Page images
PDF
EPUB

At this moment the contest broke out anew.

The allied circles learned in a practical manner that they did not possess the majority of the taxpayers to constitute the electoral power, nor that of the electors.

This revelation of the superiority of the strength of the Government Liberal party, notwithstanding the bill which the coalition had passed for their benefit, disconcerted the allies and shook the ministry of the day.

It was difficult to observe in practice a neutral policy, in consequence of inevitable party demands, and rather than commence a struggle the ministry resigned.

Following their advice, and inspiring myself in the lofty duties that the situation imposed on my love of Chile and public peace, I requested the distinguished citizens Messrs. Enrique S. Sanfuentes, Anibal Zañartu, and José Tocornal to approach all the political parties and groups and request their coöperation to resolve in a definito manner the political question which was agitating men's minds. I asked them, in consequence, that the question of the candidature of tho Presidency of the Republic should be decided by a sole couvention, in the manner and form to be agreed upon by political parties, but recommending on my part the convenience of stipulating for the election of a candidate such a considerable majority of votes as would place the President of the Republic in such a position as to render it impossible for him to interfere directly or indirectly in the resolutions of the convention.

As a consequence of the sole convention, a ministry which would be a pledge of confidence for all parties would be appointed.

The idea of a solo convention, was accepted for a moment and was rejected immediately afterwards. The majority of the parliamentary groups demanded that I should previously organize a ministry.

I proposed in the act a ministry in which there figured three persons of recognized authority in the coalition of the parliamentary majority, and three others of the Government Liberal party, whose characters and antecedents entitled them to the respect of all. This basis for a ministerial organization was also rejected.

Theso occurrences appear incredible, nevertheless they are true and are publicly known to all Chileans.

The coalition of the parliamentary majority desired to precipitate me from the position to which I was called by the vote of my fellow-citizens, or that I should submit myself unconditionally to its designs. After rejecting every reasonable proposal, the coalition resolved to open on the following day a new and violent parliamentary campaign.

I closed Congress, hoping that a little reflection and calm might produce in the groups forming the coalition arrangements reciprocally respectful and equitable; but the overflow had occurred, and we had to support its deplorable consequences.

The Comision Conservadora (parliamentary consultative committee *) convoked itself to a session to which access was given to all the members of Congross, in order that they might contribute to keep up discussions which form the saddest page in the parliamentary history of Chile.

I will not elevate to the dignity of the post I hold, nor to the dignity belonging to these precincts, the designs and the aberrations disclosed at the sittings of that corporation. I prefer to cover them with the silence aud the oblivion which in the journey of life sustains us in order that we may not despair of man's patriotism and virtue.

III. On the 1st and even on the 7th of January I found myself in the same condition in which many of my predecessors had found themselves, and in which I was myself in 1887—without the estimates and the bill providing for the land and sea forces having been passel.

This circumstance should not serve as a foundation for a revolution, because it had occurred periodically in former years. The revolt initiated on January 7 was the result of the resolution adopted beforehand by the majority of the parliamentary gronps, which aimed at unconditional and absolute predominance in the management of the Government.

Deriving from the constitution the duty of governing the State and of extending my authority to everything having for its object the internal security of the nation, I had to assume the necessary powers to restrain the armed revolt and the attitudo of the majority of Congress, which labored to overthrow our institutions, and established order.

I have collected together the necessary elements for the defense and triumph of the principle of authority in Chile, without which nothing solid or lasting can be undertaken in the future.

* A consultative joint committee of both houses which represents Congress during a recess.

Circumstances have placed us in the painful position of haing to arrest the leaders and agitators of the revolt or to send them away from the scene of actual occurrences.

The sitting of courts of justice when revolution is ripe and where the constituted governinent is not recognized, being calculated to create conflicts, because the former exercises a military dictatorship and of fact and the latter has to practice discretional and extraordinary proceedings, the superior courts have been closed until the actual state of affairs which causes so much injury to the Republic shall cease.

Finally, the revolution being encouraged and sustained by the parliamentary majority, this has been dissolved by its own doing and de facto, and therefore it was indispensably necessary to convoke the people for the election of a constitutional Congress.

