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

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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PARAGUAY (Republic of).


PARAGUAY (Republic of). Paraguay was one of the numerous provinces included in the vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres, which comprised the Spanish-American possessions connected by the Rio de la Plata with the Atlantic ocean. Like all the other Spanish colonies of Central and South America, Paraguay, when the cry of independence resounded throughout the American continent, succeeded in shaking off the yoke of the mother country, almost without a struggle, in 1810. But this province, which had already had its separate history in the past, a strange history and one entirely different from that of any other state, also contributed to the revolution which it had just accomplished, features which contrasted in a most striking manner with those of the other republics of La Plata.


—A few words here about the past. Paraguay, like the greater part of South America, was conquered to the crown of Spain, about the middle of the sixteenth century, by the hardy adventurers who, on the heels of Columbus, Cortez, Pizarro and Americus Vespucius, had cast themselves upon the new world, as ardent in their endeavors to despoil and enslave the aborigines as to convert them to the Christian faith. But in these remote countries, in which relations with Europe were almost impossible, the religious element soon prevailed over the political element, and the powerful company of Jesus which, since 1588, had through its missions planted the germs of refinement of manners and community life in these countries, obtained, in 1611, the privilege of governing Paraguay, under the suzerainty paramount of Spain.


—This government of the Jesuits established a pure theocracy in Paraguay, and maintained it with firmness, moderation and success during more than a century and a half, until the year 1767, when the society was expelled under the ministry of the count of Aranda. We can not here undertake to defend theocratic government, as both experience and reason demonstrate that human societies develop only under the influence of ideas of progress and liberty. We must note, also, that individual action, under the enervating régime of their vast conventual organization, no longer had the energetic stimulus of the feeling of ownership or property. But, when we consider the savage state of the inhabitants, it is impossible to deny that the Jesuits worked a marvelous transformation during their prolonged domination. If they concerned themselves more about the souls than the intellects of the aborigines, if their religion itself was a sort of paganism, tending to divert the natives because external in form in almost everything, they nevertheless bent these large and lazy children to the law of labor; and it is a demonstrated fact that the agriculture of Paraguay was checked after the expulsion of the company, and that even to this day it has not regained its former development, so that numerous localities, formerly well cultivated, are now abandoned. What is specially worthy of note is, that the rule of the Jesuits left a strong impression upon their minds, and that respect for authority remained the heritage of the country when the declaration of its independence handed it over to the experiment of a republican form of government. Nor were its efforts in this direction long continued: while everywhere else, throughout Spanish America, the people sought their way amid endless commotions, the people of Paraguay found theirs without hesitation and without groping; or rather, as immutably disciplined disciples of the Jesuit fathers, the people of Paraguay allowed themselves to be led without a shadow of resistance, by the energetic man who took their destiny in his hands. With the aid of the patriots of Buenos Ayres, Paraguay had overthrown the Spanish domination in the month of May, 1811: a junta had been established, and the victorious insurgents gave the highest place to Doctor Francia, who had taken no part in these events, but whom they regarded as the only Paraguayan capable of directing public affairs.


—In fact, from the moment that Doctor Francia was accorded a place in the new republic, he became everything: he first presided over the junta, then when a congress had established, at his suggestion, a government with two consuls, he filled one of the consular chairs, which had been called by the names of Cæsar and Pompey. Soon after, in 1814, the chair of Pompey, which had been only an embarrassment, was removed from the hall of congress, and Francia was named dictator for three years. Finally, the assembly conferred perpetual dictatorship upon him. Thus was the republic of Paraguay governed until the year 1840, when the dictator, weighed down with years, but ever feared, respected and obeyed as a god, was called from the throne and from the world.


—Absolute power was not exercised during so many years without falling into excesses. Francia, who had obtained supreme power at the age when passions are extinct, and who had immediately renounced all taste for gaming and sensual indulgence, hitherto the sole object of his life, abandoned himself to the sombre passion of old men, vengeance. He was sure of the submission of the people, but he wished to inspire fear, and he cared little whether he was hated or not. Those who had known him best, those who, in the beginning of his career, had helped to bring him forward, and whose jealousy had been excited by his new greatness, were the more especial objects of his pitiless spite. Under pretext of conspiracy, his old friends were imprisoned, judged by him alone, and executed. His dictatorship was a veritable reign of terror, and even to-day scarcely any trace can be found of the bloody executions he prescribed, as his written orders were returned to him after the execution, and by him immediately destroyed.


