Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Half Title
 Buenos Aires, 1880
 Progress, 1880-1890
 The generation of eighty:...
 The generation of eighty: Wealth...
 The generation of eighty: Pride...
 Argentina in Latin America,...
 The United States and Argentina:...
 Growing conflict
 The triangle
 The first Pan American conference:...
 The first Pan American conference:...
 The not-so-gay nineties
 Novecientos and the second...
 Two doctrines
 A conference and a visit
 A centenary and a conference
 End of an era
 Harvard historical studies

Group Title: Harvard historical studies ; v. 70
Title: Argentina, the United States, and the Inter-American system, 1880-1914
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00025480/00001
 Material Information
Title: Argentina, the United States, and the Inter-American system, 1880-1914
Physical Description: p. cm. : ;
Language: English
Creator: McGann, Thomas Francis, 1920-
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Place of Publication: Cambridge
Publication Date: 1957
Subject: History -- Argentina -- 1860-1910   ( lcsh )
History -- Argentina -- 20th century   ( lcsh )
Foreign relations -- Argentina -- United States   ( lcsh )
Foreign relations -- United States -- Argentina   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00025480
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000725249
notis - ADR7614
lccn - a 57008626

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Table of Contents
        Page ix
    Half Title
        Page x
    Buenos Aires, 1880
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Progress, 1880-1890
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    The generation of eighty: Politics
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
    The generation of eighty: Wealth and wisdom
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
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        Page 44
        Page 45
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        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
    The generation of eighty: Pride and optimism
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    Argentina in Latin America, 1880-1889
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
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        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
    The United States and Argentina: Trade
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
    Growing conflict
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
    The triangle
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
    The first Pan American conference: I
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
    The first Pan American conference: II
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
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        Page 160
        Page 161
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        Page 164
    The not-so-gay nineties
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
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        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
    Novecientos and the second conference
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
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        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
    Two doctrines
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
    A conference and a visit
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
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        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
    A centenary and a conference
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
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        Page 274
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        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
    End of an era
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
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    Harvard historical studies
        Page 331
        Page 332
Full Text


Published under the direction of the
Department of History

From the income of

Oscar Handlin, Editor

the United States, and

the Inter-American System



Professor and Mrs. Clarence H. Haring


THIS book is an historical analysis of significant years in Argen-
tina's natioalt-dceopment-the decades after 188o, when that
country emerged as the richest Latin American state and a con-
siderable economic influence in the western world. It is also a
study of Argentina's economic, political andccultural-relations
with the United States and the Inter-American system. These
reat-iins are treated as functions of Argentina's internal de-
Svelopment; therefore the structure of Argentine society is ex-
Samined in some detail, particularly tegr h andgoals of the
dominant class. An elite of landowners and lawyers, mi-ern -
and statesmen built twentieth-century Argentina. They called
themselves the generation of Eighty; a later ruler of Argentina
described them and their descendants as "oligarchs". Imbued
with European ideas and living by European patterns, the aristo-
crats of the pampas dealt with hundreds of thousands of European
immigrants, successfully at first; they directed the expansion of
the city of Buenos Aires to metropolitan and cosmopolitan
rank; they evolved and brilliantly supported a consistently suc-
cessful foreign policy.
The application of Argentina's foreign policy to relations with
the United States and the Inter-American system" is closely
studied. The first four Pan American Conferences,-now known
as the Conferences of the Organization of American States, are
dealt with-those held in Washington, D.C., 1889-1890,
Mexico City, 1901-1902, Rio de Janeiro, 1906, and Buenos
Aires, 191o. Argentine reaction to such diverse stimulants as
United States protective tariffs, Theodore Roosevelt's "big
stick" (and his surprisingly successful later visit to Buenos
Aires), and the expansion of United States business interests into

Argentina are traced. Events are set against the backdrop of
Argentina's vast agricultural production and the mores of the
talented men who, with their British associates, controlled the
wealth of the land.
I deeply appreciate the grant from the Woodbury Lowery
Fund, given to me by the Harvard History Department and the
Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which made
possible my research in Argentina and in Washington, D.C.
I thank the friends who have assisted me: Ann Louise Coffin,
James and Chase Duffy, Enrique Gil, Oscar Handlin, Carlos
Mayer, Hugh Montgomery, Julius W. Pratt, Jos6 Luis Romero,
Le6n Shulman, TomAs Sosa Moreira, Guillermo Oriburu Roca,
and Milton Vanger. I am indebted to the publishers, editors,
and staffs of the Argentine newspapers La Prensa and La Nacidn,
the former staff of the library of the Jockey Club of Buenos
Aires, the staffs of the Sala Groussac of the Biblioteca Nacional,
the Archivo Nacional, and the library of the Ministry of
Foreign Relation, all in Argentina, and to the persons who
assisted me in the National Archives and in the Columbus
Memorial Library of the Pan American Union in Washington,
D.C. I am especially indebted to the staff of Harvard's Widener
Kirkland House, Thomas F. McGann
Cambridge, Mass.


Preface vii
I. Buenos Aires, 1880 i
2. Progress, 1880-1890 9
3. The Generation of Eighty: Politics 20
4. The Generation of Eighty: Wealth and Wisdom 35
5. The Generation of Eighty: Pride and Optimism 55
6. Argentina in Latin America, 1880-1889 66
7. The United States and Argentina: Trade 82
8. Growing Conflict 95
9. The Triangle 112
io. The First Pan American Conference: I 130
S1. The First Pan American Conference: II 149
12. The Not-So-Gay Nineties 165
13. Novecientos and the Second Conference 188
14. Two Doctrines 218
15. A Conference and a Visit 235
16. A Centenary and a Conference 257
17. End of an Era 287
Index 315

The United States, and
the Inter-American System

Buenos Aires, I880

SEVEN turbulent decades of Argentine history came to an end
on September 20, 1880 in the sleepy town of Belgrano when a
rump congress established the nearby city of Buenos Aires as the
jederalCapital of the republic. This legislative decision took
tIemetropolis from its inhabitants and from the province of
which it was the head, and gave it to the entire nation, an act
made possible by June's bloody street fighting in the city. At
last the conflict for preeminence between ore&/o-the.people of
Buenos Aires-and provincials that had racked the nation since
independence was stilled. No longer would the city rule the
nation, and the president of Argentina be merely a "guest" in
his temporary capital. An epoch had ended.
The events of i88o sealed off a bitter era, but the power of
Buenos Aires did not die. With the passing years the triumphant
federalization of the city became an inverted victory: it was the
vanquished portefios who conquered, the victorious provinces
that were defeated. Buenos Aires became Argentina, hated or
loved by all Argentines, sought by the nations of the world who
came to trade, invest, and settle the peaceful pampas. And it
was the men of Buenos Aires, native or adopted, who ruled the
republic and brought Argentina in one generation from enfeeb-
ling fratricide to international influence.
In 1880, Buenos Aires was little marked by the future. Street-
car lines and several railroads crisscrossed the city and the first
telephones were being installed, but the general aspect was close
to that of the days of the last viceroy in the first years of the
century. The population had increased from 44,000 in 18o1 to
286,000 in 1880, but the streets, old and new, were no wider
than the traditional, shady ten varas (about thirty feet) of


colonial times.1 The portefio who ventured beyond the few
paved streets in the heart of the city rode-the people of Buenos
Aires have never been walkers-through the same dust or mud
as had Liniers and Rivadavia and Rosas. Along the main roads
leading out of the city to the interior, vast swamps developed in
hollows in the pampas after heavy rains, and many a traveler
turned back after a ducking in one of these notorious bafiados,
then well out in the countryside, but soon to be deep within the
limits of the swelling city. 2
The streets were flanked by bleak plaster or mud walled
houses of one story, their long, barred and shuttered windows
close against the narrow strips of dirt that served as sidewalks.
Only in the somewhat more prosperous seventies did second
stories become common, with the heavily balustraded balconies
that still predominate in the older parts of Buenos Aires.3
On the crowded sidewalks and in the streets army officers up
from the Indian fighting on the southern frontier jostled Span-
iards and Italians freshly disembarked from the old countries.
Young university students hustled to hear Estrada lecture on
constitutional law at the University of Buenos Aires, returning
to endless noisy arguments in the Cafe de Catalanes or the Con-
fiteria del Aguila. Along elegant Calle Florida in the late after-
noon rolled the luxurious carriages of the elite, bound for plea-
sure drives in new and fashionable Palermo, from which the
memory of The Tyrant's quinta had recently been extirpated.
At dusk, the carriages would return in ritual procession down
Florida between the traditional lines of men waiting on the
edges of the sidewalks to ogle the passing women.4
In the Rio de la Plata, flowing smooth and vast and brown
1 Luis Canepa, El Buenos Aires de antafio, en el cuarto centenario de sufundacidn, 1536-
1936 (Buenos Aires, 1936), p. 74; NicolAs Besio Moreno, Buenos Aires: puerto del Rio
de la Plata, capital de la Argentina: studio critic de su poblacidn, 1536--936 (Buenos
Aires, 1939), p. 430.
2 Canepa, El Buenos Aires, p. ix ; J. Gavira, "Un paisaje urbano" Revista de
Indias, afio II, ndm. 5, 1941, p. 45; A. Gallenga, South America (2nd ed.; London,
1881), pp. 265-266.
s Manuel Bilbao, Buenos Aires desde su fundacidn hasta nuestros dias... (Buenos
Aires, 1902), pp. 24-27; A. Taullard, Nuestro antiguo Buenos Aires ... (Buenos Aires,
1927), pp. 167-x84.
4 CAnepa, El Buenos Aires, pp. 207-209, 398-403; Bilbao, Buenos Aires, pp. 149-150.

at the foot of the low bank which makes the only distinction
between the planes of earth and water that surround Buenos
Aires, two spindly piers gave coastal travelers and cargo access
to the shore. Overseas vessels, barred by the mud of the shallow
estuary from tying up at the muelle de pasajeros, discharged their
passengers and goods into lighters far out in the river.
In this ragged capital of 1880, men were dreaming mighty
dreams of a brilliant, cosmopolitan city of the future-the near
future, at that-but upon many of its leaders, as upon the streets
and buildings, the past lay heavy in this year of decision. To-
gether with younger men just emerging into prominence stood
the old exiles of the thirties and forties who had become the
patricians ofla gran aldea-the great village-in the years after
their victoryover Rosas.inI85!- Mitre and Sarmiento, Eduardo
Costa and Vicente Fidel L6pez, and others of familiar name.
These were the heirs and executors of Argentina's war-for inde-
pendence from the Spanish monarchy-the Revolution of May.
They had suffered persecution and long exile and had returned
at last to continue their struggle, no longer against reactionary
Rosas, but against the hard economic and political realities of a
weak, disorganized nation. Close to these leaders were the land-
owning gentry,_Anchorena, Luro, Unzu6, -Alzaga and others,
owners of great tracts of land and countless livestock-men in
search of a market, men who in the difficult years of reconstruc-
tion had not yet sacrificed to an intervening hierarchy of
management the habit of work and personal supervision of their
lands and cattle. Both political leaders and landowners had
known hard times. Poverty at the lowest levels and an economy
of scarcity up to the top rank of society characterized Argentine
life until the 1870's.6 It was only after 1880, when political
conditions ha~FO een stabilized, new lands brought under
5 Taullard, .Nuestro antiguo Buenos Aires, pp. 28-35.
6 Emilio Daireaux, "Aristocracia de antaiio," Revista de Derecho, Historiay Letras,
afio I, tomo II, nov., 1898, pp. 36-42. An intimate view of the life of these years
may be gleaned from a statement by a contemporary reprinted in [Carlos] Pellegrini:
Obras, precedidas de un ensayo biogrdfico por Agustin Rivero Astengo (5 vols.; Buenos Aires,
1941), I, 167: "I have often visited, as though it were my own, the home of Dr.
Valentin Alsina, when he Was governor of Buenos Aires. He had all the dignity of an
English lord, yet with no more pomp than that provided by his black suit, and the
well-ironed collar that rose to his ears. The brick-floored patio, the table lighted by


cultivation, strains of livestock improved, and foreign markets
found, that the old, hard days faded. ----
The effort to develop the country economically, and the con-
tinuation of political strife, armed and unarmed, absorbed all
energies from 1852 to i88o. The leaven of Sarmiento and
Alberdi, prophets of liberalism, was at work, but the results were
still isolated: an improved breed of beef cattle, the organization
of a railroad company, the establishment of a colony of immi-
grants-creations that consumed the scant resources of indivi-
duals and of the government, despite the slowly mounting in-
flow of European capital.7
Faced with unresolved economic and political issues which
more than once in these years threatened to hurl the nation
again into civil strife and tyranny, Argentina was little con-
S cerned with the outside world. Their land, the frontiers, the
Indians, railroads, political factionalism-these causes drained
Argentine energies inward as surely as they were absorbing the
energy of the men 5,000 miles to the north. Apart from relations
with bordering states, and from the issues connected with the
slow growth of European capital and immigration, Argentina's
international commitments were at a minimum. There was
small need, in a nation that did not even have a permanent
capital city, to indulge in the luxury of extensive foreign rela-
tions. Certain tenets of foreign policy existed, but it was only
after 1880 that they became active principles by which the
nation advanced its interests.
/ Political isolation, tending to break down under pressure
from within and from Europe, was matched by intellectual iso-
lation, also succumbing to penetration from abroad. The exiles
who returned in 1852 to lead their country during another full
generation were for the most part men of mature years, in-
formed, sometimes belatedly, in the main currents of European
thought. But these men had lived through what they considered
dipped candles, the austere meals (stew and barbecued meat), the poverty, in short,
of this magistrate, was all the wealth of those times." There is particular point to this
description when we recall that in these years the governor of the province of
Buenos Aires was as powerful, and often more powerful, than the president of the
7 Ysabel Rennie, The Argentine Republic (New York, 1945), PP. 90o-66.

to be the great national hiatus of the Rosas dictatorship. They
regarded themselves as the true continues of the aborted May
Revolution; their eyes were focused on recouping the ground
which they believed had been lost after Rosas put an end to the
first liberal period in 1828. To accomplish this meant to reestab-
lish the bases of the republic by endowing it with a constitution
and a judicial code, and by making other arduous adjustments
to reality. But the leaders tended to cast their thoughts and
actions in the mold of the doctrines of earlier days. The pro-
scriptos looked back upon the French and American revolutions
with a sense of proximity born of their own bitterly deferred
revolutionary hopes, and with a fervent idealism reminiscent of
the romanticism of their youth. The political liberalism of
Guizot and Constant, Bentham's utilitarianism, the social philo-
sophies of Saint Simon and Leroux, and the adaptation of these
alien beliefs by such men as Sarmiento and Alberdi-these were
materials with which the exiles built. Intensely occupied with
the practical problems of their retarded land, they sought to
create at last an Argentina new in fact but old in thought-an
image of the utopias which they had long ago discerned across
the ocean./
Yet this older generation was intensely Argentine. While they
controlled the country there was no engulfment of the nation by
European ways of life such as occurred after 1880. This does not
mean that French and English thought was stifled from 1852 to
188o. Rather it increased, extended by the young men in the
schools and universities. There was, for example, Comtean posi-
tivism, which was vigorously taught by a French exile named
Amed6e Jacques to a generation of precocious students in Buenos
Aires in the i86o's, a surprising number of whom became men
of importance after 188o.9 But although the younger generation
8 Jos6 Ingenieros, La evolucidn de las ideas argentinas (2 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1918-
1920), II, 605-754-
Ricard9 Rojas, "Los proscriptos," La literature argentina; ensayo filosdfico sobre la
evolucidn de la\ultura en El Plata (2nd ed., 8 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1924-25 [from Obras,
19 vols.; Buehos Aires, 1922-1930]), XII, 397-428, XIII, 1159-I180; Leopoldo
Zea, Dos etapas del pensamiento en Hispanoamerica: del romanticism alpositivismo (M6xico,
1949), PP. 267-278; Miguel Cane, Juvenilia (ist ed., 1882; Buenos Aires, 1939),
pp. 36-59; Anfbal Ponce, La vejez de Sarmiento; Amadeo Jacques ... (2nd ed.; Buenos
Aires, 1949), pp. 31-60.


was inculcated with most of Europe's newer doctrines, this
intellectual weaning was accomplished in the homeland. The
older generation, by choice or necessity, sent their sons to school
in Argentina-a pattern which the sons did not usually follow
with their own heirs. Saenz Pefia, Emilio Mitre, Pellegrini,
Alcorta, L. V. L6pez, Dominguito-most of the leaders or
potential leaders of the Generation of Eighty attended school
and university in Buenos Aires) And not all their training came
from foreign texts and the classroom, but, as their fathers ex-
pected, could also be gained in the crowded old galleries of the
provincial and national congresses in Buenos Aires, where Mitre
and Alsina, V6lez Sarsfield and Rawson debated.
These were indeed "years of triumphant criollismo"l 0-the
old, native customs. Del Campo's parody Fausto was a best
seller at the moment that the barren fields which were later to
become Plaza Constituci6n and Plaza Once de Septiembre were
used as assembly points by rough carters and horsemen from the
west and south-men who looked suspiciously like Del Campo's
gauchos Anastasio el Polio and Laguna. The viaticum was pre-
ceded through the streets by a bell-ringer, as in colonial times,
and bulky two-wheel wagons of colonial type (carros de cola)
blocked traffic while dispensing wine in the narrow streets of the
nation's largest city. 11 These were years when Indians made as
much news as Englishmen.
In 1880, year of denouement, one man summed up the
forces, old and new, at work within the nation. Nicolas Avel-
lJanda, a mild, almost feminine man in a society that counted
virility at a premium, brought Argentina through its last years
of widespread civil strife as effectively as had somber Mitre and
raucous Sarmiento in preceding administrations. During his
term of office from 1874 to the end of 1880, Avellaneda labored
both to suppress civil war and to remove the causes of instability.
S In 1876 he broke the revolt of Ricardo L6pezJordAn, last of the
fighting provincial caudillos. In that same year he made a trip by

10 Paul Groussac, Los que pasaban: Jose Manuel Estrada; Pedro Goyena; Nicolds
Avellaneda (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1939), p. 99.
11 Canepa, El Buenos Aires, pp. 212-213, 301-302, 346; Taullard, Nuestro antiguo
Buenos Aires, pp. 96-97, o16-0o7.

railroad, the importance of which, although symbolic, was per-
haps equal to that of his victory over L6pez. InjLS_7.6Avel-
laneda returned to his native city of TucumAn, traveling by rail
further than any previous Argentine president, over the weedy
pampas and across the salty deserts. This was Argentina's golden
spike at Ogden, proclaiming to the world, or better, to western
Europe, that another nation stood on the threshold of an era of
In this same year of accomplishment the first shipment of
wheat was exported from Argentina. Avellaneda recognized and
described that event for what it was-the most momentous
occurrence of his administration.12 Finally, it was he who initi-
ated the conquest of the desert. Both unsuccessful Alsina and
victorious Roca were his Ministers of War; through them he
removed a last obstacle to the stability and growth of the nation.
Avellaneda's accomplishments have not been given sufficient
recognition by succeeding generations of Argentines. During
his tenure ties running deep into the past were severed and
strands of the future woven. Appropriately, strong contrasts dis-
tinguish his administration. Wealth and population grew during
his presidency, yet his government also faced a severe financial
crisis of the old sort, the result of internal and foreign wars, mis-
managed currency, and the impoverished condition of national
revenues. Son of a man whose head had been exposed on a pike
in the square of Tucumin by the soldiers of Oribe and Rosas,
Avellaneda lived only long enough to witness the first burst of
prosperity in the mid-eighties. By his years he belonged to the
new generation of the ochenta; by his work he was of the age of
the organizers, whose achievements he capped. He was forty-
eight when he died in 1885. His last important act as president
put a dramatic close to the era criolla.13 It was Avellaneda who

12 Nicolas Avellaneda, Escritosy discursos ... (12 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1910), XII,
Is The date i880 is a deep chronological crevasse separating the old and the new
Argentinas. The apt designation "era criolla" is given by Jos6 Luis Romero, Las
ideas politics en Argentina (M6xico, 1946), p. 63. Ricardo Rojas makes a major
division of Argentine history at this point, stating that "after I880 one may distin-
guish a new intellectual cycle in the evolution of Argentina." See Ricardo Rojas,
"Los modernos," La literature argentina; ensayofilosdfico sobre la evolucidn de la cultural en


signed the legislation on September 21, 1880 that made Buenos
S Aires the capital of the republic and ushered in an extraordinary

El Plata, XIV, 981-982. One of the most profound Argentine thinkers calls 1880
"the year of the death of the gaucho." See Ezequiel Martinez Estrada, Radiografia
de la pampa (2 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1942), I, 59. Alberdi, a famed builder of Argen-
tina, recognized the epochal nature of the year 1880 before the year itself had ended.
Writing in the political turmoil of Buenos Aires at the end of 1880, he put it this
way: "Seventy years after the Revolution of May ... the Republic has been re-
born, or rather has just been born as a political structure, on the day when there
ceased to exist the old monarchist institution of the capital-province in which the
colonial regime lived on until 188o." J. B. Alberdi, "La Repdblica Argentina con-
solidada en 1880 con la ciudad de Buenos Aires por capital (188I)," Obras selectas
... ed. byJoaquin V. Gonzalez (i8 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1920), XII, 5-6.

