Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1883
Mr. Hall to
Guatemala , March 27, 1883. (Received April 16.)
Sir: In my dispatch No. 56, of the 8th of January ultimo, I reported certain movements initiated by General Barrios for forming a union of the Central American states and the departure of a commissioner of the Government of Guatemala appointed to visit the other states, with the object of inviting the co-operation of their Governments in some general plan for carrying out the contemplated measure. There was no secrecy in this movement. The subject was publicly and freely discussed. * * *
It was generally understood, also, that the Presidents of Salvador and Honduras were in full accord with General Barrios’s plan, and that the only doubt as to the practicability of its realization was in regard to the disposition of the Governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The Guatemalan commissioner arrived at the capital of Salvador about the 10th of January. Here he was joined by Mr. Gallegos, the Salvadonian minister for foreign affairs, and the two proceeded together to Honduras, where, as was to be expected, they met with a cordial reception, and received renewed assurances of concerted action on the part of the President, the Government, and influential citizens. From Honduras the commissioners proceeded to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and from the tenor of the notices of their official receptions, addresses, and correspondence which have been published, the union of these states might be considered un fait accompli.
But in all of the states except Guatemala the popular sentiment, so far as can be ascertained and is permitted to have expression, is decidedly hostile to the union. In Salvador there have been popular demonstrations of unmistakable significance to that effect. * * *[Page 34]
There have also appeared in the several states many publications for land against the proposed union. * * *
In the mean time General Barrios * * * has brought out his circular letter, addressed to his friends of the Liberal party, in which he positively renounces all aspirations to the Presidency of the Central American union, and denounces in strong terms the ingratitude and f faithlessness of those who owe everything to him. * * *
The commissioners before referred to have as yet made no report of the result of their mission. It is stated that there is to be a meeting of delegates from the several states at Santa Tecla, in Salvador. * * *
I have, &c.,
central american nationality. (No. 1.)
In number 295 of the Diario Oficial of the 29th of the present month we have seen, with a certain degree of satisfaction, an editorial in which are made some comments upon the most important affair which has in the last few days occupied almost exclusively the public attention. And we say, “with a certain degree of satisfaction” because, not having the honor to entirely agree with the editors of the Diario Oficial, it has still pleased us to see the absurd rumors which have circulated contradicted; rumors which we have also contradicted with energy, founded on the little experience we have had, and on some knowledge that we have concerning the men and affairs of our country. It has pleased us to see satisfied a public necessity, which we all, absolutely all, have experienced, which was that of an authoritative voice which should come to bring light into the chaos of so much conjecture; finally, it has pleased us to see that to the press, that is to say, to public opinion, will be commended the decision adopted in an affair of so much transcendency.
But, as we have before said, we have not the honor to agree with the opinions expressed in that article; and although separated from public life and all connected with it; although our name, which has never been distinguished, may be almost unknown, we believe it our imperative duty to raise our voice addressing men of intelligence and experience; those who are at the head of our destinies; those who, very soon, will occupy the seats of the Congress, all of our compatriots, without distinction of ranks or parties, calling their attention to the most important question being agitated; and we do so inspired by the manifestations of opinion which never, even in the days of our public life, has been hidden from us; inspired by our patriotic sentiments, the conveniences or inconveniences, the advantages or disadvantages, the possibility or impossibility of that question, without there being on our part any paltry sentiment, any bastard passion, to come and confuse us in our task.
Again comes upon the carpet of Central American diplomacy the great question of nationality. Again it comes to be agitated, at a moment when no one expected it, and to absorb the attention of all. Will it be for good? Will it be for ill? This is what it is impossible to predict.
The history of this question is a history of tears and blood. That word has not been pronounced a single time by the Governments of Central America without being followed by one of those insensate struggles in which no one knows the object of the dispute, in which all lose: struggles in which we have exhausted our strength; we have destroyed our prosperity; we have closed the fountains of our progress; we have blotted our name from the great book in which the world records the names of enlightened nations; we have killed our credit; we have covered ourselves with opprobrium and shame; we have demoralized our country; and, finally, we have put off the day of its reconstruction.[Page 35]
The name of “Central American Union” has been the constant declaration of our wars; the incendiary proclamation which has preceded those vast conflagrations where we have lost all; the kiss of Judas under which we have disguised our hatreds; the hypocritical word with we have hidden our miserable ambitions.
Oh, do not charge us with exaggerations; look over the brief history of our country, and it will be found that that name, which we ought not to pronounce without respectfully uncovering our heads, has been the dismal prologue of all our puerile rivalries.
It is not, then, without dread that we always hear that question initiated; but, being once opened, it is necessary to examine it; we shall endeavor to do so without fear or malice. We believe, above all, that the step which is to be attempted is premature; let us examine all the Central American Isthmus and we do not find in it the elements that are essential, indispensable for the unification of its peoples. Still more, we find many, very many, opposing elements. What means shall we make use of? We can only choose two—diplomacy and the sword.
We believe and have hope in the efficacy of the former, when the question is of conciliating the interests of two nations fighting among themselves, to give a rational solution to that difficulty; we believe in it when the strong imposes upon the weak; the supreme reason of force; when it is endeavored to harmonize by its means reciprocal interests, so that they may develop, each in its sphere, without interfering in their respective movements; we believe in it when the relations between two countries being broken both parties are trying to renew them; but we do not believe in diplomacy when it wishes to constitute itself a power, substituting its voice for the voice of the nation; when it pretends to conclude conventions which opinion, necessity, and convenience reject; when it pretends to harmonize interests which interfere among themselves by their very nature, and, in fine, when it is desired that the decisions of plenipotentiaries or of a congress of them shall be the decisions of the peoples they represent.
No diplomatic combination gave unity to Italy in spite of the numerous endeavors to this effect, nor has any nation united its parts by similar means, except when this has been a general necessity, when it has been in the conscience of it all and of each one, when it has come to be one of those national inspirations which, j have had the universal opinion for organ and for arm—that of the entire nation.
Well, then, what would a diplomatic congress in Central America signify? It would signify the will or the promise of the Various Governments to be present; it would signify the meeting of the representatives of those various Government, but never public opinion genuinely represented; there would be an official representation, but not a national one, in the legitimate sense of the word; its decisions would bind those Governments, but would not bind the sentiments of the peoples, because these are far above conventions; because there are interests created during half a century of separation which cannot be easily harmonized; because there is now a certain spirit of local nationality, allow us the word, which has been exacerbated by our constant discords; because there are petty rivalries, formed in fratricidal struggles, which are easily irritated; because there is among our people a very narrow criterion to judge of these questions, born of our own dissensions; because we would have to rectify our present frontiers that there might be a stable equilibrium, a rectification impossible, because it would wound the general sentiment of those who would consider themselves defrauded, and it would be necessary to have recourse to force; because, whatever may be said, our people are yet incapable of governing themselves, and the will alone of the chief of a state would suffice to break the fragile web so laboriously woven; because our people commence to-day their political education, and look with absolute indifference on all belonging to the interior régimen; because we are divided into diverse castes, not legal out actual, not of supremacy but of blood; castes which have different decrees of civilization.
The indigenous element, preponderating in Guatemala by its number, which constitutes the great majority of that Republic, which in Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras [Page 36] forms a great mass separated in all parts from rest the citizens by its ignorance, is a passive lends itself to everything except to putting in practice ideas which it does not comprehend, does not know. Can our nationality, then, be reconstructed without it? We believe not.
We see no necessity of refuting the second means—war. Let us look over the whole history of humanity, and we shall find Empires composed of innumerable servants; we shall find Monarchies composed of slaves instead of subjects united by the sword; never a national body constituted by it.
Common sense suffices; it is plainly to be seen that the sword neither is, nor ever has been, a band of union, but an instrument of destruction; we have to accept it as one of those social infirmities, a lamentable legacy of barbarism, and only to repulse the assaults of the latter is it legitimate to employ it. It is the genuine expression of force, never of right; and when it is not drawn against crime, it is a crime to draw it.
We are not among those who deny the advantages that the realization of the grand thought of reconstructing our country would bring us, but the obstacles to its being carried to a practical conclusion are not hidden from us. Let us suppose that without apparent opposition that end be reached, how long would it last; what result would it produce? We feel genuine affliction on consideration of this phase of the problem.
Our social condition, it is painful to say, is much below the level of our institutions; expressing in our fundamental codes all the grand principles contained in them has served for nothing; they have remained sterile by our abandonment. In presence of the absolute forgetfulness of the people, the complete indifference with which they look upon the most sacred rights, the most sacred obligations, the governors have had to substitute fact for right; from this proceeding tyrannies like those which have afflicted Guatemala in the time of Carrera; Salvador, under a military administration, adopted by her; Costa Rica, under the government of Guardia circumstances have not changed; they remain the same, and we ought not to hope that they will change from the simple fact of our uniting ourselves into a single nation.
