South America - A Popular History - H. Butterworth

The Pan-American Congress


The Panama Congress, although a partial failure, suggested the destiny of the Pan-American republics. The spirit of that congress was unity, peace and progress. "Adelante!"  ("Onward!") became the order of the march of the South American states. The genius of Bolivar caused the new republics of the Sun to see their future possibilities and opportunities. The lands of the palm, of the Cordilleras and the Southern Cross could become new empires of the world. The peoples of the outworn tyrannies of the East, the earliest nations of the world, would come to them.

Five years after the Panama Congress Mexico sent out an invitation to the Southern republics to meet in a new congress at Tacubaya, Panama or Lima. The plan failed. In 1838 Mexico renewed the invitation. The favorite scheme of Bolivar had taken hold of the hearts of the new republics. The Liberator, though dead, lived in this spirit that he had inspired. Mexico made this second appeal with these words, than which nothing could be more noble: "We desire the union and alliance of the new states for the purposes of defense against foreign invasion, and the acceptance of friendly mediation of the neutral states for the settlement of all disagreements and disputes, of whatever nature, which might happen to arise between sister republics." The plan again did not take form, though the spirit of it lived and grew.

In 1840 New Granada joined with Mexico in inviting the South American republics to a conference, and suggested the historic Tacubaya as the place of the meeting. The suggestion did not meet with a favorable response.

In 1847 the republics of Bolivia, Chili, Ecuador, New Granada and Peru decided to hold a congress at Lima. They invited the other republics to join them. The invitation was also extended to the United States. The congress met at Lima, on December I1, '1847. It held nineteen meetings. The result was a treaty of confederation. The United States was then at war with Mexico, so these republics did not take part in the conference. At this congress there was brought forward a secret plan of Spain to form Cuba, Porto Rico and Spanish Santo Domingo into a monarchy for the purpose of re-conquering New Granada and the ancient possessions of the Peninsula on the Spanish Main.

The expedition of General Walker in Nicaragua caused a new alarm, and another continental congress assembled, this time at the city of Santiago, on September 15, 1856. Here again the great plans of Bolivar for the purpose of continental unity and peace were discussed.

In 1864 the government of Peru issued an invitation to all of the Spanish republics to meet in congress at Lima. This congress met there on November 14, 1864. It was opened by the celebration of the birth of Simon Bolivar.

In 1881 Colombia issued a call for a congress to be held at Panama. This was to bring together the representatives of all the republics of the western world. The United States was invited to be represented. The purpose of this congress was to unite the republics of America against foreign dictation and to promote among them fraternity, progress and peace. The Argentine Republic, in accepting the invitation, said: "Peace is certainly most necessary for Spanish America. Europe no longer entertains thoughts of conquests or recoveries. These were abandoned in view of our unconquerable attitude." The proposed congress was never held, owing to the disturbed relations into which the republics were unexpectedly thrown.

But the soul of the movement lived, and another congress was convoked, to meet at the city of Washington, in 1882. The call for this congress came from our own land. Mr. Blaine, from the Department of State, issued a manifesto in which are the following notable words: "For some years a growing disposition has been manifested by certain states in Central and South America to refer disputes affecting grave questions of international relationship and boundaries to arbitration rather than the sword. It has been on several occasions a source of profound satisfaction to the government of the United States to see that this country is in a measure looked up to by all the American powers as their friend and mediator. The existence of this growing tendency convinces the President that the time is ripe for a proposal that shall enlist the good will and active cooperation of all the states of the western hemisphere, both north and south, in the interests of humanity, for the common weal of the nations." Internal dissensions in South America caused this proposed congress to be postponed till 1890.

Thus the principles of Bolivar grew. The Panama Congress, one of the first ever held in the interests of humanity, did not fail. It was to find expression in the International American Conference of 1889-90.

Before considering the proceedings of this congress I shall describe the growth of independence among the South American republics.

The word "Chili," spelled also "Chile," is probably derived from the Quichua chiri, cold. The plains and gardens of the flowery empire lie under the snow. Aconcagua rises into the silence of eternal wonder, 22,427 feet high. The historic mountain of Maypo is 17,664 feet high. The Uspallata Pass, from Argentina to Chili, is 13,125 feet above the sea-level. Chili is a land of fruit, of pastures and waving palms, but one looks from the vegetation to mountain-crowns of snow. These mountains begin in the wild Patagonian seas and sink at Darien, to rise again in the Central American Andes.

The Inca Yupanqui led his army across the desert of Atacama to conquer a part of Chili. The Peruvian dominion of Chili ceased with the death of Atahualpa, 1533 In the latter days of the two republics Chili has come to dominate over the rich deserts of Peru.

