Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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BOLIVIA. Bolivia is a vast territory of South America, of 1,297,255 square kilomètres, extending from 7° to 26° 40 south latitude, and from 60° to 75° west longitude. It is bounded on the south by a branch of the Andes and the desert of Chaco, which separates it (and this word should be understood here in its strictest sense) from the Argentine republic; on the southeast, east and the northeast by the plains of Uruguay and Brazil; and on the north, northwest and west by other spurs of the Andes or by the principal chain itself which separates it from Peru, and by the Pacific ocean which it touches for a distance of about 250 miles, between San Taltal-Point and the river Loa. This country, which later received the name of Bolivia, was formerly a part of upper Peru. It was dependent at first on the vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres, with whose capital the great distance and a number of deserts rendered communication almost impossible. It was afterward united to the vice-royalty of Peru. It took part but tardily in the movement which, for many years, had raised up the Spanish colonies against the mother country. The impulse to this came to it from the north. It was only in 1824 that Sucre, a young Colombian general, the conqueror of Pinchincha, where he had assured the independence of Colombia, for a moment the supreme chief of Peru which he had freed by the victory of Ayacucho, the friend and principal lieutenant of the celebrated Bolivar, the man who next to the liberator, was most distinguished in the war of independence, conquered that part of upper Peru. In the name of the revolution he proclaimed the independence of these conquered that part of upper Peru. In the name of the revolution he proclaimed the independence of these provinces, on the 6th of August of the same year, and on the 11th of March, 1825, he gave them the name of Bolivia, in honor of his master. Bolivia was at first united to the republic of Peru, and Bolivar exercised over it an unlimited power, the rigor of which Colombia and Peru themselves had not felt to the same extent. However it was erected into an independent state soon after, and when the Peruvian congress at Lima, in 1825, renounced its rights to these provinces and gave its consent to the separation, Bolivar imposed on them the constitution known as the Bolivar code, and offered the presidency of them to general Sucre, who till then had governed them in his name; but this régime was of short duration. It had lasted barely two years, when Bolivar, seeing his power menaced by insurrection in Colombia, left Peru in all haste. The fragile structure which he had wished to raise did not survive his departure. Two insurrections against marshal Ayachcho (Sucre), one at La Paz, on the 25th of December, 1827, the other at Chuquisaca, on the 18th of April of the following year, broke out; they were forcibly put down; but the president, disgusted with the exercise of power thus contested, gave in his resignation, and, after incurring great danger, succeeded in rejoining Bolivar.


—The first constitution of Bolivia intrusted the executive power to a president for life, to a vice-president, and to three secretaries of state. The legislative power, shared by three chambers, that of the tribunes, that of the senators, and that of the censors, was the result of an election of two degrees. Each chamber was composed of 30 members, elected for 4 years, and held a session of 2 months each year. This first constitution was followed by several others. The most recent, voted in 1868, intrusted the executive power to a president elected for 4 years, and the legislative power to a congress. It is true that this constitution was abolished in 1869, but that which was to replace it and those which may have followed this, can not but reproduce the two fundamental institutions of the South American republics, a congress and a presidency. Moreover, whatever be the mechanism of these governmental forms, often borrowed from the most elaborate and most liberal theories of Europe, the Spaniards and the Indians of South America scarcely understand the exercise of power, except by means which would pass in Europe for simple tyranny. We are seized with an invincible sadness when we compare the debasement into which these vast and rich countries have fallen under the dominion of European conquerors with the prosperity which they enjoyed under the paternal government of native princes, called barbarians. Europe brought misery and oppression to a happy people, who, under the mild government of native princes, lived in plenty. Have the conquerors fared better? This may be doubted Victims of low ambition torn by factions, incapable of reaping any advantage from the wealth of their soil, they seem doomed to inevitable decay. Let us hope that they will find a means of escape by attracting foreigners to the country, and by an infusion of new blood.


—Some administrative and judicial progress is due to Mr. J.M. Linarès, a liberal raised to the presidency in 1858. Although he maintained an army very burdensome to the country, and put at the head of the troops too many colonels and generals of his own style, although it is impossible to approve all his financial schemes, we must give him the credit of having introduced some economy into the finances, of having increased the number of schools, of having had laws made in favor of the Indians, of having regulated municipal government and reformed the judiciary. A quarrel with Peru, in which Peru seems to have been altogether in the wrong, came near compromising, in 1860, this favorable movement, but harmony was restored between the two republics, and they became more closely united, some years later, under the influence of common interests and common dangers. The idea of a federation of South American republics was obtaining root. It was desired to hasten, by more intimate political relations, the civilization of that vast continent, to create a counterpoise to the influence of the United States, and to reject all intervention of Europe in the politics of the new world. But the states which it was desired to unite are separated by much more than their geographical distance; and four states alone occupying the Pacific coast, in the central region of South America, commenced the realization of this vast plan.


—In 1864 Bolivia, Chili and Ecuador sent deputies to a congress convened at Lima by the Peruvian government, which was threatened by the arms of Spain. Spain justly claimed reparation for damages done to her citizens, but the plenipotentiary sent from Europe to set forth the grievances of the former mother country assumed the aggressive title of commissioner extraordinary of the queen, the title of the governors before the period of independence. The war of secession in the United States was at its height, as was also the Mexican war. The republics of South America were convinced that France and England favored the dismemberment of the United States, and the congress of Lima inferred from this the existence of a European plan, by which Spain would endeavor to recover her colonies.


