A History of Spain and Portugal
Vol. 2
Stanley G. Payne

Chapter 23
The Portuguese Parliamentary Republic, 1910-1926

[559] On October 5, 1910, as the king was leaving Portugal, a Republican provisional government took office. It was composed of the top leaders of the Portuguese Republican party (PRP), which had engineered the overthrow of the monarchy, under the interim presidency of Teofilo Braga, a cultural historian and leading Republican ideologue. The man who stood out, however, was the minister of justice, Afonso Costa, for it was he who directed the assault on the Republicans' remaining bête noire, the Portuguese Catholic Church. The majority of Republicans took the position that Catholicism was the number one enemy of individualist middle class radicalism and must be completely broken as a source of influence in Portugal. A pastoral letter by the church hierarchy protesting the new antireligious policy was suppressed by the government. When the bishop of Porto insisted on the right to free speech he was forcibly deposed, and other high church officials were subsequently forced to follow him into exile.

Church and state were officially separated in April 1911 by a law patterned on recent French legislation, though the Portuguese was more extreme in its terms. Church properties were placed under the control of secular associações cultuais (derived from the French associations cultuelles). The church was prohibited from acquiring property through wills or donations, and one-third of all subsequent church offerings were to be confiscated for secular charities. The [560] number of seminaries was reduced from thirteen to five, and all religious instruction in Portuguese schools was abolished. Religious oaths and the wearing of religious clothing in public were prohibited. All Catholic orders in Portugal were abolished, and to encourage priests to renounce their vocations, clergy who apostatized were offered preference in government employment. According to one report, 800 of the 6,800 priests in Portugal left their calling during the first years of the Republic.

The new government also announced major changes in social policy. All titles and nearly all decorations were abolished and a program of school expansion was begun. The right to strike was legalized in 1911, and some changes were made in tenancy laws that benefited peasant renters and sharecroppers. Tax reform was begun; certain onerous excises were abolished and others reduced.

The Republican regime thus swept in as a fresh new radical force promising freedom, progress, and greater social justice. It was essentially urban and middle class, though supported by radical aristocrats, some city workers, and a few groups of peasants. Yet it was better defined by what it opposed--the monarchy and the church--than by a concrete program to realize its loftier but somewhat abstract goals.

The first elections under the new government were held in May 1911 on a basis approximating universal male suffrage. Monarchists abstained and the voting was swept by the Republicans. The social and professional background of the members of the first Republican parliament is shown in table 21.

 Table 21. Composition of the First Parliament of the Portuguese Republic, 1911

Physicians 48 Magistrates 5
Army and Navy officers 47 Solicitors 3
Government employees 25 Commercial employees 2
Lawyers 24 Students 2
Landowners 18 Priests 2
Professors 11 Farm manager 1
Teachers 12 Engineer 1
Merchants 8 Veterinarian 1
Journalists 8 Barber 1
Pharmacists 6 Worker 1
Source: As Constituintes de 1911 e os seus deputados (Lisbon, 1911), in Marcello Caetano, Constituições portuguesas (Braga, 1968), p. 99.

An indication of the elite elements behind the new regime is given in these figures. The middle class intelligentsia and official bureaucracy [561]  predominated, and there was little representation of economic interests. Very few of the deputies had sat in parliament before.

Preparation of the new Republican constitution was completed in August 1911. It established a parliamentary system of government with a president as nominal head of state, to be chosen by parliament for a four-year term. The legislature was made bicameral, with a lower house, called the assembly, to be selected by direct election. The constitution provided for full civil liberties, save for the Catholic church, and instituted the right of habeus corpus. A new red and green flag was substituted for the old blue and white banner of the monarchy. The constituent assembly then elected one-third of its members as the new senate, the remainder becoming the first regular assembly.

It was during the voting for the first president in August 1911 that major splits in the Republican party appeared. Three factions emerged: the Evolutionists under António José de Almeida, the Unionists under Manuel Brito Camacho, and the Democrats under Costa. The Democrats stood for radical and intransigent republicanism. The Evolutionists urged a policy of moderation and conciliation, providing for proportionate representation, revision of the intolerant anticlerical laws, and amnesty for those charged with political offenses. The Unionists, led by moderate intellectuals, stood somewhere between the two. The presidential election was settled by compromise, resulting in the choice of a venerable octogenarian and romantic old-style Republican, Manuel de Arriaga.