The elections have taken place in perfect peace and order, and with a large attendance of electors of different opinions in twenty out of the twenty-two provinces of the Republic.

Thirty of the thirty-two members constituting the Senate have been elected, and eighty-eight out of the ninety-two deputies to be elected under the last electoral law.

IV.

I desire now to state the ends to which, in my opinion, the constituent Congress should devote itself.

If the full and complete constitutional reform which I proposed to Congress last year had been realized, we should have laid the foundations of representative government, created provincial autonomy, and established upon an immovable base the liberty and independence of the powers of state; we should have opened out more extended horizons to the intelligent and well-ordered efforts of political parties; and we should most certainly have averted revolution.

The constituent Congress having been called together in consequence of welldefined causes, a moderate reform designed to remove the causes which originated the conflict will be preferable, perhaps, to any other.

V.

The license of the press has reached in our day to a pitch to which it has never arrived in any country of the world. Not only the Government and public men, but society and families have been attacked in the whirlwind of political passion. In 1886 the opposition of that date proposed a reform designed to prevent such a pernicious abuse. Since then the license of the press has descended in the scale of scandal, and has come to be one of the causes of the trouble which afflicts peaceful and honest Chileans.

I am of opinion that the principle by virtue of which all have the liberty of pubJishing their opinions in the press without previous censorship should be maintained. But at the same time there ought to be no other offenses of the press than those which are laid down in the penal code, nor other justice than the ordinary to punish them in the form prescribed by the common laws.

In this manner there would be obtained true liberty of the press, and the respon. sibility of those who abuse this liberty by offending without reason or truth the rights and dignity of others or public morals could be made effective.

As the laws relating to the budget, the quartering of troops in the place where Congress sits, the strength of the land and sea forces, of public order and those necessary for the existence of the executive power are constitutional laws, consequently it ouglit not to be left to the option of one of the powers of state to dictate them or not, or, in other words, to absorb the other powers and thus constitute a de facto dictatorship.

Taxes ought to be permanent, and their abolition or modification ought to be effected by law in the ordinary manner and only with relation to the equality of the impost and national convenience.

The law to permit troops to reside within 10 leagues of the place of meeting of Congress is at this day, when railways connected with the capital diminish distances, unnecessary. And the law providing for the strength of the land and sea forces is without object, inasmuch as in the yearly estimates the sum destined for the service of the army and navy is stated.

The only annual law on these matters ought to be the estimates, which should consist of the fixed expenditure, that provided for by special laws, and variablo expenditure. The first would serve to fix the total amount of the estimates and would not be debated. The variable expenditure only would be subject to debate.

The estimates would be debated and passed by Congress during the term of the regular session, and when this from any circumstance whatever should not happen the estimates of the previous year would be adopted and considered as passed.

This form of presenting and debating the estimates is adopted in tho most advanced countries, and even in some of those in which thu strictest parliameutary régime obtains.

it ought not to be accepted in any case that Congress or a majority of its members may decline to discuss and approve fixed expenditure of a permanent character and of that emanating from laws previously passed by Congress. The power to suppress or not pass this expenditure would presuppose public disorganization and disorder. The same thing does not happen with variable expenditure, upon which the fullest liberty of discussion and criterion is permissible. The discussion or the refusal to grant this class of expenditure may be a prudent and indirect means of influence in the councils of government, but never a perturbing element of public peace or the disturber of established order.

Parliamentary criticism, the refusal to authorize variable expenditure, the impeachment of ministers when they infringe the constitution or the laws, are the means with which in a representative system, of liberty and of independence of the public powers, the logislative power may influence, moderate, or remove ministers from the direction of public business.

When a reform of this kind is carried into effect in Chile, the peace of the powers of state will have been established and consolidated forever. It will also be the only manner in which Chilean governments will cease to take an interest in electoral contests.

It is a profound error to believe that a change of men in the Government alters the traditions and the political manner of being of parties in Chile. The most determived advocates of the nonintervention of government in elections, are only so until they are in power. I make this affirmation founded upon the conviction acquired during a lengthened experience and an intimate acquaintance with men and parties in this country.