Consequently, from the moment in which an ambitious governor arises in whichever of the sections, whether denying due obedience to the general power, or striving to reach the latter, we will have the national unity forcibly broken, or, erect and arrogant, the thousand heads of anarchy. And we may not be called pessimists for making this augury—speaking of peoples where ambition is ceaselessly agitated; where all believe themselves excused from exercising the sacred rights of citizenship; where all tolerate the abuses of power without protesting, but where every one thinks he has the right to ensanguine the soil of the country in the name of those rights which he has not wished to exercise; to violently pull down a power .before whose abuses he has been dumb, without blushing for vile interests or childish fears.
The unity would be therefore a weak spider web, broken before being concluded, whose meshes would be untied before the will of an intriguer, or broken at the stroke of the first saber raised against them.
Let us examine the circumstances of our various states, and see if they are such as permit us to think even of that so much desired unity. It is a law, not only political and social but also economical, that all association has the object of producing advantages to the associates. We have seen that, in the first two senses, we would obtain none; let us see to-day, and this with especial relation to Salvador and Nicaragua, what advantages we would obtain in the economic sense. First, if union were possible we are not ignorant that—our elements being united—we could undertake enterprises impossible in our present isolation; but let us see if that union is possible; let us examine if our circumstances permit us to establish such a system, if they are the same in the diverse fractions, if their economic situation is identical.[Page 37]
Guatemala has an interior debt of $5,000,000, Salvador and Nicaragua of $1,500,000, approximately, each one; and Costa-Rica and Honduras, although but little is known of their internal condition, should have a debt proportionally much greater considering the financial confusion of the first under the government of Guardia, and the exhaustion of the second when its present governor came into power. The appropriations of both have not been collected during some time, and we have now left the time very far behind in which such a situation was arranged by a simple decree in which a Government itself declared itself a blameless insolvent, cancelling its liabilities by a simple stroke of authority.
Well, then: Can the first and the last two, with their already deficient revenues, the augmented expenditures which the new system would render indispensable, and on the diminution of the revenues they now have—as would of necessity succeed in inverse ratio to the quota of each in the general expenses—could they collect even the interest of their increased debts? We firmly believe not. It is doubtful if even Salvador and Nicaragua, whose situation is easy, could succeed in collecting their respective appropriations and the part corresponding to them in the general expense without producing a confusion, more or less complete, in their treasury. Every one knows that it would be necessary to augment the taxes, and that at a moment when the country trembles before the crisis through which it is passing, and when the people find already very heavy the weight of the present taxes.
The first three states, we do not hesitate to affirm, would be condemned to an eternal and shameful bankruptcy, to live a life without vigor, sterilizing the thousand fountains of their prosperity and well-being; or to burden the general estimate to the detriment of the last two, making the grand principle to which we aspire unproductive.
And if we pass from the interior to the exterior situation, the difficulties augment in an inconceivable proportion.
Numbers, in these matters, are more eloquent than words, and their rude logic leaves no place for illusions; let us make, then, a few calculations.
In approximate numbers Honduras has an exterior debt of $33.000.000, Costa Rica of $17,000,000, and Guatemala of $5,000,000, while Salvador and Nicaragua do not owe a single cent. The Central American nation, therefore, would come to the world with $55,000,000 of exterior debt, which would draw $3,300,000 interest annually. We take the liberty to ask: Could the national treasury collect this enormous sum Every one knows it would be impossible, and the unhappy Central American people would have to leave so ponderous a legacy to their children; they would see themselves compelled to labor without truce nor rest to pay that which a few agitators have absorbed, without being able to even see in the distance the day when they would be free from this onerous tribute. One year after another would continue adding to the enormous sum above mentioned new sums, which would deepen more and more the abyss in which would be consumed the fruit of our labor, of our economy, and activity.
It will be pretended, perhaps, that each state shall continue being exclusively responsible for its debt, and that the rest shall have no responsibility; but to that we respond that such a pretension is impossible. From the moment when the autonomy of the divers present factions disappears, to be confounded in a single autonomic entity, the condition of those credits would improve in the European markets, and the pretensions of the holders would be always more exacting, always more imperious; these claims would not wait very long, and the general Government would be besieged by agents, who would demand with arrogance the payment of what is due them. Let us recall the history of European claims in Spanish America, and we shall have the model of what would await the Central American Republic. The particular questions of each state would be converted into national questions, and perhaps we would present the melancholy spectacle that Egypt presents to-day, with its European interventions disposing, at the pleasure of the cabinets of London and Paris, of the v property and fortune of a whole people.
In a circumstance like that the states which yet retain something would of necessity have to contribute to the payment of the debts of the others, replacing the European creditors in their rights; but what would it signify to Salvador and Nicaragua to be creditors of the other states? What value would the paper of Guatemala, of Honduras, and Costa Rica have for them? None, absolutely none.[Page 38]
The new creditors would be ruined, without saving the debtors; there would be a sacrifice so much the more painful as it would be sterile; and for tangible result we would have only ruin in the interior, derision and discredit abroad; we would be exhibited before the world in a shameful spectacle, and would prove once more our inability and our incapacity. We are frightened at the abyss to which the exaggeration of a principle desires to conduct our country.
The Central American union is the fact of the future, but only the dream of the present. It is not given to us for the present more than to develop the elements that, further on, should produce it; elements which are known to all, but which it is not unprofitable to express here.
First of all, let us educate our people, that there may be citizens in fact and not in name; let us hasten to create public opinion, without which truly republican government is impossible; let us cause our frontiers to disappear, connecting the material and moral interests of the various peoples by means of commercial relations; let us cease intervening, by force in the affairs of our brothers, because pressure engenders hatred, and each armed intervention postpones, half a century, the fusion to which we aspire; let us unify our systems of custom-houses, of moneys, of weights and measures; let us harmonize our legislations, as far as may be possible, making them rest on the same principles; let us have a common representation abroad; let us cease ventilating ridiculous and petty questions with arms in our hands, carrying, not incidentally but systematically, our pleas to an arbitral tribunal, which could be composed of the Central American Governments that might remain neutral; let us obey its decisions as a law; let us have, finally, good faith in our relations; let us cease to hate each other as we have done up to the present, and let us wait.
No, we repeat it, the Central American union is impossible for the present. Costa Rica, by its topographical situation and by its sentiments is separated from us; it would hot suit Salvador and Nicaragua, in the present circumstances, to enter into such a combination. We love Central America much, but more we love this piece of soil where we were born, where the light for the first time illuminated our eyes, where our intelligence has developed, where our young heart has palpitated with the impulse of the most beautiful sentiments, where the ashes of our fathers repose, where is inclosed all, all that binds us to life, than to sacrifice it on the altars of an illusion; to exchange it for an optical phenomenon, which enchants, as does the rainbow in the skies, but which like the rainbow vanishes when we approach it, when we extend our hand to touch it.
We are Central Americans, yes; but first we are Salvadoreños. Therefore, we protest against the most beautiful, but impossible idea of reconstructing Central America.
central american nationalty. (No. 2.)
In giving to the press our pamphlet of the 30th of December of last year, we had the sole object of emitting our convictions on the important object of our union, and by no means that of initiating a polemic. We desired to keep silent, once being fulfilled that duty, for so we consider it; but the diverse manners in which we have been judged in various publications, provoked by ours, moves us to raise our voice anew.
Obliged by circumstances to consider Salvador as our country, we believe that we should watch that her genuine interests be not sacrificed to the imaginary interests of the rest of Central America, and this duty was one of the motives which guided our pen; but, disfigured by some, insulted and made sport of by others, we wish to rectify it as regards the first, paying no attention whatever to the second. We shall not have a word for them.
We have given reasons, and they answer us with scoffing and insults, thus taking the trouble to avenge us upon themselves. As little shall we say anything to those who, hiding their names, have spoken untruthfully in this matter.[Page 39]
We write for our country, and we do not wish nor try to deceive her, and we shall not waste our time refuting facts, whose truth, established in the public conviction, they cannot disfigure.
We shall have a public expression of gratitude for those who, not being of our opinion, have been pleased to make flattering references to our modest gifts and personality, like our old master and present friend, Dr. Luciano Hernandez.
Once for all, in addressing our compatriots we are guided by one pole star—the truth. And whatever may be the circumstances and occurrences we obey, our pen will always be guided by it, without ever descending to offer, in the guise of incense, that nauseating thing called adulation, neither on the altars of the people nor on the altars of power.
On examining the various publications provoked by ours, we have found that they do not touch the major part of our reasonings, although disfiguring some of them. We are not adversaries of the grand principle of Central American nationality; rather we proclaim it as loudly as the loudest. To examine whether it is realizable, to see if it will be a fruitful essay or a useless and bloody abortion; to weigh the obstacles which oppose it and analyze the elements which should produce it; to consider its actual results; to make patent its impossibility and inconvenience in the present moment and circumstances; to oppose, in consequence, its immediate realization, is not to promulgate the political creed of the men most noted for their retrograde ideas; is not to raise any arm whatever against the principle which occupies us; is not to defend village horizons nor narrow views; is not to kill the last hopes of realizing the legacy of our fathers, as some one has said; but, on the contrary, it is to make the autopsy of this living cadaver which is called “Central America”; it is to put the finger on the cancer which corrodes it; it is to make manifest the ulcer which is exhausting it, showing it to all men of enlightenment, of experience, and, above all, of honesty, in order that they may renew the miracle of Lazarus, removing it from its anticipated sepulcher.