Presidents of the Portuguese Republic

Teófilo Braga 1910-1911
Manuel de Arriaga 1911-1915
Teófilo Braga 1915
Bernardino Machado 1915-1917
Sidónio Pais 1917-1918
João do Canto e Castro 1918-1919
António José de Almeida 1919-1923
Manuel Teixeira Gomes 1923-1925
Bernardino Machado 1925-1926
António Oscar de Fragoso Carmona 1926-1951
Francisco Craveiro Lopes 1951-1958
Américo Tomás 1958-
The first cabinet appointed by Arriaga was a moderate ministry of Unionists and Evolutionists headed by the veteran Republican journalist João Chagas. Opposition came from three sources: the monarchist right, the anarchist working class left, and the Democrat faction of the Republican party itself. Portuguese anarcho-syndicalism, weak [562] in numbers and largely limited to Lisbon and Porto, greeted the coming of the Republic not as a new era of freedom but as another phase in the revolutionary struggle against the "bourgeois state" in which the latter had suddenly become more vulnerable. Successive strikes in Lisbon by trade and transport employees during the first weeks of the Republic had been met as early as November 1910 with a mass middle class demonstration in Lisbon, organized by the Republican Carbonária, calling for greater discipline and order.

The monarchist reaction was weak. Contrary to Republican propaganda, relations between monarchist politicians and church leaders were not--or were no longer--close, especially after the former had shown themselves completely ineffective in protecting religious interests. The peasantry, a mass conservative force, was unmobilized by any political faction, and there was no love among the peasants for professional monarchist politicians. The nominal aristocracy, whose titles had been abolished, was completely unable to function as a pressure group, for it lacked organization and was politically divided. Nevertheless, a petty attempt at rousing monarchist revolt in the conservative Minho was made by the former cavalry officer, Paiva Couceiro, with a raid from across the Spanish border. This was easily thwarted and led to a crackdown by the government.

The first year of the Republic was marked by intermittent outbursts of city mobs against churches and monarchist centers. After formation of the Chagas government, such disorders were whipped up by Democrats against the conservative Evolutionists. The Democrat leader Costa gained the support of the largest body of deputies in the assembly and forced the Chagas government out of office within two months of its formation.

It was succeeded by a coalition ministry of all three Republican factions, with the Unionists predominating, under a physician, Dr Augusto de Vasconcellos (November 1911). Rather than attempting national conciliation, this administration resumed an intense anticlericalism, forcing more church leaders into exile. While hatred grew on the right, opposition became more intense on the left; a strike wave unprecedented in Portuguese history broke out in the spring of 1912. On the one hand a minor mutiny in the army sputtered and died; on the other a general strike was attempted in Lisbon. At that point the Vasconcellos government was replaced by a coalition ministry under the historian Duarte Leite (June 1912). Its main priority was repressing the strike wave, but it also had to contain a more serious "invasion" attempt from Spanish Galicia by Paiva Couceiro's small band of monarchist exiles. After the government cracked down on a march of farm workers from Evora, Costa and the Democrats took the side [563] of labor leaders and overturned the Leite government in January 1913.

The Democrats then took complete control of the Republican government in a ministry headed by Costa. The new prime minister had become the most influential and also the most feared and hated of the Republican politicians. He was a lawyer by profession, lacked oratorical skill, but was an excellent political organizer, a capable administrator, and a skilled parliamentarian. He was idolized by followers, but his ruthless sectarianism aroused intense enmity in other groups. The great achievement of the Costa ministry was to balance the budget for 1913-1914, the first time that this had happened in nearly a century. To that extent it was efficient, but it was also high-handed. State appointments were made with little regard to the new constitution. A new electoral law of 1913 deprived illiterate heads of families of the right to vote, halving the electorate from 850,000 to 400,000.

The anarcho-syndicalists declared war on Costa's government when it took office. In April 1913 it had to suppress a revolt by a clique of ultraradical army officers who thought the ministry too dictatorial. More political arrests were carried out. Disorders increased during the course of the year, and the Democrats lost control of the Lisbon mob. Strikes grew more frequent, and a railway shutdown at the beginning of 1914 temporarily paralyzed the country.

Costa was then replaced by the moderate Bernardino Machado, who governed on the basis of a coalition ministry for the remainder of 1914. Machado's major policy innovation was to attempt a truce with the church; he granted amnesty to all clergy convicted of opposing the government. The main pressure came not from the right, however, but from the left. Though Machado was one of the Republicans' few elder statesmen, he could not calm the factional strife and finally resigned after one major cabinet reorganization and eleven months in office. He was succeeded at the close of 1914 by a new Democrat ministry under Azevedo Coutinho.

The First Reaction: The Pimenta de Castro Government, January-May 1915

The reaction was ultimately spearheaded by the military, beginning with a veteran officer of the African campaigns who publicly protested Democrat favoritism in army promotions. After he was arrested and reassigned, discontented officers turned to the army's most senior general, the retired seventy-nine-year-old Pimenta de Castro, a lifelong liberal who had served briefly as minister of war in the [564] Chagas government. Arriaga appointed Castro prime minister in January 1915 and Castro formed a largely military government (save for two seats) supported by the Evolutionists. Parliament was closed in March, and the new ministry functioned as a de facto dictatorship. It stopped the attacks on the church, abolishing the associaçoes cultuais, and restored civil liberties to monarchists. Castro proposed to introduce a multicandidate list system of voting and widen the suffrage to include more of the semiliterate and illiterate peasantry, but his government lacked internal unity and was strongly combatted by Democrats and Unionists. It was overthrown on May 14-15 by a revolt of liberal army and navy officers, supported by some elements of the National Republican Guard, the citizens' militia that under the new regime replaced the old Municipal Guard.

