With the ascendance of the Bourbon dynasty to the Spanish throne in the eighteenth century, state centralism became an overriding goal. The Spanish Liberal Constitution drafted by Jose Bonaparte and ratified by the Cortes in 1812 aroused fierce opposition among Basques. The ideological assumption behind Liberalism was the idea of national sovereingty, that of Spanish nationalism.

The first Carlist war

The first Carlist war broke out in 1833 and ended in 1839 with the Treaty of Bergara. The Carlists wars developed in the Spanish State but fundamentally in the four southern Basque provinces. In the Basque provinces, the first Carlist war took the form of a popular uprising in the defence of Basque liberties and traditions as opposed to Spanish centralism.

The Carlist leadership was based in Navarre. Fearing the end of their regional autonomy, traditional Basques aligned with the Catholic church and the followers of Don Carlos, a contender to the Spanish throne, in a war against the Liberal central government. For seven years, Carlists organized their own state which spanned the Basque speaking areas of the southern territories and had the massive support of the peasants. The Carlist or Basque-Navarrese army comprised of volunteer peasants from the four Basque provinces. Some historians think that the military potency of Carlism resided in the guerrilla tactics employed by its army. The first Carlist war ended four years after the death of the Carlist General Zumalakarregi.

The Treaty of Bergara offered to guarantee the Basque fueros. However, the Law of 1839 which confirmed the treaty stated that "the Fueros of the Basque provinces and Navarre are reaffirmed unless they are prejudicial to the constitutional unity of the monarchy." Navarre never accepted the treaty but Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa went along. There was a split between the Basque traditionalists of the interior and the liberals of Bilbo and Donostia.

The Second Carlist War

In 1841, the Spanish government passed the law of Modification of the Fueros and Navarre was transformed from a viceroyalty into a foral province. All legislative and executive powers were transferred from the provincial Juntas to the Spanish parliament and government. The establishment of compulsory military service caused several uprisings during the following eight years. In 1833, a royal charter restructured the Spanish state into forty nine administratively equivalent provinces.

A second Carlist War broke out in 1872 and ended in 1879 with the defeat of the Carlists. As a consequence of the Carlist defeats, the fueros of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa were abolished. The Spanish state upheld the Fueros of Navarre which had been negotiated in 1841. But Basques lost their leadership and their culture and language became under attack in their own homeland. In 1893, a massive rally called the `Gamazada' took place in Iruñea, the capital of Navarre. The rally gathered 80,000 Navarrese to protest against the intentions of minister Gamazo to assimilate the Navarrese fiscal system to the state. This is the first popular mobilization that united all Navarrese in the defence of their fueros.

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