Robert Mackenzie.

America. A history

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This new ruler had been sent, when a young man, to Europe to acquire the ideas which animated the enlightened Powers of the Old World. He arrived at the time of the Crimean War, to find a love of glory and of empire occupying the public mind of England and of France. He was not able to withstand the malign influence. He went home resolved to emulate the career of the Emperor Napoleon. He, too, would become a conqueror; he, too, would found an empire. He occupied himself in forming a large army, in accumulating military stores. 1865 A.D. When the death of his father raised him to absolute authority, he lost no time in attacking Brazil, which he had marked as his first victim. The Argentine Republic and Uruguay made common cause with Brazil against a disturber of the peace, in whose ambition they recognized a common danger.

The war continued for five years. It brought upon Paraguay calamities more appalling than have fallen in modern times on any State. Her territory was occupied by a victorious foe, and one-half of it was taken away from her for ever. Her debt had swelled to an amount which utterly precluded hope of payment.4949
  The debt of Paraguay is ?117,000,000.

Her population had sunk from a million and a half to two hundred and twenty thousand. Of these it was estimated that four-fifths were females. War and its attendant miseries had almost annihilated the adult male population.5050
  The Dictator himself perished by the lance of a Brazilian soldier.

Paraguay yielded herself as the base instrument of an insane ambition, and she was destroyed.

Buenos Ayres, a city founded during the early years of the conquest, was the seat of one of the vice-royalties by which the Spaniards conducted the government of the continent. It stands on the right bank of the river Plate, not far from the ocean. The Plate and its tributary rivers flow through vast treeless plains, where myriads of horses and cattle roam at will among grass which attains a height equal to their own. When the dominion of Spain ceased, Buenos Ayres naturally assumed a preponderating influence in the new Government. The provinces which had composed the old vice-royalty formed themselves into a Confederation, with a constitution modelled on that of the United States. Buenos Ayres was the only port of shipment for the inland provinces. Her commercial importance as well as her metropolitan dignity soon aroused jealousies which could not be allayed.

Within a few years the Confederation was repudiated by nearly all its members, and for some time each of the provinces governed itself independently of the others.

1821 A.D. The next experiment was a representative Republic under President-General Rivadavia, with Buenos Ayres as the seat of Government. Rivadavia was a man of enlightened views. He encouraged immigration, established liberty of religion, took some steps to educate the people, entered into commercial treaties with foreign powers. 1827 A.D. But his liberal policy was regarded unfavourably by a people not sufficiently wise to comprehend it; and he resigned his office after having held it for six years.

The influence of Buenos Ayres now waned, and the provinces of the interior gained what the capital lost. These provinces were occupied by a half-savage race of mixed origin, who lived by the capture and slaughter of wild cattle. These fierce hunters were trained to the saddle almost from infancy, and lived on horseback. Excellence in horsemanship was a sufficient passport to their favour. 1829 A.D. The government of the country now fell into the hands of General Rosas, a Gaucho chief, whose feats in the saddle have probably never been equalled by the most accomplished of circus-riders.5151
  Some of his achievements were eminently fitted to bind to his cause a rude and daring people. Standing once over a gateway, through which a troop of wild horses were being driven at full speed, he dropped on to the back of one previously selected. He bore in his hand a leathern rein, which he fastened securely round the mouth of the terrified and madly-galloping horse; and in half-an-hour he rode back, the animal now trembling and subdued.

For twenty-three years this man – cruel, treacherous, but full of rugged vigour – maintained over the fourteen provinces a despotism which soon lapsed into an absolute reign of terror. One of the methods of this wretched man’s government was the systematic employment of a gang of assassins, who murdered according to his orders, and under whose knives many thousands of innocent persons perished. His troops overran the neighbouring province of Uruguay; but Monte Video, the capital of that State, was successfully held against him, chiefly by the skill and courage of Garibaldi. France and England declared war against the tyrant, and for several years vainly blockaded the city of Buenos Ayres. At length (1848) a determined rebellion broke out and raged for four years. 1852 A.D. A great battle was fought; the army of Rosas was scattered; the capital, wild with joy, received the thrilling news that the tyrant had fled5252
  Rosas made his way to England, where he spent the remaining twenty-six years of his life.

and that the country was free.

The twenty-three years of despotism had done nothing to solve the political problems which still demanded solution at the hands of the Argentine people. The tedious and painful work had now to be resumed. The province of Buenos Ayres declared itself out of the Confederation, and entered upon a separate career. The single State was wisely governed, and made rapid progress in all the elements of prosperity. In especial it copied the New England common-school system. The thirteen States from which it had severed itself strove to repress or to rival its increasing greatness. But their utmost efforts could scarcely avert decay. 1859 A.D. They declared war, in the barbarous hope of crushing their too prosperous neighbour. Buenos Ayres was strong enough to inflict defeat upon her assailants. 1861 A.D. She now, on her own terms, re?ntered the Confederation, of which her chief city became once more the capital.

