Links to Micro-national and Fantasy coins: Listings C1

Links To Micro-National and Fantasy Coins: Listings C1




REPUBLIC OF CAMALA/REPUBLIC OF MALACA/REPUBLIC OF AMALIA: One and all, these are smallish gold pieces bearing the enthrallingly oddball denomination of “1 Tallar”. For starters, I obtained (on eBay) two nearly identical versions of the “Republic of Camala” coin: one is a diminutive 13mm and the other is an even tinier 10mm. Each piece came mounted on a sturdy 9-karat gold ring, which actually happens to be but one of the possible “natural settings” for these wearable curiosities. According to Mr. Mike Locke, whose helpful messages about the Camala pieces prompted me to embark upon my initial foray into this cluster of nonexistent republics, these “Tallar tokens were struck in England for use in the jewelry trade, circa 1980.” An apparent jeweler's fantasy, these coins have also appeared on pendants. Then, thanks to John and Carly Wilkinson, I acquired a similar Tallar (10mm) from the “Republic of Malaca” (not to be confused with Malacca, a Malay sultanate). I also have another Malaca piece, which I purchased from Mr. Jimmy Collins. It is a much thinner and easily bendable coin (also 10mm), affixed to a flimsy ring. Note that the only difference between the names “Camala” and “Malaca” is merely the result of a single syllable being switched to different positions. The Camala pieces are dated 1853, and the Malaca pieces are dated 1854. Mrs. Kay Sanders, a fellow eBayer, owns a Camala ring with “Birmingham 1976” hallmarked on its shank. This indicates where and when an assayer inspected/marked the piece, but perhaps this is also a significant clue in regards to the origin (place/time) of the coin itself. Another Tallar, dated 1853, exists from the “United States of America” (the ring pertaining to one of these was described by its seller as having a “Sheffield 1977” marking). In fact, all the Tallar look-alikes are based on James B. Longacre’s Liberty Head gold Dollar (also known as the Type I gold Dollar), minted from 1849-1854. So what is a “Tallar”, anyway? One Web-site claims that it was an “Egyptian unit equal to 20 Piastres” (and that an Ashrafi was “formerly one third of a Tallar”). Another person maintains that it is the Afrikaans word for Dollar (which itself originated with a 16th century coin known as the “Joachimstaler” — a shortened, far-reaching version of this name, Taler/Thaler, was eventually altered to Daler/Daalder). Whatever the case may be, the word “Tallar” has several historical variants which share similar spellings; these include Talar/Talara (Poland), Talaro (Ethiopia), Talirion (Greece), Tallero (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italian states, Ragusa), Tolar (Bohemia, Slovenia), as well as the previously noted Taler and Thaler (because they had far too ubiquitous a range, I'll refrain from listing every single nation-state in which they circulated).
In an unexpected twist, I was lucky to encounter (on eBay) a pair of “Republic of Amalia” 1 Tallar pieces, dated 1854. Each coin (13mm) is attached to its own dangle/drop earring. Their original owner, Mrs. Andrea Meredith, stated that she purchased the twosome in the 1980s. When compared side by side with the Camala and Malaca pieces, the engraving of the Liberty Head on the Amalia coin is of slightly inferior quality; this might suggest that chronologically, it could’ve been produced shortly after the other two Tallars (a more recent, marginally modern follow-up?). Nevertheless, it is probably safe to assume that Amalia is the third (and final?) sister of Camala and Malaca. Overall, the three of them are almost so indistinguishable from one another that they could easily pass as identical offsprings: the Tallar Triplets (quadruplets, if we include the American Tallar; though I prefer to regard her as the venerable “matriarch” of the lot).

CAMPIONE D'ITALIA: Nestled on the shores of Lake Lugano and at the foot of the steep Alpine slopes of Monte Generoso, Campione is an Italian exclave (a portion of the country disconnected from the main part because it is surrounded by another country — not to be confused with an enclave) located within the Swiss canton of Ticino. The village is about 1 square mile in size and has approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Even though Italy administers local governmental functions and it is governed by Rome via the administrative province of Como, part of Campione's longstanding stability is due to its economic and executive integration with Switzerland; it uses the Swiss Franc as its monetary unit (though Italian taxes are paid). Its infrastructure is also largely Swiss, including postal services and telephone numbers. Though existing outside of its fatherland, this tiny piece of Italian soil is home to the famous Casinò Municipale di Campione d'Italia, which is the area's largest employer and an institution of the Italian government. In effect, Campione can be either Italian or Swiss in character, depending on your point of view or from which angle it is examined. Campione's unique status arose because while Ticino became a part of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, the people of Campione chose to remain a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy. After the fall of Napoleon, at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the Swiss tried unsuccessfully to claim Campione as their own. In 1859, Lombardy was transferred to the sovereignty of Victor Emmanuel, who would in 1861 become the first King of a newly-unified Italy. As it grew into one of Italy's wealthiest and most affluent communities, this transformation did not go unnoticed by Mussolini; he proudly appended “d'Italia” to Campione's appellation. It was he who also granted permission, in the 1930s, for the town to open a casino.
Several gold coins were issued by the Casino from 1950-1972 “to be used like tokens at the roulette table.” They all bear the name “Communitas Campilioni”, which is Latin for Community/City of Campione. I purchased the 1957 20 Franchi from eBay's novacoins (novacoins@hotmail.com). As Nova Marketing, their Web-site is: http://www.novamarketing.ch/
Images of one of the coins from Campione d’Italia can be viewed at the site of Mr. Haseeb Naz’s private collection:
http://chiefacoins.com/Database/Micro-Nations/Campione-d'Italia.htm
Images of a different coin can be seen at the Web-site of Mr. Jorge Fernández Vidal:
http://www.jfvcoins.com/Productos/micronations_english=catAC.html
Campione also issued its own stamps on May 20, 1944. They remained valid long after the end of WWII, until May 31, 1952.

CAT CAY: Located in the Bahama's Bimini chain, it is a getaway for wealthy families and famous people; it has many high-profile homeowners and its own airstrip. The Web-site of the Cat Cay Club (http://www.catcayclub.com/), which is graced by virtually the exact same “cat-on-a-key” logo as the one appearing on the obverse of the tokens, states that “Cat Cay is a private island, owned by its members. Admittance for non-member yachtsmen is restricted to the marina area which includes the Nauticat Restaurant and Lounge, Dockside Bar, Commissary, Boutique and Clinic. The rest of the island, including the golf course, tennis courts, pool and beaches are available for members and their registered guests only.”
The original deed for the island was granted by Queen Victoria in 1874 to Captain William Henry Stuart. “Later, Captain Haigh, of a distinguished English family, became the owner of Cat Cay.” In 1915, Milo Strong and his wife bought the island. “They built and lived in the Manor House, which still exists today. For the next 15 plus years they spent nine months out of the year on Cat Cay. The 1929 hurricane blew the roof off. Although this was repaired, when Milo died two years later and another storm seriously damaged the Manor House, Mrs. Strong decided to sell. Friends of the Strongs, Louis & Rae Wasey purchased the island for about $400,000 in 1931. Wasey, an advertising tycoon, intended the island to be a winter home for himself and his wife and as a place to entertain clients and friends. He enlarged Manor House for his own home and built a number of English styled ‘cottages’ for his guests. During the depression years, Wasey turned the island development over to Mike Smith, an architect friend...Our Kitten Key Club on the Southeast point of the island was a magnificent example of this attention to detail. The stately Sir Bede Clifford Hall, which Smith designed after a great English pub, was equally as elegant. In 1935 Wasey converted the island to a private club and sold lots to his friends so that they too could build their sumptuous vacation homes. Eventually he had about 200 members paying annual dues of $500.00. Mrs. Wasey, who loved antiques, built the Cat Cay English Shoppe, where the island boutique now stands. There were many great fishing tournaments back then as the waters around Cat Cay were teaming with fish and the deep water fishing just a mile off shore.” During World War II, Cat Cay became “a secret crash base for PT boats of the Allied Forces.”
A critical point for this numismatic write-up is that Louis Wasey introduced gaming activities to his island. According to the Web-site, the origins of Cat Cay’s legalized gambling operation began after he’d already built the nine-hole golf course upon which the Duke of Windsor, while Governor of the Bahamas from 1940-45, enjoyed playing. “The course was named Windsor Downs in his honor. During one of his visits the Duke mentioned that it might be fun to have a little casino on the island for guests, Wasey readily agreed and the Duke issued a license in Lou Wasey’s name personally. Upon Wasey’s death in 1963, the island's casino license expired. Wasey left the island to his daughter Jane, a New York sculptress, who returned for two years, but in 1965 Hurricane Betsy did enormous damage and the island was closed. A few years later, Al Rockwell, the dynamic head of Rockwell International, put together a small group and bought the island. Eventually it became a private club owned by members...and you know the rest of the story!”