The example of other peoples is invoked; the names of Italy, of Germany, of the United States, who have succeeded in union, is cited; but this has been the fruit of the constancy, the patriotism, the energy that those people have displayed, and let ns also say of the necessity they have experienced from the pressure or threats of neighboring countries. Let us seek in our country for constancy and we do not find it; we see its most prominent men change their political creed many times in a lifetime—the people spitting to-day in the face of the idol they deified yesterday. Let us seek patriotism, and we do not find it; in vain do the most sacred interests call on the citizen to exercise his sovereignty, by means of suffrage; the electoral urns remain deserted and abandoned, and in place of the august representation of the people, from those urns emerge congresses impossible every where else and possible only in Central America. Let us look for energy, and we seek it uselessly; not a single independent voice is heard, when in the high regions of power it is not agreeable that that voice sound, although the most arduous questions, of most vital interest for the country, are being discussed. And we wish thus to reach the resolution of the capital problem which occupies us! And we dare to invoke the name of public opinion! Let us, then, not offend those peoples, putting their moral grandeur in comparison with our littleness.
We do not pretend that the counterfeit of an idea is the idea itself, that should therefore be rejected; but, when it happens that the counterfeits are the current money, and that the truth is only conspicuous by its absence, it is very logical to examine carefully if that truth or only a false imitation is offered us. Well, then, since our federal compact was broken, not by the malice of a party, which all reciprocally charge upon the contrary the culpability of such rupture, but from our inexperience, from our impudence, from the inherent vices of that compact, from the mutual intransigency of the bands, we find only very bad imitations of that great principle. How strange it is that, taught by dolorous experience, we should not examine first, and examine with extreme carefulness. Do we wish to continue those puerile essays that have cost so much blood, so many tears, which have all terminated in genuine and frightful dramas? It is denied that blood has been shed in the name of the nationality; and even prescinding the struggles, that, like dying convulsions, accompanied [Page 40] it in its ruin, even confining ourselves to the brief period of our life, “Nationality and liberty” was proclaimed by the Government which succumbed in the memorable expedition of San José de Arrazola. “Nationality” was the word inscribed on the standards which fell in this city in the year 1863, and directed to this end were the agitations that all Central America suffered. “Nationality” was being treated of, when in Pasaquina resounded the first cannon in 1871. “Nationality” was talked of in the congress united in Guatemala when the struggle broke out between that and this Republic in 1875.
To-day, therefore, we fear, and we fear with reason.
We are told of Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Argentine Republic, as palpable examples of union. But Colombia, the primitive, the grand, was disrupted never to be reorganized, and in the present Colombia, in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Argentine Republic, where the same error was committed which we are committing, of breaking unity to adopt an exotic form—federation—they do not strive to constitute this. Their various states have remained united, although in continual struggles, and the case is not identical. There they have a whole, although dislocated, united. We struggle to establish that unity, broken long ago. Thus to adduce similar examples leads to nothing.
It is imputed to us as a crime that we invoke opportunity; but do they not know that opportunity is the half of success; that the fruit is not good before it ripens? What would we accomplish by sterile attempts? Only misfortune, anarchy, and effusion of blood. Italian unity the most beautiful dream of her most illustrious sons, sublime conception of her most powerful geniuses, engraved in the sublime and terrific pictures of the Divina Comedia, could only become a fact when the Austrian bayonets, routed in Magenta and Solferino, blunted in the fields of Sadowa, could no longer tear the vitals of that generous people. German unity, already existing many centuries before, was consolidated only when the eagles of the second French Empire were beaten down at Gravelotte and Sedan.
Our unprogressive, politico-social mode of existence is acknowledged, but it is desired to attribute to the union a virtue it does not possess, which it cannot possess. It is pretended that with it that mode of existence would disappear to give place to a complete and radical reform. Let us not deceive ourselves. The unitarian Republic is impossible, and from necessity we have to think of the federal form; our little states would continue being what they are—that is to say, little groups in which the hand of the governor covers all, embraces all, from the greatest to the smallest; from the affair of state to the private and insignificant business of a family.
The influence of the general power would only make itself felt in the general affairs, and if emerging from its orbit, as is logical to expect, it should invade the particular ones of each state, by that fact itself we would have the equilibrium destroyed and anarchy subverting all. Not even the vast aggregations can by the sole force of their dimensions.
Russia, the most colossal Empire, is yet the prisoner of a frightful tyranny, while Switzerland, a little Republic, and Belgium and Portugal, Monarchies relatively insignificant, enjoy the most certain and complete liberty. Mexico, with 8,000,000 inhabitants, has not known a truly regular administration, while Chili, with a fourth part of that population, has enjoyed for a long time an entirely republican régimen of complete guarantees and a liberty unknown in the rest of Spanish America.
It is not political laws nor groupings of peoples which produce social revolutions; these occur in ideas, and ideas are translated afterward into adequate institutions. In Central America we have followed the opposite course, and in spite of results almost null, in spite of the demonstrations of experience, we insist on continuing it, and we see enlightened minds wedded to that absurd system.
La Republica of the first of the present month adorns its columns with a most beautiful editorial article under the title of “The National Union,” in which this question is treated of with a skillful and well-handled pen, although, in our judgment, the modest author of that work spends his principal energies in an unnecessary demonstration. We are all convinced of the convenience, of the necessity of establishing [Page 41] the union; that the reconstitution of Central America is indispensable. We all desire this, we are all anxious for it, we are all unionists. In consequence it is useless to discuss this point; but we are not intransigent unionists, and therefore we examine if this principle is yet ripe for its application.
That article, which breathes loyalty and good faith in all its lines, accuses its author of somewhat of utopianism. With a master hand he manages the scalpel of the critic, to bring into relief our vices, our deformities, our social littlenesses; philosopher, while judging of our manner of existence, he ceases to be one on proposing the remedy for those diseases; let us form the union, he says, and those littlenesses, those deformities, those vices will disappear. Error and lamentable error! As well might health be proposed to the sick man as a panacea for his ills; the end is confounded with the means, thus failing in all. If the union is impossible for to-day, if we cannot bring it into the practical domain, if it remains until the present day as a mere speculation, it is because those vices of which we have spoken, that all know, that all confess, rise between us and our aspirations like a wall of bronze. Why do we not arise and unite our exertions to remove them?
Let us improve these moments of calm, says the writer, to lay the foundations of the old country. Oh, in this we agree entirely. Let us lay the foundations which are to sustain an edifice of ponderous weight; but let us think that to make the cement is the first thing; that this is an indispensable previous condition; that to proclaim to the sound of drums and clarions that nationality is decreed, is not to found a solid edifice, but to throw a soap bubble into the air; a bubble which not only contains air, but also all the evils inclosed in the symbolic box of Pandora.
On treating of the economic questions which retard the reality of our aspirations, some affect to view them with profound contempt, with sovereign indifference; they speak of the gibbet of numbers, questions of the grocery and shop, &c. We do not look with indifference upon economic questions; if wealth was in ancient times “the sinews of war,” in modern times it is the sinew which gives energy and vigor to the life of nations. We are not now in the golden age, when man ate acorns for his sole aliment and covered his nakedness with hairy skins. The progress accomplished in all senses has created new necessities as imperious as those imposed by nature itself, and to-day economic questions are of as much importance as those which relate to political and social order. Let us not disdain them, therefore; to do so is to deny material progress, the solidifier of all other progress.
They speak of extinction of the debts of our sisters, or at least advantageous arrangements that will soon be made between them and their creditors. The day when the cable shall announce us that happy news, the day when we know that the evil caused to our brothers by the unskillfulness of some or the sordid avarice of others of their sons has been remedied, we shall be the first to clap our hands, the first to exclaim, “What a grand obstacle has disappeared from the path of our aspirations!” But while it remains threatening and impassable, our finger inflexible as that of destiny, will point it out; not to impede with retrograde intentions the realization of the grand thought, but in order that those who proclaim and sustain it in the sterile domain of phraseology may try it by ways logically practical.
It is useless to compare our economic situation with that of countries which in this regard march at the head of the rest. In England, to maintain the debt is a politic measure: in Central America it is impolitic. If in the United States the increase of the revenues threatens, by the plethora of the public vaults, the day of the amortization of the debt, in Central America there is no threat of other plethora than that of exhaustion, owing to the little judgment and irregularity in the management of the public business.
We are not ignorant of the extension of right nor international life, nor the modern epoch; on the contrary, founded in the knowledge of the latter, we know that nations have no moral respectability except as far as they give it, nor material respectability unless founded in numerous mouths of fire.
