Mr. Hall to
the United States,
Guatemala, August 10, 1883.
(Received September 4.)
Sir: The President of Guatemala has issued a decree
relative to the construction by the Government of a railroad from the port
of Santo Tomas, on the Atlantic, to this capital. I inclose copies and
translations thereof, and of an appeal which he makes to his people for
From the 1st of January, 1884, a personal tax of $4 will be imposed on every
Guatemalan having an income of not less than $8 a month; for this tax the
payer will receive a proportionate interest in the road; the tax: will not
be collected from foreigners.
The estimated capital required for the work is $12,000,000, for which 300,000
shares of stock, at $40 each, will be issued.
As a means of bringing these shares into circulation, the Government reserves
a strip of the public lands, a league in width, on either side of the
proposed railway, for which, when sold, the Government will receive in
payment the said shares only, at 25 per cent. premium during the first five
years, and at 30 per cent. premium thereafter.
A board of three directors will have charge of the execution of the work and
of the administration of its funds. The board will enter upon its
preliminary labors as soon as its members shall be appointed.
The President appeals to the patriotism of his countrymen to cooperate with
the Government in carrying out this enterprise, destined, he believes, to
bring progress and civilization with it.
The motives of the President are praiseworthy beyond a doubt; but it is too
soon to venture an opinion as to the probability of a realization of the
project to which the decree relates.
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 1 in No.
Decree of the President of Guatemala relating to the
construction of a railroad from Santo Tomas to Guatemala
Decree No. 297.
I, J. Rufino Barrios, general of division and constitutional President of
the Republic of Guatemala, considering:
That the construction of a railway which, starting from the port of Santo
Tomas, on the Atlantic, should connect with the line leading to the
Pacific, is a work of the greatest importance and transcendency that
could be undertaken in favor of the civilization, aggrandization, and
wealth of the nation;
That on the opening of that road depend the development of agriculture in
the extensive and most fertile lands of the north; the active
development of the natural products of all kinds in which they abound;
the augmentation of population by the current of immigration from the
north, which the very execution of the work would provoke; and finally,
the incomparable development of commercial business and of general
traffic by way of the territory of the Republic between sea and sea;
That the Government, persuaded of the great necessity of the country for
that road, has not ceased to exert itself to furnish it, granting
privileges and ample concessions, which, although justified by the
importance of the object, would nevertheless entail a costly sacrifice
of interests and a quasi dependence of the country on the foreign
company that should take charge of accomplishing it;
That, notwithstanding the concessions and privileges which to assure the
future of [Page 71] the Republic the
Government was disposed to grant, it was not possible to effect a solid
and convenient arrangement concerning the construction of said
That by means of the favorable situation reached by the public wealth and
the most extensive distribution of it to-day, it is possible to carry
into effect the patriotic idea, pleasing to all, of executing the great
work of the railroad to the north tional resources; and to execute it,
not only without greater burdens or for the contributors, but with
positive benefit to themselves or to their inheritors and successors,
who would come to enjoy the benefits of the enterprise;
That, apart from this, the Republic would obtain an immense advantage in
the simple fact of freeing itself from the necessity of making an outlay
four times greater, and of subjecting itself to the most onerous
recourse of concessions and privileges if the work had to be done by a
foreign company, which consideration should weigh heavily with the
patriotism of the Guatemaltecos in support of the national work; and,
That to obtain the necessary funds for the enterprise, a small contingent
on the part of the generality of the Guatemalans is sufficient.
Therefore, and in virtue of the faculties with which I am invested, I
- Article I. The railway which is to
unite this capital with the port of Santo Tomas on the Atlantic,
touching in its course the points most important for commerce
and agriculture in the regions of the east and north of the
Republic, shall be constructed for the account of the
- Art. II. To that effect an
obligatory national tax, reduced to the small amount of $4 per
year, shall be levied for the term of ten years, which shall
commence to be counted from the 1st of January, 1884, on and
which shall be paid by all Guatemalans who by reason of
business, wages, salary, or emolument, may have a monthly income
of not less than $8.
- Art. III. The payment of the tax
shall be made quarterly, $1 being paid in each of the months of
March, June, September, and December of each year.
- Art. IV. Every subscriber shall be
inscribed immediately in the character of shareholder in the
Northern Railway, with a right to the benefits of the enterprise
in proportion to the amount of the quota he subscribes.
