1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nicaragua

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NICARAGUA, a republic of Central America, bounded on the N. by Honduras, E. by the Caribbean Sea, S. by Costa Rica, and W. by the Pacific Ocean (for map, see Central America). Pop. (1905), about 550,000; area, 49,200 sq. m. Nicaragua forms an irregular equilateral triangle with its base stretching for 280 m. along the Caribbean Sea from Cape Gracias à Dios southwards to the San Juan delta, and its apex at the Coseguina volcano, on the Bay of Fonseca, which separates Nicaragua on the Pacific side from Salvador. The frontier which separates the republic from Honduras extends across the continent from east-north-east to west-south-west. It is defined by the river Segovia for about one-third of the distance, or from Cape Gracias à Dios to 86° W.; it then deflects across the watershed on the east and south of the Hondurian river Choluteca, crosses the main Nicaraguan cordillera (mountain chain), and follows the river Negro to the Bay of Fonseca. In accordance with the treaty of 1858, which was confirmed in 1888 by the United States president, acting as arbitrator, and more fully defined in 1896, the boundary towards Costa Rica is drawn 2 m. S. of the San Juan river and Lake Nicaragua, as far as a point parallel to the centre of the western shore of the lake. It is then continued south-westward for the short distance which intervenes between this point and the northernmost headland of Salinas Bay, on the Pacific.

Physical Features.—The coasts of Nicaragua are strikingly different in configuration. The low, swampy and monotonous shore of the Caribbean, with its numerous lagoons and estuaries, and its fringe of reefs and islets, contains only three harbours: Gracias à Dios, Bluefields or Blewfields, and Greytown (San Juan del Norte). Its length, from Cape Gracias a Dios to the San Tuan delta, is nearly 300 m. The Pacific coast, measuring some 200 m. from the Bay of Fonseca to Salinas Bay, is bold, rocky and unbroken by any great indentation; here, however, are the best harbours of the republic—the southern arm of the Bay of Fonseca (q.v.), Corinto, Brito and San Juan del Sur.

The surface of the country is naturally divided into five clearly distinct zones: (1) the series of volcanic peaks which extend parallel to the Pacific at a little distance inland; (2) the plains and lakes of the great depression which lies to the east of these mountains and stretches from sea to sea, between the Bay of Fonseca and the mouths of the San Juan; (3) the main cordillera, which skirts the depression on the east, and trends north-west from Monkey Point or Punta Mico on the Caribbean Sea, until it is merged in the ramifications of the Hondurian and Salvadorian highlands; (4) the plateaus which slope gradually away from the main cordillera towards the Caribbean; (5) the east or Mosquito coast, with its low-lying hinterland. The last-named region has to a great extent had a separate history; and it was only in 1894 that the Mosquito Reserve, a central enclave which includes more than half of the littoral and hinterland, was incorporated in the republic and renamed the department of Zelaya. (See Mosquito Coast.)

Though situated almost on the western edge of the country, and greatly inferior, both in continuity and in mean altitude, to the main cordillera, the chain of volcanic cones constitutes a watershed quite equal in importance to the cordillera itself. It consists for the most part of isolated igneous peaks, sometimes connected by low intervening ridges. It terminates in the extreme north-west with Coseguina (2831 ft.), and in the extreme south-east with the low wooded archipelagos of Solentiname and Chichicaste near the head of the San Juan river. Between these two extremes the chief cones, proceeding southwards, are: the Maribios chain, comprising El Viejo (5840 ft.), Santa Clara, Telica, Orota, Las Pilas, Axosco, Momotombo (4127 ft.), all crowded close together between the Bay of Fonesca and Lake Managua; Masaya or Popocatepac (which was active in 1670, 1782, 1857 and 1902, and attains a height of 2972 ft.), and Mombacho (4593 ft.), near Granada; lastly, in Lake Nicaragua the two islands of Zapatera and Ometepe or Omotepec with its twin peaks Ometepe (5643 ft.) and Madera. On the 20th of January 1835 Coseguina was the scene of one of the most tremendous eruptions on record. The outbreak lasted four days and the volcanic dust and ashes erupted fell over a vast area, which comprised Jamaica, southern Mexico and Bogota. After a long repose Ometepe also burst into renewed activity on the 19th of June 1883, when the lavas from a new crater began to overflow and continued for seven days to spread in various directions over the whole island. In the Maribios district occur several volcanic lakelets, such as that of Masaya, besides numerous infernillos, low craters or peaks still emitting sulphurous vapour and smoke, and at night often lighting up the whole land with bluish flames.

