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David R. Adriaan C.
Chile: The Making of a Republic, 1830-1865: Politics and Ideas (Cambridge Latin American Studies)
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Description Chile enjoyed unique prestige among the Spanish American republics of the nineteenth century for its stable and increasingly liberal political tradition. How did this unusual story unfold? Conservative constitutions, such as the Chilean one from , affirmed these core ideas as well. Liberal ideas thus provided a shared perspective in relation to which the various political positions that were to develop later defined themselves.
The philosophical sources of this early liberalism are quite diverse since public intellectuals referred to all sorts of authorities that could support their own positions. Though the list is long, the most widely referred to authors were Rousseau, Montesquieu, Constant, and Bentham Safford From Montesquieu they took the defense of a division of powers and the critique of despotism; from Rousseau the idea of popular sovereignty, the social contract, and the natural equality of men; from Constant the critique of popular sovereignty and the defense of a limited government; from Bentham the rationalistic approach to legislation.
It should be noted, however, that the influence of these authorities was not limited to those who consistently subscribed to liberal views. Such an influence also extended across a political spectrum that acquired more definite contours in later decades. This indicates that intellectuals often drew from the same philosophical sources in order to develop political positions that were, in fact, quite different from each other. Part of the reason for this is that in the early nineteenth century the political usage of the term was not yet well established in the region.
This led some Hispanic American liberals to claim distance from Spanish liberalism despite the fact that the greatest impulse for the spread of liberal ideas in Latin America was the Cadiz constitution. According to their own self-perception, for instance, Colombian liberals owed nothing to the latter.
From the point of view of liberal ideas, more broadly, they came to see the colonial past as an age of obscurantism, ignorance, and backwardness Lastarria ; Samper ; for discussion see Collier ch. This negative conception of the Spanish heritage became a constant feature of the Hispanic American liberal frame of mind.
In light of their abhorrence of the colonial past, liberals insisted on the need to construe completely new political institutions and to instill a new political mentality in the population. They were also prone to blame the colonial heritage for the great difficulties that they faced in carrying out these purposes.
As some conservatives often complained, the repudiation of the Spanish heritage prevented liberals from positively valuing aspects of their society that could help build stable political institutions, such as the unifying force of Catholicism. In light of this view of the character and customs inherited from the colonial times, the liberal faith in the capacity of written constitutions to fully transform their societies away from the colonial structures and in the direction of progress went hand in hand with strong pessimism about the capacity of the majority of the people to live up to the demands of such institutions.
Since the majority of the population shared the moral values of the colonial society and lacked even the basic skills of reading and writing, the elite judged them to be backward and ignorant. Most liberals indeed deemed the majority of the people to be unfit for republican citizenship. To be sure, the latter was a widely shared view among European liberals who also advocated a limited franchise. A notable exception to this dominant view was the short lived liberal Colombian constitution of which granted universal male suffrage following the French example after the revolution Bushnell In the aftermath of independence, most Hispanic American nations produced written constitutions as early as in Venezuela, New Granada former Colombia , and Chile.
At the time, political actors shared the belief that a written code of law had the power to transform their societies in the direction of liberal ideas. They believed that good legislation was the way to promote individual liberties and economic progress. According to this, former subjects of a colonial regime would come to see themselves as the bearers of individual rights and liberties as soon as the latter were constitutionally protected.
Likewise, on this optimistic view, economic progress would naturally develop as soon as individuals were granted the economic freedoms to work, to contract, and to accumulate wealth. This initial constitutionalism did indeed bring great changes with it: the constitutional protection of freedom of thought and of the press ended the traditional limits on the free circulation of printed materials and allowed for an explosion in the number of periodical publications in which people for the first time openly discussed political issues.
Nevertheless, the liberal legislation also faced strong opposition by established social forces such as the Catholic Church , the new republics were marked by great political instability regimes were often overthrown , and economic progress did not materialize. By mid-century this initial constitutional optimism had waned and political actors looked for alternative solutions. The two most salient liberal proposed alternatives were quite different from each other. According to the first one, it was necessary to transform social practices first in order to prepare society for republican institutions.
According to the second proposal, by contrast, it was necessary to go beyond constitutionalism and to engage the State in the task of social and economic reform.
State-Building in Latin America - LS319
While the former alternative seeks to produce social transformation from below in civil society , the latter deepens the strategy of producing social change from above by the State. Juan Bautista Alberdi advocated the first kind of strategy as suitable for the specific situation of Argentina. Juan Bautista Alberdi — was a public intellectual, a legal theorist, and a diplomat.