After the war of liberation of Chili under San Martin, Chili became the seat of the naval operations on the west coast, under the lead of Lord Cochrane. The national government began in 1817, under the dictatorship of General O'Higgins, who held the office until 1823. He was succeeded by General Freire. The government by dictators lasted until 1828, when, under the administration of General Pinto, a constitution was promulgated. On May 25, 1833, the present constitution was promulgated. Under it a succession of presidents has governed. These presidents have for the most part been able men, with noble aspirations for the progress of the country. The Araucanian race to-day is not as large as the European and North American colonists.

Chilean Volcano


Chili has a present area of 300,000 square miles. The population, after the estimate of 1889, is 3,413,576. The foreign population is something more than 80,000, of whom about 35,000 are Peruvians. The Germans number about 7000, and the English upward of 5000. The foreign colonization south of Concepcion is almost wholly German.

By the constitution of 1833, the sovereign power is declared to lie in the people. The legislative power is administered by a national Congress consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. The Chamber of Deputies is composed of one hundred or more members. They hold office for three years. The President is the executive, and the supreme head of the nation. He is elected for five years, after which he may not be re-elected until the expiration of another five years.

The present constitution of Chili, framed under the influence of Portales in 1833, may be considered to be the beginning of the new progress. The railway system has aided this progress, as the building of roads had done in no other land. Religious toleration followed, and education came in through this open door. The population increased as the world began to see the opulent valleys of the mountains whose eternal whiteness crowns the western world. Artisans and agriculturists, the true army of the future, came. In 1843 Chili had 1,083,801 inhabitants; in 1854, 1,819,222; in 1865, 2,075,971. Then the mining industry began, and the unemployed world flocked toward the long shining strip of land on the calm Pacific. Valparaiso became a city of 75,000, Santiago of 175,000 inhabitants. At the beginning of the year 1879, Chili had more than 1000 miles of railroads, and 15,370 miles of carriage-roads. Her rainless territory, the nitrate region, became a great source of wealth. This district, now the principal source of supply of artificial plant-food, has a littoral line of some 400 miles. The money value of this region cannot be computed. The world gets its supply of nitrate and iodines there.

In 1884 Albert G. Browne, Jr., opened an address before the American Geographical Society with the following words: "I will apply the evening you have invited me to occupy to some considerations of the growing power of the republic of Chili, on the Pacific. There are sound reasons why the United States should be the foremost of American powers whose territory borders on the Pacific, and the fact that we are suffering ourselves to be surpassed there in political influence, in commerce and naval strength, by a country whose population is less than a twentieth of ours merits more notice than is accorded to it by Congress or the public."

The silver ores in the province of Atacama were discovered by a shepherd as late as 1832. The wonderful events on the desert of Tarapaca are of later date. Valparaiso was until a half-century ago little more than a calling-place for ships going around the Horn.

The formation of Alta Peru, the Switzerland of America, into the republic of Bolivia was a menace to the power of Chili. The latter republic attempted to prevent the union of the republics.

Jose Manuel Balmaceda was born in Santiago in 1842. He came of an ancient and honorable Castilian family. He was educated for the priesthood. He had an ardent nature, and quick sympathies with whatever tended to the advancement of mankind. He joined the Reform Club, and became a leader of progressive Chilians. He sought to liberalize the Chilian constitution. He was elected to Congress at the early age of twenty-eight. He became the natural leader of the Liberal party, and young Chili saw in him a rising star. He instituted reforms. He favored universal education. He rose to be a senator, a minister of the interior, and a foreign minister. In 1886 he was elected President of Chili by an overwhelming majority. He was inaugurated amid the plaudits of the people. At that period he seemed to be their idol. Under his influence Chili advanced; public education was' stimulated; improvements multiplied. Those were prosperous days. The Conservative party in Chili was from the first opposed to his progressive ideas and enterprises. Its opposition grew. The old capitalists thought their investments were in danger. The Conservatives became a controlling power again. The heart of Balmaceda was in the progress of his reforms, and he at first sought to retain power by indirection. He caused himself to be made Dictator. His ungoverned will was his ruin. The Conservatives organized a powerful movement against his usurped authority, and defeated him in a battle near Valparaiso. After the battle Balmaceda vanished. It was suspected that he had found refuge on an American ship. He was discovered in the Argentine consulate. Rather than be captured, he ended his short life by a pistol-shot on December 19, 1891.

Peru, the land of the ideal government of the Incas, that gave to the world the cinchona, the potato, and a wealth of new varieties of flowers, that enriched Spain with gold, and the worn-out lands of many countries with plant-food, has been subject to many misfortunes in the last half of the century; but she has made progress in education and the enterprises of industrial art.