In the great lacustrine depression of Nicaragua is collected all the drainage from the eastern versant of the volcanic mountains, from the sheer western escarpment of the main cordillera, and from a large area of northern Costa Rica. The only river which flows out of the depression on the north enters the Bay of Fonseca at Tempisque. The accumulated waters which pour down into the depression are gathered into the two basins of Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. Both basins have a maximum depth of some 260 ft. Lake Managua, the more northerly, has a length of 30 m. and varies in breadth from 8 to 16 m. Its area is about 575 sq. m. After the rains a portion of its overflow escapes southwards into the l0wer and larger Lake Nicaragua, through the Panaloya channel. Steamers ply on both lakes, but the channel is rendered impassable by a rapid near the town of Tipitapa, at its northern extremity. Here there is a waterfall of 13 ft. The existence of ancient lacustrine beaches, upheaved between the two basins by volcanic agencies or left dry by some enlargement of the San Juan outfall, and a consequent subsidence of the water-level, seems to indicate that the lakes were formerly united. Now, however, Lake Managua is almost a closed basin in the dry season, when the stream in parts of the Panaloya channel sinks to a mere rivulet. The surface of Lake Nicaragua after the rains is 110 ft. above sea-level. The lake is 100 m. long, and has a maximum breadth of 45 m. and an area of 2970 sq. m. It is thus the largest sheet of fresh water between Lake Michigan and Lake Titicaca on the borders of Bolivia and Peru. Towards the San Juan outlet its depth decreases to 6 or 8 ft., owing to the vast accumulation of the silt washed down into the lake by its principal Costa Rican affluent, the Rio Frio. Much of this silt is again carried away by the San ]uan. Under the influence of the intermittent trade-winds Lake Nicaragua rises and falls regularly, whence the popular notion that it was a tidal lake. It is also exposed to the dangerous Papagayos tornadoes, caused by the prevailing north-easterly winds meeting opposite currents from the Pacific. It is drained on the south by the San Juan river. which flows generally east by south to the Caribbean Sea. The distance from the lake to the principal or Colorado mouth of the river is 95 m., and the average width of the channel 1500 ft. Near its mouth the main stream branches out into a wide delta. Navigation is greatly impeded by shifting banks of silt, and especially by five rapids which can only be traversed when the river is in full flood. It is often asserted that these rapids were artificially formed by the Spaniards themselves to prevent the buccaneers from penetrating to Lake Nicaragua. But Herrera (Dec. iii. book 2, chap. 3) speaks of the "great rocks and falls" which prevented Cordova, the first circumnavigator of the lake, from descending the San Juan in 1522; and although the English traveller Gage states that in his time (17th century) vessels reached Granada direct from Spain, there can be little doubt that the rapids are natural obstructions, The various schemes which have been put forward for the conversion of the San juan and the lacustrine depression into an interoceanic waterway are fully discussed under Panama Canal.

The main Nicaraguan cordillera, which flanks the depression on the east, has often been called the Cordillera de los Andes, from its supposed continuity with the mountain-chains of Panama and the west coast of South America. There is in fact no such continuity, for the San Juan valley completely separates the mountains of Panama from the main Nicaraguan system. This severance, it is true, may be geologically recent, and some geologists see, in the five rapids of the San Juan, remnants of a connecting ridge which the river has swept away. But the evidence for past continuity is inconclusive, while there can be no doubt about the present severance of the two mountain systems. The main cordillera bears different names in different parts of Nicaragua. Thus the important section which terminates at Monkey Point is commonly called the Cordillera de Yolaina. The summits of the main cordillera seem nowhere to exceed 7000 ft. in altitude; the mean elevation is probably less than 2000 ft.; the declivity is sheer towards the lakes, and gradual towards the Caribbean. Along the shores of the lakes the cordillera may be described as a double range, consisting of two series of ridges divided by a great longitudinal valley. The lower series, which adjoins the lakes, rises near Lake Managua, and marches parallel to the main crest of the cordillera as far as the northern base of the Yolaina section; it then diverges, trending south-east nearly as far gs Greytown, while the axis of, the Yolaina section has a more easterly direction.

