South America: Chapter XXIII

(by William Henry Koebel)

The Republic of Peru


With the end of the Spanish power the centres of importance - hitherto quite arbitrarily and artificially chosen - tended to drift to their natural situations.
From time to time it is true that the balance continued to be disturbed by political considerations, but in the main the true order of progress was permitted to proceed unchecked.


Thus the importance of Peru fell to its intrinsic and industrial level, and the States of the north, artificially buoyed up for generations as these had been by the Spaniards, now assumed a secondary place in the affairs of the Continent.

Each State, in fact, had now to rely upon its own population and resources alone.
Of the number there were few enough who were not generously provided with the latter; it was in the former asset that so many were found acutely wanting, of course through no fault of their own.

Thus it was that when the new division of territories took place, many of those countries which Nature had provided with an almost extraordinary degree of wealth found themselves in a state of poverty through the mere want of labour which might develop these resources.

In some cases this disadvantage has been overcome to a greater or lesser extent; in others the situation continues practically unaltered to the present day.

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In the north, as has been said, the era of chaos was not long in asserting itself.
New Granada had been divided into three Republics, those of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador; while the new State of Bolivia had been set up between the frontiers of Paraguay and Peru.

General Sucre, one of the chief military heroes of the war of liberation in the north, was, appropriately enough, made the first President of this new Republic of Bolivia.

At the start unease and fretfulness marked the relations of each of the new States with the others.
It seemed almost as if the Continent had become so imbued with warlike ideas that it had forgotten how to lay down the sword.


There was, moreover, lamentably small inducement to a life of peaceful labour. The industrial situation of the north was as gloomy as elsewhere in the Continent.
The labouring classes found that their condition, instead of becoming bettered by the revolution, had suffered to no small degree.

It was not surprising, indeed, that at the time these unfortunate folk could discern no benefit, but only added curses from this state of liberation of which they had heard so much, and of which they were now in the so-called enjoyment.

Very great numbers of the men had been killed in the course of the war, and their wives and children were left behind in a condition of misery and starvation.


Curiously enough, too, although the goods which now entered these countries from abroad had, owing to the intelligent methods of the new Governments, become so reduced in price that in ordinary circumstances they should have been within the range of all, the peasant could no longer afford to pay even for these cheap luxuries.

The rich Spaniards, the employers of labour, were now no longer on the spot to give out work and to pay wages.
In the industrial confusion the peasant only on the rarest occasions found anyone capable of occupying his labour.

He was thus reduced to attempt the formation of a self-contained establishment of his own, a matter which, in the majority of cases, was sufficiently difficult.
Nevertheless, the peasant contrived to support himself on the maize and vegetables which he grew in the neighbourhood of his hut and by the pigs which he reared.

He knew well enough, nevertheless, that, although he might expect to maintain a precarious existence by this means, he could anticipate nothing whatever beyond.


It was many years before the financial benefits of the rebellion filtered through to these humble classes.
The greater part of the peasants, being fond of show and amusement, were Royalist at heart, and were more adapted for a Monarchy than for a Republic.

As is usually the case with folk of a peaceful and tractable disposition, they were not consulted in the matter at all.
They had groaned on occasion under the Monarchy, and on the first establishment of the Republic they continued to groan from an even greater cause.

The matter was very different with the superior classes of colonists.
The cause for which they had fought was of vital importance to them, and by the change from the status of a colony to that of a Republic they had gained everything.


Before, they had been mere colonials, slighted by the Spaniards on every possible occasion, and permitted no say in public affairs; now they had leaped at a bound to their proper place, and were at the head of their new State.

With pardonable eagerness they plunged into the campaign of speculation which was now open to them, and many of their number rapidly grew rich.
Thus after a time they became employers of labour on a large scale, incidentally solving the labour question of the peasantry of the country.

Among brand-new States who have yet to prove their worth and importance the intervention of mutual jealousies may safely be counted on.
In South America the appearance of these disturbing factors was not long delayed.


It was not three years after the last Spanish troops had been driven from South America that war broke out between the Republics of Bolivia and Peru.
Sucre proved himself as able a leader as ever, and was as successful against his fellow-Republicans as he had been against the Royalist forces.

The Peruvians were utterly defeated. As a consequence, the President, Lamar, was banished from his country, and a new official, Gamarra, was elected as provisional President.

The first war, however, did not succeed in clearing the battle-laden air, and for some while Peru was destined to suffer considerably at the hands of its neighbours.
Very shortly after the conclusion of the first war a second broke out between Bolivia and Peru.

The day of Sucre was then at an end, and the President of Bolivia was Andreas Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz was a powerful Chief-of-State, a born leader of men, who managed to hold his somewhat wild adherents in check.


Since no man of any other temperament could have succeeded in retaining his post in this age of turmoil and unrest, Santa Cruz proved himself a despot, but in many respects a benevolent despot, who showed an interest in genuine progress.

Realizing, for instance, the serious disadvantage under which his country laboured on account of its lack of an adequate population, he devoted much of his thought and time to the amendment of this state of affairs, which he was inclined to alter somewhat arbitrarily.

He urged, for instance, the taxing of celibates and their exclusion from the magistracy in order that their want of patriotism might be singled out and punished.
Whatever might have been the result of measures such as these, the Bolivians proved themselves sufficiently numerous to defeat the Peruvians once again.
Peru was invaded, and Santa Cruz entered Lima as its protector.