A 1967 government publication entitled Bahama Islands: Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Operation of the Business of Casinos in Freeport and in Nassau recounts a portion of the facts a bit differently: “In the course of its investigations, the Commission came across what eventually emerged as an extraordinary story. The attempt to establish year-round gambling on Cat Cay Island was not within our terms of reference but we have” nevertheless “included this somewhat complicated history” in the Report. “Prior to 1939, a Mr. Louis R. Wasey operated a gambling casino at what was known as the Cat Cay Club — a small residential private club dependent on holiday bookings, and operative for limited periods each year.” Then, “In 1939 the law was changed to allow the Governor in Council to exempt certain persons and bodies from the general prohibition contained in the Penal Code. This change came, not to meet a growing public demand for the introduction of casino gambling into the Bahama Islands, nor as a result of a distinct change in governmental policy. It was prompted by the recent opening by Mr. Louis Wasey of a small casino on a seasonal basis at Cat Cay and the realisation by those in Government at that time that this venture and a casino, which had been openly operated since 1920 at the Bahamian Club on the western outskirts of Nassau, were quite illegal. The Bahamian Club at that time was an extremely exclusive establishment. Its casino was open for only about three months every year in the height of the tourist season and then only to a very restricted clientele.” Thus, a “licensing” procedure for the operation of lotteries and gaming houses was created. The immediate effect of the new provision “was to regularise the position of the existing casinos at the Bahamian Club and at Cat Cay to the respective proprietors of which a Certificate of Exemption was granted.” It is important to note that the gambling facilities at both the Bahamian Club and the Cat Cay Club were available only to visitors and non-Bahamians in retirement in the Bahamas (or at any rate those with no business or professional interests in the Colony). Also permitted were the wives of “Persons engaged in any business or profession or employed for gain in the Colony”, as well as the wives of “Officers or employees of the Government of the Colony” (as long as these ladies were not “born in the Colony and ordinarily resident therein”). In the case of the Cat Cay Club, a Certificate of Exemption was approved by the Governor in Council in December of 1939, exempting the seasonal operation of a casino there until further notice. It “was issued to Louis R. Wasey as President of the club and was for an indefinite period, without any restrictions or conditions. In September 1961, on the death of Mr. Wasey, notice was given by the Government of the termination of the Certificate to take effect from 31st December that year.” At that time, “the Governor in Council decided that applications should thenceforth be made annually.” A man named “Sir Stafford Sands, on behalf of Miss Jane Wasey, then applied for the renewal of the Certificate. He explained that Mr. Wasey had died and his daughter, being the sole heir, had received all her father's interests in Cat Cay and had been elected President of the club. A Certificate of Exemption was then granted with effect from 1st January, 1962, and similar Certificates were successfully applied for by Sir Stafford on Miss Wasey's behalf for the years 1963 to 1967...The size of the Cat Cay enterprise during the limited periods that it functioned can be gauged from the evidence given to the Commission by Mr. Michael J. McLaney who, for a period of two years, ran the casino on a 50/50 basis with Miss Wasey.” The two years in which he operated the casino, with the aid of his brother William, were 1963 and 1964. “He described it as being a harmless little thing with five employees and five customers, operating during the week of the Fishing Tournament. He revealed to the Commission that he had approached Sir Stafford Sands and Sir Harold Christie as to the possible purchase of Cat Cay but negotiations terminated on his failure to get investors and because the price asked by Miss Wasey was too high.”
In 1946, a few coins, used for gambling and/or as a medium of exchange on the island, were produced/issued by Louis Rice Wasey. These pieces, purportedly designed by Louis’ daughter, Jane, were struck by L.G. Balfour & Co. (Attleboro, Massachusetts). Though I'd picked up a Cat Cay token several years ago from William R. Rosenblum (http://www.rosenblumcoins.com/), I only kept the piece for a few months before I sold it back to him, having come to the conclusion that it really didn't “fit” within the self-imposed, needlessly stringent parameters of my collection. Naturally, it was a verdict I'd eventually (inevitably!) regret. I found my current (and permanent) pieces from two sources: a “Half A Key” token from eBay and a “One Key” token from coin-dealer Carol Plante.

CATALANIST UNION (UNIÓ CATALANISTA): By the end of the 19th century, Catalan political nationalism was reinforced by a cultural, artistic and literary renaissance of some importance. Catalonia (its breadth corresponds to most of the historical territory of the former Principality of Catalonia, which was unified dynastically in 1137 — after the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona and Petronila of Aragón — with the Kingdom of Aragon to create the Crown of Aragon) emerged from a period of crisis and exhaustion. With the impetus provided by the industrial revolution and the dynamic nature of its society, which already had close ties with Europe, it became the economic driving force of the Iberian Peninsula. Catalan nationalism, or Catalanism, is a political movement that advocates for an increased political autonomy of Catalonia, if not independence itself, from Spain (the movement was led by Catalan nationalists and disenchanted republicans who wished Catalonia to rebuild the Spanish state on a federal basis) and France. This desire ideally extended to the Països Catalans (“Catalan Countries”, which refers to the Catalan-speaking territories). There is no universal territorial definition of the Països Catalans. It may refer strictly to the territories in which the varieties of Catalan are traditionally spoken, or the entire political entities in which Catalan has some official status, in spite of the fact that those entities include areas where Catalan is not actually spoken. The territories described by the Països Catalans are part of 4 different sovereign states: in Spain, there is the Autonomous Community of Catalonia (even though in the comarca of Val d'Aran, Occitan is considered the language proper to that territory), La Franja de Ponent (“The Western Strip”, a Catalan-speaking area in the Spanish autonomous community of Aragon), the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community (an autonomous community located in central to south-eastern Spain where, with the exception of several western comarcas where Spanish is the only language spoken, Valencian is one of the official languages), and El Carxe, a small Valencian-speaking area in the Spanish autonomous community of Murcia; in Andorra; in most of the French department of the Pyrénées-Orientales, also called le Pays Catalan (“Catalan Country”) in French or Catalunya Nord (“Northern Catalonia”) in Catalan; and in the Italian city of L'Alguer, in the island of Sardinia, where a variant of Catalan is spoken.
An excellent summary of Catalan nationalism is provided by Dr. Isabel Perez-Molina (http://www.xtec.cat/~iperez29/materials/9-The%20question%20of%20nationalism.pdf): “Catalan nationalism started off as a reaction to the incapacity of the Spanish state and the growing gap between the social and economic structure of Catalonia and the rest of the Spanish state — excepting the Basque Country. Catalan nationalism was promoted by the bourgeoisie, who, being unable to hold any important role in state politics and modernise the state following the industrialists’ interest, preferred to contest that state from a nationalist perspective.” To begin with, “Catalonia was the centre and capital of the Aragon Crown until the end of the 15th century and had had their own constitutions and laws until 1716, when they were abolished by the Decree of Nueva Planta. With this history in the background, Catalan nationalism set off in the 19th century as a movement of literary renovation and language recovery — the Catalan language had been marginalized. This movement was called La Renaixença. Important landmarks were 1833, when the poet Aribau wrote his Oda a la Pàtria (Ode to the Homeland), and 1859, when the Floral Games, a literary competition well-known in the Medieval Ages, were restored. Literary and historical activity was supported by the press, Catalan intellectuals, and the bourgeoisie. There was [an] emphasis on the Catalan language as one of the main distinctive factors of Catalan nationalism and of cultural difference.” After all, “Castilians and Catalans represented two different realities, two different ideologies that were more and more confronted. Until the agrarian crisis at the end of the 19th century, the battle field was between Castilian free-traders — whose posture materialised in 1869 Figuerola’s tariff — and Catalan protectionists, supported by Catalan industrialists.” Put simply, “Catalan nationalism developed from intellectual regionalism to autonomous territory. In 1892 the Catalanist Union wrote the first project for an autonomous Catalonia in the Bases de Manresa (Bases of Manresa), with a strongly conservative character. After the 1898 disaster in Cuba against US troops, Catalonia was seen as a nation in its own right. 1901 saw the birth of a Catalan conservative political party, the Lliga Catalanista (Catalanist League), also Lliga Regionalista de Catalunya or La Lliga, which would be important in politics until the Spanish Civil War. The politically turbulent years of the turn of the century witnessed hopeful political developments in Catalonia regarding nationalist aims. Nationalist ideas developed, one of the main works in this regard being The Catalan Nationality [La Nacionalitat Catalana] by Enric Prat de la Riba.” This manifesto, from 1906, expounded a philosophical justification of Catalan nationalism, calling for the establishment of a Catalan state within a Spanish federation. At this time, Prat de la Riba was leading the Solidaritat Catalana (1906-1909). This broad coalition — the first unified/unitary body representing Catalan nationalism — was a pro-autonomy movement which brought together the Lliga Regionalista, the Unió Republicana, the Unió Catalanista, the Republican nationalists, the Federalists, the Carlists and the Independents. Nationalist in its outlook, Solidaritat Catalana brought together diverse, even contradictory, political forces (from Carlism to Federalists). They emerged as a protest against the military repression of the Catalan press of the time, and also to oppose a law on jurisdiction proposed by the central government which was clearly an attack on democracy and autonomy. After the triumph of the party in the provincial and general elections of 1907, Solidaritat Catalana was overwhelmingly successful throughout Catalonia and overpowered the Diputació de Barcelona (Provincial Council). In fact, Prat de la Riba became president of the Diputació. Their victories were largely based upon the regionalist programme that Prat de la Riba had formulated in La nacionalitat catalana. He is definitely one of the most significant figures — a man of too many important achievements to enumerate in this listing — in modern Catalonian history. Prat de la Riba “considered Catalonia as a nation and differentiated between homeland and state, while advocating for a federation of different nation-states within Spain. Other ideologists endorsed the federalist stream. An important episode was the establishment of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya (1914-1925) under Prat de la Riba’s presidency. This was the first experiment in political self-management since 1714. It was limited but it did not last long. It implied a merging of the four provincial councils in Catalonia, and had purely administrative and cultural functions. The four provincial councils continued to exist but the unfulfilled plan was that in 1920 the Mancomunitat would become the only county council in Catalonia, therefore abolishing the administrative division in provinces, that was alien to Catalonia. Through this institution there was an attempt to draw up a Catalan Statute, that although it had limited powers, was never approved by the central government. The Mancomunitat was dissolved by dictator Primo de Rivera in 1925.” The Mancomunitat was based on the union of the four Catalan Provincial Councils and represented the first territorial reunification of Catalonia. It was made up of an Assembly composed of the ninety-six deputies of Catalonia in the Spanish Parliament, a Council of eight ministers and the President, Prat de la Riba. Without any budget other than the funds collected by the four provincial Councils, the Mancomunitat carried out cultural and civic work of which the results can still be seen today. As we can see, in the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy several times. “From 1918 the nationalist party La Lliga realised that the Catalan bourgeoisie