Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 9, 1891
Mr. Egan to Mr. Blaine .
Santiago , January 19, 1891. (Received March 9.)
Sir: I have the honor to refer to my No. 120, of the 12th instant, and now inclose copy of the President’s proclamation of January 1, from the Diario Oficial therein referred to, and translation of same from the Chilean Times, of Valparaiso, of the 17th instant. In it you will find a very full and interesting exposition of the causes which have led up to the present attempt at revolution and of the position which the President of the Republic has taken up.
Up to the present there has been no encounter between the contending forces beyond some slight brushes between the military and some boats of the squadron taking off refugees or recruits from the shore, and a few shots between one of the forts at Valparaiso and the ironclad Blanco Encalada. In the latter instance there were 6 of the crew of the Blanco Encalada killed and 8 wounded. The army seems to be entirely loyal to the Executive, and it is being rapidly increased. By the end of the month its number will reach 25,000 men.
So far the only foothold which the maritime forces have succeeded in gaining on shore is at Coquimbo, where they landed a few hundred men; but an effective force of Government troops is now on the way there to dislodge them.
The most entire order is maintained throughout the country.
I have, etc.,
Proclamation of President Balmaceda.
To the Nation:
To-day, January 1, 1891, I find myself governing Chile under the same conditions as during all the month of January and part of February in 1887, without a budget and without a renewal of the law providing for the strength of the land and sea forces.
All the Presidents since 1833 up to this date, with the exception of one only, have governed the Republic during years, months, and days, but always for some time, without a budget and without the law providing for the strength of the land and sea forces.[Page 95]
Up to this moment nobody has believed that the Presidents of this cultured and laborious nation have converted themselves into tyrants and dictators, because in cases of voluntary omission, negligence, or any other cause on the part of Congress to comply with the constitutional and includible duty of opportunely assisting in the passage of the budget and of the law providing for the strength of the land and sea forces they have continued, in obedience to a fundamental and express mandate of the constitution, to govern the State and to extend their authority to everything having for its object the preservation of public order at home and the security of the Republic abroad.
Articles 50 and 72 of the constitution say as follows:
- “Art. 50. A citizen with the title of President of the Republic of Chile shall govern the State, and he is supreme chief of the nation.
- “Art. 72. To the President of the Republic is confided the administration and government of the State, and his authority extends to everything having for its object the preservation of order at home and the security of the Republic abroad, observing and causing to be observed the constitution and the law.”
By these prescriptions there is radicated in the President of the Republic all the sum of constant and necessary authority to insure public tranquillity, the preservation of order, and the security of the Republic abroad.
Article 28 of the constitution says:
- “Only by virtue of a law is it permissible—
- “2. To fix annually the expenses of public government.
- “3. To fix also annually the strength of the land and sea forces in time of peace or of war.
- “The act to authorize the recovery of taxes is for eighteen months only, and the act providing for the strength of the land and sea forces is only for an equal period of time.”
The President of the Republic, Congress, and the council of state must take part in the formation of the budget and of the bill providing for the strength of the land and sea forces. These laws are not the exclusive attributes of Congress, and consequently this body can not, without being wanting in its most elementary duties, frustrate a constitutional mandate which affects the very foundations upon which rest the public powers. Neither can Congress frustrate the fulfillment of this duty by the President of the Republic, because in the formation of the laws which affect the security and government of the State each power must opportunely fulfill the obligations imposed upon it for the regular inarch of all the branches of Government.
This is the spirit and this is the letter of the fundamental law.
The constitution of 1833 was the definite triumph of the Conservative party, which sanctioned it, over the Liberal party, which promulgated the constitution of 1828. Under the sway of this constitution the Republic was unhinged, forasmuch as it anticipated, through an excess of decentralization and of liberty, the progress and the social and political situation of the period.
The adopters of the constitution of 1833 never thought that, in order to dominate the President of the Republic or to absorb the direction and government of the State, a majority of Congress might frustrate the opportune passage of constitutional laws, and thus perturb public order, excite political passion, and engender anarchy.
President Pinto, in a proclamation to the people, stated the intentions of the framers of the constitution of 1833 to be as follows:
“Despising theories as fascinating as impracticable, they have fixed their attention solely on the means of insuring forever order and public tranquillity against the risks to which they have been exposed through the ups and downs of political parties. The reform is nothing more than the method of putting an end to the revolutions and disturbances to which the derangement of the political system in which the triumph of the war of independence placed us gave rise. This is the means ol making national liberty effective, which we should never obtain in its true state so long as the powers of the Government were not defined with exactitude and license was not opposed by restraints.”