Abroad we are considered and treated like the Barbary States, with very little difference, owing to the fact that the scandals that are repeated with such frequency in the interior cross the frontiers, are known abroad, taken up and commented on by the press, thus giving us a barbarous physiognomy. In our international relations this influence is felt, and what would be a crime with respect to another nation is [Page 42] logical and natural in the European sense with respect to us. Our physical impotence is plain to be seen, isolated or united, and merits no demonstration. With such antecedents, whatever attempt is feared, is feared with reason; and if examples are called for, there is that of Egypt, over which the eyes close involuntarily, over the consequences of a bad economic situation.
“Let us aggrandize Central America, let us raise her to the height of virtue, of liberty, and of glory, that she may fulfill her providential destiny; let us launch her into the spheres of the superior ideal.” Most beautiful programme, which would doubtless conduct us to the union, but which we must not expect to come from the union; no. This will be the fruit of a slow and constant labor of peoples and Governments. While we see servants in place of citizens; while rights are such a dead letter that the moth eats the shelves of the archives; while the people forget that they have duties towards their country; while principles remain forgotten, and, what is worse, trampled on; while personalism battles on its own account, vitiating the air which gives life to the institutions; while our congresses are only laughable parodies on national representation; while the opinion of the majority continues to be represented by the formula which at present represents it, which is zero, symbol of nothing; while people and governments conspire, each in its orbit, to maintain our actual situation; in a word, while we do not make a social revolution, that is to say, in ideas that shall substitute right, to-day unknown, for fact, the only commander; the citizen for the servant, the kingdom of institutions for that of one man, all will be in vain, all sterile, all contra-productive.
For it there are very obvious reasons. An institution like that which is being discussed should have very solid foundations; now, then, the union at the present time would lack them. It is not enough that everybody desires it; it does not suffice that it be a material necessity, as it is to-day; it should also be a moral necessity; it is necessary that all consciences have that conviction—that all wills aspire to that end. And if all we Central Americans desire it, the great majority lacks faith; is fearful, lacks confidence; sees in it a new epoch of struggles, and, at the end of those struggles, a separation more profound than the present.
Bastard ambitions are agitated to-day more than ever; opinion does not exist, and personalism has been elevated almost to the category of a science, How long would the fragile federal bond last in a territory so extensive, so thinly populated, of communication so difficult? What would be the powerful means to stifle the voice, not now of political bands and passions, as in other times, but of illegitimate ambition, which only asks of illegitimate means the satisfaction of the immoderate desire for lucre, of personal interest, &c.? To-day that our civic virtues are dead, or at least lethargic, to-day that we look in vain for men of principles and convictions, that we only act when urged by petty motives, can we, with these deleterious elements, bring into the domain of the practical the great end we seek? No, by no means, no.
We do not exaggerate; the situation of our country is that we have painted, except some small details, as in Nicaragua, where there is liberty of thought, although sometimes it is punished with prison and banishment, and where there is a remnant of electoral liberty. In the rest, let us look over our history—the history of the last twenty-five years—and we shall not encounter more than social disorganization, stagnation, and consequently corruption. The constitutions, except that of Salvador in 1871, promulgated to be broken immediately afterward, have been charters which have not been decreed by the people, but stipulated by the Governments, according to the dictation of their convenience, of their circumstances, and according to the interests of the moment. The legal transmission of power, the youth hardly know it as a tradition, not as a practical fact; the election of the high functionaries is an affair which is not incumbent on the national will, which the latter abandons to other wills, very far from being for the public convenience; the habeas corpus is a guarantee null and sterile; the independence of the tribunals does not exist; the congresses only know how to approve, the people to be silent, and the citizen to suffer. We do not think that any one will be bold enough to deny these facts; that any one will dispute us in good faith; and if any one shall do so, it will be knowingly departing from the truth; it will be lying.[Page 43]
Who has the blame of all? The Governments? A little. The people? In great part; but a part, and not a small one, belongs also to the professional adulators, whose only task is, now orally, now by the press, to deify him who commands, and to barefacedly lie to him who obeys; to extol even the most iniquitous acts of power; to give a decent appearance to that which the whole world condemns; to form around the commander a dense veil interposed between him and the citizens; to drown with their outcry the few voices that arise from the bosom of the people, and thus divorce I the general will from the will of the governor. Abject, most abject task! Role, infamous and degrading! Those men should be marked in the forehead; with an indelible mark should fall upon them the social anathema.
And these vices, these deformities, cannot be corrected by laws, by institutions, by decrees, for these have no force if they are not founded on customs, if they are not a reflection of the disposition of the people. When a disease is in the blood we should modify, regenerate, purify the last, and not apply palliatives. Well, then, our social blood is corrupted, and we should modify, regenerate and purify it; this is the task which we should undertake but without vacillation or delay. Let us put aside the palliatives, which, far from curing, make worse; let us preach the civic virtues more by example than by word; let us re-establish the right of choice, those who think, those who see, guiding the masses who cannot or do not wish to see and think, but guiding them in the path of law, not of acts, not of crowds nor riots; let us speak with the independent word of the citizen, not with the offensive and calumnious chattering of the satirist; let us follow the example of the tribune of Ireland struggling at the head of its people in the field of right, by legal means, and which thus succeeded in conquering, one by one, all the liberties which reformed England denied to Catholic Ireland; let us re-establish the empire of the Jaw, sending to our Congresses genuine representatives of the people, men of good sense, of intelligence, of independence, who will know how to make the law, to fulfill it, and to cause it to be respected.
It will be said, perhaps, that this is impossible, that every one is afraid, that the agents of power abuse, oppress the electors; but these reasons are mere sophisms; that which has been possible for the exertions of an isolated municipality, as has been practically demonstrated on more than one occasion, cannot be impossible for our Republics; fear is not a reason, except for peoples that have lost all shame, all dignity, all energy; and it is these fears which we combat; abuse and oppression are strong only when they are exercised against an isolated group of citizens, not against the majority of a people; it is easy to imprison and even to torture one or two individuals, but not a hundred thousand electors who present themselves to exercise their rights.
This should be our task; a task long and difficult, but not impossible; these are the only foundations of our union, of our nationality. If opinion is its corner stone, let us cast this opinion first of all, because resting only upon the will or convenience of a few it would be ruined and fallen when that will was wanting, when those conveniences change their direction. On the contrary, it will remain unalterable, being sustained by the will of all, although some few might struggle to oppose it. Let us now leave this child’s play; let us work like men.
We address ourselves to all, governors and governed; let us have pity on our country; let us love her a little; let us try for her good by the only means possible; let us struggle against corruption; let us cause virtue to triumph; let us not scandalize the world longer with our crimes of perverted civilization; let the law rule; let abuses cease; it is now time that the Governments change their course; put yourselves at the head of the social revolution; aid it, guide it; do not retard nor denaturalize it; cease proclaiming irrealizable abstractions, indeducible consequences, while the elements which should give them existence are not reunited and combined, while the premises from which they could be deduced are not felt. Let lirism (lirismo) be abandoned for genuine and practical interests; let us be guided by the principles of science, not by the figures of rhetoric.
Energy, constancy, and, above all, honesty, much honesty, and in some years we will have succeeded in our object; we will have made practical the ancient legend of our shield—
God, Union, and Liberty.
What I now say will bring me only insults, but in days of grief my words will be remembered.—X.
A great thinker says that in the last few centuries admirable progresses have been made in all matters, but that the political sciences, since Montesquieu, have taken no other steps than the terrible experiments with which the doctrines of that immortal publicist have been proved.
The author of the Cartas Persas says in Book IX, chapter 1, of the spirit of the laws, as follows:
“If a Republic is small a foreign force destroys it; if it is large some internal vice destroys it.
“Both troubles infect in the same manner the democracies as much as the aristocracies, whether they be good or bad. The evil is in the thing itself, and there is no form for remedying it.
“On that account it is very probable that men would have finally been obliged to live under the government of one alone, if they had not imagined the plan of a constitution which unites the external force of the monarchical to all the internal advantages of the republican government; such is the federative Republic.
“This form of government is an agreement made by various political bodies, by which they consent to be citizens of another greater state which it is proposed to form; and thus comes into existence a society of societies which form another new one, which can become greater by uniting with new associates.
“These associations it was which caused Greece to flourish for so long a time. The Romans made use of them to attack the universe, and the universe to defend itself from the Romans; and when Rome reached the summit of her greatness, it was also the associations formed by fear on the other side of the Danube and the Rhine which gave the barbarians strength to resist.
“The associations of cities were, in former times, more necessary than at present. A city without power ran, then, a greater risk; since, by conquest, it lost not only the executive and legislative power, as happens to-day, but, also, all kind of property that there is among men.
“This species of Republic, capable of resisting external force, can be maintained in all its extension without being internally corrupted, since the form of this society avoids all inconvenience.
“He who might wish to usurp, could not be accredited in the same manner in all the confederated states.
“If in one he acquired much power, it would cause inquietude in the rest; if he should subjugate a part, that which remained free would resist him with forces independent of those he might have usurped, and could strike him down before he finished establishing himself.
“If any sedition should occur in one of the confederated members, the rest could appease it. If abuses are introduced in any part, the sound parts correct them. This state could perish on one side, without perishing on the other; the confederation can be dissolved and the confederated remain sovereign.