Progress, 1880-1890

THE gathering energies of the nation rushed into unblocked
channels of economic activity when the cancer of Buenos Aires
was at last healed, and the Indians of the desert south and west
had been driven from their lands. Characteristic of this move-
ment was the quick response of congress to the new conditions.
Although the civil war had ended only a few weeks before, and
congress was still assembled at its place of refuge in Belgrano,
where it was engaged in drafting the law of federalization, the
senators and deputies found time to tunii to economic matters
facing the country, and they plunged zestfully into debates over
the incorporation of new railroad companies, the establishment
of colonies of immigrants, and the building of public works.
This activity reflected national ambitions and coincided with
the hopes ofAvellaneda, but it was the man who succeeded him
as president who set the pace for the decade-indeed, for the
generation-ahead. When Julio.A..Roca went before congress
in May 1881, to deliver his first "state-of-the-union" message,
he was already a hero. He was thirty-seven years old, a slim
man with a trim goatee, an oval, unlined face, and slightly pro-
truding eyes. He had qualities that many foreigners believe are
lacking in a goodly number of Argentine males: he was reserved,
not loquacious; subtle, not blustering; and tenacious rather than
sporadic in planning and execution. His nationwide nickname
was El.Zorro-"The Fox."2
Roca's latest successes had been his greatest. Standing in the
1 Congress Nacional, Diario desesiones de la Cdmara de Diputados, 1880, pp. 130-199.
2 Leopoldo Lugones, Roca (Buenos Aires, 1938); Augusto Marc6 del Pont, Roca
y su tiempo (cincuenta aftos de historic argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1931); Mariano de
Vedia, Roca en el escenariopolitico (Buenos Aires, 1939). A worthy sketch of Roca is in
Octavio R. Amadeo, Vidas argentinas... (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1934), pp. 17-28.


deep chamber of the senate, before the assembled officials and
the diplomats and plumed ladies in the galleries, he had the
strength of two great victories behind him. He was the Con-
queror of the Desert, and the conqueror of Buenos Aires. He was
the man most responsible for placing the nation upon its new
Now he had one more victory to win for his country: the
i conquest- of its-wealth. He outlined his achievements to his
aftdience: ... profound peace and the most complete order
and liberty reign in all parts of the republic." And his program:
the nation, he said, is expanding in every direction; there are
great potentialities to be exploited. The government has plans
afoot for the construction of a mighty port at Buenos Aires;
telegraph and rail lines and many other material improvements
will be extended and initiated. Then, significantly, he looked
abroad: "Our credit, both political and economic, is penetrating
all the peoples and markets of Europe and they are at last begin-
ning to believe that we have entered upon an epoch of reason
and maturity." He closed his lucid report with the words which '
became the leitmotiv of the dawning golden era in Argentina:
the mark of his government, Roca told his eager listeners, was
"peace and administration."3
Peace and administration-an elastic phrase, adaptable to
the needs of a single class in the next decades, and productive of
tangible results: railroads, ports, streetcar lines, gas companies,
waterworks, public buildings-even an entire new city, La
Plata, created ad hoc as the capital of the province of Buenos
Aires after the decapitation of the city of Buenos Aires. Into
these forms the nation poured its forces, heartened by political
stability and assisted by a most beneficent government.
The world soon heard of Argentine progress. In 1879, the
country had 2,136 kilometers of railroad; in 1889, 6,551.4 In the
decade 1871-1880, Argentina retained a net of 90,678 immi-
grants; in 1881-I89o, the figure was 648,711; from 1891 to 191o,

3 Heraclio Mabragafia, compiler, Los Mensajes. Historia del desenvolvimiento de la
Nacion Argentina, redactada cronologicamente por sus gobernantes, 8zio-rgro (6 vols.;
Buenos Aires, n.d. [?I91o]), IV, 1-30.
4 Anuario geogrdfico argentino, rg94 (Buenos Aires, 1941), p. 447.

PROGRESS, 1880-1890 11

the number was 1,472,075.5 In 1876, Argentina exported 21
tons of wheat; in 1890, 327,894 tons; and from 1900 to 1914,
an average of 2,285,355 tons each year, not to mention the
average yearly corn export of 2,291,551 tons in that same
period. 6
These are some of the intoxicating results of the political and
telluric liberation of 188o, but the military and political events
culminating in that year are by no means the whole explanation
of the surge of productivity which swept Argentina from its
isolated and retrograde condition to a position as one of the
agricultural powers of the world. Behind this flood of energy was
the land--deep, rich earth, deeper than any that the farmers of
Europe or New England or even Middle Western United States
have ever seen: twelve, fifteen, twenty feet of humus-laden top-
soil, and thousands of square miles of level plains without stones
or forests. In conjunction with the land, and the men to work it,
was the supreme instrument of exploitation-capital, foreign
money. European investors were as enthralled as Argentine
landowners by the apparently limitless potentialities of the
fertile pampas. Banking consortium in England and to a lesser
degree in France, lured on by fast mounting profits, could hardly
keep up with the demand for new issues of Argentine bonds. By
the mid-eighties investment in a profitable preseitihad become
obsessive speculation in a fabulous future. From 1881 through
1885 (Roca was president from i880 to 1886), Argentine bor-
rowers, public and private, received loans totaling 149,359,000
gold pesos. From 1886 through 1890 (Roca's brother-in-law,
JuArez Celman, was president), the figure was a staggering
666,000,000 gold pesos.7 For ten years the Argentine ruling
5 Anuario, p. 186; Nicolas Besio Moreno, Buenos Aires: puerto del Rio de la Plata,
capital de la Argentina: studio critic de su poblacidn, 1536-1936 (Buenos Aires, 1939),
pp. 293-299. The increase of Argentina's population by immigration from 1870 to
1914 was relatively far greater than that of the United States. See Carl Taylor,
Rural Life in Argentina (Baton Rouge, 1948), p. 57.
6 Anuario, pp. 207, 210; Ernesto Tornquist and Co., Ltd., The Economic Develop-
ment of the Argentine Republic in the Last Fifty rears (Buenos Aires, 1919), pp.
7John H. Williams, Argentine International Trade under Inconvertible Paper Money,
1880-1goo, Harvard Economic Studies, XXII (Cambridge, Mass., 1920), pp. 43,
102. The Argentine gold peso equaled United States $o.965; ibid., p. 72, n. 3.


class, followed by the rest of the nation, speculated wildly-and
successfully-on the destiny of their land.
At the vortex of the financial whirlpool was the Argentine
government, for the government was the instrument of the
dominant class in the nation. Estancieros-the great landowners
and cattlemen-and politicians, speculators, and corporation
lawyers were the principal Argentine beneficiaries of the colossal
inflation of land values and export prices. Continuation of pros-
perity for these men in the eighties depended upon their ability
to sustain the credit of the Argentine Republic, and that credit
paradoxically hinged, not only upon the wealth of the land or
the numbers of immigrants, but on the continued flow of foreign
money. With credit the soaring imports of foreign machinery,
iron, coal, and textiles could be maintained; with these and
manifold other articles the nation could continue to exploit its
raw materials and expand production, thus closing the magic
circle by offering still wider areas for foreign investment.
The Argentine landlords and their associates, immediate
owners and distributors of the nation's wealth, were indismayed
by the currency inflation that began late in 1884. Already the
fortunate legatees of a rise in land values that would have
whitened the hair of Henry George, these men also profited by
the declining value of the peso. The flow of British pounds and
French francs into their bank accounts seemed to insulate them
against the harsh reality of the swiftly widening gap between
gold and paper. Consequently, the government did nothing to
halt inflation, but rather assisted it, even to the point of making
secret emissions of paper money in the last desperate days before
the bubble burst.
By this extravagant performance in domestic and interna-
tional finance, the Argentine ruling class bound itself to Europe
with chains of gold. In return for these bonds (literal and
figurative) the nation paid interest, and also surrendered to
foreigners the ownership of its railroads and other utilities, and
of vast tracts of land. At the same time, this money enabled
the nation to become equipped (in certain regions, at least)
with the mechanical trappings of European civilization, and
8 Ysabel Rennie, The Argentine Republic (New York, 1945), pp. 176-181.

PROGRESS, 1880-1890 13
permitted some Argentines increasingly to adopt European
modes of life.
Forty years before, in Facundo, an impassioned attack on the
barbaric condition of his country, Sarmiento had called upon
the people to defeat their tyrants and join hands with the world
in its march of progress under the flags of liberty, science, and
education. With that vital sense of reality which marked his
career, Sarmiento wrote: "Buenos Aires is so powerful in
elements of European civilization that it will end by educating
Rosas himself." 9 Sarmiento was nearly correct. Before his death
in 1888 Buenos Aires was well on its way to conquering, or re-
conquering, all of Argentina. And Europe had conquered
Buenos Aires.
The scrawny sheep and cattle that had roamed the open
range, providing short, greasy wool for the natives and tough,
dried meat for Brazil, were rapidly supplanted by pedigreed
flocks and herds bred from imported stock and enclosed by tight
new wire fences. The Sociedad Rural, a livestock-raisers organi-
zation, founded in Buenos Aires in the austere sixties, was by the
mid-eighties a power in the province of Buenos Aires and in the
national government.10 The rough and restless gauchos had
reached the end of the trail; by 1880 they had been for the most
part transformed into sedentary ranch hands-peones. It was no
coincidence that the first part of Martin Fierro, Argentina's
spirited "epic" of the vanishing gaucho, was published in 1872,
and the last part in 1879.
Political events kept pace with these changes. Burgeoning
trade with Europe and the accumulation of wealth by the
owners of the estancias, or latifundios, of the province of Buenos
Aires and adjacent fertile extensions of the humid pampas
enabled the landlords to concentrate a preponderance of nation-
al authority within their small circle. The interior provinces,
important in the days when European trade was small, lost power
steadily before the encroachments of the men who controlled
9 Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Facundo: civilizacidn y barbaric en la RepTblica
Argentina, Introducci6n por Joaquln V. GonzAlez (ist ed., 1845; Buenos Aires,
1915), PP- 33-35, 99-
10 Emilio Frers, El progress agricola de la Nacidn y la Sociedad Rural Argentina...
(Buenos Aires, 1916), pp. II-ioI.


the organs of national government in the new capital. 1 The
collapse of the Argentine federal structure in fact, if not in
theory, dates from this decade. This is particularly surprising in
view of the fact that the assumption, or better, the re-assertion,
of control over the provinces by the great port city occurred so
soon after the defeat in June I880 of the military forces of Buenos
Aires by a coalition of provincial forces led by Avellaneda and
Roca. The victory of the provincials over the portefios proved
to be a political illusion which dissipated on the realities of
economic geography.
The shift of power back to Buenos Aires and the overwhelm-
ing role of the great city within the nation must be assessed
before the objectives and attitudes of the men who helped to
shape Argentine life in the years after 1880 can be understood.
This is true because Buenos Aires is in many ways a unique city
-whose historical meaning is difficult for even urbanized North
Americans to grasp. Buenos Aires has been a big city since 188o.
In that year it had 286,700 inhabitants; by 1890, the population
had grown to 526,900; in 1900 it was 815,680, and in 1914,
1,553,805.12 However, this phenomenal growth is equaled in
importance by another fact: the remainder of the Argentine
nation did not grow proportionately; rather, the great city
absorbed the wealth and rights and talents of the provinces until
there was created-or intensified, for in some degree this prob-
lem has existed from the earliest days in Argentina-a condition
of unbalance, of capital against country, of portefio against
provinciano, that has been one of the decisive factors in the
nation's history down to today.
The provincial league that defeated Buenos Aires in 1880
temporarily checked the political authority of the city, but the
economic power lodged in the capital and in the province of
Buenos Aires undid their efforts. Roca and other hardheaded
provincials quickly recognized this fact (if, indeed, they were
not already aware of it and sought more to conquer a share in
the power of the city rather than to destroy its vigor) and they
11 Ricardo Zorraquin Bect, Elfederalismo argentino (Buenos Aires, 1939), pp. 241-
270; Ricardo Rivarola, Del regimen federativo al unitario; studio sobre la organizacidn
political de la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1908), pp. 361-381.
12 Besio Moreno, Buenos Aires, pp. 430-431.

PROGRESS, 1880-1890 15

soon succumbed body and soul to the immanent authority of
Buenos Aires. But some of the leading figures of the day, men
versed in Argentine history and experienced in national affairs,
were deceived by the mere legal act of federalization into be-
lieving that a rightful equilibrium would thereby be restored to
the nation. Most deluded among these federalists was one of the
founders of modern Argentina-a principal proponent of the
very forces that were at last sweeping parts of the republic to
new levels of material achievement. Juan Bautista Alberdi wrote *
a book in i88o which he regarded as the sequel to his Bases, the
study which influenced the formation of the Argentine constitu-
tion of 1853. In La Repdblica Argentina consolidada, Alberdi des-
cribed the assumed final victory of the provinces over Buenos
Aires. Unfortunately for the cause which he upheld, almost
everything he so forcefully stated as fact was the reverse of
reality. Unerringly he described the elements that made Buenos
Aires and its tributary hinterland the giant pivot of the nation
-but he insisted that this domination had been nullified by the
law splitting the province from its old capital. He understood
and wrote that Buenos Aires was the "natural capital" of Argen-
tina, "encompassing all the elements of power in the nation,"
yet he predicted that, while the recent separation of province
from city would give Buenos Aires a "modern and liberal
autonomy, [it] will not be the autonomy of the time of Rosas,
which was an absorption of the vitality of the nation." He also
optimistically demanded an exodus of part of the population of
Buenos Aires into the interior, a curb to the growing number of
landlords moving into the city to take up residence, and a
diminution of the "excessive" number of professional men and
foreign businessmen in the city.13
Alberdi was an excellent prophet-by opposites. The popula-
tion of the city of Buenos Aires grew by 84 per cent in the decade
from i88o to 1890; the population of the nation beyond the
capital grew by only 29 per cent.14 The immigrant tide rolling
13Juan B. Alberdi, "La Repfiblica Argentina consolidada en 188o con la ciudad
de Buenos Aires por capital (1881)," Obras selects ... (18 vols.; Buenos Aires,
1920), XIII, 3, 30, 56, o10-io5, 186-189, 194-195-
14 Author's calculations based on national population figures in Anuario, p. 159,
and figures for Buenos Aires in Besio Moreno, Buenos Aires, p. 430.


onto Argentine shores broke at Buenos Aires; only the lesser part
moved on to the pampas encircling the city. Impelled by this
influx and by the prevailing faith in automatic progress, the
national administration, through a series of laws culminating in
1888, grandly extended the bounds of Buenos Aires. This truly
American gesture brought within the new limits of the city
distant suburbs and great stretches of open country, and raised
the area of the federal capital from fifteen to seventy-eight square
miles. 1 In this fashion Argentina was endowed by its optimistic
rulers with the outline of a massive head-a potential world
capital, capable of serving their most expansive dreams of
international commerce. There were no voices raised in those
days of feverish accomplishment to inquire if the body-the
nation beyond the port-would not be forced to sacrifice its own
strength in its effort to support this giant's head. 1
But Buenos Aires was more than a promise and a haven for
Italian and Spanish immigrants, and more than a place for the
mansions of the wealthy, who moved into the northern quarter
of the city after 1880, the barrio del norte, running from the Plaza
San Martin out to the Recoleta and beyond. Buenos Aires was
.4 primarily an economic power complex, deriving its new dynam-
ism from two factors in addition to its increased population: the
port, and the railroad network.
The port of Buenos Aires was dug out of the mud of the Rio
de la Plata. One hundred and thirty miles from the Atlantic up
a silty, shallow estuary, against a low bank offering no natural
advantages, the men of the city began in 1882 to create a port
to handle their trade. The first section of the harbor (destined
within twenty-five years to be second only to the port of New
York in this hemisphere in the volume of its shipping) was inaug-
urated in January 1889. In that year 6,367 steam and sailing
ships entered from abroad; in 1880 the number had been 2,2o01.1
15 H. deMartonne, "Buenos Aires, 6tude de geographie urbaine," Annales de
geographie, No. 249, XLIV, 15 Mai 1935, p. 286; Arturo B. Carranza, La capital de
la Repiblica, el ensanche de su municipio, z88r a r888 (antecedentes, debates parlamentarios,
iniciativos, proyectos y leyes) (Buenos Aires, 1938).
16 Ezequiel Martinez Estrada, La cabeza de Goliat; microscopia de Buenos Aires (and
ed.; Buenos Aires, 1947), pp. 27-29.
17 Tornquist, The Economic Development of the Argentine Republic, pp. 19I-I92.

PROGRESS, 1880-1890 17
Carlos Pellegrini, vice-president of the nation and, more
than that, one of the leaders in the group ruling the land,
dedicated the docks in a speech bursting with optimism and a
sense of national destiny. Standing tall above the top-hatted
dignitaries and the crowds on the piers-he was a husky 6' 3",
with a handsome head, blue eyes, and flowing, handle-bar
moustaches-Pellegrini was just the man to inspire the country
with the spirit of the occasion. He described the port in dazzling
terms and defined it as "a link with world commerce." Indeed,
he said, the Argentine people have come so far and accomplished
such wonders in their land that they are "reproducing the genius
of the Yankees" (the highest praise of the day in Argentina, so
long as it applied to some Argentine economic advance with
which the Yankees had absolutely nothing to do). Then Pelle-
grini rose to the summit of his oration and predicted that the
twentieth century "will be the century of America-a future
that imposes upon us [Argentines] special duties."18
The port of Buenos Aires was indeed a link with the world-
a special part of the world. Buenos Aires was a'spigot from which
poured a torrent of wheat and meat for Europe; it was also a
funnel for goods incoming from the other side of the Atlantic.
It was a two-way valve, and those who had their hands on the
valve controlled the nation. La tierra adentro-the land inside-
produced; the city bought-and sold. In the city were the quick
profits on futures and the surer gains of the shippers. Here the
auctioneers swung their hammers on city blocks and leagues of
pampas and lots of blooded livestock, posting higher and higher
prices every week.'9 Here, in short, Argentine estanciero and
speculator and foreign entrepreneur did their business.
The rail system was the other factor upon which Buenos Aires
founded its greatness. Customarily, those who have written
about Argentina have described the railroads which spread over
the nation in the years from 188o to 1914 as a net of iron cast
out upon the country, binding it into unity, bringing progress

'8 Carlos Pellegrini, Discursosy escritos, z88r-90o6, con unprdlogo de Enrique de Vedia;
recop. por Domingo de Muro (Buenos Aires, r9ro), pp. 51-53.
"9 See the issues of the Buenos Aires daily newspapers, La Prensa and La Nacidn,
bulging with advertisements of land and livestock sales.


and prosperity to the farthest reaches of the republic. There is
another way of viewing the Argentine railroad system. Look
back down the railroads from the same distant points in the
interior provinces. The effect is the same as peering down the
barrel of a loaded rifle. You are looking back at the mechanism
which decides life or death: Buenos Aires. The city of Buenos
SAires had the first railroad in the country (in 1857), and from
that time to this the province of Buenos Aires has had many
more miles of track than any other province or territory. A map
of Argentine railroads shows a dramatic pattern-most of the
tracks lead to Buenos Aires.20 Buenos Aires is a magnet attract-
ing the products of the interior. The railroads are not feeders of
the nation; they were laid out and owned and operated as
feeders of Buenos Aires. They drained the land, and Europe was
the catch basin, not only for most of the raw materials shipped
out, but for a good part of the profits. The Argentine people
have never forgotten that foreign capital, principally English,
owned these railroads, although they have sometimes forgotten
what Argentina might have been without them.
These are some of the factors of Argentine progress in the
eighties which make it possible and realistic to speak, as portefios
and Europeans often did in those years, of "Buenos Aires,"
Using the name of the city as a faithful synecdoche for the nation.
If we look back on that time, with its English loans and rail-
roads, its English ships and British settlersfoF-Th ihUifetd Kfiig-
dom also exported men to Argentina, livestock breeders, mana-
gers and owners of great estancias, grain dealers, and bankers-
all told, a powerful colony of men with two passports); if we
consider the growing trade with France and Germany, and add
to these factors the hypnotic spell cast over Argentine customs
and thought by English and French culture, then we may
identify this remote land as an addition to western Europe's
spreading empire. Specifically, Argentina was an economic
colony of Great Britain ("Take Canada from us, but not

20 Repdblica Argentina, Direccidn de Ferrocarriles Nacionales; estadistica de losferro-
carriles en explotacidn, alo 1894 (Buenos Aires, 1896), III, 37, and map at end; ibid.,
1909, XXVIII, 42; Atlas geogrdfico de la Repdblica Argentina (ediciones Peuser; Buenos
Aires, 1945), Mapa 3.