On the east, the main cordillera abuts upon the region of plateaus and savannas, which occupies nearly half of the area of Nicaragua. It is likely that this region was once a single uniform tableland, sloping by degrees to the flat Mosquito Coast, in which direction its level still sinks. But the relief of the tableland has been wholly changed by fluvial action. The great rivers which flow eastward to the sea have fissured and moulded the surface into deep ravines alternating with high plateaus, ridges and isolated hills. Large tracts of these uplands have never been adequately explored, and consist of virgin forest and prairie. The principal river is the Segovia, which rises in the main cordillera due north of Lake Managua, winds E.N.E. as far as 85° W., and constitutes the frontier until it reaches the sea at Cape Gracias at Dios, after a course of more than 450 m., during which it receives many tributaries. Its basin is narrow and its volume not remarkable, but in length it surpasses all other Central American rivers. Its nomenclature, like that of many lesser streams in the plateau region, is somewhat confusing; for while the Spanish colonists were settling beside its headwaters the mid-stream was hardly known except to the native Indians, and the lower reaches were frequented by buccaneers, often of British or Dutch origin. In addition to the three names of Segovia, Coco or Cocos, and Wanks, which are applicable to the whole river, different parts have from time to time received the names of Cabullal, Cabrugal, Cape River, Eneuentro, Gracias, Herbias, Oro, Pantasma, Portillo Liso, Tapacac, Telpaneca, Somoro, Yankes, Yare and Yoro. Other important streams, all flowing to the Caribbean in a direction E. by S., are the Hueso, Wawa, Cuculaia, Prinzapolca, Rio Grande, Bluefields and Rama. The Rio Grande or Amaltara, which receives one large tributary, the Tuma, is navigable for about 100 m. The Bluefields, Blewfields, Escondida, or Rio del Desastre, which derives its best known name from that of Blieveldt, a Dutch Corsair, is navigable for 65 m. The hydrography of Nicaragua is curious in two respects: as in the Amazonian region all the large rivers flow east, none escaping to the Pacific; and the main watershed does not correspond with the main cordillera, which is inferior in this particular both to the volcanic mountains and to the plateau region.

The geology, fauna and flora of Nicaragua may be studied in connexion with those of the neighbouring countries (see Central America).

Climate.—The climate is mild and healthy for Europeans on the uplands, such as those of Segovia and Chontales, which have a mean elevation of 2000 to 3000 ft. above sea-level. But elsewhere it is distinctly tropical, with two seasons—wet from May to November on the Pacific slope, and from June to December on the Caribbean, and dry throughout the winter months. The mean annual temperature is about 80° Fahr., falling to 70° at night and rising to 90° at noon in summer. Nicaragua comes within the zone of the wet north-east trade-winds, which sweep inland from the Atlantic. The rainfall is heavy along the west side of the lacustrine basin, with an annual mean at Rivas of 102 in., but this figure is sometimes greatly exceeded on the east coast, where rain is common even in the dry season. Observations made at Greytown in 1890 showed the extremes of temperature to be 89° Fahr. in September for the maximum and 70° Fahr. in January for the minimum; the rainfall for the whole year amounted to 297 in., the rainiest month having been July (52·5 in.) and the driest, May (4·9 in.). Earthquakes are felt at times on the Pacific slope, but in Nicaragua they are less violent than in the neighbouring countries.

