« PreviousContinue »
tions the revolutions and bloody contests of these republics for the past threequarters of a century have been purely of a personal character, the struggles of the partisans of one aspiring individual against the partisans of his ambitious. opponent. One of the most notable exceptions was the war of reform waged in Mexico for ten years, beginning in 1857, by the liberal party against the united power of the clergy and Emperor Napoleon. That was a heroic war, involving great principles of government.
I can probably best illustrate the historical fact of this personal cause of revolutions by a very brief sketch of the experience of two of these republics-one the most revolutionary and the other the most conservative and prosperous of the Spanish-American countries.
Venezuela, on its separation from Colombia in 1831, chose Paez president. He filled out his term, and in 1835 sought by his official influence to transfer the presidency to Vargas, who was very unpopular, and within four months was overthrown and banished. Paez came from retirement, gathered an army, took the capital, reinstated Vargas, and, ultimately succeeding him, was made. dictator. In 1847 he transferred the presidency, against the protest of congress, to Monagas, who caused his soldiers to invade the assembly, killing some and dispersing the rest. finally took up arms against the government, but was outlawed, defeated, and escaped to New York. In the election to succeed Monagas three candidates were in the field, and as none had the constitutional majority, the election. went to congress, and Monagas' brother Gregorio was selected, and until 1858 the two brothers alternated in the presidency. In that year their career ended by a revolution, which created a provisional government that brought in Castro as president; but his was a turbulent reign, and he was displaced by Gual, who tried and convicted Castro as
a traitor and then pardoned him. Tovar succeeded by election to the presidency, and he recalled Paez and made him commander-in-chief of the army, but the latter quarreled with Tovar, compelled him to abdicate, and placed Gual again in the presidency. Gual likewise lost the favor of Paez, the president and his ministers were imprisoned, and Paez was declared dictator. Revolution and anarchy followed for two years, when Paez and his partisan, Rojas, had to surrender the government to the insurgents under Falcon in 1863. A constituent assembly and a new constitution followed in 1864, and Falcon, the insurgent leader, was declared president, and he turned the government over to his partisan, Trias, which occasioned a new revolution, and general anarchy and financial distress prevailed. In 1867 congress gave unlimited powers to the president, but the next year Monagas, after defeating Falcon, succeeded to the presidency, and died in office. His adherents made Pulgar provisional president, but the Falcon party, led by General Guzman Blanco, were enabled to overturn the provisional government, and Blanco entered upon his checkered career, covering several years, in which he assumed dictatorial powers, to be at last rejected by his country, and he spent the last years of his life in Paris, enjoying luxurious ease with his ill-gotten fortune. He was followed by a list of constitutional and revolutionary rulers, in turn, up to the actual president, Castro, who came to power through force and betrayal of his chief.
Let us turn from this dismal narrative to a less dreary story, but one which illustrates as well the point which I am seeking to make clear. Chile has had from the beginning of its existence a more fortunate career, in that its wealthy and more intelligent citizens have usually controlled the government, and as a result it has prospered and its financial credit has led all the other states. But
it will be seen that when private animosities or personal ambitions were awakened, constitutional provisions were of little avail. After Chilian independence was secured, General O'Higgins was called to the head of the government and became dictator, but he was finally driven from power by a revolution and Freire was chosen president in 1823. He remained in office three years, but was troubled with frequent insurrections, and the four years following his retirement saw six dictators. In 1828 a new constitution was promulgated, and in 1831 Prieto was chosen president, and from that date for many years a constitutional form of government was enjoyed, although defeated candidates for the presidency more than once organized unsuccessful revolutions on the ground that they had been defrauded in the elections. In 1890, near the close of Balmaceda's term, he was suspected of selecting the chief of his cabinet to be his successor. This choice was contrary to the wishes of the majority of the congress, which body refused to vote the budget appropriations, and Balmaceda retaliated by dissolving congress. The leaders of the latter went on board the government fleet, which pronounced in favor of the Congressional party, and thus a revolution was inaugurated which resulted in the overthrow of Balmaceda. One of its evil effects was to bring about complications with the United States nearly ending in war, and which have embittered the Chilians strongly against our Government.
The record of all the Latin-American republics has not been as bad as that of Venezuela, though some of them equal it in their history of anarchy and misrule, and few, if any, of them have even as clear a record as that of Chile; but they all teach the same lesson of inability to respect the constitutional provision as to the executive power, when a fierce electoral campaign is carried on. Such a test as came to the Congress of the United
States following the Jefferson-Adams campaign of 1800, the Jackson-AdamsCrawford-Clay campaign of 1824, or the Hayes-Tilden campaign of 1876, would almost inevitably bring about a revolution or a disregard of the constitution in any of the Latin-American States.