was unlikely to achieve one of its main aims, to be part of, and have a relevant role in the central government in Madrid, despite being the richest region of Spain. It was at that point that these Catalan politicians decided to play hard the card for Catalan autonomy. Other parties that appeared on the scene with nationalist aspirations, such as Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia), founded in 1931 after the unification of different nationalist organisations, aimed for an independent state for Catalonia and had charismatic leaders such as Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys. During the Second Republic (1931-1936) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Francesc Macià proclaimed in Barcelona the Catalan Republic within the Iberian Federation on the 14th April 1931, although he had to retract later. Esquerra Republicana became the most important party in Catalonia.” Catalonia’s first Statute of Autonomy “was approved in 1932 and Francesc Macià became the first president of the restored Generalitat, the autonomous Catalan government, being replaced at his death in 1933 by Lluís Companys. Parallel to the 1934 failed workers’ revolt in Asturias, Companys declared the Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic, and for this reason, the right-wing government in Madrid suspended the Generalitat and jailed its president. In 1936 Esquerra Republicana, ERC, was part of the Popular Front that won the elections that year. Then, and until the end of the war, the Catalan government and its president was restored.” The defeat of the Republic in the war brought a victorious General Francisco Franco to power; his regime suppressed any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, such as publishing books on the matter or simply discussing the subject in open meetings (the same injustices befell the Basques — please see my listing for Euskal Herria [Basque Country], an entity for which coins were produced). As part of this suppression the use of the Catalan language in government-run institutions and in public events was also prohibited. During later stages of the Francoist regime, certain folkloric or religious celebrations in Catalan were resumed and tolerated (use of Catalan in the mass-media was forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre; publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship). “Lluís Companys was exiled until being arrested by the Gestapo in 1940, and sent back to Spain, where he was executed in Montjuïc.” After Franco's death (1975), most political parties in Catalonia rallied for autonomy. “There was a popular mass demonstration claiming for autonomy on the 11th September 1977, on the national day of Catalonia. The reformist government in Madrid, acknowledged the Catalan government in exile and its president, Josep Tarradellas, was restored with the Generalitat.” With the adoption of a democratic Spanish constitution (1978), Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. “The Constitution of 1978 defines Spain as a unitary state, non centralist and divided into autonomous communities, acknowledging all the different languages within the Spanish state.” Catalonia's second Statute of Autonomy, adopted by the Catalan government on 22 December 1979, officially recognized Catalonia as a nationality: the Generalitat de Catalunya (Comunidad Autónoma de Cataluña, Autonomous Community of Catalonia). Jordi Pujol, from the conservative nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CIU), was elected as the president of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya) in 1980. “Since then, conflicts have arisen over whether to extend autonomy, or what powers the Catalan government does or does not have. ERC still claims independence and intervene as part of the three-party government that won the election in 2003, in the writing of a new Statute, which they later disclaimed and which was approved in 2006.” Today, Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic regions of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelona, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourism destination.
I also found two interesting articles which shed some light into the principal socio-political goings-on that were taking place in Catalonia during the turn of the century. Both are from the Summer 2002 (Vol. 20, No. 2) issue of Law and History Review, and they each shed some light upon the Unió Catalanista. The first article is Stephen Jacobson’s Law and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Case of Catalonia in Comparative Perspective: “From a comparative perspective, there are weighty reasons to regard Catalonia's legal history with curiosity, simply because it was one of the few places in Europe, outside of Great Britain, that resisted civil law codification during the nineteenth century. In Catalonia the Spanish Civil Code (1889) was applied only as a ‘supplement,’ while Catalan law remained uncodified until the late date of 1960. A dynamic juridical movement, centered in the historic capital of Barcelona, succeeded in preserving Catalan civil law, deemed to account for the region's distinctive social makeup, economic success, and even spiritual personality. Examining what transpired in Catalonia not only allows us to explore an interesting species of juridical regionalism or even nationalism, but it also opens a window for observing the implicit and explicit relationship between law and identity in Europe as a whole. By using Catalonia as a case study, this article argues that the making of any legal tradition was a subjective undertaking, fraught with ideological considerations, borrowed ideas, and discursive conceptions of the nation.” The tortuous move toward codification sparked intense public debate in Catalonia, especially in Barcelona. “The Spanish Civil Code (1889), although clearly a member of the French family, was the first to sanction the idea of legal diversity, preserving separate legal regimes in Catalonia and other regions as well.” It is worth noting that the French Civil Code of 1804 (at times called the “Napoleonic Code”) served as the prototype for the Spanish Civil Code. But the Catalan legal elite definitely did not publicly entertain the “wholesale adoption of the French Civil Code. Yet they were well aware that many of their counterparts in Madrid were planning to follow this route...[In] 1851 the government published a draft of a civil code, which was to remain on the table for continued debate and discussion for decades thereafter. Simply stated, the draft code threatened to erase all legal differences throughout Spain in exchange for uniform provisions. As expected, it emulated the French Code and many of its siblings then in existence, particularly those of Holland, Naples, Louisiana, and the Swiss canton of Vaud. Jurists affiliated with the Ministry of Justice in Madrid tended to be optimistic about the probabilities of its eventual promulgation, while Barcelona's initially skeptical legal community grew increasingly hostile to the prospect of its adoption.”
To put the entire matter into context, Jacobson provides us with a necessary description of Catalan law (a foral law — “clearly a decadent legal tradition” — within the common law of the monarchy). “Persons unfamiliar with Iberian legal history are likely to misconstrue the significance of the terms ‘common’ and ‘foral,’ since their nineteenth-century meanings were far removed from their etymological origins. In the middle ages, the word ‘fuero’ (or ‘fur’ in Catalan) meant the ‘just’ or ‘legal norm’ of a certain place, but following the reception of Roman law beginning in the late twelfth century, the term came to signify a local ‘exception’ or ‘privilege’ to the ius commune, the common law of Europe, or what was generally the feudalized Roman-canonical scholarly tradition. During the eighteenth century, this distinction underwent a further transformation: ‘common law’ meant the ‘common law of the monarchy’ or the ‘nation’ of Spain, while ‘foral law’ was an umbrella category that encompassed all exceptional law within the realm...By the early nineteenth century, Catalans began to employ the adjective ‘foral’ to describe the laws of the former principality, but nobody could state with certainty what this exactly entailed. A confusing body of choice-of-law jurisprudence, itself subject to debate and uneven application — differing from lawyer to lawyer, from case to case, and from judge to judge — governed whether a foral or common law rule was to be applied in a particular situation. If presented with a choice, it was often much easier to employ a ‘common law’ source, written in Castilian, the language of the courts, than it was to utilize a ‘foral’ source, written in Latin or Catalan. In any case, the issue was frequently irrelevant to the outcome of a particular lawsuit.” Evidently, “During the first half of the nineteenth century, law in Catalonia was in disarray.”
During this period, civil law reform was colliding with nationalistic sentiment in several European countries. “In Spain, issues of identity were also explicit, but multiple regional identities competed with an overarching national one. On the eve of civil law codification, the country remained divided into numerous zones of private law, the origins of which stretched back to some of the former realms of the Iberian Peninsula. The legal tradition known as the Spanish ‘common law,’ not to be confused with either the ius commune or the English common law, was the most dominant. Homogenous and applicable throughout most of the country, it originally descended from the laws of the medieval kingdom of Castile-León. More fractured and diverse were various ‘foral laws’ present in Catalonia, Galicia, Navarre, Viscaya, Aragón, and the Balearic Islands, territories that had preserved private law pursuant to complicated and antiquated union arrangements. Law in these ‘foral regions’ was heterogeneous: each possessed its own uniform rules, but each also exhibited widespread municipal variety. Much common law was also valid in the foral regions, a circumstance further confusing an already complex relationship. This patchwork present along much of the periphery continued even after the Spanish Civil Code's promulgation. Although intellectually uninspiring, this document was unique in that it was the first code to break the trend of uniformity. Its provisions governed common law regions, but they only served as ‘supplementary’ in foral regions.” The legal regime of Catalonia “suffered few immediate structural changes from the advent of the Spanish Civil Code. Many civil code provisions came to be applied in Catalonia, but, despite what some regarded as egregious intrusions, Catalan law, with a few exceptions, retained roughly the same scope of applicability as it had possessed before codification. Throughout the nineteenth century, the place of law in society mirrored that of language. Catalan advocates and notaries exercised their professions in what the historian Josep Maria Fradera calls a ‘divided society.’ All practitioners needed to be familiar with two legal traditions — one ‘Castilian’ and one ‘Catalan’ — much as they generally spoke two languages of the same names. The language known as ‘Spanish’ to those outside Spain was (and is) also referred to as ‘Castilian’ throughout the Hispanic world. Likewise, Catalan lawyers referred to traditional Spanish common law as ‘Castilian law,’ even though it was applicable in other regions as well. Analogous situations existed elsewhere, but linguistic and legal contradictions inherent in Catalan society were the first to activate regionalist political behavior, establishing a repertoire for others to follow. Throughout the greater part of the century, Catalonia was the most industrialized and wealthiest historic community in Spain; its juridical associations were able to mobilize ample resources to publicize demands and exert pressure on politicians in Madrid. It is no exaggeration to claim that other foral regions conserved their law only because of the strength of the Catalan protest. Catalan law has continued to survive and even thrive down to the present day, proving flexible and durable, despite suffering frequent intrusions. During the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1929) and Francisco Franco (1939-1975), both of whom imposed a moratorium on Catalan language, political activity, and patriotic symbols, its civil law stayed remarkably intact. It remained uncodified, as it had throughout the nineteenth century, until 1960, when a regime-approved commission of Catalan jurists published an official ‘Compilation of Civil Law,’ roughly equivalent to a ‘code’ of selected family, property, and testamentary laws. Contemporary Catalonia received autonomous status pursuant to the democratic constitution of 1978, and in 1984 its government, the Generalitat, reformed and constitutionalized the Compilation, redacting it into Catalan language. In the past decade, a ‘Family Law Code’ (1998) and a ‘Successions Code’ (1991), along with other selected pieces of legislation, have replaced much of the Compilation. At the present time, a Generalitat commission is in the process of drafting a full Catalan Civil Code. Today, a separate and distinct civil law is understood and taken for granted as part of the social fabric, but in the nineteenth century the fabric was still being spun, and it proved to be a very interesting weave.”