Inhabitants.—Accurate statistics as to the growth and distribution of the population cannot be obtained, and the figures given below are based on estimates which can only be approximately correct. The census of 1882 gave the total as 275,816; this appears to have risen in 1890 to 375,000, in 1900 to 500,000, and in 1905 to 550,000, or 11 inhabitants per sq. m. There can thus be no doubt that the population is increasing with extraordinary rapidity, although there is hardly any immigration. The number of Europeans and their pure-blooded descendants is about 1200, and tends to increase. Spanish and German elements preponderate in the foreign colonies. The most densely peopled region and the focus of civilization is the lacustrine depression and the surrounding uplands. Here are all the large towns, and hither European settlers were attracted from the first by the temperate climate, rich soil, and natural waterways. The development of Nicaragua, unlike that of most American countries (notably Brazil and the United States), has been from west to east. The great mass of the population is a composite race, descended chiefly from the native “ Indians,” their Spanish conquerors, many of whom were Galicians, and the negro slaves introduced during the colonial period. Intermarriage with British, Dutch, and French with Caribs and Creoles has further complicated the ethnology of the country, producing “ Indians ” with fair hair and blue eyes, and half-castes with European features and Indian or negroid coloration, or with European coloration and Indian or negroid features. The prevailing language is a degenerate form of Spanish, nearer to Galician than to Castilian. Most of the native dialects have ceased to exist, but a corrupt form of English is spoken on parts of the east coast. All who speak Spanish are classed as Ladinos; the half-castes generally are termed Mestizos; and the name of Sambos or Zambos is confined to the descendants of Indian and negro parents; these are also incorrectly called Caribs. The number of the uncivilized Indians, whose camps or villages are situated in open glades among the forests of the plateau region, is usually estimated at 30,000; but this would seem to be an exaggeration. Pure-blooded Indians are not numerous, as whole districts were depopulated and whole tribes exterminated by the Spanish colonists and the buccaneers. A few may be descendants of the Aztecs and Mayas, whose temples, sculptures, burial grounds, &c., have not yet been fully explored. For a general account of this ancient civilization and of the Indian tribes see Central America and Mexico: Archaeology. A collection of Nicaraguan antiquities is preserved in the National Museum at Washington, U.S.A.; and the archaeological collection brought to Europe by Dr W. Lehmann in 1910 was exhibited in the Berlin Museum of Fine Arts.

Chief Towns and Communications.—The capital is Managua (pop. 1905, about 30,000); other important towns are Leon (45,000), Granada (25,000), Masaya (20,000), Chinandega (12,000), and the seaports of Corinto (3000) and Greytown (2500). These are described in separate articles. At the beginning of the 20th century, Nicaragua had few good roads, and none at all east of the main Cordillera. Transport in the plateau region was mainly effected by means of pack mules, over the roughest of tracks. But between 1900 and 1905 contracts were signed for the construction of three highways, leading respectively from Matagalpa, from Nueva Segovia and from the Pis Pis mining district to the head of steam navigation on the Segovia, about 160 m. above Cape Gracias. These highways were to be linked to the western system by 79 m. of road connecting Matagalpa with Momotombo. For the construction and upkeep of roads a tax varying from one to ten pesos is levied on all males over eighteen years old. There are 160 m. of state railways, running from Coriuto to Leon, Managua, Granada and Diriamba, with branches to El Viejo and Momotombo. Contracts for additional lines were signed between 1900 and 1905. The steamers which ply on the great lakes and the San Juan, besides other vessels which visit the principal Caribbean and Pacific ports, are national property; but from the 1st of January 1905 all the state railways were leased to a syndicate for fifteen years and the st earners for twenty-five years. There are also 20 m. of private railway near the mouth of the Rio Grande, and private steam tramways on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua. Corinto is the headquarters of shipping; it is visited by two-thirds of the 2100 vessels of 550,000 tons (including coasters) which annually enter the ports of the republic. The coasting trade is restricted to vessels under the Nicaraguan flag. At the beginning of the 20th century most of the ocean-going steamers were owned in Germany or the United States; British enterprise being chiefly represented by schooners trading from Jamaica to Bluefields and Greytown. Nicaragua joined the postal union in 1882, and the western provinces have a fairly complete telegraphic and telephonic system.

