[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Haga clic aquí para una página en Español.]
Español

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 12

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of Chile

by
Luis Galdames

translated and edited by Isaac Joslin Cox
Russell & Russell
New York 1964

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 14

p289 Chapter XIII
The Decade of President Montt

The Revolt of 1851

With the customary preliminary ceremonies, the new president of the republic, Manuel Montt, on the eighteenth of September, 1851, ascended the steps of the Moneda (the palace to which the government house had been transferred shortly before). He was a man of forty-two years. He had been born in Petorca in 1809 and had completed no less than ten years of political life. He was poor as a boy and owed his rise solely to hard work and study. Educated in the National Institute, he graduated from it in law and was its rector for five years (1835‑1840). The elections of 1840 raised him to the chamber of deputies; and scarcely had it opened its sessions, when it chose him as its president. In the same year General Prieto called him to the ministry of the interior, and in that position it fell to his lot to direct the presidential election of Bulnes.

During the first part of Bulnes' administration, Montt was the most industrious of his ministers, chiefly in the branch of public instruction, where he contributed effectively to the founding of the normal school, the school of arts and crafts, and the university. During the second period, as a member of the chamber of deputies and as an adviser to the government, he continued to act in an influential capacity. Therefore it was not strange that President Bulnes, when he confidentially recommended the candidacy of this public servant to the representatives of the executive in the provinces, should declare that he had been "his most active assistant in all the serious crises and difficulties arising during his administration."

But Montt entered upon the highest national magistracy in the midst of a revolution which was agitating both the northern and the southern parts of the republic at the same time. The revolution of 1851 had its roots in the desire for freedom of suffrage, advocated by many able men. They believed that the people were already prepared to judge for themselves upon matters of national expediency and they did not hesitate to take up arms in defense of that right which constituted the very basis of the republican system. But at bottom the armed protest was aimed at the entire "autocratic system" which the conservative party had brought upon the government p290 and which they were now beginning to believe necessary.

The struggle was stubborn and imposed huge sacrifices upon the government. General Bulnes had already left his successor invested with extraordinary powers; and, not content with having taken upon himself the responsibility for this measure, he also took over the leadership of the troops destined to crush the revolution. After many minor skirmishes, the decisive battle occurred at Loncomilla on December 8, 1851. On the river of that name and near its confluence with the Maule, the troops of General Cruz and General Bulnes fought for several hours with a fury without precedent in the civil wars of the country. Upon the field remained about two thousand dead and not less than fifteen hundred wounded. Some days later the revolutionists of Cruz, not completely conquered but wholly demoralized, capitulated and delivered their forces to the government. Only La Serena held out in the north; but at the end of a rigid siege it was also taken in the last days of the year 1851. Thus, at the beginning of 1852 the administration, inaugurated three months before, was able to devote itself to tis work.

Administrative Labor of the Decade

Like the two preceding presidents, Montt was reëlected and governed during two constitutional periods, ten years. No administration had been more active than this since Chile became a republic. In the administrative department all the services were enlarged and organized anew according to plans better devised and directed. Valuable public works were continued or begun. Thru the combined resources of the government and of the capitalistic company formed by Wheelwright, the railroad between Santiago and Valparaiso was extended to Quillota during this period. Work was also begun on another railway which was to unite Santiago with Talca. At the same time a telegraph line was stretched between those same cities and the highways were improved.

It is characteristic of the culture of the period that there were in congress senators and deputies who were opposed not only to the government's assisting in the construction of railroads but even to permitting their establishment. They claimed that the railway lines were prejudicial to agriculture because they cut up large estates and occupied much land; that the displaced the muleteers and carters whose services would no longer be needed; in short, that all society would suffer because of the trains for, aside from the inevitable accidents, they would facilitate the flight of armed bandits.

p291 On the other hand, the penitentiary in Santiago was finished, the insane asylum was built, the palace for congresses was begun. In Valparaiso the customs warehouses were greatly enlarged, and at several points on the coast lighthouses were erected.

