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

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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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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ARGENTINE CONFEDERATION. The Argentine Republic, in South America, is bounded, on the north and the east by Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Montevideo; on the southwest by the Atlantic ocean, on the south by Patagonia, and on the west by Chili. Its area inclusive of the disputed portion of the Gran Chaco is 841,000 square miles. According to the census published by the government of Buenos Ayres, in 1872, the Argentine Republic had 1,877,490 inhabitants, including the population of the national dependencies of Chaco, Misiones Pampa and Patagonia. In the republic proper, there are 1,743,355 inhabitants, of whom 897,780 are males and 845,572 females. These figures represent the civilized population. The number of savages or half breeds is about 100,000; but other authorities make it 300,000. The capitals of the fourteen provinces into which the confederation is divided contain in the aggregate 300,000 inhabitants, or about one-fourth of the whole population of the country. In the province of Buenos Ayres, one-half of the population of cities is composed of foreigners. In the fourteen provinces there are 610,432 inhabitants of cities, 1,114,160 inhabitants of rural districts, and 12,330 inhabitants of river islands.


—The mixture of races is not so great in the Argentine Confederation as in other parts of Spanish America. But the difference in habits and intellectual culture between inhabitants of cities and those of the rural districts, has created between the two classes an antagonism which, on account of the crimes and acts of violence it has caused, is second to none of the most lamentable race-antipathies recorded in history.


—During the war for independence, from 1810 to 1819, all the provinces composing the vice-royalty of La Plata were, in a measure, united. While hostilities lasted, they recognized willingly enough the supremacy of Buenos Ayres which, proud of its wealth, the intellectual superiority and the high standard of culture of its inhabitants, assumed the title of the Athens of the south. Buenos Ayres conducted the war for independence, furnished arms, money, soldiers and generals to Chili and Peru, and opposed a barrier to the invasions of Brazil, by the establishment of the state of Uruguay. The whole political drama of the Argentine Republic which, at first, seems to present, during the last fifty years, only a personal conflict, turns mainly upon the antagonism between Buenos Ayres and the provinces. Commerce and industry, and intercourse with Europe, are monopolized by Buenos Ayres; the other states of the confederation are purely agricultural countries where the primitive mode of living of the early colonists. and even the Indian life of the Guachos shepherds or nomads still exist. The alternate success of the two factions accounts for the changes in its political constitutions. Buenos Ayres imposes on the other states a uniform constitution, European codes, a regular government, civilization and its accessories, all of which do not appear equally reasonable to the rural population accustomed, as they are, to an almost savage independence. The latter naturally find allies among the lower classes in Buenos Ayres and other cities; while the notabilities and the educated, who govern Buenos Ayres according to European ideas, are supported by the rich, country land owners. It is therefore the difference between Europe and America, cosmopolitan civilization and local independence, which excites the conflict between the Blancos and the Colorados, between the moderates and the progressionists, the unionists and the federalists. Federalism is among Latin nations, and more especially among the Latinized states of South America, the form taken by the tendency called, according to circumstances, anarchy or liberty, and which, in times of triumph, leads to sanguinary dictatorships, as was that of Rosas.


—This general observation which sums up the history of fifty years of apparent political confusion, relieves us of the necessity of entering into details of the revolutions of La Plata. It is sufficient for us here to point out the unifying or federal character of the four constitutions which there succeeded one another.


—Independence having been proclaimed, a federal constitution, modeled on that of the United States, was tried. Subsequently, between 1820 and 1827, an effort was made to effect a union of the several states. The union party, between 1820 and 1830, surrounded by an almost barbarous population, endeavored to realize all the political liberty, social reforms, and economic progress, which now constitute the programme of the most enlightened portion of the liberal European party. But the constitution of 1826, was opposed by the military chiefs, whom that instrument was intended to reduce to subordination; by the clergy, who thought their property and influence were endangered by it; and also by the inhabitants of the rural districts, the Guachos, who feared interference with their old way of living.


—The conventions which intervened in 1829, 1830, and 1831, after the overthrow of the unionist constitution of Dec. 24, 1826, reorganized the Argentine Republic on the basis of a federation which conceded to the provinces complete political independence in their internal affairs, and left them at liberty to manage their own financial affairs. The provinces guaranteed to one another full liberty in commerce and navigation. The conduct of foreign affairs was delegated to the captain general of Buenos Ayres. He was also intrusted with the conduct of the military affairs of the provinces. Rosas was clothed with these powers from 1829 to 1852.


—Rosas maintained himself in authority twenty-four years, by causing the whole national power to be vested in him by a legislature which granted everything he desired. A popular organization, La Mazorca, assisted the dictator by ridding him of his adversaries. His endless quarrels with France and England, and his struggle with Montevideo are well known.


