"What has happened in Madrid - lamented Fernández de los Ríos - is what has happened in all of Spain. Sixty years of timid unrest have not resulted in a saving revolution".
The aristocracy, as we have seen previously, was unable to transform a city which it, along with the Church, had molded in their own image during the 17th and 18th centuries. By the 19th century the time had passed for a true revolution to happen in the city either by the monarch or by the nobility.
The rising middle class, that of the moneyed merchants, did not show itself interested in creating a new city back-to-back with the nobility. They preferred to take over spaces snatched from the monasteries or purchased from the nobles, and to construct in those places their own palaces or to guarantee for themselves rental incomes by putting up buildings for rent.
Then, there remained the people. The people lived through sixty years of unrest from 1808 to 1868, but not at all timidly. Indeed, they were vigorous years of persistent unrest. However, this unrest, although vigorous, did not produce a salvaging revolution.
The people, but what are, or who are the people?.
If the term is perceived in the idiom of the epoch, "the people" were all those classes outside the ranks of the great ones and the nobility old or new.
Speaking of the higher-ups, the aristocracy remainded outside this denomination of the people, being proprietors of extensive lands, and as well too, the great merchants are not included, especially if they were in the business of handling money, such as money-lenders or owned a banking house.
Indeed, this latter feature would increase tremendously the probability of alliances with titled nobility through marriages of their children, or they could enter directly into the ranks of the nobility by being granted a title.
Without doubt, in between those who had entered society and those who were "the people" properly said, there existed a fluid terrain traveled by individuals of the middle classes, who were neither one nor the other and who, generally, had either left or were about to leave one for the other. Such were alienated from the people, but were not yet admitted into the ranks of the great.
As for still lower groups in the marginal outskirts but sometimes within, - as action in the streets continues and threatens to boil over in violence that none can control - there was all that group, so abundant in Madrid, which some liberals of the decade of the thirties call the "populacho," - the rable. -
These then are the "miserable rabble" which Ayguals de Izco depicts were gladdened when they received Fernando VII as he comes to reclaim his absolute power. They are the "plebs" which Martínez de la Rosa feared were disposed to support the reactionaries against the "Child Queen" and which in 1834 behave, in the eyes of the British ambassador, as if they were "the worst canaille of Europe".
This "mob" of the decades of the 20's and 30's was not different in composition from that, in the same literature, which appeared in the later 40's and 50's as "mobs ripe to convert themselves into masses which, under cover of changes of order and political upset, would give themselves over now not to the causes of absolutism but to incendiarism, crime and pillage".
The "people" are those elements who sacrifice their lives at the barricades in the cause of liberty. The "mobs" are those which sack and burn whatever is in their path.
This is not to say that the very same human beings may not constitute a "people" when their actions carry political content, or be a "mob", "plebs", "canaille" or "the rabble", whenever their actions are purely destructive.
It was not considered that "the people" were that great mass of the poor and the mendicant who filled the streets of Madrid with their presence, to the embarrassment of good, upright craftsmen and bourgeoisie, who would have preferred to walk the streets without stumbling on them constantly.
Something does get done to take them out of sight, but the persistence of laments about the multitude of poor people everywhere, and the very fact that their presence vividly arouses the attention of foreigners coming from cities where the poor also make up the urban scape, shows that those political moves to suppress the beggars from sight had very limited results.
Madrid will remain through all this century, - and through part of the following century, - a city overflowing with the poor. The honorable, hard-working "people" will have to put forth extra efforts in order not to be confused with them.
Excluding the nobility old and new, and the miserables plebs, the mob and the beggars, all the rest are or will be the "people".
At the bottom, the lowest level was made up of those who earned a hard, meager living in a daily wage, usually in traditional skills, wherein the worker shared food and housing with the craftsman for whom to have private ownership of his means of production did not imply that he belonged to a supposed bourgeois class.
Blacksmiths, shoemakers, tavern-keepers, butchers, coach-drivers, job-foremen, masons, dealers in iron, rags, paper, oils and fats, or hides. From all these trades, there came, toward the middle of the century, the most substantive part of the people of Madrid, without having produced any clear social distinction between owners of small businesses and their salaried employees.
And so, by self-determination, the "people" will be those classes of craftsmen and day-workers in set trades. Although, as we shall see, to show their identity, they had to participate, at least toward 1868, in actions that while they were not generally pointed toward the spilling of blood, did take on that burden.
Then in fact, the "people" will be in the 19th century above all else a political theme which immediately evokes some political events. But not just any event, rather those in which the presence and active participation of the multitudes in the streets determine results that changed what we may call "the situation".
Understanding through all this, an absolutist government or later on, a moderated one, but which could include also the downfall of a monarch and even the end of a dinasty.
"The people" in this political acceptation which is its own and is most suited to it when discussed or when manifestos are directed at it, is "the people of the year 12, the year 20, the year 23; it is the people of Muñoz Torrero, of Riego and of Argüelles." It is the people whom Juan Prim congratulates so many years later for their initiative and their resolve, demonstrated once more in 1868, toppling a throne but without liquidating at the same time the monarchical constitution of the State.
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