1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Spain - Political Administration. Law and Justice.

(Part 15)


Spain - Political Administration. Law and Justice.

Political Administration.—Spain is an hereditary monarchy, the constitution of which rests on the fundamental law of June 30, 1876. The sovereign becomes of age on completing his or her sixteenth year. The sovereign is grandmaster of the eight Spanish orders of knighthood, the principal of which is that of the Golden Fleece (Toisón de Oro), founded in 1431 by Philip of Burgundy. The chain of this order surrounds the royal arms, in which are included, besides the arms of Castile, Leon, Granada, and the lilies of the royal house of Bourbon, the arras of Austria, Sicily, Savoy, Brabant, and others. The national colours are red and yellow. The flag is divided into three horizontal stripes—two red stripes, with a yellow one between bearing the royal arms.

The legislative authority is exercised by the sovereign in conjunction with the cortes, a body composed of two houses—a senate and a chamber of deputies. The senate is composed of members of three classes:—(1) members by right of birth or office—princes, the wealthier nobles holding the rank of grandee (grande), a dignity conferred by the king either for life or as an hereditary honour, and the highest state officials; (2) members nominated by the king for life; and (3) members elected by the state corporations and by the most highly taxed subjects of the state for a period of five years. The members belonging to the first two classes must not exceed 180 in number, and there may be the same number of members of the third class. The chamber of deputies consists of members elected for five years, in the proportion of one deputy for every 50,000 of the population. The electors must be twenty-five years of age and must have paid land-tax of twenty-five pesetas (£1) for one year, or an industrial tax of fifty pesetas for two years.

The executive administration is entrusted to a responsible ministry (consejo de ministros), in which the presidency belongs either to one of the ministers or to a president without portfolio. There are eight ministerial departments—the first secretaryship of state, to which belongs the management of foreign affairs, the secretary-ships of grace and justice, finance, and the interior, the department for the promotion of material and intellectual interests (secretaria de fomento), and the secretaryships of war, marine, and the colonies.

The civil administration is under the secretary for the interior. In each province is a civil governor nominated by the crown, and the governor presides over a council, the members of which are elected by the representatives of each commune (ayuntamiento).

Law and Justice. —Spanish law is founded on the Roman law, the Gothic common law, and the national code proclaimed at the meeting of the cortes at Toro in 1501 (the leyes de Toro). There is a court of first instance in each of the 501 partidos judiciales into which the kingdom is divided; and a court of second instance in each of 15 audiencias territoriales into which the partidos judiciales are grouped; and there sits at Madrid a supreme court modelled on the French cour de cassation. The administration of justice is public. Except in commercial cases the parties to a suit must always bo represented by sworn counsel (abogados fiscales).

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