Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/168

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
154  
[HISTORY
PORTUGAL


Shiré highlands in order to forestall their annexation by the British, and the British government demanded satisfaction. Public opinion rendered compliance difficult until a British squadron was dispatched to the mouth of the Tagus, and the British minister presented an ultimatum (Jan. 11, 1890), requiring the withdrawal of all Portuguese forces from the Shire. Barros Gomes was then able to yield under protest; but disturbances at once broke out in Lisbon and Oporto, and the ministry resigned. A coalition government took office on the 14th of January, with Serpa Pimentel as prime minister and J. Hintze-Ribeiro as foreign minister. The king, in a letter to Queen Victoria, declined for the time being to receive the Order of the Garter, which had just been offered him, and on the 6th of February the government addressed a circular letter to the powers, proposing to submit the issues in dispute to a European conference. Meanwhile a Republican rising was suppressed in Lisbon, and many suspected officers were degraded. On the 20th of August an Anglo-Portuguese agreement was negotiated in London, but the cortes refused to ratify it. The ministry therefore resigned, and on the 14th of October Abreu e Sousa fomed a new cabinet, which arranged with Great Britain a modus vivemii for six months, pending the conclusion of another agreement. The British government was ready to make concessions, but more than one collision took place between Portuguese troops in Manica and the forces of the British South Africa Company. The defeat of the Portuguese was the chief cause of a serious military rising in Oporto, which broke out on the 30th of January 1891. The suppression of this rising so far enhanced the prestige of the cabinet that the cortes forthwith approved the convention with Great Britain; and the dehnitive treaty, by which Portugal abandoned all claim to a trans-African dominion, was ratified by the cortes on the 28th of May. Relations with Great Britain, however, remained far from cordial until the celebration of the fourth centenary of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India afforded the opportunity for a rapprochement in 1898.

The extravagant management of the railways guaranteed by the state had entailed such heavy deficits that the payment of the coupon of the railway state loan, due on the of 2nd of January 1892 had to be suspended. Thus arose a serious financial crisis, involving three changesFinancial Crisis of 1892. of ministry. In May the Portuguese government committed a formal act of bankruptcy by issuing a decree reducing the amount then due to foreign bondholders by two-thirds. The bondholders’ committees, supported by some of the powers concerned, protested against this illegal action. A compromise was at last arranged by Hintze-Ribeiro, who assumed office in February 1895 as head of a Progressive government. His cabinet promised only slightly better terms to the foreign bondholders, but it relieved the financial tension in some degree; and by coming to an agreement with Germany in East Africa and with Great Britain in South Africa as to the delimitation of frontiers, he minimized the risks of conflict with either country.

Portugal observed neutrality on the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, but the permission it conceded to the British consul at Lourenço Marques to search for contraband of war among goods imported there, and the free passage accorded to an armed force under General Carrington from Beira through Portuguese territory to Rhodesia, were vehemently attacked in the Press and at public meetings. The award of the Swiss arbitrators in the matter of the Delagoa Bay railway was given in 1900 (see Lourenço Marques). Portugal was condemned to pay 15,314,000 francs compensation; and this sum (less than was expected) was immediately raised by loan from the Portuguese Tobacco Company.

A law of the 8th of August 1901 regulated the conditions of election to the lower house, thus ending a long series of parliamentary reforms. The most important of these had provided for the gradual extinction of the right of hereditary peers to sit in the upper house (July 24, 1885), had reduced the number of deputies and fixed the qualifications required for the exercise of the franchise (March 28, 1895); and had abolished the electiveConsti-tutional Changes, 1885–1901. branch in the upper house (Sept. 25, 1895). These changes left untouched the most serious evil in Portuguese public life. The two great parties, Progressives and Regenerators, were largely composed of professional politicians whose votes were determined by their private interests. Skilful manipulation of the electoral returns enabled these two parties to hold office in fairly regular rotation; hence arose the popular nickname of rotativos, applied to Progressives and Regenerators alike. The same methods enabled them to obstruct the election of Republican and Independent candidates.

Under such a system of government it was natural that economic issues should still dominate Portuguese politics at the beginning of the 20th century. Year by year the budget showed a deficit, and the indebtedness of the state increased. A large proportion of theRepublican-ism and the Army. expenditure was unproductive, corruption was rife in the public services, and the poverty of the overtaxed peasant and artisan classes gave rise to sporadic outbreaks of violence. In 1902 the students at Coimbra and Oporto organized an agitation against the proposed conversion of the gold debt; and anti-clerical riots, followed by a strike, rendered necessary the proclamation of martial law in Aveiro. In January 1903 an insurrection of peasants armed with scythes took place at Fundao; the imposition of a new market tax provoked riots at Coimbra in March; a serious strike of weavers took place at Oporto in June. In the same year the general distress was intensified by the failure of the Rural and Mortgage Bank of Brazil. In these circumstances Republicanism rapidly gained ground. Its real strength was masked by the system which enabled any ministry in power to control the election of candidates to the cortes. In April 1806, for example, only one Republican deputy was returned, although it was notorious that the Republican party could command a majority in many constituencies. Though the army as a whole was monarchist, certain regiments had become imbued with revolutionary ideals, which were fortified by the unwise employment of soldiers and sailors for the suppression of industrial disputes. During the Weavers' strike the cruiser “Rainha D. Amelia” was converted into a temporary prison, and at Fundao, Aveiro and elsewhere troops had been ordered to fire on men with whom they sympathized. In November 1902, while King Carlos was in England, a military rising was organized in Oporto, but never took place. On the 23rd of April 1905 a body of cavalry and artillery mutinied in Lisbon and proclaimed a republic; but they were overpowered and ultimately transported to Mozambique. Such incidents, unimportant in themselves, were symptoms of a dangerous state of public opinion, which was debarred from expression in the cortes.

The constitution empowered the sovereign to veto any bill, to dissolve or prorogue the cortes, and to govern by means of ministerial decrees. The use of these extraordinary powers would be a breach of constitutional practice, but not of law. King Carlos had already beenThe Dic-tatorship, 1906–1908. criticized for alleged excessive interferences in politics. An experiment in government by decree had been made in May—October 1894; it was repeated in September 1905, when the king consented to prorogue the cortes until January 1906 in order to postpone discussion of the terms upon which the tobacco monopoly was to be allocated. A general election, in February 1906, was followed by three changes of ministry, the last of which, on the 19th of May, inaugurated the régime known in Portugal as the dictadura, or dictatorship. João Franco, the new prime minister, was conspicuous among Portuguese politicians for his integrity, energy and courage; he intended to reform the national finances and administration—by constitutional means, if possible. The cortes, opened on the 6th of June 1906, was dissolved on the 14th; another election took place, preceded by an official announcement that on this occasion all votes would be fairly counted; and the Franquistas or “New Regenerators” obtained a majority. When the