PROGRESS, 1880-1890 19

Argentina," cried one Englishman) and a cultural vassal of
France. But Argentina also belonged to the Argentines, or at
least to the men who comprised the remarkable Generation of


The Generation of Eighty: Politics

BEFORE the Argentine revolution of 1810, land was the principal
source of wealth and the sanction of social position in the other-
wise resourceless Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. The revolu-
tion for independence did not significantly alter the fundamental
social, political, and economic relationships between the masses
of the people, the landowners, and the soil. And although the
administration of Rivadavia in the 1820's and the dictatorship
of Rosas in the next two decades were poles apart in their
philosophies of society and government, each bore the same
fruit in the further concentration of land in the hands of a rela-
tively few men. After the fall of Rosas and the return of the
exiles in 1852, the position of the landed gentry was not changed,
despite-the work of men like Urquiza, Mitre, and Sarmiento,
who applied themselves to the task of awaking Argentina from
its long sleep of reaction. These victorious leaders were liberal
and pragmatic, but there was no Argentine Homestead Act
during their administrations. They accepted the land system as
it was and tried to build upon it by spinning out the means of
communication and transportation and technical development
that would make it workable and by bringing in immigrants to,
make it fruitful. Aside from the establishment of a few colonies,
the methods of land distribution and the laws of land ownership
remained essentially unchanged. Indeed, the governments that
came after the Rosas regime, needful of revenue and concerned
with the white elephant that was the government domain, em-
barked on much the same types of real estate deals as had the
dictator. In one case, in 1857, the government leased 3,000,000
hectares (i hectare = 2.47 acres) of land to 373 people; in

1867 Mitre's government sold this land on easy terms to its
By I88o the land pattern of the nation centered on personal
holdings which by almost any standard ranged from big (15,000
or 20,000 acres or more) to enormous (200,000 acres and up-
ward). The most valuable land was in the province of Buenos
Aires, a sparsely settled region of great estancias, streaked by an
increasing number of railroads. Here pasturage was rapidly
giving way to tillage and the landowners were making the most
of their new position in the expanding national economy. Sheep
were replaced by wheat and the Irish herders by Italian farmers;
but, Irish or Italian, the men who worked the land did not own
it. Some estancias covered entire departments of the province-
departments in which there was "neither church nor chapel, the
landowners being utterly heedless of the condition of their
people."2 The Department of Maipi, write two Anglo-Argen-
tine observers, "has fine pastures, teeming with flocks and herds,
but the poor gauchos are utterly uncared for, the whole country
being owned by Alzagas, Acostas, Lastras, Pereyras, and Ramos
Mexias. The last-named family has an estate of 400 square
miles. The people live in mud huts." Again: "The department
[Necochea] was founded in 1865 and is owned by forty large
proprietors, the Alzagas, Anchorenas, Casares ... and others,
who take little heed of the condition of their people."3
Despite the unbalanced social situation, of which the system
of property ownership and tenure was a primary cause, this was
an era of marked vitality-the vitality of a frontier region, rich
in its soil, chaotic with diverse races and new economic tech-
niques, and possessed of a boundless faith in the future. The
fact of surging economic expansion validated the pattern of land
ownership. The successful landlords-the terratenientes-together
with other men who were less well-established but equally far-
sighted, were in a mood to indulge in that orgy of land specula-
tion which, lasting for a decade after Roca's conquest of the
'Jacinto Oddone, La burguesia terrateniente argentina (Buenos Aires, 1930), pp.
93-o10; Carl C. Taylor, Rural Life in Argentina (Baton Rouge, 1948), pp. 174-190.
SM. G. and E. T. Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plate, Comprising the Argentine
Republic, Uruguay, and Paraguay (6th ed.; Buenos Aires, 1892), pp. 99, 346.
3 Mulhall, Handbook, pp. 348-352.


Indian lands in 1879-1880, ended with a few more people (and
many of the same people) in possession of still more land. 4
Many native Argentines who were not lucky enough to be
born in or to join the ranks of the terratenientes became tenants
or peons, working in fields owned by other men. These criollos
were frequently no more prosperous than the newest immigrant
who wandered out into the countryside to make his fortune.5
Some there were of both groups, native-born and foreign, who
through good fortune and wit and work acquired enough land
to warrant inclusion, if not of themselves, at least of their sons
and daughters in the upper ranks ofsociety. But for every Basque
or Italian or Argentine who went out into the alternately dusty
and muddy pampa central and struck it rich, there were many
who made only a marginal living year in and year out, "playing
the crop lottery" on land rented from a latifundista whom they
never saw.
The masses of foreign immigrants who settled in Argentina
in these years-and their numbers diminished in proportion to
the distance from Buenos Aires-made possible the nation's
mounting prosperity, but they also created problems which
affected the social and political fabric of the country. For one
thing, the newcomers were curiously hybrid persons before
Argentine law. They were under no obligation or compulsion to
adopt Argentine citizenship, yet they received the same civil
rights of the Argentine constitution as did native-born citizens.
They could not vote (legally), but neither were they required to
perform military service. An alien could become naturalized by
petitioning to that effect after two years of residence, but there
was complete official and popular indifference as to whether a
man became naturalized or not. Naturalization, in fact, did not
offer an immigrant any advantages which he did not already
possess, and entailed at least one severe disadvantage-the
obligation to do military service. Consequently, most of the
immigrants who came to Argentina devoted themselves to the
Oddone, La burguesia terrateniente argentina, pp. 215-218; Miguel Angel Circano,
Evolucidn histdrica del regimen de la tierra pdblica (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1925), pp.
345-357, 394-404-
SMark Jefferson, Peopling the Argentine Pampa (New York, 1926), pp. 22-23, 32-
36, 84-85.


pursuit of their livelihoods and left their new homeland severely
alone. 6 The immigrant could go on with his old citizenship, his
old language, his old friends, his old ideas. If Argentina gave
him ajob, it did not, in the vast majority ofcases, offer him land
to buy and the chance to play a more stable and responsible role
in society and the economy. All too often when land was offered
the promise was false, or the colony of which the immigrant
became a part failed, or he found that clear title to his land was
a mirage concocted by criollo owners who preferred to have
tenants and renters rather than competitors. Under such condi-
tions there was little assimilation into the established forms of
national life of the tens of thousands of foreigners who descended
on Argentina in the eighties.7 This was painfully clear in that
activity which is one of the most objective expressions of a
nation's social cohesion-politics.
The native landowning aristocracy was in a commanding
political position with respect to the bulk of the population. In
the immigrants they found not only laborers but semi-citizens
whose failure (or inability, for whatever reasons) to share in the
institutionalized activities of the nation assured the criollo
minority of the opportunity to continue in control of the
machinery of the state. The large number of European immi-
grants also provided solid reinforcement for the ruling minority's
basic policy, which was close collaboration with the principal
nations of Europe.
An examination of Argentine politics in the eighties reveals a
situation of political corruption organized around the only
viable, formal party in the nation, the P.A.N. (Partido Autono- '
mista Nacionalista). The P.A.N. was more than a party; it was
for a generation the government of Argentina and a political
6 Juan A. Alsina, La inmigracidn en el primer siglo de la independencia (Buenos Aires,
1910), p. zl; Frederico Rahola, Sangre nueva. Impresiones de un viaje a la Amirica del
Sud (Barcelona, 1905), pp. 124-134.
'Jefferson, Peopling the Argentine Pampa, pp. 164-167; Alsina, La inmigracidn, pp.
8 The following analysis of the Argentine political scene may be verified in differ-
ing degree (and not always in accord with the several authors' intents) in almost
all the sources for this period. If further verification is needed it may be found in
the revolutions of 1890, 1893, and 19o5, and in their grandchild, the revolution of


instrument of the ruling element. Varying with the combinations
of men who formed its leadership, it was the core of support
for every president from Roca in 1880 to Roque Saenz Pefia in
Roca's military and political authority after he defeated the
portefio revolt of 1880 gave the P.A.N. its initial grip on the city
and province of Buenos Aires. In a few years the use of national
power by the president and his clique and their solicitude for
the economic progress of the nation brought about a coalition
of the conservative element of the entire country behind the
shrewdest leader their class would ever have.
Oficialismo was the order of the day. This is not to say that
President Roca or his successor Juirez invented the techniques
of federal executive interference in elections and in the opera-
tion of the provincial governments. Before the final centraliza-
tion of the national government in Buienos Aires in 1880, pro-
vincial governors had continued to rule their regions with much
of the authority and many of the methods of the old-time cau-
dillos. The federal government had rarely been free of a large
measure of dependence upon these local chiefs who could mar-
shal their voters and send the right people to the national con-
gress. Roca was a product of the combination of provincial
leaders against Buenos Aires, but after assuming the presidency
he showed no disposition to subordinate the national executive
to the men who had helped him to power.!New and relatively
great financial and military strength, together with the normal
instrument of patronage, lay in his grasp. With consummate
political skill he exercised these weapons during the six years of
his first administration. No parties of declared principles or
broad organization confronted him; there were only personalista
groups functioning within the practical objective of securing
control of the local political machines. Through these cliques

Among the few good studies of Argentine political practice, as distinct from his-
tories of political theory, are the following: Jos6 Nicolas Matienzo, El gobierno repre-
stntativofederal en la Repdtblica Argentina (Buenos Aires, 91ro), especially pp. 107-119
for a discussion of the fluidity of political parties, and pp. 203-215, which deal with
the techniques of presidential domination of provincial governors; Carlos R. Melo,
Los partidos politicos argentinos (2nd ed.; C6rdoba [Argentina], 1945), PP. 5-25; and
Carlos R. Melo, La campaffa presidential de i885-1886 ... (C6rdoba, 1946).


Roca threaded his way, aided by loyal and efficient agents such
as Bernardo de Irigoyen, Juarez, Pellegrini, and Wilde. Elec-
tions meant that the P.A.N. was pitted against ad hoc groups
organized by men of the same fundamental social and political
views as their opponents, the chief distinction between the
former and the latter being that one was "in" and the other
"out." Opposition tickets were fluid in the extreme, to the point
of merging with the government forces or disappearing entirely
just before an election. The struggle for spoils was characterized
by fierce partisanship in press and speech and the engendering
of personal antagonisms that are perpetuated to this day among
some prominent Argentine families.
A mainstay of the P.A.N. and therefore of the president of the
nation, who was the head of the party, was electoral corruption.
Every device of political fraud seems to have been known and
tried in Argentina in these years. The purchase and falsification
of votes was a major occupation of the national and provincial
governments. One unnamed contemporary sourly but succinctly
described the situation when he wrote: "In the deserted elec-
toral registration offices one could hear nothing but the scratch-
ing pens of the government clerks writing imaginary names."9
Tlhe problems of controlling the electorate were simplified for
the dominant interests by a limited suffrage, indirect election of
the president, and the system of the lista complete, by which the
entire ticket was elected if its leading candidate won a plurality
of votes)ks the power of the president grew at the expense of
the provincial governors, control of the provinces and their
elections became fairly routine. Carlos D'Amico was a living
testimony to that fact. D'Amico was a man of distinguished
family and personal ability who as governor of the province of
Buenos Aires during part of Roca's first term fought against the
president's encroachment upon the affairs ofthe great province.
The upshot of this political struggle was unusual in a period
when many leaders acquiesced to presidential pressure with
more or less profitable results to themselves: D'Amico was
forced not only out of political life, but out of the country. In the
9 [Carlos] Pellegrini: 1846-9go6: Obras, precedidas de un ensayo biogrdfico por Agustin
River Astengo (5 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1941), II, 77.


book which he wrote in his Mexican exile, the former governor
defined the composition of a typical provincial government as
he knew it to be under Roca and Juirez: "A delegate from the
national government, a bookkeeper, a cashier, and the Chief of
Police are all the staff required."10 When force and corruption
at the provincial level failed to produce the desired results, the
national congress could annul the provincial election, expel
undesired colleagues and hold another election, with closer
attention to a more productive outcome. As D'Amico wrote:
"The only elector in Argentina is the President of the Republic,
who elects the provincial governors, the legislatures, the National
Congress, and his own successor."1
As early as the day after Roca's inauguration the great news-
paper of Buenos Aires, La Prensa (Oct. 13, i88o), foresaw the
continuation of political caudillismo in the nation. Of the revolu-
tion just ended, which many people interpreted as the signal for
the opening of a long awaited era of purity in Argentine
politics, the newspaper gloomily asked: "Who has triumphed in
the end? No one. Political justice remains unachieved; the
people will continue to suffer their hard lot ... Their struggle
has not ended; their cause is only latent, and the danger persists
of a series of uninterrupted outbreaks .. ." La NVacidn, also great,
commented on Roca's slogan "peace and administration."
"The country needs peace," said Mitre's paper, "but peace
with justice and liberty."
The outbreaks came, during the next three decades, in the
form of scores of minor blood-lettings in local political struggles,
and in three major revolutionary attempts (1890, 1893, 1905)
to pry loose the grip of the ruling class on the government. But
the ten years from 1880 to 1890 were comparatively halcyon.
Roca's superb political talent and the lavish corruption of the
JuArez government, combined with the diversion of popular
interest into economic activities, served temporarily to dampen
the fires of civil strife. At the same time the dominant interests
in the nation, through their chief representative, the president,
10 Carlos Martinez [Carlos Alfredo D'Amico], Buenos Aires: su naturaleza, sus cos-
tumbres, sus hombres. Observaciones de un viajero desocupado (Mexico, 1890), pp. 131-132.
Martinez, Buenos Aires, pp. 53-58, 123-137.


extended the area of their authority and influence, in part as a
response to Argentina's crying need for greater political cen-
tralization and in part as satisfaction of their private aims.12
Roca led the nation along these new paths. He was a master
of the possible in politics. His own correspondence is the best
witness to his abilities as a conscious realist in the affairs of men.
He knew his Machiavelli, writing to Juirez, his prot6g6 and
successor, that "Political force lies in knowing how to play the
lion and the fox at the same instant." Again, in a letter toJuirez
dated almost two years before the election of 1880, in which he
discussed his plans for surmounting the considerable obstacles
which lay in his road to the presidency, Roca wrote: "It is
necessary, as you see, to avoid these reefs, and so I shall begin
to maneuver with the skill and prudence of which you know
me capable." 3
This skill was demonstrated in 1886 when Roca imposed his
successor upon the country. In the years of his first administra-
tion, Roca's political power was centered in the interior province
of C6rdoba where Juarez was his principal agent. It was from
there that the president brought his wife's brother-in-law, via a
seat in the national congress, to be his heir in the Casa Rosada, 4
for Roca was bound by the Argentine constitution of 1853
which prescribed that no Argentine president could succeed him-
self in office.
Roca was neither the first nor th6 last Argentine ruler to
select his successor and arrange for his accession. There is much
to be said for Roca's administration, despite the rough edges it
may present to those who have the advantage of hindsight.
12Jos6 NicolAs Matienzo, La revolucidn de z8go en la historic constitutional argentina
(Buenos Aires, 1926), pp. 6-7, where this leading Argentine authority on the
political history of his country and class writes: "In the decade from 1880 to 189o,
not only did the personal power of the president grow immeasurably, but a deep
political and administrative corruption spread throughout the nation, converting
the government into an instrument for the satisfaction of private interests."
13 Agustin Rivero Astengo,Judrez Celman, r844-90o9. Estudio histdricoy documentalde
una epoca argentina (Buenos Aires, 1944), Roca to Juarez, October 26, 1879, p. 144;
Roca toJuirez, July 24, 1878, p. 105.
14 Roca's influence over JuArez is established by the correspondence between the
two men, which much resembles that of a father and his dutiful, apprentice son.
See Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, pp. 53-56, 79-150, 297-3 11, 338-340. Roca and
Juarez married two sisters, Clara and Elisa Funes of C6rdoba.


Roca no doubt hoped to perpetuate through Juirez the regime
of relative "peace and administration" which he himself had
given the country from 1880 to 1886, during which force had
been generally supplanted by more subtle political methods.
The men of the Generation of Eighty were the sons of murdered
or exiled fathers. They had cut their first teeth amidst civil war,
turmoil, and hate. In their maturity, particularly after the last
war in 1880, they desired surcease from revolution, and peace
and prosperity for themselves and their land. Behind the still
harsh and vindictive struggle for power in the eighties, there
became apparent a spreading acquiescence to the need for
mastering the forms, if not the content, of democratic govern-
ment, in order that the weak but growing national unity might
be preserved and the business of building the nation's wealth
carried forward.
With the astute grasp of Argentina's destiny which his re-
markable career displays,.Roca struggled to secure the elements
f peace, unity, and progress which the country needed. He was
no mere fox, sniffing silently from prey to prey, as his enemies
would have him appear. An answer to such charges may also
be found, not in his acts alone, but in his correspondence. There
is, for example, the letter that he wrote in 1880 when he was
under heavy pressure to withdraw his presidential candidacy in
the face of the civil war it would almost surely precipitate.
"This," wrote Roca, with a depth of understanding which few
of his contemporaries possessed, "is no mere election contest,
but a question of whether or not we are an organized, united
nation, not just one of those 'South American' places upon
which the world sneers."15 It was on this basis-the establish-
ment of a modern Argentina-that Roca fought a revolution
and devoted his life to the development of his country's resources
and its relations with other nations.
What Roca did, Juirez and his gang very nearly undid. Not
that there was any basic difference of program between Roca
and Juirez; it was the fact that the latter bolted when the
former relaxed his grip on the reins. Juirez gathered his own
clique and set out upon a course of exploitation which led to
15 Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, Roca to unnamed addressee,n.d. [x88o],p. 164.


disaster. A parallel situation might be imagined in United States
history if a wiser and stronger Coolidge, conservative yet expan-
sive in economic policies, had been followed in office by a man
who combined the political morality and pliability of Harding
with the economic and moral tendencies ofJay Gould.
Juirez's attempt to continue the pattern of political control
and economic development which Roca had brought to fruition
failed through his own defects and through the play of rampant
economic forces. With his accustomed acrid truthfulness, the
aging Sarmiento lashed out prophetically against Juirez soon
after the 1886 election. Said the man who had lived to see the
achievement, and the quick perversion, of so many of his plans
for Argentina's progress in the way of liberalism: "I am deaf-
ened by the roar of crashing institutions. Juarez will be no more
than the instrument of the blind forces that are transforming the
republic." Sarmiento did not live to see the final collapse of
JuArez and his administration in 1890, but he would probably
have agreed that the soft-willed president was not wholly res-
ponsible for the bloody denouement of his reign. If the forces at
work in Argentina were blind, it was the blindness of greed or,
to put it more gently, of excessive optimism. Some indication of
the state of affairs which Juarez inherited from Roca may be
seen in the fact that, as early as 1885, the following distinguished
public figures of the day owed the following sums of money to
the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires: President Roca,
1,148,250 pesos; Juarez himself, 120,000 pesos; Pellegrini,
cabinet officer, senator, and future vice-president and president,
193,ooo; Dardo Rocha, candidate for president in 1886 and
founder of the city of La Plata, 420,ooo; and two of Roca's
brothers a total of 80,000o pesos.'1 These figures are not
necessarily evidence of corruption; they do indicate that these
men were engaged in large transactions and that numerous
public banking institutions of the nation were most probably
wandering in a twilight zone between fulfillment of public
16 Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, p. 395.
17 Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, pp. 376-377.
On the day of JuArez's inauguration (October 12, 1886), La Prensa denounced
the prevailing low state of political morals in the government, attributing it to an
unchecked pursuit of personal wealth and power.


responsibilities and satisfaction of the personal needs of power-
ful politicians. It was Jurez's disgrace that he allowed favoritism
to exceed the limits which a more capable man might have
Juarez's accessibility to his friends was a result of his tempera-
ment and his distrust of the popular masses. Where Roca was
fond of saying, in French, "Gouverner c'est choisir," and "In
politics one ought not to say anything irreparable," JuArez is
damningly quoted by his only biographer as having minted this
r- coin: "To consult the people is always an error, since the people
have only confused and muddy opinions."1 This Nietzschean
S profundity was not in tune with the times in Argentina, and the
people proved it to the president by forcing his resignation two
S-ye~r -~before his term was due to expire. And ifRoca talked too
S little, thereby winning a reputation among his enemies as a
taciturn schemer, Juarez talked too much, and Roca told him
so.19 Eduardo Wilde, another leader of the ruling class and
close collaborator with Juarez, rendered a mild but revealing
judgment upon his president when he said that Juirez was
"greater for his heart than for his head." And Juarez painted
his own personal and political portrait when he wrote, "I prefer
to be deceived than to distrust."20
These character traits led to Juirez's expulsion from office-
not by his own class, which never really deserted him, maintain-
ing a kind of pact of silence in his defense to the very end-but
by the outraged and awakening middle class, led by a few
reform-minded men from differing social levels, including the
highest, who had not condoned the politico-economic orgy
through which the country passed in the eighties.
The tragedy of oficialismo broke with full force upon this
nominal president who was the willing tool of interests which
profited by his policy of benevolent laissezfaire and more than
benevolent assistance. In the darkening days of May 1890,
JuArez rose before the national congress to make humble excuses
and to acknowledge indirectly the defrauding of the people
18 Rivero Astengo, Juirez Celman, p. 44.
19 Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, Roca to JuArez, September 5, 1872, P. 48.
20 Rivero Astengo, Judrez Celman, pp. 332, 442.

