The conservative party, reorganized and invigorated by Diego Portales, immediately after the revolution of 1829 gave legal sanction to its power by electing, in 1831, General Joaquín Prieto as president of the republic, as has been related. Expanding very quickly, this group enacted the political code which definitively organized the State and governed the country almost without interruption for the next thirty years (1831‑1861). The Constitution of 1833 was the most complete expression of its aims. It established a regime of authority and of force, exercised at the discretion of the chief magistrate with a minimum of fiscal supervision. All power rested in his hands. Congressional and municipal elections were to be directed by him and his immediate agents or deputies, his intendants, and the governors. The judges of all the tribunals would be named by him, together with the remaining employees in the public service. As generalissimo of the armed forces, on him alone would depend the army, the navy, and the police corps. During the thirty years to which we refer, this structure remained intact and functioned without lessening its rigor, except in times of political calm and relaxation. Therefore, this period customarily has been called the "autocratic republic" regime, which necessarily would have to pervade all national life.
By others that regime might be called "conservative," as much for the name of the party that introduced and supported it as for the determination which this very party always showed to maintain without change the continuity of the colonial spirit, or the mentality of the past. Others would rather call it "oligarchic," because a restricted social circle then controlled the government and took advantage of its influence. The great mass of the people meanwhile could not participate in the government because of the misery and ignorance in which it was submerged. But this type of oligarchy not only ruled the country in that period, but likewise, although widening its circle, in later periods. Therefore we do not apply to the period in question the term "oligarchic." The conservative spirit which became characteristic of it seems to us without doubt an important feature, but we consider the term "autocratic" more p256 appropriate because it defines less vaguely the state of force in which that regime maintained the republic.
About 1831, when General Prieto initiated his government, the republican generation which assumed power differed very little from the last generation of the colonial period. It had no other general aspirations than for tranquillity and order, both propitious for the acquisition of wealth by means of peaceful and prolonged labor. These aspirations were represented and were always dominant during the ten years of this administration. Portales had made himself interpreter and promoter of that tendency, and he had imposed it upon the ministries which he filled with dictatorial authority for about a year and a half (April, 1830 - August, 1831).
The system of Portales meant an inflexible reaction against the aims which had animated the fathers of independence, who evolved the plan of a democratic republic, principally for the benefit of the dispossessed classes. These in a short time would elevate the level of their culture and enter into the enjoyment of well-being compatible with the political function which was reserved for them through the promising action of the new regime. Nevertheless, little or nothing had been done for them because of the vicissitudes and upheavals which followed the emancipating movement. Now the normalizing of the government of the republic restored a system which prevented the hearing of claims for the legal recovery of rights because such claims were thought subversive. The liberals then represented, at least to a certain degree, the logical consequence of an emancipating revolution in so far as they derived from it reforms of a social character designed to put the entire population of the country in tune with democratic institutions. But the twenty years of strife had not only conquered but crushed them and, under an authority which stifled by the aid of force the slightest manifestation of discontent, they no longer had hopes of renewing the struggle.
In spite of the vigor of the system legally introduced, the first period of the Prieto administration (1831‑1836) was not entirely peaceful. There were several military conspiracies which proposed to overthrow the government; and, although unreasonable and illusory, they represented in substance a protest against the ruling reaction and against the spurious policy of social reform which had been sponsored since emancipation. The republic would not be a popular democratic regime, but an oligarchic and system directly beneficial to the propertied class.
In order to stifle those attempts at revolt, President Prieto was p257 obliged to make use of the extraordinary faculties which the Constitution of 1833 bestowed upon the executive shortly after this was put into effect. Conspirators were punished with imprisonment and exile. In the following years the country enjoyed tranquillity and the government was able to devote itself without fear to the consummation of the work which it had begun.
Without doubt the most important work was the organization of the public treasury, which the preceding disturbance had completely upset. Because of these disturbances total revenue receipts were not very great, scarcely reaching a million and a half pesos annually, notwithstanding the fact that under the dictatorships of O'Higgins and Freire receipts had fluctuated around two million. It was urgent, therefore, to devise adequate measures for increasing the revenue, lessening expenses, and regulating the collection of taxes. This last operation had, during the recent disorders, assumed the character of a scandal in many government bureaus. Portales, actively interested in that work, caused Manuel Rengifo to enter the ministry of the treasury in 1830. This man, versed in finance and of great probity, remained in charge of that office until 1835.
The first indication of the designs animating the new ministry was the establishment of the strictest economy in fiscal disbursements, this being made possible by the dismissal of useless or little needed employees and by careful inspection of the others. This measure reduced the budget in one lump to less than three hundred thousand pesos. Next Rengifo turned to the regulation of the revenues, consulting not alone the interest of the treasury, but also the welfare of those contributing. To this end, while discontinuing some levies, he imposed others upon a new and more equitable basis.
As the principal sources for revenue, he specified the customs duties, the monopoly of tobacco and playing cards, tithes, and the excise. Among these the branch of customs was given the preferred place. He ordered a new tariff on official appraisement; from all impost he exempted books which were not considered immoral or irreligious (if they were, he did not permit them to enter), scientific instruments, and industrial machinery; he transferred to the ports the customhouses located in the capitals of the provinces; and he ordered that coastwise trade should pay duty at one port, that of departure or of arrival, and that only Chilean vessels should engage in it. Consequently, the coastwise trade was reserved for p258 many years for the national merchant marine which, because of this privilege, was able to organize itself and grow.
Taking advantage of its fine geographical position as a point of transfer in the movement of merchandise around Cape Horn and through the Strait of Magellan, he endeavored to make Valparaiso the foremost port on the Pacific. With this end in view, he established there extensive fiscal warehouses which, on the payment of a small fee, were to receive and care for the cargoes of ships from any part of the world, whether this cargo was destined for Chile or was to be sent to any other country whatsoever. This protective measure for commerce produced the desired result. Valparaiso saw floating in its bay the flags of all nations, and in a short time became the emporium of the Pacific coast of [South] America.
Under the direction of Rengifo, the government also interested itself in the protection of national industries and agriculture by means of customs duties, more or less high, upon foreign products that were similar to those of the country. For this reason, among other articles coming from abroad, ready-made clothing and footwear, and wheat and cattle from the Argentine that came through the passes of the Andes were taxed heavily. For a similar reason the fields intended for the cultivation of hemp and flax were exempted from payment of the tithe. Rewards were offered to those who introduced or adapted to the country industrial inventions for the greater use of those plants, and it was ordered that the vessels of the navy should be provided with rigging made in Chile.
The greater part of these efforts proved fruitless, partly because the contraband trade — as was the case in regard to cattle — evaded the customhouses of the Andes and partly because the country was not adapted for the cultivation of flax and hemp. One measure, however, which produced good results was the exemption of Chilean fishermen from taxation.
The department of the excise was also one of the sources of revenue which seriously engaged the attention of Minister Rengifo. This tax, like the others, dated from colonial times and had various forms. It was levied upon the products of agriculture and of industry, upon wholesale and retail trade, upon documentary deeds transferring real estate rights from one person to another. The first two forms were very odious because the right to collect them was sold to some individual at public auction — on this account they were called "auctioned excises" — and these persons practiced an unpleasant espionage over the business of the contributors in order to gain the greatest possible income from the levy. Besides, they p259 injured the consumer because of the consequent rise in prices. These excises were abolished and were replaced by a more equitable tax which did not involve the inconveniences of the former and which was collected by fiscal employees. This tax was called catastro and consisted of a percentage on the valuation of the lands and their buildings, something like the present tax on incomes. The tax imposed on contracts was retained, but with lessened obligations; and no change was made at all in the tithe because of the religious origin of this agricultural impost.
All this work of reorganization gave the results for which Rengifo was hoping. If it did not increase the income of the treasury all at once, it did succeed in realizing this increase gradually, in such a way that in the period of five years (1830‑1835) it amounted to about a million pesos and caused the public income to rise from a million and a half to two and a half million pesos. His greatest service, however, was not this but the stimulus which he gave to the development of the national wealth.
But the government had to face obligations in excessive amounts over and above the necessary expenses of administration. There was a public debt representing in the aggregate a sum of ten million pesos, which was classified in two divisions: domestic and foreign. The domestic debt consisted of the numerous obligations contracted by the state with individuals dating from the colonial period, such as loans, requisitions, unpaid salaries, and other obligations. During the struggle for independence and the succeeding revolutions, these obligations had considerably increased until they amounted approximately to four million pesos.