In the economic field the Savings Bank (Caja de ahorros) was established in order to encourage thrift among the working classes. In order to establish special credit and to stimulate agriculture, the Mortgage Loan Bank (Caja de crédito hipotecario)1 was created in 1856,º which loaned money to farmers upon the security of their property. The first public bank was also founded at this time. These efforts for the development of general wealth were followed by a regulation of the public treasury, beginning with a modification of the taxing system. The most important measure in this field was the suppression of the tithe, a colonial tax of ecclesiastical origin, which the State collected as a subvention for the budget of the Catholic Church. It had become a heavy tribute which profoundly affected agriculture and was replaced by a tax on the production of each piece of real estate. With the object of favoring subdivision of rural property, sales of estates which were made in favor of different persons were exempt from the payment of the alcabala.2

Besides these reforms, many others were undertaken in the same field; and they all added to the development of productive resources and of commerce by sea and land, and brought about a large increase in fiscal receipts — from four and a half million in 1851, they almost doubled by 1861. These receipts were not enough, however, to cover all the expenses of so active an administration and a loan of seven million gold pesos was contracted in London, intended especially to carry on public works which, like the railroads, had productive value. This credit transaction was the third which Chile contracted for with English capitalists, but under conditions very p292much superior to the others, point the first loan of 1822.

One reform of great importance, economic as well as social, was the final abolition of entailed estates. This colonial institution, which rendered impossible the division of the property of a man of rank and constituted an unjust privilege in favor of only one of his heirs, had victoriously resisted the harsh attacks directed against it from the early years of the republic. Now it was successfully abolished, transformed into an annuity or interest fixed upon the entailed property in favor of the person for whose profit the entail had been established.

Efforts were also made to develop the colonization of uncultivated lands belonging to the State. For that purpose the government tried to give the greatest possible extension to foreign immigration, especially of the Germans; and, besides encouraging the colony of Valdivia already founded, the district of Llanquihue was also colonized, and there the city of Puerto Montt arose. Soon these uninhabited regions were harboring an industrious population to which herds, tanneries, packing houses, breweries, and other industries gave employment and wealth.

Greater energy was also expended in the diffusion of culture. Between the years 1851 and 1861 more than five hundred public schools for both sexes were established in the nation and, added to those already existing and to the municipal and private schools, they formed a total of more than nine hundred institutions of that kind, which furnished instruction to about forty-five thousand children. The effective coöperation of the Society for Primary Instruction, a private association founded in this same period (1856), helped in bringing about those results. To complete the task of preparing teachers, the government created the Normal School for Women Teachers and gave considerable encouragement to the one for schoolmasters. Public libraries distributed in the different provincial centers afforded easy reading for the poor and helped to extend general intelligence. Along with primary instruction, practical instruction was developed. To the schools of arts and crafts and of agriculture were added those of mines in Copiapó, and of commerce in Quillota. The administration which had founded the asylum to take care of those mentally deranged could not do less for those deficient in speech and hearing, and the school for deaf mutes was created.

Secondary instruction improved in the same way, if not to the same degree as the primary (which demanded greater attention), p293yet at least appreciably. The National Institute was enlarged to such an extent that it could now accommodate more than a thousand students. The liceos of Chillán and Valdivia, added to institutions already in existence, brought the number of such schools up to ten, and the reform in the plan of studies begun in the second year of Bulnes' administration, which had been applied only to the National Institute, was now extended to all, to the degree that circumstances or rather the aptitude of the teaching personnel permitted. University instruction also received an impetus. Among other measures in its favor was the introduction of the scientific study of political economy in the law courses. Professor Courcelle-Seneuil was employed to teach this subject. He enlightened the nation with notable works in his field and left in Chile a whole generation of students to follow in his footsteps.

Chief among those who for many years coöperated in the general progress of national culture, in addition to Courcelle-Seneuil and Bello, were the chemist and mineralogist, Domeyko; the German naturalist, Rudolfo Amando Philippi; and the French geologist, Amando Pissis, to whom the government of Bulnes had entrusted the preparation of a topographic map of the republic. Pissis completed the greater part of this task, and from it resulted better maps than had been made in Chile up to that time. Later he completed the Geografía física de la república de Chile (Physical Geography of the Republic of Chile), the first coöperative work to be written about the country. In addition, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the first director of the normal school for men, published under governmental patronage his excellent work, La educación común (Public Instruction). He returned a little later to his own country, where he became one of its presidents. A Chilean professor, a youth trained through his own efforts and the most indefatigable study, Miguel Luis Amunátegui, published also with the aid of official patronage another pedagogical work almost as noteworthy as the one mentioned above. This was De la instrucción primaria en Chile: lo que es i lo que debería ser (Concerning Primary Instruction in Chile: what it is and what it ought to be).