“Composed of small Republics, it possesses the kindness of the interior government of each one, and with respect to the without, it finds all the advantages of the grand Monarchies in the power of the association.”
All the world knows that the United States of America were nothing more than thirteen English colonies when they made themselves independent, that they then had only three millions of inhabitants, and that to-day they form a nation of more than fifty millions, whose rapid greathess, obtained in the shadow of the federative system, has no example in the world since the foundation of Rome. Central America attempted to imitate the United States, adopting the federal system, and obtained, for result, wars, disasters, and an absolute fractionization.
Many sensible and completely honest people are frightened in the presence of this gloomy historical picture, and execrate any thought leading to the unity of Central America.
It is necessary to turn the attention to those persons, and beg them to examine the affair with calmness and coolness.
In the year 1824 a constitution was emitted which it was impossible to fulfill.
The first President of Central America, Don Manuel José Arce, comprehended this; Señor Bettranena, exercising as vice-president the executive power of the nation, understood it; Don José Francisco Barrundia understood it, in those memorable days when, as the oldest senator, he was at the head of the country: and General Morazan, during those eight years of constant struggle, in which he presided over the Republic.[Page 45]
The constitution of 1824 did not establish a federal district like that of Columbia, in the United States of America. Our federal authorities obliged to take lodgings in one of the state capitals. There they were looked upon as guests; and the chief of the state considered them as rivals. Soon this rivalry produced a struggle between the President of the Republic and the chief of the state.
Sometimes the chief was conquered, as was Don Juan Barrundia in Guatemala, in 1826, by President Arce; at other times the President was conquered, as was Arce, in 1629, by Barrundia’s party.
The same scenes were presented in Salvador during the period of Don Joaquin San Martin, the federation being lodged in the capital of that state.
The federal system supposes equality. “It is difficult,” says the author before quoted, “for the stales to be of equal extension and power. The Republic of the Lycians was an association of twenty-three cities; the larger ones had three votes in the common council, the medium two, and the smaller one.”
Montesquieu disserts on the manner of obtaining that equality as far as possible.
Such an important question, wisely solved by the North Americans, the authors of our constitution of 1824 did not know how to solve.
In the United States there are two legislative chambers. One of them is composed of deputies elected according to the number of inhabitants of each State. In that chamber the largest states have the greatest representation. In another chamber, called the Senate, all the states are equally represented. The Senate of the United States is a great power, which is presided over by the Vice-President of the American Union. The Senate ratifies international treaties, approves or disapproves nominations made by the President, gives or denies its sanction to the laws passsed by the House of Representatives, and has many other important attributes.
The Central American Senate was a body of no force and could not give equality to the states.
Suffice it to say, that if the Senate denied its sanction to a decree of the Chamber of Deputies, that chamber ratified its decree and the President of the Republic was obliged to give it effect.
The Supreme Court of the United States is not only a judicial but a political power. It matters nothing that the House of Representatives pass a law contrary to the American Constitution, nor that the Senate sanction it, and that it be ordered fulfilled by the President, because the Supreme Court, the case being brought before it, will not give force to the law.
The supreme court of central America lacked lacked power. Here, unconstitutional laws were passed by the federal Congress, and only armed resistance of the states could be opposed to them.
Neither were the attributes of many authorities well defined, nor were the powers which, should settle their controversies well marked. Under that régimen all ought to be, and all was, confusion and chaos, until the catastrophe of separation in 1839. Then arose five futile nationalities, without prestige, without power.
Why have not these nationalities, like the valley of Andorra, been destroyed by an external force, as Montesquieu says that if the Republic is smaller a foreign force destroys it?
Colombia has taken from Costa Rica part of her territory.
The limits of Costa Rica before reason, before justice, before the public conscience, are the point of Burica and the shield (escudo) of Veraguas.
The limits of Costa Rica, according to her debility and the abuse of a foreign power, are others very different.
The limits of Guatemala include Belize, which has been usurped from her and which the debility of her Government ceded to Great Britain. The limits of Guatemala, according to her constitution of 1825, include Soconusco.
The limits of Honduras and Nicaragua embrace the extent of territory called the Mosquito Coast, on which we have the leaden hand of a foreign power.
And why bias the catastrophe not been absolute? Why have these five futile nationalities not been totally destoyed? They have not been because two great powers, England and the United States, without our knowing it, and without our having any intervention in the affair, celebrated a treaty to keep us independent. This is called the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. Among its stipulations we find the following
“That at no time will they occupy nor fortify, nor colonize, nor arrogate, nor exercise any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central America; that neither will they make use of any protection that any one of them lends or may give, or of any alliance that either one has or may have with any state or nation with the object of maintaining or erecting fortifications, or of occupying or fortifying or colonizing Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part whatever of Central America, or of arrogating or exercising over said points any dominion whatever.”
This was stipulated without taking any account of us, and without our intervention [Page 46] being necessary for anything. Such is what we are worth, and the consideration they have for us abroad.
That treaty keeps us independent. It is well to ask if it will be internal. Clearly not.
Mr. Blaine, Secretary of State of the United States in the time of Garfield, asked England that the Clayton-Bulwer treaty be declared insubsistent. Mr. Frelinghuysen, the present Secretary of State, asks the same. What will become of Central America when the treaty, by virtue of which neither England nor the United States can, dispose of the Central American territory, disappears?
Neither Mr. Blaine nor Mr. Frelinghuysen has taken the futile nationalities of Central America into account on asking for the abolition of the treaty, as neither Mr. Clayton nor Mr. Bulwer took these little Republics into account on signing it.
Central American unity is indispensable, and those who oppose it will be responsible before future generations for our future misfortunes, identical with those which to-day afflict Poland.
Our discredit abroad is immense. This cannot be comprehended in the interior of Costa Rica. It is necessary to understand it to be in other countries and even to penetrate into elevated circles, whose doors only open before determined political positions. Costa Rica has been so discredited abroad that a cabinet has not been wanting which pretended not to know her, and to continue treating the country like a barbarous nation.
What has been the fortune of Guatemala during the fractionization of the country? It has been the perpetration of crimes without number. I made a slight review on the 25th of February, 1870, concerning the decapitation of General Cruz, and of the derision publicly made of the mutilated head of the victim. Here is the review:
“That people saw Don Gregorio Salazar assassinated, firing upon him over his children, who surrounded him to save him. That people saw deputies arise from their seats to take their lives. That people saw an unhappy marimbero * assassinated in a public street because he did not permit his daughter to be the concuhine of General Carrera. That people saw the corpse of that same marimbero, in the principal plaza of Guatemala, cut into pieces and the pieces fastened in different public places. That people saw a general of the Republic (Guzman) defeated in an action, and afterwards despoiled of his uniform, clothed in rags, his beard and hair pulled out, tied on a mule and made to enter the city of Guatemala amid the jeers of his enemies. That people saw Señor Corzo, commandante of the Altos, decapitated and his cadaver derided. That people saw the city of Quezaltenango given up to pillage, and all the individuals who composed the municipality shot, without excepting the secretary. That people saw many citizens shot without form of law, after having delivered to their executioners the price of their ransom, which their wretched families had been able, with a thousand pangs, to collect together. That people saw more than forty persons shot without other trial than the supreme will of an autocrat, while one of the executioners played a guitar and made certain persons dance in the midst of the public agony. That people saw the malefactors who had committed so many crimes received in Guatemala with flowers and triumphal arches. That people saw the colleges of Totonicapan and Quezaltenango destroyed that the people might not be educated, and functionaries placed at the head of those departments so incapable and cruel that, to the reproach of their country, they re-established the infamous penalties and the gibbet. That people saw for several days fusilades and butcheries executed on a multitude of Salvadorean prisoners, who, on the morning of the 19th of March, 1840, broke the line which surrounded them. In the midst of the bloody tumult many soldiers and even wounded sought an asylum in a certain house which was in the service of the retrogrades, and they were delivered to their executioners.
“That people saw a certain Figueroa commandante of Jutiapa, commit, among other horrible excesses, that of making prominent persons bring him young daughters of the family to dishonor them, at times compelling to this sacrifice, by imprisonment and other violences, the very brothers and parents of the victims. That people saw its Government feign rebellions to dissolve an Assembly and spill the blood of innocent supposed rebels to obtain a political end. That people saw the prisoners of a jail shot without sentence of the tribunals, and without other motive than that the places of imprisonment would not hold them. That people saw the judges pass sentences of death dated back to cover the responsibility of the assassins. That people saw, one and many times, shut up in certain damp and mortiferons dungeons, that they call Castle, fathers of family, who have died there, expiating the crime of not being of the opinion of their executioners. That people saw a certain Lucio Lopez decapitated, his mutilated head jeered at, and exhibited as a trophy. That people saw a man enticed out by deceit at midnight from a house where he was sleeping tranquilly, to be shot at the doors of Luna’s printing office. That people saw the assassin rewarded with the commandancy of the Castle of Matamoros. That people saw the hero of the [Page 47] conservatives of Guatemala feign, in Atescatempa, that a party of Salvadoreans were attempting to carry off a young woman, the object of his desires. The hero came out to fight the supposed enemies, who were his own troops, chosen by himself, to rescue the young woman, and to triumph over her in reward for his exertions. In the midst of the simulated skirmish the aggressor received a genuine wound. He confessed and communed, but did not forget the object o£ his strategy, and conducted the young woman by force to his barracks at Jutiapa. That people saw one of the sons of the same people torn from his family, and conducted on foot to the Castle of San José, where they shot him in punishment for having said he was a Liberal. That people saw the hero of the retrogrades take for himself the prest * which came from the treasury for the troops, and himself advise the soldiers to revolt, as they did, falling upon the properties, and leaving many persons in poverty. That people saw, immediately after, the same hero repress the disorder that he had advised, and shoot a multitude without the precedence of any kind of trial whatever. Among the one shot was a certain Catsum, who loudly cried that he was innocent; that in the revolt he had done no more than fulfill the orders of General Carrera, and he asked to be permitted to speak to him. Death closed his lips.
