Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

The Evolution of Modern Peru

More About Spanish Rule.—The Spanish conquerors of Peru unquestionably brought some benefits to the country to compensate for the institutions which they destroyed. They brought a system of government and jurisprudence, which, while suffering by comparison with Anglo-Saxon institutions with which we are familiar, was far in advance of anything the former occupants of the land would have attained to for many a century if they had been left to work out their own progress toward civilization. They brought the letters, the religion and the civilization of the Latin peoples of Europe, and they introduced into the country new and valuable animals, grains and fruits hitherto unknown to the Peruvians.

The conquest was followed by what is usually known as the Colonial period, extending over nearly three centuries. The early portion of this period was marked, as we have seen, by quarrels among the conquerors, which should hardly be dignified by the name of civil wars. How much the progress of the country was set back by these quarrels, which ended in the violent death of nearly every one of the original actors in the drama, it would be impossible to say. Nor was the system of government to which the disturbed rule of the conquerors gave place calculated to advance the highest interests of the governed and produce in them the best type of civilization.

The policy of Spain in regard to her newly-acquired provinces in the Western Hemisphere was not precisely what we would understand as colonial. It was a system derived from the Romans and not from the Teutons, as in the case of Great Britain's colonies. Spain's Trans-Atlantic provinces—consisting of Mexico in the northern continent, and Peru, Chile and Buenos Ayres in the southern continent, all contributing to form the vast empire, whose sovereign was enabled thereby to call himself "King of Spain and the Indies"—were governed by codes of laws distinct from the laws of Spain and intended to suit what were regarded as the special exigencies of the provinces.

The Council of the Indies.—The Casa de Contratacion, (literally House of Contracts, and answering in Spain very nearly to the English India House), was established in 1503, for the purpose of directing the course of commerce and trade between Spain and the colonies in the west. It served as a court of judicature and had jurisdiction over the conduct of all persons connected with trade between Spain and the Americas. In 1511 the Consejo de las Indias, (Council of the Indies), was instituted and proved in some respects the most peculiar governing body known to history. Gradually it usurped exclusive control of the Spanish possessions in the New World. It enacted all the laws and regulations for the government of Spanish America, and made or confirmed all appointments for that country, civil, military and even ecclesiastical. It gave its orders and instructions to all the higher officials of the provinces in America, and these had to be explicitly obeyed. It served as a final court of appeal in all cases involving important questions arising in the New World, and, though the King reserved the right of veto over all its proceedings, the right was seldom exercised.

The laws enacted by the Consejo  had little or no regard for the needs of Spanish subjects in the New World, and, although involved in contradictions, they were arbitrarily enforced. The Consejo  soon became forgetful that it owed any obligations to the natives of the countries in America, or that those people were any other than beasts of burden bound to eternal vassalage to the Spanish people quite as much as to the Spanish monarch.

In no respect was the legislation of the Consejo de las Indias  more disastrous than in its dealing with the subject of the slavery of the Indians, already referred to in a previous chapter. The system of repartimientos  and encomiendas  had been established before the conquest of Peru. In fact the spoils of the conquest, consisting of territorial possessions, precious metals and repartimientos, were to be divided up between the conquerors in accordance with the terms of the agreement made between Pizarro, Almagro and Padre Luque. It prevailed therefore in New Castile or Peru immediately after the conquest, as a matter of course.

The system arose under Columbus while he was governor in the West Indies. Originally lands were apportioned to Spanish colonists who had authority to require a specified Indian cacique and his people to cultivate them. This constituted a repartimiento. Later an encomienda  of Indians might be granted wholly independently of a grant of lands. The kings of Spain, being constantly beset by suitors for royal favors, and some of them having nothing else to give, gave encomiendas. Some of the recipients of these gifts farmed out the encomiendas  to others and became themselves absentee proprietors of rights of property in human beings. Thus the condition of the Indians was changed from serfdom to slavery.

