prompted the Regency of Queen María Cristina to moderate the absolutist regime of her late husband and to change tack in the direction of liberalism. It is in this context that we should place the promulgation of the Royal Statute of 10 April 1834, a “granted charter” that propounded the view that sovereignty was shared by the King and the Cortes.  The Philippines was to be represented in the Cortes by two elected provincial representatives (procurador del Reino) chosen from the existing 188 representatives. The triumph of the Mutiny of La Granja de San Ildefonso on 13 August 1836 abrogated the legal system established by the 1834 Royal Statute and restored the regime of the 1812 Constitution, thanks to which the moderates were able to wrest from the progressives control of power in  government. This created a paradox, because the desire of the moderates to marginalize the overseas territories in the Chamber that was the depositary of national sovereignty was not achieved in theory. Formally speaking, pursuant to the 1812 Constitution, the Philippines alone was allocated 25 representatives, whereas according to the progressive standards of the Royal Decree of 24 May 1836, all the overseas provinces would have a total of 17 representatives. This is evidence of the central authorities’ lack of knowledge regarding the Philippines. Nevertheless, slow communications and the promulgation of the 1837 Constitution combined to fulfill the wish of many moderate Spaniards to remove representation of the overseas territories in the Cortes.


Consequently the lack of information in the colonial power regarding its overseas territories became the perfect ally in the effort to increase Filipino power in Spain, which acquired privileges under the sign of the colonies in the Americas. Thus, under the impetus of those who defended the need for equal rights for all the domains of the Spanish Crown, laws with similar content were passed for all these regions, with provision for a series of exceptions that took into account the special characteristics of overseas territories. These orders were formulated from the perspective of the colonies in the Americas and marked by a generalizing approach, offering the Philippines the same conditions as those granted to the provinces in the Americas. Thanks to this, the Philippines obtained representation in the Cortes. However, it was impossible for the Philippines to meet the deadlines for electing its representatives, given delays in communications. The colonial power circumvented this obstacle by lax implementation of the electoral laws. Thus, the absence of special provisions applicable to Philippine realities indicated the lack of concern on the part of the colonial power as regards the Philippine electoral district.

After the promulgation of the 1837 Constitution, the different legal regimes subjected the Philippines to different treatment. The moderates’ rise to power limited the rights of the Spanish colonies by denying them their right to representation in the Cortes. This trend was reversed for the Caribbean colonies from the time of the Democratic Sexennium (1868-74), but not for the Philippines. In spite of the progressive orientation of successive governments, the conceptualization of Spanish Oceania, i.e., the territory that depended politically on the office of the Philippine governor general as a region without an intellectually developed population, led the Spanish ruling class to deny it the right to participate in the Cortes. This tendency was consolidated under the 1876 Constitution.

To sum up, Spanish constitutional history demonstrates that the Philippines depended on the Spanish provinces in the Americas in order to obtain its rights. It also confirms that the Philippines was considered as a second-class overseas territory, for unlike Cuba and Puerto Rico, it would not be recognized the right to participate in the Cortes in the last three decades of the 19th century.