The external debt consisted of the loan contracted in London in 1822 for a million pounds sterling at 6 per cent annual interest with 1 per cent for a sinking fund. Little had been realized from this unfortunate transaction. Of the five million gold pesos that the country had immediately anticipated, there had been paid over but little more than three million because the certificates had been placed on the London Stock Exchange at a discount of more than 30 per cent, and the payment of commissions, reports, and other expenses had cost many thousands. Of those three millions, about one-half had been loaned to Peru, and Peru was not paying up. In order to meet the interest which the debt was drawing, the government found itself in such straits that it even had to grant the tobacco monopoly to a private company on condition that the company take care of the charges; but, as was seen above, the company could not fulfil that contract, and from then on this obligation was p260 met with the greatest irregularity — a fact which discredited Chile in England and Europe. When Rengifo entered upon his ministry, several years' interest was due, and this raised the debt to six million pesos.
In order to meet such large obligations, the minister devised various kinds of measures; but he made it a point of general concern to satisfy first the accounts of Chilean creditors; that is to say, of those who had a part in the domestic debt and who might become dangerous to the public peace. Holders of the loan could wait, as indeed they did wait some years more, until 1842, when the same Rengifo, returned to the ministry of the treasury, agreed to a satisfactory arrangement with them.
The financial operations of Rengifo, however, were not accomplished very quickly; they aroused some irritating opposition and sharp criticism, especially the plan to pay the creditors of the treasury within the country. According to this plan, the notes against the State were designated as "overdue" and "current." Overdue notes were those made before the date on which the minister took his portfolio (1830), and current notes were those which had been contracted since that time. The last were to be paid from the general funds of the treasury on the date when they fell due; and overdue notes, in warrants against the customs duties. There was no difficulty about current credits; but the strange thing in the proceeding was that the creditor for the overdue debt, if he wanted to be paid, had to deposit in the treasury twice as much as the amount of his credit, and then to receive an order for the payment of the whole amount; that is to say, for three times the original amount. In this way an individual to whom the State owed five thousand pesos before 1830 had, in order to be paid, first to turn over ten thousand pesos; and when this was done, to draw against the customs for fifteen thousand pesos. So strange a form of settling accounts provoked well-founded protests. The sharp commentaries arose not only from the demand for the deposits — which represented an obligatory laon — but from the insecure proceedings which were employed to verify and examine the credits themselves.
The minister gave up his portfolio in 1835, not precisely because of those measures, but because of various other reasons which will presently appear; but in those five years he had completely reorganized public finances, introduced economy and order into the administration of the national revenues, increased the fiscal receipts, diminished the domestic debt of the State to half its former p261 amount, and extended effective stimulus to the sources of production.
Already in 1835 the conservative party was not maintaining harmony in its ranks, and Rengifo was a victim of the discord that resulted. Little by little, various signs of division had become apparent. The heterogeneous elements which composed the party could not be reconciled, chiefly for two reasons. In the first place, the excessively restrictive policy in excluding their opponents — shown in the persecutions of which the fallen pipiolo party was made the victim — did not meet the unanimous approval of the members of the party. Men of liberal and tolerant spirit like Manuel José Gandarillas and Diego José Benavente found fault with this. In the second place, opinion was no less divided over the religious questions arising in this period, upon which the government had placed itself unconditionally at the service of the Church.
The predominance of the clergy had been noticeably increased after the earthquake of 1835, which destroyed all the towns of the coast between the Maule and the Biobío — for it was accompanied by a tidal wave — and wrought destruction even to Chillán and Concepción. Just as on other occasions, this catastrophe was represented by the priesthood as a visitation from Heaven, and the increasing devotion of the people gave evidence of the most passionate intolerance.
Within the cabinet itself the current policy, moderate and a little less submissive to the clergy, was at variance with the opposite view. The minister of the treasury, Manuel Rengifo, represented this spirit of conciliation and peace, just as the minister of the interior, Joaquín Tocornal, was the most resolute servant of the Church and of authority. The moderate conservative faction then took Rengifo for its leader and launched a newspaper called El philopolita1 (The Friend of the Common People), for which the prolific and energetic pens of Gandarillas and Benavente began to write; and, as the presidential election drew near and the reëlection of General Prieto for a second term was almost assured, this group undertook to oppose it and craftily started the presidential candidacy p262 of Rengifo. By a logical procedure, the pipiolos who had been defeated in the revolution of 1829 were shown to be in favor of Rengifo's candidacy; and round about the minister of the treasury was thus formed a more or less powerful nucleus of opposition. Rengifo did not aspire to the presidency and he had declared himself in favor of the reëlection of Prieto; but the fact remained that his name continued to appear as the standard of battle against the most irreconcilable "Bigwigs," and that in El philopolita religious prejudices were attacked with no little bitterness.
Meanwhile, Portales saw with sorrow that division had arisen in his political camp and prepared to intervene. At first he watched these disagreements from Valparaiso, where he had settled after leaving the ministry and where he had carried on the local government with his characteristic diligence. Then becoming impatient with such a commission, he resigned it and took up his quarters on a large estate near Ligua, which he acquired by purchase, and from here he continued to observe the political movement which was developing in the capital. He affected the most absolute abstention from party affairs, but he could not conceal from himself the danger which threatened his most diligent adherents and endangered his own rigid organization.
Among the filopolitas (a name which was given to the dissenting conservatives because of their newspaper), he saw acting as leaders men like Gandarillas and Benavente, who had never been his enthusiastic supporters and were now his personal opponents. In addition, the defeated liberals were also adhering to this group. Even if Rengifo were the friend of Portales, he would not be able to tolerate the latter's policy, should he achieve victory through those factions. On the opposite side, the president and his minister, Tocornal, better reflected the absent dictator's ideas and made clear his duty to aid them if they were in danger.
At this juncture exertions were beginning to be made to rehabilitate those military officers who were dismissed in 1830. This purpose, which was supported by the filopolitas, who were eager to attract to themselves the definite aid of the pipiolos, induced Portales to appear among his friends in order to defend an act, the execution of which had devolved on him, and a policy which he himself had guaranteed. In fact, between sunset and sunrise, when the patriotic festivals of September, 1835, had scarcely ended, he entered the palace of the government to take over the ministry of war, without public announcement of any sort. Rengifo was surprised and resigned. Then Tocornal was transferred to the portfolio p263 of the treasury and Portales united the portfolio of the interior with that of war. In this way the formidable politician again found himself in the same position as in 1830, at the head of two ministerial departments, as powerful as before or even more so, "with a purveyor of funds, Tocornal, and a purveyor of signatures, the president." A new civil dictatorship was established from that moment. The reëlection of General Prieto was accomplished without difficulty; members of both the liberal group and the filopolitas refrained from going to the polls in almost all the provinces.
The constitution permitted the reëlection of the president to succeed himself for a second period of five years, and while this provision remained in force all the presidents availed themselves of it to have themselves reëlected. This meant then, ten-year presidential terms. Reëlection was achieved without difficulty, owing to the irresistible power placed by the constitution itself in the hands of the chief of state, who named the mayors and members of the municipal councils, the governors, intendants, and judges, and thus dominated the electoral system. According to this, individuals with the right to vote, who wished to make use of that right, had to enroll before their respective town councils, from which they received a certificate or ticket called "qualification." This qualification had to be presented by the citizen when voting.
The capacity to exercise that right as regulated by the constitutional code provided that, besides Chilean citizenship and the attainment of one's majority, one should know how to read and write. There was a further requirement of ownership of property or income, the amount of which was to be fixed by a special law, but this law had not been passed. Moreover, the government did not begin to apply the requirement of knowing how to read and write until after 1840. After that year the administration tried to make it effective, but congress declared that it should be applied to citizens who enrolled themselves in the future; those already enrolled should consequent to enjoy the right of voting until death.