Return of the Democrats; Portuguese Entry into the First World War

After the successful revolt, Arriaga resigned and was replaced as president by Teófilo Braga, who appointed a new Democrat ministry under José de Castro, later succeeded by Costa. With other groups 1 largely abstaining, elections were swept by the Democrats. Rigid anticlerical policies were reimposed, a series of government scandals occurred, disorders were frequent throughout the summer, a monarchist rising had to be suppressed, and there were assassination attempts on national leaders, one of them blinding the prime minister in one eye and breaking his arm.

Rather than pacifying the country and constructing a progressive government that could meet Portugal's needs, the ambition of the main faction of Democrats was to bring Portugal into the First World War on the side of the Entente. One of the sharpest criticisms of the monarchy was that Portugal had faded to insignificance internationally, and the Republican leaders believed that the country had to enter the war to gain status and protect its interests in Africa. The British government was interested in the support of the Portuguese artillery, the least inadequate branch of the Portuguese military, but knew that the army of its small ally was of scant value and made it clear that the diplomatic alliance did not require Portugal's entrance into the war. However, as the Entente became sorely pressed and the Democrat government made clear its eagerness, the wartime government of Britain indicated that it would provide broad economic and material assistance if Portugal aligned itself against Germany. Minor German border aggression against Portuguese African territory a year [565] earlier helped provide a vague casus belli, and Britain's first request was that the thirty-six German ships blocked in the Tejo estuary at the outset of the war be impounded. This was done in February 1916, and the vessels were handed over to Britain. Germany declared war on Portugal the following month.

The Democrats and Evolutionists then formed an uniao sagrada on the French model, and the Evolutionist leader Almeida became leader of a coalition government with Costa as minister of finance. Mobilization for war brought extreme hardship. Over a period of two and a half years more than two hundred thousand men were called up, a considerable social and economic strain for a poor country of little more than six million. The "sacred union" government fared no better than its predecessors. In 1916 there was another wave of strikes, with bomb explosions and a series of major arson attempts, leading to the restoration of the death penalty that had been abolished by the monarchy. Government administrative scandals continued; a minor army plot at the end of the year was foiled. Conditions grew more difficult in 1917 after two bad harvests in a row. Price inflation, strikes, and inevitable wartime shortages led to assaults on shops; the government in turn mobilized several key industries and was met with a one-day general strike.

Costa replaced the sacred union with a new Democrat ministry under his leadership, focusing resentment from all sides and making him the most hated man in Portugal. To some extent his regime modeled itself on the new Clemenceau government in France, save that it was more corrupt and that the Portuguese had less reason for patriotic sacrifice in the war. The peasants as usual bowed submissively to wartime mobilization, but popular rumor had it that the French government paid the Costa ministry by the head for every Portuguese sent to war. By April 1917 the Portuguese army had placed two reinforced divisions (40,000 men) in France and had strengthened the units in Africa.

During the course of 1917 the war became a key issue, and many of both the Unionists and Evolutionists turned against the Democrats. Toward the end of the year a "center" conspiracy was developed under Sidónio Pais, an army major and former professor of mathematics at Coimbra and a leading Unionist who, significantly, had also served as the last Portuguese ambassador to Germany. The revolt was built around army officers, but pro-Republican naval commanders had also to be brought in, apparently purchased by the bribes of a wealthy Alemtejano Unionist. The coup was initiated in Lisbon on December 5, 1917, though three days of intermittent fighting were required before the Democrat government was overthrown.

[566] The Second Reaction: The "República Nova" of Sidónio Pais, 1917-1918

The resulting "Decembrist" government was headed by Pais and was based on the Unionists and the Centrist party, an alignment, formed two months earlier by the physician Egas Moniz, that combined the right wing of the Evolutionists and the more liberal wing of the old monarchist Progressives. However, the anti-Costa Unionists became more hesitant about backing Pais all the way, and he relied increasingly on the Centrists, organizing his followers into a new National Republican party. The Democrats were proscribed, along with the left wing of the Evolutionists who had cooperated with them. Bernardino Machado, who had replaced Braga as president two years earlier, was deposed, and the associações cultuais were abolished for the second time, while the Monarchist Commission, representing the Portuguese right, was allowed to reorganize. A new revolt in the navy in January 1918 proved abortive and was easily crushed.

