He fought in the war of independence, was a prominent member of the advanced Liberal party from 1820 to 1823, and in the latter year was condemned to death. He escaped to London and lived successively in Italy, Malta and France, until the amnesty of 1834, when he returned to Spain, shortly afterwards succeeding his brother as duke of Rivas. In 1835 he became minister of the interior under Isturiz, and along with his chief had again to leave the country. Returning in 1837, he joined the moderate party, became prime minister, and was subsequently ambassador at Paris and Naples.
In 1813 he published Ensayos poéticos, and between that date and his first exile several of his tragedies (the most notable being Alatar, 1814, and Lanuza, 1822) were put upon the stage. Traces of foreign influence are observable in El Moro expósito (1833), a narrative poem dedicated to John Hookham Frere; these are still more marked in Don Alvaro o La Fuerza del sino (first played on March 22, 1835), a drama of historical importance inasmuch as it established the new French romanticism in Spain.