Publishing the Constitution of 1812 in St Augustine

The 1812 Spanish Constitution was in force after its first publication on March 19 1812 until Napoleon’s defeat and Fernando VII’s return to Spain in 1814 — short-lived but historically significant because it established a new system of government for Spain; designed to limit the power of the monarch and prevent corrupt rule.

In St Augustine, one of two places known to have a monument to the 1812 Constitucíon, celebrations are taking place this year for the bicentenary of Spain’s first constitution; the other monument is in the Plaza de España in Cádiz, Spain.

Local re-enactors portrayed the characters recently; commemorating publishing the most extensive of Spain’s constitutions in the Plaza de la Constitucíon. Brigadier Don Sebastian Kindelan, who served as Governor of East Florida from 1812 until 1815, was portrayed by Raphael Cosme at the plaza monument.

While the country was in the midst of the Spanish War of Independence, the historic document was published by the Cortes of Cádiz.

It contained 384 separate articles under 10 titles and established sovereignty as residing in the nation, with the division of power into three branches — legislative, judicial and executive. Although the monarch was recognized by the new constitutional government as the executive branch, executive power was limited by strict parliamentary control in a legislature with a single parliamentary chamber. A new administrative system was set up based on districts and provinces.

A limited suffrage was established, and individual rights to freedom, the press, education, and property were recognized. All citizens were seen as equal before the law.

The Inquisition was abolished and Catholicism was stated to be the only religious faith permitted — this is seen today as an article that was necessary to gain the support of the Church in the struggle against the French.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News contributed photograph by Raphael Cosme

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