which he and his government had supervised.21 A few weeks
later this unhappy man resigned his office, morally too frail to
write his own letter of resignation, a duty he delegated to a
friend, the young man whom he had hoped to make the next
president of Argentina.2 2
This was Juarez Celman, product of corroding nepotism,
.representative of the decay of political idealism. And this was
Argentine society, set on the shaky foundations of a creole and
immigrant mass, capped by a landed gentry indistinguishable
in its pursuit of wealth from the emerging tradesman class and
the aggressive European speculators who were catalyzing the
resources of the nation.
Nonetheless, under the rule of this man and his predecessor,
Argentina in the eighties had that peace which Roca advocated
in his first message to congress-the internal imposed peace of a
dominant minority, yet a not unworthy advance over former
conditions. Roca returned to this theme in his exultant final
message to that body in 1886: "I successfully conclude my
government without having had to inform you during its whole
course of civil wars, of bloody interventions, of the rebellions of
caudillos, of loans wasted in repressing disorders and suffocating
rebellions, of Indian depredations ... Peace ... has never be-
fore reigned in this land for six consecutive years."23
The land was indeed relatively tranquil, but there were some
who took a different view of.this presidential dispensation of
peace. For La Prensa (Oct. 12, 1886), it was peaceful simply be-
cause, "The parliament is silent, and the Ministers speak only
to receive at once the votes of great majorities, attained without
effort and without agitation." And to Belin Sarmiento, who
inherited some of the vitriolic vigor of his illustrious relative,
Argentina was the tragic original of his book-Una repdblica
muerta. He accused the rulers of the nation of concealing the
realities of their regime under myths of a heroic past and dreams
of a fantastic future, substituting the promises of their inflated
21 Heraclio Mabragaiia, compiler, Los mensajes... (6 vols.; Buenos Aires, n.d.
[?P91o], IV, 343-347.
22JuArez's resignation was written for him by Ram6nJ. Carcano. See Ram6nJ.
CArcano, Mis primeros Bo afios (Buenos Aires, 1943), pp. 166-175.
23 Mabragafia, Los mensajes, IV, 147-148.


oratory for a healthy internal policy.24 The republic was dead;
silence had settled over the field of political liberties which had
formerly seen bitter but fruitful contests for freedom. The
Argentine army acted as a praetorian guard to support the
S status quo. Even t:he fiiemen of Buenos Aires carried rifles.26
S Political passivity was preached by the upper class as a soft
name for choking oppression.
Yet Belin's solution to Argentina's distress was typical of the
pointless theorizing so common in Argentine political writing.
He proposed a revised and strictly enforced suffrage law and the
creation of an active elite imbued with honesty and true
patriotism, capable of leading the nation to higher and purer
levels.26 He did not indicate how these ends could be accom-
plished. Roca, not so troubled by these ideals as Belin, wanted
peace for a purpose. Peace meant tranquillity, a word much used
in Argentina in the next thirty years. Political and social tran-
quillity were synonyms for the status quo-for the chance to
develop the nation's pastoral and agricultural potential, obtain
foreign loans, build waterworks and railroads. Without this
internal peace Argentina would continue to be an outcast in
European eyes, merely another South American country, as
Roca had put it. In short, a bad risk.
If the slogan "peace and administration" provided respite
from generations of conflict, it also was the frame on which were
woven patterns of economic exploitation and political reaction.
To that formula the word oligarquia is inextricably tied.
"The oligarchy" is a term used in the i88o's and after in
Argentina by La Prensa and by people opposed to the rule of the
land by an increasingly tight-knit group. By this opprobrious
word was meant the political organization composed of the
president and his associates, the provincial governors and their
supporters, the national representatives who obeyed the behests
24 A. Belin Sarmiento, Una repdblica muerta. Introducci6n por Lucio V. L6pez
(Buenos Aires, 1892), p. I.
25 Belin Sarmiento, Una repiblica muerta, pp. 20-21. See also Ezequiel Martinez
Estrada, Radiografia de la Pampa (2 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1942; Ist ed. 1933) I213-
216 and II, 118-123 for a masterful analysis of the internal role of the army in Latin
America, where external enemies have been nearly non-existent.
26 Belfn Sarmiento, Una repdblica muerta, pp. 163-173.


of the executive, whether national or local, and the economic
interests, mainly landowners, which allied themselves with these
The Argentine oligarchy was described many years ago by
Jos6 NicolAs Matienzo, a distinguished member and student of
the class which he analyzed, in these words:
The governing elements [of the nation] are recruited from a class
of citizens which, if it does not properly constitute a caste, nonethe-
less forms a directing class This class corresponds approximately
to the highest social stratum, formed by the members of the tradi-
tional family s,by the rich, and by the educated ("hombres ilustra-
dos"). The mem ers o tEiis-class maintain among themselves more
or less tight social and economic relations and, as is natural, share
common sentiments and opinions Without this common code
there would not exist that interchange of services and favors which
they reciprocally lend without distinction of party politics. It is this
moral code of the directing class which the citizens designated for
the different government positions carry into the public administra-
tion, whence they manage the interests of the country.28
The ruling class reinforced this conception of the government
as its special preserve with an absolutist and centralist doctrine
of the executive power.29 Congress, the banks, the local gover-
nors, the party organization, and the formulation of foreign and
domestic policies increasingly came under the authority of a
small group of leaders, of which the president was the head.
These leaders were the active representatives of the aristocratic
class and the faithful executors of the common code to which
Matienzo refers.
Such a development was inherent, although not necessarily
inevitable, in Argentine history. The declaratory act of May
18io, in which the leaders of the Argentine revolution made

27 A discussion of the origin and meaning of theword in Argentinepolitical history
may be found in an article by Rodolfo Rivarola, "La oligarqufa segin los consti-
tuyentes del 53," Revista de Derecho, Historiay Letras, afio X, tomo 29, marzo de
1908, pp. 492-507. The author states that the word was first applied by the
drafters of the constitution of 1853 to cabals of provincial governors.
28 Jos6 Nicolas Matienzo, El gobierno representative federal en la Republica Argentina,
p. 322.
29Jos6 Luis Romero, Las ideaspoliticas en Argentina (Mexico, 1946), pp. 188-192.


their first attack on the royal government, contained a phrase
to the effect that the governing class of the country should
consist of "la principal y mis sana parte del vecindario"-"the
chief and most stable part of the citizenry"-literally, of the list
of neighbors or residents, those who had property and position
in the community. The conservative traditions of Spain, trans-
mitted to her colonies, were retained and reinforced by the
structure of land ownership which persisted after the political
revolution of the first decades of the nineteenth century. The
Argentine landed aristocracy lived within its traditions, not as
with a sere verbal heritage but as a legacy of success-the
success of their victorious struggle for independence, of their
endurance and in many cases increased power under the tyranny
of Rosas, and, finally, of their successful reorganization of the
nation between 1852 and 188o. After 1880, when immigrants
and foreign capital descended on the immense properties of this
class, the efforts of the past were redeemed. New problems also
appeared, but they were for the future; today was for work and
The men of the Generation of Eighty embodied the hopes of
their fathers and the teachings of Sarmiento, Alberdi, and other
early Argentine liberals. They had been taught from childhood
that the salvation for their glorious but backward land lay in
S adopting European and North American modes of production
and in imitating the cultural pattern of progressive. foreign
nations, including their methods of education, customs of work,
and standards of values, all these to be erected upon the basis
of an invigorating European immigration. In these formulations
of liberalism is the source of the positivistic and materialistic
society of Argentina after 1880. Roca, Pellegrini, Juirez, and
their peers were the heirs and executors ofthe preceding genera-
tions. They were men "individualistic, pacific and cosmopoli-
tan." 30 To them fell the task of Europeanizing Argentina. They
fulfilled the dream-and transformed the nation.
30 Ricardo Rojas, "Los modernos," La literature argentina (2nd ed., 8 vols.; Buenos
Aires, 1924-1925 [from Obras, 19 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1922-1930]), XIV, 990.

The Generation of Eighty: Wealth and Wisdom

SOME years ago a descendant of General Mitre described the
changes which occurred in Argentina after 1880. His words were
perhaps more extravagant than those which the old patrician
would have used, but the conservative sentiments which they
expressed were a clear inheritance from the age of his great-
The epoch of prosperity begins with the continuous affluence of
foreign capital and the fecund flood of the venal masses. Thus the
country was on the march toward its natural predestination, but this
happened only at the expense of the nation losing much of its genu-
ine character of primitive virtue, and with deprecation of the sense
of historic tradition with its implicit heroic vocation. Youth showed
itself indifferent to the examples of the past and prided itself on
offering to Progress-the new idol-the homage that was yesterday
rendered to Liberty, the ancestral god ... A dissolute and haughty
materialism invaded everything, so much the more dangerous by its
very ingenuousness.'
Although this is a revealing interpretation of a period of his
country's history by a member of a famed family, much of the
significance of these sentences lies in what is left unsaid. The
author neglects to mention the leading part taken by the
Argentine ruling class in this worship at the new shrine of pro-
gress. That is a role which the author prefers to assign to the
immigrant masses rather than to the established creole aristoc-
racy. Yet a study of the years after 1880 shows that as the time
of austerity receded and the era of wealth began, people from
all levels of society, from Basque milkman to Castilian estan-
ciero, from English merchant to Argentine lawyer, joined the
1 Adolfo Mitre, Mitre, periodista (Buenos Aires, 1943), p. 219.
y/7 ~"


The financial fever which consumed Argentina in the eighties
followed a classic course: infection with the virus of economic
expansion; the delirium of unchecked optimism and specula-
tion; finally, the death rattle ofJuly 1890. In a few years Buenos
Aires became a "great gambling house."2 The patrons caine
from wealthiest and the meanest homes; the croupiers' tables
were the Casa Rosada and the Bolsa. During the decade the
price of gold climbed wildly until in April 1890 it reached 209
per cent, 3 yet there were few Argentines who desired until too
late to halt the upward progress of this fateful figure. In Buenos
Aires and in the provinces the same piece of property was bought
and sold perhaps a dozen times within a year, at a profit each
time; the newspapers were crammed with real estate advertise-
ments; the newest immigrants, men of the oldest families, repre-
sentatives of foreign corporations, struggled to outdo one
another in this inflationary race. The stock exchange was the
scene of speculative activity which would have delighted Jim
Fiske. The nouveaux riches mingled with the established families
at the opera and in the corso in Palermo. The old aristocracy did
not often reward the economic progress of the newcomers with
the privileges of social equality. Still, if the fortune were large
enough... 4
There were some political leaders and reformers such as
Estrada, Goyena, and Del Valle who called vainly for a halt to
the savage struggle, but those speculators whom one writer
2 Ezequiel Martinez Estrada, Radiografia de la pampa (2 vols.; Buenos Aires,
1942), I, 200.
SJohn H. Williams, Argentine International Trade under Inconvertible Paper Money,
88o0-189o (Cambridge, Mass., 192o), p. 115. Juan A. Balestra, El noventa, una
evolucidn political argentina (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1935), p. 64, states that gold
reached 310 in April 1890, but this figure cannot be accepted in the light of
Williams' scholarly study.
4 There are several contemporaneous Argentine novels which, while aesthetically
erratic, nonetheless mirror the economic and social scene. Two of these are by
Francisco Grandmontagne. The first, titled Teodoro Foronda (Evoluciones de la
sociedad argentina), was published in two volumes in Buenos Aires in 1896. It is a
story of the excessive materialism and unstable values of the t88o's. Another book
by the same author was published in Buenos Aires in 1898. Called La maldonada:
costumbres criollas, it is a novel of the corrupt society of Argentina during the JuArez
Perhaps the most important account of this period is La bolsa by Jos6 Mir6
[Julian Martel). This novel first appeared in serial form in La Nacidn in 1890.

aptly called "the new discoverers of Buenos Aires"5 could not
be deterred by speeches from the accumulation of wealth. The
new prosperity of the nation fitted too neatly the desires of all
classes of society to be curbed by idealism. If the oligarchy's
grip on the nation remained unchallenged by other groups until
the chaos of 1890 was almost upon the country, it was not only
because control by the aristocracy was so complete and the
majority of the people so disorganized, but also because the
different classes shared this common goal-the acquisition of
wealth. The well-being of the nation clearly lay in economic
expansion. The upper class derived this conviction not only
from the customary human motives, but also from long indoc-
trination by liberal thinkers who vehemently taught that
material progress alone could raise Argentina from barbarism 1/
to civilization. The immigrants, among whose motives in coming
to America was a desire for economic advancement, fell in step
with a political organization and a philosophy which promised
to fulfill this ambition. From the merging of these forces-the
criollo population dominated by an entrenched aristocracy and
the unassimilated immigrant masses, the latter two, at least,
bent upon the creation of wealth-may be derived those modes
of morality and conduct which have shaped Argentina's recent
The eighties were active and elegant, sordid and superficial.
Precisely at the time when the crude ways of the past seemed
doomed to extinction, a new kind of barbarism appeared, a
barbarism unforeseen by the prophets of liberalism. To t4
primitive and bloody ways of former years, against which (
Sarmiento had voiced the mighty protest of Facundo, was added p
a new form of social disorganization-the dehumanizing force -<
of a great city, setting man apart from man. The rootless
thousands who swarmed into the barrios of Buenos Aires in this
decade quickly developed social types new to Argentina. These
hoodlums and riffraff-compadritos, matones, guarangos-were
spawn of transition, caught between the Old World and the
6 Balestra, El noventa, p. 9.
6 Alejandro Korn, Obras (3 vols.; La Plata, 1938-40), Vol. III, Influenciasfilosdficas
en la evolucidn national (La Plata, 1940), 196, 219-222, 230.

ew World, tossed in a confusion both spiritual and physical.
They were new gauchos, gauchos of the city. They drifted
through Buenos Aires from bar to tango hall, mouthing obsceni-
ties, handling women who passed them in the street, spitting on
strangers, quick with the knife against the world.7
The compadritos were the lower rungs of a shaky social ladder
running up to the big speculators in land and railroads. Society
was unstable, lacking in values, except the value of money. Yet
a yearning to be civilized pervaded the country, or at least the
educated and prosperous elements. And Europe was civiliza-
tion to these Argentines. Europe's inventions and gimcracks
were imported and her fads and ideas transmitted by the news-
papers to the hungry portefio public. There was eager and un-
i flagging interest in the Argentine press for everything European.
The United States, on the other hand, received scant attention.
North American coal production and railroad construction or
the water system of New York City were matters which the
pragmatic portefio occasionally found instructive, but his inter-
- est ended there. More to his liking was French literary and
Theatrical news, mixed with sensational accounts of the latest
crime passionnel. But the main themes that filled the news
columns were always the same-the growth of Argentine com-
merce, the improvement of land and livestock, the glorious
prospects of a nation where nature, government, and people
collaborated in the creation of endless wealth.
An aggressively liberal, positivistic spirit pervaded men's
minds. Lengthy articles filled the oversized pages of the daily
papers advocating reforms in the judicial code, the sanitation
code, the penal code-every code but the electoral code (and
La Prensa and La Nacidn steadily advocated even that reform).
And the interest in such reform legislation, modeled on that of
Europe, was matched by a cultural attachment of the same
proportions. When Victor Hugo died, Sud AmIrica, the paper of
the younger leaders of the upper class, devoted its entire front
page to his career. The most important magazine of the mid-
7 Martinez Estrada, Radiografia, II, 33-36; Jorge Luis Borges and Sylvina Bull-
rich Palenque, compilers, El compadrito: su destiny, sus barrios, su mdsica (Buenos Aires,
1945), PP. 44-5'.

eighties, the Nueva Revista de Buenos Aires, carried articles on /
subjects which in most circles in the United States would have
been distinctly avant-garde: "La poesia en Austria," "Dos-
toiewsky," and "A. Daudet." Articles on the United States were
as rare in the Nueva Revista as in the daily press. When one did
appear it was usually a distorted image of an unknown conti-
nent. Early in 1883, young Ernesto Quesada, who with his
father founded and edited the .Nueva Revista, published an
article which he had written on the remote subject of Ralph
Waldo Emerson. He took pains to point out in the opening
paragraphs that no one in Argentina knew anything about
North American thought or literature except a limited number
of students of constitutional law. This did not deter Quesada
from plunging into his description of the United States:
Everything in that country is colossal ... Industry there has had
a surprising development; everything is done on a stupendous scale
. .. The men don't vegetate; they live as though possessed by an
implacable demon-as if electric currents circulated in their veins.
They accumulate such fabulous fortunes that it is impossible even
to waste them away .... It is a country absorbed by the thirst for
wealth. 8
And young Quesada demonstrated the truth of these statements
by quoting his source-the Edinburgh Review.
La Nacidn and La Prensa did not share these exaggerated views
of the United States. And in domestic political affairs, contrast-
ing to the remainder of the press, their position was indepen-
dently critical. But their pages also were replete with long articles
on developments in England and on the continent. It took a
presidential election or a disaster in the United States to win an
occasional half-column of space, yet nothing European was alien
to the newspaper editors and readers of Argentina, whether it
was the opening of a hygiene exhibition in such an unlikely
place as Naples, an insurrection on the Gold Coast, or the de-
parture of the German Emperor for a hunting trip in Kuchelna.
The Franco-Chinese war received more space than did news
SErnesto Quesada, "Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sus doctrinas filos6ficas," Nueva
Revista de Buenos Aires, aiio II, tomo VI, 1882, entrega de enero [de x883], pp. 212-


from any Latin American nation; the details of Bernhardt's
costume were more fully described to the residents of Buenos
Aires than were events in the important cities of the Argentine
One other newspaper of the eighties should be discussed-
La Tribuna Nacional. This was the newspaper of Roca and, for a
time, ofJuirez. There is no better place to study the obsessive
interest of the decade in material progress and in Europe than
in its pages. Founded in 1880, at the beginning of Roca's first
administration, La Tribuna Nacional expired with revealing time-
liness late in 1889 when the economic bubble was on the point
of bursting. It was the voice of the fuerzas vivas (literally, the
"living forces")-the term by which the rulers of the land
referred to themselves in order to indicate their "dynamic"
leadership of the nation. Every issue of La Tribuna was a strident
homage to Argentina's felicitous condition. Appropriately
enough, from Europe came assurances that Argentina's achieve-
ments were much appreciated. La Tribuna had what it called an
"exclusive commercial telegraph service" from "correspond-
ents" in London, Liverpool, Bordeaux, Paris, Marseilles, Le
Havre, Antwerp, Rome, Leipzig, and Madrid. (Was it only a
coincidence that in all these places the same government which
subsidized La Tribunal Nacional9 maintained diplomatic and
consular officers?) To its pages from these cities came the latest
quotations and prophecies of the money and commodity mar-
kets of Europe, together with words of praise for Argentina's
economic and political stability. To repay this encouragement,
La Tribuna returned to its European readers a biweekly review
of the Argentine economy entitled "Review for the Exterior,"
a persuasive mixture of statistics and optimistic economic pre-
dictions. In 1887 (Nov. 7-8) La Tribuna assured its public that
"The Republic continues unperturbed its prosperous and happy
march." In 1888 (July 30), when the Republic was somewhat
less happy about its distorted prosperity, the editors cheerfully
wrote: "The economic and financial situation constantly im-
proves; not for an instant is there a halt in commercial and
9 La Tribuna Nacional, March 29, 1888, admits to having been on the government
payroll for an unspecified number of years.

industrial activity, in the progress of the railroads, in the con-
struction of public works, or in the march of all the many
elements of the country's wealth and aggrandizement." In early
1889 (Feb. 21) the paper altered its tone, omitted much of its
former bold talk about the infallibility of the Argentine economy,
and shifted its comments from financial statistics to problems of
institutional reform. The most significant word in the oligarchy's
vocabulary came into increasing use as the editors of the govern-
ment press reassured their readers that "the Republic enjoys
perfect tranquillity." Many respected citizens of Buenos Aires no
doubt agreed with this opinion, but it must have been difficult
for the people of the western city of Mendoza to share in it. At
the moment that La Tribuna printed its official judgment of
peace, that province was swept by one of those frequent revolts
that marked provincial politics, bringing bloodshed and a
severe federal intervention that gave the lie to the government's
claims. 10
La Prensa also shared in the prosperity of the eighties, growing
in size and as a powerful voice of truth andjustice. On January I
of each year La Prensa published a business supplement that is
an interesting indication of the nation's expansion. This special
issue combined a detailed statistical review of all phases of
Argentine economic activity of the preceding year with an
analysis of European market and business conditions. The size
of this supplement grew each year during the decade until it
reached forty extra-sized pages of small type-a massive testi-
monial to the national economy and to the greatest newspaper
in Latin America.
La Prensa never lacked pride in Argentina's accomplishments,
but seldom did her editors relax their cautious judgments of the
economic scene. The issue of January I, 1886, called attention
to "the wealth of statistics that marks the economic and social
movement of the Republic," but in the same pages the editors
castigated the English loan which Pellegrini had recently nego-
tiated in Paris. "This loan contract for 42 million pounds," said
10 Heraclio Mabragafia, compiler, Los Mensajes. Historia del desenvolvimiento de la
Nacidn Argentina, redactada cronologicamente por sus gobernantes, 18-o-rgro (6 vols.;
Buenos Aires, n.d. [?i9To]), IV, 262.

