Margaret Sanger, "Portet and Ferrer, Part II," Jan 1917.

Source: " The Modern School, Jan. 1917, pp. 157-160 Margaret Sanger Microfilm: Collected Documents Series, C16:100."

This is the second of a three part series. For the first article see "Portet and Ferrer" Dec. 1916; for final article see "Portet and Ferrer" Feb. 1917. For a draft version see Library of Congress Microfilm 13:366.


This was a picnic of all the Rationalistic Modern and Lay schools together on Good Friday, when the picnickers defied the laws of Church and God by not only eating meat, but fish with the meat, which seems to be the most outrageous infraction. This called the attention of the clericals to the Modern Schools and for the next few years. until 1916, the vigilant eye of the Church was waiting patiently for an opportunity to close them.

This came when, at the wedding procession of the King of Spain from the Church to the Palace, an attempt was made by Mateo Morral, who threw a bomb from a window. Several people were killed. The Queen's wedding dress was in places drenched in blood, but she and King Alphonso escaped. Young Morral, who was a well educated man of wealthy middle-class parents, had become interested in libertarian education and had taken his younger sister to attend school, under Ferrer's direction in the Modern School. Morral had often assisted at some of the evening work at the school, and this fact now drew the power of the Government down upon Ferrer and the Modern School.

Ferrer was arrested as an accomplice of Morral (in 1906), all the schools were closed, and the teachings greatly maligned by the clericals. During these years Portet and Ferrer had seen much of each other and had become close friends. Portet lived with his family in England, but made several trips to Barcelona, where he and Ferrer consulted together over the advancement of the schools, books, translations, etc.

Upon receiving the news of Ferrer's arrest, Portet and friends again started an agitation to protest against Ferrer's arrest. In France, Belgium and Italy, where both men were known, the agitation was widespread, and continued until Ferrer was released by a Civil Court (which differed from the Military Court of his second trial).

One year later nearly all the schools were opened again. Books had been examined and passed upon though at the second trial these same books were considered "criminal". All the secular and rational schools continued with their work, but the Modern School could not open its doors without special permission from the Church. Ferrer would not ask it. He consulted together with his friends, and the workers who had established the Rationalist Schools, upon the best plans to pursue. He decided to publish advanced textbooks and advanced educational books, of which there were almost none in Spain, and accordingly opened the publishing house in Barcelona, of which Lorenzo Portet has so fittingly said: "Ferrer opened a school for all Spain when the Escuela Moderna of Barcelona was closed".

Ferrer left the publishing house in the hands of capable men, and went to Paris to seek good and fitting literature for translations. He published a monthly magazine in Paris, " L'Ecole Renovee " and tried to convince the French Syndicalists of the necessity for schools where their children should be taught clear-cut ideas, against the poison of patriotism, capitalism, etc.

Ferrer had become well known through his first trial and had now many friends who were in sympathy with his revolutionary ideas regarding education. Among these was Elisee Reclus, the well-known author of "Man and the Earth", and numerous others prominent in French educational circles. During these years he was active in France and England, gathering the best known books and selecting them for publication.

Then came the last trip to England in 1909, and the hurried call to Barcelona on the death of his brother's child, who lived with him on his farm called "Mas Germinal". He arrived in Barcelona when the Morocco affair was in full blast. The reserves had been asked for in Morocco of the Spanish troops.

Many of these were poor married workers, and those with money could buy a poorer one to be sent in his place. This war was not popular in Spain even with those who had but few ideas. Barcelona took the initiative to protest against the war, by calling a general strike on July 24. This was not difficult to do, for the storm of indignation and protest had been gathering; so on Monday morning the demonstration, led by women, compelled the workers in the factories, workshops, stores,--everyone who was a wage earner--to come out on strike. The whole city of Barcelona was on strike and the workers were masters of the city for four days. The strike spread to all the provinces. The strikers formed themselves into groups to carry out different parts of a general plan for a republic. Convents and Churches to the number of 53 were set on fire after warning had been given to the occupants to get out.

Many priests barricaded themselves within and shot at the people through the windows. Streets were barricaded and cannon set ready for use. Troops were called, of whom many had refused to shoot the strikers, and on several occasions when the priests witnessed this, they themselves shot the soldiers in order to enrage them against the strikers. The workers attacked all the places where arms and ammunitions were sold or stored and prepared themselves for attack. The Civil Guard were the fiercest in their attacks on the workers as there were few soldiers left in Barcelona.

Over on hundred of the Civil Guard were killed, while the whole city, with convents and churches burning, continued in revolt for nearly a week. Then two regiments were sent to quell the revolt; they succeeded, by arresting two thousand people in Barcelona, and proclaiming martial law.

When I asked several comrades the cause of their failure to establish a republic when almost everything was in their favor to do so, the reply came:

"The one mistake in Barcelona was the revolutionists failed to capture the banks and take as hostages about fifty of the principal citizens of the city."

This, together with a sad lack of personal direction, no doubt contributed to the failure of the revolt. By the end of the week all was quiet in Barcelona, every person known or suspected of advanced ideas was arrested. Several escaped across the frontier into France.

Ferrer, unfortunately, had not been particularly active in this revolt on account of the illness and recent death in his home, so that he made no attempt to escape. It was not until he read that the revolt had been instigated by him that he knew he was in danger. A few days after, his house was surrounded by Civil guards night and day. There was now no time to escape. He, however, was able to be in hiding in his house, and although the guards searched and spent days in searching in every crevice and corner of the house, taking up parts of the floor, removing parts of the walls, and ceilings,--everywhere they looked, but did not discover him.

In Barcelona and the Provinces all papers were suppressed, except those authorised by the Government. The schools closed, trade-unions dissolved. All clubs and places of social interest closed. Only the clericals and clerical press had full sway.


To be continued

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