The experience of the past year demonstrates the lesson of their history. We have been reading the almost daily reports of the revolutionary movements in Venezuela and Colombia. The disorders in Venezuela had their origin in the election about three years ago, when Andrade was declared to be chosen president over his competitor, Hernandez. The latter contended that he was the real choice, and his partisan, General Castro, took up arms to place his candidate in the executive chair. Castro defeated the government forces and drove Andrade from the country, but in place of installing Hernandez in power Castro imprisoned him, and declared himself president. Hernandez succeeded in escaping, and both he and Andrade are now reported to be seeking to drive the usurper from power; but even if Castro is displaced the two claimants will still have their own contest to settle. A late telegram states that a constitutional convention has been convoked by Castro, and that this body will frame a new constitution, with an article extending the president's term of office from two to seven years.
President McKinley, in his last annual message, stated that "the executive power of Colombia changed hands in August last by the act of Vice-President Marroquin in assuming the reins of government during the absence of President San Clemente from the capital." This gave rise to armed resistance, and we have had for months the periodical announcement that the revolution had been put down, only to break out again with fresh vigor. The diplomatic representative of the revolutionists recently announced from New York that
the liberals will never consent to serve again under a president forced upon the people by the conservatives." The New York Independent, in seeking to give its readers an account of affairs, says: "The revolution in Colombia that was said to be put down some months ago is alive again and widespread. It is a most remarkable fact that this revolution has caused the loss of thousands upon thousands of lives, and yet no one seems to know anything about it. Cities are taken and retaken, generals are killed, neighboring republics are accused of helping the insurgents, business is paralyzed, towns are razed to the ground, and yet there seems to be no principle involved, nor wrong to be redressed by either party's victory."
I have noticed the provision of the constitution of Brazil, one of the most recent, which, in addition to the prohibition of reëlection, makes ineligible to the presidency candidates related by blood or marriage to the outgoing president in the first or second degree.
is intended to strike at an evil akin to the continuance in power of the incumbent-the perpetuation of the same family influence in the executive office. We have seen that in Venezuela two brothers alternated for some years in the presidency, until overthrown by revolution. Two of these republics are today governed by the same family, one president making way at the end of his term for another member of the family.
Owing to the sad experience of the past, the Latin-American States have, as we have seen, with a great degree of unanimity attempted to remedy the evil by inserting in their constitutions a prohibition against the reëlection of the chief executive; but that has proved in many cases a most ineffectual remedy, because the men who are ready to resort to arms to secure what they claim as their rights seldom hesitate to disregard the constitution, or else find means to amend it to suit the exigency.
I have referred to the fact that one of the exceptions in existing constitutional prohibitions of reëlection is to be found in the fundamental code of Mexico. The circumstances which have brought this about are peculiar and interesting. The constitution of 1857, still in force, contained no such prohibition. General Porfirio Diaz was twice a candidate for president against Juarez, and he claimed that he was the people's choice, but had been counted out by the administration officials who had control of the elections. Lerdo, the head of the cabinet, became president upon the death of Juarez, and when the time approached for the election upon the expiration of Lerdo's term, Diaz announced to the country that it was useless to stand as a candidate, because of the absolute control of the electoral college by the government. He therefore issued a pronunciamento, declaring for an amendment of the constitution, and with the cry of "no reelection," he organized a revolution. which was successful. Lerdo and his cabinet fled to the United States, Diaz assumed the presidency, ordered a new election, and was unanimously chosen. The constitution was in due course amended so as to prohibit the reëlection of the president until four years after his first term had expired.
At the end of his term Diaz retired from office, and his favorite general was elected his successor. The latter proved so inefficient and dishonest that at the end of his term all classes clamored for the return of Diaz, whose first administration had been quite a successful one. His second term was even more successful than the first. Peace and security prevailed throughout the land. merce, agriculture, mining-every industry of the country-prospered as never before. Railroads were built, capital began to flow in from abroad, the government credit, which had been utterly discredited for nearly half a century, was fully reëstablished. No one
would listen to his retirement, and so the prohibiting amendment was stricken out of the constitution, and Diaz was again chosen president; and he has again and again been reëlected without any open protest, and for a quarter of a century he has been the untrammeled ruler of Mexico. Every one conversant with the history of that country concedes that he is the best ruler it has had since the independence. He has given it peace, order, and the reign of law. It has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of anarchy and commercial death, and the praises of Diaz as an administrator and a patriot are sounded at home and abroad.
