EVEN so huge and conservative a country as Brazil could not start out upon the pathway of republican freedom without some unrest; but the political experience gained under a régime of limited monarchy had a steadying effect. Besides, the Revolution of 1889 had been effected by a combination of army officers and civilian enthusiasts who knew that the provinces were ready for a radical change in the form of government, but who were wise enough to make haste slowly. If a motto could mean anything, the adoption of the positivist device, “Order and Progress,” displayed on the national flag seemed a happy augury.
The constitution promulgated in 1891 set up a federal, union broadly similar to that of the United States, except that the powers of the general Government were somewhat more restricted. Qualifications for the suffrage were directly fixed in the fundamental law itself, but the educational tests imposed excluded the great bulk of the population from the right to vote. In the constitution, also, Church and State were declared absolutely separate, and civil marriage was prescribed.
Well adapted as the constitution was to the particular needs of Brazil, the Government erected under it had to contend awhile with political disturbances. Though conflicts occurred between the President and the Congress, between the federal authority and the States, and between the civil administration and naval and military officials, none were so constant, so prolonged, or so disastrous as in the Spanish American republics. Even when elected by the connivance of government officials, the chief magistrate governed in accordance with republican forms. Presidential power, in fact, was restrained both by the huge size of the country and by the spirit of local autonomy upheld by the States.
Ever since the war with Paraguay the financial credit of Brazil had been impaired. The chronic deficit in the treasury had been further increased by a serious lowering in the rate of exchange, which was due to an excessive issue of paper money. In order to save the nation from bankruptcy Manoel Ferraz de Campos Salles, a distinguished jurist, was commissioned to effect an adjustment with the British creditors. As a result of his negotiations a “funding loan” was obtained, in return for which an equivalent amount in paper money was to be turned over for cancellation at a fixed rate of exchange. Under this arrangement depreciation ceased for awhile and the financial outlook became brighter.
The election of Campos Salles to the presidency in 1898, as a reward for his success, was accompanied by the rise of definite political parties. Among them the Radicals or Progressists favored a policy of centralization under military auspices and exhibited certain antiforeign tendencies. The Moderates or Republicans, on the contrary, with Campos Salles as their candidate, declared for the existing constitution and advocated a gradual adoption of such reforms as reason and time might suggest. When the latter party won the election, confidence in the stability of Brazil returned.
As if Uruguay had not already suffered enough from internal discords, two more serious conflicts demonstrated once again that this little country, in which political power had been held substantially by one party alone since 1865, could not hope for permanent peace until either the excluded and apparently irreconcilable party had been finally and utterly crushed, or, far better still, until the two factions could manage to agree upon some satisfactory arrangement for rotation in office. The struggle of 1897 ended in the assassination of the President and in a division of the republic into two practically separate areas, one ruled by the Colorados at Montevideo, the other by the Blancos. A renewal of civil war in 1904 seemed altogether preferable to an indefinite continuance of this dualism in government, even at the risk of friction with Argentina, which was charged with not having observed strict neutrality. This second struggle came to a close with the death of the insurgent leader; but it cost the lives of thousands and did irreparable damage to the commerce and industry of the country.
Uruguay then enjoyed a respite from party upheavals until 1910, when José Batlle, the able, resolute, and radical-minded head of the Colorados, announced that he would be a candidate for the presidency. As he had held the office before and had never ceased to wield a strong personal influence over the administration of his successor, the Blancos decided that now was the time to attempt once more to oust their opponents from the control which they had monopolized for half a century. Accusing the Government of an unconstitutional centralization of power in the executive, of preventing free elections, and of crippling the pastoral industries of the country, they started a revolt, which ran a brief course. Batlle proved himself equal to the situation and quickly suppressed the insurrection. Though he did make a wide use of his authority, the President refrained from indulging in political persecution and allowed the press all the liberty it desired in so far as was consistent with the law. It was under his direction that Uruguay entered upon a remarkable series of experiments in the nationalization of business enterprises. Further, more or less at the suggestion of Batlle, a new constitution was ratified by popular vote in 1917. It provided for a division of the executive power between the President and a National Council of Administration, forbade the election of administrative and military officials to the Congress, granted to that body a considerable increase of power, and enlarged the facilities for local self-government. In addition, it established the principle of minority representation and of secrecy of the ballot, permitted the Congress to extend the right of suffrage to women, and dissolved the union between Church and State. If the terms of the new instrument are faithfully observed, the old struggle between Blancos and Colorados will have been brought definitely to a close.