Sidónio Pais was a slender, handsome, courteous man of early middle age, extremely attractive to women and appealing to much of the public at large. He was perhaps the only figure of the parliamentary republic who had genuine charisma, traveling about the country and drawing enthusiastic ovations from crowds. After witnessing harsh prison conditions when visiting Porto at the beginning of 1918, he decreed amnesty for all political prisoners. Pais was brave, generous, and idealistic, but he lacked a clear and fully articulated program. His main goal was a stronger government, which he called a República nova, based on a presidential system of executive power. He had been a lifelong liberal, and his new concept of a stronger executive was in part derived from his four years' experience as ambassador in Berlin. In May 1918 parliamentary elections were held, accompanied by a plebiscite on Pais's elevation to the presidency. Universal male suffrage, enfranchising illiterates, was instituted for the first time in Portuguese history. The opposition parties abstained; Pais was elected president with a total of approximately 500,000 votes, the sidonista National Republicans gained full control of the assembly, and the monarchists won more than one-fourth of the seats in that body.

After the electoral triumph, however, Pais found it difficult to give concrete form to his vaguely conceived República nova. While reconciliation was achieved with the church, opposition grew on the left. The president had long believed in the certainty of military victory by the Central Powers, and he reduced Portuguese forces on the western front. Thus he was blamed by critics for the collapse of an overwhelmingly outgunned and outnumbered Portuguese division in the [567] second phase of the great German Friedenssturm of the spring of 1918. In fact, the German breakthrough in that sector was almost inevitable, and the frontline troops resisted tenaciously. Meanwhile, the National Republicans were unable to function as a disciplined party, and the Centrists balked at the new presidential system. The parliament of 1918 was as turbulent as its predecessors and political unity was still not to be found.

The domestic political situation degenerated in the autumn of 1918. In October a pro-Democrat revolt by liberal sectors of the army momentarily seized Coimbra, and a similar abortive rebellion occurred at Evora, along with a separate minor uprising of armed farm laborers. There followed another brief general strike in Lisbon, marked by bomb explosions and terrorism against anti-anarchist workers. To combat the leftist opposition, two military juntas, one in the north and one in the south, were set up by conservative officers. Pais planned a trip to Porto on December 14, 1918, to straighten out the resulting confusion. Before boarding his train at the Lisbon railway station he was murdered by a lower-middle-class Carbonarist radical.

A senior admiral, Canto e Castro, was elected by the assembly to succeed Pais. He appointed a sidonista army captain, Tamagnini Barbosa, as prime minister, and the Portuguese system reverted from sidonista presidentialism to a parliamentary executive form of government. The new ministry tried to steer a middle course but in mid-January 1919 had to put down a revolt by army liberals in Lisbon and Santarem. Nine days later, on January 19, a major monarchist rebellion broke out in Porto led by Paiva Couceiro. This was met by an outburst of liberal Republican enthusiasm at Lisbon, where a collateral military revolt was smothered. The rebellion was confined to the northern half of the country, then to Porto itself, where the "monarchy of the north" was crushed after an existence of twenty-five days.

The revolt had led to the formation of a more liberal centrist government in Lisbon and, after the defeat of the right and popular agitation by the left, to the establishment of a pro-Democrat coalition government under a Democrat, Domingos Pereira. The sidonista group found itself impotent and divided after the death of Pais. Lacking an ideology or a leader, without strong organizational roots, they were unable to resist the return of the liberal factions and the regular parliamentary system.

In the meantime, the conclusion of the war ended the heavy drain on Portuguese resources. Out of 200,000 men mobilized, 8,367 had died of battle wounds and many others were disabled. In the postwar settlement, Portugal won the Kionga border region of Angola, seized [568] by Germany in 1894, and was awarded 3/4 of 1 percent of future German reparations.

Last Phase of the Parliamentary Party System, 1919-1926

The return to the earlier parliamentary party system was accompanied by new restrictions on the right to vote, excluding illiterates once more, and was completed by elections in May 1919. These were swept by the Democrats, who had the largest and most effective political organization in the country, particularly strong in some of the larger provincial towns. In Lisbon, by contrast, the majority of the qualified electorate always abstained; a high point was reached in 1919, when 80 percent of the voters in the capital stayed home. (1)

Colonel Sá Cardoso, one of the most reliable Democrat officers, became head of a new Democrat ministry. The assembly then elected the Evolutionist chief, Almeida, president of the Republic in place of Canto e Castro. Return of constitutional "normalcy" and international peace resulted, however, in a new outburst of disorders. The spring of 1919 was full of strikes, arson attempts, and petty heterogeneous outbursts. The anarcho-syndicalist movement, first organized on a national basis in 1914, was reconstituted in 1919 as the General Confederation of Labor. The more violent anarchists, in Portugal as in Spain, were inspired by the Russian Revolution to plan an offensive against the "remnants of bourgeois society" and notably against the Democrat government. In Lisbon middle class extremists formed a communist group and vied with anarchist terrorists in promoting what was later known vaguely as the Red Legion. A government decree in May 1919 provided for summary prosecution of terrorists.