The commanders of the civic forces in the cities had hastened to enroll in the national guard, and in the country landowners had acted in a similar way with their tenants. So the former as well as the latter preserved the qualifications of their subordinates, that they might not be lost, as they said; and, when the elections occurred, they used such suffrages as they believed convenient. In this way the commanders and landowners controlled an enormous electoral power and, as almost all of them were supporters of the established government and conservatives from conviction, there p264 was no need to ascertain who was to win any elections. Besides this, the governors and intendants (direct representatives of the executive) decided electoral complaints, and, although this function soon passed to trained judges, the government lost little thereby because these officials were no less its dependents. To the opponents was left nothing but to try to attract free electors, who played a large part also in conservative and governmental ranks, and to practice bribery, which, because of the scarcity of money, had not yet acquired significant proportions.
In practice, the intendants and governors controlled the elections of senators and representatives within their own jurisdictions. The chief of state and his ministers made lists of the people who were to make up each chamber for a constitutional period, and the elections were carried out according to these lists. It was rare that more than three or five opposition candidates succeeded in defeating the government candidates in the different departments. The orders of the minister of the interior to the agents of the executive were expressed more or less in these terms: "His Excellency instructs me to make known to you that Señor or Señores [here the names] should be chosen in your department for the post of [here the name of senator or deputy]." If any candidate of the opposition attempted to electioneer at any point whatever in the country, the respective government agent would receive from the minister of the interior a communication like this: "Manage to prevent Don . . . from coming to your department by advising him to refrain from presenting himself in it. If he insists you can have him arrested as a disturber of the public peace."
By these measures, and the effective forces upon which the party in power relied, the latter could almost always secure a loyal congress. But it is only fair to bear witness that, for the most part, the Executive did not abuse his great power in any venal manner. Reputable men generally appeared in the lists of congressmen, some even with ideas opposed to the government, who, because of their recognized intelligence and moderate character, deserved to have a place in the national representation. On the other hand, as there existed no incompatibility between the post of senator or deputy and the holding of public office, many of the most distinguished servants of the administration also entered congress.
A similar proceeding took place when the presidential election was held. The government took a candidate under its protection and caused him to win, making beforehand the list of "presidential electors." Thus is explained the ease with which each supreme executive p265 was reëlected. When the election agitation took on a dangerous character and threatened to disturb public order, the executive still had one other recourse: to decree a state of siege and to assume the extraordinary powers which the constitution granted him. Against this no resistance was possible.
Such election management was not peculiar to the administration of Prieto. Certainly it began with the Constitution of 1833, but it lasted almost unaltered for more than half a century, although at times it lost much of its rigor. If it had serious inconveniences, if in reality it was neither popular representative, if it trampled under foot all political liberties, it was, nevertheless, the only thing possible in a country which lacked a politically conscious people and civic education, and it had the advantage of permitting the government to make itself stable and continuous.
But the supporters of the liberalism which was destroyed in 1830, and a portion of the intelligent young men preparing to enter political life did not look favorably upon the situation. According to them, the country ought to rule itself freely, without the tutelage of the executive, and the elections ought to be held with the most absolute abstention on his part. The electoral intervention of the president, the extraordinary powers of which he made use when he declared one or more provinces of the nation in a state of siege, and the persecutions which his followers inflicted upon those who were not supporters of the government exasperated these men, and frequently led them to conspire and to form wild schemes for revolt.
We have earlier noted that in September, 1835, Portales assumed anew the ministries of interior and of war and initiated another period of rigid control. General Prieto was reëlected the following year under the auspices of the minister and he had scarcely begun his second presidency (1836‑1841) when a threat of revolution arose to disturb the republic and to give Minister Portales the opportunity to make use of extraordinary powers for the second time.
General Freire returned from Peru with two ships and went to Chiloé to raise an army on the island, with which to overturn the government. The enterprise failed completely. Freire was taken prisoner before he began his operations and subjected to a council of war, which condemned him to death; but a higher tribunal, a court-martial, commuted that sentence to exile.
From that instant Portales became exceedingly exasperated. Several military conspiracies had been discovered during those same p266 days, and the trials then instituted ended with severe sentences. He believed that the archculprit was Freire and that the death penalty was the only one suited to him. He thereupon indicted the members of the court-martial, who had been of the opposite opinion, before the supreme court, which acquitted the accused; and Freire, along with many other political offenders, was taken to Juan Fernández, an island converted into a prison for that class of culprits. But he did not remain there long. He was exiled to Sidney,º an English colony in Australia, and thither he was transferred.
In the opinion of the minister the most serious part of this was not, however, the expedition of Freire itself, nor the other complications, but the insult that Chile had received from Peru, because Freire had prepared the attempted revolution in its territory, with the complicity of its government. With this in mind, Portales broke off diplomatic relations with Peru.
For some time the relations between Chile and Peru had not been very cordial. The expenses of the liberating expedition led by San Martín and Cochrane and the sum of money which the Chilean government conveyed to that country from the English loan had given occasion for vexatious diplomatic negotiations. Then later it had been impossible to enter into a commercial treaty, and both countries were keeping up a struggle over customs duties which gave opportunity for mutual protests and recriminations. In Peru the importation of Chilean wheat was burdened to the absurd extent of three to six pesos a fanega. In Chile there was a similar tariff on Peruvian sugar, and to these commodities were added several others both in Chile and in Peru. Ill will in Peru reached such a point that the government some time before decreed a highly distasteful tax against merchandise from any source which might have been deposited in the free warehouses of Valparaiso for the purpose of lessening the prosperity which that port was acquiring, thanks in a great measure to this trade privilege.
Moreover, the frequent revolutions staged in Peru were giving an opportunity to a foreign power, well known as unfriendly to Chile, to intervene there and stir up both internal discord and international friction. This foreign power was none other than Bolivia, whose president, general Andrés Santa Cruz, was ambitious to incorporate the republic of Peru with his government, and with this purpose in mind he was secretly encouraging revolutions in that country. Fearing that Chile might be an obstacle to his plans, he tried to stir up another, equally great, in the latter country and this explains why he advised the revolutionary p267 government at Lima to furnish the aid which it gave to General Freire. This government, however, did not last long. Shortly after Freire set out from Callao, Santa Cruz assumed the direction of Peru and Bolivia jointly, under the title of "Protector of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation." One campaign against the anarchistic Peruvians had brought about the realization of the fortunate general's most cherished aspirations (1836).
Such overwhelming success could not fail to attract the attention of the men governing Chile; and, although Bernardo O'Higgins, exiled in Peru, through letters to President Prieto and other friends tried to minimize the aggressive spirit which the men directing that country were showing toward Chile, Portales did not become over-confident; but, from the moment that he received the news of the revolutionary expedition of Freire, he determined upon war with the Peru-Bolivian Confederation.
Portales did not conceal from himself the seriousness of such a step. The confederation had an army inured to war in its revolutionary struggles and, in any case, larger than that of Chile. On the other hand, Chile, very recently emerged from revolutionary chaos, lacking resources and needing its energies to assure its progress, was not in a favorable condition for such an enterprise; but Portales believed that the aggrandizement of Santa Cruz was dangerous to the internal order of the republic — through the civil strife, which, like the attempt of Freire, he might continue to provoke — and a threat against the very independence of the nation. And he, who with such fortitude had assisted in establishing and giving vitality to this system, now believed that he was obliged to free it from all obstacles and to assure the stability of the national government. Hence he staked all the credit and the future of Chile solely on this warlike enterprise.
Seeking to take advantage of Santa Cruz and deprive him of his squadron, Portales sent two ships to Peru under the command of Victorino Garrido, a Spaniard by birth, who by mixing in Chilean politics had risen from a simple merchant to the rank of colonel and had held several public positions. A man very much esteemed for his good sense, Garrido fitted in perfectly with the mission entrusted to him. He captured by surprise the ships of the Peruvian navy at Callao; then he entered into negotiations with Santa Cruz, who left the ships in his possession in accordance with a treaty which they concluded, and returned to Valparaiso victorious.
The attitude of Santa Cruz was inexcusable from every point of view and is only explained by his fearing to see the realization of p268 his plan thwarted by a war of such proportions. At first he had proceeded in a very different manner; he had imprisoned the chargé d'affaires of Chile in Lima, Ventura Lavalle, and had interpreted events as they in truth appeared — as a declaration of war. But finding it better, upon later reflection, to disentangle himself from the serious situation, he freed Lavalle and concluded the treaty by which Garrido received the vessels. Portales, however, was not satisfied with this result. On the arrival of Garrido at Santiago he disapproved of the treaty on the grounds that Santa Cruz had not given the explanations which he owed the Chilean government, and that he had committed a grave outrage on Lavalle, the chargé, by imprisoning him for a few moments. Portales, indeed, was not fair in his judgment; the blow inflicted by Garrido upon the Peruvian fleet practically precipitated hostilities and deprived the Chilean government not only of the right to ask but even to hope for any explanation. But, as in his own mind he was resolutely decided upon war, he judged the events in the light of this decision. Besides, there were in Santiago a number of Peruvian political exiles who professed a profound hatred for the protector, Santa Cruz, and they made Portales believe that a Chilean army scarcely could reach Peru before a formidable revolt would break out against the protector's authority, which, as they asserted, the Peruvian nation considered a most hateful tyranny.
