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PRAXEDES MATEO SAGASTA (1827—1903)

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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 1002 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRAXEDES MATEO SAGASTA (1827—1903), Spanish states-man, was born on the 21st of July 1827 at Torrecilla de Cameros, in the province of Logrono. He began life as an engineer, and from his college days he displayed very advanced Liberal inclinations. He entered the Cortes in 1854 as a Progressist deputy for Zamora. After the coup d'etat of Don Leopold O'Donnell in 1856, Sagasta had to go into exile in France, but promptly returned, to become the manager of the Progressist paper La Iberia, and to sit in the Cortes from 1859 to 1863. He seconded the Progressist and revolutionary campaign of Prim and the Progressists against the throne of Queen Isabella, conspiring and going into exile with them. He returned, via Gibraltar, with Prim, Serrano and others, to take part in the rising at Cadiz, which culminated in the revolution of September 1868, and Sagasta was in succession a minister several times under Serrano and then under Ring Amadeo of Savoy; 1868–1872. Sagasta ultimately headed the most Conservative groups of the revolutionary politicians against Ruiz Zorrilla and the Radicals, and against the Federal Republic in 1873. He took office under Marshal Serrano during 1874, after the pronunciamiento of General Pavia had done away with the Cortes and the Federal Republic. He vainly attempted to crush the Carlists in 1874, and to check the Alphonsist military conspiracy that overthrew the government bf Marshal Serrano at the end of December 1894. Barely eight months after the restoration of the Bourbons in the autumn of 1875, Sagasta accepted the new state of things, and organized the Liberal dynastic party that confronted Canovas and the Conservatives for five years in the Cortes, until the Liberal leader used the influence of his military allies, Jovellar, Campos and others, to induce the king to ask him to form a Cabinet in x88r. The Liberals only retained the confidence of the king by postponing the realization of almost all their democratic and reforming programme, and limiting their efforts to financial reorganization and treaties of commerce. A military and republican rising hastened Sagasta's fall, and he was not readmitted into the councils of Alphonso XII. On the death of that king in 1885, Sagasta became premier with the assent of Canovas, who suspended party hostility in the early days of the regency of Queen Christina. Sagasta remained in office until 189o, long enough to carry out all his reform programme, including universal suffrage and the establishment of trial by jury. A coalition of generals and Conservatives turned Sagasta out in July 1890, and he only returned to the councils of the regency in December 1892, when the Conservative party split into two groups under Canovas and Silvela. He was still in office when the final rising of the Cubans began in February1895, and he had to resign in March because he could not find superior officers in the army willing to help him to put down the turbulent and disgraceful demonstrations of the subalterns of Madrid garrison against newspapers which had given offence to the military. Sagasta kept quiet until nearly the end of the struggle with the colonies, when the queen-regent had to dismiss the Conservative party, much shorn of its prestige by the failure of its efforts to pacify the colonies, and by the assassination of its chief, Canovas delCastillo. Sagasta's attempt to conciliate both the Cubans and the United States by a tardy offer of colonial home rule, the recall of General Weyler, and other concessions, did not avert the disastrous war with the United States and its catastrophe. The Liberal party and Sagasta paid the penalty of their lack of success, and directly the Cortes met in March 1899, after the peace treaty of the loth of December 1898 with the United States, they were defeated in the senate. He pursued his policy of playing into the hands of the sovereign whilst keeping up the appearances of a Liberal, almost democratic, leader, skilful in debate, a trimmer par excellence, and abler in opposition than in office. He returned with the Liberals to power in March 1901. His task, however, was beyond his years. The economic situation was of the gravest. Strikes and discontent were rife. Still, Sagasta held on long enough to witness the surrender of the regency by Queen Christina into the hands of her son, Alfonso XIII., in May 1902. In the following December Sagasta was defeated on a vote of censure and resigned office. Shortly afterwards he fell into ill-health, and died at Madrid on the 15th of January 1903.
End of Article: PRAXEDES MATEO SAGASTA (1827—1903)
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