Neither the most wisely conceived electoral law, nor the most upright intentions, nor communal autonomy, will change the system or the nature of things. Communal autonomy in the hands of the Government or the parish priest would be the most powerful instrument of electoral intervention that could be devised to frustrate liberty of suffrage.

Governments will cease to interfere in elections in Chile, in the manner and form which they wish who sincerely desire the government of the people for the people, when the existence of the executive power depends solely upon the constitution and the laws and does not fluctuate in favor of the passions or the currents of interest of unstable and fleeting majorities of Congress without organized parties, without cohesion, and without discipline.

So long as the 'executive power needs for its existence the annual favor of Congress, and so long as political leaders and personal groups can, by combinations of the moment, organize najorities to overthrow or raise ministries, it will be a chimera to expect the absolute nonintervention of the executive power in the formation of Congresses upon which it depends indirectly for its own existence.

When the President of the Republic and the ministers of state shall not depend upon Congress in all which constitutes the stability of the executive power, anıl they shall be able to govern without any other limit than that prescribed by the constitution and laws, and they shall be able to live and serve the Republic with no other interest than that of the common prosperity, then the hour of wished-for electoral liberty will have arrived.

Neither presidents nor ministers will be found who will care to expose themselves to the hazards of a struggle, and who will voluntarily compromise themselves in a contest which can not affect the life or the normal existence of the executive power.

This, in my opinion, is the manner to remove the causes which have originated the conflict we to-day deplore.

Do not forget it, Messieurs Senators and Deputi əs; let rot my fellow-citizens forget it, whatsoever may be the destiny reserved for us in the future. This is the only manner to reëstablish cordiality between Congress and the Executive, equilibrium between public powers, and the liberty and responsibility of the functionaries who hold and discharge the duties of those positions.

If the reform should not be realized in the manner I have the honor to indicate to you, your labor will not be lasting and time will very soon obliterato the marks of your passage through the precincts of the hall of law.

The actual contest must terminate some day, and it is necessary, after the sufferings it has imposed upon our convictions or our duties, that the peace of the public powers may be assured in a regular and definite form.

The abolition of the council of state is another reform which is advocated and supported by all political parties.

This institution does not correspond with a representative system, and therefore it ought to be eliminated, in conformity with the system proposed for your adoption.

Sundry questions of jurisdiction or competency between the President of the Re. public and his agents and the judicial power, or between the legislature, the Executive, and the judiciary, with respect to the constitutionality of the laws, have created very serious conflicts, and finally there is the qnestion arising out of the convocation of this constituent Congress.

It would be advisable to create a special tribunal, composed of three persons appointed by the President of the Republic, three by Congress, and three by the supreme court, to decide without recourse conflicts between the powers in the cases and in the form prescribed in the constitution.

It is neither natural nor just that in conflicts between public powers any one of these should be the one to decide the dispute, because in this manner there is created a supremacy of authority to the detriment of the others, nor will it ever be proper that one only of the public powers be judge and party to the suit.

The organization of the judicial power requires, perhaps, your most serious consideration and study.

But taking into consideration the exceptional circumstances by which we are surrounded, I simply point out those reformns without which the conflict of to-day will inevitably be repeated periodically.

These are the cardinaì reforms which I consider are rendered necessary by the force of circumstances.

If in the present conflict we should confine our efforts to the vanquishment of the adversaries of the constituted authorities, our labor would be insignificant and nnworthy of statesmen. Our duty is to restore public order and to give, by permanent constitutional prescriptions, rational and legal solution to past contiicts and the avoidance of others in the future.

Fellow-citizens of the Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies, I have no desire to enumerate the labors of the administration over which I have had the honor to preside. My fellow-citizens can bear testimony to them.

There is not a single department of our territory which has not received its share of benefit in the distribution of the activity and wealth of the State. I have procured a tranquil and equitable solution to the grave and numerons questions which affected our foreign relations, and I have maintained with his holiness and the representatives of the church in Chile a policy of cordiality and of the most absolute respect.

