Ayuntamiento, the name of village and town councils in Spain. During the wars between the Moors and Christian Spaniards it was the policy of the sovereigns to induce inhabitants and cultivators to settle in the depopulated country as fast as it was recovered. As an incentive they granted to the villages and towns municipal privileges of a character derived from Roman antiquity, and totally antagonistic to the spirit of the feudal law. The town councils were to be composed of the judge, the mayor, the regidores or clerks, the jurados, and the personeros or deputies; all these were elective officers, except the .judge or corregidor, who was appointed by the king. The only qualification for a citizen was Spanish birth, residence, and to be the head of a family. These privileges were consonant with the most ancient rights of the Spaniards and their Gothic conquerors, but now they were confirmed by fueros or charters. The only liability under which the districts thus organized were placed was that of paying a tax to the king, and of serving in arms in defence of the country, under their own alcalde. Their elections were by ballot; persons soliciting a vote or using undue influence were disfranchised.
The king himself might not interfere with the proceedings of the ayuntamiento, which had supreme control of all local expenditure and taxation. All the citizens in these districts had equal rights. Noblemen had to lay aside their rank and exclusive privileges if they desired to reside in the district. There were no special privileges; all men and all religions were equal before the law. These regulations continued in force for centuries; but under the house of Austria and the early Bourbons they were frequently encroached upon, until at the period of the French invasion, while the municipal organizations of the villages and unimportant towns had preserved their integrity, the charters of most of the great towns and cities of the kingdom had been violated, and the rights of the people abridged. During that invasion the constitution of 1812, recognizing and restoring all the ancient fueros, was adopted by the people. This constitution was abrogated by Ferdinand VII. on his restoration, revived by the revolution of 1820, and again suppressed in 1823. The constitution of 1837, however, restored the ayuntamientos.
In 1840, in consequence of the check which this system of local government gave to the policy of the court, Queen Christina, by the advice of the French government, introduced a measure intended to restrain the political action of the ayuntamientos. This, although it at the time led to disturbances, was substantially carried out in 1844.