—Francia had, we may add, no regard whatever for human life, and this is the odious feature of his dictatorship; but his cruelty, his strange and fantastic humor, did not constitute the entire man, for whose continued power there would be no pretext, even in Paraguay, if he were not possessed of certain striking public virtues and of extraordinary governing qualities. The old dictator, with a preconceived system, devoted himself to what he believed to be the interest of Paraguay. Much better informed than any of his countrymen, he took everything into his own hands, always knowing the end which he wished to attain. Without ministers, without counselors, without confidants, he had with him only a secretary of the lowest rank, called actuario, who recorded his wishes, without pretending to influence them. He was ever disinterested: he said that the state stood more in need of money than he did, and of the 9,000 piastres assigned him by congress he never took more than 3,000 piastres a year. Such being his own practice, Francia impressed upon his whole administration rules of austere probity which singularly contributed to render his name popular.


—The dictator's policy was very simple; it was the policy of isolation. He aimed at maintaining Paraguay free not only from all contact with Europe, but also and especially from all intercourse with the ancient provinces of the vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres. There was never a shadow of indecision in his conduct, in this regard. Despite all the attempts of the governments that succeeded one another in the Argentine Republic, he never would admit that the autonomy of Paraguay could be broken, and in the last years of his life he even refused to examine the pressing demands addressed to him on this subject by Rosas, who was then at the height of his power. This had been somewhat the policy of the Jesuits; but Francia, who was thoroughly imbued with the anti-Catholic ideas of the eighteenth century, had not the religious motive of his predecessors. He wished to defend himself against liberty, which, in fact, did not work wonders in the Argentine countries, where Rosas had inflicted upon the people a dictatorship more severe than that of Francia himself, without giving, in exchange, the profound peace which can scarcely be said to have been interrupted, during the thirty years of Francia's rule, by a few aggressions of the savages from the desert.


—The death of Francia, which occurred in 1840, left the work which he had created without a guide. But after him, in default of statesmen, there remained the people whom he had trained to obedience, and who, faithful to their tranquil habits, passed over the period of transition to a new government without any trouble. They remembered what had been done in 1810; a general constituent assembly was convoked, elected by universal suffrage, and composed of five hundred members. This assembly appointed two consuls to govern the republic, Don Carlos-Antonio Lopez, a wealthy landed proprietor, and Don Mariano-Roque Alonzo, commander-in-chief of the army, who had been called by the voice of the public to provide for the most urgent wants of the government, and for the convocation of the representatives. The powers given to the consuls were to expire at the end of three years; and superiority on the one hand, and deference on the other, were so firmly established, that the three years elapsed without the least collision. But in 1844, when the assembly met again, it happened, as in the time of Francia's administration, that one of the consuls absorbed the other. Antonio Lopez was named president for ten years.


—The presidency of Paraguay became a real dynasty. When his constitutional term had expired, Lopez wished to be succeeded by his son, Don Francisco-Salano Lopez, and the assembly very graciously lent itself to this notion. But Gen. Lopez declined the honor tendered him, and his refusal does not seem to have displeased the head of his family, who willingly allowed himself to be renominated. It was not until 1862, on the death of Antonio Lopez, that the congress finally called Don Francisco-Salano Lopez to the decennial presidency.


—The elevation to power of Don Carlos-Antonio Lopez had been of immense benefit to Paraguay, and his son, still more completely freed from the traditions of Francia, and more inclined to the civilization of Europe, which he had visited, promised to continue the benefit. Don Antonio had governed Paraguay with mildness, and his patriarchal justice was full of mercy. Of the foreign policy of Francia he had retained only his determined resolution to maintain the autonomy of Paraguay, and to preserve it against the attempted invasion of its turbulent neighbors. He would not at any cost return into the distracted pale of the old vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres, and exchange the order and prosperity which his fellow-countrymen enjoyed for the deceptive unity of the Argentine provinces, a unity fruitful only in endless civil strife. But what was his personal work, and remains his title to honor, is the intention he formed, and afterward accomplished, of demolishing the Chinese wall which Francia, after the example of the Jesuits, his predecessors, had built around Paraguay. He above all wished to open communications with Europe. Owing to the persistence with which he pressed the conclusion of treaties of navigation and commerce with France, England, the United States, Brazil, etc., the isolation of Paraguay was in part done away with in 1860. This isolation was due in great part to the very situation of Paraguay. It is a vast plateau of arable land, watered by mighty rivers and numerous streams, but elevated above all the other countries of South America, situated in the very centre of the continent, far from any sea, and has communication with the other states only by means of its two rivers, the Parana and the Paraguay. The fixed purpose of the two Lopezes was to secure the freedom of navigation of the two rivers. The second Lopez established it by a decree. He also had a railroad constructed. Very much inclined to the economic progress of Europe, whence he had returned decorated (an immense prestige in America), he had resolved to make of Paraguay a state of large resources, and economic works, after the fashion of France in 1852 and the succeeding years, whose political constitution he pretty closely copied. He acted as the ruler of a country of 901,640 square kilometres and 1,337,000 inhabitants. The revenues were increased to 12,450,000 francs, derived principally from the sale of the herb maté (Paraguay tea), from the domains (over 8,000,000 francs), and customs duties. Paraguay had no public debt, and its 4,500,000 francs of paper money were secured by a specie reserve of an equal amount. Its imports amounted to over 8,000,000 francs, and its exports to 7,000,000.