If the capital object of the constitution of 1833 was to vigorously strengthen the principle of authority and concentrate in the Executive the necessary sum of power to annihilate revolutions and license, it can not be conceived why it is pretended to convert the President of the Republic from an active into a passive power, subject to the will of an irresponsible power and with the right to refuse to pass the laws upon which repose the life, the credit, and the stability of our institutions.
Laws cannot be dictated without the assent of the chief of state, because by virtue of articles 35, 36, and 37 of the constitution he has the power to veto them wholly or in part. It can not, therefore, be maintained by Congress that in the exercise of its legislative attributions it can impose upon the President the direction and the government of Chile, because this pretension is irreconcilable with the prerogatives of the chief of the nation and incompatible with the liberty, the independence, and the responsibility of the constitutional powers of Chile.[Page 96]
The attributions of Congress over the executive power are merely inquisitorial and critical, or the impeachment of ministers during their term of office and for six months afterwards, or the impeachment of the President of the Republic when he has completed his term of office.
These are the weapons which the constitution has placed in the hands of Congress for the purpose of resisting the abuses of the President and his ministers. But there can not be deduced from this the extraordinary pretension of paralyzing the constitutional régimen, of attacking the army and navy, or the public administration, because the President will not abdicate the right freely to name his ministers, or because he will not submit to the desires of a legislative majority.
Neither in the ordinary session, nor in the September prorogation, nor in the October extra session were the budget and the laws providing for the strength of the land and sea forces passed.
Congress was closed in October, it is true, but for reasons that I will state in the relation of the ideas and circumstances which I propose to set forth.
I have not convoked Congress subsequently, because in the discretional exercise of my purely personal attributions I could convoke it or not according to the opinion or criterion that I might form with respect to the attitude the parliamentary majority would assume.
Everybody is acquainted with this attitude.
In the name of a pretended parliamentary régimen, incompatible with the Republic and the popular representative régimen laid down in the Constitution, it has been sought for purely electoral causes to obtain possession of the Government through ministers in the confidence of a majority in Congress.
In the press and in the official acts of the coalition it has been declared in the most peremptory terms that the majority of Congress has the right not to comply with the constitutional duty of opportunely passing the laws which affect the very existence of the State, and which may precipitate Chile into revolution and anarchy if the President does not deliver up to it through ministers in its confidence the direction and the government of the nation.
Neither as a Chilean, nor as the chief of state, nor as a man of conviction could I accept the political rôle the parliamentary coalition wished to impose upon me.
The majority of Congress has thought lit to infringe the constitution by not passing the budget and the law providing for the strength of the land and sea forces; it has thought fit to excite the army to disobey its chiefs and to stimulate the indifferent or disdainful populace to begin a revolution to extricate it from the moral and political situation into which it has been precipitated by its errors; it has stated that the President of the Republic is assuming a dictatorship, and because he has not delivered up the reins of government to those who vituperate him and distort his acts and purposes; and it has in its aberrations proclaimed revolution in the palace of the law. But neither its voluntary omissions, nor the aggressions which have covered the precincts of its sessions with opprobium, nor the irregularities caused to the public service relieve me from complying inexorably with the constitutional duty imposed in my mandate by articles 50 and 72 of the constitution.
I cannot for one single instant neglect to govern the State and preserve public order and the external security of Chile.
It is my duty to observe and cause to be observed the constitution. Because I am disposed to observe it, I will not deliver up my citizens to anarchy; and because it is my duty to cause it to be observed, I will never submit to Congress disowning my attributions, or to its arrogating sovereignty, or to its taking the title of representative of the people, because this would be an infraction of article 150 of the constitution, which the said article styles sedition.
The majority in Congress has not complied, nor has it desired to comply, with the constitutional duty of passing the budget and the land and sea forces bill. It has exposed our institutions to the dangers of a situation excited by personal circles divided among themselves, holding opposing doctrines, having different leaders and different ambitions, and in every case without responsibility.
If, in the opinion of the majority of Congress, its deliberate determination not to pass the laws affecting the life of the nation creates an irregular state of affairs for the President of the Republic, nobody in Chile, not even the public powers, have on that account the right to make a revolution.
Even in the supposition that the aberrations of the majority in Congress are imputable to the chief of the nation a revolution can not be proclaimed on that account. The constitution has provided for the event of the President of the Republic or his ministers infringing the constitution and the laws, and in view of this eventuality it prescribes, in articles 74, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, and 92, the only order and form in which the President and his ministers can be made responsible.
