Francisco Pi y Margall

Francisco Pi y Margall

Pi y Margall, Francisco, 1824-1901, Spanish statesman and writer. A liberal journalist, he fled to France after the unsuccessful uprising of 1866 against Gen. Leopoldo O'Donnell. After the overthrow of Isabella II in 1868 he was elected (1869) to the Cortes. He was briefly president (1873) of the short-lived first Spanish republic, and he continued as deputy in the Cortes after the restoration of the monarchy (1875). He defended the principle of federalism against centralism, thus gaining wide popularity in Catalonia and also among the anarchists. He also favored autonomy for Cuba. His uprightness and intelligence won him the respect even of the hostile right.
Francesc Pi y Margall (April 29, 1824 – November 29, 1901) was a liberal Spanish statesman and Catalan romanticist writer. He was briefly president of the short-lived First Spanish Republic in 1873.

Early life

Pi was the son of a working-class textile worker in Barcelona on April 29, 1824. Pi's father entered him into a religious school in 1831 where he acquired an education in the humanities and the classics. He was a member of the sociedad Filomática, enabling him to meet some of the main thinkers and writers of the Catalan romanticist movement. In 1837, he left to study law, graduating with a law degree in 1847. He moved to Madrid that year and began writing for the journal El Renacimiento and for El Correo as a theater critic, in which Pi's first political article was published. In need of further income, Pi also took a job for Martí, a Catalan bank.

In 1848, Pi completed the unfinished Memories and Beauties of Spain by the poet Pau Piferrer, contributing to the sections on Catalonia, Seville, and Granada. At this time, he connected himself with the Republican faction in Spanish politics. In 1851, he wrote a monumental and highly popular history of painting, though it was eventually condemned by the Church and the Spanish state for heterodoxy.

Political life under the monarchy

Pi was involved in the revolution of 1854 that brought the liberal caudillo Baldomero Espartero, Count of Luchana back to power. He published La reacción y la revolución in that year, influenced by G.W.F. Hegel's philosophy of history and the thinking of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. In 1856 he established a new journal, La Razón, that was closed when the moderate O'Donnell government was overthrown by the reactionary Ramón María Narváez y Campos, Duke of Valencia. Pi fled to Guipúzcoa in the Basque country until 1857, when Nicolás María Rivero asked him to return to Madrid to contribute to the Republican newspaper La Discusión. At La Discusión, Pi became acquainted with a number of leaders of the Spanish republican movement, including another future president of the First Republic, Estanislao Figueras y Moragas. In 1864 he became the director of the newspaper.

After the sergeants' revolt at San Gil in 1866, Pi fled to Paris, where he gave lectures and translated several of Proudhon's works and became familiar with French positivism. He developed ideas about revolutions and the philosophy of history, including a belief in an inevitable, progressive, and permanent movement in history toward greater freedom, embodied in federal constitutions. Throughout his life he would promote republicanism and social objectives through the federal idea.

Pi returned from Paris in 1868 after the success of the Glorious Revolution. He was elected deputy on behalf of Barcelona and was part of the Cortes that wrote the Spanish Constitution of 1869. During this time Pi became respected as a leader of the Republican party in the Cortes; he is officially named the head of the party in March 1870. He was replaced shortly thereafter by internal strife over the party's policy toward the Paris Commune, conciliatory policy toward opposition groups, and electoral setbacks. He continued to adamantly promote the establishment of a federal republic in place of a monarchy. He opposed the liberal monarchy of King Amadeo I of Spain during its short rule.

Presidency and later political life

When the First Spanish Republic was established in 1873 after the abdication of King Amadeo, the first president, Estanislao Figueras, named Pi Minister of the Interior. During his tenure as Interior Minister, Pi was responsible for the struggle against the cantonalist movement in the provinces. On Figueras's resignation on June 11, Pi was named president. Pi presented to the Cortes an ambitious plan of reform, including a law formalizing a stricter separation of church and state, the reorganization of the army, reduction of the working day to eight hours, regulation of child labor, enhancements to the relationship between business and labor, new laws regarding the autonomy of the regions of Spain, and a program of universal education. His acquaintance with Proudhon enabled Pi to warm relations between the Republicans and the socialists in Spain. However, Pi was unable to rein in the instability of the Republic; on the 1 July, the more radical elements of the Republican party and federalists broke off and declared the government illegitimate, and new insurrections appeared in Alcoy and Cartagena only a week later. Under pressure from the Cortes and many leading Republicans who accused him of dangerous weakness, Pi resigned the presidency on 18 July, only a little more than a month after he assumed the office.

After the end of the Republic in 1874, Pi left political life for a decade. During this time, he returned his attentions to his writings; only a few months after the end of the Republic, he wrote a treatise on its events, La República de 1873. He followed this with Las Nacionalidades and Joyas Literarias in 1876. The first volume of his Historia General de América was published in 1878, La Federación in 1880, and Las luchas de nuestros días and Observaciones sobre el carácter de don Juan Tenorio in 1884. In 1886 he returned to politics and was elected deputy for Figueres, in Catalonia, and again in 1891 and 1893. He was involved in the fragmentation of the Spanish Republican movement in this period together with Estanislao Figueras, Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, Emilio Castelar y Ripoll, and Valentí Almirall. Pi was involved in the 1883 Republican Congress of Zaragoza that proposed a federal republican constitution for Spain; in 1894, he was instrumental in reforming the republican movement with a new manifesto for the Federal Party. In 1890, Pi founded the newspaper El Nuevo Régimen, which campaigned for Cuban independence. Pi's promotion of federalism and regional autonomy earned him popularity among Catalan anarchists.

Pi died in Madrid on November 29, 1901.


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