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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COSTA RICA is one of the small republics of Central America. When its independence was declared, this country was less advanced than other parts of the vast Spanish possessions in America; but under the intelligent direction of several able presidents, especially of the two Moras (1824-32 and 1851-60), its industrial population reached a condition of general comfort, and some of its inhabitants succeeded in amassing very large fortunes. This prosperity was not a guarantee against wars and revolutions. When not entangled in the political difficulties of neighboring states, it found within its own boundaries certain adventurous or ambitious spirits who did not hesitate at conspiracy in order to accomplish their designs. And it requires but very little to insure success to a revolution in Costa Rica. We shall not stop to examine any of the numerous constitutions of this country, which are violated as soon as voted, but will confine ourselves to the following general indications.


—The republic of Costa Rica extends over about three degrees of latitude (from 8° to 11° 16'), and an equal number of Paris longitude (85° to 88°); it is washed by the waters of both the Atlantic and Pacific, and by lake Nicaragua; its northern frontier joins the state of that name, and its southern boundary reaches to the isthmus of Panama (United States of Colombia, formerly New Granada). Its territorial area is estimated at 2,300 square leagues, and its population at 127,000 inhabitants. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the people; there is little industrial activity, but commerce is comparatively more developed. The aristocracy of the country is composed both of merchants and landed proprietors.


—The principal products of the country are, besides the ordinary articles of food, coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, and some others peculiar to inter-tropical countries. The coffee crop may be reckoned at 11,000,000 or 12,000,000 pounds. The sugar cane and cocoa culture are of much less importance. These products form the bulk of the export trade of the country. The import trade includes all manufactured products and tobacco. The imports of Costa Rica are estimated at 6,000,000 francs, and its exports at 7,000,000. The country also has mines of iron and various other metals. Its principal port is Punta-Arenas, on the Pacific ocean. Fifty or sixty vessels, having an aggregate tonnage of 15,000 or 20,000 tons, enter this port, and about the same number sail from it, on an average, each year. The seat of government is San José, a city of about 16,000 inhabitants. The revenues amount to a little over $1,500,000, and the expenses to nearly $1,600,000 yearly. The state debt is over $3,000,000. The monopoly of tobacco, the customs duties, and the tax imposed on alcohol, form the principal sources of income to the treasury. There is, strictly speaking, no standing army: the militia consists of 5,000 men, 200 of whom are in turn called on to serve as a national guard. Public education is progressing. The Catholic religion is professed by all the native inhabitants.

M. B.

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