All other procedure is contrary to the prescribed order and form and is revolutionary.[Page 97]
In obedience to the constitution it is my duty to govern the State and maintain internal order and the external security of my country; and therefore I shall maintain the army and navy and shall pay the services that constitute the social life and the very existence of the Republic.
It will be advisable to consider the antecedents, in their most general and comprehensive features, of this truly historical hour.
Elected President in 1886, I procured the patriotic agreement of all the members of the divided Liberal family upon the basis of a sole political direction, a sole creed, and one and the same procedure. The most perfect respect towards the Conservative party formed part of the basis of this policy.
Never had more persevering efforts been made for the unification of the Liberal party. I forgot the violence of past struggles, and I called to assist in the task of governing all the Liberals who had helped to give me the supreme command. The Nationals publicly declared, through their representatives in the Government, that they joined the ranks of the party on the same conditions as all other members. The Dissentient Liberals also accepted the policy of unification and declared that in future they should consider themselves as members of the Liberal party.
After the elections in 1888, and when Congress was constituted, there occurred in the ministry, owing to a partial crisis, a stormy disagreement between the Nationals and Dissentients. After the election of the chambers it resulted that the Nationals had remained Nationals and a portion of the Dissentients again became what they before had been.
From that moment it was not possible to organize a ministry that would insure the quietude of the Liberal party. The Nationals declined to form part of the ministry which succeeded that which resigned in April, 1888, and on this account the quarrels and jealousies of personal circles began anew. All the work of unification of 1886 and 1887 was finally compromised by the personal sympathies or antipathies of the different parliamentary groups. During a year and a half the Liberal groups fought among themselves like natural and irreconcilable enemies.
With the object of correcting these errors and of procuring the union of all the Liberals, my condescension carried me to the length of organizing the ministry of October, 1889. In it I gave representation to five liberal parties, each with different leaders and direction, one of these parties having consisted of four deputies and four senators only.
Nevertheless, this did not bring about any agreement in the October ministry, nor in the congressional groups which they represented. Some of the liberal parties agreed, in January of the year just closed, upon the basis of a convention to designate the candidate of the Liberal party for the Presidency of the Republic, disregarding altogether the party which had the greatest numerical representation in Congress and the leading provincial Liberals, and without departmental delegates, in order by this means to give to Santiago circles the solution of the electoral problem, with manifest forgetfulness of the principles maintained by the party and of the respect due to the general opinion of the country.
The rupture of the Liberal parties was made public, and odious manifestations took place in the Chamber of Deputies, the crisis of last January resulting from this cause.
Never, in speeches and in the press, was such violent and opprobious language made use of. It was desired to conclude with the respect due to the authorities, and to raise the parliamentary majority to the sole sovereignty as the only one worthy of the adhesion of Chileans.
At the opening of Congress on June 1 last Don Enrique S. Sanfuentes, performing an act of chivalry and patriotism, accepted the position of minister of the interior and declared in and out of Congress that his supposed candidature to the Presidency was irrevocably eliminated. He called everybody to a generous and honorable agreement, as the only cause assigned for the disunion of the Liberal party was his supposed official candidature.
But they who refused to listen heard nothing.
The ministry of Señor Sanfuentes was violently censured before being heard in both chambers. There was no respect, no liberty of defense, nor even the courtesy which the Chamber of Deputies had always shown to the representatives of the Executive. It was necessary for the ministry to abandon the precincts of Congress, lamenting the errors which undermine the prestige and the authority of the constituted powers.
In July the parliamentary coaliton suspended the recovery of taxes, and this law of national existence was converted into an offensive weapon, which was wielded in such a manner as it never has been by any congress in the world.[Page 98]
The conflict being terminated by the resignation of the Sanfuentes ministry and the organization of that presided over by Señor Prats, the latter raised over the combatants the banner of political neutrality, which favored all alike.
The policy of neutrality was faithfully observed.
Political parties were organized and they commenced work with the view of enlisting adherents. But the policy of neutrality involved a serious danger for a considerable part of the parliamentary coalition, which had no adherents to speak of except in a few towns. It was without support among the people, and, no matter how numerous it might have been in Congress, there was no possibility of its maintaining the situation it aspired to under the régimen of the neutrality which had been proclaimed.
It was owing to this circumstance that the majority in Congress obstructed the passage of the bill providing for the strength of the land and sea forces; and it was on this account it was stated in public and even to members of the Government that supplies would be voted month by month only, and that the want of confidence would be maintained in all its vigor until such time as they possessed more direct influence in the direction of the Government.