—The constitution, adopted in 1852 after the fall of Rosas, gave a wide range to the executive power, but it also gave the country a true share in the management of its affairs. Nothing of essential importance was changed in the internal organization of the provinces. The congress, composed of a chamber of fifty representatives, and of a senate of twenty-eight members appointed by the provincial chambers of representatives, was invested with the right to take a part in the making of all laws relative to the finances, and, if need be, to take the initiative in the making of such laws. The congress was also authorized to ratify diplomatic treaties and conventions.


—From a purely political point of view, the provisions of the constitution of 1852 met with little practical opposition; but, from a financial and economical point of view the case was very different. The provinces would have been very glad to have a share in the customs duties at Buenos Ayres. On the other hand, Buenos Ayres which, under Rosas, defrayed its expenses with customs duties, was opposed to this. The utmost that Buenos Ayres would do, was after having taken from the proceeds of the customs what it needed, to relinquish the surplus to the confederation. In 1853, a conflict of interests separated Buenos Ayres from the thirteen other provinces, a separation which was continued throughout the presidency of the statesman who had placed himself at the head of the movement against Rosas. During all this time the two divisions of the Argentine Republic kept up a war of customs duties, which inured to the benefit of Rosario, a port situated on the river La Plata. Finally, in 1859, after a short struggle the two parts of the confederation concluded a peace at San José de Florez, on June 10, and Jan. 6, 1860, they signed an act of union—In the same year, the constitution was revised. The executive power is vested in a president elected for six years by the legislature. There is a vice-president who presides over the senate. The president, with the consent of the senate, appoints the cabinet ministers. The members of the chamber of representatives are required to comply with certain conditions as to age, residence, and property. Each province in the confederation has its own legislature and governor, who bears the title of captain general. Political rights are everywhere made to depend on property qualifications or the exercise of a profession. Foreigners may become naturalized after a residence of two years in the country.


—The federal capital is really Buenos Ayres; but from time to time its right to be the seat of government is contested. A law passed on Oct. 8, 1862, by the federal congress with the concurrence of the local government of Buenos Ayres, authorized the federal office-holders to reside at Buenos Ayres for five years. This limitation having expired on Oct. 8, 1862, a motion was made in the senate to have the seat of government remain in Buenos Ayres, which was to become federal property. The autonomists proposed, in imitation of the United States, to convert some unimportant territory into a federal district, and to make Rosario the capital. This last proposition was favorably received by the chamber of representatives, but rejected by the senate, but it was not decided to retain the capital at Buenos Ayres. A middle course was adopted. The federal minister of the interior restored to the governor of the province of Buenos Ayres the exercise of local jurisdiction with which the central power had been vested for five years only. In this way the national government is satisfied with the right of simple residence at Buenos Ayres. The proposal to transfer the capital to Rosario was renewed, without success, in 1872.


—The civil law is the same as in Spain. In commercial matters, the Bilbao ordinance still governs. The legal interests of the poor are committed to special advocates.


—Before the constitution of 1860, the Catholic religion was the state religion, but it is now only the dominant religion. All foreigners are free to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. Public education is committed to the care of a superior commission. Primary instruction, exclusively in the hands of the clergy, is in a very low state. Higher instruction is given in two colleges which are subsidized by the state. The degrees necessary to practice the professions of medicine, of law, and of the ministry, are conferred after an examination by a board of physicians, a commission composed of magistrates, and a committee of canons appointed by the bishops.


—In civil and criminal matters, there are two degrees of jurisdiction and a supreme court.


—The army is composed of 6,861 men, of whom 2,090 belong to the infantry, 2,861 to the cavalry, and 712 to the artillery, the national guard of cities not included. The staff of this small army is not so numerous as in the other Spanish republics. The navy is composed of a few small vessels, one of which mounts twelve guns.*15 The resources of the state are derived mainly from customs duties. Other duties, such as stamp duties, taxes on residences and professions, do not amount to one-tenth of the receipts. The revenue receipts seem to vary between 18,000,000 and 20,000,000 dollars. The expenditure exceeds 25,000,000 dollars, and the deficit is made up by a national loan.


—The national debt is rather large: it is divided into the home debt, foreign debt and the deferred debt. The total debt of the state of Buenos Ayres proper is about 10,653,000 dollars, and of the Argentine Confederation 12,000,000 dollars. The interest on this debt varies from four to nine per cent. There is, besides, a paper money debt of nearly 400,000,000 dollars. Twenty-five of these dollars or piasters in paper are equivalent to one piaster or peso in coin.