Jacobson then provides an in-depth analysis of the defense of Catalan civil law and the genesis of Catalan nationalism. “Historians of Catalan nationalism have long recognized that the quest to preserve Catalan law constituted an essential component of a series of political initiatives since recognized as celebrated ‘Firsts.’ Beginning in the 1880s, various associations participated in a common cultural enterprise and collectively opposed selected legislative measures. Valentí Almirall, the founder of the political movement known as ‘Catalanism,’ inaugurated its first organization in 1882 with the stated purpose of conserving both law and language through the foundation of autonomous political bodies. The first modern political manifesto, the Memorial de Greuges (1885), sought to protect ‘moral and material’ interests by remonstrating against the government's plans to codify civil law and to lower tariffs protecting industry. The first display of mass politics took place following the civil code's rushed publication, when the legal profession's youthful vanguard organized a series of town meetings against Article Fifteen, a short but nasty choice-of-law provision that threatened to restrict seriously the domain of Catalan law over time. The demonstrations accomplished their goal: the government remanded the code for revisions before it could do any damage. Narcís Verdaguer, one of the protests' principal organizers and a founding father of nationalism, prophetically proclaimed the ‘First victory of Catalanism.’ The language employed during these controversies evidenced the penetration of many of nationalism's discursive conventions. The potent mixture of Herderian historicism paired with Montesquieu's geographical determinism flavored arguments throughout the ideological spectrum. Barcelona's federal-republican leader believed that law was ‘embodied in popular conscience,’ while its absolutist party chief agreed that it represented ‘the mold in which the family, the life, and the physiognomy of the Catalan people has been formed.’ Valentí Almirall deduced that a ‘fractured and mountainous country’ caused Catalans to exhibit an ‘egalitarian, reflexive, imaginative, rugged, and independent character,’ manifest in their civil law. The bar and university's preeminent institutional representative and one of the region's most powerful politicians, Manuel Duran i Bas, equated law with ‘the moral identity of the Catalan people,’ including ‘respect for paternal authority, the concept of family unity...dignity of the widowed mother...personal responsibility.’ The Memorial's authors counterposed Catalan law, indicative of ‘the positive and analytic temperament of our people, inspired by the overarching principle of civil liberty,’ with Castilian law, ‘inspired by the contrary principle, the predominance of authority.’” Jacobson points out that “The successful conservation of Catalan civil law propelled activists to expand their agenda to redress long-standing grievances. The radical Catalanist Student Center, seconded by the more cautious Academy of Jurisprudence, pressured Madrid for further concessions. Their demands included: reform of the uniform law school curriculum to emphasize Catalan law instruction at the University of Barcelona; eventual replacement of a judiciary largely recruited from outside the region by local judges, Fluent in the vernacular; and amendment of civil procedure rules to allow witnesses, advocates, litigants, and defendants to use Catalan language in both written and oral argument and testimony. Although generally unsuccessful, these efforts accompanied a series of other economic, religious, and cultural initiatives, which together served to further sensitize an increasingly receptive public to the inertia of the Catalanist cause. Joan-Josep Permanyer, professor of civil law and president of the Academy in 1896, was adamant: ‘Nobody, absolutely nobody can be a priest of a religion he does not profess. Hence, Catalans have to be...those in Catalonia who administer justice and apply the law.’ His colleague Joan Trias, professor of international law, echoed this sentiment, complaining that the uniform curriculum did not take into account the ‘historical and living reality that our country lives under the empire of its own laws.’” Jacobson reminds us that “It is important to note that the preferences of the profession's most dynamic members did not obviate dissent. The Barcelona bar never acted in unanimous accord but revealed allegiances indicative of diverse clienteles and rival political affiliations. Some of the most bitter cleavages reflected those that existed throughout southern Europe, featuring contentious matters involving church and state, or critical ownership rights disputed between peasant and landlord. Widespread disagreement also existed over origins, sources, content, and reform. First of all, not everyone defended Catalan law with the same ardor. During the Congress of Catalan Jurisprudents in 1881, a vocal minority endorsed a Ministry of Justice compromise in which Catalan law would be reduced to a short series of exceptions, inserted in the back of the code as an ‘appendix.’ Moreover, not all lawyers who opposed the Ministry's proposal considered themselves ‘Catalanists.’ Although many were unwilling to compromise the autonomy and integrity of their private legal regime, not all favored extending such claims to include public law, or, in other words, self-government. But as the century drew to a close, those who advanced collaborative, eclectic, or pragmatic strategies became increasingly identified with the clientelist and oligarchical politics of the Spanish state. Their opinions eventually yielded to the uncorrupted ideals of young lawyers who breathed fresh airs of nationalism, blowing forth from Ireland, Brittany, Poland, Serbia, and other regions as well. This fin-de-siècle generation successfully parlayed juridical concerns into a more ambitious program that included the maintenance of law, language, and culture and the revival of self-governing political bodies. In 1892, a confederation of associations and pressure groups called the Catalanist Union (Unió Catalanista), led by the law professor Permanyer and other intellectuals, drafted the Manresa Principles (Bases de Manresa), an outline of a future constitution. In 1901, the Regionalist League (Lliga Regionalista) contested elections and sent deputies to the Spanish legislature. Shortly after its foundation, a trio of young nationalist lawyers, Enric Prat de la Riba, Lluís Duran, and Francesc Cambó, all educated at the University of Barcelona and once prominent within the Student Center, rose to the peak of its leadership pyramid.” At long last, “The political ideology of nationalism began to make its presence sharply felt by the turn of the century. To define oneself as a ‘nationalist’ in early twentieth-century Catalonia did not represent a signi ficant departure from the political program of the late nineteenth-century ‘Catalanists.’ The maximalist demand still remained self-government, also known as ‘home rule.’ However, the term ‘nationalism’ invoked a well-known European-wide system of concepts, loosely based on the German philosophical doctrine of national self-determination, in which the ‘nation’ was considered to be an organic and immutable spiritual whole, deserving of its own political expression, reflecting not only culture and tradition but also linguistic, ethnic, and even biological or racial characteristics. Prat de la Riba's Catalan Nationality (1906) became the manifesto of this creed.” In its pages, he highlighted the importance of Permanyer’s teachings to his generation’s awakening: “They spoke of law as a live entity, which is spontaneously produced by national consciousness and evolves constantly. They said that law and language were both manifestations of the same national spirit...Catalonia had its own law; Catalonia had its own language; it had a mysterious, national spirit that for centuries had engendered and renovated both law and language.” Jacobson continues: “The historical importance of Catalan law to the genesis of nationalism is undeniable. Juridical activity overlapped with the literary movement dedicated to cultural and linguistic rebirth, the ‘Renaixença,’ cementing the intellectual and discursive foundations upon which twentieth-century electoral politics would be launched. In seeking to explain this occurrence, one must not fall into the idealistic or positivistic trap of considering law either an immutable expression of spirit or an empirical derivative of evolved custom. Until the latter quarter of the century, there was no notion of a ‘Catalan civil law,’ no movement known as ‘Catalanism,’ and no clearly formulated concept of a ‘Catalan nation.’ Catalan law was regarded as merely one of the many ‘foral laws,’ exceptional to the ‘common law’ of Spain. Throughout the century, university professors, practitioners, and members of the judiciary constructed an autonomous legal tradition while drafting guidebooks, discussing reform proposals, and digesting and interpreting European jurisprudence. Those who participated in these various projects did not always follow a stated plan or strive toward a clear objective; rather, they responded to their own practical and theoretical concerns in addition to political and juridical initiatives originating in Madrid.”
The second revealing article I encountered from the Summer 2002 issue of Law and History Review is Lawyers, Codification, and the Origins of Catalan Nationalism, 1881-1901, by Siobhán Harty: “The defense of Catalan civil law against the introduction of the Spanish Civil Code in the late nineteenth century was the catalyst for a broad social movement that would be transformed into Catalan nationalism by the turn of the twentieth century. Lawyers were central to this development. They interpreted and popularized the danger codification presented for Catalan society and they were instrumental in making the civil law a central element in the construction of Catalan national identity. Taking their cue from the experience of other stateless nations in Europe, lawyers developed a principled argument for political autonomy that was institutionalized with the creation, in 1901, of Catalonia's first nationalist political party, the Lliga Regionalista. Between 1881 and 1901, Catalan lawyers would help found a series of social movements for the protection of Catalan culture and orient these movements toward the adoption of nationalist objectives. Finally, lawyers would form the majority of the Lliga Regionalista's electoral candidates and the core of the party's strategists, helping the party climb to a position of dominance in Catalan politics between 1901-1932.” Harty contends that “Catalonia is an important variant in the history of civil law codification in that it successfully resisted legal unity by securing the preservation of its own civil law regime when the Spanish Civil Code came into force in 1889.” In Catalonia, it was possible “to consider the civil code in a unified and systematic way because concerned interests agreed to oppose it in its entirety. This agreement was achieved by appealing to a form of collective identity organized around Catalonia's distinct institutions, including civil law, and making the preservation of these institutions a group objective. In this way, there were no apparent divisions within the Catalan movement that the Spanish government could exploit to its advantage...Although the terms ‘nation’ and ‘nationality’ had not yet been applied to Catalonia, this would change once the Spanish Civil Code was introduced. The victory of 1889 was conditional on fulfilling certain requirements set by Madrid. Therefore, the defenders of Catalan civil law could only pause at this point before returning to the offensive. When they did, they would be key players in the construction of a Catalan nationalist discourse in which civil law was presented as one of the main elements of Catalan national identity.”