The Prats ministry did not fight, nor did it desire to fight, and, being undermined finally by the suspicions of the parliamentary majority, which it could not satisfy without breaking the neutrality in detriment of the Liberal party which had all along supported the Government in difficult times, it resigned.
Acting on the patriotic suggestion of this ministry and on my own very lively desire to make a last effort for the pacification of Congress and the union of all the Liberals, I proposed, through the medium of the respectable and well-known gentlemen Messrs. Enrique S. Sanfuentes, Anibal Zañartu, and José Tocornal, a sole convention for the designation of a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic.
I proposed that the conditions of the convention should be discussed and agreed upon by all parties; but I expressed to everybody the desire that the programme of the convention should be framed in such a manner as to prevent the Conservatives attending, inasmuch as they were intimately united by friendship and partnership with Nationals, Radicals, and Dissentients; and I asked, in fine, that the number of votes required for the proclamation of a candidate should be two-thirds, three-fourths, four-fifths, or as many as they chose, provided that it could be proved by the required number of votes that the President of the Republic would be powerless to influence the designation of a candidate.
I could do no more.
If the ostensible cause of the political disagreement was the gratuitous supposition that I supported and assisted an official candidate, that cause disappeared absolutely from the moment in which I offered to the coalition, with the consent of the Liberal party that was giving me its support, that it should fix the quota of votes required to designate a candidate, accepting beforehand the number they should judge to be necessary to destroy all official influence, and that should assure me by this means a quiet government for the remainder of my term of office. I can not conceive what more efficacious method nor what more conclusive proof I could have given of my respect for the opinion of all, and of my willingness to accept the resolution of political parties, and of my wish to conclude my term in peace.
But the sole convention suggested by the Prats ministry, and accepted and supported by me in a form so advantageous for the coalition, was accepted for a moment and rejected on the day following.
Did vacillation supervene among the numerous aspirants to the Presidency in the ranks of the coalition, or did they comprehend the anarchy to which they might be dragged by the ambitions of their own leaders? Were the sole convention and the designation of a candidate without official interference subordinate questions, because the principal, if not the sole and only, question was to obtain possession of the official influences which were so loudly impugned?
The facts speak for themselves.
The sole convention was rejected and a ministerial organization was demanded.
If the sole convention had been accepted, it would have been followed by the organization, free from odious suggestions, of a ministry of all parties, which in its official position should be a guaranty to all of my impartiality and electoral nonintervention. But neither a tranquil and respectful solution between the public powers nor the electoral nonintervention of the Government were desired, but the unconditional and absolute dominion over Congress.
Nevertheless, I acceded to the desires of the coalition, and I formed a ministerial combination in which there figured Don Zorobabel Rodriguez for the Conservatives; Don Manuel Amunátegui, closely allied with Dissentients and Radicals; Don Dario Zañartu, as intimate a friend of the Nationals as of their Liberal adherents; and Messrs. Claudio Vicuña, Lauro Barros, and Fernando Lazcano, all most honorable persons, whose antecedents and uprightness were a pledge of peace for friends and adversaries.[Page 99]
This combination was rejected by the coalition, just as the sole convention had been.
The situation was clearly defined.
They wished me to abdicate or submit to the parliamentary coalition.
And, in order to arrive more rapidly at these extreme results, the respective committees of the Chamber of Deputies and the coalition had agreed to demand the annulment of the privileges of the councillor of state, Don Gabriel Vaidal. It was also agreed to reform the rules of the Chamber of Deputies, with the object of fixing certain invariable periods for granting fixed sums in the public expenditure and leaving the variable items to the uncertain result of indefinite discussions. Finally, it was resolved to impeach the ministry of May, notwithstanding that the proposal to impeach had been rejected in August. Neither a sole convention nor a ministry in accord with the Executive and legislature was desired; it was desired to make government an impossibility, and to hurl me from the position to which my fellow-citizens elected me by the very men who said they were elected senators and deputies through my official intervention in 1888, and many of whom I had covered with honors and benefits.
For honor, for duty, for a profound conviction of what the Government of Chile is and ought to be, and because I was provoked to an irrevocable conflict, I closed Congress and took upon myself the entire responsibility of events.
It was to have been expected that the coalition would have taken a moment’s repose, in order to give room to more equitable inspirations and to the reflection and tact by which politicians who have legitimate and reasonable ambitions ought to be governed. But the coalition found a home in the Comision Conservadora.
