Spain is celebrating this year the Bicentennial of the first Spanish Constitution, the Constitution of 1812, known popularly as la Pepa since it was promulgated in Cadiz on St. Joseph’s day, 19th March 1812. Joseph’s name is familiarly known in Spanish as Pepe, the female is Pepa and the Constitution is feminine in Spanish.
This Constitution was one of the most liberal of her time and although the Bayonne Statute issued in 1808 under Joseph Bonaparte is indeed earlier, it never came into effect.
La Pepa established the principles of national sovereignty, universal male suffrage and division of power into the legislative power – with a single parliamentary chamber – the judicial power, and the executive, with the monarch’s executive power limited by strict parliamentary control. Freedom of press, education and property were recognised and La Pepa supported land reform and free enterprise. A new administrative system was set up based on districts and provinces. All citizens were seen as equal before the law. Catholicism was stated to be the only religious faith permitted, seen today necessary to gain the support of the Church in the struggle against the French. The Inquisition was abolished.
Unfortunately her life was brief and intermittent. Six weeks after returning to Spain, on 24 March 1814, king Fernando VII abolished the Constitution of 1812. La Pepa was briefly in force during the Trienio Liberal from 1820 to 1823 , and again between 1836 and 1837 during the preparation of the Constitution of 1837.
From 1812 to 1814, la Pepa was never really in full effect: much of Spain was ruled by the French and the rest of Spain was in the hands of interim governments focused more on the resistance to Bonaparte that on the establishment of a constitutional regime.
I was going to write about la Pepa when I saw Aly Monroe article HERE. For additional information you can click at Wikipedia and at The Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy: Promulgated in Cádiz, the nineteenth day of March.
Long life la Pepa! ¡Viva la Pepa! was, for a long time unfortunately, a cry associated with our desire of freedom in Spain.
Consorcio del Bicentenario (in Spanish)