As the 18th century progressed, “the extent and degree to which the Bourbon crown abolished local institutions varied greatly. Aragon and Valencia lost their fueros and their public law in 1707, but Aragon was allowed to conserve its special civil law. Under the Nova Planta Decree of 1716 — which spelled out the foundations of the new Bourbon regime — Catalonia lost its regional institutions of government (the Consell de Cent and the Diputació), but its legal realm was left completely untouched until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when its criminal and procedural law were replaced with that of Castile.” For all of the 19th century, civil and commercial law remained wholly unaltered, including the liberties and political rights pertaining to the family, property and the individual. “The Basque provinces retained their fueros well into the nineteenth century while neighboring Navarre retained both its fueros and governing institutions.” It turns out that “The biggest stumbling block to the unification of civil law came from the foral regions — those that continued to enjoy legal privileges in this sphere. Ironically, thanks to the crown's liberalization of the professions beginning in the 1830s, the foral regions acquired a corporate structure that could organize and coordinate opposition to civil law unification: the Colegio de Abogados. In 1833, the Col·legi d'Advocats de Barcelona was founded as a corporation for the regulation of legal professionals and similar associations were founded in the rest of Catalonia around the same time.” Harty’s “article argues that Catalan conservatism provided the impetus to oppose the Spanish Civil Code and a nascent Catalan nationalism provided the means for mobilizing against it. Conservatism here refers to a system of social and economic relations that privileged hierarchy, corporate structures, and a household economy built on family patrimony. The Catalan lawyers who are the protagonists in the story related here emanated from this conservative background in rural Catalonia. They viewed this system as the foundation for the region's celebrated industrial success, which distinguished Catalonia from Spain's largely agricultural economy, and they shared this view with Catalan property owners, industrialists, and men with small and medium-sized businesses. The preservation of this system depended on Catalan civil law, a body of local customs and case law that was threatened by Madrid's codification project. More specifically, this system was threatened by the code's regime of divisible property, which broke with Catalan custom. Furthermore, Catalan legal professionals, as the gatekeepers of this regional law, had a vested interest in maintaining it.” The Spanish government’s first attempt to introduce a civil code, by the way, “was the liberal Constitution of Cádiz (1812), drawn up by the king's faithful during the Napoleonic occupation of the peninsula”. The Spanish government established “a Comisión General de Codificación in 1843, which included a section on civil law that was mandated to produce a draft civil code based on Castilian law. A draft bill made public in 1851 was rejected by the foral regions, including Catalonia, but sparked interest in larger debates about the implications of codification.”
Again, the issue of ethnonationalism is investigated: “The most effective way to build support for the preservation of Catalan civil law was to emphasize how it was an inherent characteristic of something that all Catalans shared: a national identity. The creation of a nationalist movement in Catalonia was a twenty-year process that began in 1881 with a social movement for the defense of Catalan culture and culminated in 1901 with the founding of a nationalist political party for Catalan political autonomy. During these twenty years there was a gradual yet steady effort to equate Catalonia with a nation. Lawyers and civil law were constant features in this long process. At this point, we should consider the broader European context in which this effort was carried out. Catalonia was one instance of a phenomenon appearing in Europe between 1870-1914: the multiplication of what [Eric] Hobsbawm refers to as ‘potential “unhistorical” nations [for which] ethnicity and language became the central, increasingly the decisive or even the only criteria of potential nationhood.’ Viewed from this perspective, Catalan nationalism does not need to be explained; contextualizing it is sufficient because, according to Hobsbawm, the emergence of nationalism in this period was a function of certain general social and political transformations confronting European society. The problem with any functionalist account is that it does not amount to an explanation. Since political actors are faced with different choices, we must explain why they opt for one over another. Similarly, interpreting the political choices of nationalist actors through reference to their class, as Hobsbawm and others have done, is not an explanation; it is a form of reductionism. While Catalan nationalism certainly was part of a broader European development and gained inspiration from other nationalist movements, there was nothing predetermined about Catalan lawyers' decision to create and then politicize Catalan national identity. The only thing that could be called predetermined was that this nationalism would be conservative.” Harty informs us that “The turn to nationalism on the part of lawyers can be explained on three levels. First, at the most basic level, lawyers were attempting to preserve their status as the gatekeepers of Catalan civil law and as custodians of a social order organized around the household. At a second level, lawyers viewed Catalan self-government as a means to expand the ambit of their authority through the acquisition of legislative powers, separate administrative structures, a separate court system, and the capacity to build regional institutions. Put simply, the preservation of Catalan civil law — and its concomitant social system — could never be guaranteed so long as Madrid held exclusive decision-making powers over legal developments. What more effective way could there be to control Catalonia's development path than for Catalans to obtain these decision-making powers for themselves? Finally, regional self-government would give Catalonia's political élites the power to set the rules for political representation and citizen participation. The lawyers' rejection of the civil code was” partly “related to the code's liberalizing features, since these challenged the hierarchical structures that were the framework of the Catalan household and Catalan society more generally. Lawyers attempted to realize these objectives by building a coalition of support for the defense of Catalan institutions and constructing a new political discourse around the ‘nation.’ Their rationale, which was certainly informed by events they witnessed in Europe, was that only nations enjoyed rights to self-government.”
Harty then gives a detailed account of the emergence of the Catalanist movement: “Between 1880-1891, a new political vocabulary emerged in Catalonia as a means of articulating a demand for political autonomy: Catalanisme described the movement for Catalan autonomy while a catalanista was a supporter of this movement. According to [Jordi] Llorens i Vila, Catalanism was ‘a specific articulation of Catalonia's position within the Spanish state, independent of what was going on in other [Spanish] regions.’ As a first step in staking a claim for special rights, Catalanism focused on what made Catalonia distinctive from Spain's ruling nation, the Castilians. This new terminology came in response to the Spanish government's announcement in 1880 that it was relaunching its efforts to produce a civil code.” (Ultimately, the 1881 bill for the Spanish Civil Code “failed because of foral opposition and political changes in Madrid”. The initial relief of Catalans would later be “buttressed by the Spanish government's decision, with the next draft code of May 1888, to preserve foral law in an appendix.”) Also in 1880, “Valentí Almirall, a lawyer who had turned to a career in politics and journalism, launched a ‘Congress of Catalanists’ from the pages of the Diari Català, the Catalan-language daily newspaper that he edited. Organized as a series of meetings between October and November 1880, the congress attracted over one thousand participants and resulted in the establishment, in 1881, of the Centre Català. The mission of the Centre Català was to give birth to ‘real Catalan politics’ through the preservation of Catalan civil law, the establishment of a Catalan supreme court and a Catalan administration, trade protectionism, and the promotion of Catalan business. ‘Real Catalan politics’ meant a form of political action devoid of internal divisions or factions, particularly class and ideology. This could only be achieved by focusing on features common to all Catalans: their history, language, culture, values, and civil law. From the start, the Centre Català attempted to build bridges between different sectors of Catalan society in order to build up a strong support base for its program. Its most important initiative in this regard was the Memoria en defensa de los intereses morales y materiales de Cataluña, the outcome of a meeting organized in January 1885 at the Barcelona stock exchange (Llotja de Barcelona)...The Memoria was the first public political statement of Catalonia's claims against the Spanish state although these claims were not substantiated in any way.” Interestingly, “Catalan claims amounted to moral arguments about racial superiority — a tactic that was not unique in the late nineteenth century. In much proto-nationalist discourse of this period, racial distinctions were drawn between people sharing the same skin color and others in order to develop an argument about different characters. The major flaw in this approach was that there was no further political argument upon which to hang racial distinctions. Such distinctions, however obvious, did not trigger an automatic right to sovereign statehood.”
During the “mid-1880s, Catalanism amounted to a series of statements that required some compelling arguments before they could be transformed into valid political claims. The first attempt to provide these was the publication in 1886 of Valentí Almirall's Lo catalanisme. As a republican, Almirall was concerned with the oppression of all ‘peoples’ with different characteristics from those of the ruling nation, not just Catalans. His solution was to reconstruct Spain as a composite state using the principle of what he termed ‘particularism’: ‘affection, caring [and] preference for all that which is particular,’ or, that which is part of one's local environment or immediate surroundings. Almirall had dedicated Lo catalanisme to the youth movement within the Centre Català and hoped that the book would suggest a curriculum for the study of Catalan politics. He never realized how seriously the Catalanist youth movement would take him at his word. In October 1886, a group of university students and recent graduates met to found the Centre Escolar Catalanista, which quickly became the training ground for the future leaders of the nationalist Lliga Regionalista: Narcís Verdaguer i Callís, Enric Prat de la Riba, Lluís Duran i Ventosa, Francesc Cambó, and Joseph Puig i Cadafalch. According to these young Catalanists, Almirall had not gone far enough in Lo catalanisme. He continued to refer to Spain as the ‘nation’ and, although he wrote about Catalonia, he was in fact striving for a doctrine that would recognize Catalonia's right to self-government without prejudicing that of other regions in Spain. They challenged Almirall's refusal to recognize that Catalonia was a nation and that as a nation it enjoyed more rights than a region — there were many regions in Spain, but only a few nations. Their dispute precipitated the departure of the Centre Escolar Catalanista from the Centre Català, taking with it writers from the influential cultural review La Renaixensa as well as a handful of industrialists, professionals, and intellectuals. Reorganizing themselves as the Lliga de Catalunya (but still retaining the Centre Escolar Catalanista) in 1887 they committed themselves to protecting the Catalan language, civil law, and trade through an active propaganda campaign to promote Catalonia.” Unfortunately, “like the Centre Català, the Lliga was confronted with the problem of devising a principled argument and could only repeat its predecessor's strategy of sending a message to the monarch, although at least this time it was written in Catalan. The Lliga de Catalunya took its name from the Irish Land League and its members were sufficiently inspired by the Home Rule Bill of 1886 to consider taking the parliamentary route to political autonomy themselves. However, they quickly changed tactics when the Spanish government produced a draft civil code in May 1888. From then on, the core of the Lliga de Catalunya's political action was ‘centered on the fight for the preservation of Catalan civil law.’ Both the Lliga de Catalunya and the Centre Escolar Catalanista worked with Catalan legal corporations to concentrate on repealing Article 15 (on succession rights) in order to preserve Catalonia's universal heir.”
