While even those people with a minimal knowledge in History can spit out some facts about Napoleon and how he almost conquered all of Europe However, many may not realize how much he effected the world as a whole. In 1808 Napoleon showed a glimpse of what was to come to the lands east of France when he "conquered" Spain and placed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the throne. While Napoleon had his hands busy with the "conquered" guerrillas that had hid in the outlying regions of Spain, the Spanish colonies in South and Central America suddenly found themselves without a political leader.
For two years the Spanish lead guerrilla assaults against the French and the monarchy that the Spaniards did not recognize. The people turned their attention to the Cortes, a legislative body that met in the city of Cádiz. On September 24, 1810 the Cortes of Cádiz began with the intention of designed a new constitution for Spain and her citizens.
The politicians quickly divided themselves into the 19th century definitions of Liberal and Conservative and began the long process of hammering out a meaningful constitution. The goal of this document was to limit the power of the monarchy with the addition of several appointed Ministers. These Ministers, in turn, were kept in check by an elected legislative body. The Constitution, finished on March 12, 1812, also held provisions for several ideas encompassed in the only other constitutions written, The Constitution of the United States of America, and the four previous French Constitutions. The Spanish turned to the French Constitutions for their start, and directly translated portions of the French documents and used them in their own constitution1. Other Provisions in the Cádiz Constitution restricted powers on the Church, ended the censorship of printed works, and another step towards universal male suffrage.
While this document appears to be very beneficial to all the people under Spanish rule, it is not the awesome document of purity it might appear to be. During this Cortes, there were 10.5 million people living in modern-day Spain. At the same time, 16 million lead their lives in the Spanish colonies of South and Central America. To avoid the chance of the majority of Spanish decisions decided by those living outside the lands of "Mother Spain", Article 22 was written into the document. Article 22 denied those living in the colored caste citizenship, and in turn, voting rights among other priveledges. This excluded the Blacks, Mulattos and Mestizos2. As one might guess, Article 22 was exploited by the freedom fighters that desired independence for their respective Spanish Colony. They promoted this aspect of the constitution, causing many people of African descent to join the insurgence and rebel against Spain.
The Constitution of Cádiz was in effect for only two years. Once Ferdinand VII reclaimed the Spanish throne, his idea of a divine right king didn't agree with the limited Monarchy idea. The constitution was ignored and tossed aside, yet it did prove helpful years later. It served as another template for the revolutionaries in the nations about to form in Spanish America. People like Bernado O'Higgins and Simon Bolivar used the Constitution of Cádiz to help them write their many constitutions.
Independence In Spanish America: Civil Wars, Revolutions, and Underdevelopment Kinsbruner, Jay. 2000 University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque
Spain - THE LIBERAL ASCENDANCY: http://countrystudies.us/spain/14.htm
The Penninsular War and the Constitution of 1812: http://www.sispain.org/english/history/peninsul.html
The Independence of Spain and the roots of democracy in Latin America: http://www.nuevamayoria.com/english/analysis/malamud/imalamud051101.htm