La Prensa, "which is the most vast credit arrangement made
to this date by a Latin American nation, demonstrates an
advanced grade of decadence on the part of the government."
Not content with this courageous attack upon the sacred cow
of English credit, the editors followed their warning with a
call for liberty, basing their appeal on the very fact of Argentine
prosperity: "A people that is master of such wealth merit all the
benefits of free institutions."
But even La Prensa gave ground before the apparently irresis-
tible prosperity which was sweeping the land. The last annual
economic review which the paper published before the crash of
1890 was a thirty-six-page issue that contained a few warnings
against economic malpractice and political corruption but
which on the whole viewed with complacence and even with
optimism the colossal bubble that was about to burst on the
This is another way of saying that La Prensa could not dis-
associate itself from the philosophy that dominated the country.
Whatever we call it-liberalism, positivism, or a Spanish equiva-
lent, cientificismo-the doctrines which came into full practice
in Argentina in the eighties were stamped with a European
trademark, adopted by Argentine leaders, and sanctified by
success. Tlhehistoryof Argentine liberalism extends from the
radical~eaders of the I8io revolufioniTffiugh Rivadavia and
his University of Buenos Aires with its preaching of utilitarian-
ism to Urquiza, Mitre, and Sarmiento, who took the refounded
nation in hand after 1852.1 The victory of liberalism was
complete by 1880. The nation for the first time could gather in
abundance the slowly matured harvest of the past. But the years
had worked profound if little understood alterations in the old
doctrine. In conformity with the rapid economic and social
changes which were twisting the nation into a new shape,
liberalism took on restricted and special meanings.
Roca, Juirez, and the governing class which they represented
knew with Victorian certitude what this new liberalism meant.
11 Alejandro Korn, Influenciasfilosdftcas, pp. 191-219, 317-318; Leopoldo Zea, Dos
tapas del pensamiento en Hispano-america: del romanticism alpositivismo (Mexico, 1949),
pp. 267-282.


It meant peace-Roca's peace-"the resolute elimination of
any fair struggle for power, a struggle that could be dangerous
for the country, which was in a process of transformation, and
even more dangerous for their own class [the oligarchy]." And
liberalism meant administration-Roca's administration-"the
fulfillment of the ideals of progress and enrichment."12 In
achieving these objectives the oligarchy was far from being a
consciously selfish minority intent upon choking back the rights
of other groups. There can be little doubt that the Argentine
rulers believed in the rectitude of their program. The bloody
sacrifices which had been made before 1881 in the name of
internal peace and liberty, together with the tangible benefits
accruing to the nation during the years following the federaliza-
tion of Buenos Aires, were sufficient warrant for the continued
application of the liberal creed. History had placed the Argen-
tine landowner-and the city of Buenos Aires-in a position
midway between the rich pampas and Europe. It was fitting
that the men of property should derive the principal benefits
from that coincidence. But the double impact of European
capital and immigration on the liberal Argentine ruling class
transformed a hitherto somewhat paternal creole aristocracy
into an elite increasingly isolated from the mass of the people.
The new liberalism was no longer a radical doctrine but a shield
for the privileges of an aristocracy.'3
A restricted and inflexible form of liberalism, a "sectarian
liberalism," came to the fore in Argentina after 1880. Although
historians have demonstrated that the zenith of liberalism in
England had been passed by the 188o's, it would be a rewarding
study in social dynamics to show that the lag between Argentina
and Europe was such that the Argentines did not yet perceive
that they too had lost the old liberal ilan and had begun to
retrench on the practice, if not on the theory, of liberalism.
Certainly for Argentina, just emerging on the world scene,
liberalism seemed to be an inexhaustible guide to the perfect
society, as it had been the touchstone of success for the most
powerful nation on earth. The Argentine aristocracy found
2 Jos6 Luis Romero, Las ideas political en argentina (Mxico, 1946), p. 186.
13 Romero, Las ideas, pp. 167-208.


economic collaboration with England an admirable complement
to ideologic imitation.
However, beneath the surface uniformities of sectarian liberal-
ism (under the liberal spell men even trimmed their moustaches
in the "liberal" style14) there were grave problems such as that
involving freedom of the press. Why did an oligarchic govern-
ment which maintained itself through rigged elections and
federal interventions permit the existence of a bitterly hostile
and usually free press? One of the answers to this question seems
to be that the oligarchy believed that it could counter the
opposition press with its own newspapers. Another is that in the
view of the ruling class a free press could accomplish little so
long as the instruments of political control remained in the
proper hands. There is a further consideration: the free press-
and this comes down to La Prensa and La Nacidn-was, after all,
part of the heritage of the ruling class, and the owners and
editors of these papers were members ofthat class. Freedom of the
press was a necessary condition of the intense personal struggle
for power among the members of the oligarchy; it was part of
their liberal doctrine and it was an escape valve for pressures
within the elite, as well as a means of battling the enemies of the
moment."5 Furthermore, the independent press made up for the
disservices it did to the men in power byits services as the medium
of ideas, as the purveyor of the economic doctrines of the olig-
archy, and as the chief link with European thought and economic
activity. Finally, the opposition press could be, and sometimes
was, silenced by the government. Argentine liberalism was
autocratic; it provided freedom for the press to print anything
that might contribute to the material growth of the community,
but not the freedom to report the simple fact that the adminis-
tration-controlled congress had met in secret session. 1
14 Carlos Martinez [Carlos Alfredo D'Amicol, Buenos Aires: su naturaleza, sus cos-
tumbres, sus hombres. Observaciones de un viajero desocupado (Mexico, 189o), pp. 35-36.
15 For instance, Sud Amdrica, the cruelly partisan paper of the Juarez interests,
nonetheless advocated the maintenance of unlimited freedom of the press for all
groups, despite what the editors called the "scandals of license" in which their
opponents indulged. See Sud AmIrica, February 25, 1885.
a1 In 1881 the Chamber of Deputies on its own authority jailed the editors of
several papers who had reported the holding of a secret session. See Congreso
National, Diario de sesiones de la Cdmara de Diputados, October 3, 1881, pp. 1-3.


Such peculiarities of sectarian liberalism reflected the con-
cepts of liberty, order, and progress held by the ruling elements.
In practice these good words seem to have meant liberty for
the governing class, order ("tranquillity") for the rest of the
people, and progress for the individual who could make the most
of the economic free-for-all. Political ideas, however, were not
the only European concepts which the oligarchy imported for
its own use. Social Darwinism also made its appearance, pro-
viding support for the dominant group and a ready reference
for reasons as to why the economic and political bounds of the
people should be restricted. Principal spokesmen of the aristoc-
racy such as Pellegrini insisted that the untutored masses were
unfit to assume the burdens of liberty. The time for all that
would come, of course, but for the present anarchy would be
the only result of an extension of popular freedom. The people
should be content with the guidance of the enlightened elements
in the nation. A definition that fits the Argentine aristocrat of
this era may be found in the observation that "only the nine-
teenth-century liberal could combine contempt for the common
man with faith in democracy."17 In economic matters, despite
preachments of equality of opportunity, the common man had
to run fast to keep up with those on the inside. The national
government was Janus-like in its economic policies. On one side
the president and congress employed their wide authority to
facilitate and subsidize "public works," a series of projects
which served public interest and private profit. On the other,
when it served its interests the policy of the government was a
most chaste laissez faire-no tariffs that might interfere with the
flow of trade, no labor unions to interfere with the "natural
movement" of business, and no taxes to reduce the possession
,of wealth.
Railroads, the most important exploitive agency in Argen-
tina, provide a particularly interesting example of the economic
philosophy of the day. This philosophy might be called one of
active laissez faire, so active that a principal concern of the
administration was to divest the government of the railroads it
17 Crane Brinton, "The New History Twenty-Five Years After," Journal ofSocial
.Philosophy, 1:145 (January, 1936).

owned. In earlier, less profitable times the national government
and the provinces had built and operated many of the railroads
needed to open up the country; the Juirez regime, faithful to
its liberal creed, sold these one by one to private interests. One
of the last to go was the important Ferrocarril Oeste, the most
profitable railroad in Argentina, and perhaps in the world. In
1889, congress voted to sell this line to a British company. There
was some opposition in the legislature, but not much, and
resistance was overcome by the government ministers who
appeared before the legislature to argue that a properly func-
tioning government should not interfere in economic matters,
particularly to the extent of running a railroad. In support of
this position the chief government spokesman turned to con-
temporary European liberal thought, buttressing his position
with the names and arguments of Spencer, Buckle, and Leroy-
Beaulieu. 1
There were many other achievements for liberalism in this
decade. Political administrative practice was formalized, at
least in theory; sanitation and penal codes were evolved and
promulgated with some excellent results; civil life was relatively
stabilized. Argentina even had its own Kulturkampfat this time,
when, despite intense Catholic opposition, the officially Catholic
presidents Roca and Juirez pushed through a thoroughgoing
secularization of many ecclesiastical functions. And the nation
was endowed with the capital plant that would one day make
it one of the world's greatest exporters.
Not only in the ideology of liberalism but in the whole realm
of the intellect the oligarchy was deeply in Europe's debt.
Culturally, the ruling class lived in an iron lung. Its members
looked first to France, but they did not neglect the values of
England, Germany, or Italy. Dr. Eduardo Wilde (and in this
rare case the title actually signified M.D.), Roca's Minister of
Justice and Public Instruction and long-time ambassador to
Spain and Belgium, was a student of French and English litera-
ture. Politician, diplomat, deft humorist of the oligarchy, he
was happiest living where he died-in Europe. Pellegrini
'1 Rail Scalabrini Ortiz, Historia de losferrocarriles argentinos (Buenos Aires, 1940),
pp. 48-51.


delighted in British parliamentary history and in later years was
almost as often in Paris or London as in Buenos Aires. Martin
Garcia Merou, who was Roca's personal secretary in 1885 and
B6a-ind-laTe f6f mahy years ambassador to the United States,
wrote-history-of Nr6thi Aimeirc an diplomffacy, bu Tfhe billk- of
his-literary-worlkwas-Euriif-atfravel impressions and literary
criticism. Even writers and part-time statesmen, such as Lucio
V. Mansilla, who remained faithful in their major works to
Argentine themes, worshipped in the cult of French letters.
Among the men of the Argentine upper class who combined
public life with the pursuit of letters, Miguel Cand was out-
standing. A gentleman and scholar, considered by his peers to
be their most accomplished writer, he was a man whose grand
manner and distinguished appearance proclaimed the very
model of the Argentine aristocrat. His career was typical of his
class. Born in Montevideo in 1851 during his father's exile, he
returned to Buenos Aires and studied at the Colegio Nacional,
later taking his law degree from the University. He contributed
to the newspapers, was elected deputy at the age of twenty-
four, and was appointed postal and telegraph director in Roca's
first administration. For the rest of his life he was successively
minister to Colombia, Austria, Germany, Spain, and France.
Between embassies he held two key cabinet posts-one as
Minister of the Interior, the other briefly as Foreign Minister in
the crisis of 1893. During these years he lectured frequently at
the University, published several gracious collections of travel
impressions and essays on European literature, including a
translation of Henry IV, and held a seat in the senate. He died in
Buenos Aires in 1905 and was buried in the only place where he
could properly have been laid to rest-the cemetery of the
oligarchy called the Recoleta.19
1' Biographical data for these pages are taken from Enrique Udaonda, Dic-
cionario biogrdfico argentino (Buenos Aires, 1938), and from cited books and essays.
For Cand, see Ricardo SAenz Hayes, Miguel Candy su Tiempo (1851-1905) (Buenos
Aires, 1955), Belisario J. Montero, Miguel Cane. Impresiones y recuerdos (de mi diario)
(Buenos Aires, 1928), and Anibal Ponce, La vejez de Sarmiento. Amadeo Jacques ...
Miguel Cane (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1949), pp. 195-207. On p. 195, Ponce says of
Cane: "During many years Buenos Aires saw in him its expression and its pride;
the expression and pride of a liberal bourgeoisie that handled the affairs of the
country as though they were family matters."


Cand's career contains that close relationship between politics
and letters which marked the liberal aristocrats of this era and
may still be found in Latin America to a delightful degree-
that easy movement from one's library to the national congress
and from diplomatic receptions in Paris to the university lecture
platform. But with the Argentines of this generation the link
between the pen and the power of the state was not a matter of
dabbling in alternate hobbies. It was a serious business, as Cand
himself demonstrated in 1902. In that year, a Law of Residence
of Foreigners was passed by congress and signed by President
Roca. The law in practice severely limited freedom in Argen-
tina. It was aimed primarily at anarchists, but it was also a stern
step taken by the ruling class to repress growing opposition
among the people, who were restless under the suppression and
perversion of their civil rights. The man who prepared the
original draft of this Ley de residencia, which hacked deeply at
that pillar of the Argentine constitution which was a main
source of the growth of the nation-the unfettered freedom of
foreigners to live in Argentina-was the author of the pleasant
schoolday memories of Juvenilia and the urbane critic of the
latest French poetry-Miguel Can. 20
Under the influence of the cultural orientation toward
Europe, more and more of the young men of good families were
sent abroad for schooling. Few of these boys had to write home
for money: their fathers were often no farther away than Rotten
Row or the Bois. And, if their sisters did not make the trip to
Europe, they sat at home in Buenos Aires in a dim salon amid
potted palms and heavy tapestries, reading Georges Sand,
Musset, or the Revue des Deux Mondes, and gossiping over
Parisian fashions. 21
fEven the horses in Buenos Aires were affected by the passion
for things European..Vehicular traffic in Argentina moved on
the right-hand side of the street until 1889. In that year it was

20 See Romero, Las ideas, pp. 196-I97, and Diputados, session of November 22,
1902, pp. 345-364, and session of November 27, 1902, pp. 414-416.
21 Elvira Aldao de Diaz, Reminiscencias sobre Aristdbulo del Valle (Buenos Aires,
1928), pp. 13-35, 46-51, 219-220.

decreed that traffic should proceed on the left, in the European
manner. 22
Despite such enthusiasm for civilization's benefits, Argentina
in the last two decades of the past century did not have a de-
fined intellectual class. Literature and the professions were in
the hands of the aristocracy. Artists, writers, and teachers who
supported themselves by those activities were nearly non-
existent or, if they existed, were almost unknown. The times
were not propitious for earning one's living by one's art alone;
the creative person was submerged or swept along in the tidal
wave of the almighty peso.2 3 The nearest approach to what may
be called a professional intellectual group was formed by the
man who worked on the important periodicals. It is perhaps
significant that it was Ruben Dario, a foreigner working for La
Nacidn in the early nineties, who became the center of one of
Argentina's first non-aristocratic intellectual groups. Another
literary figure of this decade who also was connected with a
periodical was Jos6 Alvarez ("Fray Mocho"). In 1898, Alvarez
founded Carasy Caretas, the Argentine Punch of long and amusing
life; in addition, he gained fame with his witty stories of the
native scene. And in this same period Juan A. Garcia and
Agustin Alvarez began their sharp attacks on the imperfections
of Argentine society, a warning of the intense social criticism
which would later emerge as the most important activity of
Argentine intellectuals. But this would come only after the turn
of the century. Meanwhile, the authors of the Generation of
Eighty continued to write their gentle essays, typified by the
fragile work of Wilde and Can6, men who were loyal to the
code of peace and progress which their class upheld.
The world of the oligarchs grew calmer in the eighties as the
storms of the past diminished. As the directing class became

22 Luis Canepa, El Buenos Aires de antafo, en el cuarto centenario de sufundacidn, 1536-
1936 (Buenos Aires, 1936), p. I2.
It is no small indication of the nationalistic revolution which Argentina under-
went between the I88o's and the 1940's (and of the gearing of Argentina to the
American auto) that, in 1945, General Per6n, who was in effective power, restored
to Argentina's avenues and alleys the old pattern of traffic.
23 Estanislao S. Zeballos, "La crisis del gobierno y del pais," Revista de Derecho,
Historiay Letras, afio II, tomo 5, Jan. 1900, p. 450.


more and more successful, characteristics of a closed elite began
to appear. There were still rough edges to society in this hectic
decade, but the lords of the pampas and of Buenos Aires had
begun that imitative process which would in a few years make
them strikingly similar to their cherished model, the English
SThe education of the youths of the upper class was a continua-
tion of already close relationships sprung from the inter-
marriage of a small number of families. Childhood playmates
continued as schoolmates in Buenos Aires. Then came the
university. Some of the young men stayed at home, others went
abroad, to English or German universities, or studied under
French tutors. Then, and on the numerous European trips of
later life, these men traveled on the same ships, stayed at the
best hotels, joined good clubs, and stopped at the same fashion-
able spas. At home they imposed a pattern of town and country
life on their common heritage of political leadership and landed
wealth. Their town houses had mansard roofs and handsome
iron fences and sweeping marble stairways; their estancia houses
had gables, half-timbering, and swan-dotted ponds.
The Argentine aristocrats were bound together by blood and
history and by the circumscribed lives they led. The same gentle-
men who in the morning nodded through a Te Deum, seated in
their red plush chairs ranged in facing rows along the central
aisle of the cathedral, and who exchanged grave bows from
their passing carriages in the afternoon at Palermo, dined and
wined together elegantly that evening at the Jockey Club,
and continued their discussions next morning on the floor of
one of their other two clubs-the national congress or the stock
The death of one of their number brought them together with
magnetic certainty in a black-clad huddle at the graveside in
the Recoleta. Always in the Recoleta. Here, in this city of tombs,
generations of aristocrats have taken up residence in mausoleums
magnificently adorned, built on lots no less fashionably located
than the ones their owners enjoyed in life. By the bier of the
hero-for each of the fallen became briefly a hero in the
Recoleta-the living gathered, and manly tears were wept, as


the ringing tones of eulogies broke the quiet air under the
cypresses, looking out across the wide gleaming river.
These Argentines had an Old World Spanish emotionalism
and a formidable ritual of death, but they were New World and
American in other matters. The men of the Generation of
Eighty not only changed the direction of traffic in Buenos Aires
-they began to rebuild the city. Under the vigorous intendant,
Torcuato de Alvear, scion of one of the important families, the
Avenida de Mayo was driven through the heart of the city in
the last years of the decade. The Avenida was tree-lined and
possessed a novelty in sidewalks wide enough for whole families..
Shaped in the style of the Champs Elysees and the Boulevard
des Italiens, this stately street nevertheless met with the cus-
tomary public resistance to civic improvements. "Who ever
heard," the good citizens said when Alvear's workmen began
the record-breaking demolition of the ill-smelling Recova Vieja,
half of the historic Cabildo, and another twenty blocks of build-
ings-"Who ever heard of making a street where building,
are?" But the Argentines who ran the country had ayanqui haste
about them and the avenue was laid out and other public\
projects undertaken with a breadth of planning and a speed
which destroyed worthwhile landmarks but gave to Buenos
Aires the fine prospects it possesses today.
The public life of the upper class took on new dignities com-
mensurate with the growth of their wealth and their city. On
the appointed days of national celebration, the president led his
cabinet, the diplomatic corps, and all the other leaders of the
nation in a short but solemn procession from the Casa Rosada
to the cathedral on an adjoining side of the Plaza de Mayo,
where each top-hatted dignitary could give thanks for his own
blessings and the prosperity of the nation. Another event of
significance was the running of the annual Gran Premio at
Palermo's Hip6dromo-which was opened in 1883, the year
after the founding of the Jockey Club. This event called forth
some of the spirit and many of the costumes appropriate to
Derby Day-not a surprising similarity, since the decision to
found the Jockey Club in Buenos Aires was made by Pellegrini,
Cane, and one or two others as they dined together in Paris after


attending the Derby at Chantilly.24 But of all the solemn occa-
sions which in these years attained the importance of national
rituals the one uniquely Argentine was the day when the presi-
dent and his entourage appeared at the fair grounds in Palermo
to inaugurate the annual livestock exposition of the Sociedad
Rural. Here the wealth and power of the nation paid tribute to
the animals that sustained them; here each year the upper class
studied the steadily rising barometer of success in the prices paid
for its prize sheep, cattle, and horses.
Occasionally some member of society broke through the
bounds of class good conduct. Such a man was Fabian G6mez
y Anchorena, heir of vast wealth and intimate of Alfonso XII
of Spain, who created him Count of Castafia. This Argentine
nobleman could not endure the weight of his palace in Buenos
Aires, with its hoard of Gobelins, masterworks of art, and gold-
encrusted fountain; his life was bizarre beyond sanity and ended
in impecuniosity on a small family stipend. This was a fate
probably not shared by one of his lawyers, to whom G6mez
graciously gave as a fee for legal services the deed to his favorite
estancia, "La Pampita," eight square leagues (approximately
seventy-five square miles) of land near Mar del Plata.25
G6mez may have been one of a type within the upper class,
but his qualities were not those which his peers held in esteem.
The authority of the oligarchy centered in shrewd, hard-driving
Semen like Roca, Pellegrini, and Bernardo de Irigoyen. Pelle-
Sgrini was in many ways the most interesting of this trio. To his
friends and to the public he was "El Gringo." His English blood
(he was the grandnephew ofJohn Bright) overcame his French
and Italian parentage and was borne out in his blue eyes,
craggy face, and unusual height. He was more robust in spirit,
as he was in body, than many of his reserved portefio colleagues.
He dressed as handsomely as they and shared their proclivity
for pinching pretty girls, but he could also deliver a jolting slap
on the back to some unsuspecting friend, which was distinctly
not a customary local gesture.
24 [Carlos] Pellegrini: Obras, precedidas de un ensayo biogrdfico por Agustin Rivero
Astengo (5 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1941), II, 343.
25 Pilar de Lusarreta, Cinco dandys [sic] portefios (Buenos Aires, 1943), pp. 1oo-o01,