Paraguay lapsed after 1898 into the earlier sins of Spanish America. Upon a comparatively placid presidential régime followed a series of barrack uprisings or attacks by Congress on the executive. The constitution became a farce. No longer, to be sure, an abode of Arcadian seclusion as in colonial times, or a sort of territorial cobweb from the center of which a spiderlike Francia hung motionless or darted upon his hapless prey, or even a battle ground on which fanatical warriors might fight and die at the behest of a savage Lopez, Paraguay now took on the aspect of an arena in which petty political gamecocks might try out their spurs. Happily, the opposing parties spent their energies in high words and vehement gestures rather than in blows and bloodshed. The credit of the country sank lower and lower until its gold stood at a premium of several hundred per cent compared with paper money.
European bankers had begun to view the financial future of Argentina also with great alarm. In 1890 the mad careering of private speculation and public expenditure along the roseate pathway of limitless credit reached a veritable “crisis of progress.” A frightful panic ensued. Paper money fell to less than a quarter of its former value in gold. Many a firm became bankrupt, and many a fortune shriveled. As is usual in such cases, the Government had to shoulder the blame. A four-day revolution broke out in Buenos Aires, and the President became the scapegoat; but the panic went on, nevertheless, until gold stood at nearly five to one. Most of the banks suspended payment; the national debt underwent a huge increase; and immigration practically ceased.
By 1895, however, the country had more or less resumed its normal condition. A new census showed that the population had risen to four million, about a sixth of whom resided in the capital. The importance which agriculture had attained was attested by the establishment of a separate ministry in the presidential cabinet. Industry, too, made such rapid strides at this time that organized labor began to take a hand in politics. The short-lived “revolution” of 1905, for example, was not primarily the work of politicians but of strikers organized into a workingmen’s federation.
For three months civil guarantees were suspended, and by a so-called ” law of residence, ” enacted some years before and now put into effect, the Government was authorized to expel summarily any foreigner guilty of fomenting strikes or of disturbing public order in any other fashion.
Political agitation soon assumed a new form. Since the Autonomist-National party had been in control for thirty years or more, it seemed to the Civic-Nationalists, now known as Republicans, to the Autonomists proper, and to various other factions, that they ought to do something to break the hold of that powerful organization. Accordingly in 1906 the President, supported by a coalition of these factions, started what was termed an “upward-downward revolution” in other words, a series of interventions by which local governors and members of legislatures suspected of Autonomist-National leanings were to be replaced by individuals who enjoyed the confidence of the Administration. Pretexts for such action were not hard to find under the terms of the constitution; but their political interests suffered so much in the effort that the promoters had to abandon it.
Owing to persistent obstruction on the part of Congress, which took the form of a refusal either to sanction his appointments or to approve the budget, the President suspended the sessions of that body in 1908 and decreed a continuance of the estimates for the preceding year. The antagonism between the chief executive and the legislature became so violent that, if his opponents had not been split up into factions, civil war might have ensued in Argentina.
To remedy a situation made worse by the absence usual in most of the Hispanic republics of a secret ballot and by the refusal of political malcontents to take part in elections, voting was made both obligatory and secret in 1911, and the principle of minority representation was introduced. Legislation of this sort was designed to check bribery and intimidation and to enable the radical-minded to do their duty at the polls. Its effect was shown five years later, when the secret ballot was used substantially for the first time. The radicals won both the presidency and a majority in the Congress.