The Democrats lost unity and cohesion soon after returning to power. Afonso Costa had little desire to re-enter the Portuguese cockpit. He headed the Portuguese delegation at Versailles and lived on a generous income as state financial representative in Paris. Cronyism, porkbarreling, and payroll padding got completely out of hand, and the budget deficit leaped upward. During the latter part of 1919 the moderate and conservative Republican factions joined together in a Liberal Republican party to form a loyal opposition to the Democrats. Sá Cardoso's government was brought down at the beginning of 1920, but when a new Liberal ministry was appointed it was [569] forced to relinquish power after riots by the Democrat street mob. Three short-lived Democrat ministries alternated during the next six months amid a tumult of strikes, riots, and bomb explosions. These disorders were highlighted by street fights between strikers and the lower-middle-class Republican Guard, which had been reorganized, expanded, equipped with surplus French material, and invested with broader powers to combat the syndicalists.

A Liberal government under António Granjó finally succeeded in taking power in July 1920, but lasted only four months. Its successor was a supposedly tough Democrat ministry headed by the chief of the Republican Guard, Lt. Col. Liberate Pinto. After three months, Pinto's government fell under the weight of its own corruption (March 1921). Eighteen days were required to find a successor, which deposed Pinto as head of the guard and sentenced him to a year in jail, but this ministry was in turn forced to resign by a rebellion of part of the Guard in May 1921.

After two years of kaleidoscopic parliamentary politics, a truce was worked out between the Liberals and the main faction of the Democrats under António Ma. da Silva. A new Liberal government held elections that sought to restore a semblance of the old rotativist system, but a workable majority could not be found. New government scandals forced a reorganization of the Liberal government, bringing in Granjó as prime minister once more in August 1921.

Two months later the party-factional system reached an all-time low, with another revolt by Carbonarist elements of the Guard in October. They kidnapped and murdered the prime minister and several leading supporters of Pais's defunct República nova. Another colonel, their leader, headed a new coalition cabinet for fifteen days but was forced to resign, in part because of a joint Anglo-French-Spanish naval demonstration; foreign governments had found the course of events in Lisbon too much to tolerate. Two more short-lived ministries limped through until elections were again held in January 1922. The Democrats, controlling the key ministries and strong provincial machines, returned a strong majority.

This enabled the Democrat leader, Silva, to form a "stable" government that lasted more than twenty months, from February 1922 to October 30, 1923. Its stability was of course only nominal; only a few days after it was formed the new ministry was almost overthrown by a revolt of the Lisbon units of the Republican Guard. The government hastily retreated to Cascais outside Lisbon and called in the army to save it. After the revolt was put down, an effort was made to draw the Guard's teeth by reducing its size from 12,000 to 3,500. This in turn handicapped the maintenance of public order, as strikes and bombings continued. The Silva ministry finally collapsed, partly be- [570] cause of the administrative and financial corruption that it engendered. With Silva discredited by the autumn of 1923, the only man who might have held the party together was Costa, but he steadfastly refused to return from his gilded exile in Paris. An alternative was a brief thirty-five-day government by notables of the newly formed Nationalist party (a fusion of the Liberals and an earlier moderate offshoot of the Democrats, the Reconstituents, who had separated in 1920). This was met with an abortive pro-Democrat naval revolt, then was voted down by the Democrat majority in the assembly.

The irresolvable divisions of the Republican political elite had made it impossible to form a government without considerable reliance on military authority, and for the next eleven months Portugal was governed by two successive ministries headed by officers. These were succeeded by a ninety-day government of the newly formed Democratic Left (or zurdo) group, followed by a succession of more moderate Democrat ministries during 1925. There were the customary disorders and scandals, with mounting antileft activism among the military.

The syndicalist confederation (CGT) began to weaken in 1925, as moderate workers dropped out in opposition to destructive strikes and pseudorevolutionary agitation. Several small, hard-core anarchist groups had refused ever to associate themselves; others who wearied of the CGT's "apolitical" orientation left to join new lower-middle-class radical parties, the Radical party proper (founded in 1922 by liberal elements of the old Evolutionists who still opposed the Democrats), and the Democratic Left party. A tiny Portuguese Communist party had been organized in July 1921 under the Third International but never developed any following under the parliamentary Republic.

The main opposition to a functioning parliamentary system came from within, not from without. The last regular cabinet was formed by Silva near the close of 1925 and lasted approximately six months. By 1926 the Democrat party was nearly as exhausted politically as the monarchists had been sixteen years earlier. Rent by factionalism, it could not govern, yet the several arms of its political machine represented and mobilized the largest and most active (largely middle class) political strata in the country, dominating elections and parliaments. (2)

The Democrats thus constituted a political majority, but not an effective governmental party. The ministries of the 1920s had tried [571] to broaden their social programs on the one hand, while adopting a more conservative position in beating back pseudorevolutionary syndicalism on the other. Extreme corruption, porkbarreling and highly irresponsible political management together resulted in spiraling deficits and the most severe inflation in modern Portuguese history. Inflation affected the lower middle class and sections of the peasantry and urban workers in particular. In 1925 there broke open the infamous Portuguese bank note case, the largest state finance swindle in the history of modern western capitalism. Discontent mounted in 1925-1926, but the monarchist right and the working class left remained small and ineffective minorities, and there was little challenge from within the official political system.