In the depths of misery into which the Indians were thus cast, a friend was raised up to them in the person of Bartolomeo de las Casas, a Dominican friar, who had lived in the Indies, and who had a thorough knowledge of the public affairs of America. He had at one time held an estate with Indian serfs, or slaves, and had liberated them in obedience to his convictions of the injustice done to them, and his voice was raised in defense of the Indians. He wrote his celebrated book, "The Destruction of the Indians,"  followed by "Twenty Reasons"  why the Indians should not be given to the Spaniards in encomienda. It was due to his preaching, writing and personal influence that laws were adopted by the Consejo de las Indias  intended to release the Indians from bondage and to ameliorate their condition. These were the famous "New Laws" about which we have already seen something.

While these laws were right in principle, they worked hardship to the Spaniards, in that they deprived the latter of the chief source of their revenue and, if executed, would entail on large numbers of Spanish settlers great losses. Hence the resistance to them on the part of the Spaniards and even of the ecclesiastics. And the opposition was so far successful as to obtain in October, 1545, a royal decree by which such parts of the "New Laws" as threatened the interests of the Spaniards in the New World were revoked. This action filled the Spanish colonists with joy and the enslaved Indians with despair.

The Viceroys.—The first form of government established in Peru was municipal. Cuzco was converted into a Spanish town, as we have seen, by the appointment of two alcaldes and eight regidors. Ecclesiastical government was likewise established. Padre Valverde, who had been prominent in the arrest of Atahualpa, was made Bishop of Cuzco. Padre Luque was made Bishop of Tumbez. The Spaniards established municipal governments at Piura, Lima, Trujillo, Loja, La Paz and numerous other places. The Indians continued a village-dwelling people.

The form of government adopted for the whole country was at first the Audiencia, and then the Vireinate, which latter had been successfully tried in Mexico since 1535. The salary of the Viceroy was fixed at first at thirty thousand ducats, after-wards raised to forty thousand ducats, in order that he might be able to maintain himself in the regal state expected of him. Until the establishment of a vireinate in New Granada and another in Buenos Ayres, the jurisdiction of the Peruvian Viceroy was co-extensive with the Spanish possessions in South America, and the several Captains-General in the other provinces were subject to his authority.

There were viceroys good, bad and indifferent, in the long list of those who served in that capacity and held their brilliant courts in Lima. Lima at that time was the political, commercial and social center of South America. The viceroys were selected from among the grandees of Spain. Many were lovers of letters, and the Universities of the New World produced scholars and authors not unworthy of comparison with those of Spain. The influence of Spaniards of distinguished Castilian ancestry and of gentle training kept the Spanish language, even as spoken by the common people, more than usually pure. Scarcely less influential than the viceregal government was the ecclesiastical, which was greatly aided by the arrival, at an early date, of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. The Jesuits followed in 1567. The clergy controlled education, and every village had its priest who compelled the Indians to go to mass and otherwise made the services of the church an oppressive burden. The Inquisition was established in Peru in 1571 and the first auto da f e  at Lima was held two years later. The Indians were, however, exempt from its operations.

From the Spanish viewpoint that government in Peru was considered good which gave Spain the largest revenue, while, on the other hand, Spain's insatiable demands for gold and silver were a constant hindrance to what we would call good government. For, to obtain the desired revenue, the Indians were not only cruelly oppressed in their bondage, but they were subjected to a burdensome tribute. Those Spaniards who were interested in Peru undoubtedly desired the conversion of the Indians to Christianity and the establishment of a beneficent political order, provided both could be accomplished without interfering with the production of the greatest possible revenue.