One of the secrets of the prosperity of Argentina, as of Brazil, in recent years has been its abstention from warlike ventures beyond its borders and its endeavor to adjust boundary conflicts by arbitration. Even when, its attitude toward its huge neighbor had become embittered in consequence of a boundary decision rendered by the President of the United States in 1895, it abated none of its enthusiasm for the principle of a peaceful settlement of international disputes. Four years later, in a treaty with Uruguay, the so-called ” Argentine Formula” appeared. To quote its language: “The contracting parties agree to submit to arbitration all questions of any nature which may arise between them, provided they do not affect provisions of the constitution of either state, and cannot be adjusted by direct negotiation.” This Formula was soon put to the test in a serious dispute with Chile.
In the Treaty of 1881, in partitioning Patagonia, the crest of the Andes had been assumed to be the true continental watershed between the Atlantic and the Pacific and hence was made the boundary line between Argentina and Chile. The entire Atlantic coast was to belong to Argentina, the Pacific coast to Chile; the island of Tierra del Fuego was to be divided between them. At the same time the Strait of Magellan was declared a neutral waterway, open to the ships of all nations. Ere long, however, it was ascertained that the crest of the Andes did not actually coincide with the continental divide. Thereupon Argentina insisted that the boundary line should be made to run along the crest, while Chile demanded that it be traced along the watershed. Since the mountainous area concerned was of little value, the question at bottom was simply one of power and prestige between rival states.
As the dispute waxed warmer, a noisy press and populace clamored for war. The Governments of the two nations spent large sums in increasing their armaments; and Argentina, in imitation of its western neighbor, made military service compulsory. But, as the conviction gradually spread that a struggle would leave the victor as prostrate as the vanquished, wiser counsels prevailed. In 1899, accordingly, the matter was referred to the King of Great Britain for decision. Though the award was a compromise, Chile was the actual gainer in territory.
By their treaties of 1902 both republics declared their intention to uphold the principle of arbitration and to refrain from interfering in each other’s affairs along their respective coasts. They also agreed upon a limitation of armaments the sole example on record of a realization of the purpose of the First Hague Conference. To commemorate still further their international accord, in 1904 they erected on the summit of the Uspallata Pass, over which San Martin had crossed with his army of liberation in 1817, a bronze statue of Christ the Redeemer. There, amid the snow-capped peaks of the giant Andes, one may read inscribed upon the pedestal: “Sooner shall these mountains crumble to dust than Argentinos and Chileans break the peace which at the feet of Christ the Redeemer they have sworn to maintain!” Nor has the peace been broken.
Though hostilities with Argentina had thus been averted, Chile had experienced within its own frontiers the most serious revolution it had known in. sixty years. The struggle was not one of partisan chieftains or political groups but a genuine contest to determine which of two theories of government should prevail the presidential or the parliamentary, a presidential autocracy with the spread of real democracy or a congressional oligarchy based on the existing order. The sincerity and public spirit of both contestants helped to lend dignity to the conflict.
José Manuel Balmaceda, a man of marked ability, who became President in 1886, had devoted much of his political life to urging an enlargement of the executive power, a greater freedom to municipalities in the management of their local affairs, and a broadening of the suffrage. He had even advocated a separation of Church and State. Most of these proposals so conservative a land as Chile was not prepared to accept. Though civil marriage was authorized and ecclesiastical influence was lessened in other respects, the Church stood firm. During his administration Balmaceda introduced many reforms, both material and educational. He gave a great impetus to the construction of public works, enhanced the national credit by a favorable conversion of the public debt, fostered immigration, and devoted especial attention to the establishment of secondary schools.
Excellent as the administration of Balmaceda had been in other respects, he nevertheless failed to combine the liberal factions into a party willing to support the plans of reform which he had steadily favored. The parliamentary system made Cabinets altogether unstable, as political groups in the lower house of the Congress alternately cohered and fell apart. This defect, Balmaceda thought, should be corrected by making the members of his official family independent of the legislative branch. The Council of State, a somewhat anomalous body placed between the President and Cabinet on the one side and the Congress on the other, was an additional obstruction to a smooth-running administration. For it he would substitute a tribunal charged with the duty of resolving conflicts between the two chief branches of government. Balmaceda believed, also, that greater liberty should be given to the press and that existing taxes should be altered as rarely as possible. On its side, the Congress felt that the President was trying to establish a dictatorship and to replace the unitary system by a federal union, the probable weakness of which would enable him to retain his power more securely.