I must digress for one paragraph in order to point out why Catalans sought urgently to protect the status of the father as the head of the Catalan household. “In Catalonia's dominant household structure, the patrilocal stem family, wealth maintenance was achieved through an intergenerational system of property transfer centered on a universal heir. In rural Catalonia, the home base of the stem family was the casa pairal, a co-residential household that was the ‘center of rural life’ because it ‘symbolized the strong links between the head of the family, the universal heir, his wife and children, and his brothers, who in many cases lived far away but used the stem family as a source of economic and personal assistance.’ Stem families not only lived together, they worked together; the casa pairal was not only a co-residential household, it was also a co-economic one. The presence of multiple generations organized as a type of community was a reminder that family patrimony was to be perpetuated over time; each generation had the moral duty to pass on family patrimony to the next generation, with which it resided and worked. The perpetuation of family patrimony was just as important a tenet for social and economic life in urban Catalonia as it was in the rural world. Indeed, the casa pairal provided the obvious model for structuring family life in Barcelona and other cities; its urban equivalent was the casa industrial, which, like its rural counterpart, was a co-residential and co-productive household. Although in the casa industrial father-son relations at home were reproduced as owner-manager relations at the firm, the purpose was the same: ‘The permanence of the casa industrial is achieved by the same process as the permanence of the family. The heir, continuator of the personality of the father, is the link that unites the family which started [the work] with the one which finishes it; the heir...is he who connects, within the casa industrial, today's existence with that of yesterday.’” Thus, “Catalan opposition to the Spanish Civil Code was rooted in a conservative view of society, one in which social order was maintained by structured household relations that dictated one's place and purpose...Article 15 of the code was interpreted as a direct threat to Catalonia's inheritance system because its application would increase over time the number of people — including Catalans — who would be subject to the statutes of the civil code in matters of succession.” Three sectors of society — “lawyers, businessmen, and rural property owners — had a shared interest in opposing Article 15”. Catalans were worried that “it would take little time before most Catalan families would have a member falling under the Spanish Civil Code. Consequently, ‘Catalan law [was] condemned to a sure and immediate death.’ If their predictions proved accurate, Catalan lawyers would lose their status as the gatekeepers of local customs because of the code's encroachment on Catalan civil law.”
Now, back to the events of the late 1880s. “Narcís Verdaguer i Callís, who had moved from the presidency of the Centre Escolar Catalanista to the secretariat of the Lliga de Catalunya in 1889, organized a public campaign against Article 15 between February and June of that same year, which was closely coordinated with the efforts of the Acadèmia de Jurisprudència i Legislació de Barcelona [established in 1840]. A public manifesto was issued in March 1889 calling on all Catalanist organizations to declare their opposition to the application of Article 15 to Catalonia. Both the Col·legi d'Advocats and the Acadèmia de Jurisprudència i Legislació added their signatures to the Lliga's petition, as did Catalanist associations across the region. The pressure on the government in Madrid forced the minister of justice to resign and prompted the Queen Regent to intervene and ask three Catalan lawyers — Manuel Duran i Bas, Josep Vilaseca i Mogas, and Joan Maluquer i Viladot — to draft a new version of Article 15, one that would be acceptable to Catalans. The new code finally came into force in July 1889.” But “Even after 1889, the fear that Madrid might change its mind about the appendix acted as a strong motivator for continued action.”
Harty then spends time describing the transition from Catalanism to nationalism: “The defeat of Article 15 was, as Verdaguer i Callís famously proclaimed, ‘Catalanism's first victory.’ The efforts of the Lliga de Catalunya had demonstrated the capacity for coordinated political action across different sectors and different parts of Catalonia. Verdaguer i Callís sought to capitalize on this success by creating a coordinated union of Catalanist associations to work for Catalan political autonomy. Like other prominent lawyers, Verdaguer i Callís was aware that the defeat of Article 15 did not guarantee the preservation of Catalan civil law. Who was to compile the appendix to the civil code and how long it would be in force had yet to be determined. As a response to this challenge, he laid the groundwork for the emergence of the Unió Catalanista in 1891, which, in addition to the Lliga de Catalunya and the Centre Escolar Catalanista, included Catalanist associations from outside Barcelona and the main economic and cultural interest groups from within Barcelona: the Fomento del Trabajo Nacional, the Institut Agrícola Català de San Isidre, the Lliga de Defensa Industrial i Comercial, the Ateneu Barcelonès, and the Sociedad Económica Barcelonesa de Amigos del País. The importance of the Unió Catalanista was that it served as a bridge between the Centre Escolar Catalanista and the future Lliga Regionalista by giving the university students who had come of age in the former a chance to cut their political teeth in more public roles. At the same time, these new university graduates were entering the ranks of the liberal professionals, which ensured the presence of important members of the Catalanist movement within professional associations, such as the Col·legi d'Advocats, and gave them a platform from which to influence Catalan public opinion. During the 1890s, they had their first opportunity to find a political expression for the many claims to cultural preservation that had been articulated during the 1880s. They deliberately steered their colleagues and peers toward a nationalist discourse in an attempt to produce a principled argument for Catalan political autonomy. They were inspired in this regard by international events in the late nineteenth century, which became a key reference point for the emerging nationalist discourse. Three models in particular captured the attention and imagination of the young Catalanists: Ireland, Hungary, and Bohemia. They reported on the fate of these nations constantly in Catalan-language newspapers, which became the principal vehicle for transporting this new discourse to the Catalan public. After 1888, the newspaper La Renaixensa, the mouthpiece of the Lliga de Catalaunya [I’ve read, elsewhere, that beginning in 1892, the newspaper became an organ of non-official expression for the Unió Catalanista], began using the term ‘nationalism’ to refer to those political movements for the vindication of peoples living under a regime of force: Catalonia, Crete, Ireland, Bohemia, and Poland. In order to draw parallels between these cases and Catalonia, the young lawyer Francesc Cambó, in his capacity as a special editor of the new weekly La Veu de Catalunya (1890), reported on minority nationalities in the rest of Europe. Altogether, these journalistic efforts demonstrated that Catalonia was part of a broader European movement for the political autonomy of oppressed nations. According to Llorens i Vila, this ‘new [nationalist] vocabulary appeared with regularity, with an ever increasing frequency and across different journalistic media so that readers of the Catalanist press became sensitized to a new terminology of a decidedly nationalist character.’”
Prat de la Riba later explained that the objective of this period “was to ‘destroy peoples' concerns [and] prejudices...[W]ith calculated opportunism, we insinuated in a logical fashion the new doctrines [of nationalism], mixing together the rights of regions, nationalities and patria in order to slowly accustom the readers.’ To create publicly an association between Catalonia and the nation could land one into trouble with the authorities — as Prat de la Riba discovered when one of his nationalist works was banned. Therefore, the strategy of the members of the Centre Escolar Catalanista was cautious. They began by questioning the appropriateness of existing terminology used to identify local cultures, terms such as ‘region,’ whose meaning was purely administrative. They then slowly introduced the term ‘nation’ as a synonym for ‘region’ by highlighting the cultural characteristics that distinguished one region in Spain from another. Eventually, they abandoned the term ‘region’ and used ‘nation’ exclusively when referring to any culture that possessed crucial characteristics, which they identified as history, language, law, and art. Enric Prat de la Riba drew the distinction between the two in a speech in 1890: ‘Today, many are those who see clearly that Spain is not a nation, but a State, and who grasp the difference between the State, man's creation, an artificial entity, and the Nation, a natural entity, a product of the spontaneous nature of the development of history.’ In 1897, during a series of lectures delivered to the Ateneu Barcelonès by members of the Centre Escolar Catalanista, the new nationalist terminology was finally introduced to Barcelona's cultural and intellectual élites. In the closing lecture (‘El fet de la nacionalitat catalana’), Prat de la Riba concluded that ‘if there is a collective spirit, a Catalan social spirit that has known how to create a Catalan language, legal system and art, I have said that which I sought to say, I have demonstrated that which I sought to demonstrate: that is, that there exists a Catalan nation.’ Prat de la Riba and his cohort of Catalanists in the Unió Catalanista had a very conservative nation in mind, as they had made clear in March 1892 at an assembly of Catalanist groups at Manresa, where members approved a draft constitution of the ‘Catalan Region.’ Largely the work of the architect Lluís Domènech i Muntaner and Prat de la Riba, the constitution was the first attempt by the nascent nationalist movement to give a clear institutional expression to a sovereign Catalan region with legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The importance of Catalonia's distinct legal system was made clear in the first article of the constitution while the declaration that Catalan would be the only official language (article 3) was an obvious attempt to guarantee that Catalans would enjoy exclusive access to public office (article 4). Despite the fact that the Spanish government had introduced universal male suffrage in 1890 — or perhaps because of this — the constitution of the Catalan Region envisaged a corporate assembly elected by heads of households who would be grouped according to their social position, profession, or occupation. The Bases de Manresa, as the constitution was known, was a political blueprint for Catalan conservatism. This was most obvious in the form of corporate suffrage, which, as Molas notes, became ‘the cornerstone of Catalanism’ in the twentieth century. The constitution retained the household as the principal organizing unit of Catalan society and made it the basis for a system of representation. By disallowing universal male suffrage, it preserved the hierarchical household relations that kept Catalan society peaceful and well-ordered. Moreover, the use of corporatism was a further strike against liberalism and, in particular, against free association and the formation of political parties. There was no need to aggregate interests in this vision of a Catalan Region, only to articulate them through regulated corporate structures that were mediated by the disciplined household. The conservatism that underpinned the Bases de Manresa was a reflection of the importance accorded Catalonia's social system by the lawyers who had now risen to positions of influence within the Unió Catalanista. But they had not yet reached their apogee. This would come in 1901 with the decision of the Centre Escolar Catalanista to capitalize on the achievements of the 1890s by forming a nationalist political party. The events of 1898, when Spain lost its last colonies in the Spanish American War, forced a reconsideration of the terms and purpose of political action throughout Spain, not just in Catalonia. But compared to other regions, which were powerless to defeat Madrid's system of patron-client relations that oversaw its corrupt and rigged elections, clientelism was not as deeply rooted in Catalonia, making it relatively easier to start a regional political party. Wary of Madrid's reaction to a party carrying a nationalist label, the young lawyers who would be its leaders opted for the Lliga Regionalista instead.”