In 1876-77, Pellegrini made the first of many trips to Europe.
When he returned he plunged into the political maneuvers of
the "Conciliation," emerging with the friendship and admira-
tion of Avellaneda and Roca. Minister of War and the Navy in
Avellaneda's Belgrano government in 1880, he had a decisive
part in that rump government's triumph over the revolutionary
forces of Buenos Aires. National senator from 1881 to 1883, his
first action was the introduction of a bill to found a national
bank; his second measure was a bill to create a legislative com-
mittee to investigate the financial condition of the republic.26
In 1885, Roca sent Pellegrini to the bankers of London and
Paris to convince them-perhaps "guarantee" is a more accur-
ate word-that Argentina was good security for additional loans.
The forty-two million pound Baring Brothers' loan of that year
is testimony both to the qualities of Argentina and of its engag-
ing Anglo-Franco-Italian emissary. Upon his return from
Europe, Pellegrini was appointed Minister of War by President
Roca. In 1886 he emerged as vice-president of the nation from
a closely controlled election which must have reinforced the
already high confidence of the London money market in its
Argentine creditor. But, although he was vice-president under
Juirez throughout the years of the great speculation which fol-
lowed, Pellegrini had too keen a knowledge of men and money
to become enmeshed in the conspiracy of corruption that ulti-
mately brought on the revolution of 1890.27
This did not mean that Pellegrini was favorably disposed to
the political party which was organized in 1890 under the
meaningful name Uni6n Civica. This party was formed by
popular leaders such as Alem, whose political strength lay in the
crowded barrios of Buenos Aires and with the growing middle
class, and by dissident older leaders such as Mitre, who were
disgusted with the political reaction and corruption practised by
the unicato-the single-party Juirez rule. That there was a
profound difference between these two merging elements, the
old and the new, was proved by their early split, but at the
26 Pellegrini, Obras, II, 26-27.
27 Paul Groussac, Los que pasaban: Jose Manuel Estrada, Pedro Goyena, Nicolds
Avellaneda, Carlos Pellegrini, Roque Sdenz Pena (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, x939), pp.


outset they agreed on the need for implementing Argentina's
democratic constitution and enfranchising those whose right to
vote had been long denied or perverted. Vice-president Pelle-
grini took a different view of matters. He could not stomach the
ruin of the national credit which the Juirez clique was consum-
mating, but beyond that his political philosophy was cut from
the same cloth as that of the majority of the class to which he
In November 1889, shortly after the first meeting of the
future Uni6n Civica, Pellegrini said, "This Uni6n Civica de
laJuventud is a summons to disorder and anarchy-formidable
and indestructible factors in our history. It will cause us
trouble." On other occasions he stated that he did not believe
that the Argentine people were ready for free suffrage; that to
give them electoral liberty would be like placing a firearm in the
hands of a child and that therefore the existing tutelary regime
must be continued. In Pellegrini's opinion, the best way to
reform Argentine politics-he did have to admit that reform
was needed-was to select good provincial governors who would
in turn send worthy men to the national congress.28 Good
would thus automatically supplant bad, although the electoral
process was left considerably befogged by this prescription.
The modest reforms advocated by Pellegrini and the passivity
of the views which he expressed were characteristic of the
oligarchy's conservative political philosophy. Apparently as
firm in control of the government as they were of the resources
of the nation, the Generation of Eighty accepted and used the
"affluence of foreign capital and the fecund flood of the venal
masses." Progress was also their god. In pursuing wealth, in
imitating Europe's ways, the Argentine aristocrats were them-
selves prime forces in reshaping their past and creating modern
28 Groussac, Los que pasaban, pp. 311, 349; Aldao de Diaz, Reminisciencias, pp.


The Generation of Eighty: Pride and Optimism

DESPITE the influence which Europe exercised upon them, the
Argentine aristocrats seldom faltered in their devotion to their
own country. Many immigrants to Argentina also fell under the
curious spell which the land exercises. Perhaps this spirit has
been best expressed in a novel of the period-Grandmontagne's
Los inmigrantes prdsperos. Don Gabino is sailing back to visit his
native Spain, whence he had emigrated many years before; he '
is returning in wealth to the little village he left in poverty.
Gabino's life has been dedicated to the accumulation of pesos; .
other values have had little meaning for him. But, as he stands
by the rail of the ship pulling away from the great white expanse
of Buenos Aires, he voices in a moment of emotion the hidden
feeling of the years: "Tira much esa tierra"-"How strongly
that land draws one back."
What is the origin of this patriotic and sentimental attach-
ment shared alike by new and old Argentines? The answer
seems to lie in the powerful pride and optimism which has long
possessed the Argentine people. These qualities in part arise
from certain historical and physical facts; in part from less
assessable but perhaps no less important considerations of
temperament and social myth. The psychological constitution
of the Argentine people is not a subject to be dealt with here,
although it is impossible not to wonder to what extent it is
the sensitive and recalcitrant Spanish temperament, reinforced
by Italian emotionalism, which accounts for the strong solution
of aggressive pride which Argentines have been distilling for
years. On the side of history, however, one may suggest that
events at the beginning of the nineteenth century had such an
impact on Argentine thought that a prideful national myth was

established, to be amplified through the traditions learned by
successive generations.
The first of these events was the defeat in i806 of a strong
British attempt to seize Buenos Aires and the colony of which
it was the head. Unexpectedly, the ragged troops and angry
.' i people of the city expelled the numerous, battle-hardened
S invaders. Bitter at their defeat in this coveted temperate land,
the British returned to Buenos Aires in 1807 with a powerful
fleet and an army of I I,ooo regulars. This attack also was
S smashed by the aroused citizens of the weak Spanish vice-
royalty. Two victories over mighty Britain! What proof to these
colonials of their valor and glorious destiny! Three years later
the Argentine war for independence began in Buenos Aires, to
lead eventually to the expulsion of Spain from the countries of
the Rio de la Plata. Little wonder that Mariano Moreno, the
Sam Adams of the Argentine revolution and a confirmed Rous-
seauist, cried out: "Since nature has created us for great things,
we have begun to do them." From this time on "a new con-
sciousness, overladen with self-esteem, motivated the criolla
minority and masses."
The particular circumstances of their revolution gave impetus
to legitimate national pride. The great Argentine leader San
Martin not only won independence for his own country but, by
his famous crossing of the Andes and subsequent battles, made
possible the liberation of Chile and Peru. Thus was established
an historic thesis which has grown with the years: that Argen-
tina had liberated the greatest part of the Spanish continent and
had created the basis for a united America. Two generations
later this theme found expression in the first issue of Sud America
(May 5, 1884), the Juarez newspaper. In an editorial declara-
tion of faith written, in all probability, by Saenz Pefia and
Pellegrini, these leaders of the Generation of Eighty voiced their
Argentine doctrine of Americanism:
The men of May cast the Argentine revolution in an essentially
American form; it was the idea of America that agitated Buenos
lJos6 Luis Romero, Las ideas political en Argentina (Mexico, 1946), p. 68. See also
Ricardo Levene, ed., El pensamiento vivo de Mariano Moreno presetitado por Ricardo
Levene (Buenos Aires, 1942), p. 54.


Aires, Santiago, Lima, Caracas, Bogota, and Mexico; there was a
South American policy proclaimed by the revolution ... When our
fathers invoked their nationality, the name American was the first
they employed to distinguish themselves from Europe This is
the principle that we come to uphold, yet without forgetting con-
stantly to safeguard the interests which the Argentine Republic must
defend on its own soil and beyond in the broad scene of the South
American nations.

This expression oF-Anirican internationalism-and, incident-
,ally, of Arg ciuie leadership-was to be more closely defined
five years later at the First Pan American Conference, where
one of the delegates of the Juarez-Pellegrini administration was
Roque Saenz Pefia.
The glorious revolution of May was followed by years of
internal turmoil and the hiatus of the Rosas regime. After the
fall of the dictator the nation resumed its struggle toward the
goal which its founders had set: the development of the econo-
mic resources of the land under a liberal government. Argentine
statesmen and historians turned back to praise the country's
early achievements and to foretell a brilliant future. This bur-
geoning pride was founded not only on the increasing wealth of
the nation but also on what were to the Argentines obvious
advantagecs of geography and population. Byi88o, Argentina
thought of itself as the only great white nation of South America.
Clilw aas way across the An--des-(far away from Buenos
Aires, at least), and in reality was no more of a threat to
Argentina, despite her "Prussian" reputation, than were the
Indian lands to Argentina's north-Bolivia and Paraguay.
Uruguay was a miniature nation; some Argentines persisted in
referring to it as a lost province of Argentina. Brazil-Brazil was
beyond the jungles and the seas, and besides-think of the colors
of her people! Thus the Argentine upper class conceived a
splendid isolation, based not only on its wealth but also on the
popular doctrine of the superiority of the white race.
A sign of Argentina's increasing national pride was the resist-
ance which developed in the eighties to the use-or misuse-of
"South American," words which many Argentines took to be a
European deprecation by which all the barbarians of the Latin

tAmerican republics were disdainfully lumped together. Argen-
" ina wished to avoid even a verbal merger with the smaller and
darker countries. She wanted desperately to be a nation. It was
in a spirit of cha~en-IgeThi~fth oungleaders of the Argentine
aristocracy deliberately selected the name for the newspaper
that they founded-Sud AmIrica-and in its first issue proudly
proclaimed that conservatism and good credit would open the
road to peace and order.
Other words were used: "race," "the place we deserve,"
"honor," and "Europe." The years after 1880 were good to this
class and these words meant much. The Argentine leaders began
to believe that they had passed beyond the dark period of
revolutions. Proud as they were of their past, they began to take
even greater pride in their present achievements. Sud Amdrica's
editors complained (March 7, 1885) that if there was a revolu-
tion in Bogota, Europeans thought that Buenos Aires was on
the verge of civil war. Such a misconception grieved the men
who were at last convinced that progress was indeed perpetual
-and that Argentina was due for its share. An aggressive note
entered into the expressions of national pride which flowed
faster and faster from the lips and pens of the leaders of the
republic. The eighteenth century had given to their grand-
fathers its doctrine of indefinite progress; 2 from their fathers the
Generation of Eighty inherited not only this belief, but evidence
of its truth. From Buenos Aires the rulers of the land looked
outward, seeing poorer neighboring nations across the backs of
herds of fat cattle and flocks of sheep and across widening fields
of golden grain. And beyond the sea they saw rich markets. In
the shimmering perspectives of pampas, broad Plata, and ocean,
everything lost size and importance except the nearest objects,
the products of their soil and of their labor. From this mood of
prosperity and expansion grew an idea often expressed from
the eighties onward: the future of mankind would be settled in
the New World. Ernesto Quesada in his Nueva Revista de Buenos
Aires expressed the attitude of his generation when he wrote:
"The attention of thinking men throughout the whole world is
SJuan A. Garfda, La ciudad indiana. (Buenos Aires desde z6oo hasta mediados del siglo
XVIII) (5th ed.; Buenos Aires, n.d. [rgoo]), pp. 220-221.


fixed here [on America], for here the destinies of humanity are
being worked out."3 And two more sober commentators on the
Argentine scene-both of them soon to be important figures in
the government of the country-expressed a similar opinion. In
an article written in 1888, Norberto Pifiero and Eduardo L.
Bidau wrote: "The Argentine Republic now counts among the
number of civilized nations. Europe and the United States are
observing with curiosity and interest the advances which we are
making in varied directions."'
The implication in such utterances was not a new one. Argen-l|
tines have long known that they have a rendezvous with destiny./I
This knowledge is born of what one scholar called "that formid'
able optimism which has been at once the force and the opiate
of the Argentine people."5 So important a witness as President
Avellaneda has testified to the obstinacy of this vision. "Our
people," he wrote, "were born possessed of the opinion of their
greatness, whether because of an infantile hallucination of
pride, or because of some revelation of their destinies."6 (The
president was not so unpolitic and so un-Argentine as to omit
the latter possibility.) And Juan A. Garcia, one of the most
severe critics of his generation, wrote that, "As a basis of pride
and self-love ... there was the sentiment of the grandness of the
More recent critics, holding provocative if sometimes uncer-
tain theories of social psychology, have found a serious basis for
the idea which Avellaneda no doubt expressed jokingly: that the

3 Ernesto Quesada, "El Congreso Literario Latino-Americano y el americanis-
mo," Nueva Revista de Buenos Aires, 3:303 (March 1882).
4Norberto Pifiero and Eduardo L. Bidau, "Historia de la Universidad de Buenos
Aires," Anales de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, I (1888), 5.
5 Octavio R. Amadeo in his prologue to Leopoldo Lugones, Roca (Buenos Aires,
1938), p. 29.
6 Octavio R. Amadeo, Vidas argentinas ... (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1934), p. 139.
7 Garcia, La ciudad indiana, p. 218.
Agustin Alvarez, in a book which he revealingly entitled, in English, South
America, lashed at the false system of education which prevailed in Argentina in the
eighties and nineties, by which successive generations of students were instilled with
a shallow but exaggerated belief in the glory and destiny of their country and
indoctrinated with an excessive sense of personal and national honor. See Agustin
Alvarez, South America. Ensayo de psicologia political (Buenos Aires, 19 8; first pub-
lished 1894), pp. 59-61.

Argentine people have truly been the victims of a hallucination.
These writers maintain that there is a connection between the
vast optimism which undeniably characterizes the people and
the equally vast distances that stretch before them, distances
which throughout the country's history have induced the scanty
populace to.exercise a limitless imagination upon the glorious
individual and national destinies lying beyond the horizon.
Beyond that hazy line where the purple pampas waver with
the heat up into the blue sky (Argentines insist that their sky
is a different blue from any other, and so, indeed, it seems to be),
the first settlers believed that golden cities lay, whose conquest
would bring to the victors long-dreamed-of wealth and fame.
The City of the Caesars was Argentina's El Dorado, a mirage
beckoning in a land of disappointment where there was no gold,
no silver, no Indian masses. It was a dream of distances--dis-
tances never really explored until after the middle of the last
century when the narrowly encompassing Indian frontier was at
last driven back and obliterated. Suddenly the dream was made
real. Gold was found on every side, on every square league of
fertile soil. The vision became fact. The urge for aggrandize-
ment, the desire for wealth and power so long deferred, could
now be satisfied by the conquest of land and animals. Argen-
tina would count for something in the world. So too would
Buenos Aires. When colonial Lima and Mexico City had been
regal capitals, Buenos Aires had been a dirty hamlet. The
image of hidden wealth and the faith that it would be discovered
had helped to keep alive the dream of a Buenos Aires that would
one day surpass in size and in luxury all the cities of Latin
SNorth Americans may recognize something of themselves in
These historic Argentine traits. There are obvious geographic
\\and social resemblances between the two nations; consequently,
Some of their attitudes seem similar. Inhabitants of the United
States are not the only people who have had, and perhaps still
S have, a manifest destiny, just as the United States is not the only
country to possess a great west-a west so rich and wide that
8 Ezequiel Martinez Estrada, Radiografia de la pampa (2 vols.; Buenos Aires,
1942), 1, 9-31, 194-197.


trains rolling across the endless plains had to lower their cow
catchers to smash through slow-moving herds of animals-bison
in the United States, sheep and cattle in Argentina.
The two countries grew at roughly the same time and in
much the same way. But the United States was more advanced
than Argentina and therefore served as a model to some Argen-
-tinele~eders A few of the leaders of the generation of Caseros
borrowed directly from North America-Alberdi in constitu- 1
tionallaw, for example, and Sarmiento in educational method.
After 1880, however, Argentines were busy with the practical JY 0d
application of these past borrowings and with their own expand-
ing frontiers and trade. Their attitude toward the United States
changed from awe for the republican giant of the New World /
to a bold assertion that Argentina would someday be just as rich/I
and busy as the land of the Yankees. Even Sarmiento's attitude-
changed. Where once he had been the goad of his people, urging
them to imitate the United States, his message now became a
strident challenge-a promise that the goal was in sight. His
last written words (1888) were: "We shall reachthelevelof the
United States. We shall be AmErica-as the sea is the ocean. We
shall-befitheUnited States." By 1890, in a prize essay sponsored
by the Sociedad Rural, the assembled estancieros were assured
that Argentina possessed material conditions superior to those
of the United States, and would someday be greater.10
La Prensa, cosmopolitan and traditional, took a somewhat less
challenging stand which blended the old respect for the repub-
lican virtues of the United States with a desire to duplicate that
nation's stunning economic growth. In a lengthy editorial in
1886, La Prensa utilized the United States as a club with which
to beat the oligarchy. Under the title "El Gran Modelo" the
editors wrote: "We [Argentines] take pride in the triumph of
the free institutions of North America, but we forget to study
the secret of victory, which is none other than liberty The
Argentine Republic ought to aspire to grow like the United
8 D. F. Sarmiento, Obras de D. F. Sarmiento, ed. by A. Belin Sarmiento. Tomos
XXXVII and XXXVIII: Conflictosy armonias de las razas en Amhrica (Buenos Aires,
1900oo), XXXVIII, 421.
10 Alois E. Fliess, El present y el porvenir Argentina (Buenos Aires, 189o), pp.
7-10, 61-69.


States, and not in the manner, and with the elements, of France,
England, and Germany.""
Argentina in the eighties seemed to have good grounds for
i .his-hope of matching the-United States. Argentina was big,
,her soil was fertile, and immigrants were pouring-into-the
country at a rate relatively greater than that of the United
States. The constitution urged the men of the whole world to
come to live in Argentina. Of coal and oil and minerals not
much had yet been discovered, but what Argentine could doubt
that his towering Andes would soon surrender their wealth to
the relentless progress of the nation? Why should Argentina be
deprived of that which lesser lands such as Bolivia and Peru
possessed in abundance?
These were the dreams of the eighties. Despite La Prensa, the
United States was no longer an overpowering model of political
virtues which had to be mimicked, nor was it yet a giant whose
own growth would perpetually outdistance that of the smaller
southern land. The United States was merely a distant challenge.
Foreign travelers to Argentina in these years were unanimous
in relating the feverish activity and conspicuous materialism
which marked this "coming" land. There was Theodore Child,
for instance, an American visitor of I890, who took a rather
critical view (perhaps remembering that foreign eyes had but
recently found the United States wanting in the graces of
civilization). Yet Child's shafts were blunted. To him the streets
of Buenos Aires were unutterably noisy and congested-but full
of energetic people getting things done. The hotels and restaur-
ants of the city were disappointing after all that one had heard
about this progressive capital-one must have recourse to the
really large establishments before one finds a suitable cuisine
and accommodations. The country is wealthy-no doubt of
that: "the jewellers of Paris and of London do not make a more
brilliant display of costly jewels than their colleagues of the
Calle Florida." But Child came closest to an accurate description
11 September 12, i886. This editorial ended with the customary Cassandra-like
warning of economic collapse. If the government continues to borrow at the present
rate, wrote the editors, "before the end of the century all its income will not suffice
to pay the interest on the debt." La Prensa overestimated the government's solvency
by ten years.


of braggart, bustling Buenos Aires when he pronounced his
decision: "So much luxury and so little real comfort." 2
An English traveler named Turner, whose account of Argen-
tina in the years from 1885 to 1890 might cause a reader to think
that the author had lost a considerable sum of money in the
crash of the latter year, is even more unflattering. The Argen-
tine male, he reports,

... is taught to believe that he is born to be a ruler in a great and
mighty land to which the nations shall by and by play the part of
the sun, the moon and the stars ... In reality only half civilized, the
Argentine aspires to be considered the peer of the modern Parisian
... He is a copyist, an imitator of all that is showy and shallow, a
Frenchman without the thrift or talent of the Frenchman. Distinct
nationality he has none; if he had he would still be wearing his
poncho and eating puchero [stew]. He studies engineering and his plans
are unsafe unless revised by a foreigner. He studies law and frames
acts which plunge the country into turmoil. He studies finance,
sweeps the banks away, and sacks the treasuries.