But what becomes of the principles of republican government? Diaz, through his strength of character and wise government, has been the supreme ruler, although acting through the channels. of constitutional authority and representative institutions. This example may raise the doubt whether republicanism in its extreme form is adapted to these countries, or whether some limitations should not be placed upon it. present is probably Diaz' last term, as he is now past seventy, and I believe he is sincere in his expressed desire to retire to private life. The test of republican government will come when his successors are to be chosen. Not the first, but probably the second term will test the ability of the Mexicans to choose their rulers in peace and observe republican practices. Mexico, like its southern neighbors, has not yet fully proven its capacity to consistently follow these practices and to peacefully and by constitutional methods transmit the executive power from one ruler to another.
How far the people of these countries are fitted to carry on republican and representative government in our sense opens up a topic which cannot be pursued in this paper; but I offer a few suggestions by way of explanation of the apparent failure in many of them.
First, the great mass of their populations are ignorant and uneducated; in many of the countries they do not even read and write the official language of their government, and as a rule take no part in the elections. They, however, compose in the main the armies of the government and the revolutions. Second, the people of these countries, both the educated and the uneducated, had no experience in self-government before their independence. In this respect the British-American colonies had a great advantage over them, and we should be charitable in our criticism of them. The misfortune is, however, that they have had very little practice in genuine. republican government since their independence. They understand the force
of the bullet much more than the ballot. The result has been the rule of the dictator or usurper more often than that of the real representative of the people. The intelligent men, the best citizens, and the property-holders deplore the revolutions, and they are exerting themselves to put an end to these practices, and their good work is apparent in some of the countries, and I think the general tendency is toward orderly and constitutional government.
This subject has a special interest for the people of the United States:
First. It raises the question how far it is the duty of our Government to interpose respecting an American republic, which has fallen into anarchy, against the encroachments of European powers whose subjects have suffered outrages at the hands of the local military powers? I fully sympathize with the Cleveland administration in its action on the Venezuelan boundary question, but many Americans thought it would have been better for the interests directly concerned if all the territory in dispute had fallen under British sovereignty.
Second. We are often embarrassed as a nation by these frequent revolutions. I have noted how near we came to war
with Chile because of its disturbed condition and the enmity engendered by the action of our Government. We have commerce with all these countries, many of our citizens have invested capital therein, and these interests cannot fail to be injured by the civil disorder occasioned by the strife of ambitious men. Does any one believe that our Government could look on with indifference if our next door neighbor, Mexico, should again fall into anarchy, as at frequent intervals in the past, and the millions of American capital which has been attracted thither by the beneficent rule of Diaz should become the prey of revolutionists and rival aspirants for the presidency?
Third. The Spanish war has made the subject a practical problem for us. The territory which we took from Mexico was soon overrun by Americans, and its government was readily adapted to our system. But Porto Rico is already densely populated with people educated in Spanish-American methods of government. We have already had an exhibition of the embarrassments to be overcome. In the first election held under the territorial organization provided by Congress a practice was resorted to very common in the LatinAmerican republics-when one party finds itself outnumbered or outwitted in the campaign, it abstains in a body from the election, and then cries fraud or force. We read that in the late election in Porto Rico for the territorial legislature and other offices, one party, the Federals, refused to go to the polls, and the Republicans, as a consequence, elected all their candidates; but in celebrating the victory they were attacked by the Federals, and several were killed and wounded in the affray.
We have by act of Congress become responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a stable government in Cuba. The history of their brethren of the same race in Central and South America does not give much assurance that the Cubans will soon attain the position required by Congress. One of the first steps in that direction which is foreshadowed, the election to the presidency of a professional revolutionist, born and educated in San Domingo, does not argue well for the future. the election held to choose delegates to the convention to frame a constitution, only a minority of the qualified electors took part, and I have good authority for the statement that fully 95 per cent of the electors representing the property interests of the island abstained from the election.
And yet it appears that this minority of the people of Cuba are to frame its organic code, to set the machinery of the new government in motion, and to determine the relations which are to exist between the new government and the United States.
This review, it must be confessed, does not present a cheerful outlook for the friends and admirers of republican government, but for the citizens of the United States at least it suggests a solace. is a consolation to us to know that the men who laid the foundations of our Government and have thus far conducted its affairs have appreciated the value of peace and the superior merits of the ballot over the bayonet; that ew had a Washington, not a Bolívar nor an Iturbide, to put the Government in motion, and that the Constitution has been held as too sacred an instrument to be made the sport of ambitious rivals for the presidency.