“That people saw securities and guarantees of all kinds given to disaffected citizens, to the conservatives, and also saw immediately thereafter, those same, who incautiously confided in the securities, persecuted, shot, nine of them in Sacatepeque, and others in Ostuncalco, among whom were the patriots Tomas Marin and Rafael Martinez. The latter threw his own blood on the assassin, and said to him, ‘That stain no one shall be able to remove from you!’ The same people saw in Salama a prominent resident of that town forced to dig his own grave, to be covered with earth up to the throat, and in that most wretched situation a thousand dollars demanded of him to ransom his life; it saw the relatives of the victim get together that money with much anguish and agony; saw the executioners take the money, and saw immediately thereafter the command given to beat the head which appeared at the level of the ground until the consummation of the sacrifice. Can there be in the most bloody history of the most execrable of monsters a deed which reveals so much barbarism?
“That people saw erected a triumvirate of anthropophagi: Rafael Carrera Zotero, his. I brother, and Geronime Pais; it has seen the triumvirate sustained on charnel-houses, and the triumvirates which were lacking substituted, by force of blood, by new anthropophagi. That people have seen how many crimes of perverted humanity barbarism can commit, and frequently hears in the cathedral of God the apotheosis of the execrable monsters who perpetrate so many crimes.”
This review circulated in Guatemala under the régime of President Cerna, and there was not a single voice raised saying that it contains the least falsehood. Afterwards it was reprinted and added to in Guatemala.
In the additions it is said that the author does not mention some deeds worthy of being placed in the first rank, as the death of Don Manuel Yrungaray, of Oyrasum and of Luna.
Here are the results of thirty years of fractionization. Were so many excesses, so many crimes committed under the régime of the very defective federal constitution of 1824? Under that impracticable charter, which would have disorganized Switzerland and the United States of America, we lived better than under the system of 1839.
Do we want yet another thirty years of crimes and horrors?
We will be told that the picture presented by the country since the 30th of June, 1871, is not more flattering. It is not so; but he who should imagine such an assertion would only defend the doctrine which we sustain, which reduces itself to demonstrating the disadvantages of the fractionization of the country.
On the 30th of June a party succumbed, but the fractionization did not disappear. It remained on foot.
In a country where the public is exceedingly limited, where from its smallness that country inspires neither respect nor fear, the governor, with a word, with a sign, with a cry, can do what he pleases.
Those permanent commissions which we see in Costa Rica, those legislative authorities which impose taxes, which augment the existing ones, without considering public opinions, that decree unconstitutional laws, did not operate thus under the federal régime; because they feared the opinion of Central America; because the federal Congress would not admit unconstitutional decrees, much less retroactive; because the federal court would not apply them, although they might be sanctioned by the Congress.
Before the fractionization a genuine merit was necessary to rise to power. For the same reason the abuses of the governors were not to be feared.
Arce ascended to the first executive chair by his incessant labors previous to the [Page 48] year 1821, in favor of independence, by his persecutions and martyrdoms of that time, and also because he was considered as one of the heroes of the bloody struggle with the Mexican Empire.
Morazan rose to power by his glories in Trinidad, in Gualcho, in San Antonio, in San Miguelito, in the Charcas, in Guatemala.
Valle was elected President of Central America because he was a sage.
It is not to be expected that he who ascends with those titles will, in power, be a Carrera or a Guardiola.
The ideas of the fractionization are by a fatal hallucination rooted in Costa Rica.
Don Juan Rafael Mora, fallen and defeated, went to the United States. In Washington he was offered resources to place himself at the head of the Central American reorganization, and did not accept them. Mora believed that the unity of the country is an evil.
Did Don Juan Rafael Mora, at the moment he was about to be shot in Puntarenas, remember the offers he refused in Washington?
Dr. John José Maria Castro segregated Costa Rica from the Central American family. The doctor was then innocent, for the misfortunes produced by the defective constitution of 1824 had just occurred; and because the very elevated love of Castro for the place of his birth, made him believe that Costa Rica alone and isolated could become great; but he would not be innocent now that a prolonged and painful experience of which he himself has been a victim has presented to him the frightful reality.
The servile party of Guatemala, not only divided Central America, but it proposed to itself that in all the states disunion should be sustained by means of decrees, like that of Carrera and that of Castro. That disunion was sustained by foreign agents, at whose head was Mr. Frederick Chatfield.
Chatfield was demanding from Nicaragua and Honduras a part of their territory, and the fractionization of Central America suited him. He also had intentions on Costa Rica, but those intentions were not understood here.
In the year 1847 Chatfield said to the Government of Nicaragua as follows:
Guatemala, September 10, 1847.
To the principal Secretary of the Supreme Government of the State of Nicaragua:
Sir: Questions having arisen in various epochs with the states of Honduras and Nicaragua, concerning the extension of the maritime frontier of the Mosquito Kingdom, the Government of Her Britannic Majesty, after carefully examining the various documents and historical registers which exist relative to the affair, is of the opinion that the territorial rights of the King of the Mosquitoes should be maintained as extending from the Cape of Honduras to the mouth of the river San Juan; and therefore I am instructed to advise the supreme Governments of the states of Honduras and Nicaragua, as I now have the honor to do, that to this extent of coast the Government of Her Britannic Majesty considers that the King of the Mosquitoes has a right, without prejudice to the right which the said King may have to any territory farther south than the San Juan River; and that the Government of Her Britannic Majesty cannot look with indifference upon any attempt to usurp the rights to the territory of the Mosquito King, who is under the protection of the British Crown.
I have the honor to be, sir, your humble and obedient servant,
By this note Costa Rica was threatened, for to the south of the San Juan is the Costa Rican territory. Now, I ask the separatists of both extremes of Central America why were not the intentions of Chatfield consummated? They were not consummated because the Claytou-Bulwer treaty was signed in the year 1850.
With Chatfield was united an intelligent Frenchman named Adolf Marie, who came an emigrant from Ecuador with General Juan J. Flores. Marie managed in a masterly manner the satirical burlesque style, and he put himself to combat the exertions made by the states of Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua to unite and resist the foreigner. The articles of Mr. Marie against what he called the “Trina Republic,” the “Republic of Chimandega,” were as much applauded in Costa Rica by the separatists as by a multitude of persons who, not knowing the venom contained in those articles, only discovered the facetiousness and wit in them. It caused amazement to see determined agents who hated Nicaragua sowing discord in the Nicaraguan territory, that that state might not join her sisters of Salvador and Honduras. Well and good that men who believe that they themselves form a nation do not join with other peoples; but let them not through egotism oppose the association of other peoples. They allege as a difficulty in the way of the union one of the most precious legacies of the fractionization, the debt of Honduras and Costa Rica. That argument is not new nor surprising.[Page 49]
A distinguished publicist, Mr. Blaine, says that that debt is more nominal than positive. Discussing the affair in the Department of State of the United States, Blaine said: “Central America should return what she received, and not what remained in Europe.”
A multitude of combinations, which are not the subject of this pamphlet, have been made in order that the unity of the country may dominate that debt, which, as it appears to-day, is superior to the value of the states on which it rests. It is said that the personal characters of some men of state who are at the front of the situation is an obstacle to the union. This personal argument, proceeding from personalism, is weakened by the manifestations which are made clearly and definitely. It is said that the chiefs who are at the front of the regenerative movement will retire from the command as soon as they have a country. Why shall we refuse to give them credit?
History is full of similar deeds. Sylla abdicated, Charlemagne abdicated, Charles V abdicated, Philip V abdicated, Charles IV abdicated, Fernando VII abdicated; and, without speaking of abdications like that of Napoleon in Fontainebleau, I will conclude by saying that Washington abdicated, and Bolivar abdicated.
If the fractionization leaves to Guatemala what we have seen, what does it leave to Honduras? It leaves her an enormous money debt; it leaves her the horrors of which she was the theater during the periods of Ferrera, Coronado, Chavez, Guardiola, Medina,. &c. Those deeds form a catalogue greater than that of Guatemala during the servile administration; it leaves her the prostration in which she is at present, and from which she cannot escape in spite of the exertions made to raise her.