It was agreed to break the constitution and the law by permitting persons not belonging to the comision to take part in its debates. Electoral intervention committees were appointed to visit the country and towns, and these committees were formed by persons interested in the electoral contest, and by persons without any right to figure in the Comision Conservadora. It was resolved to sit without a legal quorum. Arbitrary resolutions opposed to the doctrines maintained officially and publicly by the members of the comision have been dictated. Every kind of weapon has been employed, and the palace of Congress has been converted into an arena of the most deplorable political aberrations.
This political decadence has authorized personal and selfish alliances, in which the ideas and the very affiliation of parties have been wrecked.
The exigencies of the moment drew the Liberals to the diminutive Conservative fraction in Congress, and before it they hauled down their banner and maintained, by the side of the Conservative leaders, ideas entirely opposite to those which, as Liberals, they had maintained on electoral matters and, above all, on municipal matters. The very persons who had combatted Conservative leaders and ideas united themselves with the Conservative party and hotly maintained the opposite of what, as Liberals, they had maintained a few months previously in the Government and Congress.
The electoral law which the opposition Liberals and Conservatives prepared last autumn was passed in a most unconstitutional manner.
Many substitute senators whose term expired in this year had it prorogued for three years more, they themselves voting for the change and taking advantage of the political difficulties of the moment. It was resolved to accumulate departments for the election of deputies, against the constant interpretation given to the fundamental principle by Chilean politicians during fifty-seven years. Provinces were accumulated for the election of senators, the Congress of 1890 resolving exactly the contrary to what the Congress which made the reform in the constitution agreed to by a special vote on the matter.
The absolute want of study and experience of the framers of the law has been shown in practice. It is a mass of errors and want of foresight which I had to accept in order to avoid creating difficulties with respect to the policy of neutrality proclaimed by the Prats ministry.
With respect to the proposed municipal law, it may be affirmed that, with regard to the constitutional order of a country and taking into account its social, political, and economic condition, there has never been framed a law with such strange provisions, nor one that proves more clearly the want of science, practical observation, and of respect for the constitution that rules the destinies of the nation, for economic justice and national convenience. It was a proposed law of circumstances, upon which, for the political interests of the moment, almost everybody agreed to against the conviction of all.
The Liberals are not wanting in the necessary science and experience to form a clear conception of that singular work, but the necessity of keeping united with the Conservatives to impugn the Liberal party and make the President of the Republic submit, has caused them to forget their convictions and their past and to place [Page 100] themselves unconditionally at the service of the diminutive fraction of the Conservative party in Congress.
It is necessary to recognize that in all these evolutions the real public interest has fallen under the feet of those who maintain the predominance of the parliamentary coalition. The same thing happened in August, when the coalition endeavored to cause the State to lose from $6,000,000 to $8,000,000, the amount of the imposts not paid during the forty-four days in which the same coalition arbitrarily suspended the recovery of taxes.
In this manner the good ideas, sound doctrine, prudence, moderation, and patriotism with which the grand social or political problems of state ought to be contemplated are wrecked.
In the meantime the bills which I presented for increasing the pay of the army and navy, the judiciary, and employés of the custom-house, treasury, and public instruction are allowed to perish in the archives of Congress. Nor have there been passed the bills for creating savings banks for public employés, waterworks, drainage for large towns, and railways for Putaendo, Nacimiento, Cerrillos de Ovalle, and many others designed for the progress of the nation and the public welfare.
All the policy of the coalition has been directed of late to the demolition of our institutions and to the seizure of the Government of the nation.
This is the only manner in which can be explained the alarm which has been spread for the purpose of creating agitation, because the majority in Congress has not fulfilled its duty by passing the budget and the land and sea forces bill.
It is a fact known to everybody that all the Presidents of Chile, except one, have governed for some time without the passage of the land and sea forces act.
The same thing has happened with the budget.
During the Búlnes administration, in the years 1848, 1850, and 1851, the budget was agreed to after the 1st of January.
During the Perez administration the budget of 1864 was promulgated on January 19, that of 1867 on the 8th, that of 1869 on the 2d, that of 1870 on the 16th, and that of 1871 on the 10th of January. So that in five years the Perez administration governed for some time without a budget.
During the Errázuriz administration the budget of 1872 was promulgated on January 11, that of 1873 on the 4th, and that of 1876 on the 3d. So that President Errázuriz was for some time in identically the same situation as President Perez.
During all the years of the Pinto administration the budget was promulgated after the 1st of January. In 1877 it was promulgated on January 27, in 1878 on the 21st, in 1879 on the 21st, in 1880 on the 6th, and in 1881 on the 25th.