The government then asked congress to authorize a declaration of war; it was unanimously granted. Mariano Egaña2 was sent to Peru, accompanied by several ships from the national navy, with instructions to demand from Santa Cruz: (1) satisfaction for the injuries done to Lavalle; (2) the dissolution of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation; (3) the acknowledgement of the unsettled accounts pending from the loan with which Chile had earlier favored that nation and from the cost of the liberating expedition; (4) the payment of indemnity for the injury which had been caused by the expedition of Freire to Chile; and (5) the limitation of the naval armaments of Peru. Such exorbitant demands could not be accepted and they certainly were not. Egaña, in fulfilment of his instructions, formulated without delay the declaration of war. This was in November, 1836.
The declaration of war created an unusual situation for the government, or rather for Portales, who was directing it without any check. Unlimited extraordinary powers were conferred upon him, the entire republic was declared in a state of siege, and he was given p269 the means to conduct the war as he saw fit. This was, in truth, the most solemn moment in his life, and he knew how to meet it. His activities and his determination to carry on the war against Peru were manifold and immeasurable. But in the interior of the country hatred against him, held in check for a long time, broke out in all sections. Numerous conspiracies came to light and the dictator promulgated barbarous laws to punish those responsible for them.
Neither these extraordinary powers nor the state of siege were enough to restrain the spirit of rebellion which lay in wait for him. A law was decreed which threatened the death penalty to those political malcontents who would not remain where they were confined, or who broke away from their exile, a penalty which the officer who might arrest them should execute within twenty-four hours, without any appeal. Some special tribunals were created, called "permanent councils," which were to function in the capital of each province for the purpose of condemning without appeal within three days and according to military law those who disturbed public order or were guilty of disrespect toward the government. Many were banished and several executed. A reign of terror prevailed. The minister, the dictator of former days, had degenerated into a tyrant. The war, far from making him popular, made him most hateful in the judgment of many persons. The people did not feel patriotic exaltation at the call of martial music proclaiming the campaign because the motives of the conflict were not sufficiently explained.
Finally, at the beginning of June, 1837, the dictator went to Quillota to review a body of troops encamped there. Suddenly the officers in charge arrested him, kept him intimated, loaded him with chains, and declared themselves in open insurrection. Colonel José Antonio Vidaurre led the movement. The mutineers made their way toward Valparaiso and took Portales with them in a small carriage, or birlocho. The garrison at the port prepared to resist. At dawn on June 6 fighting began on Barón Hill. The minister, still loaded with irons, was a short distance away under the guard of an officer named Florín, who, when the first shots were heard, bade his soldiers force Portales from the open carriage, commanded him to kneel, and then gave the order to fire upon him. Two volleys sounded and the victim rolled over on the ground. The first light of dawn showed the shapeless corpse of the great statesman, before whom the republic for so many years had prostrated itself. It also revealed the complete rout of the assassins and rebels, who, promptly arrested, atoned for their crime on the gallows.
p270 The death of Portales was regarded in those days as a tremendous national calamity, and the manifestations of grief and the splendid funeral accorded him had no precedent in Chile. The assassination was all the more hateful because the rebellion lacked any fixed purpose; it answered to no political movement or to any plan of reaction, systematically developed. The assassination bore to posterity the figure of the minister crowned with the aureole of the martyr. He died at the age of forty-four.
The war which Portales had prepared became popular with his death, because it was surmised that the assassins had been instigated and even paid by Santa Cruz, which was only a supposition. The first campaign, directed by Admiral Blanco Encalada in 1837, was a disaster. The exiled Peruvians had convinced President Prieto that a very powerful army was not necessary to destroy Santa Cruz, because the Peruvian people would rise in rebellion as soon as the Chilean troops disembarked on their coast. The small army which was sent as a result of reliance upon those hopes disembarked in Chilca and reached Arequipa. The city was seized and the exiles established in it a provisional government; but no one rose in rebellion. The same result, neither more nor less, had occurred in the case of the liberating expedition of San Martín. Blanco Encalada, surrounded by forces double his own, had to capitulate, and to save his army he concluded with Santa Cruz the Treaty of Paucarpata3 — so named from the small village in which it was signed. By this treaty, Blanco recognized the Peru-Bolivian Confederation; the Chilean army withdrew from Peru and the ships seized by Garrido were to be returned. Santa Cruz, for his part, conceded to Chile only the amount of the government loan.
In Chile such a pact produced general indignation. It was disavowed by the government, and Santa Cruz was so informed. Then the ports of Peru were blockaded and a second campaign was prepared and departed in 1838, in charge of General Manuel Bulnes, a nephew of President Prieto and a soldier inured to war in the campaigns of the south, especially in the pursuit and capture of the Pincheira bandits. As before, numerous exiled Peruvians followed the army. Among them was Agustín Gamarra, who had been president of Peru and had fallen, through the intervention of Santa Cruz.
p271 The troops of General Bulnes were much more numerous than those that Blanco had collected. Them he landed to the north of Callao, in Ancón. This time the northern provinces of Peru rose in revolt. Bulnes was able, after several days of scarcity, to secure supplies and advance upon Lima. A battle opened to him the gates of this capital. Gamarra established here a provisional government of which he made himself president, and hostilities centered in the environs of Callao, a fortified place practically invulnerable. It was impossible to take it. To the difficulties of the situation was added the partiality manifested in favor of Santa Cruz by the diplomatic representatives of England, France, and the United States — nations which had ships in the harbor. Those representatives did not cease in various ways to thwart the invading general and to provoke conflicts, even to the point of refusing to recognize the effective blockade of Callao.4 The determined and at times, haughty, action of Bulnes was necessary to make them observe their neutrality.
On the other hand, the army concentrated in Lima was being decimated through the effects of the hot climate and unhealthful surroundings. Santa Cruz withdrew into the interior, organized meanwhile a defensive force, and held it there, while the Chilean soldiers were perishing in Lima, so that in the long run he might have better assurance concerning the outcome. Bulnes resolved at last to leave the capital, and, uniting with Gamarra, withdrew his troops to the north of the country. While the army to restore the liberties of Peru, as the Chilean army was called, was occupying the northern provinces, Santa Cruz established himself in the capital. Soon, however, he abandoned it; for, while the Peruvian troops could withstand the climate, the Bolivians suffered the same ills which had decimated the Chileans.
At the beginning of 1839 hostilities which had been manifest only in light skirmishes increased, and on the twentieth of January of that year a decisive battle took place on the banks of the Santos River near the village of Yungay. Santa Cruz suffered a complete rout, from which he barely escaped by flight. The battle of Yungay ended the domination of Santa Cruz and destroyed forever his confederation.
In November of that same year, the victorious army made its entry into Santiago amid the acclamations of the people. General p272 Manuel Bulnes became the idol of the people and the leading citizen of that time. Military glory was then the highest of glory and the people were right in their enthusiasm. The victory of Yungay and the destruction of the Peru-Bolivia Confederation gave Chile a high place in America; and the European states began from this date to consider it the strongest and best organized of the nations that had risen from the Spanish colonies. The people, too, took account of this aggrandizement. Therefore, a year and a half later, when considering the renewal of the presidency of the republic, the candidacy of Bulnes was irresistible and the victor of Yungay received as a reward the highest magistracy of the state (1841).
The death of Portales and the happy ending of the war against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation resulted in a sound and stable peace for the republic, founded not yet so much on the strength of the government as on patriotic sentiment. After the expedition of Yungay the constitutional regime was reëstablished, congress again assembled, President Prieto divested himself of the extraordinary powers which he had assumed, and the state of siege ceased. The permanent tribunals were suppressed, and the greater part of the army officers deposed in 1830 were restored to their rank and honors. Special consideration was given O'Higgins. Besides being reëstablished in the military rank which had been taken from him before 1830, he was permitted to return to the country. The permission was like an invitation, but he could not take advantage of it, for, when he was preparing to do so, he died in Lima in 1842.