1865 A.D. The career of the reconstructed Confederation has not been, thus far, a wholly peaceful one. There has been a lengthened war with Paraguay. There was a Gaucho revolt, which it was not hard to suppress. 1870-72 A.D. The important province of Entre Rios rose in arms, and was brought back to her duty after two years of war. Still later (1874) a rebellion broke out on the election of a new President. But the energy which formerly inspired revolutionary movements seems to decay, and this latest disorder was trampled out in a campaign of no greater duration than seventy-six days. A milder temper now prevails, especially in the cities of the Confederation. There are still divisions of opinion. One party is eager to promote a consolidated and effectively national life; another would maintain and enhance provincial separations; a third – the party of disorder, whose strength is being sapped by the growing prosperity of the country – seeks to foment revolutionary movements in the hope of advantage, or in sheer restlessness of spirit. But these antagonisms have in large measure lost the envenomed character which they once bore. The only habitual disturbers of the national tranquillity are the Indians, who are suffered to hold possession of almost one-half the Argentine territory, and against whom murderous frontier wars are incessantly waged.

It is, however, obvious that the union of the fourteen provinces rests upon no satisfactory or permanent basis, and that the final adjustment can scarcely be effected otherwise than by the customary method of force. The province of Buenos Ayres, although it contains only one-fourth of the population, contains three-fourths of the wealth,5353
  It has been said, with pardonable exaggeration, that “the Argentine Republic consists of the province of Buenos Ayres and thirteen mud-huts.” The thirteen provinces are so poor that for many years regular monthly remittances have been sent them from Buenos Ayres to defray the expense of the local governments.

and bears fully nine-tenths of the taxation of the confederate provinces. The other thirteen provinces have absolute control over the government; and the expenditure has largely increased, as it needs must when the persons who enjoy the privilege of expending funds are exempt from the burden of providing them. This arrangement is highly and not unreasonably displeasing to the rich province of Buenos Ayres; and it seems probable that the people of this province will sooner or later force their way out of a Confederation whose burdens and whose advantages are so unequally distributed.

The fourteen provinces of the Argentine Confederation cover an area of 515,700 square miles, and are thus almost equal to six countries as large as Great Britain. The population which occupies this huge territory numbers only two million. Every variety of temperature prevails within their borders. In South Patagonia the cold is nearly as intense as that of Labrador. Southern Buenos Ayres has the climate of England; farther north the delicious climate of the south of France and the north of Italy is enjoyed. Yet farther north comes the fierce heat of the tropics. Westward, on the slopes of the Andes, little rain falls; eastward, toward the sea, the rainfall is excessive.

The Argentine States have promoted immigration so successfully that they have received in some years accessions to their numbers of from sixty to ninety thousand persons – British, Italian, French, German, and Swiss. They have thus the presence of a large European element, which gives energy to every liberal and progressive impulse. The great city of Buenos Ayres is, to the extent of half its population (of 220,000), a city of Europeans. In most of the other cities this European element is present and influential. Far in the interior are many little colonies composed of Europeans, settled on lands bestowed by Government, engaged in sheep or cattle farming, growing rich by the rapid increase of their herds on that fertile soil. Full religious liberty is enjoyed, and all the various shades of Protestantism are represented in the chapels of Buenos Ayres or in the rural colonies of the interior. Two thousand five hundred miles of railway are in operation; direct telegraphic communication with England is enjoyed; the provinces are being drawn more closely together by the construction of roads and bridges; the vast river systems of the Confederation are traversed by multitudes of steamers. The people have entered, seemingly, with earnestness on the task of developing the illimitable resources of the great territory which Providence has committed to their care.

Our survey of South American history since the era of Independence discloses much that is lamentable. It discloses nothing, however, that is fitted to surprise, and little that is fitted to discourage. We see priest-directed and therefore utterly ignorant people throwing aside the yoke of an abhorred tyranny. We see them assume the function of self-government without a single qualification for the task. We see them become the prey of lawless and turbulent chiefs, of a selfish military and priestly oligarchy. We watch their struggles as they grope in blind fury, but still under the guidance of a healthy instinct, after the freedom of which they have been defrauded. At length we are permitted to mark, with rejoicing, that they begin to emerge from the unprecedented difficulties by which they have been beset. The path by which they must gain the position of orderly and prosperous States is yet long and toilsome. It is now, however, at least possible to believe that they have entered upon it.