Such efforts for intellectual progress gave Chile prestige abroad; but what most attracted the attention of learned foreigners was the government's maintaining an astronomical observatory when no other nation of Spanish America was yet concerning itself with the science of astronomy. The observatory was of North American origin, having been established on Santa Lucía Hill years before p294by an astronomical commission from the United States. The Chilean government acquired it and put in charge of it the German mathematician, Carlos Moesta.3

However, it was not merely this kind of effort which won prestige for Chile among foreign nations. There was something more which was the cause of deserved eulogies — national codification of the laws. The attempt was made to revise completely and to give coherence and unity to the ancient Spanish legislation which continued to rule in the republic. But only one body of laws, the most important, was finished in the period — the Código civil (Civil Code),4 a monumental work whose entire compilation Andrés Bello carried through in the course of more than twenty years, in accordance with his own ideas and those of the various commissions appointed for that purpose. In 1855 it was published and was to go into effect the first of January, 1857. It was the most adequate and scientific legislation which had been established up to that time in America and served as a model for various other nations of the continent.

Internal and External Policy

The administrative activity of the government was not carried on without opposition, the strongest arising from the clergy, where it should least be expected. The Church continued to flourish. The religious budget, increasing from year to year, permitted it to meet the needs of the faith in a fitting manner. Archbishop Valdivieso, an intelligent priest of rare energy, watched assiduously over its improvement. Besides, two religious orders had been added to those already in the country, the Capuchins and the Jesuits. But the good understanding which the Church maintained with the State was rudely interrupted at the conclusion of the first period of Montt's presidency (1856) by a circumstance, insignificant in itself. A sacristan of the cathedral was expelled from the service. In the ecclesiastical council, discussion arose as to whether the sacristan had been deservedly expelled. Two canons thought not and opposed the wish of the majority who thought otherwise. These canons were suspended from their duties, with the consent of the archbishop, for treating their hierarchical superiors with disrespect, p295but, not yielding, they made an appeal to the supreme court. That tribunal revoked the decision of suspension.

The archbishop then protested against this decision before the government, basing his protest on the fact that the civil authority could not interfere in matters purely spiritual, such as the prohibition against saying mass, confessing, and preaching, imposed on the disobedient canons.

From such a beginning followed a sharp exchange of notes between the minister of worship and the metropolitan prelate; and the question ended with the voluntary submission of the canons at the suggestion of the government; but, from then on, harmony ceased to exist between the executive and the head of the Church, and from every side violent attacks were directed toward the government for having tried, it was said, to discredit the Catholic religion through its highest representative in Chile.

To those difficulties were added others proceeding from numerous diplomatic complaints laid before the government by the representatives of various foreign nations — chiefly England, the United States, and France. Such complaints were based on injuries suffered by the nations of those countries during the revolution of 1851 and certain other public disturbances.

Although unjust and contrary to the diplomatic practices of European states, they caused the government of that time serious harm and the nation no little expense. Nevertheless, the doctrine was then firmly maintained that, in order for foreigners to obtain indemnities for injuries suffered because of seditious movements, they must appear before the ordinary tribunals on the same conditions as the people of Chile. To this end a law was dictated called the "Law of Civil Responsibility," by which, in case of sedition, all those involved in mobs against individuals were held personally responsible for excesses committed. In other respects, the foreign policy of this period was limited to maintaining good understanding with the other states of America and Europe and to making several commercial treaties.5

Nor was this administration wholly peaceful in its domestic policies. Having begun with a struggle against an armed revolution which affected the entire republic, it drew to a close as another revolution started afresh with features as serious as the former. The nation reached a critical period, a period marked by changing ideas and by the development of liberal tendencies as opposed to the authority that had dominated for a quarter of a century. There p296was severe criticism of the centralization of the entire government in the president of the republic and there was an attempt to overthrow unlimited control of the legislative power by the executive. For this purpose the critics tried to revise the constitution. The president was accused of excessive suspicion against citizens who were not entirely in harmony with his policies and of attempting to prolong the authority of the regime under which he had risen to power.