This English writer damns the city as well as its citizen:
"Buenos Aires, with its rank materialism, sordid avarice and
gross sensuality; its ungodly, unsociable, hybrid population; its
showy finery and superficial veneer of civilization."13
Another attitude was struck by William E. Curtis, an Ameri-
can who was later to play a part in Pan American affairs. After
a whirlwind tour of Latin America in 1884, which included a
day in Buenos Aires, Curtis wrote a large book in which he
declared: "Buenos Ayres is the most enterprising, prosper-
ous and wealthy city in South America-a regular Chicago-
the only place in the whole continent where people seem to be
in a hurry." Curtis summed up his observations in a phrase
which must have rung pleasantly in Argentine ears: "The

12 Theodore Child, The Spanish American Republics (New York, 1891), pp. 261-
264, 278.
13 Thomas A. Turner, Argentina and the Argentines: Notes and Impressions ofa Five
Years' Sojourn in the Argentine Republic, i885-9o (London, 1892), pp. vii-viii, 147.
The Argentine male has long been a source of considerable wonder to the men of
other lands. For a biting attack on his own sex, see Martinez Estrada, Radiografla,
II, 124-128.

Argentine Republic will some day become a formidable rival of
the United States."14
Here again was the challenge of the United States, this time
echoed by a foreigner, and a North American at that. How
impressive seemed the course of the nation when to such senti-
ments were added the measured words of one of France's most
distinguished economic geographers, Vavasseur, who wrote:
"The Argentine Republic, which occupies in the temperate zone
Sof South America a position analogous to that of the United
States in North America, may dream, if not of equal power, at
least of a similar future." 1
Travelers' accounts of Argentina were reinforced by im-
posing geographies published in these years. The most extensive
were Daireaux's two volumes, Vida y costumbres en El Plata
(Buenos Aires, 1888), and Latzina's Giographie. The former was
more than a physical geography: it was a social, political, his-
torical, economic survey calculated to make the heart of any
Argentine-and perhaps of any European investor-beat faster.
The two most powerful men in the nation, Roca and Mitre,
placed their imprimatur on these volumes, apparently pleased
with such chapters as "Public Credit and Private Wealth" and
"Virgin Lands and Cattle." Latzina's appraisal was more
formal, more scientific. There one may find a multitude of
statistics, ranging from those pertaining to railroads to an im-
possibly exact enumeration of all the foundlings cared for by
Buenos Aires institutions since 1779.
The turbulent decade of the eighties was filled with the con-
fusion of good taste and the grotesque which marks a young,
fast-growing nation. The well-to-do had not yet had time to
develop a suitable watering place in their own country, but
toward the end of the decade they began to make a fashionable
resort out of the rocky beaches and bare hills of Mar del Plata
on the Atlantic. As late as 1892, the new bathing resort was still
"a straggling place, dangerous for bathing and possessing hardly

14 William E. Curtis, The Capitals of Spanish America (New York, 1888), pp. 549,
b1 Francisco Latzina, Glographie de la Republique Argentine. Avec une introduction
par M. E. Vavasseur (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1890), p. xxvi.


any attraction." Even the British had not yet established them-
selves. Hurlingham, later to become the British suburb of Buenos
Aires, with golf courses and polo fields and estates, was still
merely "a favorite rendezvous on holidays for races, athletic
sports, etc.," where "several Englishmen have built cottages."16
At the same time, in the Boca, the Buenos Aires waterfront slum
where many of the immigrants ended up, fires, floods, and
epidemics were regular occurrences, little heeded by a govern-
ment and people with their eyes set on the future. How could
one be interested in the Boca when great things were being
accomplished daily a few miles away in the town of Quilmes,
where, at the Highland Scot Canning Company, "five hundred
horned cattle can be killed, cut up and tinned in 2z hours, and
at the close not a vestige is left of the operation"?17 And al-
though the wine cellars of the Jockey Club were being filled
with the French vintages that would one day make them per-
haps the best in the world, the exterior of the building suc-
cumbed to the uncertain electrical taste of the era; the entire
facade was outlined by rows of naked electric light bulbs-an
object of admiration and a lesson in luxury, but hardly a tribute
to the taste of the distinguished gentlemen who entered the
brass-bound portals and trod the crimson carpets.
If this decade were not a golden age, it seemed to the Argen,.
tine aristocrats to be its dawn. Provincial yet cosmopolitan; \
proud of their land and themselves yet quick to imitate the ways
of other lands and other men; eager for internal peace yet on
the verge of a bloody revolution; liberal in economic matters
but conservative in politics; sensitive to the nuances of European
culture yet adolescent in its domestic application; proud of their
history, but prouder of their future-such were the men of the
remarkable Generation of Eighty who brought Argentina onto
the stage of world affairs.
'1 M. G. and E. T. Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plate, Comprising the Argentine
Republic ... (6th ed.; Buenos Aires, 1892), pp. 86, 98-99.
17 Mulhall, Handbook, p. 95.

Argentina in Latin America, 1880-1889

THE men who ruled Argentine society, controlled the economy,
and made and unmade governments were also the masters of
Ithe nation's foreign policy. The management of foreign relations
was administratively, morally, and for material reasons the
oligarchy's possession. Administratively, because the aristocracy
alone had the capacity for the practice of diplomacy according
to Europe's weighty tradition of statecraft. Morally, because
neither the criollo masses nor the swarms of immigrants con-
ceived of Argentina in international terms. After I88o it was
only the topmost social class that saw the republic's growing
international importance. And in material terms because the
nation lived by foreign trade. Trade was in the hands of the
oligarchy; so too were relations with the trading nations.
Europe and commerce became synonymous in Argentina as
the nineteenth century entered its last decades. Economic ties
between the other states of Latin America and Argentina were
insignificant relative to the volume of European trade. It is
the growth of this unbalanced trade that is a condition for
understanding Argentina's political attitude toward the rest of
Latin America during the years after independence. Argentina
had ample opportunity to participate in political activities with
the other Latin American states, but chose to follow its own
course. So, when the United States appeared on the scene in
the eighties, hauling the chariot of a revived Pan Americanism 2
1 Francisco Latzina, La Argentina considerada en sus aspectosfisico, social econdmico
(2 vols.; Buenos Aires, 1902), II, 512-513.
2 There are two Pan American movements. The first was that of the middle years
of the nineteenth century, launched by Bolivar in the Congress of Panama in 1826.
Bolivar's romantic scheme is treated in James B. Lockey, Pan Americanism, Its
Beginnings (New York, g92o).


the rulers of Argentina were ready to meet the apparent
challenge with a set of principles and practices developed in
dealing with Latin America and Europe.
Despite the claims which Argentines make for their efforts
in the struggle to create inter-American unity-an idea which
they maintain originated in its true form with Monteagudo,
Moreno, and San Martin3-an examination of the chief occa-
sions of cooperation between the LaUtin American states during
niost ofthe nineteenth century shows that the Argentine record
is o6ieTf a-sentee-ism and opposition. This attitude was founded
orna cautious appraisaliof the iincetainties of South American
political life, and nourished by a desire to preserve unimpaired
the nation's hard-won sovereignty.
The portefios-for it was they who controlled the foreign
affairs of the state from its inception--displayed in 1823 theX
emerging Argentine policy toward the other states of the con-/\
tinent. In that year Argentina signed a treaty of friendship and
defense with Colombia. The Colombian government wished to
extend the treaty into a sort of collective security arrangement
embracing other parts of America; Rivadavia, the Argentine
Minister of Foreign Affairs, refused to go beyond specific com-
mitments to Colombia alone. He regarded a wider agreement
as impractical in view of the disturbed conditions prevailing in
many parts of South America. The Argentine government also
mistrusted the possible hegemony of Bolivar and his Gran
Colombia, an apparently powerful state composed of what are
now the republics of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. 4
Argentina was soon offered a more tangible opportunity to
assist in constructing a Spanish American political union. This
3 La political international de la Nacidn Argentina. Absoluta identidad de su tradicidny sus
principios con los sustentados en el Acto de Chapultepec, la Declaracidn de Mixico, la Decara-
cidn de las Naciones Unidasy la Carta del Atldntico. Repfiblica Argentina. Ministerio del
Interior. Subsecretarfa de Informaciones. Comp. and ed. by Carlos Alberto Silva
(Buenos Aires, 1946), pp. vii-xi, 5, 1o-z6; Ricardo Levene, ed., Historia de la
Nacidn Argentina (desde los origins hasta la organizacidn definitive en 1862) (o1 vols. in 15;
Buenos Aires, 1936-50), VI (third part, second section), 599-600 (chapter by
Humberto A. Mandelli); Robert N. Burr and Roland D. Hussey, eds., Documents on
Inter-American Cooperation (2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1955), I, 42-47.
4 Political international, p. 2I; Victor Andres Beladnde, Bolivar and the Political
Thought of the Spanish American Revolution (Baltimore, 1938), pp. 261-262.


was Bolivar's Congress of Panama of 1826, called by the Libera-
tor to establish a council of American states. Argentina was not
represented at this first Pan American meeting. The Argentine
chief executive faintly endorsed the dispatch of a delegation to
the congress, on grounds of expediency, but the legislature let
the matter die. Here again the shaky domestic situation and
fear of foreign entanglements prevented participation by the
most powerful state of southern South America in a visionary
attempt to build a common political structure out of a common
The next significant congress of the first, and more idealistic,
Pan American movement took place in Lima in 1847. Although
overly optimistic and ultimately unproductive, this conference
had a clear purpose: to devise means of repelling existing and
threatening foreign aggressions. Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia,
and New Granada (Colombia) attended. Argentina was invited
but did not attend. The excuse given by the Rosas government
was paradoxical: "The extraordinary circumstances in which
the republic finds itself... do not permit it to occupy itself
with this matter, which for its magnitude and importance
demands serious and profound meditation and calm."" The
"extraordinary circumstances" consisted of the armed interven-
tion of England and France in the affairs of Argentina, a precise
example of the reason behind the calling of the conference which
Argentina refused to attend.
Nine years later the idea of an American confederation was
again revived. In 1856 the Continental Treaty was signed by re-
presentatives of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, and later by Bolivia,
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay.

5 Political, international, pp. 22-23; Levene, Historia,VI (third part, second section),
There is similarity between the records of the United States and Argentina in the
matter of non-participation in the Panama Congress. Both governments were more
concerned with domestic and European affairs than with Bolivar's plans. Conse-
quently, while both appointed plenipotentiaries to the assembly, not one of them
arrived at the meeting. One of the United States representatives died en route, the
other arrived after the congress had adjourned. The Argentine delegate did not
depart from Buenos Aires.
8 Congress americanos de Lima. Recop. de documents pr6logo por Alberto
Ulloa (2 vols.; Lima, 1938), I, 181-182.


By this treaty the signatories agreed to respect the integrity
of their territories, to refrain from hostile acts until the means
of pacific settlement of their disputes were exhausted, and
to establish uniform procedures with regard to their mutual
trade, the application of private law, and the exercise of the
professions.7 When Argentina was asked to sign the treaty,
Urquiza, head of the government, refused. He stated that the
cause of peace would be more effectively served by bilateral
treaties, and implied that the Continental Treaty was ill-
conceived in the light of the isolation of the South American
states.8 Thus, Urquiza lengthened the precedent of Moreno,
Rivadavia, and Las Heras, who had all pointed to the practical
limitations on Spanish American idealism.
Argentina is a land whose history is marked by numerous
periods of crisis or development followed by abrupt denoue-
ments. 1862 was such a moment. In that year the relatively
strong administration of General Mitre took office, and Buenos
Aires reassumed a dominant role in the nation after a long
struggle with the provinces. It was also the year when the ques-
tion of inter-American cooperation turned up again in Buenos
Aires to confront the government. In July the Peruvian minister
to Argentina invited that government to reconsider its refusal
to sign the Continental Treaty. France had invaded Mexico,
Spain had annexed Santo Domingo, the independence of the
American states seemed threatened by resurgent European in-
tervention. The minister of Peru appealed for Argentine co-
operation in reanimating the Continental Treaty as a collective
security pact.9
After four months Seoane received a lengthy reply from the
Argentine foreign minister, Rufino de Elizalde. The Argentine
spokesman stated his government's attitude toward European
intervention in no uncertain terms:
The Argentine government has no cause to admit the existence of
that threat. A league [against America] could not be formed by the
7 J. M. Torres Caicedo, Unidn Latino-Americano: pensamiento de Bolivar paraformar
una liga Americana (Paris, 1865), pp. 241-250; Burr and Hussey, I, 135-138,
146-147. 8 Politica international, pp. 24-25.
9 Seoane to Costa, July 18, 1862, Registro official de la Repdblica Argentina ...
(Vol. I-, Buenos Aires, 1879-), IV (1857-1862) (Buenos Aires, 1883), 534.


material and commercial interests of Europe because those interests
are in harmony with those of the American nations ... The Argen-
tine Republic has never feared the threat of a European combina-
tion, nor of any one of the nations ... The action of Europe in the
Argentine Republic has always been protective and civilizing...
Bound to Europe by the ties of the blood of thousands of persons ...
receiving from Europe the capital which our industry requires, and
given the existence of an interchange of products, the Republic, one
may say, is identified with Europe as much as is possible... It is
clear that there are more links, more interest, more harmony be-
tween the American republics and certain European nations than
between themselves.
The Argentine foreign minister next considered the formation
of an American union through a congress of American states as
envisaged in the Seoane proposal:
America, containing independent nations, with their own means
and needs of government, cannot ever form a single political
entity ... The Congress of Plenipotentiaries is completely sterile and
improper ... A political body with the sole object of intervening in
cases of war by the contracting parties, or to hinder their freedom in
acts which they may judge proper, is in no way acceptable to the
Argentine government.10
This important definition of Argentine policy may have
seemed hardheaded to the men of Buenos Aires, who discerned
that their future lay with Europe's rich markets and not with the
impoverished American states, but it must have seemed merely
hardhearted and, in the light of the future, myopic, to the other
American states. Within three years Argentina was involved in
another inter-American congress, called to repel yet another
European attack on South America.
In 1864, Spain occupied the valuable Chincha Islands off the
coast of Peru. A conference assembled in Lima to meet this
threat. Sarmiento was named by the Argentine government as
an observer at the meeting, but a delay in receiving an official
invitation caused the Mitre administration to refuse to empower
10 Elizalde to Seoane, November to, 1862, Registro, IV, pp. 534-538. The note
was published by the Argentine government immediately after its dispatch to
Seoane. See Congresos americanos de Lima, I, cii; Burr and Hussey, I, 150-153.


him to act as a delegate. The volcanic Sarmiento went ahead
on his own, a possibility that his government had foreseen and
which had contributed to the decision to limit his power to act
in the assembly. He joined in a formal denunciation of the
Spanish government "in his name and that of the Argentine
people." His part in the congress was disavowed by the ad-
ministration in Buenos Aires. Later, President Mitre succinctly
stated Argentine policy. "Argentina above all," he said, then
adding, "but the government will not cease to be American and
a good neighbor." 1
The Lima conference seemed to be the last gasp of Bolivarian
Americanism. After 1865 the vision of a united America faded
for a time. Argentina, by the independent course it had pursued
in America, was a factor in dissipating the hopes for a political
utopia. Starting with a justifiable suspicion of the possibility of
cooperation in the midst of chaos, Argentina gradually formu-
lated its own American policy. One part of this policy was com-
posed of intense natliTialism, characterized by fear of any com-
mitiennts that might limit sovereignty, and a touchypjd-- e that
added a realistic ifsour note to the dip-o-natic melody played by
the Latin American states. The other, positive side of Argentine
foreign policy was the develorpment_of close relations with__
Europe after the fall of Rosas, together with the advocacy of
bilateral-tireiie-lo6TsovI~e:pcific problems in America.
Fifteen years elapsed before there was another attempt to
form an organization of American states.12 Then, in 88
Colombia invited the Latin American countries to assemble in
Panama to draw up a treaty that would bring peace to the con-
tinent through a permanent system of arbitration. The noble
dream aroused America again; almost all the nations accepted the
invitation. Argentina, although she did not accept, did not refuse.

11 Political international, pp. 28-29; Congresos americanos, I, 344-356.
12 A congress had been held in Lima in 1877 for the purpose of making uniform
certain parts of the international private law of the participating nations. Peru,
Chile, Ecuador, and Cuba sent delegates, as did Argentina-the latter having
decided that this assembly's objective was worthwhile. The congress petered out
aimlessly after the outbreak of the War of the Pacific, staged by two of the principal
participants. The United States was invited but refused. Congress americanos, II,
122, 134-135.


The time as well as the content of the Argentine reply is
critical. The battle of Buenos Aires had scarcely ended and
President Roca had been in office only a few weeks. The civil
war was over and its cause uprooted. The Generation of Eighty
stood on the threshold of a decade of opportunity. It was in this
atmosphere that Bernardo de Irigoyen, Roca's foreign minister,
drafted his reply t-otCom^ai--vernment.
It was fitting that one not of the younger generation should
have voiced traditional Argentine doctrines in a commanding
tone appropriate to the widening perspectives of the nation.
Irigoyen was Catholic and conservative, an estanciero and a
politician-and not far from being a statesman. In his youth he
defended federalism and wrote poems to "La Nifia," Manuelita,
daughter of Rosas. Now he served at Roca's side as minister of
foreign affairs and later as minister of the interior. It was he.3who
actually founded the Argentine foreign_office and his tough
supervision ~f-di sic politics through his ministry and the
P.A.N. did much to consolidate the oligarchy's political posi-
tion. To the people of Buenos Aires who passed his mansion on
Calle Florida he was Don Bernardo-with emphasis on the
"Don." 13
In the note of December 1880, Irigoyen first referred to
Argentina's profound American sentiments and her record of
arbitration. Then he turned to a subject unrelated to the
Colombian invitation, but of much concern to the group govern-
ing Argentina:
Europe no longer harbors thoughts of conquest or the chimera of
reprisals ... The demands of civilization, the great interests of com-
merce and the liberality with which America surrenders its
riches to men born in all the latitudes of the globe, are the beneficent
influences that suppress the antagonisms of both worlds.
Next he expressed sympathy with the Colombian arbitration
proposal-and poked holes in it from the practical side, calling
13 F. A. Barroetavefia, Don Bernardo de Irigoyen, perfiles biogrdficos (?Buenos Aires,
? 907); Jos6 Bianco, Don Bernardo de Irigoyen, estadista y pioneer (18s2-0go6) (Buenos
Aires, 1927); Joaquin de Vedia, Como los vi yo: semblanzas de Mitre, Roca ...
Irigoyen (Buenos Aires, 1922), pp. 145-161; Carlos Martinez [Carlos D'Amico],
Buenos Aires: su naturaleza, sus costumbres, sus hombres ... (M6xico, 1890), Pp. 35-43.


attention to the War of the Pacific, at that moment raging be-
tween states with arbitral agreements. Declarations in favor of
arbitration are meaningless, he wrote, without observing the
vital American tradition of the independence and sovereignty
of states. This led him to conclude that:
It is necessary to disclaim explicitly the attempts at violent...
conquests which would raise permanent obstacles to future stability.
The areas taken by force of arms would be in America a sense-
less aggression against the fraternity of nations The Argenta1ne
government does not consider the isolated stipulation of arbitration
as an efficacious means of eliminating international discord ... In
my opinion we could arrive at this result only by incorporating into
American public law the principles here stated .. which .. will
be, in the present and in the future, the true guarantees of peace.'"
Irigoyen had Chile in mind when he spoke out against for-
cible annexations, but the doctrine of peace which he advocated
was becoming a fofem-ost tenetot theArg ine- Gertiofii-f
Eighty. Peace a iomeli(ad abroad meant the chance to develop '
national resources, win European capital, and attract immigra-.
tion. This was "future stability." The possibility was more than -
remote that Argentina herself might engage in war for terri-
torial-reasons-sh had an abundance of land begging for
exploitation.15 Irigoyen also put the American hope for con-
tinental peace through arbitration in clearer perspective. Above
arbitration were "the true guarantees of peace"-absolute
respect for national sovereignty in all its forms. Yet the obverse
of the Roca-Irigoyen foreign policy coin was friendliness to
Europe-without any tremors about intervention.
This significant statement of Argentine foreign policy, quite
unsolicited by the government of Colombia, indicated that
Argentina anticipated playing a larger part in American affairs.
Irigoyen was talking about American issues and giving his
solutions, not presenting excuses. Although Europe was clearly
first in Argentine thinking, Irigoyen went on to state that his
14 Irigoyen to the minister of foreign relations of Colombia, December 3o, 188o,
AMemoria de relaciones exteri6res presentada al honorable Congreso Nacional (1880-1905,
190o-1914, Buenos Aires, 1881-19o6, 1911-1915 [not published for period 19o6-
gog9, inclusive], Buenos Aires, I881), pp. 84-89.
1n Ricardo Zorraquin Bec6, Elfederalismo argentino (Buenos Aires, 1939), p. 267.


government wished to participate in an inter-American con-
'gress,-br onufits-- own terms, which would give tothenew
meeting' "a wider scope than that proposed." 1
--Howrthe-Colombian government might have reconciled its
proposed conference and Argentine insistence on a meeting
with quite distinct objectives, it is impossible to say. Argentina
did not get a chance to present its opinions on national sover-
eignty and non-intervention. Continued fighting between Chile
and Peru prevented the meeting.
The issue of American policy was briefly stirred in 1884 when
Foreign Minister Victorino de la Plaza, who was destined to
become president thirty years later, caused one of the officials
of his ministry to publish a paper on the reasons for the failure
S'\" of inter-American congresses. This document fulsomely reviewed
the hopes for American fraternal-union born inthe-revolution,
criticize& the selfishness and inactivity of the American states
that had blocked the application of the elevated principles of
international law, and defended Argentina's record in America.
As for Europe, this spokesman wrote: "It is most reasonable that
we should not seek to antagonize Europe, but on the contrary
should assimilate all its advances in the sciences, art, industry,
and even the practices of its administrative institutions."17
Despite the orientation toward Europe so often expressed,
Argentina had not forgotten South America. Moreno, Riva-
davia, Urquiza, Mitre, and Roca had not dashed off to every
American conference that had been called, but they had never
wavered in verbal support for realistic Spanish American co-
operation that took into account essential national interests.
Now, increasing Argentine political stability and prosperity pro-
vided the Generation of Eighty with the opportunity and incen-
tive to step to the front in American affairs.
In 1888, Argentina and Uruguay united in summoning an
American congress that exemplified the Argentine concept of
the proper approach to continental union. All the South
American nations were invited to the South American Congress
of International Private Law to meet in Montevideo in August
1' Memoria, 1881, pp. 88-89.
17 Political international, pp. 36-38.