The main source of outside political intervention were the armed forces. The Republic had been established by military revolt and it was rarely free of such interference for more than a few months at a time. Praetorianism under the Portuguese parliamentary regime has never been studied, but apparently stemmed from several obvious factors. In a system dominated by bureaucrats and intelligentsia, military officers were the most powerful single force in the bureaucracy. The narrowness of political life made it easier for officers to see themselves as leaders of a sort of special modernizing elite, while the frustrations of Portugal's international situation and its military policy always left some of the army and navy disgruntled. The victorious end of the World War, coupled with the assassination of Pais and collapse of the República nova, temporarily discouraged military intervention. Army and navy officers were themselves almost as divided over political outlook and goals as were civilians, but the negative features of the restored parliamentary regime stimulated discontent and encouraged renewed intervention. Salient factors in this situation were the increase in disorder and terrorism at home, mounting ministerial instability, the murderous intromission of the Republican Guard into government, the need for successive ministries to rely on "special relations" with key military or paramilitary leaders, and increasing discontent over an inflation from which privileged politicians were protected. Altogether, 46 percent of the prime ministers between 1919 and 1926 were members of some branch of the military. Two antileft revolts at Lisbon in April and July 1925 were foiled, but when the ringleaders, headed by Gen. Sinel de Cordes, were brought to trial, they were absolved by the courts. Such impunity accorded "respectable" conspirators against the regime by leading functionaries was a clear indication of the government's lack of moral authority (and foreshadowed the indulgence shown republican conspirators by monarchist authorities in Spain in 1930).

[572]Table 22. Democrat and Opposition Deputies, 1915-1925

Year Democrats (PRP) Total Opposition 

(Largest Opposition Party)

1915 103 25 (22 Evolutionists)
1919 85 75 (38 Evolutionists)
1921 56 106 (73 Liberals)
1922 74 83 (33 Liberals)
1925 80 76 (36 Nationalists)
Source: A.-H. de Oliveira Marques, "Revolution and Counterrevolution in Portugal," Studien über die Revolution (Berlin, 1969), p. 416.

A more serious anti-Democrat military conspiracy was initiated in conservative Braga early in 1926. It was begun by a restive and disillusioned former liberal navy officer, Mendes Cabeçadas, but drew on the prestige of the commander of the wartime Portuguese Expeditionary Corps to France, General Gomes da Costa, by making him its figurehead. The resultant military rebellion of June 1926 that overthrew the Silva government was the eighteenth pronunciamiento in the history of the Republic. Its success was hailed by spokesmen of a half dozen different political groups, ranging from the revolutionary left to the monarchist right, each of whom expected to receive favor from the ambiguous goals of national salvation announced by the victorious rebels. Few realized at the time that this was not to be an interim dictatorship of temporary reorganization on the classical model, as attempted by Castro and Pais, but the end of the parliamentary Republic.

The sixteen-year parliamentary regime of the Portuguese Republicans was the most turbulent and unstable in modern European history. This is the more remarkable in view of the fact that the various Republican factions enjoyed a virtual political monopoly throughout. Democrats, Evolutionists, and Unionists and their subsequent sub-fractions and regroupings differed comparatively little in their broader ideological beliefs. The only major difference had to do with treatment of the church, and after nine years even that was largely resolved on a more moderate, nonradical, basis. The major sources of discord, aside from the war issue in 1917, were personalism and status rivalry. Elimination of the moderating power of monarchy was not replaced by internalized concepts of responsibility and cooperation. Drawing of sharp personalistic and factional lines precluded growth of larger cooperative political groups that might have achieved tolerance and stability. Hostility of Republicans toward Catholics, and the rejection of middle class parliamentarianism by the small revolutionary left, assured a narrowing political spectrum and removed the need [573] for Republican factions to unite to face broader political contests as distinct from revolutionary threats that were merely suppressed by force. This encouraged a somewhat artificial monopoly and left its oligarchic participants free to concentrate on continuous quarreling over spoils. Republicanism had been generated as a doctrinaire force at the turn of the century. Modeled on the most sectarian features of French radicalism, the Republican factions did not represent broad interests in society but narrow political ambitions. Thus they established a unique but unenviable record in the annals of modern European representative government.

Social and Economic Change Under the Parliamentary Republic

The rate of social change and involvement increased under the Republic, but the basic configuration of Portuguese society was only slightly altered. Public affairs were still primarily the preserve of the population of Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra, and to a lesser extent a few other medium-sized cities. The peasants were still little involved and viewed affairs in Lisbon with suspicion. The rural population largely supported the final overthrow of the Democrat regime.