In all that there was really as much truth as falsehood. It is certain that during his term President Montt had adopted the most rigorous measures for suppressing even the slightest evidences of the spirit of rebellion which still inspired certain groups of society. The "extraordinary powers," with their train of imprisonment and banishment, had been employed many times; but one must take into account that most of the people of position and fortune, who were aiding and supporting the government, were so fearful of those movements that at the least attempt at conspiracy, at the least alarm of revolt, they even went so far as to run en masse to the executive in search of security for their interests.

On the other hand, the president himself and his chief advisers believed, in good faith, that the nation, because of its lack of general culture and because of the ignorance and poverty of the more numerous classes of the population, was still not prepared for consciously exercising a purely representative government. A form of tutelage practiced by the executive over the people and over the other powers of the State with still considered necessary. Consequently, it was thought in official circles that the reforms claimed by liberalism — reforms tending to weaken the prerogatives of the president of the republic and to strengthen those of congress — were premature reforms which did not take into account the social situation of the nation. However that may have been, the more advanced liberals could not bring themselves to recognize that the government had considerable justice in its contentions and they fought it both in the press and in public discussion.

To the opposition of this political group was added in 1857 that of the "reactionary conservatives," the supporters of the tradition of the former pelucones. For the most part they were rich and haughty landholders who had been angered by the dissolution of the aristocratic bond of entailed estates and by the dispute in which the executive had been involved with the archbishop of Santiago — a dispute in which they believed they saw unmistakable signs of impiety in the president and his most loyal supporters. In p297this way the powerful conservative party — which had raised Montt to the presidency, which had sided with him during the first period of his administration, and which had reëlected him in order to continue without interruption the political control which it exercised during the two preceding administrations — found itself divided over night into an intransigent faction, devoted to its political and religious principles with unvarying fidelity; and into a moderate faction, which showed itself disposed to accept in part the ideas of liberalism, and still more disposed to maintain the predominance of the State over the Church.

This intransigent conservative group came then to make common cause in the opposing camp with the still more intransigent group of the liberal party which embodied the tradition of the pipiolos of 1829. It was a strange thing: pipiolos and pelucones found themselves for the first time united, constituting the liberal-conservative fusion (later called "coalition"), and it was Montt who drove them to unite against him.

One faction of the liberal party, the less advanced, and a faction of the conservative party, the more moderate and conciliatory, united in their turn to support the president. Thus it was seen that, as one of the political groups which had fought him before with no less ardor, the moderate groups of both parties adhered to him, and in exchange the radical groups of both parties were united against him. Liberals and moderate conservatives, then, in the same year, 1857, formed a party of the government which called itself the national party, whose motto was "Liberty within Order." Their adversaries called it Montt-Varista because at the head of it was Antonio Varas, the chief of the ministry of Montt during his first term; and to his political formula they opposed their "Order within Liberty."

The personality of Varas is so intimately related to that of President Montt and to the work of his decade that it is not possible to omit his name in treating of that period. Antonio Varas was a native of Cauquenes, where he was born in 1817, of a modest family. Like Manuel Montt, he attended the National Institute and, aided by an elder brother who was a professor in the same institution, he studied with determined persistence. Soon he himself became a professor and inspector there and formed a close friendship with Montt.

Little by little, he continued to rise in the same manner as Montt, and in the same way that he seemed to fill the posts which the former left vacant. When Montt became rector of the institute, Varas was p298his vice-rector; when Montt became minister, Varas became rector; when Montt left the ministry of justice to pass to that of the interior, he was replaced by Varas; when Montt was a candidate for the presidency of the republic, Varas was the minister of the interior who presided at the elections; and finally, when Montt was president, Varas was chief of the cabinet and was his companion during the five years of his first presidential term. It is not strange, therefore, that, as Montt's second term neared its end, it was believed that Varas would like to succeed him.