Since the day I entered upon the duties of my office I have devoted every moment of my life to the progress and enrichment of my fellow-citizens, and to the aggrandizement of the Republic. My acknowledgments are due to all those who in the administration of the Government have assisted me in my vast and active labors. I owe them especially to all those who in hours of danger and of trial have given me their friendship, the remembrance of which I shall preserve as a generous recompense for the deceptions I have suffered in governing the nation.

I have still to say to the army and to the navy who have remained faithful to their constitutional chiefs, that I have always found them in the path of honor, and that with their loyalty and abnegation they will save the actual Government, and they will be the secure shield of future administrations. They who maintained intact subordination and military discipline will always be deserving of confidence.

Many good men, under the command of the valiant Col. Robles and of his comrades Villagran, Mendez, and Ruminot, havo fallen nobly on the field of battle. Their blood will bear fruit,. because oftentimes national institutions are only sustained and consolidated by the sacrifice of their defenders.

Like ourselves, future generations will point to them as generous victims and as examples which the soldier ought to follow in the fulfillment of his military duties.

About to descend from power, I shall return to private life, as I entered upon the Presidency, without hatred or ill-will, which is foreign to the rectitude of my character and unworthy of the chief of a state.

It is true that few rulers have had to suffer like myself such unmerited and gratnitous inculpations. Nevertheless, I have never on this account lost my serenity or the perfect tranquillity of my conscience. I am accustomed to confront the injustice of men.

After the fury of the storm will come the calm, and, as nothing durable can be founded by injustice and violence, the actors in the tremendous drama which is taking place in the territory of the Republic will receive, according to their deserts, their share of honor, reprobation, or responsibility.

I rely tranquilly on the help of God, who presides over the destinies of nations, and who penetrates our inmost thoughts. May Ho be pleased to enlighten the patriotism of all Chileans, and to guide your sagacity and wisdom by the way which may lead to the paths of order and to a final solution of the misfortunes and of the conflict which to-day divides the Chilean family. Santiago, April 20, 1891.

J. M, BALMACEDA.

Mr. Egan to Mr. Blaine.

(Telegram.)

LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,

Santiago, May 4, 1891. Mr. Egan informs Mr. Blaine that the good offices of the United States, Brazil, and France bave been most cordially accepted by the Government of Chile and the revolutiopists, those of England and Germany having been declined.

Mr. Egan to Mr. Blaine.

No. 160.)

LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,

Santiago, May 4, 1891. (Received June 25.) SIR: To-day I had the honor to cable you in substance that the good offices of the United States, Brazil, and France have been most cordially accepted by the Government of Chile and the revolutionists, those of England and Germany having been declined.

Although the ministers of England and Germany had been for some time carrying on communications with the chiefs of the revolutionary fleet and land forces in the north through the medium of the admiral of the British squadron, they had not tendered their good offices to the Government until Thursday, the 30th ultimo, when they were informed that the Government had already made the arrangement above indi. cated, and could not therefore avail of their offer.

The British flagship brought, a few days ago, from the leaders of the revolution in the north, documents fully empowering a number of gentlemen here to represent them, and this committee of seven persons, five of whom are protected by a safe-conduct from the Government, is now holding conferences in this legation for the purpose of formulating bases upon which the opposition would be willing to enter into an ar rangement. I have, etc.,

PATRICK EGAN.

Mr. Wharton to Mr. Egan.

No. 98.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, May 6, 1891. SIR: Inclosed herewith is a copy of a letter of the 1st instant from Mr. James A. Scrymger, president of the Central and South American Telegraph Company, in which the desire is expressed that such special privileges as may be permissible may be granted in the ports of Chile to that company's steamer Relay, which is used for the purpose of repairing cables.

The company in behalf of which Mr. Scrymser writes maintains and operates a line of submarine cables from Galveston, Tex., to Coatzacoalcos, on the Gulf of Mexico, thence across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, southward along the Pacific coast to Valparaiso, Chile. The extreme

« PreviousContinue »