Toward the close of his term in January, 1891, when the Liberals declined to support his candidate for the presidency, Balmaceda, furious at the opposition which he had encountered, took matters into his own hands. Since the Congress refused to pass the appropriation bills, he declared that body dissolved and proceeded to levy the taxes by decree. To this arbitrary and altogether unconstitutional performance the Congress retorted by declaring the President deposed. Civil war broke out forthwith, and a strange spectacle presented itself. The two chief cities, Santiago and Valparaiso, and most of the army backed Balmaceda, whereas the country districts, especially in the north, and practically all the navy upheld the Congress.
These were, indeed, dark days for Chile. During a struggle of about eight months the nation suffered more than it had done in years of warfare with Peru and Bolivia. Though the bulk of the army stood by Balmaceda, the Congress was able to raise and organize a much stronger fighting force under a Prussian drillmaster. The tide of battle turned; Santiago and Valparaiso capitulated; and the presidential cause was lost. Balmaceda, who had taken refuge in the Argentina legation, committed suicide. But the Balmacedists, who were included in a general amnesty; still maintained themselves as a party to advocate in a peaceful fashion the principles of their fallen leader.
Chile had its reputation for stability well tested in 1910 when the executive changed four times without the slightest political disturbance. According to the constitution, the officer who takes the place of the President in case of the latter ‘s death or disability, though vested with full authority, has the title of Vice President only. It so happened that after the death of the President two members of the Cabinet in succession held the vice presidency, and they were followed by the chief magistrate, who was duly elected and installed at the close of the year. In 1915, for the first time since their leader had committed suicide, one of the followers of Balmaceda was chosen President by a strange coalition of Liberal-Democrats, or Balmacedists, Conservatives, and Nationalists, over the candidate of the Radicals, Liberals, and Democrats. The maintenance of the parliamentary system, however, continued to produce frequent alterations in the personnel of the Cabinet.
In its foreign relations, apart from the adjustment reached with Argentina, Chile managed to settle the difficulties with Bolivia arising out of the War of the Pacific. By the terms of treaties concluded in 1895 and 1905, the region tentatively transferred by the armistice of 1884 was ceded out right to Chile in return for a seaport and a narrow right of way to it through the former Peruvian province of Tarapacâ. With Peru, Chile was not so fortunate. Though the tension over the ultimate disposal of the Tacna and Arica question was somewhat reduced, it was far from being removed. Chile absolutely refused to submit the matter to arbitration, on the ground that such a procedure could not properly be applied to a question arising out of a war that had taken place so many years before. Chile did not wish to give the region up, lest by so doing it might expose Tarapacâ to a possible attack from Peru. The investment of large amounts of foreign capital in the exploitation of the deposits of nitrate of soda had made that province economically very valuable, and the export tax levied on the product was the chief source of the national revenue. These were all potent reasons why Chile wanted to keep its hold on Tacna and Arica. Besides, possession was nine points in the law!
On the other hand, the original plan of having the question decided by a vote of the inhabitants of the provinces concerned was not carried into effect, partly because both claimants cherished a conviction that whichever lost the election would deny its validity, and partly because they could not agree upon the precise method of holding it. Chile suggested that the international commission which was selected to take charge of the plebiscite, and which was composed of a Chilean, a Peruvian, and a neutral, should be presided over by the Chilean member as representative of the country actually in possession, whereas Peru insisted that the neutral should act as chairman. Chile proposed also that Chileans, Peruvians, and foreigners resident in the area six months before the date of the elections should vote, provided that they had the right to do so under the terms of the constitutions of both states. Peru, on its part, objected to the length of residence, and wished to limit carefully the number of Chilean voters, to exclude foreigners altogether from the election, and to disregard qualifications for the suffrage which required an ability to read and write. Both countries, moreover, appeared to have a lurking suspicion that in any event the other would try to secure a majority at the polls by supplying a requisite number of voters drawn from their respective citizenry who were not ordinarily resident in Tacna and Arica! Unable to overcome the deadlock, Chile and Peru agreed in 1913 to postpone the settlement for twenty years longer. At the expiration of this period, when Chile would have held the provinces for half a century, the question should be finally adjusted on bases mutually satisfactory. Officially amicable relations were then restored.