The Lliga Regionalista, Harty informs us, “was the party of Catalan lawyers.” The group “espoused a form of conservative nationalism that largely echoed the 1892 Bases de Manresa. It was cemented with the publication of Lluís Duran i Ventosa's Regionalisme i federalisme in 1905 and, in 1906, of party leader Enric Prat de la Riba's La nacionalitat catalana. Duran i Ventosa rejected the possibility that the interests of a people could be defined as the interests of the democratic majority, arguing that ‘the nation is not the sum of the will of individuals that is manifested in a given moment, nor is it the will of the majority. [Instead] the nation is a live organism,’ which exists above the will of individuals. Prat de la Riba maintained something similar: ‘A nationality is an integral society, natural, spontaneous, superior to the will of men, superior to the will of public officials.’ The regionalist doctrine that Duran i Ventosa expounded could not accept ‘that the majority of votes cast by those citizens enjoying the right to vote can represent, in absolute, the nation, especially in the sense that with such a form of representation everything that this majority decides should be considered legitimate while everything else should not be considered legitimate.’ Democratic majorities could not determine the will of the nation, which in fact was almost impossible to discern. Therefore, the business of politics should be left to ‘superior minds’ that alone possessed an understanding of the character of the nation. All politics, in fact, was to be reduced to the nation since individuals did not possess universal rights: ‘freedom of conscience, of thought, universal suffrage, none of these can be appreciated in the abstract or completely independently of the spirit of each country and national needs and aspirations.’”
Harty then concludes: “During the 1890s, the Centre Escolar Catalanista and the Unió Catalanista had established that Catalonia was a nation; in the first decade of the twentieth century this fact was used as the basis for demands for Catalan political autonomy. The Lliga Regionalista was unwavering on this point: ‘Each nation must have its state...No, more: each nation must have a single state that translates its collective aspirations into action...[A state] is the juridical fact that must correspond to the social fact of nationality.’ The Lliga Regionalista was not a secessionist party and, at its core, supported Spain's monarchy. Like other nationalist parties and movements of the period, it struggled to find the right constitutional expression for political autonomy. During the first thirty years of the twentieth century, the Lliga wrote the history of its particular attempts, a history that takes us beyond the scope of this article.” One of the things Harty’s article attempts “to demonstrate is how intrinsic lawyers were to these attempts. Their views on Catalonia's social order infused the party's nationalist discourse through their efforts to construct an argument for the preservation of the region's legal institutions. The popularity of this discourse — as evidenced by the party's repeated successes at the poll — was due to lawyers' ability to couch their conservatism in something that would appeal to all: a national identity that spoke to what was distinctive about Catalans.”
Now that we know a bit about the broader political climate in Catalonia, we can zoom in on the Unió Catalanista. In a nutshell, they were a conservative political group formed in Barcelona in 1891. As a confederation-of-sorts, it managed to unite several nationalist syndicates, unions, and associations that came together as a result of their resistance against the previously-mentioned Article 15, which threatened Catalonian civil laws. Overall, the Unió youth showed the natural bias of Catalan society towards “grass roots” politics: small entities, which spontaneously reflected the dominant pattern of male sociability, with between one or two dozen affiliates, capable of putting out a succession of short-lived periodicals. The Unió — an umbrella-organization for the diverse early strands of nationalism — intended to bring together all Catalan nationalists, regardless of their ideology. Nevertheless, there was a welter of contradictory opinions within the Unió Catalanista. In February of 1891, the first permanent board (junta) was elected: Lluís Domènech i Montaner was voted its first President and Enric Prat de la Riba (of the Centre Escolar Catalanista) its first Secretary. On March 15th, the Unió was officially constituted. In March of 1892, the Unió held its First Assembly in Manresa. This was an extremely important conference, in which the Bases de Manresa — a document containing the foundations pertaining to the programme for Catalan autonomy — was ratified (portions of the text, however, were not finalized). The committee charged with the drafting of this document (its broader name is the Bases per a la Constitució Regional Catalana), was presided over by Josep Torras i Bages. Inspiration for the Bases was drawn partly from the federal model, though in its references to self-government, its authors looked back towards the ancient Catalan constitutions that existed prior to 1714. A total of 243 representatives attended the Assembly, including 120 intellectuals, 42 lawyers and notaries, 22 doctors, 4 clergymen, 10 writers, 15 apothecaries, 78 rural landowners, 22 industrialists and manufacturers, 2 bankers and 12 businessmen/traders/merchants. The Unió immediately rejected the idea of separatism, and discussed some of the amendments pertaining to the Bases de Manresa. They approved most of the document. Prat de la Riba, meanwhile, proposed creating a Diputació General (Regional Council, General Delegation) that would function as a Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Court). His proposal was not accepted. Though the Unió gained the support of Basque and Navarrese regionalists, they were greatly criticized by the Centre Català of Valentí Almirall. A new permanent board was elected: Joan Josep Permanyer i Ayats (of the Lliga de Catalunya) became the Unió’s new President; its new secretary was Manuel Folguera i Duran (a new junta would be appointed, as a matter of protocol, at the end of every subsequent Assembly). In May of 1893, the Second Assembly was held in Reus (264 representatives were in attendance). They completed the portions of the Bases de Manresa pertaining to language, printing, education, elections and international relations. They proposed to foster the daily/regular use of Catalan, to broaden education and to support the publishing of Catalan books. They agreed that Catalanism — as a coalition — was vital, and the set about defining the means of further implementing its regionalist principles, of participating actively in political events, of coordinating itself with other nationalist and peripheral regionalist groups. They discussed whether the Unió Catalanista should become a full-fledged political party in order to enter the upcoming elections, but they decided to leave this task to another party. In May of 1894, the Third Assembly was held in Balaguer (attended by a hundred representatives). The conference focused on taxation (fiscal autonomy) and industry. In June of 1895, the Fourth Assembly was held in Olot (274 representatives participated). They focused on housing development (urbanization), hygiene, the protection/restoration of public monuments, as well as the needs of Catalonia in the areas of infrastructures of transport, and how to better serve Catalanism in public relations. They proposed that a Mancomunitat de Diputacions be created if a measure of self-government could not be attained. In 1897, the Unió modified its statutes; new associations, groups, periodicals, and individuals entered the fold. In April of 1897, they held an Assembly in Girona (312 representatives). They won a great deal of support, including that of the Centre Escolar Catalanista, the Associació Popular Regionalista, and the Centre Catalanista de Girona. The Unió redoubled its efforts to create a unified platform that would serve to consolidate all of the Catalanists who’d criticized the government’s policies as corrupt, ineffective, and centralist. As was custom, a new permanent board was elected, and Prat de la Riba became the Unió’s Treasurer. At this point in time, the direction of the Unió was divided into two sectors: a less politicized one grouped around newspaper La Renaixença, and a more politicized one headed by Prat de la Riba. In March of 1898, the Unió supported the candidature of Joan Josep Permanyer i Ayats in a town called Vilafranca del Penedès, which received the support of some federalists (he did not win, through lack of foresight). It must be noted that in 1898, Spain lost its last colonial possessions in Cuba and the Philippines, a fact that not only involved an important crisis of confidence, but also gave an impulse to political Catalanism. The loss of the Cuban and Philippine colonial markets finally pushed the Catalan industrial middle class into political action. That year, the influential Unió wrote up a manifesto against the War of Cuba, denouncing the lack of foresight of Spain’s military preparations. On September 1st of 1898, a Spanish soldier/politician named General Camilo García de Polavieja y del Castillo sought out the Catalan nationalists in search of political support for a policy he proposed named regeneracionisme. He offered them some type of administrative decentralization. On September 15th, the Unió sent him a reply in which they offered him support in exchange for a form of autonomy that was more in tune with the kind of government described in the Bases de Manresa. They wanted a Diputació General de Catalunya that’d be granted broad rights, including the ability to form a military and produce coinage. The general, however, only offered them a concierto económico (a special financial system/agreement which is equivalent to having an independent, self-sufficient economic administration), a municipal reorganization, their own diputació (provincial council), their own legal system, and a couple of other concessions. On October 15th, the Unió, pressured by the Associació Popular Regionalista, La Renaixença, and other groups, rejected his offer, which provoked confrontations between the moderates of the Lliga de Catalunya and the more radical elements like Domènec Martí i Julià. On November 22nd, a new permanent board was chosen. They began a campaign in favor of the concierto económico, which received the support of the shopkeepers. The Unió’s more politicized sector broke away from the group in 1899 and formed the Centre Nacional Català (not to be confused with Centre Escolar Catalanista) under the presidency of Narcís Verdaguer i Callís. On October 7th of 1900, a new permanent board was