—Lopez's position as head of the state was a unique one; less than 7,000 square kilometres of this vast country belonged to private parties; the remainder was state domain administered by Lopez. All the farmers were therefore his tenants, so to speak; the manufactures which they produced were his; Paraguay was but an immense farm in his hands. Its means, however, were not in keeping with the greatness of its natural resources: these fertile plains were worked with the spade; the farmers who used the plow were few. There was no industry but that which was improvised for the necessities of war. The navigation of the Paraguay was at the mercy of Buenos Ayres, which commands the mouth of the river. The hostility of the Argentine Republic was surpassed by that of Brazil, which, for the ownership of vague and contested territory, drew the other states bordering on the Parana into a coalition which overcame Lopez.


—Brazil demanded the left bank of the Paraguay (1864), and the Argentine Republic the right bank, which is possessed by Uruguay. It was against Uruguay that the coalition was first formed. The two greedy governments, refusing the intervention of Italy, put in power, in opposition to the moderate (blanco) government which regularly governs Uruguay, the revolutionary (colorado) party, which invaded the republic. Lopez, who was friendly to the blancos, felt himself threatened, and while refusing an alliance with Uruguay, he protested against the invasion of the Brazilian squadron in lower Paraguay, Nov. 17, 1864. He declared war against Brazil, and invaded the Brazilian territory. Flores, the colorado, who, with his Indians and half-breeds, and the assistance of the allies, took possession of Montevideo, joined the coalition. This struggle of one against three, of a great military farm against three nations provided with every industrial and maritime resource, moved Europe. Lopez was on good terms with the governments of Europe, and also with the United States; but American intervention was rejected by Brazil. This empire, which evidently dragged the two republics of La Plata into the struggle against their will, pushed matters to extremes. Lopez, five times conquered, five times repaired his losses by a general conscription, comprising women and children. He was finally captured and killed. There are few examples in history of a war so desperate, and so complete a ruin (1865). The population of Paraguay fell from 1,330,000 to 500,000, and the revenues from 13,000,000 francs to 2,000,000.


—It seems that the conquerors wished partially to justify their ordinary, and in this case plausible, pretense of making war only in the interest of civilization and liberty; for, after having stipulated for the territorial acquisitions which they had long demanded, they left the Paraguayans free to manage their own home government. By the treaty of Suret, concluded with Brazil and the Argentine Republic May 1, 1865, and ratified June 20, 1870, Paraguay was allowed to retain only the territory situated between the Paraguay and Parana rivers. Hence the area of the republic is at present only about 172,500 square kilometres. A constitution, proclaimed Nov. 25, 1875, provided for a president for four years, and a legislative congress composed of a senate and a chamber of representatives. It is substantially a reproduction of the constitution of the United States.


—Examples of such efforts as Paraguay now made to repair so complete a catastrophe are as rare as the catastrophe itself. The government of Paraguay proposed the sale of the immense national property, which comprised almost its entire territory. But these lands had to be hypothecated to guarantee a loan of £25,000,000, which was effected in England. In 1862 there was no public debt: in 1870 it amounted, besides the English loan, to 1,180,000,000 francs. Disorganization was such that the government had lost the titles to its property; a special commission had to be appointed to enforce the rights of the state. The instruments of production and the products themselves were everywhere damaged, when they were not destroyed. The railroad had to be supplied anew with rolling stock, workshops and stations. They had to rebuild public edifices, reestablish tribunals, issue paper money, take measures for the representation of Paraguay at the international exposition of Cordova, and to encourage immigration. Slavery was abolished (1871), the standing army reduced, and foreigners admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights of natives, but not to high political and administrative functions.*17