—In 1871 the national debt was thus divided: the British loan of 1824 at six per cent. amounted to 20,764,000 francs; the British loan at three per cent. was 25,000,000; the foreign debt, 5,000,000 francs; another British loan, 56,000,000 francs; the sum due to Brazil, 6,600,000 francs; and a loan negotiated in London in 1871, at six per cent., with a sinking fund of two per cent., amounting to 150,000,000 francs. The foreign debt, therefore, amounted to 269,850,000 francs, the old home debt reached 183,500,000 francs, while the home debt, contracted since 1871, amounted to 30,000,000 francs.


—A large part of the Argentine Confederation is yet uninhabited. This country is furrowed by a magnificent system of rivers, navigable for a long distance, which renders travel and intercourse very easy. Its animal, vegetable, and mineral wealth is immense. The present government has done much to favor immigration, but the condition of its finances does not allow it to keep all its promises. However, although the immigrants can count, as in all other countries, only upon their own resources, the tide of immigration continues unabated. According to the last census there are in the Argentine Confederation 211,994 foreigners, of whom 151,241 are in the province of Buenos Ayres; of the latter 43,663 are Americans from the United States, 71,442 are Italians, 34,060 Spaniards, 32,383 French, 10,709 English, 5,860 Swiss, 4,997 Germans, 1,966 Portuguese, 832 Austrians, and 5,860 natives of other countries In the city of Buenos Ayres there are 88,126 foreigners, of whom 41,957 are Italians, 13,998 Spaniards, 13,402 French 12,139 Germans, 542 Austrians, and 603 Americans.


—The confederation being wholly an agricultural country, it imports from Europe nearly all the wrought and manufactured goods consumed in the republic. The English have established an important bank in Buenos Ayres. Their exports to the Argentine Confederation amounted in value, in 1863, to 33,300,000 francs, and in 1870 to 57,000,000 francs. The existing lines of railways are also in their hands. In 1864 a new company was formed with a capital of 1,600,000 pounds sterling, to open a railroad between Rosario and Cordova, the capital of the province of the same name. Besides the grant of the line, the company, with a view to colonization, also secured a grant on both sides of their line of 900,000 English acres of land.


—France likewise carries on a pretty extensive trade with the country. Its imports into the states crossed by the Rio de la Plata amounted to 26,000,000 francs in 1863 and in 1870, and its exports from these states reached the figure of 31,000,000 francs in 1863, and 61,000,000 in 1870. These exports consisted almost entirely of skins, peltries, wool, and other animal products.


—In 1871 there were 985 kilometres of railway in operation, 453 kilometres in process of construction, and 3,625 kilometres granted or projected. There were 2,379 miles of telegraph lines, besides 3,895 in process of construction.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY; Nunez, An Account Historical, Political and Statistical of the Provinces of La Plata, London, 1825; Woodbin-Parish, Buenos Ayres and the Province of the Rio de la Plata, London, 1839; King, Twentyfour Years in the Argentine Republic, London, 1846; Mackinnon, Steam Warfare in the Parana, 2 vols., London, 1848; Mansfield, Paraguay, Brazil, and the Plate, Camb. 1856; Page, Report on the Exploration and Survey of the River La Plata and Tributaries, Washington, 1856; Andree, Buenos Ayres und die Argentin Provinzen, Leipsig, 1856; Balcarce, Buenos Ayres, Par., 1857; Mannequin, Les Provinces Argentines et Buenos Ayres, Paris, 1856; de Moussy, Description géographique et statistique de la Confederation Argentine, vols. 1-3 Paris, 1861-4; Burmeister, Reise durch die La Plata Staten, 2 vols., Halle, 1861; Dominquez, Historia Argentina, Buenos Ayres, 1861; Beck-Bernard, La République Argentine, Lausanne, 1867; Martin de Moussy, Rapport sur quelques products Argentins, Paris, 1867; Tschudi Reisenburch Südamerika, 5 vols., Liepsig, 1869.


Notes for this chapter

The following statistics relative to the Argentine Confederation are from the Statesman's Manual for 1881. The estimated sources of revenue and branches of expenditure for the year 1879 were as follows:

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The budget for 1880 estimated the revenue at 18,762,061 pesos, or £3,752,412, and the expenditure at 18,381,718 pesos, or £3,676,343. The interest on the public debt was calculated at 8,429,057 pesos, or £1,685,811, being 450,000 pesos, or £90,000 more than in 1879. The other principal items in the expenditure were estimated as follows: Internal administration, 3,452,000 pesos; department of justice, 1,326,000 pesos; war, 4,416,000 pesos; marine, 650,000 pesos. The customs duties on imports and exports were expected to yield, the first 18,000,000 pesos, and the latter 2,500,000 pesos. The probable railway receipts were set down at 650,000 pesos, and the receipts from the postal and telegraphic services at 450,000 pesos, in the budget for the year 1880.