He laid the theoretical foundations for the Argentinian constitution of , which is the most long lasting liberal constitution of the period. The second idea is that for a true democratic republic to have any chance of success, society must be ready for it. On his view, the transformation of civil society must take place before granting political rights to the totality of the male adult population. Alberdi claimed that the much needed social transformation could take place through the interaction of the local population with northern European immigrants who would bring with them the habits of order, discipline, and industry that were necessary for economic progress and republican citizenship.
Strongly influenced by the effects of massive immigration in California, Alberdi maintained that South America could become civilized through the transplantation of Northern European culture in American soil. Thus, his proposed solution was to promote massive immigration from northern Europe in a nation that was for the most part sparsely inhabited. In his view, law has to be adequate to the society that receives it. Since he also held that an examination of the situation of the South American republicans shows that they are not civilized enough to govern themselves through democratic institutions, he maintained that a possible republic should not grant equal political rights to all citizens.
He favored a sort of government that was republican in form, but highly authoritarian in practice. This, he thought, was apt in light of what he considered the historical reality of Hispanic America. In the end, he favored a combination of federalism with political centralism: a certain degree of autonomy to the provinces combined with a strong executive, since, on his view, both federalism and centralism had important historical roots in South America.
In his view, the most important goal of a possible republic is to educate the population for representative democracy.
He advocated two main means of civilization: the promotion of commerce and industry, on the one hand, and massive European immigration, on the other. Alberdi opposed the idea that the population could be made fit for democracy through formal schooling, as many other liberals indeed maintained. Domingo Sarmiento, the other dominant intellectual and political figure in Argentina at the time, favored formal schooling as the main means of civilization Sarmiento ; Botana By contrast with Sarmiento, however, Alberdi held that the best means of moralization were industrious work and the constant interaction with people who already had the habits of order, discipline, and industry.
In passages that evince the influence of Adam Smith, he maintained that social prosperity was not the work of governments, but a spontaneous result. He was completely skeptical about the possibility of civilizing the local population without the interaction with people who were already civilized. At the heart of his liberalism is his strong defense of free trade and industry.
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Such a defense was grounded on both economic and moral considerations: he regarded freedom of trade and industry as instrumental for material progress and for the improvement of the morals of the local population. Crucially, freedom of trade and industry was also indispensable in order to attract the desired sort of European immigrants. The protection of civil rights and liberties to everyone was part of his conception of a possible republic but also instrumental for promoting immigration.
In particular, he favored religious toleration in order to attract non-Catholic Europeans. At the same time, however, he maintained that Catholicism should remain the official religion. On this point, he differed from most Hispanic American liberals who not only advocated the end of the official recognition of Catholicism but also, in some cases, a strict separation between Church and state. What gave Latin American liberals and liberalism a clear identity around the mid-nineteenth century was their opposition to an adversary. Though liberals and conservatives shared some political ground, they held opposing views regarding the pace of social change and the place of Catholicism and of the Catholic Church in society.
Liberals and conservatives agreed on the need for a written constitution, the conventional nature of political authority, individual representation, and the separation of powers, among other ideas. By contrast with liberals, however, conservatives favored a strong and centralized rule that could maintain peace and political stability, opposed the full protection of freedom of the press, and also favored the maintenance of some of the privileges traditionally enjoyed by the Catholic Church.
Liberals, on the other hand, advocated a more rapid pace of social change, the full protection of individual freedoms, which especially included freedom of worship and of the press, the dismantling of the privileges traditionally enjoyed by the Catholic Church, and most of the time, but not always, federalism. Though the difference between liberals and conservatives was often not clear cut, the only issue that consistently placed them at opposite sides was the religious one Bushnell — This opposition was more or less salient depending on the power that the local Catholic Church enjoyed in each national context.
In New Granada, where the church had deeper roots, the liberal identity centered on a combination of marked anti-clericalism with a defense of federalism against a conservative regime that was pro-clerical, authoritarian, and centralist. While the liberal forces of secularization had won out in most of the region by the end of the century, the confrontation between liberals and conservatives over the religious problem played out in Colombia until the end of the twentieth Bushnell The religious problem in Hispanic America was, in some regions, primarily about religious toleration, where the liberal position regarding religion centered on the demand to allow for religious worship.
This was the case in Argentina where the local Catholic Church was relatively weak. In some other regions, such as Mexico or New Granada, where the church was much stronger, the religious problem was more complex insofar as the church was powerful enough to destabilize the new republican governments and to challenge their legitimacy. Where it had the power to do so, the church sought to mobilize the moral religious sensibilities of the majority of the population against the attempted liberal reforms.
The church opposed civil equality in order to protect its own legal privileges and immunities, rejected the freedoms of thought and of the press as threats to religious morality and clerical authority, fought against economic reforms that endangered its position as the largest landowner and wealthiest corporation, favored a form of government that mirrored its own hierarchical structure i. The challenge posed by the church to the new liberal republics combined claims to political and economic power with the defense of morality and religion.