In 1882 the budget was promulgated on January 13, in 1883 on the 22d, in 1884 on the 19th, in 1885 on the 23d, and in 1886 on February 9, or forty days after January 1. President Santa Maria governed for upwards of a month without a budget.
Finally, on February 14, 1887, I promulgated the budget, Don Augustin Edwards being minister of finance. So that I have governed Chile forty-five days without a budget.
The Presidents of Chile were never stigmatized as tyrants or dictators on account of these occurrences.
But let us see what is the dictatorship of which I am accused, and what is the question of government created by Congress by the nonfulfillment of its constitutional duties.
The whole of the question is this:
- Shall or shall not the army and navy be paid their wages, and shall or shall not the service of the debt and the cost of the naval constructions be defrayed?
- Shall or shall not the 30,000 public employés and the 40,000 workmen employed on railways, roads, bridges, schools, lyceums, jails, temples, and so many works that aggrandize Chile be paid for their services or not?
With respect to the pay of the army and navy, although the law is for one year, the constitution says that the taxes shall be decreed for eighteen months, and they expire at the end of next June.
With respect to the pay of the public employés and the men employed on public works, we will not leave them without bread. We will not deprive thousands of men and their families who earn a livelihood by giving their services to the State of work or pay.
It being our duty, in the strict fulfillment of the imperative mandates of the constitution, to govern the State and maintain the internal and external order of Chile, we will not deliver up the army and navy to misery, nor the servants of Chile to despair. They are the guaranty of order, public peace, and social life.
There may occur irregularities in the public administration in consequence of the majority in Congress having frustrated the passage of the constitutional laws which more directly concern the national institutions; but the majority in Congress has no power to overthrow the constitution, nor to annihilate the Executive, nor has it the right to incite to anarchy and to proclaim a revolution.[Page 101]
This conflict of powers arises not only from the exorbitant political pretensions of the majority in Congress, but from a profound error of conception and of criterion.
“The Government of Chile is popular representative. The sovereignty resides essentially in the nation which delegates its exercise in the authorities prescribed by this constitution.”
Notwithstanding the clear and incontrovertible meaning of this precept of the political constitution, the coalition maintains that the Government of Chile is parliamentary, that Congress is the only sovereign, the only one to whom it corresponds to fix annually the strength of the land and sea forces and the amount of the estimates of public expenditure.
It is not a fact that to Congress alone corresponds the duty of fixing the strength of the forces and the amount of the expenditure, as has been peremptorily laid down by the Comision Conservadora. The estimates and the forces bill do not belong exclusively to Congress. On the contrary, they are laws in the formation of which the Executive takes a part. The joint action of the Executive and Congress is required; and as the duties which the constitution imposes on both powers are equal, Congress can not in the name of a parliamentary régimen not authorized by the constitution frustrate the passage of fundamental laws for the preservation of the State and public peace.
As I have said already, reasonable and patriotic parliamentary criticism, or the impeachment of the President and ministers in the form authorized by the constitution, is the only manner in which Congress can exercise its power of supervision. The refusal to pass the laws from which the State derives its existence is simply the dictatorship of Congress over the Executive, or revolution.
The parliamentary régimen advocated by the coalition is incompatible with republican government. Parliamentary régimen is monarchical government with republican ideas. The republic and parliamentary government are ideas which find no place within the science and experience of modern public law.
Parliamentary government supposes an irresponsible, lifelong, hereditary monarch. The chief of the executive power in a parliamentary government is practically and effectively the minister who has a parliamentary majority and who governs in its name. And when the monarch is not in accord with the parliament he has the right to dissolve it and appeal to the electors, and then to govern with-the majority of the people that represents the sovereignty.
The Government of the Republic is carried on by a chief and responsible ministers with a temporary mandate, the President, as well as the Congress, being elected by the people. The chief of the executive, practically and by the constitution, is the President of the Republic.
It can not be supposed that in the Government of the Republic, nor could the legislators of 1833 have supposed it, in addition to the right of criticism and impeachment of the President and the ministers, there is the right of frustrating the passage of laws which constitute the public life, as a right which is derived from a constitution whose capital object was to extirpate revolutions and to put bounds to license.
If it were the case that the idea of the legislature of 1833 was to give Congress the faculty to dictate or not, according to its political criterion, the laws that assure the very existence of the Republic, they would have said so.
They did not say so because that was not their intention. For the same reason that they adopted the representative régimen, with independent and responsible powers, they did not endow Congress with the faculty of frustrating the passage of constitutional laws, nor did they endow the President of the Republic with the faculty of dissolving Congress and of appealing to the country if disagreements which they did not foresee should arise, nor authorized in their labor of the reorganization and strengthening of the principle of authority in Chile.