Industries and Commerce.—The principal agricultural product is coffee, the yield of which increased from 4,528,300 ℔ in 1880 to 11,382,000 ℔ in 1890, and 26,400,000 ℔ in 1900. Coffee is grown principally in the Matagalpa region, on the uplands of the interior. The plantations are chiefly owned and managed by Germans, and the product is of good quality; but coffee-planting, like most Nicaraguan industries, suffers from the scarcity of labour. On the Caribbean coast bananas are cultivated and largely exported to the United States. In 1903 more than 2,000,000 bunches were consigned to New Orleans. The cultivation of cotton has been often attempted, but with little success. Sugar is grown and there are many small sugar factories, but little of the output is exported. The cocoa export is also small; tobacco, rice, beans and other crops are grown for local uso, Rubber is collected in the forests, and plantations have been formed. Dye-woods and indigo are exported, but the demand for vegetable dyes has decreased. Cattle-rearing is successfully pursued, live cattle and hides being important articles of export. Cheese and butter are manufactured in large quantities for home consumption. Horses and pigs are also reared, but not sheep. In 1899 the government sold about 52,000 acres of public land lying about 18 m. E. of Lake Nicaragua for the purpose of colonization. The purchaser undertook to introduce settlers from northern Europe, to import cattle for the improvement of the Nicaraguan breed, to plant rubber and vanilla, and to provide schools for agricultural instruction. The sale of Nicaraguan spirits is a state monopoly. From the 1st of January 1904 it was leased to a syndicate of distillers for six years. Gold-mining is carried on along the Caribbean littoral. In 1898 the gold dust and bar exports from Bluefields were of the value of £25,760; in 1900, £62,000; and in 1907, £65,000. Copper, coal, petroleum, silver and precious stones are also found, and there seems little reason to doubt that the mineral resources of Nicaragua, though undeveloped, are nearly as rich as those of Honduras. Other industries include manufactures of leather, boots and shoes, furniture, bricks and pottery, cigars and cigarettes, beer, wine and spirits, candles and soap. The largest and most numerous commercial firms are German, but there are also French, British, and even Chinese establishments, although the immigration of Chinese is prohibited by law. The principal exports are (in order of value) coffee, bananas, gold, rubber, cattle and hides, dye-woods and cabinet woods. The principal imports are cotton and woollen goods, machinery and hardware, flour, beer, wine, spirits and drugs. The United States and Great Britain send respectively 60% and 20% of the imports, receiving 60% and 8% of the exports. The average yearly value of the foreign trade is about £1,200,000—exports, £700,000; imports, £500,000.

Money, Weights and Measures.—There is one bank of issue, the Bank of London and Central America, which has a capital of £260,000 (£130,300 paid). The monetary unit is the silver peso or dollar of 100 cents, which weighs 25 grammes, .900 fine. The current coin consists largely of Mexican and Central and South American dollars; but little coin is in circulation. The currency is mostly paper, notes being issued directly by the treasury and by the bank. The notes issued by the bank must be covered to the extent of 40% by gold and silver; the actual bank reserve is stated to be from 65 to 100% of the notes issued. The value of the paper peso fluctuates; in 1904 the premium on gold stood at 640%. The value of the silver peso in fractional silver money is about nineteen pence; in a single coin about twenty pence. The exportation of silver pesos is prohibited. In 1899 a nickel coinage was introduced. The metric system of weights and measures was legalized in January 1893.

Finance.—The revenue of the republic is derived mainly from customs duties, liquor, tobacco and slaughter taxes, railways and steamers, the postal and telegraph services, and the gunpowder monopoly. The principal spending departments are those of war and marine, internal development, and finance. The published accounts, however, present no continuous or clear view of the national receipts and disbursements. Revenue and expenditure vary considerably, but neither often falls below £300,000 or rises above £500,000 In 1886 the republic contracted a railway loan in London to the amount of £285,000 at 6% interest, and in July 1894 the interest fell into default. In 1895 an arrangement was made for the reduction of interest to 4%, the beginning of amortization, and the creation of “ coffee warrants ” to be used in the payment of export duties on coffee assigned for the service of the debt. In the four years 1897–1900 the sales of these warrants amounted to 1,028,990 gold pesos or (at 23d., the average rate for this period) £98,610. In July 1905 the outstanding amount of the debt was £253,600. In 1905 a further loan of 12,500,000 francs (£500,000) was raised in Paris at 5%. The internal debt amounts to about £400,000.

