No. 14.
Mr. Osborn to Mr. Evarts.

No. 240.]

Sir: This city was taken by surprise and much excitement produced by the publication on the 3d instant of a decree issued by Mr. Tejedor, governor of this province, calling out the national guards (state troops), and ordering 600 to be drilled every Sunday and feast-day.

There are in the province 20 battalions of infantry and 50 of cavalry enrolled, and two new regiments, according to the decree, will be formed.

The decree has a depressing effect in business circles, and it is stated that many of the importing houses have telegraphed their foreign agents to send no more goods for the present.

It is reported that the national government will issue a decree ordering the disarmament of the provincial troops of all the provinces. If this report should prove correct the most serious results may be anticipated.

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In a political sense Governor Tejedor and bis friends claim this province and Corrientes, and that only one other province is wanted to make him the next President. This province is not conceded to Tejedor by General Roca and his friends, and should an armed struggle take place between the parties it will be over this province and in this city.

On the 1st instant ex-President Sarmiento, minister of the interior, issued a circular letter to the governors of the different provinces, a copy of which I have the honor to inclose herewith, marked A.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure A in No. 240.]

the prime minister’s circular.

To His Excellency the Governor of the Province of ———:

With pleasure I remit to your excellency the decree of the President of the republic, naming me minister of the interior, which would be incomplete did I not also send you the excellent letter of His Excellency to me inclosing the decree of my appointment, to the language of which I call your excellency’s especial attention, that it may instruct you, as agent of the national government, how to enforce the laws of Congress and decrees of the executive within the jurisdiction of your province.

A presidential election draws near; public excitement naturally enough is felt; but on the present occasion this excitement, due to accidental circumstances, is all the more alarming and pregnant with greater dangers.

Our country is not sufficiently advanced to be quoted as a model for the expression of public opinion by means of election. There are many monarchies before us in this regard; but the duty of our representatives, elected by the people to public stations, is to labor for the improvement of electoral rights, giving to the voters the most perfect liberty without allowing public order to be disturbed.

Your excellency will have noted that, due to the reciprocal newspaper recriminations for months past, the opinion is general that the coming presidential election will be less an expression of public opinion than of government intrigue.

The idea of the government, in whose name I have the honor to make these remarks, is entirely different; and we think that the country is too much advanced to admit of such doctrines; and the bitterness of this reciprocal abuse proves that the public is more alive to the importance of the matter than hitherto.

I need not point out that, all the candidates for the presidency being honorable men, and all republicans, differing only as to how their opinions should be carried out, it is east to decide which of them would be best for the country; but the result often defeats expectation, either through the country’s own fault, or circumstances over which we have no control.

I make this observation to show that in no case is it worth while to disturb the public peace in an election of honorable citizens; if the results disappoint the people, they will know it was their own doing, and history will not have to record that they were subjected to outward pressure. This is the way to educate public opinion, which profits by its own errors, and in modern times is itself the government, under the constitutional restrictions which the people have imposed on themselves.

Only misdirected zeal, therefore, would seek to interfere in the national elections; political partisans would approve, but the high functionaries encharged to maintain liberty of suffrage in the only constituent act which the people perform (the election of President and Vice-President) would strongly disapprove of such interference.

The election of national functionaries is a national act, under national jurisdiction, in which the provincial authorities only take part as agents of the national government. The federal law declares that whatever tends to disturb such election is sedition, and subject to the penalties attached to this offense. I remind your excellency of this to show you the right which the President of the republic possesses to point out to you the course he wishes the governors of provinces to pursue before the elections, as also their subordinates, a course of simple abstention as agitators for any candidate, or employing official influence on his behalf.

In addition to such a line of conduct being strictly just, it will, as I have already shown, dissipate public anxiety by deeds instead of words, and while adding to the dignity of the governors, will restore their moral authority to use the means which the law gives them for repressing electoral offenses.

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Such are the objects of His Excellency the President on calling me to office, in the belief that both the public and their excellencies the governors, whom I now have the honor of addressing, will bear in mind that during my long public career I have never ceased to advocate full liberty of suffrage and to make the government, respect it.

The republic has progressed notably within these last few years, and won a high place among nations, higher perhaps than its limited number of inhabitants would lead to expect; but this high reputation is seriously damaged at every general election, in consequence of the disorders which occur; and abroad, in Europe especially, they wonder how we have made so little progress in the peaceable use of electoral liberty, which all nations, even monarchies, now enjoy, as even under the French Empire—an absolute government—the people voted freely. Why cannot we approach this state of public morality? Because, as we see by our press, which is more than free, it is not the ignorant masses who practice fraud, intimidation, or other electoral offenses, but distinguished party leaders, and even, according to daily complaints, the very authorities themselves.

The system of a representative government cannot be made to work in one day in countries so recently called upon to govern themselves. Rooted traditions, distances, the ignorance of the masses, the disorders that preceded the adoption of this system, have opposed difficulties and impediments. It is the duty of every citizen, the inspiration of patriotism, to work incessantly to improve and support these institutions, correcting abuses without appealing to destructive means; and, as experience has taught us and all other countries, rebellions are a useless resort, only distancing us from the ends desired.

To secure the free expression of the will of the people in the elections and maintain public peace, as the note of the President of the republic indicates, is the highest and noblest duty of a governor of a province, and which I confidently expect from your excellency, to the satisfaction of your citizens and the national government, of which you are the worthy agent in the electoral laws, and in the repression of acts against federal justice.

Considerations in an economical point necessitate the maintenance of peace. Next April the plow will furrow hundreds of leagues of land, to furnish the people of other lands with bread; next October a new President will ascend, whilst our lands, burdened with cereals, will whiten at the first symptoms of maturity in the ears. During this period the breezes must smile on the growing vegetation, and the storms of civil war, which widow it of its fruits, must be avoided.

To conclude, I inform your excellency that when announcing this line of policy as the expression of the wishes of the President, public opinion here, the sentiments of approval from traders, and the telegrams from the interior, have induced the agents of great banks in Europe to transmit by cable the favorable impression made thereby, and auguring peaceful elections; for commerce fears such crises as mock all calculations.

As regards the men in government, as your excellency, these signs prove that the opinion of the true people is tired of barren agitations, and seeks security beneath the authority of the laws.