The presidents and chiefs of Peru from 1829 to 1844 were as follows: Agustin Gamarra (from 1829 to 1833); Luis Jose Orbegoso (1833–35); Felipe Santiago de Salaverry (1835–36); Andres Santa Cruz (1836–39); Agustin Gamarra (1839–41); Manuel Mendenez (1841–44). In 1845 General Ramon Cortilla was elected President of Peru, and there followed a long period of peace and prosperity.

We have spoken of the flag of the Army of the Andes, the banner of the Sun. The flags of the patriotic movements were usually adopted before the declarations of independence. They sprang into life spontaneously.

The flag of Chili had an American origin. In 1812 the first printing-press was established in Chili, and on February 13 appeared the first newspaper there, called La Aurora de Chili, edited by a priest. With the printing-press from the United States came Mr. Poinsett, a patriotic consular agent, whose heart beat in sympathy with the new ideas of the country. This man celebrated the Independence Day of his own country, at the consulate on July 4, 1812. He unfurled the Stars and Stripes. With it he launched in the air a new flag of three colors with one star in its corner. The one star stood for Chili. The three colors became the cockade of the patriots. On September 30 the tricolor and one star was adopted as the national ensign. When the Republic of Colombia was decreed in the eventful year of 1819, the tricolored flag raised by Miranda in 1806 became the national emblem. This was the flag of yellow, blue and red, the national ensign that Venezuela had borne from the days of Miranda, in her struggles for liberty. The flag of the Sun that San Martin had borne over the Andes, with colors of white and scarlet, was made on October 24, 1820, the escutcheon of the republic of Peru. The figure was that of the sun rising over the mountains, on a tranquil sea.

The republics of South America began their independent existences as follows: The first declaration of independence in South America was made by the Congress that convened in Caracas on March 2, 1811, one of the deputies to which was Miranda. This man urged an immediate declaration of the independence of Venezuela, and carried the measure of July 5. On the same day the flag of yellow, red and blue was adopted as the national ensign. The province of Cartagena followed, declaring herself an independent state on November 11, 1811. Argentina made her declaration of independence at the Congress at Tucuman on July 9, 1816, under the influence of San Martin. The general of the Army of the Andes believed in the independence of the country from Spain, and in the rule of the representatives of the people; but at one period of his life he seems to have looked favorably upon the English form of government, a constitutional monarchy. He was a conservative man. He weighed everything, and desired to found things that would last. His conservatism brought him under the criticism of those of more advanced and radical views. He was, however, more concerned with the gaining of the independence of the country than deciding upon forms of government.

Bolivar gradually came to believe in the unity of the republics of South America under the rulers elected by the people. He at one time held the views afterward advocated in some measure by the Pan-American Congress, or International American Conference, of 1890. The Chilian people had voted for independence on November 17, 181 7. On January 20, 1818, the independence was proclaimed at Talca, and afterward at Santiago by a solemn assembly in the great square. Among the first who swore on the latter occasion to support the independence were San Martin and the bishop of Santiago. The independence of Peru was proclaimed with an inspiring ceremony, in the great square at Lima, on July 28, 1821. San Martin, who had been present at the birth of two republics, here displayed the new flag of Peru amid the thunders of cannon and the vivas  of the people. The triumphal procession of liberty passed through the streets of rainless Lima amid showers of flowers. We have already spoken of the declaration of independence of Brazil. Several provinces declared themselves independent, as Panama and Maracaibo, but later reunited with the republics of which they naturally formed a part. The year 1830 found South America practically free and independent, but in the unsettled state that for a time generally follows a radical change of government. The independent republic of Venezuela, New Granada, and a part of the country now known as Ecuador was proclaimed on May 9, 1821. The constitution of Bolivia was formed in 1826, and in 1830 Simon Bolivar retired from active life, being voted the "first and best citizen of Colombia," and allotted a pension of three hundred thousand dollars a year. From that date the republics of the South were, as a rule, left to work out their own political destiny.

South America was now a land of republics, except a territory between the Amazon and the Orinoco, called Guiana. This remained a foreign possession, subject to England, France and Holland, and was divided into three parts, English Guiana, French Guiana, Dutch Guiana.

British Guiana abounds in forests of gigantic trees; in beautiful flowers, among them the Victoria regia;  and in wonderful orchids. It produces sugar, coffee, cotton, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and tobacco. It is the home of the jaguar, puma, tapir and peccary. The boundary of the territory west of the Essequibo River, between British and Dutch Guiana, became a matter of dispute after the discovery of gold within the mid-river region. A commission was appointed to settle the question. The population of British Guiana in 1891 was over 288,000.