It is true that the spirit of imitation of the European monarchical parliamentary régimen has induced many to believe, during some time, that in practice a parliamentary régimen was advisable. On this account I have endeavored during upward of three years to procure harmony with Congress, the unification of the Liberal party, and concert between the public powers.
The effort has been sterile. The importance given to the pretended parliamentary régimen has at length broken harmony with Congress, and Congress, believing itself to be the only sovereign and the first of all the powers, has forgotten the respect due to the chief of state and has attempted to subjugate him; and it has believed, following the extreme rules of the monarchical parliamentary governments, that it possesses the right not to pass the most essential laws, thus violating the representative régimen prescribed in the constitution now in force and ignoring the privileges and prerogatives of the chief of the nation.[Page 102]
If Congress should succeed in dominating the executive power and should make laws and execute them, we shall have entered resolutely upon the road to tyranny and a dictatorship. As the President does not possess the power, in case of disagreement with Congress, or of omission on the part of the chambers in the fulfillment of their duties, to dissolve them and appeal to the country, we should sanction, in accepting parliamentary predominance, the unconditional and absolute sovereignty of Congress, and during the duration of its mandate, for the reason that it could not be dissolved, of Congress over the people.
In sixty days more the Chilean people will have elected their representatives and will have pronounced their just and final verdict.
Circumstances have permitted that the actual Congress can not meet of its own will and that very shortly the people give their decision on the actual conflict.
This is what happens in countries with parliamentary government.
It is advisable to leave on record here that the conflict which has been raised against me is not due to any of the intense and profound causes which compromise the prestige of foreign relations, or that affect questions of a character truly national or popular.
The numerous and heavy international claims arising out of the late war having been settled under highly satisfactory conditions, the nitrate certificates in our possession having been canceled, the claims of the Peruvian creditors holding bonds for upwards of £32,000,000 having been terminated, and the integrity of our honor and right having been defended under all circumstances with moderation and energy, there is nothing in our foreign relations which is not calculated to strengthen and augment the prestige of Chile.
The credit abroad of the Republic has reached the level of that of the first nations. All of the public works have been executed out of the ordinary revenue, because the surplus in the treasury is even larger than the amount derived from the loan for the construction of railways. Several taxes have been repealed and others have been reduced. The amortizable home debt has been nearly canceled. Hygienic, educational, and reproductive works have been constructed in all the Republic and in every branch of the public service. The armament of the army and navy has been largely increased.
I have not persecuted any of my citizens.
My lips have been sealed, and I have not opened them against my adversaries.
I have been the object of invectives and violent language of every degree, and I am called a tyrant and dictator by a press which has over passed all bounds and has arrived in its license to lengths never before reached in any country of the world.
I promulgated without any objection the electoral laws passed by the parliamentary coalition, and which were prepared and intended to destroy the influence of the executive power and to favor the interest of their trainers.
I have accepted all reasonable solutions which might conduct us to patriotic harmony and to the resolution by the country of the grave problems which divided us.
My acts bear testimony to these facts, and the numerous ministers of state who now form in the coalition and who shared with me the honorable task of governing the Republic can also bear similar testimony.
All kinds of industry are prosperous, there is general welfare, and the working classes, in whom I have found my most useful cooperators in the important and numerous works in progress, have constant and well-remunerated work.
It is on this account that the people have not associated, nor will they associate, themselves with a work which is not their work, but which is merely in the interest of a circle and of the predominance of Congress over the executive power. Hence it is that the provinces and departments are tranquil, and that the absorbing and subduing spirit of the parliamentary circles whose seat is in the capital has penetrated into few localities.
Therefore, a national conflict is not treated of, nor a struggle between the executive power and the people, but of Congress, or, in other words, the parliamentary coalition of the capital against the executive power.
These antecedents carry us to this inevitable conclusion:
We are governed by the popular representative régimen prescribed in article 1 of the constitution; I appoint or remove cabinet ministers at my pleasure by virtue of the express authority conferred on me by section 6 of article 73 of the constitution, and I preserve the liberty and independence which corresponds to me in the constitutional [Page 103] structure as the responsible head of the executive power and with equally responsible ministers, in the form prescribed in article 74 and from the eighty-third to the ninety-second article of the same constitution.