elected. In May of 1901, the Unió held an Assembly in Terrasa (986 representatives). There, the Unió decided to enter politics and to demand a concierto económico (as well as control over municipal services) from the Spanish state. However, there was too much internal bickering amongst the main sectors of the Unió to make this happen. In the early 1900s, the group entered into a period of severe crisis. While the fundamentalist/traditionalist sector, which considered the Bases de Manresa to be an inalienable text, did not want to participate in politics nor to present themselves in elections, the reformist sector was in favor of aligning the Unió’s political voice with that of the Lliga de Catalunya. On account of this, the Unió became marginalized from the political direction of Catalanism, and simply dedicated itself to propaganda, whilst promoting certain national festivals. By the end of 1901, the Unió and the Lliga reached an understanding of sorts. Martí i Julià presided over the Unió in 1903-1906 and again from1914-1917. By the middle of Martí i Julià’s second tenure, the “elderly” Unió Catalanista had shriveled substantially. Meanwhile, the separatists entertained themselves with a campaign, of much noise and scant substance, to imitate the Garibaldini in France. As a result, once the Great War ended, separatism had been transformed. It had acquired for the first time a characteristic form of party structure, a more or less unitary para-military pattern of style, that permitted it to fuse the different initiatives and suggestions of independentist symbols (such as the Estelada — the Lone Star flag — considered to be the flag that symbolizes the independence of Catalonia or of the Catalan Countries). In 1915-1916, Martí i Julià hoped to utilize the sympathies born the Great War to re-launch the organization, rather worse for wear, as a new kind of “nationalist and socialist party”. He attempted to orient the party towards the left and he succeeded in turning it for a brief phase into an openly secessionist organization that was at the same time socialist. Despite the enthusiasm he provoked among the shop and office workers which formed its activist core, the Unió was burnt-out shell, with no future, and the new impetus somewhat paradoxically brought it to a halt. In 1916, Martí i Julià even proposed the dissolution of the Unió; this was not accepted and he left the group. All of these events purportedly broke Martí i Julià's heart, hastening his death in 1917. Afterwards, the Unió almost disappeared, even though they continued to exist marginally as a radical independentist party that would be displaced, little by little, by the Estat Català (a political party that arose in 1922). It should be noted that Vicenç Albert Ballester i Camps, who became the Unió;’s President in 1924, is considered by many to have been, in the early years of the 20th century, the creator/designer of (or at least the person who inspired) the Estelada. In 1932, Vicenç Albert Ballester gained a small victory for the group by obtaining a seat in the Parliament of Catalonia. The Unió was dissolved at the outset of the Spanish Civil War.
Numismatically, the Unió Catalanista has issued 6 different pieces, all dated 1900. Because they do not bear actual denominations, it would be easy to refer to them as medals. But it’s not that simple, because these pieces are universally referred to in terms of Centimos and Pesetas. There is a “5 Centimos” (CU, 5g), a “10 Centimos” (CU, 10g), a “1 Peseta” (.900 AG, 5.25g), a “5 Pesetas” (.900 AG, 25g), a “20 Pesetas” (AU, 6.45g), and a “100 Pesetas” (AU, 32.35g). The obverse of all of these features St. George slaying the Dragon (Sant Jordi was the symbol of the Catalans and the Dragon represented the centralization of the government, which the Catalans wished to slay). There are 3 different reverses: an object that looks like a cross-shaped medal, shared by the two copper pieces; a shield or some similar heraldic device, shared by the two silver pieces; and a chair/throne, shared by the two gold pieces. All these reverses also feature a common slogan: “VINDICAMUS HÆREDITATEM PATRUM NOSTRORUM” (We claim the inheritance of our fathers). Images of these coins can be seen at the “Numi: Catálogo de Moneda Española” Web-site (http://www.euronumi.com/catalogoespana/index.htm?/catalogoespana/ucatalanista.shtml); according to them, “These issues are not officials and never released into circulation.” According to Mr. Tomás Díaz (the owner of Numi), even though the denominations aren’t shown on the coins/medals themselves, these denominations are agreed upon by Spanish numismatists and they are included in all the catalogs which list these coins/medals. I purchased one of the “5 Centimos” pieces from Mr. Alistair Mackay (http://www.coinmac.co.uk/).
Mr. Díaz posted a message about the Catalanist Union pieces at an online Spanish numismatic forum. Thanks to him, some light was shed on the coin/medal debate. It turns out that based on the size and metal composition of each piece, these coins were purportedly used as means of payment, substituting for the coins of the era. Theoretically, they weigh and measure the same as their analogous European contemporaries. According to “Morgana”, one of the forum’s members, “If in those days people paid for things with any type of copper coinage, including Roman coins…just imagine the variety of gold and silver coins that were being circulated.” Nevertheless, he believes that this does not necessarily make us justified in elevating the Unió Catalanista pieces to something other than medals. “In fact, any coin (or piece) of gold was accepted in all places. On the other hand, in the wake of the Unión Monetaria Latina, there were many módulos [units, measures of weight, standards of measure] similar to one another (the Catalan pieces are of this type). I remember an account from a writer who commented on how he could start off in Spain and arrive in Russia without having to change currencies, all he needed to take were gold or silver coins. The same can be said about the Carlist silver pieces and medals, in some cases they were accepted like means of payment, but even though this was taking place they were still not coins.” The Latin Monetary Union, by the way, was a 19th century attempt to unify several European currencies into a single currency that could be used in all the member states, at a time when most national currencies were still made out of gold and silver. It was established in 1865 and disbanded in 1927. By a convention dated 23 December 1865, France, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland formed the union and agreed to change their national currencies to a standard of 4.5 grams of silver or 0.290322 grams of gold (a ratio of 15.5 to 1) and make them freely interchangeable. The agreement came into force on 1 August 1866. Many countries soon joined the LMU — Spain did so in 1868. Were the coins of the Unió Catalanista truly minted for the purpose of being placed in general circulation (in order to make up for the possible scarcity of other types of coins at that time)? “The truth is that I totally do not know the circumstances of their minting, but I very much doubt that it was for something more than propaganda or the raising of funds. What I wanted to point out is that there wasn’t any real reason to merit their circulation at that time, since there were all type of coins (even Roman) circulating already.” He recalled how easy it was to once in a while find the well-worn coins of Napoleon III amidst batches of “perras gordas” [10-céntimo coins]. “I believe,” he comments, “that there arrived a moment in which they were a plague in Spain, when years later the exchange rate between the franc and the peseta was changed. I also wanted to point out that everything had to fit within the project of the Unión Monetaria Latina (and that in the German States weights and sizes were also being unified), in which a group of countries with distinct coins of their own agreed to be in general consensus with one another in regards to the weights, metals and sizes of their circulating coinage.” The pieces made by the Catalanist Union fall under this family. “I don’t know much about the numismatics of other countries, but there were probably other private initiatives similar to this one. Of course, in Germany it seems to me that there are many pieces or medals from private enterprises with weights and metals equal to the silver coins.” Another member, nicknamed “Monfortino”, agrees that people back then (up until the 1930s-40s) used all kinds of copper coins and Roman coins in their commercial transactions. He then makes the assertion that “In those days, the value of the coin was based on the amount of the precious metal it contained, and it didn’t matter where the coin or simple pieces of metal came from. For me, these Catalanist pieces are indeed coins rather than medals considering that they were given a commercial use that was wholly independent of the message that the Union wanted the pieces to convey. In those days, the actual market was far larger than the area the Euro can ever dream to encompass. In every European country that I know of, they coined pieces with the same weight. There is, for example, a large variety of ‘duro’ pieces from many European and American countries.” For sake of clarity, I then needed to define these “duro” coins: the Spanish Law of June 26, 1864 decreed that in preparation for joining the Latin Monetary Union, the peseta became a subdivision of the peso with 1 peso duro being equivalent to 5 pesetas. The peseta replaced the escudo at a rate of 5 pesetas = 1 peso duro = 2 escudos. Mr. Jorge Fernández Vidal, a member of the Unrecognised States Numismatic Society (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnrecognisedStatesNumismaticSociety/ and http://www.usns.info/), enlightened me a bit further: “The origin of this nickname comes from the XIX century. In those days, the 5 pesetas coins were very heavy and big, and therefore, they were very ‘duro’ (hard/strong...in English). Basically, the first ‘duros’ were 38mm silver coins. Numismatically speaking they are known as ‘crowns’. The first ‘crowns’ were Spanish coins of 8 onzas, minted in Mexico in the XVII century, that were known as ‘coronas’, or ‘crowns’ in English, because they had a huge crown in the reverse. He means that almost every European country minted 38mm-1 ounce silver coins, that could be used everywhere in the world.”
On a philatelic note, between the years 1896 and 1906, many different postage stamps were issued by the Catalans — including propaganda stamps made by the Unió Catalanista. These were designed to be affixed alongside the regular stamp. The Spanish government quickly outlawed the use of the Catalan stamps on mail.


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