Constitution and Administration.—The former constitution proclaimed on the 4th of July 1894 and amended on the 10th of December 1896, was superseded on the 30th of March 1905, when a new constitution was promulgated. By this instrument the legislative power is vested in a single chamber of 36 members (instead of 40, as under the old constitution), elected by universal male suffrage for six years (instead of two). The executive is entrusted to a president similarly chosen for six years (instead of four) and aided by a cabinet representing the five ministries of foreign affairs and education, finance, internal administration and justice, war and marine, and public works. For administrative purposes the republic is divided into 13 departments and 2 comarcas, each under a political head who acts as military commandant and controls education, finance, &c. The administration of justice is entrusted to numerous courts of first instance, three courts of appeal, and a supreme court. The active army of 4000 men can be increased to 40,000 in war. All able-bodied citizens between the ages of seventeen and fifty-five are compelled to serve one year with the colours and are then enrolled in the reserve. Roman Catholicism is the prevailing creed, but all religions are tolerated, and none receives any endowment or other special privilege from the state. The bishop of Leon, whose diocese is included in the archiepiscopal province of Guatemala, is the spiritual head of the Roman Catholics. There are numerous elementary schools, at which the teaching is free and compulsory, besides ten colleges for secondary or technical education, and two universities.

History.—For a general account of the Spanish administration during the colonial period, i.e. up to 1821, and of the subsequent attempts to unite all the Central American republics in a single federal state, see Central America. The history of the Mosquito Reserve and of the relations between Nicaragua and Great Britain is told in full under Mosquito Coast.

First discovered by Columbus in 1502, Nicaragua was not regularly explored till 1522, when Gil Gonzalez Davila penetrated from the Gulf of Nicoya to the western provinces and sent his lieutenant Cordova to circumnavigate the great lake. The country is said to take its name from Nicaras or Nicaragua (also written Micaragua), a powerful Cholutec chief, ruling over most of the land between the lakes and the Pacific, who received Davila in a friendly spirit and accepted baptism at his hands. Nicaragua's capital seems to have occupied the site of the present town of Rivas. The Spaniards overran the country with great rapidity, both from this centre northwards, and southwards from the Honduras coast. The occupation began with sanguinary conflicts between the two contending waves of intrusion. Granada was founded in 1524 on the isthmus between the two lakes as the capital of a separate government, which, however, was soon attached as a special province to the captaincy general of Guatemala, which comprised the whole of Central America and the present Mexican state of Chiapas. Hence, during the Spanish tenure, the history of Nicaragua is merged in that of the surrounding region. Of its five earliest rulers “ the first had been a murderer, the second a murderer and rebel, the third murdered the second, the fourth was a forger, the fifth a murderer and rebel ” (Boyle). Then came the hopeless rcvolts of the Indians against intolerable oppression, the abortive rebellions of Hernandez de Contreras and John Bermejo (Bermudez) against the mother country (1550), the foundation of Leon, future rival of Granada, in 1610, its sack by the buccaneers under William Dampier in 1685, and, lastly, the declaration of independence (1821), not definitively acknowledged by Spain till 1850.

In 1823 Nicaragua joined the Federal Union of the five Central American states, which was dissolved in 1839. While it lasted Nicaragua was the scene of continual bloodshed, caused partly by its attempts to secede from the confederacy, partly by its wars with Costa Rica for the possession of the disputed territory of Guanacaste between the great lake and the Gulf of Nicoya, partly also by the bitter rivalries of the cities of Leon and Granada, respective headquarters of the Liberal and Conservative parties. During the brief existence of the Federal Union no fewer than three hundred and ninety-six persons exercised the supreme Power of the republic and the different states. The independent government of Nicaragua was afterwards distinguished almost beyond all other Spanish-American states by an uninterrupted series of military or popular revolts, by which the whole people was impoverished and debased. One outstanding incident was the filibustering expedition of William Walker (q.v.), who was at first invited by the Liberals of Leon to assist them against the Conservatives of Granada, and who, after seizing the supreme power in 1856, was expelled by the combined forces of the neighbouring states, and on venturing to return was shot at Trujillo in Honduras on the 12th of September 1860.