While the political situation in Bolivia remained stable, so much could not be said of that in Peru and Ecuador. If the troubles in the former were more or less military, a persistence of the conflict between clericals and radicals characterized the commotions in the latter, because of certain liberal provisions in the Constitution of 1907. Peru, on the other hand, in 1915 guaranteed its people the enjoyment of religious liberty.
Next to the Tacna and Arica question, the dubious boundaries of Ecuador constituted the most serious international problem in South America. The so-called Oriente region, lying east of the Andes and claimed by Peru, Brazil, and Colombia, appeared differently on different maps, according as one claimant nation or another set forth its own case. Had all three been satisfied, nothing would have been left of Ecuador but the strip between the Andes and the Pacific coast, including the cities of Quito and Guayaquil. The Ecuadorians, therefore, were bitterly sensitive on the subject.
Protracted negotiations over the boundaries became alike tedious and listless. But the moment that the respective diplomats had agreed upon some knotty point, the Congress of one litigant or another was almost sure to reject the decision and start the controversy all over again. Even reference of the matter to the arbitral judgment of European monarchs produced, so far as Ecuador and Peru were concerned, riotous attacks upon the Peruvian legation and consulates, charges and countercharges of invasion of each other’s territory, and the suspension of diplomatic relations. Though the United States, Argentina, and Brazil had interposed to ward off an armed conflict between the two republics and, in 1911, had urged that the dispute be submitted to the Hague Tribunal, nothing would induce Ecuador to comply.
Colombia was even more unfortunate than its southern neighbor, for in addition to political convulsions it suffered financial disaster and an actual deprivation of territory. Struggles among factions, official influence at the elections, dictatorships, and fighting between the departments and the national Government plunged the country, in 1899, into the worst civil war it had known for many a day. Paper money, issued in unlimited amounts and given a forced circulation, made the distress still more acute. Then came the hardest blow of all. Since 1830 Panama, as province or state, had tried many times to secede from Colombia. In 1903 the opportunity it sought became altogether favorable. The parent nation, just beginning to recover from the disasters of civil strife, would probably be unable to prevent a new attempt at withdrawal. The people of Panama, of course, knew how eager the United States was to acquire the region of the proposed Canal Zone, since it had failed to win it by negotiation with Colombia. Accordingly, if they were to start a “revolution,” they had reason to believe that it would not lack support or at least, connivance from that quarter.
On the 3d of November the projected “revolution” occurred, on schedule time, and the United States recognized the independence of the “Republic of Panama” three days later! In return for a guarantee of independence, however, the United States stipulated, in the convention concluded on the 18th of November, that, besides authority to enforce sanitary regulations in the Canal Zone, it should also have the right of intervention to maintain order in the republic itself. More than once, indeed, after Panama adopted its constitution in 1904, elections threatened to become tumultuous; whereupon the United States saw to it that they passed off quietly.
Having no wish to flout their huge neighbor to the northward, the Hispanic nations at large hastened to acknowledge the independence of the new republic, despite the indignation that prevailed in press and public over what was regarded as an act of despoilment. In view of the resentful attitude of Colombia and mindful also of the opinion of many Americans that a gross injustice had been committed, the United States eventually offered terms of settlement. It agreed to express regret for the ill feeling between the two countries which had arisen out of the Panama incident, provided that such expression were made mutual; and, as a species of indemnity, it agreed to pay for canal rights to be acquired in Colombian territory and for the lease of certain islands as naval stations. But neither the terms nor the amount of the compensation proved acceptable. Instead, Colombia urged that the whole matter be referred to the judgment of the tribunal at The Hague.
