At the general elections of 1881 after the fall of the Ferry cabinet he was returned to the chamber on a programme which included the separation of Church and State, a policy of decentralization, and the imposition of an income-tax.
The existing fragments tell us little as to the decentralization of the functions of government, but from the Lex Rubria, which applies to the Transpadane districts enfranchised by Caesar (it must be remembered that Cisalpine Gaul remained nominally a province until 42 B.C.) we gather that considerable powers of independent jurisdiction were reserved to the municipal magistrates.
Such a statesman was sure to clash with the doctrinaires, like Salmeron, who wanted to imitate French methods; with Pi y Margall, who wanted a federal republic after purely Spanish ideas of decentralization; and above all with the intransigent and gloomy fanatics who became the leaders of the cantonal insurrections at Cadiz, Seville, Valencia, Malaga and Cartagena in 1873.
He remained in power during five years of unbroken peace (1851-1856), and carried many useful reforms. The most important of these was the so-called Additional Act of the 5th of July 1852, which amended the charter of 1826 by providing for the direct election of deputies, the decentralization of the executive, the creation of representative municipal councils, and the abolition of capital punishment for political offences.
He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1899, his most notable works being Orateurs et hommes d'etat (1888), Figures de femmes (1889), La Decentralization (1895), La Question sociale (1898).