José Canalejas

For the Spanish film actor, see José Canalejas (actor).
The Most Excellent

José Canalejas Méndez
Prime Minister of Spain
In office
9 February 1910  12 November 1912
Monarch Alfonso XIII
Vice PM Manuel García Prieto
Preceded by Segismundo Moret y Prendergast
Succeeded by Álvaro Figueroa, Count Romanones
Personal details
Born (1854-07-31)31 July 1854
Ferrol, Spain
Died 12 November 1912(1912-11-12) (aged 58)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Political party Liberal Party
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Canalejas and the second or maternal family name is Méndez.
Tomb of José Canalejas in the Panteón de Hombres Ilustres, Madrid

José Canalejas y Méndez (31 July 1854 12 November 1912) was a Spanish politician, born in Ferrol.

Early life

Canalejas graduated in 1871 from the University of Madrid, took his Galicia doctor's degree in 1872 and became a lecturer on literature in 1873. He later studied railway problems, but continued his literary work, publishing a history of Latin literature in two volumes.

Political career

In 1881 Canalejas was elected deputy for Soria. Two years later, he was appointed under-secretary for the Prime Minister's department under Posada Herrera; he became minister of justice in 1888 and finance from 1894 to 1895. A brief spell as Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce from March to May 1902 ended after only two months, when he resigned as he regarded the Sagasta Ministry weak and "incapable of safeguarding the Sovereignty of the State in view of the encroachments of the Vatican".[1]

He served as President of the Congress of Deputies (the equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon office of parliamentary Speaker) from 1906 to 1907.

Canalejas Ministry

After the 1909 "Tragic Week" bloody confrontations in Barcelona, Antonio Maura resigned and Segismundo Moret was again appointed prime minister. Moret was forced to resign in February 1910 when he was replaced by Canalejas who became Prime Minister and chief of the Liberal party. Moret denounced the Canalejas Ministry as 'a democratic flag being used to cover reactionary merchandise'. [2]

While in office, Canalejas (with the support of his sovereign, Alfonso XIII) introduced several electoral reforms that aimed to win working-class support for moderately conservative policies; to curb the power of independent political bosses, quite common at the time, especially in rural areas; to weaken excesses of Catholic educational clericalism without threatening the Catholic Church as such; and to turn Spain into a true democracy. These policies successfully faced the social turmoil that radicals had been creating within Spain (and which had led, in 1909, to a brief but bloody unrest in Barcelona).

Canalejas's end was tragic. On 12 November 1912, while he was window-shopping the literary novelties of the day from a bookstore in central Madrid, he was fatally shot by anarchist Manuel Pardiñas.


Canalejas believed in the possibility of a monarchy open to a thoroughgoing democratic policy both in economic and in civil and political matters. Salvador de Madariaga, the liberal historian, argued that the disasters Spain experienced during the 1930s could be traced to Canalejas' murder, given that this murder deprived King Alfonso of one of his few genuine statesmen.


  1. [cited in The Times 30 May 1902 "Latest intelligence - Spain". The Times (36781). London. 30 May 1902. p. 5.]
  2. Professor J. C J. Metford: The Spanish Anarchist Movement, 1908-75, Mastermind Quiz Book, 1984

See also

Media related to José Canalejas at Wikimedia Commons

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