Alluding to the use made of the liberties won in the struggle for emancipation from Spain by the native land of Miranda, Bolivar, and Sucre, on the part of the country which had been in the vanguard of the fight for freedom from a foreign yoke, a writer of Venezuela once declared that it had not elected legally a single President; had not put democratic ideas or institutions into practice; had lived wholly under dictatorships; had neglected public instruction and had set up a large number of oppressive commercial monopolies, including the navigation of rivers, the coastwise trade, the pearl fisheries, and the sale of tobacco, salt, sugar, liquor, matches, ex-plosives, butter, grease, cement, shoes, meat, and flour. Exaggerated as the indictment is and applicable also, though in less degree, to some of the other backward countries of Hispanic America, it contains unfortunately a large measure of truth. Indeed, so far as Venezuela itself is concerned, this critic might have added that every time a “restorer,” “regenerator,” or “liberator” succumbed there, the old craze for federalism again broke out and menaced the nation with piecemeal destruction. Obedient, furthermore, to the whims of a presidential despot, Venezuela perpetrated more outrages on foreigners and created more international friction after 1899 than any other land in Spanish America had ever done.
While the formidable Guzmán Blanco was still alive, the various Presidents acted cautiously. No sooner had he passed away than disorder broke out afresh. Since a new dictator thought he needed a longer term of office and divers other administrative advantages, a constitution incorporating them was framed and published in the due and customary manner. This had hardly gone into operation when, in 1895, a contest arose with Great Britain about the boundaries between Venezuela and British Guiana. Under pressure from the United States, however, the matter was referred to arbitration, and Venezuela came out substantially the loser.
In 1899 there appeared on the scene a personage compared with whom Zelaya was the merest novice in the art of making trouble. This was Cipriano Castro, the greatest international nuisance of the early twentieth century. A rude, arrogant, fearless, energetic, capricious mountaineer and cattleman, he regarded foreigners no less than his own country folk, it would seem, as objects for his particular scorn, displeasure, exploitation, or amusement, as the case might be. He was greatly angered by the way in which foreigners in dispute with local officials avoided a resort to Venezuelan courts and still worse rejected their decisions and appealed instead to their diplomatic representatives for protection. He declared such a procedure to be an affront to the national dignity. Yet foreigners were usually correct in affirming that judges appointed by an arbitrary President were little more than figureheads, incapable of dispensing justice, even were they so inclined.
Jealous not only of his personal prestige but of what he imagined, or pretended to imagine, were the rights of a small nation, Castro tried through-out to portray the situation in such a light as to induce the other Hispanic republics also to view foreign interference as a dire peril to their own independence and sovereignty; and he further endeavored to involve the United States in a struggle with European powers as a means possibly of testing the efficacy of the Monroe Doctrine or of laying bare before the world the evil nature of American imperialistic designs.
By the year 1901, in which Venezuela adopted another constitution, the revolutionary disturbances had materially diminished the revenues from the customs. Furthermore Castro’s regulations exacting military service of all males between fourteen and sixty years of age had filled the prisons to overflowing. Many foreigners who had suffered in consequence resorted to measures of self-defense among them representatives of certain American and British asphalt companies which were working concessions granted by Castro’s predecessors. Though familiar with what commonly happens to those who handle pitch, they had not scrupled to aid some of Castro’s enemies. Castro forthwith imposed on them enormous fines which amounted practically to a confiscation of their rights.
While the United States and Great Britain were expostulating over this behavior of the despot, France broke off diplomatic relations with Venezuela because of Castro’s refusal either to pay or to submit to arbitration certain claims which had originated in previous revolutions. Germany, aggrieved in similar fashion, contemplated a seizure of the customs until its demands for redress were satisfied. And then came Italy with like causes of complaint. As if these complications were not sufficient, Venezuela came to blows with Colombia.