The policy of conciliation and oblivion which sought to blot out the hateful disagreements of the past, and to which the disappearance of Portales gave free rein, exerted a healthful effect upon the material development of the country. General Prieto was able to conclude his administration under normal conditions and to deliver it in the same state to General Bulnes, chosen by an overwhelming majority of the suffrage in 1841. Following the same course, the new government hastened to proclaim a law of amnesty for all political offenders. Thereupon the republic entered fully upon a life of peaceful and fruitful toil.
Aided by this situation there opened up forthwith an era of business prosperity. Agricultural production acquired a very noticeable impetus through the introduction of modern machinery, the opening of new roads, the founding of a national society of p273 agriculture in 1838 intended to encourage it, and various other factors. Foreign commerce increased rapidly and then acquired the benefits of steam navigation, the culmination of the unwearying energy of the North American sailor and merchant, William Wheelwright. After many years of effort, there was organized in Chile a limited liability corporation, the major part of whose shares were centered in London, with the object of establishing a line of merchant steamers between the American nations of the Pacific and Europe. In 1840 the first ships of this company entered Valparaiso amid enthusiastic acclamations.
On the other hand, the exploitation of the coal resources of Chile was begun at the same time in the mines near Talcahuano, whereby a new source of mineral wealth was added to the extraction of the precious metals. Mining, indeed, developed to a very flattering degree. Gold had declined, but in its place the exploitation of silver and especially of copper reached a very high figure. The provinces of Atacama and Coquimbo were centers where it abounded to such a degree that some years prior to 1840 Chile was the foremost producer of copper in the world.5 Some eminent foreigners who had come to establish themselves in the country powerfully influenced the development of mineral wealth. Among them were the wise Pole, Ignacio Domeyko, who at this time initiated scientific instruction in mining in Chile; and the English industrialist, John Stevenson,6 who applied new and more effective methods to the exploitation of silver. With the assistance of specialists of various nationalities, the development of copper also underwent a complete change in the methods of getting the greatest possible returns from the native veins.
The fortunes which were being accumulated because of this prosperous situation impelled the rebuilding of the principal cities with more lasting materials and with some regard for architectural style. Household goods were renewed and increased. The industries p274 devoted to these tasks as well as the older ones of the country received considerable stimulus, and the guilds of artisans with personnels which increased daily brought to these same cities a numerous and active population. Everywhere greater well-being was extending from the highest social classes to the most humble. The year 1840 marked the beginning of an era of material prosperity for the republic.
The material progress of the country, under the order and peace which the republic enjoyed, was a most powerful agent in the intellectual movement which began in 1842. It had been in preparation for some time. The lessons of Mora and of Bello had not fallen on barren ground. An intelligent youth was being prepared to take advantage of them. It was the first republican generation which was entering into activity with recognition of its responsibility for the future of the nation.
The teaching staff of the National Institute, believing that politics was not the only field of active worthy of a man, was the first to display interest in the cultivation of literature in its various forms. The separation of the institute from the seminary in 1835 invigorated the former. It was foreign professors who gave the greatest stimulus to that enthusiasm, and their pupils were not slow in becoming infected thereby. Among the Chilean professors there were also some of marked distinction, among whom were Ventura Marín, the author of Elementos de la filosofía del espíritu humano (Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Spirit) a book which attracted attention in its time because of the unusual study developed therein; and José Victorino Lastarria, who taught classes in geography and general legislation and who soon made himself one of the leaders most respected by the studious youth of that period.
This movement also penetrated the press of the time. Until 1842 the only daily in the country was El mercurio of Valparaiso, which concerned itself merely with trade matters. In Santiago several periodicals appeared and disappeared, especially on the eve of elections, without leaving any noticeable trace. But in this same year of 1842 two literary periodicals were founded in Valparaiso, which, although they lasted only a few months, were of special importance. One was La revista de Valparaiso (The Valparaiso Review); the other was El museo de ambas Américas (The Museum of Both Americas). The former was conducted by an Argentinian, p275 Vicente Fidel López; the latter was directed by a Colombian, Juan García del Río. At the same time there joined the editorial staff of El mercurio Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, an Argentinian like López, who began to insert in the daily issue of the paper articles on literature. In the year 1842 Valparaiso also acquired another daily organ, La gaceta de comercio (Commercial Gazette).
These foreigners showed no little superiority of spirit over the native sons and on more than one occasion called attention to the poor quality of Chilean literary production and to the indifference of the young men toward the improvement of their minds. They were exiles from the civil discord in their native lands, seeking in Chile an honorable calling by which to gain a living. García del Río held a unique position because he was an adventurer in politics and in letters who had travelled through several South American countries and had held posts of high public influence in some, until it was forgotten that he was a Colombian. López and Sarmiento became purely literary men in Chile and belonged to a small group of talented men who had crossed the Andes, fleeing from the tyranny of the dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas — a small group which called itself the "Argentine Immigration."
Whatever importance these men may have had and however influential their writings, it is a fact that the intelligent Chilean youth felt a certain shame at their own indifference and, through the quickening of their enthusiasm and by bringing together the information acquired in the institute or through private lessons in the house of Andrés Bello, they established in 1842 a literary society, with the object of initiating a national literature. Lastarria was chosen president and directed its course. Almost at the same time another group of young men was also starting in Santiago a literary periodical, El seminario, whose chief contributors were Antonio García Reyes, Manuel Antonio Tocornal, and Antonio Varas. That periodical devoted many of its columns to belles-lettres.º
From that vigorous beginning of the year 1842 many other national writers and poets arose who were later to achieve a distinguished position in the political and intellectual life of the country, among whom were Eusebio Lillo, Francisco Bilbao, Salvador Sanfuentes, José Joaquín Vallejo, the popular "Jotabeche" according to his pseudonym, and Juan Nepomuceno Espejo. In addition to this movement, toward the end of the same year the first daily of the capital, called El progreso, appeared; it was edited by Sarmiento. It is worth noting that this publication later had to be subsidized p276 by the treasury in the same way as did other dailies. Without this subsidy it could not have lived.
Under the energetic stimulus of the national government activity in teaching paralleled that in literature. Already during the Prieto administration the branch of public instruction had been separated from the ministry of the interior and formed, with the departments of justice and religion, a separate and fourth ministry. And that same year, 1842, saw created the University of Chile. For some time past consideration had been given to the organization of this teaching institution to replace the University of San Felipe, which the colony had supported from the middle of the eighteenth century.
In spite of its feeble life and its almost exclusively monastic mold, this ancient institution had rendered services of no small value to public instruction; but when independence was accomplished and higher education, together with secondary education, was concentrated in the National Institute, there was no longer any reason for its existence and it was preserved only as a memento, or rather as an anachronism. In 1839 Mariano Egaña, minister of the department, issued a decree suppressing it and declaring that in its place should be established a "house of learning," called the University of Chile. This decree should have had the force of law, owing to the wide powers which the executive still held through his extraordinary prerogatives; but, although it sufficed to suppress this colonial institution after a century of existence, it did not succeed in organizing the new corporation. This could only be accomplished three years later by virtue of a law enacted in 1842.
The organization given to the university by this law was almost the same as it is today. There were five faculties (theology, the humanities, law, medicine, and mathematics), each one with its corresponding dean, rector, general secretary, and a council composed of these officers and two other individuals who were appointed by the president of the republic. But with regard to its attributes, the difference was considerable. When founded, it was no more than an advisory body, entrusted with watching over secondary and higher education and with proposing those measures for improvement which it judged fitting.
It had, however, one power which stimulated study and the results of which were of great benefit. This regulation provided that the university should hold annually a solemn meeting at which one of its members, named in due season by the rector, should read a paper on some period of national history. This gave rise to interesting studies which in subsequent years greatly increased the p277 knowledge of the history [of the country]. In addition, the university inaugurated contests upon special themes, and the prizes incident thereto were also distributed at the same meeting.