To Salvador the fractionization leaves, among an infinite series of other evils, the victims of 1840; the invasions of Carrero, the excommunications and contra-excommunications of Bishop Viteri—the blood which that prelate spilled in the country—and the gibbet of General Gerardo Barrios.
To Costa Rica it leaves a chain of misfortunes, among which are the external and internal debt, and a discredit so great that a power of the first order was about to refuse to recognize this Republic.
To Nicaragua, the fractionization leaves a series of wars, among which is prominent that very celebrated one which commenced by questions between Castellon and Chamorro, which brought Walker, and which produced all those misfortunes we know of, among which is the desolating cholera, born from the putrefaction of the unburied bodies.
Nicaragua is the state of Central America where the constitutional system has to-day the most roots, and, nevertheless, she is in a lamentable situation.
There heterogeneous elements appear. There peoples under a régime good holy, if you wish, but only accepted by force.
There exists the evil of him who to impose himself to exist [sic?] and of him who for long years suffers the imposition. That great evil can only be remedied under the august shadow of the capitol of Central America.
General Barrios to the Liberal party .
Under date of February 24, 1883, General Don J. Rufino Barrios, constitutional President of Guatemala, addressed a letter to his friends among the Liberal party in the Republics of Central America, of which the following is a translation:
“The number of letters which I receive daily from political friends who reside in the different states of Central America, touching my intentions with respect to the union and with regard to the attitude attributed to me, the co-operation which is offered to me, and concerning divers details of the national question, that I consider it my duty to answer them all through the press, and once for all declare what has been my object and define the line of conduct which I propose to follow in this matter.
“Not from the present time only has the thought occupied me of reconstructing the country of Central America, torn to pieces in fatal days of sorrowful memory. It is a long time since I have cherished that idea, because I believe that in it is contained the solution of the most important questions connected with our future, and that it is the only basis upon which the edifice of improvement in these Republics can be erected, as much in the material and economical order of things as in the social and political. It has always seemed to me that we should do something to impart dignity and a representative character to our country in. order to leave children spected flag, and to open a road for ourselves to participate in the splendid conquests [Page 50] of progress. The circumstances, notwithstanding, had never been totally favorable to work for the realization of this idea. The consolidation of internal peace, the impulse which it was necessary to give the country in branches of vital importance, the arrangement of, questions of transcendent urgency, and many other incidents, the enumeration of which would be tiresome on this occasion, absorbed my attention and impeded me from taking before now the initiative required by the situation of these Republics. If, united, they should not at once form a great nation, a people truly strong and formidable, it is useless to say that to-day, separated as they are, they find themselves exposed to continuous dangers on account of their weakness, and lacking a durable tranquillity and positive progress.
“Towards the end of the year last past it seemed to me that the circumstances had changed. The peace and order of Guatemala were perfectly cemented; the efforts addressed to the maintenance of material advancement of the country and the intellectual and social improvement of its citizens were already making their beneficial results felt; there was no international dispute and no motive for insecurity or disconfidence. At this opportune time the President of the Republic of Salvador arrived at this capital. I spoke with him about the question of nationality, which became the subject of repeated conversations. He warmly seconded my initiative, and expressed to me his belief that he also thought the union indispensable, and that it was necessary we should unite our efforts in order to accomplish it. I proposed, and he accepted with pleasure, that we should employ, by common consent, every peaceable and praiseworthy measure within our reach to attain the end proposed. We agreed then to disseminate, by means of the press, the idea of the union; to amply discuss it, and to nominate commissioners who, in a frank, friendly, and fraternal way, should propose it to the other Governments of Central America, so that, if they accepted it, they should designate representatives to a congress that would fix the bases upon which the reconstruction of our country might be effected, and, if they rejected it, we could know that at present the point should not be insisted upon. By virtue of this engagement, the Government of this Republic nominated its commissioner, and since that time has wrought always and exclusively in the domain of frankness, of loyalty, and of peace, for the purpose of preparing and of knowing public opinion, and in this way to discover if it were possible to reach the much-desired end, which is the most generous of the aspirations entertained by all good patriots of Central America.
“Publications by the press, and letters from some persons who are known and others unknown, that have been addressed to me, above all from Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in which the writers officiously give me an account of the way in which my initiative is taken, and posting me as to the rumors in circulation and the plans attributed to me, show me that special care is being taken to disfigure my intentions, and in making the ambitious views which I am supposed to entertain serve other ends. The rumor has been spread that it is now my intention to accomplish the union by force, and to impose myself upon the states as the arbiter of their destiny as President of the future Republic of Central America. The spirit of invention has even been carried to the extreme of asserting that armies have been organized and raised here, that the territory of some states has already been invaded, and that forces are marching to support by arms my projects of conquest and domination.
“Seeing clearly, then, that there are those who, with ungrateful malignity, try to incite against me the opinion of the people of the stated, and to make me appear as the author of senseless projects of ambition, I have to explain my conduct and my policy, so that at no time can the charge be made against me of desiring to disturb the peace to satisfy mean personal ambitions, covered with the veil of a patriotic sentiment. I have not desired to attribute these doings to the Governments of other states, notwithstanding that in many of the letters which I preserve their writers endeavor to persuade me that they are not entirely unknown to them. I have not wished to give those letters credit in this direction, because I Have with these Governments and their chiefs the best relations; because I have always been on my part consistent and loyal; because I have lent them, when occasion required, every service in my power, and have not caused them any injury; because, until now, what appears to be, is that, far from manifesting opposition or displeasure, they have received the commissioners with special demonstrations of sympathy, have promptly adhered to the plan of the union proposed to them, and they have manifested a desire to forget themselves in presence of the idea and the aspirations to reconstruct as soon as possible the disrupted nationality. But the enemies of those Governments and of their chiefs, and my enemies, scatter among the masses, without power to prevent this, those calumnious and absurd imputations; and in taking notice of them in these solemn moments, which ought to be devoted to the country, I cannot do less than to give the lie to such calumnies in the face of everybody.
“I do not flatter myself about it, nor do I desire, nor would I accept by any means, the presidency of Central America, and thus solemnly make this declaration under my word. I am tired of public life, and desirous to retire even from the Presidency of Guatemala, and I have not thought even for an instant to take upon my shoulders the [Page 51] serious engagements and responsibilities of the Government of Central America. I now wished for the union; I initiated and agitated and worked for it, but with the indispensable understanding and precise condition of not presiding over the Government which might be created. Seeing that my initiative has been construed into a thirst for command and a wish to subjugate the other states, my participation in the future in the enterprise presently projected shall be limited to sustaining, favoring, and seconding the idea of nationality and the labors that may be undertaken to realize it, in so far as the people may judge my co-operation indispensable.
“I did not think that there should be attributed to me an importance that would render proper the declaration that, in taking the initiative, I do not aspire to exercise power in the Government of the united Republic, but from the time that it is thought, or appears to be thought, that I might like it, and from the time when, to mask those interests and passions which are the true motives for running down nationality, my name and influence are brought in, the occasion is mine to protest with pleasure that I completely eliminate the latter and blot out the former completely, and I only give in favor of the cause my services in whatever way may be necessary.
“By means of the union I sought the establishment of a regimen truly liberal without any of those occasional wanderings from the inflexible rectitude of principles that are sometimes obliged to be incurred on account of the smallness and the exceptional condition of those countries, and which on account of that exception are not understood, nor easily perceived among great peoples in which society is very differently organized and educated, and in which there is not presented those contradictions that are here to be struggled with at each step. I know, as so also my political friends, what is meant, and the obligations that are imposed upon a governor by the adoption of liberal institutions in all their purity and amplitude. I know how far the respect for individual guarantees must go, and how far tolerance ought to be carried, and consent given to the exercise of the press, and of action. In spite of the illusions that I might wish to form, I have to acknowledge that the institutions and the regimen here planted are far distant from being what. I and from answering to the conception which I have formed as to what an administration purely liberal and always subject in everything to the rule of principle should be. And what happens here happens to the same or a great extent in the other states into which Central America is to-day divided. He who with the light and guide of strict principles analyzes and judges of everything that is done in them, will find that in reality it is far from being what it should be, and from preserving the purity and the severity of republican theories.
“It is not that the wan to decision nor the height of power makes any difference in the ideas of liberty and the absolute respect for the rights of individuals. In so far as refers to myself, I ardently wish to see implanted in my country a more genuine manifestation of the liberal regimen, limiting the action of the Government as far as it can be limited; extending all the individual guarantees, without exception, as far as they ought to be extended—and I think: myself capable of governing, and of thus governing with much satisfaction, without any other guide than the law, when there would not be those obstacles in the way which until now have made it impracticable to this extent.