As the foreign pressure on Castro steadily increased, Luis Maria Drago, the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs, formulated in 1902 the doctrine with which his name has been associated. It stated in substance that force should never be employed between nations for the collection of contractual debts. Encouraged by this apparent token of support from a sister republic, Castro defied his array of foreign adversaries more vigorously than ever, declaring that he might find it needful to invade the United States, by way of New Orleans, to teach it the lesson it deserved ! But when he attempted, in the following year, to close the ports of Venezuela as a means of bringing his native antagonists to terms, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy seized his warships, blockaded the coast, and bombarded some of his forts. Thereupon the United States interposed with a suggestion that the dispute be laid before the Hague Tribunal. AIthough Castro yielded, he did not fail to have a clause inserted in a new “constitution ” requiring foreigners who might wish to enter the republic to show certificates of good character from the Governments of their respective countries.
These incidents gave much food for thought to Castro as well as to his soberer compatriots. The European powers had displayed an apparent willingness to have the United States, if it chose to do so, assume the rôle of a New World policeman and financial guarantor. Were it to assume these duties, backward republics in the Caribbean and its vicinity were likely to have their affairs, internal as well as external, supervised by the big nation in order to ward off European intervention. At this moment, indeed, the United States was intervening in Panama. The prospect aroused in many Hispanic countries the fear of a “Yankee peril” greater even than that emanating from Europe. Instead of being a kindly and disinterested protector of small neighbors, the “Colossus of the North” appeared rather to resemble a political and commercial ogre bent upon swallowing them to satisfy “manifest destiny.”
Having succeeded in putting around his head an aureole of local popularity, Castro in 1905 picked a new set of partially justified quarrels with the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Colombia, and even with the Netherlands, arising out of the depredations of revolutionists; but an armed menace from the United States induced him to desist from his plans. He contented himself accordingly with issuing a decree of amnesty for all political offenders except the leaders. When “re-elected,” he carried his magnanimity so far as to resign awhile in favor of the Vice President, stating that, if his retirement were to bring peace and concord, he would make it permanent. But as he saw to it that his temporary withdrawal should not have this happy result, he came back again to his former position a few months later.
Venting his wrath upon the Netherlands because its minister had reported to his Government an out break of cholera at La Guaira, the chief seaport of Venezuela, the dictator laid an embargo on Dutch commerce, seized its ships, and denounced the Dutch for their alleged failure to check filibustering from their islands off the coast. When the minister protested, Castro expelled him. Thereupon the Nether “ands instituted a blockade of the Venezuelan ports.
What might have happened if Castro had remained much longer in charge, may be guessed. Toward the close of 1908, however, he departed for Europe to undergo a course of medical treatment. Hardly had he left Venezuelan shores when Juan Vicente Gómez, the able, astute, and vigorous Vice President, managed to secure his own election to the presidency and an immediate recognition from foreign states. Under his direction all of the international tangles of Venezuela were straightened out.
In 1914 the country adopted its eleventh constitution and thereby lengthened the presidential term to seven years, shortened that of members of the lower house of the Congress to four, determined definitely the number of States in the union, altered the apportionment of their congressional representation, and enlarged the powers of the federal Government or, rather, those of its executive branch ! In 1914 Gomez resigned Office in favor of the Vice-President, and secured an appointment instead as commander in chief of the army. This procedure was promptly denounced as a trick to evade the constitutional prohibition of two consecutive terms. A year later he was unanimously elected President, though he never formally took the oath of office.
Whatever may be thought of the political ways and means of this new Guzmán Blanco to maintain himself as a power behind or on the presidential throne, Gomez gave Venezuela an administration of a sort very different from that of his immediate predecessor. He suppressed various government monopolies, removed other obstacles to the material advancement of the country, and reduced the national debt. He did much also to improve the sanitary conditions at La Guaira, and he promoted education, especially the teaching of foreign languages.
Gomez nevertheless had to keep a watchful eye on the partisans of Castro, who broke out in revolt whenever they had an opportunity. The United States, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Cuba, and Colombia eyed the movements of the ex-dictator nervously, as European powers long ago were wont to do in the case of a certain Man of Destiny, and barred him out of both their possessions and Venezuela itself. International patience, never Job-like, had been too sorely vexed to permit his return. Nevertheless, after the manner of the ancient persecutor of the Biblical martyr, Castro did not refrain from going to and fro in the earth. In fact he still “walketh about” seeking to recover his hold upon Venezuela!