The following is a guest post by Ángel García, a summer intern in the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Center.
March 19, 2012, will be the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of Cádiz. Seizing on the opportunity while interning at the Law Library of Congress, I asked the rare book technician, Nathan Dorn, to find me an original copy of this 1812 Constitution.
The Spanish Constitution of 1812 was passed in the Oratorio San Felipe. Its passage coincided with the celebration of the feast of St. Joseph and it was therefore given the nickname “La Pepa.” The Constitution was applied during only six years due to the tumultuous period in which it was adopted (independence wars and several revolutions and civil wars).
The Constitution is not only a milestone in Spanish history, but it is also a universal milestone.
The Spanish Constitution of Cádiz was approved during the time of the French invasion (Cádiz was one of the few cities that was not invaded) and its main inspirations were the old laws of the Kingdom of Spain as well as the enlightened liberalism of the French and U.S. constitutions. It shattered the utopian character of the French constitution, but also used enlightenment elements that constituted a very particular revolution against the “Old Regime” in the Spanish empire.
Furthermore, this constitution had an impact on many other European constitutions, as well as on the American states after independence. It was the first constitution in Europe to deal with national sovereignty – it recognized sovereignty as coming from the people and not from the king. Moreover, unlike the French constitution, which applied to all French-speaking citizens of France, the Spanish Constitution of 1812 had a completely universal character (including everyone from overseas – the Italian kingdoms, the Philippines, etc). Francisco Macías has previously written about how the constitution also applied in Mexico.
The Constitution was written in part by American representatives in the Spanish courts, and was also translated into several languages for its application. Therefore, we can say that this is the only truly universal constitution approved in a parliament.
With regard to the United States, it is significant that the current states of Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming and were included in the Constitution. This was therefore the first Constitution to be enforced in those territories.
The Law Library has in its collection many copies of different Spanish constitutions from the past two centuries. It’s great being around so much of my country’s history, even though I’m far from home!