Colonization and government by Viceroys resulted in the creation of various social classes in the South American provinces. First of all, there were the white colonists of pure Spanish blood, comprising the only recognized society in the social organization that existed in Spanish America. They numbered in Peru, at the close of the wars between the conquerors and the Viceroy sent out from Spain in 1555, about eight thousand. They regarded Spain as their country and looked upon Peru with contempt. Another class was called Creoles. These consisted of persons of European blood born in Peru. They were not recognized as having the same rights and privileges, nor as being in the same social status, as the Spaniards. Scarcely below them and often confused with them were the half-breeds or mestizos. Below these were the Indians. Spain adopted generally toward her American colonies a policy destructive of every interest save those of the "Old Spaniards." And as the nineteenth century dawned, there were signs everywhere apparent of the revolt of Spanish America, especially when Spain became involved in war at home and found her own nationality imperiled.

The Spanish-American Revolution.—After the revolt of the Indians, under the last Tupac Amaru in 1780, had been put down, a necessary reorganization of the Vireinate of Peru (then less extensive than formerly, by the establishment of the Vireinate of New Granada in 1740, and by that of Buenos Ayres in 1776), was accomplished in 1790 by the Viceroy Teodoro de Croix, who also instituted valuable reforms. But they came too late to check a growing desire for liberty among the educated classes in Peru, and the secret though widespread discussion among the Creoles of the abstract right of Peru to self-government. The two succeeding Viceroys (Francisco Gil de Toboado y Lemos and Ambrosio O'Higgins), who were able and liberal rulers, only postponed the revolution for a time.

The Viceroy of Peru in 1806 was Abascal. He foresaw the gathering storm that was to sweep over all of the Spanish American countries, and, by his coolness, promptness and energy, he held Peru for the King of Spain, dependent as he was upon his own resources. Not only was Spain too much occupied at home by a desperate struggle for the maintenance of her nationality and independence against the armies of Napoleon, to spare money or troops to protect her interests in Peru, but the Viceroy of Peru even managed to remit money to Spain, while he was recruiting armies from the native population and training them to become excellent soldiers in a cause for which they could feel no sympathy. For the pending struggle was between the Spaniards on the one side and the Creoles on the other, and the Indians, if left free to choose, would naturally have sided with the Creoles.

Abascal retired from the viceroyalty in 1816 and was succeeded by General Pezuela, who was about to institute a campaign for the suppression of an insurrection in Buenos Ayres before it could spread and reach Peru, when he learned that General San Martin, who was already posing as the "Saviour of Argentina," was marching to the assistance of Chile in its struggle for independence of Spain. San Martin was a military genius, as one must needs be to accomplish anything in the way of a campaign in South America, where there are lofty mountain ranges to be crossed and arid plains to be traversed in every warlike expedition. He quickly organized a small navy with which to contest the supremacy of the Pacific with Spain, and was so fortunate as to secure as the admiral of his fleet, Lord Cochrane, a Scotch adventurer of noble family, a daring fighter and skillful in strategic enterprises. His cutting out and capturing the Spanish frigate Esmeralda  from a number of smaller armed vessels under the protection of the guns of the fortress at Callao, on the night of November 5, 1820, is regarded as one of the most brilliant achievements of the kind on record.

Aided by the fleet under Lord Cochrane, San Martin, after repeated interruptions and disappointments, landed an army of 4,500 Argentines and Chileans in Peru, and the desolating war, which had raged in every other part of Spanish South America, was at last transferred to the one remaining stronghold of Spain in the New World. The Viceroy had between twenty and twenty-five thousand troops, of whom nearly nine thousand were in Lima; and at first glance it seemed absurd for San Martin to advance against such forces with so small an army. But it subsequently transpired that the army of the Viceroy swarmed with sympathizers with the cause of independence and the army of General San Martin became stronger every day.

Upon learning of the revolution in Spain and of the overthrow of absolutism there, Pezuela, at the demands of his generals, retired and was succeeded by General La Serna. The latter began negotiations with San Martin, who proposed, as had been proposed by independents in other Spanish American countries, the establishment of an independent, constitutional monarchy in Peru, with a Bourbon prince as king. At the end of these fruitless negotiations, La Serna evacuated Lima, on the 6th of July, 1821. San Martin entered the city a few days later, and, on the 28th of July, Peru was proclaimed an independent republic, with San Martin as temporary dictator under the title of "Protector."