[The disturbed condition of the Western States continues without abatement, and without prospect of settlement. Both Peru and Bolivia are practically at the mercy of Chili. The war is over, but peace is made impossible by the anarchy that prevails in the vanquished States. The President of Peru is a fugitive. The President of Bolivia has absconded. There is no settled government in either country with which the Chilians can safely make terms. What seems most certain is, that the provinces which yield most abundantly that nitrate of soda about the export of which the war originated will be permanently annexed to Chili. Indeed, these districts are now administered by Chilian functionaries.

The Conservative counter-revolution in Mexico, under Diaz, lasted till 1880, when General Gonzalez was elected President. An insurrection in the capital had to be suppressed before his installation could take place.

In Buenos Ayres, nationalism has had a further struggle with provincialism, and another triumph over it. In August 1880 the national troops forcibly entered the Provincial Assembly, and ejected the deputies at the point of the sword. A few days afterwards, General Roca, the new President, entered the capital. – Ed.]


At the time when the discovery and possession of the New World occupied the Spaniards, the Church of Rome exercised over that people an influence which had no parallel elsewhere in all her wide dominion. A religious war of nearly eight centuries had at length closed victoriously. Twenty generations of Spaniards had spent their lives under the power of a burning desire to expel unbelievers from the soil of Spain, and win triumphs for the true faith. The ministers of that religion, for which they were willing to lay down their lives, gained their boundless reverence. To the ordinary Spaniard religion had yet no association with morals; it exercised no control over conduct. It was a collection of beliefs; above all it was an unreasoning loyalty to a certain ecclesiastical organization. To extend the authority of the Church, and, if it had been possible, to exterminate all her enemies, formed now the grand animating motives of the Spanish nation.

No Spaniard of them all was more powerfully influenced by these motives than the good Queen Isabella. At the bidding of her confessor she set up the Inquisition, for the destruction of heretics; she consented to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the virtual confiscation of their property. She gave encouragement to the enterprise of Columbus, in the hope of extending the empire of the Church over benighted nations. The King himself stated, in later years, that the conversion of Indians was the chief purpose of the conquest. The Queen sent missionaries to begin this great work so soon as she heard of the discovery. In all her official correspondence her chief concern is avowedly for the spiritual interests of her new subjects. Columbus tells, in regard to his second voyage, that he was sent “to see the way that should be taken to convert the Indians to our holy faith.” He was instructed “to labour in all possible ways to bring the dwellers in the Indies to a knowledge of the holy Catholic faith.” Twelve ecclesiastics were sent with him to share in these pious toils. A little later, when the overthrow of Columbus was sought by his enemies, one of their most deadly weapons was the charge that he did not baptize Indians, because he desired slaves rather than Christians.

Favoured thus by the general sentiment of the mother country, the Church quickly overspread the colonies and appropriated no inconsiderable share of their wealth. Within four years there were monasteries already established.5454
  So soon as the rebuilding of the city of Mexico was accomplished, in 1524, Cortes applied to the Emperor to send him godly men who should instruct the natives in the truths of religion. He makes it a special request that sumptuous ecclesiastics, who wasted the substance of the Church in riotous living, should not be inflicted on him. Twelve Dominican and twelve Franciscan friars were sent, and Cortes was able to convene a synod of thirty-one persons to take counsel regarding the spiritual welfare of his subjects.

Within one hundred years there were twelve hundred nunneries and monasteries. There was a full equipment of patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, prebends, abbots, chaplains, as well as parish priests. There were monks of every variety – Franciscans, Dominicans, Jeronymites, Fathers of Mercy, Augustines, Jesuits. In Lima it was alleged that the convents covered more ground than all the rest of the city. 1644 A.D. From Mexico there came a petition to the King praying that no new monasteries should be allowed, as these institutions, if suffered to increase, would soon absorb the whole property of the country. Wherever the Spaniards went they hastened to erect churches. While the conquest of Peru was yet incomplete, there was a church in Caxamalco to which the devout Spaniards assigned a liberal share of the gold of which they so villanously plundered the unhappy Inca. The magnificence of churches and convents became in course of years so dazzling that the European mind, it was said, could form no conception of it. The tithes, which had been vested in the Crown, were almost wholly made over to the Church. The free-will offerings of a superstitious people, with an exceptionally large volume of personal iniquity to expiate, swelled out to a huge aggregate. The wealth of the Church continued to grow till, as we have seen, in Mexico she possessed one-half of all the land in the province.

