Ostend Pact: Causes, Objectives And Consequences

The Ostend Pact is an agreement signed in 1866 by progressive liberals and democrats with the Liberal Union to promote the democratization and economic recovery of Spain. It was signed in the Belgian port of Ostend, where it was agreed to dethrone Queen Elizabeth II and call elections by universal suffrage only for men.

During the last years of the reign of Isabel II, the political and social unrest throughout the Spanish kingdom grew, mainly due to the long crisis that had been dragging on since the wars of independence in the American colonies. 

Ostend Pact

The immediate objectives of this pact were to overthrow the Bourbon dynasty embodied by Queen Elizabeth II, appoint a provisional government and elect a constituent assembly to be in charge of writing the new Constitution.

The Magna Carta would be submitted to a plebiscite by establishing universal male suffrage as a mechanism for citizen participation.

The agreement was signed by 45 representatives between the Spanish democratic and progressive parties. This group was made up of military and civilian exiles living in Brussels, London, Geneva and Paris.


The financial crisis of 1868 coincided with the food crisis caused by poor harvests. The ground was fertile for a revolt or revolution to break out in Spain. The Spanish Empire had lost power, influence and wealth, apart from the fact that the economy suffered from a great backwardness with respect to the other European countries.

The collective unrest that had been incubating found its political expression in the Ostend Pact and in the Revolution of 1868. The fall of the Bourbon dynasty, which was its result, was produced by the fault of Queen Elizabeth II herself.

In addition to the loss of prestige of his government and the economic crisis, the queen’s support only went to the moderate political faction; This caused reactions and discomfort among the other political parties (liberal and progressive) that felt relegated.

Upon the death of General Leopoldo O’Donnell, General Francisco Serrano y Domínguez became head of the Unión Liberal party. Then, he joined the conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy and allied himself with the progressives led by General Juan Prim, as well as the Democratic party.

Then, when Ramón María Narváez y Campos died in 1868, the queen completely lost solid political support. It no longer had a strong party to support it to continue governing.

Triumph of the Revolution of 68

In September 1868, the “glorious” Revolution broke out, promoted by Serrano, Prim and Admiral Tapete. The latter started the revolt in Cádiz while Prim and Serrano commanded the infantry. General Serrano managed to defeat the queen’s forces on the Alcolea bridge and marched triumphantly towards Madrid, where Prim was waiting for him to join him.

Defeated and without military and political forces to face the rebellion, Queen Elizabeth II fled to France. From San Sebastián – where he was – he left the country through Irún.

The Spanish Revolution triumphed and the country thus began its brief democratic and republican stage, which lasted just under two years: between February 1873 and December 1874, with the provisional government and the establishment of the First Spanish Republic.


The objectives of the Ostend Pact can be summarized as follows:

– Dethrone the Bourbon dynasty represented by Queen Elizabeth II.

– Establish the republic as a system of government.

– Establish democratic citizen participation through the universal male vote.

– Elect a constituent assembly led by a provisional government to draft the new Spanish Constitution.

Main points of the pact

After a brief discussion between the signatories of the Pact of Ostend, that November 4, 1866, the following was agreed:

– The objective of the pact and the flag that the Spanish Revolution would fly was the fall of the Bourbon house.

– Universal suffrage was established as the ideal mechanism to decide the form of government that Spain would have in the future, after the overthrow of the monarchy and as an ideological and doctrinal principle of the democrats and liberals who signed the pact.

– The popular consultation (only between men) should be done through a plebiscite or through constituent courts, previously democratically elected.

– Until the celebration of the popular consultation, “absolute freedom of the press” and the right of assembly had to be guaranteed without any limitation, so that the Spanish people could better enlighten and organize themselves to participate in the constituent plebiscite.

– General Prim was recognized as the chief and military director of the democratic movement, who could act and use the mechanisms that he “deemed convenient” to achieve the objectives set.


– The first great consequence of the Pact of Ostend is the fall of Queen Elizabeth II and the outbreak of the so-called Glorious Revolution. With this began a new political stage in the life of Spain and the struggle for the adoption of a new form of government.

– A convulsive period of permanent political and military conflicts began in which Spain was torn between the republic and the monarchy. One sector of the country fought to definitively implement the liberal democratic principles established in the Constitution of 1869, while another with a moderate tendency preferred the maintenance of the monarchy.

– Likewise, there would be no definition regarding the Spanish territorial organization and the type of government (centralism or federalism).

– With the fall of the Bourbon monarchy, the period known as the Democratic Sexenio began, which lasted until December 1874. In turn, this was divided into three phases or periods:

First period (1868-1870)

In this phase the Revolution broke out, led by Admiral Juan Bautista Topete, which was joined by Prim and Serrano to overthrow Queen Elizabeth II. When the Revolution triumphed, and after Isabel’s exile, Generals Prim and Serrano headed the provisional government of Spain.

The liberal-democratic Spanish Constitution was approved in 1869. For the first time, universal male suffrage was approved, the rights of citizens were declared, and public powers were divided. The legislative power was bicameral with a progressive tendency and religious tolerance was admitted.

Second period (1871-1873)

The reign of Amadeo I began, who ended up abdicating in February 1873.

Third period (1873)

That same month the short-lived First Spanish Republic was created. After the military pronouncement of General Arsenio Martínez Campos, the Restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain took place.


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  2. Ostend Pact. Consulted of pronouncements.rizoazul.com
  3. Republicanism in Spain. Consulted of es.wikipedia.org
  4. Ostend Pact. Consulted of wikiteka.com
  5. Ostend Pact (PDF) Consulted of centuriesdehistoria.com

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