—Peru secured the alliance of the three republics which had sent delegates to the congress of Lima. Bolivia concluded its treaty in February, 1866, but was not able to furnish any other assistance in the war except to prevent the revictualing of the Spanish fleet in the Bolivian harbor of Cobija. The war was closed by the retreat of the Spanish fleet, which was repulsed at Callao, but the treaty of peace was not signed till 1868.


—In the interval Bolivia formed a more intimate alliance with Chili. The two republics were disputing the ownership of the guano deposits on the islands of Mejillones. A treaty of the 10th of August, 1866, confided the working of the deposits to a French company.


—Bolivia occupies, in the centre of the American continent, a very unfavorable situation which condemns it to an isolation almost absolute, and seems to raise up an insurmountable obstacle to the development of its political or commercial power. It is divided by nature into two very distinct parts: the mountainous country in the west, and the country of the plains in the east which forms the largest portion of it and which extends from the banks of the Pilcomayo, an affluent of the La Plata, on the south, to the northeast point of the territory, where the Rio Mamore joins the Rio Beni and forms the Rio Madeira, the principal affluent of the Amazon. The valley of Pilcomayo occupies the south of the eastern region. The north is watered by the Desaguadero, which empties into lake Titicaca, the largest lake of South America. It constitutes the boundary between Bolivia and Peru. Its immense basin is inclosed by a double chain of mountains, the Cordillera of the Andes and the Cordillera of Alama. The mean elevation of this valley is 13,000 feet above the level of the sea. It communicates with the ocean by six passes, whose highest points overlook the Pacific at a height of 15,000 feet, and the valley at 2,000 feet. Besides lake Titicaca and the great watercourse just named, the vallies and plains of Bolivia are irrigated by numerous rivers which flow southward to the Rio de la Plata and north to the Amazon. Bolivia owes to the elevation of the greater part of its territory a more temperate climate than would seem to be indicated by its geographical position. Gold is found in some parts, especially on the slope of the eastern Cordillera. The silver mines of Potosi have a reputation of ancient date which, according to report, they have ceased to deserve. Copper is met with in abundance, particularly in the district of La Paz, as are also deposits of lead and tin. The soil of these vast countries, ill cultivated, badly worked, and lacking inhabitants, yields to the most varied kinds of cultivation. The fruits of Europe and the products of tropical regions are there gathered: Cocoa, sarsaparilla, copaiba, India rubber, aromatic and medicinal plants, quinine, etc.


—The population of Bolivia, of which little is known, is variously estimated. In 1835 it was estimated at more than 2,300,000 inhabitants, of whom 1,630,000 were whites of foreign origin or of mixed blood, and from 700,000 to 800,000 Indians. Dr. Petermann reduced it, in 1848, to 1,742,000, not including about 245,000 aborigines. In 1867 it amounted to 1,987,352, the number of aborigines being still estimated at 245,000.


—The organizers of Bolivia took the French administration as their model. They introduced the French prefect, sub-prefect and municipality. They have translated the French civil code which was unceremoniously called the Santa Cruz code. The republic is divided into two bishoprics, whose seats are at Cochabamba and at Santa Cruz. The army consists of 2,500 men, with 3,200 of a national guard. The revenue of the republic was estimated, in 1850, at 1,976,000 piastres, and the expenses at 1,730,000 piastres; the public debt at 5,850,000 piastres. Since then the debt has been increased by the total of the unpaid interest. In 1870 the receipts rose to nearly 2,500,000 piastres or pesos, of which about 1,000,000 were in direct taxes. Anarchy does not allow Bolivia to use the elements of wealth which its soil contains. Its agriculture is neglected, its industry amounts to nothing, and its commerce is in a languishing condition. It manufactures some cotton stuffs, especially at Oropesa; woolen cloths, from the wool of the lama and alpaca, among which those of La Paz occupy the first rank; and vigonia hats and glass of good quality, made especially at Oropesa. But metals are its chief article of foreign commerce. The export of copper is estimated at 400,000 quintals per annum. In 1869 the total exports, from the port of Cobija, reached 17,403 tons, distributed as follows: coined silver, 1,000,000 piastres; copper, 17,300 tons; tin, 4,000; guano, 6,000. The imports reached, it is said, the figure of 7,000,000 piastres. They consist chiefly in iron or hardware, to which must be added certain articles of luxury, especially silk stuffs. In June, 1852, the navigation of all the rivers which flow into the Amazon and the Rio de la Plata, were declared free to all nations.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Bosquejo estadistico de Bolivia, by M. Dalence, 8vo. Chuquisacu, 1851; Geographie und Statistik der Republik Bolivia, by Hugo Reck, (Petermann's Mittheilungen), 4to, Gotha, 1865; The Land of Bolirar, by James Mudie Spence, 8vo, London, 1875; Descripcion geographica historica yestadistica de Bolivia, Paris, 1845, with map; Bosch-Spencer, Statistique Commerciale du Chili de la Bolivie, etc., Brussels, 1848; Weddell, Voyage dans le Nord de la Bolivie; Hugh de Bonelli, Travels in Bolivia, London, 1857; Archivo Boliviano, Coleccion de documentos relativos de la historia de Bolivia, Paris, 1877; Mossbach, Bolivia-Kulturbilder aus einer südamerik Republik, Leipsig, 1875.


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