As was natural, the president of the republic named the persons on the five faculties, and the officers who were to direct the corporation. Concerning these last, there was no hesitation. Andrés Bello was made rector, in spite of the efforts of the clergy to have a priest named in his place; but on undertaking to name the individuals for the faculties, it was found impossible to complete the number — thirty for each one — because, in spite of including among them all the able teachers of the defunct University of San Felipe who were still living, there were not enough men who were worthy of such a distinction. The opening of the University of Chile did not occur until September 17, 1843, in the same place which the ancient University of San Felipe had occupied (today the municipal theatre), and it was a solemn event, at which the most distinguished society of Santiago was present.
The zeal of the government for extending and improving instruction did not stop here. The creation of the Normal School for Teachers of Santiago (Escuela Normal de Preceptores de Santiago), the first in all the country, dates also from this time (1842). It was accomplished through the agency of the minister, Manuel Montt, and was placed in charge of the Argentinian who was writing so brilliantly for the press, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. The new institution had a very special importance; it was the first step taken to raise primary education to the height of the great national need which it ought to satisfy. Theretofore it had been impossible to meet this demand because the disturbed state of the republic and the scant revenues would not permit it. Moreover, some of the government officials, though they might understand the importance of schools, did not consider the teacher of equal importance, for they thought that any person who knew how to read and write could teach this to others.
At the time of the founding of the normal school, in all Chile there were not above fifty primary schools for both sexes, poorly equipped, and worse served, in which one was taught only to read, to write, and to pray. A total of little more than three thousand children attended them, in a population which ought to have had not less than two hundred thousand of school age.
In continuing this work, the attempt was also made to diffuse technical education. To accomplish this there was created in Santiago a school of arts and crafts, and a school of agriculture, with p278 land added for the practice of cultivation. The latter served as a beginning for the Quinta Normal. Still more was done — artistic culture was attempted in the foundation of the School of Architecture and Painting, and of the National Conservatory of Music. These educational plants represented progress up to then unknown in South America.
Not only did higher and primary, and artistic and technical instruction receive the attention of the public authorities; secondary education shared as well in this attention. In 1842 there were six institutions giving secondary instruction: the National Institute, and the high schools of La Serena, San Felipe, Cauquenes, Talca, and Concepción. A little later the high school of Rancagua and San Fernando were founded. In the school at La Serena was first established a chair of chemistry and mineralogy to stimulate the development of the mineral district of the north by the technical preparation of young men from that section. With this class Ignacio Domeyko began scientific instruction in mineralogy in Chile, which was to be continued later at the University of Santiago.
Domeyko was a Polish scholar of wide attainments in matters of education, and he promoted a general reform in secondary studies, which the government accepted and in 1843 ordered to be in practice in the institute. By this plan, six years were devoted to the study of the humanities and, at the same time, instruction was introduced in various branches of the same course of study; among these branches were history, the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, and a foreign language.
Through the activity of Antonio Varas, then rector of the Institute, this reform was established in that institution and changed almost entirely the trend of instruction, directing it into more scientific paths, based on the understanding of natural phenomena. But, since the lack of competent personnel prevented the extension of the benefits of the new plan to the provincial high schools, scholarships were provided in the institute for superior students from those districts, to the end that, when properly prepared, they might become instructors. This measure which, up to a certain point, gave the character of a normal school for instructors to the National Institute, was put into practice there, but it did not achieve the hoped-for results. At any rate it demonstrated that just as it was necessary to train teachers for the lower schools, there was a similar need for the high schools. In the institute itself this necessity was felt very promptly, since the new plan could be applied only p279 partially through lack of teachers, and its advantages were not appreciated for a long time afterward.
The movement of 1842 had immediate consequences in the religious world, in the political world, and in general culture. Even though the motive which inspired young men to form a literary society and to found a periodical of the same character was far from leading them to abandon the Church in any particular, or to place themselves in opposition to it, they could not omit that issue completely from the debates which were agitating public opinion. El seminario was, during the months of its existence, a timid, but open, tribunal for liberal propaganda tending to promote social reforms.
Where the new spirit manifested itself more forcibly was in the contribution made to a periodical called El crepúsculo (Twilight)a by Francisco Bilbao, a law student, then (1844) twenty-one years of age. This article was called "Sociabilidad chilena" ("Chilean Sociability")º and its severe criticism of the past, in violent terms which included religion as well as politics, brought in a formidable protest from the clergy, and soon its author was condemned by a jury on printing to pay a large fine for being "blasphemous and immoral." The numbers of El crepúsculo containing that study were to be burnt in the public square, according to the order of the supreme court; and, in order that nothing should be wanting to this condemnation, the council of the university expelled Bilbao from the National Institute, where he was pursuing his law studies. All this show of persecution produced an effect the very opposite of what was hoped for; instead of suppressing the hated young man who had so openly struck at many of the most fixed colonial prejudices, it converted him into something like a martyr for freedom of thought, gained for him great popularity, and his article, of but scant merit, became so celebrated that it is read even today,7 or cited as an interesting episode in the struggle of ideas.
Different in form, but similar in effect, was another study to which the organic law of the university gave rise. This law provided for the presentation of an annual paper upon national history at the solemn session of the corporation by one of its members. The first of these sessions took place in September, 1844, and the required paper was presented therein by José Victoriano Lastarria, previously appointed by the rector, under the title "Investigaciones sobre la influencia social de la conquista y del sistema colonial de los españoles en Chile" ("Investigation into the Social p280 Influence of the Conquest and of the Spanish Colonial System upon Chile").8 A much larger work, more judicious, more methodical, and better written than that of Bilbao, it treated the history of the entire colonial period of the country from a critical or philosophical point of view, as was stated, and attributed to that period the vices from which the national society was suffering.
Whatever may have been the value of the essay, it undoubtedly called forth inspiring controversies relative to the manner of writing history: whether it was better to adopt the critical method or that of simple narrative. Andrés Bello used his powerful influence in favor of the latter, causing it to be noted that historical studies of a philosophical character could have importance only when the facts they were based upon had been proved and this was the purpose of narrative and documented history. It was time to philosophize only when this method should have exhausted the materials; to reverse the process was antiscientific and premature. However that may be, the intellectual ferment of 1842 was opening a new era in the development of culture in Chile — an era characterized by its effort to separate the republic from colonial traditions.
Like Prieto, General Manuel Bulnes presided over the development of the country for ten years (1841‑1851). It was a tranquil and productive period. His government busied itself more with strengthening the nation's credit abroad, with promoting wealth and culture, and with organizing administrative services than with political struggles.
Manuel Rengifo now returned to the ministry of the treasury and devoted himself especially to liquidating the loan of 1822 contracted in London. Interest on this loan had been suspended for several years and this suspension of payment had given Chile a bad reputation among English capitalists. By means of a direct arrangement with the creditors he succeeded in establishing an equitable form of cancellation, and, in the course of time, the debt was liquidated. Meanwhile its service was carried out with scrupulous punctuality and, as a result, the public credit of Chile became solidly established.
On the other hand, he issued a new customs regulation based on "free trade," that is to say, one that lowered imposts in order to p281 facilitate the importation of foreign merchandise. Although this measure produced at first a diminution of the customs revenue, soon the cheapening of prices on these articles increased their consumption, importation increased proportionately, and the customs revenue again mounted. There was also passed at that time (1843) a law of weights and measures. This regulated mercantile transactions to a great extent and provided for the decimal system which is in force today. Up to that time, the Spanish system of the colonial period was in force. This was not based on any scientific principle, lacked accuracy, and lent itself to numerous frauds. It suffices to say that neither at that time nor up to the present has the law been applied with rigor in the entire country.b
It fell to the Bulnes' administration, by taking possession of the Strait of Magellan, to extend the effective control of Chile to the southern coast of the Pacific. From the time of Pedro de Valdivia, what was then called the "Kingdom of Chile" was considered as extending to that strait, and it is known that Hurtado de Mendoza commanded it to be explored, in keeping with the express recommendation of his king and the declaration which the sovereign had made, with the idea of extending thus far the southern limit of the colony. It should be remembered also that he had founded two Spanish settlements on the strait, and that disaster had overtaken the settlers.9
Until the time of General Bulnes, no attempt had been made toward occupying those territories, and ships of different nationalities passed frequently through them on trading or scientific enterprises. In Europe such regions were considered important, and in France and England some began to think that perhaps it might be desirable to found colonies there after taking possession of the territory, on the ground that because of its abandonment it belonged to the first occupant. When this information reached Chile, the government ordered the strait to be occupied and the Chilean flag to be raised on it as a sign of actual dominion, in order to avoid any pretensions of other nations. In 1843 the schooner Ancud set out from Chiloé with a force for landing. After an unfortunate voyage it doubled the Brunswick Peninsula and established Fort Bulnes on its east coast upon almost the same spot where, at the end of the sixteenth century, had been founded one of the Spanish colonies which an English pirate called "Starvation Port."c On the fort was raised the flag of Chile and by act the territorial integrity of the republic was achieved. A few years afterward, in p282 1847, the founding of the city of Punta Arenas, later Magallanes, completed the work; but that territory and Chilean Patagonia, which extended toward the north, and all the adjacent islands had not yet been either peopled or explored.