The Peruvian patriots now found that they were still without self-government, their Protector being from a province practically foreign to them. In April, 1822, the royalists gave evidence that they had not disbanded, by capturing some of the patriot forces. To meet the trouble that was now imminent, outside help was necessary, and San Martin turned to Simon Bolivar, the famous soldier who had accomplished the independence of Venezuela (1817) and New Granada (1819), and had formed the Republic of Colombia, of which he was President. Bolivar answered the appeal of San Martin by setting out with a force of Colombians, and on his way captured Ecuador from the Spaniards and added it to the Colombian Republic.

He was joined by San Martin at Quito. The conference between the two generals led to the retirement of San Martin and the advance of Bolivar, whose offers of assistance were accepted by the Peruvians. In December, 1824, the battle of Ayacucho was fought, in its results one of the most important battles ever fought in South America. The victory was with the patriots. Fourteen hundred of the royalists were killed and seven hundred wounded. Of the patriots only three hundred were killed and six hundred wounded. By the terms of the capitulation arranged between the Viceroy La Serna and General Sucre, who was in command of the patriots, the whole Spanish army fourteen generals, 568 officers, and 3,200 soldiers—became prisoners of war, and all the Spanish forces in Peru were bound by the surrender. The war for independence was over. Callao Castle held out for thirteen months, and then surrendered; and the last Spanish flag floating over the South American mainland was hauled down.

The Republic of Peru.—If there was one thing more than another for which the patriots of Peru were unfitted, it was self-government. This was a natural result of Spain's colonial policy; and, after independence from Spain was secured through battles fought for the Peruvians by Argentines and Colombians, the country began a troubled career, similar to that of every Spanish-American country. After the battle of Ayacucho, Peru belonged to Bolivar to do with as he liked. He went through the form of summoning a congress and offering to resign his dictatorship, but there was nothing for the Peruvians to do but to beg him to retain the direction of affairs; and so he proceeded to lay the foundations of a great military confederation to include not only Venezuela, New Granada and Ecuador, already united under the name of the United States of Colombia, but all the remaining provinces of Spanish South America. In accordance with this plan in 1825, Bolivar created in Upper Peru a new nation named in his honor, Bolivia; and it seemed certain that he would soon be virtually Emperor of all South America. But being called back to Colombia for the pacification of his own state of Venezuela, the patriots began to assert themselves. They recognized General La Mar as their first president. He was succeeded by Gamara.

In 1833 anarchy prevailed throughout the country, which was partially quieted three years later by the establishment of a Peru-Bolivian Confederation, of which Santa Cruz was proclaimed protector. The peace secured by this arrangement was but temporary. Twenty years passed after the independence of Spain was secured, before anything like stable government was obtained for Peru. It would be difficult at any time during that period to tell who was the legitimate chief magistrate of Peru.

In 1844 General Ramon Castilla, a little, quiet, modest soldier, who had been one of the heroes of Ayacucho and had been engaged in all the revolutions since that time on the side of whatever promised the most stable government, returned from exile, and, entering into the conflict then pending in Peru, succeeded in restoring order to the country and was elected President. He proved in most respects an ideal chief magistrate, wise, sagacious and firm. Very opportunely new sources of wealth were disclosed at that time—guano and nitrate deposits on the desert islands off the coast and with these resources Castilla successfully solved the financial problems which had confronted Peru from the beginning. His successor inaugurated a period of national extravagance and corruption, but in 1854 Castilla headed a movement which placed him again in power until 1862, when he voluntarily retired to private life.