“Here in Guatemala where prejudice and taken deepest root; here, where ignorance had pitched its camp; here, where intolerance and routine reigned, where there were conspiracies all places, and everywhere a struggle with created interests, a struggle with superstition, a struggle with the old tendencies that always looked to the past; a struggle with the inactivity and indifference of the n digines, almost totally brutalized, and a struggle with everything and everybody, it was in reality impossible to keep invariably within the circle of principles without ever departing from it, and without laying of saving those principles, means that would be efficient in overcoming such formidable obstacles. I have not done, therefore, what I would have wished to do in flowing my own inspirations and the ideas of my political faith, but only what I have been able to do so that the country should not sink into, anarchy; to temper myself to the circumstances and measure by their force the force and method of action of the Government to dominate them. The contrary would have been to precipitate the Republic into the abyss of revolution, from which, fortunately, I have been able to save it till to-day.
“With sorrow I entertain the opinion that while these Republics are divided much time much pass before it will be possible to found in them a regimen that will be liberal in the proper acceptation of the word. Peoples who, on account of their smallness and peculiar conditions, do not recognize as a dogma respect for law and for authority, who do not stop at the means of opposition which they employ, who do not deliberate nor represent, but who conspire and attack, cannot, in an improvised manner, be exclusively governed by laws and principles. Union would afford all sorts elements to the government, and greater representation. From this would result more liberty and guarantees for the people; a field would be opened for deliberation; there would be a powerful influence to have the triumph always accomplished by opinion [Page 52] and not by force; and, therefore, it is almost certain that liberal institutions could be implanted in all their splendor and purity. This is what I sought after, and I was encouraged by the hope that in the long run Central America would be able to boast of having accomplished it. By means of the union I also sought to secure peace, aggrandizement, and felicity; but if an initiative in this sense, in place of being a band of fraternal labor, should become the seed of discord and give place to sterile upsettings and disturbances, I shall not take For the maintenance of peace, I have thus far preserved the most open and friendly relations with the sister Republics, and have kept up an alliance, loyal and profitable for all, with the Governments of Salvador and Honduras. If those relations and that alliance which have given as a result order, work, prosperity and confidence, to devote oneself to the giving of an impulse to the advancement of public and private wealth are to be considered by the enemies of those Governments and by my enemies as a recourse to which they might appeal to belittle them, and to make me appear as imposing a law upon them, and as taking away their liberty of action, I believe that it belongs to me to take away, as far as depends upon me, that motive.
“It is some time now since I have been informed of the proceedings which have been resorted to for the purpose of discrediting the functionaries of the allied Republics, and of throwing into discredit some measures which, without my intervention, and even without my knowledge, emanated from them. The belief was created by some evil-intentioned that those measures which had produced discontent and animadversion were inspired, advised, or ordered by me; and in this way they were able to throw the chiefs of those Governments into discredit, supposing them imprudently subject to strange influences and undue suggestions, and the measures were discredited by making them appear as the effect of a compromise or of an exaction on the part of the Government of Guatemala. My enemies, ant those of this Republic, have known how to work at their own time this point, and thus, in proportion to the manner in which I have been made to figure as an author or instigator of all those measures which in any way wounded the opinion or caused disgust in the other Republics, they refused to concede me any participation in the ones which were well received and of recognized utility.
“This proceeding, which has not been unknown to me, has not prevented me, until the present, from continuing a faithful ally and decided friend of those Governments. From that alliance and that friendship peace was born; peace, not only for Guatemala, but also for those Republics among themselves, and for all Central America; and that was well worth the sacrifice I made in seeing myself converted into a target for backbiting. This system of slander has persecuted me sufficiently for me to understand what I ought to do about it, and I think I have sufficiently demonstrated that it does not signify to me, and that every sacrifice seems little when compared with the fulfilling of those engagements that are imposed by friendship and decency and the obligations prescribed by patriotism. In my political career I have met with cruel deceptions which have sown in my heart the thorn of doubt. I have tasted all the bitterness of deception and of abused confidence; I have seen that for many there is no weight so enormous nor a load more annoying than gratitude, and more than once has the correspondence been monstrous of some of those from whom I had reason to expect acknowledgment and adhesion, because they awed me everything.
“Those deceptions, notwithstanding, have not sufficed to freeze my blood with indifference and disconfidence, nor to break my faith and to persuade me that all is a lie and a speculation, nor to make me look with horror on humanity, and to curse the expansion of mind, with which I delivered myself without reserve to my friends, nor to ever inspire me with the thought of faltering in my loyalty, or of dispensing with strict confidence with my promises and my word. I have the satisfaction that my life has no stain of inconsistency or of deception. Never have I abandoned or deceived my friends; never have I left compromised those who followed my ideas and embraced my cause; and never have I promised in vain; because I have never promised what I could not, or had no intention to fulfill. When I am an enemy of a person, or of a Government, or of an idea, I declare it openly because I would think it a lowering of myself, any recurring to falseness or artifice, to combat them. The Governments of Salvador and of Honduras know with how much solicitude I have endeavored to maintain with them that friendship, and with how much highmindedness and decision I have cultivated it until now.
“But to-day something more delicate than vulgar attacks and unsubstantial calumny is treated of, because it concerns not only my name, but it might broadly compromise the rest and tranquility of Central America. The voice is spread that the intimate and cordial alliance on the part of Guatemala is the cause of calamity for those Republics. It is said that I command and desire to command tyrannically in them and that my will governs there. It is said that I am going to avail myself of that alliance to satisfy my ambition and domineer over Central America. All those imputations, which have already caused excitement and alarm, might well become, if they were [Page 53] allowed to run on, the origin of evil, and produce confusion and commotions whose unravellings it would not be easy to foretell.
“In the presence of consequences of this nature and magnitude it is my strict duty to make known that everything which I have done until to-day has been to respect the independence of the other Republics and the dignity of their Governments; that I have never given them orders nor imposed my will, and that I have limited myself always to aiding them and to Marching ever in accord with them out of deference to the peace and the benefit of all. In the future my conduct, counseled by what I learn from passing events, will follow a stricter mode, if it fits the occasion, entertaining larger views with regard to their independence.
“I repeat that I do not wish, nor would I accept, the presidency of Central America, and, as a proof that ambition does not guide me, the part which I shall take in the matter of the proposed nationality will be to attend to any worthy call to obtain it, that of co-operating in its realization, to send representatives to a congress if the other Governments attend, with the commissioners accredited by them, and to presently take such measures in agreement with them as they may desire. I do not separate myself from the idea, nor from the friends who proclaim it in good faith. I shall serve it in everything required of me, but I shall never consent to anything which may be done to discredit or to kill it. Neither the idea nor I have anything to fear from a clean discussion opposition, or from a worthy resistance; but we have to fear from ambuscades that are prepared in the dark, and under the appearance of friendship, because neither the idea nor my character can consent to use arms of this sort, which are the only ones with which such measures can with advantage be opposed.
“As for the interior politics of the other states, and especially of Salvador and of Honduras, I decline from this hour all responsibility and regret all intervention that may be attributed to me in any of the acts of their administration. I protest that I will not intervene in them in any way. Theirs be exclusively the merit and the glory of what they do the Benefit of the country, and theirs exclusive the obligation of responding for the measures which they adopt, and the decrees which they issue, and for the plan of conduct which they follow. I shall not consent that the injury shall be done them of having it believed that they are trampled by me, and dependent upon me; and shall endeavor by all means to justify more and more by my conduct that I respect the independence of those Republics and the positions which their supreme rulers have assumed. They have proved that they can, and know how to sustain themselves, and govern by themselves, and any indication on my part, far from being of advantage to them, might be injurious. From to-day, then, I give the lie beforehand to any one who might suppose that I meddle in any way with the polities of other states, or to any one who might attribute to me this or that step which may be taken in them, or who may suppose that I sustain this, that, or the other ruler, or combat this, that, or the other party. There is no necessity of saying this, nor, perhaps, does it belong to me to say it; Salvador and Honduras are as independent of Guatemala as Guatemala is of them.
“My friends know, then, what to expect with regard to what concerns me. I do not desert the ranks of those who defend the union, and they will always find me ready to contribute towards its realization; but I do not wish that my personality should serve as a pretext to combat or discredit it, nor to combat or discredit the chiefs of the other Republics. If it is not time to make the union, if the Government do not think it convenient to make it, I cannot change the circumstances nor the opinion; and to remain satisfied with myself, it is sufficient that I have worked in favor of the idea and with being disposed to second it.
“The persons who have favored me with their letters respecting the union will excuse me if I have not answered them in particulars; but they are very numerous and the answer which I ought to give them is the same for all, wherefore I have availed myself of the press. They will also at the same time excuse me when I tell them that my word is solemnly pledged, that I shall never under any circumstances commit the fault of discovering to any person any of their names nor the confidences which they have reposed in me. I beg them not to continue writing me by private conveyances, in a private way, but only by the ordinary post offices, because in everything I like frankness, and I do not wish that the mystery with which I am written to, and the precautions with which the letters are conveyed to me, should leave room to suppose that the writers have my consent to treat with me in that manner (the interior politics of other states), or that I have agreed to the purposes expressed by them, or am disposed to favor the indications which their letters contain, or the projects revealed by them.
“Publicly I reply to all, and request those who may see fit to continue honoring me with their correspondence, that they should abstain from doing this in a way which gives margin to unfavorable conjectures and to suspicions which might cause them some injury.