A few years later - in 1837 - Peru fell into a dispute with Chile on account of the Guano provinces of Atacama and Tarapaca.
Peru was again invaded, but eventually the Chileans abandoned the country and returned to their own.

After this, no little confusion prevailed in the internal affairs of Peru.
Various leaders came, fought, and went, until civil war was followed by a conflict with Bolivia, in the course of which Gamarra, the Peruvian President, was killed, and the Peruvian forces were totally defeated in 1841.

In 1845 there seemed a prospect of improvement in the affairs of the Republic, when Ramon Castilla was elected President. Castilla was a man of strong and progressive views, and commerce began to flourish under his guidance.

He was followed by President Echenique, but returned to public life, and succeeded the latter as President after a lapse of ten years, in the course of which considerable official corruption had been shown.


In 1864 occurred the first collision with Spain since the conclusion of the war of liberation.
In that year Spain sent out Admiral Pinzon to the Pacific coast in command of three war vessels.

The objects of the expedition were avowedly scientific, but it met with a suspicious reception from the first on the Pacific coast. The conduct of Admiral Pinzon decidedly did not tend to allay any anxiety on the part of the Republicans.
Both Peru and Chile felt that their independence was endangered, and prepared to resist.

On April 14, 1864, the Spanish vessels gave the signal for war by seizing the Chincha Islands.
Hostilities, however, were staved off for a while by the action of the Spanish authorities, who stated that Admiral Pinzon had exceeded his instructions.

In the meanwhile the capture of one of his smaller vessels by the Chileans had so preyed upon the Admiral's mind that he committed suicide.
He was succeeded in his command by Admiral Pareja.


At the beginning of 1866 war with Spain was officially declared.
The Spanish fleet had now been strongly reinforced, and some naval engagements took place between the Spaniards and the allied Peruvians and Chileans, in the course of which the Spanish squadron was repulsed.

On April 25 the Spanish vessels, having already attacked Valparaiso, appeared before Callao, and a week later they began vigorously to bombard the town, which returned the fire.
In this engagement both land and sea forces suffered considerably.

After this the Spanish fleet sailed back to Europe, and the war came to an end. Peace, however, was not declared for two years afterwards.


General Prado now became President of Peru, and proved himself an able statesman.
Nevertheless, the political disturbances continued, and after a while the rival parties became too strong to permit him to remain in office, and, resigning, he took refuge in Chile.

The period which follows is one of great unrest. At the same time, notwithstanding the political disturbances, the commercial and industrial status of Peru was advancing rapidly.
The next President who was destined to remain for some while in his seat was Manuel Pardo.

He was elected in 1872, and although various revolutions occurred during the tenure of his office, these were successfully crushed by his authority.
Indeed, he actually completed his term of office - an exceedingly rare occurrence for a President just at that period.

Pardo was succeeded by General Prado, who had returned from Chile for the purpose of the election, and proved the popular candidate.


So complicated were the internal affairs of the nations at this time that it would be impossible to follow them adequately without devoting various chapters to this purpose alone.

One of the blackest events of the period was the assassination of the ex-President Prado, who had proved himself a high-minded and efficient leader.
This, as a matter of fact, was the act of a dissatisfied non-commissioned officer, and not of any political party.

During Prado's Presidency war broke out between Chile and Peru over the question of the nitrate fields, which were claimed by both countries.
Prado being both the President and General-in-Chief, took command of the Peruvian army.

Although a man of personal courage, he appears to have been utterly hopeless of victory from the start; and in December, 1879, when various disasters had overtaken the Peruvian arms, he abandoned the country, and, taking ship at Callao, sailed for Europe.


The resistance to Chile was continued by Nicolas de Pierola, who, rising in armed rebellion against the constituted authority of Peru, caused himself to be declared President.
His efforts, however, did not succeed in stemming the Chilean advance, and the end of the war saw Peru deprived of the nitrate provinces which she had claimed.

Bolivia, who had been associated with her as her ally in the struggle, was now reduced to the position of an inland State, her strip of coast-line having been taken away by the victorious Chileans.

The history of Peru following on the disastrous war with Chile is one of internal strife, when a host of would-be leaders, each with a following of greater or lesser importance, came into conflict and prevented any settled political action.


In 1886 President Andreas Caceres came into power, and, seeing that the populace of the Republic was now exhausted by the continuous state of conflict, he was permitted to rule unchecked until 1890.

Caceres established a species of military dictatorship, and remained the power behind the throne until 1894, when, the acting President having died, he found it necessary to come to the front again, and after some confusion and fighting he was proclaimed President for the second time.

In 1895 a revolution occurred, headed by the same Pierola who had distinguished himself in the war against Chile.
After some severe fighting the party of Caceres was defeated, and Pierola, declared President, began to govern in a constitutional fashion.


His advent to power marked the end of the political turbulence which had been so prominent a feature of Peruvian history during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Although the revolutionary movement continued, it had lost its fierce and almost continuous character.

Since that period it has become merely intermittent, and thus of secondary consideration; for, following the example of the neighbouring and progressive Republics of South America, the political strife in Peru has, to a large extent, given way to the practical considerations of industrial and commercial progress.



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