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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GUATEMALA. Historical. During the Spanish rule the kingdom of Guatemala included the five provinces of Guatemala. Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. After their declaration of independence in 1821 they joined Mexico for a short period, but, two years later, formed themselves into a federal republic, under the presidency of Morazan. This state of things was not long lived. In 1832 the confederacy had merely a nominal existence. In fact, the five states had already separate governments. Morazan's two defeats, in 1839 and 1842, and his death in the latter year, destroyed the last traces of federalism and left the field free to the champion of separatism, a creole, Don Rafael Carréra. Gen. Carréra's rule was not established without difficulty. He gave himself out as the armed representative of democracy. He had to meet, therefore, the opposition of the wealthy classes. But when his power was once well established he made very large concessions to the social interests of these classes, and the constitution of October, 1851, voted by an assembly whose members owed their election to him, was far from being demagogic. According to the terms of this constitution, which was revised in 1859 without any very important modifications, it is necessary to have a profession, property, or some trade furnishing the means of living independently, in order to be a citizen of Guatemala. Public functions can only be exercised by persons enjoying the rights of citizenship. The appointment of a foreigner to the performance of these functions confers on him the quality of citizen.


—The government consists of the president, council of state and the house of representatives. The president is elected for four years, by an assembly composed of the house of representatives, the metropolitan, archbishop, members of the court of justice, and the council of state. He is re-eligible indefinitely. The president directs foreign affairs, makes treaties of alliance and commerce, is the custodian of public order, and, in conjunction with the council of state, has the pardoning power; proposes and sanctions laws, and in case of urgency issues decrees which have the force of law; presents to ecclesiastical dignities; and may, in an urgent case, contract a loan when the legislature is not in session, provided he calls an extraordinary session immediately after. The choice of ministers plenipotentiary and the principal financial officers must be confirmed by the council of state. The council is composed of the secretary of state, eight councilors appointed by the house of representatives, and as many members as it pleases the president to appoint from among the former chiefs of the executive power, the former president of the representative bodies, the former ministers of state, and the presidents and regents of the court of justice. The council is elected for four years. The house of representatives, whose term of office is the same, consists of fifty-two deputies. It votes the budget, examines and corrects accounts, and has the right to impeach the president, the ministers, councilors of state and ministers plenipotentiary; its ordinary session commences Nov. 25 and ends Jan. 31. It has the-power to revise the constitution, with the concurrence and sanction of the government—In 1855 President Carréra, in accordance with wishes which were more or less spontaneously and sincerely expressed in several large cities, was constrained to accept the presidency for life and the power of appointing his successor. Till 1862 the government met no serious obstacles at home. But at that epoch Carréra had to defend his authority and his life against insurrections and conspiracy, with which the army was not unacquainted. Carréra died in 1865.


Area and Population. The area of the state is estimated at 41,830 square miles. According to a census taken in 1880 the population is 1,215,310, of whom a third are of European descent and two-thirds "aborigines." Diversity of race is one of the great causes of the troubles which agitate the Central American countries.


—The capital of Guatemala, Santiago de Guatemala, has 57,728 inhabitants, one-tenth of whom are of European origin.


Finances. In the year 1879 the sources of revenue and branches of expenditure of the state of Guatemala were as follows:

Import duties... $1,144,158
Export duties... 267,668
Spirit licenses... 900,988
Tax on sugar-cane plantations... 41,305
Extraordinary and miscellaneous receipts... 2,159,021
Surplus of 1878... 21,617
Total revenue... $4,534,757

Interest of public debt... $1,000,382
Army... 1,278,994
Pensions... 24,671
Ministry of foreign affairs... 102,311
Ministry of interior and finance... 734,852
Ministry of public works... 312,092
Public instruction... 245,695
Miscellaneous expenses... 835,760
Total expenditure... $4,534,757


On Jan. 1, 1880, the debt of Guatemala amounted to $7,334,358.


Army. Guatemala has a standing army of 2,180 men, and a militia of 33,229 men—Public Instruction. The higher and middle schools are in the hands of the Jesuits. By the provisions of the concordat the supervision of all departments of education belongs to the clergy.


Church and State. Ecclesiastical affairs are regulated by the concordat of April 17, 1852, which contains very nearly the same provisions as the concordats concluded between the holy see and the other states of Spanish America. Nevertheless, in civil and criminal matters, ecclesiastical jurisdiction is maintained in all questions which arise exclusively between the clergy.


Administration of Justice. The administration of civil and criminal law is nearly the same as in was under Spanish dominion. Above the lower tribunals is a supreme court whose members can be removed only in cases specially provided for by the constitution.


Resources. Guatemala abounds in dye and cabinet woods, gum and balsam trees, and sugar cane; palm trees grow there in abundance. The principal exports are coffee, cochineal, skins, indigo and cotton. The total exports in 1880 were estimated at $4,425,000, and the total imports at $3,647,000. The foreign trade is almost entirely with the United States and Great Britain—The position occupied by Central America between the two oceans, with its numerous watercourses, some of which flow into the Atlantic and others into the Pacific, is of a nature to greatly facilitate communication between the two oceans. In 1861 the five states of Central America accepted the proposition made by the state of Costa Rica to establish in the city of Leon (Nicaragua) a general council to be entrusted with the management of foreign affairs, the command of the army, and the collection of customs which were to be levied thenceforth according to a common tariff. The same committee was to establish a uniform system of weights, measures and coinage. This was in reality a return to federalism, the system for which Morazan struggled during twenty years.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Baily, Central America, London, 1850; Bernouilli, Briefe aus Guatemala, in Petermann's Mittheilungen, Gotha, 1868-9, and Reise in der Republik Guatemala, in Petermanu's Mittheilungen, Gotha, 1873; Fröbel, Aus America, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1857-8; Laferrière. De Paris à Guatemala, Notes de voyage an Centre d'Amérique, Paris, 1877; Marr, Reise nach Central America, 2 vols., Hamburg, 1873; Morelot, Voyage dans l'Amérique Centrale, 2 vols., Paris, 1859; Scherzer, Wanderungen durch die mittelamerikanischen Freistaaten, Brunswick, 1857; Squier, The States of Central America, London, 1868; Whetham, Across Central America, London, 1877.

A. D. H.

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