Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/167

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154
[HISTORY
CHILE

from the Biscay provinces of Spain. Freed from the preoccupation of the Indian wars, the governors gave more attention to the general welfare of the country: a university was started in Santiago in 1747, many towns were built about the same time, agriculture and industries were promoted and a coasting trade grew up. In 1778 Charles III. threw open all the ports of Spain to the colonies and allowed freedom of trade with France. But in general the administration of the colony was burdensome, oppressive and inefficient. The people had no voice in the government. Ruling with the help of the Royal Audience, the governor was absolute master of the country, and regulated the smallest details of life. Such time as the officials could spare from the main object of enriching themselves by extortion and corruption was given up to endless official and religious ceremonies and to petty disputes of etiquette and precedence. All the high posts and offices were filled by men sent from Spain, with the result that bitter jealousy reigned between them and the native-born colonists (criollos). The criollos as a rule filled the posts in the municipalities (cabildos), disposed of by sale, so that when the revolution broke out the cabildos naturally became the centres of the movement. As in all Spanish colonies, so in Chile, the Church played a large part in the public life. Chile was divided into the two bishoprics of Santiago and Concepción, and the Church managed to accumulate most of the wealth of the country. At the same time the monks and Jesuits did useful work in teaching industrial and agricultural arts, and in giving the people a certain degree of education; but the influence of the Church was used to bolster up the traditional narrow colonial system, and the constant quarrels between the clergy and the secular powers often threw the country into confusion.

At the opening of the 19th century Chile was a colony whose resources had hardly been touched, with a population of about 500,000 persons, of Spanish and mixed Spanish and Indian blood: a people endowed with the vigour of character bred by a mountainous country and a bracing climate and by a hard struggle for existence, but ignorant through lack of education, shut out by a narrow-minded commercial system from knowledge of the outside world, and destitute of the character-training that free institutions afford.

The national independence of Chile dates from the second decade of the 19th century. The revolt of England’s North American colonies, and the events of the French Revolution naturally suggested the idea of a struggle for independence Struggle
for inde-
pendence.
to the Spanish colonists, and the deposition of Ferdinand VII. by Napoleon, and the ensuing disorganization of Spain, supplied the desired opportunity. In 1809 risings took place in Venezuela, in Ecuador, in Upper Peru and in the Argentine; the revolutionary fever spread to Chile, and on the 18th of September 1810 the cabildo of Santiago secured the resignation of the governor and vested his powers in an elected Junta (board) of seven members. This event was the beginning of the independence of Chile. But it was some time before independence was fully attained. The mass of the people were ignorant, intercourse between them was slight, and there was a strong section attached to the old régime. The party determined on independence was at first small, and compelled to conceal its aims till the ground had been prepared for open decisive action. Further, there were divisions between the patriots of Santiago and those of Concepción, and bitter jealousies between the leaders, the chief of whom were Juan Martinez de Rozas, José Miguel Carrera and Bernardo O’Higgins. Owing to the apathy of the people and the enmities existing among the leaders, the Spanish forces, sent by the viceroy of Peru to crush the revolutionary movement, succeeded after two years’ indecisive fighting in completely defeating the patriots at Rancagua in 1814. For three years the Spaniards maintained their hold on Chile, ruling the country with tyrannical harshness, but in the spring of 1817 a patriot force which had been organized at Mendoza in the Argentine by José de San Martin, an Argentine officer, and by O’Higgins, crossed the Andes and overwhelmed the royalists at the battle of Chacabuco. O’Higgins was named director-general of Chile, while San Martin, realizing that the independence of each colony depended on the Spanish being expelled from the whole of South America, set about preparing an invasion of Peru. The viceroy of Lima made one more effort to uphold the power of Spain in Chile, but the army he despatched under Mariano Osorio, the victor of Rancagua, was decisively defeated at the river Maipo on the 3rd of April 1818. By this battle the independence of Chile, formally proclaimed by O’Higgins in the previous February, was finally secured.

The next few years witnessed the expulsion of the royalists from the south of Chile, the equipment of a small fleet, placed under the command of Manuel Blanco Encalada and Lord Cochrane (earl of Dundonald), and the invasion of The republic.Peru by San Martin with the help of the fleet, ending in the proclamation of Peruvian independence in 1821; though the Spanish power was not finally broken until Bolivar’s victory at Ayacucho in 1824. Relieved from all fear of Spanish attacks from the north, the new republic of Chile entered upon a period of internal confusion and dissension bordering upon anarchy. As soon as the necessity for establishing a stable government arose the lack of training in self-government among the Chileans became painfully obvious. O’Higgins as director-general, rightly perhaps, considered that firm orderly government was more important than the concession of liberal institutions, but his administration roused strong hostility, and in 1823 he was compelled to resign. From that date up to 1830 there were no less than ten governments, while three different constitutions were proclaimed. The nation was divided into small mutually hostile parties; there were ecclesiastical troubles owing to the hostility of the Church to the new republic; there were Indian risings in the south and royalist revolts in the island of Chiloé; the expenditure exceeded the revenue, and the employment of the old Spanish financial expedients naturally increased the general discontent. Up to 1830 the Liberal party, which favoured a free democratic régime, held the upper hand, but in that year the Conservatives, backed by a military rising led by General Joaquin Prieto, placed themselves in power after a sanguinary battle at Lircay. Prieto was elected president in 1831, and a new constitution was drafted and promulgated in 1833, which, with some modifications, remains the constitution of Chile at the present time. This constitution invested the executive with almost dictatorial powers, and the Conservatives entered upon a long term of office.

The aim of the Conservative policy was to secure above all a strong administration; power was concentrated in the hands of a small circle; public liberties were restricted and all opposition crushed by force. Inaugurated under General Prieto’s administration (1831–1841) by his able minister Diego Portales, this policy was continued by his successors General Manuel Bulnes (1841–1851) and Manuel Montt (1851–1861), each of whom like Prieto was elected to a double term of office. In spite of the discontent of the Liberals, the Conservative ascendancy secured a long period of firm stable government, which was essential to put an end to the confusion in public life and to give time for the people to awake to a fuller realization of the duties and responsibilities of national independence. The internal peace of the country was only disturbed three times, by Liberal risings in 1835, in 1851 and in 1859, all of which were crushed, but not without severe fighting. In 1836 Chile also became involved in a war with a confederation of Peru and Bolivia, which ended in the victory of Chile and the dissolution of the confederation.

While refusing to allow the people any share in, or control over, the government, the Conservative leaders devoted themselves to improving the condition of the people and of the country, and under their firm rule Chile advanced rapidly in prosperity. The government established a department for education, a training college for teachers, and numerous schools and libraries; literary magazines were started and a school of art and an academy of music founded. By the consolidation of the foreign debt, by the regular payment of interest, by the establishment of several banks, and by the negotiation of commercial treaties, the financial position of the country was improved. Internal development was promoted by the working