In 1860, under Castilla's wise influence, a constitution was adopted which is still the fundamental law of the land: It provides for a centralized government and gives to the executive, (consisting of a President and Vice-President elected for four years, assisted by a cabinet of five ministers), powers rather greater than those usual in a Republic. but it is liberal and humane in its guarantees to the citizens. It gives the suffrage to all Peruvians who can read and write, who own property and pay taxes. Slavery and Indian tribute were abolished and forced recruiting was declared a crime. The legislative branch of the government consists of a senate (composed of forty-four deputies from the provinces, with property qualifications), and a house of representatives (one hundred and ten in number), nominated by the electoral colleges of provinces and districts, one member for every twenty thousand inhabitants.

Castilla was succeeded in 1862 by his old friend General San Roman, a Peruvian Indian. San Roman died in 1863 and was peacefully succeeded by his Vice-President, General Pezet. The latter proving weak at a time when Spain was threatening war, he was ousted by a revolution, and General Prado was made acting-President. The latter quickly repelled the Spaniards and then gave up the presidency to Colonel Balta, who was inaugurated in 1868. Under his administration the Republic entered upon a career of public improvement, including the embellishment of cities, the creation of moles and harbors, the construction of railways, and the exploration of the Andes. It was also a career of extravagance and the creation of an enormous public debt. So great was the latter that two-thirds of the government revenues were insufficient to pay the interest on the foreign debt alone.

Balta's administration closed by his sudden and violent death a few days before his term of office expired. He was succeeded by Don Manual Pardo, the first civilian to reach the presidential office in Peru. At the close of his term his reputation was that of the best president Peru ever had. But his administration was one continual struggle with financial problems. In 1876, the payment of interest on the public debt was suspended and Pardo turned over the government to his successor apparently hopelessly bankrupt.

The Nitrate War.—In 1879 began a war with Chile over the possession of the nitrate territory along the coast. In January, 1881, the Chilean army took possession of Lima and for two years collected the customs revenue of the country, while the country at large was in a state of anarchy. Iglesias, one of the revolutionary leaders, had the strength and courage to proclaim himself President and arrange terms of peace with Chile in October, 1883. The Peruvian flag again waved over the capital. But scarcely had this been accomplished when General Don Andres A. Carceres headed a warlike movement to oust Iglesias, and, at the end of 1885, he succeeded. Carceres was elected President by a junta, and in 1886 began the task of re-organizing Peru. The country was in a sad plight. The treasury was empty, the guano and nitrate revenues were lost, the government was hopelessly weighed down by debt, and foreign creditors were pressing for a settlement. There was nothing to offer these foreign creditors but the railways. The "Peruvian Corporation" was formed which took over all of Peru's interests in the railways, the guano deposits, mines and public lands, under contract to release Peru from all responsibility for a sum amounting to more than 50,000,000 sterling.

Recent Leaders.—Carceres was succeeded by Colonel Bermudez, who continued his predecessor's policy but died in 1893 before the close of his term of office. A bloody insurrection ensued upon this event, Lima being the storm center. The insurrection reached its acute stage on the 18th of July, 1895. It then gradually quieted down. General Pierola was elected President and was succeeded in 1899 by Romana, who was in turn succeeded in 1903 by Candano.

Stable Government.—Two Presidents having thus been constitutionally elected and inducted into office, and both of them being civilians, would seem to imply that Peruvian government was at last becoming stable, and that the days of revolution, civil war and political unrest have passed away. The country is steadfastly Roman Catholic, yet there is a tendency toward popular government, though the dominant party is that of the old aristocratic element, composed of the intelligence and wealth of the nation.

The population of Peru is largely urban, and, to see the modern Peruvian, one would have but to visit some of the beautiful cities. Lima is not only the capital but the best representative city. Built, as we have seen, by Pizarro, it was adorned by the viceroys of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, after being nearly destroyed by earthquakes, was completely overthrown by that cause in 1746, when more than one thousand persons then perished. It was rebuilt, and is now the pride of the later day Peruvians, ranking among the most beautiful of the South American Capitals.