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. L. A. Demersay, Histoire physique, économique et politique du Paraguay et des établissements des Jesuites, 2 vols., 8vo, Paris, 1865: Alfred Du Graty, La République de Paraguay, 8vo, Bruxelles, 1865; K. Johnston, Paraguay, (in "Geographical Magazine," July, 1875), London, 1875; A. J. Kennedy, La Plata, Brazil and Paraguay, during the War, 8vo, London, 1869; Chas. Mansfield, Paraguay, Brazil and the Plate, new edit., by the Rev. Charles Kingsley, 8vo, London, 1866; G. F. Masterman, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay, 8vo, London, 1869; M. G. and E. T. Mulhall, Handbook to the River Plate Republics, etc., and the Republics of Uruguay and Paraguay, 8vo, London, 1875; Commander Thomas G. Page, La Plata, the Argentine Confederation and Paraguay: Narrative of the Exploration of the Tributaries of the River La Plata and adjacent countries during the years 1853-6, under the orders of the United States Government, 8vo, New York, 1867; Charles Quentin, Le Paraguay, 8vo, Paris, 1866; George Thompson, The Paraguayan War, with sketches of the history of Paraguay and of the manners and customs of the people, 8vo, London, 1869; Joh. Jac. v. Tschudi, Reisen durch Suedamerika, 2 vols., 8vo, Leipzig, 1866; Chas. A. Washburn, The History of Paraguay, with notes of personal observations, 2 vols., 8vo, Boston and New York, 1871; Fregeiro, Diccionario geografico e historico del Rio de La Plata, etc., 1878.


Notes for this chapter

The ministry consists of five secretaries, presiding over the departments of the interior, of finance, of worship and justice, of war, and of foreign affairs. For administrative purposes the country is divided into seventy departments (departementos), governed by commanders.

—The public revenue of Paraguay is derived mainly from customs duties. In 1881 they yielded £82,548. In 1882 the expenditure was estimated to amount to £62,685, inclusive of interest on the debt, army expenses and other items.

—The republic had no debt until the war of 1865-70, which led to the raising of large internal loans. In 1871 and 1872, the government contracted two foreign loans, the first of the nominal amount of £1,000,000, and the second of £2,000,000, each bearing 8 per cent. interest. The loans, issued at the price of 80, were hypothecated on the public lands of Paraguay, valued at £19,380,000. Payment of both interest and sinking funds on the two loans ceased in 1874. No part of the previous payments, according to the report of the select parliamentary committee on foreign loans, 1875, "was provided for by the government of Paraguay, but the whole was derived from the proceeds of the loans themselves. Since these funds so set apart have been exhausted, no payment on account of interest or sinking fund has been made by the government of Paraguay." According to treaty stipulations arising out of the war of 1865-70, Paraguay is indebted to Brazil to the amount of 200,000,000 pesos, or £40,000,000; to the Argentine Confederation to the amount of 35,000,000 pesos, or £7,000,000, and to Uruguay to the amount of 1,000,000 pesos, or £200,000, being a total war debt of 236,000,000 pesos, or £47,200,000.

—The military force in the war against the united armies of Brazil Uruguay and the Argentine Republic, carried on during the years 1865-70, comprised 60,000 men, including 10,000 cavalry and 5,000 artillery. These troops were afterward altogether disbanded, and the entire force in 1877 consisted of 185 foot soldiers, forming the garrison of the capital. The permanent army is only 500 men.

—The frontiers of the republic, not well defined previous to the war of 1865-70—large territories considered part of it being claimed by Brazil, Bolivia and the Argentine Confederation—were fixed by a treaty of alliance between Brazil, the Argentine Confederation and Uruguay, signed May 1, 1865, to be between 22° and 27° south latitude, and 57° and 60° west longitude, of the meridian of Paris. By the final adjustment of the boundaries between Paraguay and neighboring states the area of the former is now estimated at 91,970 square miles.

—An enumeration made by the government in 1857 showed the population to number 1,337,439 souls.

—At the beginning of 1873 the number of inhabitants, according to an official return, was reduced to 221,079 souls, comprising 28,746 men and 106,254 women over fifteen years of age, with 86,079 children, the enormous disproportion between the sexes, as we has the vast decrease of the population, telling the results of the war. Since that date, another enumeration was taken, in 1876, the returns of which state the population at 293,844, being an increase of 72,765 in three years. About one-third of the inhabitants are living in the central province, containing the capital, the rest being spread thinly as settlers over the remaining portion of cultivated country. Nearly three-fourths of the entire territory is national property.

—The chief article of foreign commerce of Paraguay is the yerba mate, or Paraguayan tea, made of the leaves of the Ilex Paraguayensis tree, dried and reduced to powder, which are extensively consumed in all the states of South America. About 7,600,000 pounds of tobacco were exported in 1881. However, the total commerce of the republic is very small, the aggregate of imports and exports not amounting, on the average, to more than half a million sterling per annum. In 1881 the imports amounted to £255,600, and the exports to £362,400. The imports are derived to the extent of three-fourths from Great Britain, and one-fourth from France and Germany. The British imports are passing entirely through the territories of Brazil and the Argentine Confederation, and since the year 1862, when a few articles of machinery and furniture, valued at £1,764, arrived from England, there has been no direct intercourse between Paraguay and the United Kingdom.

—The only railway in Paraguay is a short line of forty-five English miles, from Asuncion, the capital, to Paraguay. There are no lines of telegraph but one at the side of this railway.—F. M.

Footnotes for PARDON.

End of Notes

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