Among the multitudes of ecclesiastics who hastened to these new fields of enterprise and emolument there were very many whose characters were debased, whose lives were scandalous. Very soon after the settlement the profligacy of churchmen attracted general remark. Living often in secluded positions without the control or observation of superiors, they gave free scope to evil dispositions, and occupied themselves with the pursuits of avarice or of licentiousness.

But we should grievously wrong the Church of Rome were we to suppose that all her ministers in the New World were of this unworthy description. The sudden knowledge of many millions of heathens, whose existence had been previously unsuspected, awakened in the monasteries of Spain a strong impulse towards missionary effort. To men who were lingering out their idle days in the profitless repose of a religious seclusion there opened now boundless possibilities of ennobling usefulness. Among them were many whose singleness of purpose, whose utter crucifixion of self, whose heroic daring and endurance would have done honour to the purest Church. Especially was this true concerning the Jesuits. This dreaded and upon the whole pernicious Order was distinguished, in its earlier days, as well for the sagacity and administrative ability of its members as for their absorbing devotion to the interests of the faith.

The Indians accepted with perfect readiness the new religion which their conquerors offered. The monks who went among them speedily acquired commanding influence. The Franciscans who went out on the invitation of Cortes reported that they found the Mexicans a gentle people, given somewhat to lying and drunkenness and needing restraint, but well disposed to religion, and confessing so well that it was not necessary to ask them questions. The children about the monastery already knew much, and taught others who were less happily circumstanced; they sang well and accompanied the organ competently.

This gentle people loved the holy men who, clothed plainly and living on the humblest fare, laboured without ceasing to do them good. They willingly submitted to baptism to please their teachers. Indeed, the only limit to the increase of baptized persons was the physical capability of the missionaries. One father baptized till he was unable any longer to lift his arms. Of another it was asserted that he had administered this sacrament to four hundred thousand converts. 1531 A.D. Ten years after the fall of Mexico, the bishop reported that in his diocese there were now a million of baptized persons; that five hundred temples and twenty thousand idols had been destroyed; that in their room were now churches, oratories, and hermitages; that whereas there were formerly offered up every year to idols twenty thousand hearts of young men and young women, the hearts of Mexican youth were now offered up with innumerable sacrifices of praise to the Most High God.

Among many races of Indians there had existed from time immemorial a marvellous fondness for the confession of sin. Under all grave attacks of illness they hastened to confess old sins to any one who would listen to their tale. When they encountered a panther in the wilderness, they began, under the influence of some unexplained superstition, to disclose their iniquities to the savage beast. A people so inclined welcomed a religion which offered them free access to the enjoyment of their cherished privilege. They manifested, in regard to this ordinance of the Church, “a dove-like simplicity, an incredible fervour.” Oral confession was to these simple souls an insufficient relief. They brought to the confessor a pictorial representation of the special transgressions which burdened them. Later, when many of them had learned to write, they bore with them elaborate catalogues of their evil doings.

The monks attempted to bestow upon the children under their care the elements of a simple education. To each monastery a school was attached. Peter of Ghent, a Flemish lay-brother of noble devotedness, caused the erection of a large building, in which he taught six hundred Mexican children to read, to write, and to sing.5555
  Peter reported of his pupils that “they learn quickly, fast precisely, and pray fervently.”

This good man knew the Mexican language well, and could preach when need was. He spent fifty toilsome years in labours for the instruction of the conquered people; and there were many of his brethren equally diligent.

But among the teeming millions of South America, these efforts, so admirable in quality, were wholly insignificant in amount. They were thwarted, too, by the murderous cruelty which the Spaniards exercised, and the people remained utterly uninstructed. The conversion of the country made progress so rapid that in a few years the native religions disappeared, and the Indians seemed universally to have accepted Christianity. But the change rested in large measure upon fear of their tyrants, or love to their teachers, or the authority of chiefs who had deemed it expedient to adopt the faith of men who were always victorious in battle. It was only in a few instances the result of intelligent conviction. The priests baptized readily all natives who would permit the ceremony, because that was a sure provision for their eternal welfare. But the opinion was entertained from an early period that the natives were incapable of comprehending the first principles of the faith. Acting under this belief, a council of Lima decreed their exclusion from the sacrament of the Eucharist. Down to the close of Spanish dominion few Indians were allowed to communicate, or to become members of any religious order, or to be ordained as priests. Underneath the profession of Christianity the Indians have always retained a secret love for the pagan faith of their fathers, and still secretly practise its rites.5656
  It is the same with the great mass of the coloured population of Hayti. While avowedly Catholic, they are in reality faithful to the superstitions which their forefathers brought from Africa. They worship the great serpent without poison, and withdraw secretly into the forest to celebrate religious festivals at which human victims are sacrificed and eaten.


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