Districts still nearer the center of the country, like Valdivia and Llanquihue, remained almost uninhabited. The government sought means to populate these last-named regions, since the others, because of their intemperate climate, did not permit easy colonizing. Foreign colonization was then initiated and an immigration agent was established in Europe to secure industrious families who might wish to find a new field of activity in Chile. This post fell to a German gentleman, Bernardo Philippi,10 distinguished for his intelligence and good judgment. At the end of the Bulnes' administration, the first colonists had already begun to arrive. They were German laborers to settle in the region of the Valdivia River.
This introduction of foreign elements coincided with a Chilean emigration to California, owing to the reputation of the gold mines which had just been discovered in that territory (1848), which were said to have a marvellous production. Most of the people who left Chile in search of a fortune in California suffered there the most unheard-of hardships through lack of food, through constant quarreling with people of other nationalities, and through numberless circumstances which prevented their return to their native land. On the other hand, the wheat of Chile found a ready market in California, and its exportation, which grew to large proportions, caused it to bring very high prices. This stimulated the cultivation of much untilled land and these fields added their quota to the increase in national wealth.
Various administrative services were created or developed under the presidency of Bulnes. A bureau of statistics, a branch of administration then unknown in Chile, was established in 1843. The penitentiary of Santiago was founded in 1846, and with this were abolished certain old-time barred carts, or travelling prisons, which Portales had established, still in use. The police force was reformed and appropriations for the service increased. New roads and irrigation canals were opened by means of fiscal coöperation. The postal service, both domestic and foreign, was expanded and regulated. p283 Hygiene and public welfare received a new impetus.
In regard to international relations, the government of General Bulnes managed to strengthen friendship with all those countries, preferably the American, with which Chile was in most frequent communication. An agreement was secured between the Peruvian and Chilean governments through a final arrangement of the old debt which Peru owed to Chile. However, the disputes about boundaries with Bolivia and Argentina were already beginning in this period. But the event of most consequence was the celebration of a treaty with Spain, by which the ancient mother country recognized the independence of Chile in 1844. Cordial relations between the two nations were restored, the harsh feelings left by the struggle for emancipation were softened, and mercantile negotiations acquired greater volume.
The reëstablishment of this harmony was signalized a little later by an act which deserves to be remembered. The national hymn of Chile contained certain verses offensive to the motherland, and not infrequently insulting outbursts against Spain occurred when they were sung at the September festivals. After reiterated petitions from the diplomatic representative of that nation in Santiago, the government resolved to change the patriotic hymn for another more in accord with the situation which the recognition of independence had created; and the poet, Eusebio Lillo, then a youth of some twenty years of age, was actually commissioned to write the text of a new hymn. He accomplished his task and gave to the country the song now in use. From the old song, of which Bernardo de Vera was the author, only the chorus was kept. At the patriotic fiestas of 1847 the new hymn was sung for the first time with the music composed years before by the Spaniard, Ramón Carnicer.11 With some slight change it is still sung today.
Thanks to the intervention of the diplomatic agent of Spain and to the spirit of harmony which should inspire Spaniards and Chileans, the new song began thus:
The bloody struggle has ended;
Now is brother he who yesterday was invader;
We have washed away the reproach of three centuries
By fighting on the field of honor.12
p284 But for a long time the public did not become accustomed to hearing this song, and when their enthusiasm burst forth at patriotic festivals they would exclaim almost invariably: "The old song!" The new hymn was very superior in poetic emotion to that which had preceded it.
That policy of conciliation and of industry which inspired the acts of President Bulnes also had its vexations and those stirred up between the government and the clergy were not the least. The Chilean Church had reached a degree of development very gratifying to its faithful followers, owing to the protection which the governing party accorded it, to its tradition of dominance over all consciences, and to the zeal and virtues of the priests who were directing it. In 1840 the archbishopric of Santiago had been established with Manuel Vicuña as its first incumbent, and almost at the same time the bishoprics La Serena and Ancud had been created. Foreign clergy had been brought in to direct the missions of Araucania and Chiloé, with which the administration attempted to civilize the still barbarous Indians. Among the new and wealthy churches that had been constructed was the mother church of Valparaiso.
Little by little, however, during the Bulnes administration the unfolding of general culture and at the same time the influence of Protestant foreigners had introduced ideas less in accordance with the state religion and even the daily Mercurio of Valparaiso once dared to speak of religious toleration. This produced a great scandal and under the protection of the archbishop La revista católica (The Catholic Review) was founded in Santiago in 1848 to undertake the defense of the Church, threatened by the movement, subversive to its dogma, which appeared to be breaking out among the intellectual youth of the period. Soon Bilbao and Lastarria, in their writings in 1844, confirmed the fears of the clergy.
But there were other incidents, though slight, which were enough to show that the predominance of the religious spirit was being weakened. Thus, for example, it was the custom of serenos, or night watchmen, when calling the hours and the state of weather, to add "Hail most Holy Mary." This formula was suppressed by the administration of Santiago. Likewise, at the solemn procession of "Corpus Christi" it was customary for the flags of the battalion which had been gathered for the procession to be spread on the ground in order that the priest who was carrying the host might pass over them. This practice was also discontinued. Both innovations p285 gave rise to offensive publications and controversies.
However, acts of that sort were not the ones most disturbing to the harmony between Church and State; there were others, such as the law relating to the marriage of nonconformists, which excused non-Catholics from the obligation of celebrating their nuptials in accordance with the rites of the Catholic faith, and in such a case compelled the parish priests to serve as witnesses to the validity of the contract; the law relating to civil patronage, which granted to the agents of the executive, jurisdiction over the parish priests for the fulfilment of their duties; and the law relating to the religious profession, which fixed the age of twenty-five years as the minimum for entering upon major clerical orders.
The discussions upon those affairs became so violent, and so little was the ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the State's encroachment upon what is considered its absolute and private jurisdiction, that the prelate (José Alejo Eyzaguirre) who had occupied the archiepiscopal seat because of the death of Manuel Vicuña, resigned before he had held the office two years (1843‑1845). Rafael Valentín Valdivieso, a priest like Vicuña and Eyzaguirre and as virtuous as they but much more virile in spirit, succeeded him in this office. The new archbishop continued to struggle until the last years of the Bulnes administration, or rather against the right of the political authority emancipating from national sovereignty to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs.
The period of President Bulnes, in general so tranquil and fruitful at the beginning, came to its last year in the midst of tumultuous agitation. After 1849 the political parties sharing public opinion suddenly became restless. On one side were the old pelucones who formed the most rigid nucleus of the conservative party, firm in their resistance to any innovation in the political system. They had succeeded in having two laws passed which strengthened their power considerably; namely, the law of internal rule, which gave new attributes to the governors and intendants and made of the executive a power still more irresistible than it had been; and the law of the press, a highly restrictive law imposed heavy penalties on those who should publish opinions adverse to the established order, or should in any way arouse disobedience against the government, even if they should merely intend to commit such misdemeanors. Making common cause with this central group were p286 young conservatives like Manuel Antonio Tocornal and Antonio García Reyes, who were less uncompromising than the pelucones and more open to the reforming tendencies of the age.
On the opposing side arose the new liberal party under the intellectual guidance of José Victorino Lastarria. This originated almost entirely from the literary movement of 1842, and with it also had been incorporated the ancient pipiolos. This group was attempting a series of reforms tending to weaken the authority of the executive, to liberate the press, to make the suffrage independent, and to make of Chile, in short, a true republic, "popular and representative." The European liberal revolution of 1848 had inspired this group of young reformers with its example, and the reading of that very eloquent book, Lamartine's Histoire des girondins,13 in which those ardent republicans of the French revolution were praised and glorified, had greatly influenced them to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the struggle for the ideals of reform.