Under the administration of Chamorro, who became president in 1875, a difficulty with Germany occurred. The German government asserted that one of its consuls had been insulted, and demanded an indemnity of $30,000 (about £2800), a demand to which Nicaragua only submitted after all her principal ports had been blockaded. The successor of President Chamorro was General Zavala, whose administration brought Nicaragua to a higher degree of prosperity than she had ever known. He was succeeded in 1883 by Dr Cardenas, during whose presidency the attempt of General Barrios to unite the five Central American states was a cause of war between Guatemala and Honduras on one side, and Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica on the other. Cardenas had taken command of the united Nicaraguan and Costa Rican army when Barrios died, and on the 11th of April 1885 a treaty of peace was signed. Don Evaristo Carazo succeeded Dr Cárdenas as president of the republic in 1887, but died when he had served a little over two years, and was succeeded by Dr Roberto Sacasa. Under Carazo's administration the boundary question between Nicaragua and Costa. Rica had been settled by arbitration, the president of the United States acting as arbitrator. While Dr Sacasa was president of Honduras, Salvador and Guatemala signed a treaty, under which the United States of Central America were to be formed. The president of Nicaragua adhered to this treaty, but the National Congress refused to ratify it. Sacasa was overthrown by a revolution in 1893, and was succeeded by a provisional government, which in its turn was deposed soon after by another uprising, at the head of which was General José Santos Zelaya. His position was regularized by the constitution of 1894, and he was re-elected president in 1898 for another term of four years. Under his government the incorporation of the Mosquito Reserve into the territory of Nicaragua took place. In 1895 occurred the Hatch incident, which led to the occupation of the port of Corinto by a British fleet. Mr Hatch, British pro-vice-consul at Bluefields, being accused of conspiracy against the Nicaraguan government, was arrested, along with other British subjects, and expelled. For this action Nicaragua was required to pay an indemnity of $15,000. An attempt to overthrow Zelaya was made in February 1896, but it was crushed after several months of severe fighting. There were occasional disturbances subsequently, but none sufficient to overturn President Zelaya, who was again reelected in 1902 and 1906. In 1907 he carried to a successful issue the war which broke out in that year between Nicaragua and Honduras (q.v.). But he was believed to be planning the conquest of other Central American states, and his policy of granting monopolies and commercial concessions to his own supporters aroused widespread discontent. In October 1909 an insurrection broke out in the Atlantic departments. The execution (after alleged torture) of two citizens of the United States named Grace and Cannon, who were said to have fought in the revolutionary army under General Estrada, led to-the despatch of United States warships to Nicaragua; but in the absence of full evidence President Zelaya's responsibility for the execution could not be proved.[1] On the 1st of December the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Nicaragua, and in an official note Secretary Knox described the Zelayan administration as a “ blot on the history ” of the republic. Fighting at Bluefields was prevented by the U.S. cruiser “ Des Moines ” (18th December), an example followed at Greytown by the British cruiser “ Scylla ”; but elsewhere along the Atlantic coast the insurgents gained many victories. In the battle of Rama (23rd December) they captured the greater part of the government troops. On the following day Zelaya took refuge on board a Mexican gunboat, and sailed for Mexico. Dr Madriz, one of his supporters, had already succeeded him as president.

Bibliography.—For a general account of Nicaragua, see F. Boyle, A Ride across a Continent (2 vols., London, 1868); E. G. Squier, Nicaragua, &c. (2nd ed., London, 1871); J. W. Bodham, Whetham, Across Central America (London, 1877); T. Belt, The Naturalist in Nicaragua (London, 1888); A. R. Colquhoun, The Key of the Pacific (London, 1895); G. Niederlein, The State of Nicaragua (Philadelphia, 1898); A. P. Davis, Hydrography of Nicaragua (U.S.A. Geological Survey report, No. 20) (1900); C. Medina, Le Nicaragua en 1900 (Paris, 1900); J. W. G. Walker, Ocean to Ocean: an Account, Personal and Historical, of Nicaragua and its People (Chicago, 1902). For commerce, finance and administration, see the annual Reports of the Committee of the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders (London); D. Pector, Étude économique sur la république de Nicaragua (Neuchâtel, 1893); Bulletins of the Bureau of American Republics (Washington); U.S.A. Consular and British Foreign Office Reports; official reports issued periodically at Managua, in Spanish. For history, M. M. de Peralta, Nicaragua y Panama en el siglo XVI (Madrid, 1883); J. D. Gamez, Archivo historico de la República de Nicaragua (Managua, 1896); F. Ortega, Nicaragua en los primeros años de su emancipación politica (Paris, 1894); D. B. Lucas, Nicaragua: War of the Filibusters (Richmond, Va., 1896); C. Bovallius, Nicaraguan Antiquities (Stockholm, 1886).

  1. General Medina and other officers were tried by a Nicaraguan court-martial for the murder of Grace and Cannon, but were acquitted on the 28th of January 1910.