Dutch Guiana (Surinam) lies between British and French Guiana, and has like productions. Its area is 46,060 square miles. Its population in 1890 was 56,873.

French Guiana is the smallest of the three divisions. It is a fertile country, abundantly watered, a land of coffee, cane, cocoa, indigo and spices. It had a population in 1891 of 25,796. Cayenne is the seat of government.

The action of the Congress of the United States which preceded the decision to call the International American Conference of 188990 was briefly as follows: On January 21, 1880, the Hon. David Davis of Illinois, at the request of Hinton Rowan Helper, the publicist, introduced into Congress a bill for the encouragement of closer commercial relations between the United States and the republics of Mexico, Central America, the empire of Brazil, and the several republics of South America. The bill called for a conference in regard to the building of an international railway "running from the northern to the southern termini of the eastern slope of the great mountain-chain, which would open that vast interior region to our manufactures and commerce."

On April 24, 1882, Senator Morgan of Alabama introduced a bill into the Senate, a sentence of which reads thus: "That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, requested to invite all the governments of the said [Latin-American] republics and the empire of Brazil to send delegates to meet in the city of Washington." Adverse action followed.

In 1884 the Senate took favorable action on a similar bill, which was followed by like action of the House of Representatives. This latter bill was accompanied by a report which clearly set forth the great opportunity of the United States in South America.

As a result of this legislation a South American commission was authorized. On January 26, 1886, a joint resolution was introduced into the House of Representatives to promote arbitration among the republics of America.

The International American Conference assembled at Washington, October 2, 1889. The government of the United States had appropriated seventy-five thousand dollars for the expenses of this conference. The proceedings were published, at public expense, in the English, Spanish and Portuguese languages. Later an additional appropriation of fifty thousand dollars was made. Eighteen invitations were extended to as many different states. While here the visiting delegates made a tour to the commercial and manufacturing cities of the country. A special train conveyed the party through the leading states, a distance of nearly six thousand miles. The party returned to Washington on November 13, after an absence of forty-two days.

The business of the conference began on November 18. The Hon. James G. Blaine was elected president. After organization the congress adjourned until January 2, 1890.

At this congress reciprocity and the commercial relations of the Latin-American republics were discussed. Senor Quintana said: "The real constitution of the famous Council of the Amphictyons, from which the constitution of the United States was taken, was nothing more than a great council of arbitrators between the towns of Greece." Said Senor Zelaya: "Civilization, humanity and Christianity cry out for this remedy of arbitration for all conflicts in the future which may arise between American nations."

The three principal topics that engaged the attention of this assembly were the international railroad, the Nicaragua Canal, and arbitration.

In a letter to the President, May 12, 1890, Mr. Blaine submitted a plan "for a preliminary survey for a railway line to connect the commercial cities of the American hemisphere." He wrote: "Under the generous and progressive policy of President Diaz the railways of Mexico have been extended southward as well as northward, and toward the two oceans. The development of the Argentine system has been equally rapid. In the other republics similar enterprise has been shown. Each has its local lines of railway, and to connect them all and furnish the people of the southern continent the means of convenient and comfortable intercourse with their neighbors north of the isthmus is an undertaking worthy of the encouragement and cooperation of this government. In no other way could the government and the people of the United States contribute so much to the development and prosperity of our sister republics, and at the same time to the expansion of our commerce."

President Harrison, in submitting the report, May 19, 1890, said: "But it should not be forgotten that it is possible to travel by land from Washington to the southernmost capital of South America, and that the opening of railroad communication with these friendly states will give to them and to us facilities for intercourse and the exchanges of trade that are of special value. The work contemplated is vast, but entirely practicable."

The moral influence and result of the congress centered in arbitration. In 1890, after long discussion, the delegates adopted a declaration which was a prophecy of the future. The declaration began as follows:

"The delegates from North, Central and South America, in conference assembled, believing that war is the most cruel, the mast fruitless and the most dangerous expedient for the settlement of international difficulties;

"Do solemnly recommend to all the governments by which they are accredited that they conclude a uniform treaty of arbitration in the articles following:

"ARTICLE I." The republics of North, Central and South America hereby adopt arbitration  as a principle of American international law for the settlement of the differences, disputes or controversies that may arise between two or more of them."

The other articles recommend the establishment of a high court of nations to which all controversies shall be submitted for final decision.

The International American Conference is the prophetic vision of the twentieth century. All that it saw is likely to become a part of the history of the next generation.