Or we are governed by a parliamentary régimen which is not authorized or sanctioned by the constitution, and is incompatible with the Republic and the independence of the public powers, and I submit myself to the will of Congress as to a superior and sovereign power, and I only appoint ministers in the confidence of Congress, and I admit that Congress may paralyze the march of government and frustrate the passage of constitutional measures, and, together with ministers, I decline the responsibility that proceeds from the liberty of exercising our functions in Congress which the executive power claims, and I subordinate my acts and my views to their purposes.
The ambition of the coalition has been developed under the ideas belonging to parliamentary government; and, in the fulfillment of my duty and in the exercise of my constitutional prerogatives, I shall oppose it with unfaltering resistance.
Representative government or parliamentary government.
This is the dilemma.
I elect for the representative government ordained by the constitution. For my part I shall practice it and shall cause it to be practiced, in obedience to article 72, which commands me to compel everybody to obey the constitution.
The causes which compelled me to close Congress on the 15th of October last have been stated. These causes were aggravated afterwards by the precipitate conduct of the Comision Conservadora and by the explicit declarations made to the effect that they would not pass the budget and the land and sea forces bill if there were not a change of ministry, if in practice parliamentary régimen were not recognized, and if the right of Congress to impose its policy on the chief of state through the right it attributes to itself of frustrating constitutional laws and of paralyzing or reducing society and public administration to anarchy were not accepted.
No change having occurred in the situation and the fact of its having subsequently become more serious and difficult, the convocation of Congress would have been useless, because so soon as Congress should have attempted to execute any act in conformity with its ideas of parliamentary government I should have had to close it anew, and who knows under what conditions and with what consequences!
When the members of Congress and of the Comision Conservadora proclaim disobedience to the authorities and revolution, it does not belong to a chief of state, whose duty it is to foresee and prevent certain occurrences, to carry away by his own act theater and performers, and thus carelessly compromise social and political respect and the seriousness and moderation which constitute our most honorable traditions.
The land and sea forces bill was passed by the Senate and was kept back by the Chamber of Deputies. Neither during the ordinary session, nor during the September prorogation, nor during the recess, nor during the extra session in October, nor after the closure of Congress, has the report of the joint committee on the estimates been dispatched. This was terminated—a circumstance which has never occurred before—four days ago.
The attitude corresponds to the deliberate determination not to pass the constitutional laws until the coalition shall have triumphed over the executive power.
It is necessary to say it in the face of the entire Republic: it shall not triumph with my assistance.
I do not recognize the pretensions of Congress, and therefore I do not dissolve the army and navy, because such a step would be to conclude with public order in the interior and with the exterior security of the Republic; nor will I leave the servants of Chile without remuneration, because that would be to conclude with the administration and the government of the State.
I am not unknown to Chileans, yet, nevertheless, they call me a dictator.
In order to call me dictator with justice, it would be necessary for me to have usurped power by unlawful means; that I should have arrived at supreme power by means of rioting or revolution; that I should have continued in the Presidency for a longer period than my constitutional term; that I should have trampled under foot the law and established order for my own benefit or for that of my adherents; that I should have unlawfully imprisoned citizens; or that I should have inspired terror.
But the ruler can not be a dictator who defends the attributions and the power the people have confided to him; who observes and causes to be observed the constitution; who responds for his actions to his constitutional judges and in the ample form provided by the constitution; who serenely and without vacillation awaits the verdict that the nation will pronounce in March next; and who, if he resists the invasions of Congress and incitement to revolution, does nothing more than comply with the obligations that emanate from the constitution and the inseparable honor of those elected by Chile to direct and preserve it in the hours of storm and trial.
The army and navy have been incited to disobey and revolt.
Vain attempt![Page 104]
The army and the navy have imperishable glories gained in war and peace. They know that I am their constitutional chief, that by article 148 of the constitution they are essentially obedient forces, that they can not deliberate, and that they have been and will continue to be, for the honor of Chile and the repose of our society, the corner stone upon which the public peace reposes.
In a few months hence I shall cease to be the head of the Republic.
There is not at the close of public life, nor in the last hour of government of a right-minded man, either the ambition or the incitement to conduce to a dictatorship.
A dictatorship may be undertaken in order to arrive at power, but it is not in the logic of politics nor in the nature of things that a man who has lived a quarter of a century in the customary conflicts of public life should aim at a dictatorship in leaving power.
I have no honors to hope for nor ambitions to satisfy. But I have sacred obligations to fulfill toward my country and toward the Liberal party which raised me to power and which governs in conformity with the Liberal doctrine, without alliances or abdications, without affectation, and without dejection.
It is a solemn hour.
In it we shall fulfill our duty.