—More than one-half of the total expenditure of the confederation is for the interest of the public debt, home and foreign. The internal liabilities were stated to amount to 64,855,000 pesos, or £12,971,000, at the end of 1873. The foreign debt, at the same date, amounted to £8,497,200; it was entirely raised in England. The foreign debt consists of three loans, negotiated in 1824, in 1868 and in 1871. Of the first there was outstanding, in 1879, the amount of £1,501,300, of the second £1,853,600, and of the third £5,142,300.

—The greater part of the foreign loan of 1868, to the amount of £1,930,000, was issued by Messrs Baring Brothers, London, at the price of 12½ for 100. It is to be repaid in twenty-one years. The most important of these foreign loans, that of 1871, amounting originally to £6,122,400, was granted by congress for the construction of railways and other public works. It was issued in London at the price of 88½, under promise to be redeemed by a sinking fund of 2 frac12; per cent. before the end of 1892.

—Besides the liabilities here enumerated, there was a floating debt in treasury bills, and comprising also loans made to the national government by the provincial bank, to the amount of 13,200,000 pesos, or £2,640,000, at the end of 1877.

—The above statement of the revenue, expenditure and debt of the Argentine Confederation refers to the national or general government, called upon to defray the expenses of the army and navy, of the foreign department, and to meet other obligations imposed upon it by the constitution. Each of the fourteen provinces, or states, of the confederation has a revenue of its own which is derived by the imposition of local taxes. Buenos Ayres, the most important state of the confederation, requires annually above £1,000,000 to meet the expenses of its government, law courts, chambers, militia, country schools, and other public institutions. The liabilities of all the states are internal, with the exception of Buenos Ayres, which contracted a foreign loan of £1,034,700 in June, 1870, in England. The loan, issued at 88, with interest of 6 per cent., was to be redeemed at par in 83 years.

—ARMY AND NAVY. The army of the confederation, now in course of reorganization, consisted, at the end of 1876, of 6,183 men, comprising 2,612 infantry, 3,189 cavalry, and 409 artillery. There were besides a militia and national guard, numbering 19,867 men. The army was commanded at the same date by a 3 generals, 138 colonels, 140 majors, and 674 other officers, being a total of 955 commissioned officers, or one to every 7 men, rank and file.

—The navy of the confederation consisted, at the end of the year 1876, of 26 steamers, as follows:

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The navy was commanded, at the end of 1876, by two admirals, and 74 other officers, and manned by 2,900 sailors and marines.

—The increase of population in recent years has been due chiefly to immigration. In each of the six years from 1871 to 1876 the immigration and emigration were as follows:

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The immigrants of 1877 numbered 28,708, and those of 1878 numbered 35,876. The great majority of the immigrants are natives of Italy and Spain.

—TRADE AND INDUSTRY. The imports into the confederation consist chiefly of manufactured cotton and woolen goods, machinery, coal and iron, while the exports are made up to the amount of more than one-half by wool and fallow. The foreign trade is chiefly with Great Britain.

—The commercial intercourse between the Argentine Confederation and the United Kingdom is shown in the subjoined tabular statement, which gives the total value of the exports of the confederation to Great Britain and Ireland, and of the imports of British and Irish produce and manufactures into the confederation in each of the five years from 1875 to 1879:

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The three staple articles of Argentine exports to the United Kingdom are skins, tallow and untanned hides. The value of the skins, mainly sheep, amounted to £145,245, of the tallow £110,042, and of the hides to £88,476, in 1872. The imports of British produce into the Argentine Confederation consist chiefly of cotton and woolen manufactures, and of iron. The value of the British cotton manufactures imported in the year 1879 was £770,020, that of woolens £298,-890, and that of iron, wrought and unwrought, £282,480. A network of railways, constructed in part at the expense of the state, has been in progress for several years. The following statement gives the length, in English miles, together with the proprietorship, of the various lines open for traffic, at the end of 1878:

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There were besides, at the end of 1878, railways of a total length of 1,368 miles sanctioned by the government, including an international line from Buenos Ayres to Chill, 894 miles in length.

—The total cost of construction of the lines open for traffic at the end of 1878, was £10,874,633, being an average cost of £7,700 per mile.

—At the end of June, 1879, there were 4,820 miles of telegraph lines in operation, 3,346 miles belonging to the state, and 1,474 miles to private companies. The total length of telegraph wires at the same date was 9,830 miles. The number of telegraphic dispatches was 214,714 in the year 1878.

—The postoffice, in the year 1878, carried 2,166,078 parcels and packets, and 5,045,573 letters.


End of Notes

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