The congress of 1849 was the first battlefield between these two opposing currents. In it the liberal group, thanks to the support accorded by the ministry presiding over elections, had secured a numerous representation formed by men of a decided liberalism, although they did not belong to the militant faction. The sessions of that assembly were greatly disturbed, and its echoes were transmitted to the public through the formation of the Reform Club,14 which was of short duration.
But in 1850 a new political element was added to those already known. It was that established by Francisco Bilbao in the Society of Equality.º Bilbao, after his condemnation for writing "Sociabilidad chilena" (Chilean Sociability), had gone to Europe to study and during the revolution of 1848 had found himself in France. Sharing to a large degree the socialistic ideas which were developing in this movement, and possessed of a self-denying love for the poor, he believed that a democratic party, purely popular or proletarian, which should represent the interests of the working class, might be formed in Chile. For that purpose it was necessary to enlighten the masses, and such was the aim pursued by him in founding the Society of Equality. For the propagation of his ideas he had p287 a periodical, edited by Eusebio Lillo, which was called El amigo del pueblo (The Friend of the People).
Soon, however, the new society, which had gathered together a respectable number of workmen, became a political club, and adhered, logically, to that group with whose ideas it had most affinity — the liberal party. The equalitarians and liberals then determined to carry on together the electoral campaign which was under way for a change in the presidency of the republic. Who was to succeed Bulnes? That appeared to be the principal question which they proposed to solve.
This question affecting the conservative party was already solved — their only candidate was Manuel Montt. His candidacy met very strong resistance in the groups opposing the government, because there was recognized in the candidate the same restrictive and autocratic spirit which Portales had exhibited. As Bulnes' minister he had shown unwearying industry, and afterward, in the chamber of deputies, a sober eloquence. But the fact that he appeared at the head of the conservative party and that it was he who had presided at the elections of 1846, when a state of siege existed in Santiago, provoked bitter hatred against him.
General Bulnes, having decided to make Manuel Montt the candidate of the government, summoned to the ministry of the interior the man most confessedly attached to the person of the candidate, Antonio Varas. This filled to the brim the wrath of the opposition. The Society of Equality became the center of the movement against the governmental candidate, and its press lifted up its standard with menacing violence. In the chamber it made similar demonstrations against the supervising intendants. The disturbance came to a head when one night in August, 1850, the Society of Equality, while in session, was attacked by a crowd armed with cudgels and led by some subordinate officials of the administration. The executive was thereupon accused of being the instigator of that riot and recriminations and protests continued with extreme intemperance.
The equalitarians, under the constant direction of Bilbao, now began public manifestations, which were actual meetings devoted to propaganda against Montt and the government. The intendant of Santiago then forbade those gatherings, and before the end of the year 1850 the society itself was declared dissolved by this officer and any other of similar character was prohibited, on the pretext that they constituted a danger to the social order. Such a measure had been taken by virtue of the state of siege which the government decreed. Also by virtue of those extraordinary powers which this p288 suspension of individual guarantees gave it, the opposition dailies were closed and the leaders of the liberal movement, among whom were José Victorino Lastarria and Federico Errázuriz, were sent into exile. Bilbao also found safety in flight. In the meantime the Montt candidacy had been publicly proclaimed.
At the beginning of 1851 party enthusiasm increased. The restrictive measures taken by the authorities in prohibiting public assemblies, closing the opposition dailies, and arresting and exiling the ringleaders of the movement opposed to it had produced their inevitable result: greater exasperation of spirit and the conversion of the persecuted into conspirators. To the disorderly occurrences in the provinces, there was actually added on April 20, 1851, an attempt at revolution in the capital. This cost the lives of more than a hundred persons, after an armed struggle in the Alameda de la Delicias and in the neighborhood of the artillery quarters, situated at the foot of Huelén. Here the uprising itself was broken and the leader, Colonel Pedro Urriola, killed by accident. Peace was then reëstablished.
Electioneering activity, however, was not checked. The liberal party, although disorganized, with its leaders in prison or in exile, had taken up the candidacy of General José María de la Cruz, intendant of Concepción and first cousin of General Bulnes. This candidacy was a complete failure. Montt, as was to be expected, was elected by an overwhelming majority. Only Concepción and La Serena gave their vote to Cruz; in all the other electoral districts Montt had an enormous advantage over his adversary.
The contest did not end here. The opponents, holding the election void — because, as they said, intervention had been pronounced — maintained that Montt was not the legitimate president of the republic, and gave clear signs of armed insurrection. And so it happened that, during the first fortnight of September, 1851, there broke out in La Serena and Concepción a revolutionary uprising which had as its leader the very candidate defeated at the polls, General Cruz. In this way President Bulnes, who had come to power on a wave of deserved popularity, who had been a pledge of tranquillity for the republic, and who had coöperated effectively in its progress, was leaving his high office involved in the vortex of a revolution.
1 For references to this periodical and its activity in opposition to the reëlection of General Prieto, see Edwards, Bosquejo histórico de los partidos políticos chilenos, pp33‑34, and the same author's La fronda aristocrática en Chile, chap. xii. See also Sotomayor Valdés, Historia de Chile, Vol. I, chap. xv, passim.
3 Paucarpata, a Peruvian hacienda of the department of Ayacucho, province of Huanta.
4 See Evans, Chile and its Relations with the United States, p63. Yungay, the decisive battle of this campaign, takes its name from a small town in the Peruvian department of Ancash (formerly Ancachs).
5 The production of copper in Chile reached an early maximum in 1876, when it equaled some 38 per cent of the total world production. From that point the percentage of production in Chile decreased to 3.62 per cent in 1906. See Alberto Cabero, Chile y los chilenos, p321. For references to coal, see Martner, Estudio de política comercial chilena e historia económica nacional, I, 37, 196.
6 Possibly Robert Stephenson (1803‑1859), a leading civil engineer, only son of George Stephenson. From 1824 to 1827 he was in charge of mining operations for the Colombian Mining Association of London. He was famous as a builder of locomotives and bridges. See New International Encyclopedia (New York, 1916), XXI, 508; S. Smiles, Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson (New York, 1868), pp303‑308.
7 See Pedro N. Cruz, estudios sobre la literatura chilena, I, 9‑10.
Thayer's Note: The essay is online on a site devoted to its author.
8 Cruz claims with regard to this work that the author has ideas, but lacks the facts to support them. — Ibid., pp77‑81.
10 Bernardo Philippi was a younger brother of Rudolfo Amando Philippi (see p504). He had established relations with Chile as early as 1831 and in 1845 acquired the estate of Bella Vista in Valdivia. He was named governor of the province of Magallanes and in 1852 was murdered by Patagonian Indians. See Miguel Luis Amunátegui, Ensayos biográficos, IV, 156, 162, 163; Virgilio Figueroa, Diccionario histórico y biográfico de Chile, IV, 505.
11 Ramón Carnicer y Batlle (1789‑1855), born in the Spanish province of Lérida, early attracted attention by his musical ability, especially in connect with orchestral work and the opera. Among other compositions he produced El Barbero de Sevilla. See Espasa, Enciclopedia, XI, 1196.
12 The original Spanish of this stanza is as follows:
Ha cesado la lucha sangrienta;
ya es hermano el que ayer invasor;
de tres siglos lavamos la afrenta
combatiendo en el campo de honor.
13 Published in Paris in 1846. Although not a critical and scientific history, it is written in a vibrant style and contributed greatly to the overthrow of the monarchy of Louis Philippe. See Espasa, op. cit., XXIX, 370‑372.
14 A loose organization of the opposition in congress that aimed to bring about certain constitutional reforms. See Alejandro Fuenzalida Grandón, Lastarria i su tiempo (2 vols., Santiago, 1911), Vol. I, chaps. xiv, xv.
a A much better translation would be The Dawn.
b The decimal — i.e., metric — system was not so much "in force today" that Galdames himself, some 70 years later at least, doesn't generally prefer the old units, along with the rest of the country apparently: watch him routinely write about "modern leagues" for example (p52).
c "Starvation Port" appears to be a back-translation from Galdames' original "Puerto Hambre"; the English named the place "Port Famine." See p93 and my note, with its link to a page on both Fort Bulnes and Puerto Hambre.
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