Population increased fairly rapidly:
1900 5,423,132
1911 5,960,056
1920 6,032,991
1930 6,825,883
The urban proportion of the population, however, grew very slowly, from 16 to 19 percent during the first three decades of the century. Lisbon expanded to nearly 600,000 by 1930 and Porto to more than 230,000. The late-nineteenth-century trend of heavy emigration continued, increasing down to the World War and then diminishing, somewhat in the 1920s:
1900-11 300,000
1911-20 450,000
1920-30 270,000
As late as 1890, approximately 84 percent of Portuguese society could be classified as lower class, about 15 percent middle class, and 1 percent upper class. Under the parliamentary regime there was a shift away from agrarian employment, but also a proportionate drop in industrial employment, as shown in table 23. The increase of nearly 70 percent in service employment seems to have stemmed from three main sources: a substantial growth in public employment (creating much of the steadily worsening fiscal problem); increases in the size of the army and Republican Guard (also weighing more heavily on the state debt); and a considerable growth of the middle classes between 1890 and 1930, from approximately 15 to 29 percent of the total population, stimulating the demand for domestic servants. Though most of this was growth of the marginal lower middle class, there were many more households employing full or part-time domestics in 1925 than in 1900.

[574] Table 23. Percent of Employment in Sectors of the Portuguese Economy, 1890-1930

1890 1911 1930
Agrarian 61 57 46
Industrial 18.4 21 17
Service 20.6 22 37
Source: Dic. Hist. Port., 3:462.

The "people" were not much better represented than under the monarchy, since the illiterate half of society was still denied the right to vote. The elements that gained most from the parliamentary Republic were the radical urban intelligentsia of central and southern Portugal. The conservative north was underrepresented on that level; the number of parliamentary leaders from the region was 25 to 50 percent less than its population warranted. The new elite nationally was younger than its predecessor; cabinet ministers under the Republic were on the average in their forties, whereas under the monarchy they had been in their fifties.

The parliamentary Republic did represent an advance in women's rights. Equal rights of divorce for both husband and wife were established in 1910, followed by a second law providing for equal legal rights in marriage. The Republican electoral law, however, was clarified in 1913 to exclude all women from voting.

The Republic had no concerted economic program. In agriculture the remaining common lands were divided up between 1910 and 1923, mostly to the benefit of the upper middle class. Subdivision of peasant plots continued, and the number of holdings steadily increased. Portuguese commerce continued to rely on agricultural exports such as wine, cork, and fruit. Despite further increase in the amount of land cultivated, food production did not keep pace with population growth. Shortage of bread was persistent; between 1919 and 1923 the state subsidized millers to keep prices down.

A profile of Portuguese industry was provided by the industrial [575] survey of 1917: There were only 130,000 industrial workers, of whom 35 percent were women and 15 percent minors. There were 2,500 industrial establishments in Lisbon employing nearly half the country's industrial labor force, and 364 in Porto employing about 20 percent. Nearly all Portuguese industry was still in the small-shop phase of organization. Of 5,647 establishments, the majority (3,757) employed 10 workers or less, and 865 employed between 11 and 100. There were only 25 large factories, mostly in textiles and other light goods, that employed 500 workers or more.

The small organized sector of the working class improved its economic position under the parliamentary regime. The right to strike was legally recognized in 1910. In 1915 the maximum work day was set at varied limits of from seven to ten hours, depending on the kind of work, and in 1916 a ministry of labor and social welfare was created. In 1919 the maximum work week was lowered by decree to a range of forty-two to forty-eight hours, and obligatory sickness and accident insurance was organized under an institute of social security.

These reforms were carried out under heavy pressure from the small but increasingly radical ranks of Portuguese organized labor. The first great strike wave occurred in 1910-1913, followed by a second in 1917, a third in 1919-1920, and a fourth in 1922-1925. The first was the most successful, since 44 percent of the strikes in 1910-1911 ended in victory.

The first major national organization of Portuguese labor was the National Workers' Union, formed in 1914 and more or less socialist in orientation. As in Spain, however, the anarcho-syndicalists became the dominant influence in organized labor. The General Confederation of Labor, which succeeded the Workers' Union in 1919, was under their influence and represented the bulk of Portuguese syndicates. In 1924, 104 of its 115 member syndicates voted to join the anarchist international. Meanwhile, worker organization was followed by employer organization. In 1919 the first general Owners' Confederation was formed, flanked by a broader Union of Economic Interests in 1925.

In general, the wages and living standards of industrial and white collar workers rose somewhat under the parliamentary regime. Conditions for the peasants did not improve, but those who lost most proportionately under the heavy inflation and tax increases of the regime's last years were the middle and upper middle classes. This helps to explain the willingness of many of them to accept the coup of 1926.