But Varas aroused strong resistance and upon him was concentrated all the wrath of the opposition. The liberal-conservative fusion fought him resolutely because he represented the continuation of the dominant system of government, and nothing more. Looked at from another point of view, Varas was an intelligent and distinguished man. He held two professional titles; he was a lawyer and an engineer and both in the reviews and dailies of the time and in the chamber of deputies, to which for several years he belonged, he had shown excellent qualities as writer and orator (which his adversaries recognized), as well as a knowledge of the most pressing needs of the nation.

The Last Years of the Decade

The vigorous personality of Antonio Varas had been impressed upon all. The "Fusionist" liberals and conservatives, however, tried to prevent by all possible means his ascent to the presidency of the republic, on the grounds that his government would signify the continuation of the regime of force which it was necessary to do away with. In opposition to his candidacy and with the hope of obtaining the reforms that they desired, the "fusionists" prepared and brought on the revolution of 1859. Preliminary agitation was shown in congress during the previous year with the presentation of a bill of amnesty in favor of all of those indicted or involved in the revolutionary movements of recent times. This amnesty was finally granted only to residents in the country. Those who were in exile could not yet return to the country. Then the agitation continued with the publication of the periodical La asamblea constituyente (The Constituent Assembly), directed by Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna. The title alone of the periodical sufficed to point out the most important of the reforms sought. Collaborating in the publication were the brothers Manuel Antonio and Guillermo Matta and Justo and Domingo Arteaga Alemparte, also brothers — all exponents of a vigorous intellectual and political drive. Numerous p299meetings were held in the Union Club in order to mold public opinion for reform, and at the end of 1858 the propaganda was rapidly extended throughout the republic.

The executive and the provincial authorities tried to suppress those demonstrations against the government, for they considered them seditious and a danger to public order. In December of that year there were arrested some hundred and fifty people of social standing who had gathered in the Union Club, in violation of a prohibition of the intendancy, to discuss political matters together. Immediately a decree was issued which declared the provinces of Santiago, Valparaiso, and Aconcagua in "a state of siege." The armed struggle was seen to be approaching.

In January, 1859, the insurrection definitely began in Copiapó and then in San Felipe, Talca, Talcahuano, and other towns. The latter movements were promptly suppressed, but Copiapó did not yield. Far from this, its leader, Pedro León Gallo, a rich miner of the region, with an army of more than a thousand men, organized almost entirely at his own expense, overcame the government troops in the battle of Los Loros,6 to the north of La Serena, and advanced upon that city, which he occupied in military fashion. In the provinces of Atacama and Coquimbo the great majority of the people seemed to share the revolutionary spirit, and the danger for the dominant political power was imminent. But in April, 1859, a new body of government troops routed the army of Gallo in Cerro Grande, south of La Serena. These two dates were the most important of the revolution and with the latter it may be considered as finally overcome.

New difficulties disturbed the Montt government as it approached its end. One of these was the insurrection of the Araucanians. As in 1851, some of the revolutionary leaders of 1859 went to stay among the semibarbarous tribes of the south and renew in their minds the century-old hatred against the Spanish power, of which they led them to believe the republic was the representative. Involving the old caciques, these agents caused a native insurrection to break out in the same year, 1859, and kept it up for two years by means of a series of guerrilla fights and ambuscades. Finally, when peace was again restored, the occupation of the Araucanian territory was begun by means of forts and cities founded each time farther in from the frontiers. But the heroic and ancient race held p300on to a large part of its land and, defeated but not subdued, kept itself independent for a long time to come.

The other grave difficulty of the Montt government was the economic crisis of 1861. Among the causes for this might be counted the civil war with its supplemental Araucanian rebellion, a war which had killed and impoverished many people, had drawn away many from labor and produced a general unrest; the lessening of the output of the mines, which formerly had unexpectedly made great fortunes and stimulated excessive consumption; and the competition which Australia and California offered to wheat dealers of Chile, a competition which caused a fall as rapid as it was unexpected in the price of that commodity. The crisis was shown in many commercial failures, in the impoverishment of numerous families, and in the paralyzing of public and private works.

