The revolution of 1854, which will obtain moderate government for ten years, will produce in its aftermath the growth of radically democratic ideas, even republican ideas, among a people who, on their entry into that revolution, opposed even the word "Republic," so much so that they beat up peddlers of "The Echo of the Barricades" and rejected with indifference the appearance of a newspaper that dared to title itself "The Echo of the Working Class."

There was not in Madrid a working class disposed to listen to the echo of its own voice nor did the people have ears to hear republican propaganda!.

The presence of the people as armed militia in their favorite scene of political action, which was, during all the century the street, with the objectives of saving the throne and maintaining liberty with order, seems to be the accustomed message again and again of the revolutions in Madrid of the 19th century.

This sallying out of the people into the street occurred at times in the most spontaneous way, but normally as a response to some exterior incitement, to some military pronunciamiento connected with a civil conspiracy whose leadership usually devolved upon its more enlightened portions of the people, precisely upon those who invented the concept and used it most lavishly.

With the passing of time, the professionals will increasingly identify themselves as the middle class, to distinguish themselves, - when the political action ceases to be led by the people, - from the bourgeoisie upwards and from the popular classes below.

It is not a question of middle classes leagued to a takeoff of some form of industrial capitalism, but of a sector of the society that acquires, with the gradual growth of the State, with the unstable political life of parties and clubs, with the expansion of the press and reading public, and with the growth of business life, enough relevance to introduce new forms and spaces of sociability.

So that when one seeks to visualize that people, the first image that leaps to mind is that massive foray into the streets, with weapons in hand, to take the nerve centers of the city and, once triumph is assured, festivals are organized to receive their caudillos, who have mutinied, rebeled, or have fought some battle which obliged the hosts of reaction to withdraw.

Places like the Plaza Mayor, taken over by militiamen who, with rifle on shoulder or in hand, fortify themselves there, guard sharply the accesses, or of General Espartero received in Madrid in July of 1854 under triumphal arches, flags and garlands adorning the barricades behind which the people had made themselves strong against troops sent out by the government.

Such are the most beloved images of the people, which will be long remembered and celebrated. It is the day of triumph, the day on which it affirms its presence.!

From the 2nd of May, through the 7th of July up to the 29th of September, the history of the people of Madrid is replete with glorious days. It is not necessary, and perhaps harmful, to add the year, for in the memory of their heroes it stays engraved with the fire of their rifles and the blood of their martyrs.

And it all began with the dull sound produced by the footfalls of the people, which break that quietude in which they were living.

From the poor districts, to the sound of trumpets and drums that play a call to arms, as in 1835 or in the bull-ring, singing anthems and songs of liberty as in 1854, the people rush to the nerve centers of the city, where power is rooted or proclaimed: the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol.

Along the way they would take over all arms possible to strengthen themselves and hold out in the positions they occupy until news would arrive that the situation had changed. But from these control positions, they could be dislodged by security forces or by an army detachment.

If that is the way it was happening, there was little difficulty, in a city of so narrow, tortuous physiognomy and of such intricate interiors as Madrid, to construct barricades and garrison themselves solidly behind them and within houses. This is what they did, for the first time in 1848, and this is what is repeated profusely in 1854.

In those moments, with the battle yet to be decided, was when were produced actions inherent in every revolution: conflagration and sacking of the properties of the enemy.

The most striking occurred on a night in July of 1854. They burned the palaces of Sartorius, Count of San Luis, of Salamanca, of Vistahermosa, of Collantes, and of Domenech, and even that which the queen mother, María Cristina, - "idol of another time of the Spaniards, first founder of its liberties, and target therefore for revolutionary hatred," - occupied in the street called Las Rejas.

And then, the rejoicing after triumph. Militia and troops, or what is the same, the people and the army fraternize, on some occasions after interchanging a few shots, with which the results will be more than assured, but normally, after some fusillade, from which is to be expected, by its fatal results, the coming hour of revenge.

But with the jubilees of triumph and midst the fraternizations, the people is incapable of hatching a vindictive spirit, forgets all rancor and shows itself magnanimous. But not always, certainly.

It is surprising, after triumphs that have cost such blood, that never has a victorious revolution in Madrid imposed a rule of terror, not even for a week, not even for a day; for the victorious people has limited itself in avenging its grievances. After the victorious revolution there is not terror, but happiness.!

Galdós, a master recorder of these events, perhaps misses a most profound renewal of the political ambiance of "the great lords and chiefs," by qualifying those days in July as, "... a poor, home-made revolution, which will not change anything more than the external odds and ends of existence."

This was a judgment which was not shared by the correspondent of the newspaper, "The London's Times," when on the same events believed he saw not "an ordinary Spanish Pronunciamiento, which begins with noise and ends with humor," but "the seriousness and stability of a Parisian revolution."

Then, Madrid would be Paris, if not in its urbanism at least in its revolutionary impetus.? No, not at all.

Of these two points of view, that of Galdós seems closer to reality, not only because there is no terror here nor any such clearing of the air, but for the fact that, Galdós himself points out, "... all these revolutions end up in the embraces of the army with the people and in the reception and welcoming of a victorious general."

Copyright © 2002 by JLL & JRP

All rights reserved