[576] Table 24. Strikes in Portugal, 1910-1925

Year Total Victory Defeat Compromise
1910 85 36 66 36
1911 162 73 21 43
1912 35 1 7 13
1913 19 5 3 8
1914 10 2 1 4
1915 15 4 2 9
1916 7 3 - 4
1917 26 14 2 10
1918 11 3 3 4
1919 21 7 3 8
1920 39 9 4 26
1921 10 2 2 4
1922 22 10 2 6
1923 21 4 3 7
1924 25 5 4 11
1925 10 4 - 3
518 182 63 196
Source: A.-H. de Oliveira Marques, A Primeira República Portuguesa (Lisbon, 1971), p. 161.

The parliamentary republic achieved some improvement in education. Two new state universities were opened at Lisbon and Porto. Compulsory secular primary education for all children was decreed in 1911, and Costa established a government ministry of public instruction in 1913. At that time, one-fifth of the neighborhood districts in Portugal were without a school of any kind. This proportion decreased to only one-tenth by 1927, though facilities in many areas remained grossly inadequate. Adult illiteracy declined from 70 percent in 1910 to about 61 percent in 1930, a somewhat more rapid rate of improvement than under the last decades of the monarchy.

The parliamentary republic failed badly in fiscal management. From 1911 to 1924 currency was inflated 2800 percent, and after 1914 the budget remained permanently and heavily unbalanced. This provoked great transfers of capital abroad, crippling domestic investment. The exchange value of the escudo steadily declined. So did government receipts, bringing reductions in the real value of state expenditures that further exacerbated political and social problems. During the last decade of the monarchy, the average annual deficit had been 6,500 contos. This leaped to 77,000 (at inflated prices) in 1919-1920 and to 243,000 in 1924-1925. The national debt, which had increased from 593,000 contos in 1890 to 879,000 in 1910, nearly tripled during the first decade of the Republic, reaching 2,236,000 by [577] 1920. This defeated efforts to make the tax system more progressive. Indirect taxes accounted for 61.3 percent of state receipts at the end of the monarchy and were reduced to 58.3 percent by 1912, but under the pressure to raise income were increased again in the early 1920's. (3) The fiscal situation did improve slightly in 1925-1926, and measures to establish a state tobacco monopoly were part of new efforts to right the balance in the final session of the parliamentary regime. By that time, however, time had run out on the system.

Bibliography for Chapter 23

[708] The Portuguese parliamentary republic has received very little attention from scholars. A.-H. de Oliveira Marques has written a very helpful structural and topical analysis, A Primeira República portuguesa (Lisbon, 1971), and a brief introduction to the period, "Revolution and Counterrevolution in Portugal-Problems of Portuguese History, 1900-1930," in Studien über die Revolution (Berlin, 1969), pp. 403-18. The lengthiest treatment is Jesús Pabón's overtly biased La revolución portuguesa, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1941-1944), which is narrative and anecdotal. V. de Bragança-Cunha's Revolutionary Portugal (1910-1936) (London, 1937), is fairer but still superficial. Other accounts are Arthur Ribeiro Lopes, Histoire de la République portugaise (Paris, 1939), and the Suplemento to Damião Peres, ed., História de Portugal (Barcelos, 1954-1958). On the background of Republican ideology and propaganda, see Luis de Montalvor, ed., História do Regimen republicano em Portugal, 2 vols. (Lisbon, 1930-1932). Carlos Ferrão, O Integralismo e a República, 2 vols. (Lisbon, 1964-1965), deals with the most salient monarchist group.

Three books on economic problems should be mentioned: Ezequiel de Campos, O enquadramento geo-económico da populaçao portuguesa (Lisbon, 1943); Anselmo de Andrade, Portugal económico (Coimbra, 1918); and Marcello Caetano, A depreciação da moeda depois da guerra (Coimbra, 1931). On the working class movements, see Costa Junior, História breve do movimento operário português (Braga, 1967).

There are abundant memoirs and polemical literature for these years. Events and personalities of the conservative forces have been sketched by Rocha Martins in three volumes: Pimenta de Castro, dictador (Lisbon, n.d.), Memorias sobre Sidónio Pais (London, 1921), and A monarquia do norte (Lisbon, 1923).

Notes for Chapter 23

1. Abstention in Lisbon declined to 53 percent in 1922 and 60 percent in 1925. Participation was much higher among the rural and small-town middle class. Total national voter participation was 60 percent in 1915 and rose to 71 percent in the last regular elections of 1925.

2. The results of the 1925 elections, which were probably as fair as any, were:
Democrats 80 Zurdos (Democratic Left) 6 Catholics 4
Nationalists 36 Monarchists 6 Syndicalists 2
Independents 18 Union of Economic Interests 4
3. The proportion of indirect taxes was raised further, to 66.7 percent, in the Salazar fiscal reform of 1928-1929.