Otherwise, there were no new political difficulties. On the approach of the electoral contest of 1861 for the presidency, Antonio Varas voluntarily renounced the candidacy which friends offered him. Since they formed the majority of the government, and official intervention in elections was the rule, this renunciation amounted to that of the presidency itself. But as his candidacy aroused such strong opposition in the "fusionist" liberal-clericalº group, it was feared that if he should assume power it would lead to a repetition of the revolutionary events that twice in ten years had disturbed the country. Varas preferred to withdraw his name from the list and retire to private life, an action which showed his enemies that he had the sentiment of a great citizen. The person then favored for the presidency was José Joaquín Pérez, another politician of the same national party, but acceptable to the opposition, which also gave him its support.

On September 18, 1861, Montt handed over to his successor the presidential insignia and withdrew forever from power.7 For a long time his actions as ruler were severely discussed. With him ended in fact a regime of force, which sought to stifle every aspiration for social or political reform supported by force. However, that regime realized a work of organization and of culture which, although slow and restricted, had vast projections. Montt's government, in particular, left traces of lasting public benefit.

p301 Commercial Development and Social Reform

The political movement, which had been in operation at the end of the Montt decade, had roots much deeper than the simple questions of election or amnesty. It was the result of a slow but sure social evolution which had been in process for many years past through the influence of culture and wealth. This evolution must, with time, modify profoundly colonial society, which on achieving independence completely lacked habits of liberty and self-government.

Now, after half a century of independent life, it was not the landed aristocracy, formed by the great proprietors, descendants of the entailed estates, which exclusively dominated the groups in the pelucón party. The commercial movement built up new fortunes and created new influences. Foreign commerce amounted to about fifty million pesos a year, of which more than half represented exports. The coastwise trade approximated twenty million. These figures represent a tripling of values in the space of fifteen years (1845‑1860), which measured the rapidity of economic progress. Mining and agriculture increased in equal ratio. Thus, while the exportation of minerals amounted in 1845 to some four and a half million pesos of forty-eight pence and in 1860 equaled about nineteen million, agriculture, whose exportation in former years did not reach a million pesos, was in 1860 more than four and one-half million. The figures for the intervening years more than once exceeded those given.

Urban population was also increasing. Santiago became a city of 100,000 inhabitants; Valparaiso, of some 60,000; and, although the rural element still formed 70 per cent of the total population of the country, there is no doubt that there was a strong tendency toward "urbanization" and with it a more intense and conscious civic culture. Interior communications were being made more quickly and foreign communications were at the same time gaining in speed through steam navigation. Immigration was daily incorporating new elements of civilization.

General culture was now being developed in a more favorable atmosphere within cities relatively populous, in direct contact with European literary production, and in a public more impressionable and more attentive to higher culture. To some purpose there had been created, and were functioning, several hundred primary schools; the provincial liceos and the colleges of the capital exercised some influence; and credit must be given to the periodicals p302and the scientific and literary reviews which began to appear and continued to flourish.

All those factors and many others of a similar kind had gradually instilled into society new ideas, new aspirations, and a concept of the personal value of individuals somewhat different from what had heretofore prevailed. If wealth continued to be a power, culture, ability, and civic virtue were also becoming influential, and so a new aristocracy began about 1860 to supplant the old. Instead of an aristocracy of land and of blood, founded on traditions of family and on personal fortune which, with the abolition of entailed estates, had legally disappeared, there arose an aristocracy of business and of learning, founded sometimes on the large fortunes which speculation was creating for its chosen ones, and sometimes on the prestige which learning conferred.

So one saw the Gallos, rich miners of the north, rise against the government and direct a revolution, and soon thereafter, together with the Matta brothers, Manuel Antonio and Guillermo, lay the foundations of a new political alignment, the radical party. And thus one also saw several men like José Victorino Lastarria, and Miguel Luis Amunátegui, who, without possessing goods or fortune, achieved political and social influence, thanks only to their endowment of intellect and character. Such a condition, which could previously have been seen only in the midst of the disturbed period of the revolution for independence, a transient period when it was necessary to take advantage of all the energies of the people, was now observed again in an entirely normal period of national life.

Another of the old-time powers of society, the clergy, also lost vigor and influence. To the narrow and uncompromising intolerance of former times which, in the name of religion, condemned or absolved men, books, and doctrines without protest from anyone, there succeeded now a tolerance, moderate and to a certain extent paternal. The religious dispute of the Montt decade had demonstrated this.