- Art. V. Every individual subject to
the tax, who refuses to pay the obligatory quota, shall be
compelled to satisfy it, after the last day of the quarter, with
a fine of equal amount, which fine shall enter the treasury of
the railroad as an extraordinary receipt in benefit of the
- Art. VI. Foreigners resident in the
country are permitted to inscribe themselves in the national
subscription under the general conditions of the
- Art. VII. The rate being $4 per
year, exceedingly small for all persons of better resources, who
can in proportion easily subscribe larger quotas, they are
solicited in the name of patriotism to do so, and to aid in this
manner the prompter and better outcome of this grand
- Art. VIII. There shall be emitted
300,000 shares to the bearer, of the value of $40 each, in
representation of a nominal capital of $12,000,000, which is
deemed sufficient for the cost of the work. Said shares shall be
divided into ten bills, each one corresponding to one year of
- Art. IX. To the end of giving place
immediately to the commercial movement of bills becoming due,
the Government reserves and destines exclusively from this time
all the national lands along the railway, on both sides, and to
the extent of one league in width, to be sold only in exchange
for railroad bills, and in no manner for cash. In the sale of
said lands the Government will receive the bills during the
first five years, granting on their value a premium of 25 per
cent., and one of 30 per cent, after the said five years.
- Art. X. The shares which the
Government may receive by this means shall go to the benefit of
the national treasury as product of lands.
- Art. XI. An independent directive
committee, composed of three individuals, which shall operate
under the inspection of the executive, shall take charge of all
concerning the execution of the work of the railroad, with the
representation of the enterprise and administration of its
funds, commencing its preliminary labors as soon as the citizens
forming it have been designated.
- Art. XII. The directive committee
shall cause to be published for the information of the public,
every four months, a detailed statement of the situation and
progress of the labors of the railroad, as well as also the
balance of the accounts.
- Art. XIII. The department of fomento is charged with emitting the
regulations for organizing the commissions, collectors of the
national, subscription, and other dispositions conducing to the
execution of this decree.
Done in the palace of the executive power,
in Guatemala, on the 4th of August, 1883.
- J. RUFINO BARRIOS.
- Francisco Lainfiesta,
Secretary of State in the Department of
[Inclosure 2 in No.
J. Rufino Barrios,
general of division and constitutional President of the Republic of
Guatemala, to the natives of
Fellow-citizens: The decree issued on this date
informs you of the resolution which I have adopted, with the object of
carrying into effect, with the proper resources of the country, the most
important work of the railway which should open to the public for its
prosperity and enlargement the road to the north, which, is called for
to give a quicker exit for our products; called for to promote and
sustain the cultivation of immense tracts of land, to-day abandoned;
called for, in fine, to bring to us over the currents of the Atlantic
the progress of civilization on a grand scale.
In taking this resolution, and imposing upon you the small sacrifice of
making a little annual saving, which will be returned to you with
interest by the same works to which it is destined, I believe I have
interpreted the national feeling which oh various occasions has shown
itself in favor of this thought, which frees the country from costly
sacrifices which the privileged concessions to foreign companies
regularly give rise to.
The work which is going to be undertaken is not beyond our resources,
and, executed for our own account, must appear to us excessively cheap
when it is accomplished and we find ourselves enjoying its unappreciable
This work is the best inheritance which we can leave as a legacy to our
sons, because on it depends the richness of the future, and it will be
within a short time a flattering reality of the spirit and conviction
which lead me to undertake it, encounter, as I hope they will, the aid
and efficacious co-operation of my fellow-citizens.
The form adopted to collect the capital which the construction of the
Northern Railway requires, distributing over large areas the small sum
which must be paid for by subscription, is combined with the view that
the poorer classes may be able to cover it easily, and at the same time
that they may without effort go on forming with those small sums a
saving which, on the accomplishment of the work, will be of great profit
to them. The same combination is offered, so that the wealthier classes
may contribute to the enterprise according to the scale of their
To each class, therefore, I make a most urgent appeal; in the name of the
future of our country, that we being inspired with the desire for its
greathess and happiness, may resolutely work on this undertaking of the
Northern Railway, which contains most beautiful expectations for our
beloved Guatemala, of being justly blessed by generations to come, when
history reminds them that they owe to the patriotic spirit of the
natives of Guatemala the first passage of the locomotive from the
Atlantic to the Pacific. Fellow-citizens, it will be a day of great
glory and joy when the resounding whistle of steam coming from the north
calls at the gates of our beautiful capital. Let us then hasten the
coming of that great day by the union of our wills, of our efforts, and
of our work.
Your fellow-citizen and friend,
J. RUFINO BARRIOS.
Guatemala, August 4,