It was then the weakening of those old social classes — the colonial nobility and the clergy — which gave way to the rising liberal aspirations, so much opposed at first and so powerful later; and it was the development of wealth and culture which stimulated these same aspirations. Along with this evolution of ideas, the entire nation was modernized; the cities not only increased in population but also in beauty. Substantial buildings of brick and mortar, the paving of streets, public sanitation, and gas lighting date from that period. Evolution was at once moral and material.

p303 Nevertheless, the relative well-being, which the upper classes of society were attaining together, extended only to a very limited degree down to the lower ranks, where poverty, gambling, drunkenness, and ignorance, leading to beggary, crime, or death, continued to work as much havoc as in the former period, or but little less. The wandering peon of the cities, without home or family, and the tenant of the country, without more resources than those necessary to keep him from starving, were social groups which did not yet participate in the benefits of the republic except to a limited degree.

Notwithstanding this, at the end of the first half-century of independent life Chile began to abandon the preoccupations and ailments of the ancient colony and fully take its rightful place in the activities of civilized nations. Whatever may have been the defects of the autocratic regime, imposed by a traditionally conservative society of the past, it was evident that this regime had permitted a slow but effective process in all phases of national activity, and also that, in the hands of governors jealous for the future of their fatherland, it had coöperated effectively for progress.

When its mold became too narrow to contain the political aspirations of many of the most prominent men of the nation, then it yielded its place to a governmental ideal which was conceived to be more in harmony with social development; namely, the ideal of liberalism. For many years still, this conservative and autocratic spirit must continue to exert a powerful influence on the fate of the republic. The most effective change, was, then, more social than political in its nature, the reverse of what had taken place in the first quarter of the century. Although the doctrinal ideas of the government were about to take another direction, their administrative ideas would nevertheless persist, and it was that which truly counted in general progress.

Governmental coöperation in the general activity of the nation did not change in form nor was it more accentuated, since from that point of view liberals and conservatives did not differ greatly. It was only questions of moral and constitutional import that divided them. While for the conservatives political authority and religious dogma were the two fundamentals of well-being and of collective progress, for their adversaries liberty in politics and liberty in belief and ideas were conditions indispensable for social development. But in order to pass from one system to the other, from the autocratic republic to the liberal republic, there was needed a transformation in society itself which would permit it to make conscious p304use of liberty. Therefore the triumph of the liberal school of thought indicated that this transformation had been produced, or at any rate, was being produced, at least in the upper ranks of society.


The Author's Notes:

1 This institution was created for the purpose of making loans upon mortgages, to be repaid in installments, over a period of twenty-one years. It began to do business in 1855.º Intended originally to aid the owners of small farms, its facilities have really been more thoroughly utilized by the owners of large estates. Its regular interest charge was not to exceed 8 per cent per year. See Martner, Estudio de política comercial chilena e historia económica nacional, I, 278‑279.

[decorative delimiter]

2 The alcabala was a local sales tax of ancient origin which was definitely planted in Spain by the fourteenth century and later extended to the colonies. Despite its irritating character, it survived in Hispanic America until the late nineteenth century. In some cases it has since been revived. See Espasa, Enciclopedia, IV, 205; see also n. p69 supra.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Carlos Moesta (1825‑1884), an astronomer of German origin, came to Chile in 1850. After taking part in the survey of the country, he was made director (1862) of the national observatory. He later returned to Europe and lived and died in Dresden, but acted there as the consul general of Chile. See Espasa, op. cit., XXXV, 1279.

[decorative delimiter]

4 See p351 n.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Cf. Martner, op. cit., I, 273, 284.

[decorative delimiter]

6 For a characterization of this battle, see Manuel Blanco Cuartín, Artículos escogidos (Santiago, 1913), p613.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Montt later became state councilor, deputy in congress, special envoy to the American congress that met in Lima in 1864, and its presiding officer. He was also the center of the bitter attack directed by the Chilean congress in 1868 on the supreme court, of which he was presiding officer. See Edwards, Bosquejo histórico, pp64‑65.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 26 Oct 09