1888.18 Behind this title lay the desire to improve relations be-
tween the American states by agreement on the mutual rights
and responsibilities of their citizens.
The conference was attended by Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Para-
guay, and Chile, as well as Argentina and Uruguay. Among the
delegates who assembled, none were destined to take a more
commanding part in the conference and none to be greater
leaders in their own countries in the years ahead than the two
representatives from Buenos Aires. Within a year this same pair
would sit down to another conference table at the First Pan
American Conference in Washington. In 1888 they stood to-
gether, as they would in Washington-two men from the same
class, with similar training, like careers, and equal gifts of
intellect and talents of statesmanship.
Manuel Quintana was fifty-three. He had the appearance and
manner ofli f ttde panish grandee. Born in Buenos Aires,
he died there in 19o6 in his second year as president of the
republic. A fine orator in the style of the day, Quintana held
almost every high position in the land during his lifetime. A
student of international law, a veteran of national political
struggles, this haughty man is one of a memorable group of
Argentine aristocrats. 1
Roque Saenz Pefia belongs to that group for the same reasons
of birth and good breeding, and because he represented the
whole nation with intelligence and understanding. Saenz Pefia
was heavy, unhurried-and always dressed in grey. He not only
was an aristocrat; he looked like one. A portefio, born in 1851,
he received his law degree at the University in 1875. He was at
once elected to the chamber of deputies of the provincial legisla-
ture of Buenos Aires, as a member of the Autonomist Party. In
those days the legislature of the province was at least the equal
of the national congress in prestige and power. Among Saenz
Pefia's colleagues were his father, then president of the senate,
18 International American Conference, 889-l89o. Reports of Committees and Discussions
Thereon (4 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1892; hereafter cited as IAC, Reports), IV,
g1 Enrique Udaonda, Diccionario biogrdfico argentino (Buenos Aires, 1938), pp. 567-
568; Vedia, Como los vi yo, pp. 2o2-219; Pilar de Lusaretta, Cinco dandys [sic]
portefos (Buenos Aires, 1943), pp. 17-37.


and a good share of the rising generation-L. V. L6pez,
Eduardo Wilde, Miguel Can6, J. M. Estrada, Quirno Costa,
Irigoyen, Roca, Alzaga, Bengolea, and Casare.20
The smooth-running escalator of his class was carrying Saenz
Pefia rapidly upward through the lower levels of a promising
political career when he suddenly jumped off. In 1879 he left
Argentina and joined the Peruvian Army to fight against Chile.
This was not primarily a gesture of "solidarity" with Peru;
Saenz Pefia left Buenos in the dark mood of an unrequited love
affair.21 Even so, he got his share of fighting. He took part in
the bloody battle of Arica and when his superior officers had
been killed around him, he assumed command of the shattered
Peruvian division. He was captured in the victory charge of the
Chileans and briefly imprisoned.2 2
Late in 1880, after his return from Chile, Saenz Pefia was
appointed sub-secretary of the ministry of foreign relations,
under Irigoyen. Then came the inevitable trip to Europe, shared
with Ezequiel Ramos Mejia, Paul Groussac, and Pellegrini.
Back home, he helped to found Sud Amirica in the following
year. He mixed in politics for a while, then withdrew from pub-
lic activity, but in 1887 he accepted appointment as minister to
Uruguay, where he was joined by Quintana in 1888 to make up
the Argentine delegation to the Montevideo Congress.
The Argentine foreign minister, Quirno Costa, spoke to the
assembly on' the first day. He recalled the internal struggles
which had long isolated the Latin American nations from one
another. This state of affairs, he said, was now happily ended
through the beneficent influence "of our liberal institutions ...
[and] the immense riches of our far-flung territories." He went
on to foretell ever closer commercial and political relations
among these states, but he did not neglect to remind his

20 Roque Saenz Pefia, Escritosy discursos. Compilados por Ricardo Olivera (3 vols.;
Buenos Aires, 1914, 1915, 1935), III, 315-319; Felipe Barreda Laos, Roque Saenz
Pena (Buenos Aires, 1954). Contrary to the practice of others, Saenz Pefia did not
employ an accent mark on his paternal name.
21 Paul Groussac, Los que pasaban: Josd Manuel Estrada ... Roque Sdenz Peia (2nd
ed.; Buenos Aires, 1939), p. 369; Octavio R. Amadeo, Vidas argentinas: Rivadavia ..
Sdenz Pena (2nd ed.; Buenos Aires, 1934), pp. I1o-i il.
22 Saenz Pefia, Escritos, III, 189-191, 334-343.


audience of the need "to tighten relations with Europe, which
must be more intimate and more fraternal with each day.""23
On this note the delegates got to work. Some years later the
United States State Department described the meeting as one
which "by its nature and for all purposes and effects was exclu-
sively South American."24 This was more true of the spirit than
of the ultimate results of the Montevideo Congress. The
assembly produced treaties on international civil and commer-
cial law, literary and artistic property (copyright), trademarks,
patents, penal and procedural law, and a convention on the
practice of the liberal professions. These pacts were ratified by
the governments whose representatives prepared them. Between
1896 and 1900, France, Spain, and Italy became parties to the
treaty on copyright.2 5
More significant than this impressive record of accomplish-
ment was the implication of the words "exclusively South
American." A new Pan American movement, under United
States auspices, had just been launched, and invitations to the
First Pan American Conference had recently been sent out
fronrWashingrotrfora mieetgiii889. But in Montevideo the
Argentifie-delegates were sketching the first lines of uite a
differentpicture of international harmony, one which fore-
shadowed a strong Latin America, indeperde-nti--fioreignf
domifatii tffn-TsoItngits own problems in its own way. The exclu-
sid6n-ifs-ates ofnon-Iberic-orofoIn--latini,descent was implicit
in the purpose of the meeting: the matters of law which were
proposed and resolved emanated exclusively from the heritage
of Roman jurisprudence shared by the participants. Conflict
with Anglo-Saxon law did not concern the delegates. Their job
was to form a corpus of private law to be used among the Latin
American states. Progress in this direction implied the possi-
bility of progress toward eventual political collaboration.
23 Repfiblica Oriental del Uruguay, Actasy tratados celebrados por el Congreso Inter-
nacional Sud-Americano de Montevideo (Montevideo, 1911), pp. 6-9.
24 The Pan American Union. The Columbus Memorial Library. Third Interna-
tional Conference of the American States. Confidential memorandum for the use
of the delegates of the United States of America, p. 22.
25 Confidential Memorandum, p. 23. Chile did not ratify the treaty on interna-
tional civil law.


Quirno Costa and Saenz Pefia had gone over the question of
inviting non-South American states to Montevideo and had
decided against it. In March 1888 the foreign minister had
written to his minister in Uruguay that it had been determined
(in conjunction with Uruguay),
... to invite [only] the South American states, having in mind their
close bonds of political and commercial interest and even of neigh-
borliness. The other states of North and Central America either
would not come or would come late, and perhaps one of them would
assume a disturbing role of supremacy ... If the congress were for
all sections of the continent [hemisphere], we would naturally have
to call it an "American Congress," and I fear the possibility of
failure, thus destroying an idea which, if realized among the South
American states, could later be accepted by other nations. 2
The Argentine delegates were no less effective because they
did not arrogate to themselves a dominant role in the assembly.
In a superb extemporized speech, Quintana hammered home
the Argentine conviction of the primary importance of guarding
national independence. "All are equally independent; all are
equally sovereign," he said, but went on to claim that Argen-
tina had always been among the first and would continue to be
among the first states to bring her laws into line with interna-
tional law, in this way contributing to harmony and progress
among peoples. 7 In whatever debates they intervened, Quin-
tana and Saenz Pefia were perceptive and persistent in driving
through the interpretations which fitted their legal and political
doctrines. They repeatedly emphasized that Argentine sover-
eignty should not, and indeed, could not, be impaired by any
action taken by the assembly. Their speeches and shrewd par-
liamentary tactics exposed weaknesses in opposing positions;
they were insistent and successful in keeping the congress within
the procedural limits which they deemed effective. 28
The final meeting of the Montevideo Congress was attended
by the president of Argentina. This was the first occasion upon
which an Argentine president had left his country for such a
62 Quirno Costa to Saenz Pefia, March 13, 1888, in Saenz Pefia, Escritos, III, 359.
27 Actas, pp. 230-235.
28 Actas, pp. 189-190, 252-253, 269-272, 283-284.



purpose. In Montevideo, Juarez Celman heard his foreign
minister speak again to the delegates. Quirno Costa praised the
efforts of the assembly toward "the closer binding of the South
American countries," but it was the Old World, rather than the
New, which interested the Argentine spokesman, "the Old
World, which not only sends us capital and machinery, but also
the ... works of its great thinkers [and] ... with which we ex-
change our products and divide our riches." He reviewed the
American dream of Monteagudo, San Martin, and Bolivar, and
the fear of Europe which had spurred the weak new nations of
America to hope for a strength-giving union. But now, he con-
Those perils have passed, and the South American nations abide
in the midst of peace and progress, with which they will dismiss the
nineteenth century, to become great and powerful in the twentieth,
which, it has been said, will be the century of America. With abiding
faith in the great destinies awaiting each one of the South American
nations, all enjoying close relations with the Old World... each
will be the architect of its own fortune, but all are united in interest
in the future of South America, whose sons desire that it shall always
be said of the states forming it: "All for one and one for all."29
In his message at the opening of the Argentine legislative
season in the following May (the conference in Montevideo
lasted from August 1888 to February 1889), President Juirez
expressed his satisfaction with the assembly and with the work
of the two Argentine delegates. 3 Such satisfaction was merited.
The Montevideo meeting was an Argentine triumph. By this
assembly Argentina in effect served notice on Latin America-
and on any other nation aware of South American develop-
ments-that she had come of age in continental affairs. Backed
by a thriving economy and apparent political stability, the
Argentine government had spoken with authority in the con-
vocation and conduct of the assembly. The leaders of the nation
were displaying a positive interest in Latin America, interest
o2 IAC, Reports, IV, 286-287.
0s Heraclio Mabragafia, compiler, Los mensajes. Historia del desenvolvimiento de la
Nacidn Argentina, redactada cronologicamente por sus gobernantes, z8So-rgro (6 vols.;
Buenos Aires, n.d.), IV, 295-296.


greater than any shown since the victorious days of San Martin.
And coming as it did in the shadow of the impending First Pan
American Conference, the Montevideo congress demonstrated
that there might be more than one way of defining Americanism.
The work of the two Argentine delegates deserved the praise
of their government. Saenz Pefia and Quintana had displayed
considerable talent. They also gained experience in handling
the problems of a multi-national conference; and they had suc-
cessfully emphasized their country's policy without being ag-
gressive or anti-United States.
One of the premises of that policy-the one around which
much of Argentina's foreign relations had revolved from inde-
pendence onward-was national sovereignty. Untarnished
national independence had been the concern of a long line of
statesmen from Moreno to Mitre. If these statesmen had been
blind to threats from Europe, they had also been deaf to appeals
for cooperation from other American states.31
A modification of this attitude toward America was implied
in Argentine participation in the Montevideo meeting. Europe
was more vital than ever to the rulers of the nation, but they
seemed also to have a renewed interest in what happened in
Latin America. Devotion to the dogma of sovereignty was well
founded on the circumstances of the nation's struggle for free-
dom, both during the revolt against Spain and later. It may also
be related to that collective pride which characterizes the
Argentine people. Argentines were proud of their past and
present. And they were fiercely proud of their future, especially
after 1880. This is a factor which goes far toward explaining
both the zeal for national sovereignty and the awakening interest
in the New World. The Generation oEighty.-was-to-carry on
31 A curious demonstration of willingness to forgive Europe its sins was made by
Foreign Minister Elizalde in his correspondence with Seoane in 1862. The latter,
in pleading for Argentine cooperation against European intervention, recalled
Argentina's harsh experiences with English and French intervention during the
government of Rosas. In his reply Elizalde showed that he remembered Rosas quite
clearly, but he couldn't seem to recall any trouble with Europe, a circumstance
natural to one whose enemy's enemies were friends: "In the long span of the dic-
tatorship of the barbarous elements] that lay in the nation's bosom as a consequence
of colonialism and civil war, the European powers rendered Argentina decided
services." Elizalde to Seoane, November io, 1862, Registro, IV, 535.


and strengthen devotion to the concept of sovereignty. At the
same--timeTre-th Argentine leaders saw a wideni-ngfield for
national influence, commercial and, perhaps, political. It was
the idea of foreign political intervention which dismayed them,
not economic. Foreign business activity was welcome3 ~_ATn
iexipalilig function of the foreign policy of the oligarchy was to
see to it that nothing interfered with relations with Eiuri e.
This accounts, as has been indicated, for the emphasis placed
upon peace in this decade. Peace was so essential to trade that
the Argentine government in its relations with. neighboring ,
-statesadvocated and practised a policy of arbitration of boun-,.
dary disputes, faithfully accepting even adverse awards.32 How-
ever, it should be appreciated that the areas that were arbi-
trated by Argentina were not regions supporting, or capable of
supporting, livestock or cereals.
When the United States turned toward Latin America in the
eighties, it was confronted by Argentina, rich and peaceful, with
close ties to Europe, a strong sense of its own national destiny,
and an awakening American conscience.
32 Two United States presidents and the United States minister in Buenos Aires
had a hand in Argentine boundary arbitrations. See Gor4on Ireland, Boundaries,
Possessions, and Conflicts in South America (Cambridge, 1938), pp. 27-34 (Argentina-
Paraguay; Hayes award in the Chaco Central, 1878); pp. 10-17 (Argentina-Brazil;
Cleveland award in Misiones, 1895); pp. 17-20 (Argentina-Chile, Los Andes de-
marcation; U.S. Minister Buchanan one of three commissioners, 1899). On
Argentina's record of arbitration from z8io to 192o, see also Politica international,
pp. 173-271.

S The United States and Argentina: Trade

THE United States made a good start toward winning Argentine
friendship by quickly showing interest in the new nation strug-
gling to emerge from the revolution of May I8xo. Defective
communications did not hinder the administration in Washing-
ton from seeking out the junta of independence in Buenos Aires.
On August 27, 18zo the Secretary of State of the United States
instructed Joel R. Poinsett to proceed to Buenos Aires as a
special agent. Poinsett was assigned two main objectives: to
explain to the authorities in Argentina the "mutual advantages
of commerce with the United States," and to promote the good
will suitable to inhabitants of the same hemisphere, "having all
a common interest."' Thus, somewhat optimistically, were
\ Argentina and the Unife TStaes fiistliiiked """
)- Nine months after Poinsett's instructions had been drafted,
\the Argentine government recognized W. G. Miller, a Phila-
delphian, as United States vice-consul in Buenos Aires-the
first official representative of a foreign state to be recognized by
the Argentine authorities.2 And, although there ensued a period
during which the United States rebuffed Argentine efforts to
x R. Smith to Poinsett, June 28, 181o, in William R. Manning, ed., Diplomatic
Correspondence of the United States Concerning the Independence of the Latin American
Nations (3 vols.; New York, 1925), I, 6-7.
The date June 28 seems incorrect. According to J. Fred Rippy, Joel R. Poinsett,
Versatile American (Durham, N.C., 1935), p. 50, n. 3, the date on the original docu-
ment is August 27, 181o. Poinsett's instructions read as though they were drawn up
in anticipation of an approaching revolt in Buenos Aires; only if we assume this to
have been the case can the date June 28 be accepted, since approximately fifty
days were needed for a sailing ship to voyage from Buenos Aires to the United
States. It is likely that the instructions were drafted in August, after Washington
learned of the outbreak of revolution in the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata.
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto. Catdlogo de la biblioteca, mapotecay
archive ... (Buenos Aires, go19), p. 920.


obtain its assistance in the war against Spain, the United States
government gave full recognition to the new nation on May 17,
1823, when Caesar Augustus Rodney became the first minister
and diplomatic representative accredited to Argentina by a non-
South American country.
Seven years of friendly, if slim, relations followed these pro-
pitious early ties,4 only to be interrupted in 1831 by a dispute
over the part taken by the United States in the seizure of the
Malvinas, or Falkland, Islands by Great Britain. Although dip-
lomatic relations were interrupted for eleven years as a result of
this affair, the two governments maintained correspondence
through the United States consul in Buenos Aires and the
Falklands issue dropped from sight-if not from memory-
when relations were resumed in i843.5
Two years later, menaced by the prospect of European inter-
vention-that same intervention whose existence Foreign Minis-
ter Elizalde refused to admit twenty years later --the ArgentineI
government appealed to the United States to take a clear stand
against the aggressors. Washington replied that it was impos-
sible for the United States to take any action against the Euro-
pean powers, but Secretary of State Buchanan offered cordial
moral support to the Buenos Aires government.7 The interven-
tion crisis passed, no doubt leaving a sense of disillusionment
with "la gran repiiblica" in the minds of Argentine leaders. But
in this case, as in the Falklands affair, it should be emphasized
that Argentina's animosity was directed principally against the
chiierf ffende-s, Brifain, and Britain and France together, and
not againsitthe United States.
'J. Q. Adams to Rodney, May 17, 1823, Manning, Independence, I, 186-192.
Argentina appointed a minister to Washington on December 28 of that year. See
Catalogo de la biblioteca, pp. 879, 922.
Manning, Independence, I, 235-237, 267-268, 292-293, 616-665. During the
period 1823-1830 the State Department sent three instructions to the United States
legation in Buenos Aires.
SWilliam R. Manning, ed., Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Inter-
American Affairs, 1831-1860 (o1 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1932-39), I, 3-23, 65 ff.;
Julius Goebel, Jr., The Struggle for the Falkland Islands; A Study in Legal and Diplo-
matic History (New Haven, 1927), pp. 439-462. 6 See, above, p. 80, n. 31.
Carlos Maria de Alvear to James Buchanan, November I, 1845, Manning,
Inter-American Afairs, I, 300-302; Buchanan to Harris, March 30, 1846, ibid.,
PP. 29-32.

With the exception of these minor disturbances, the United
States and Argentina got along well together during the pre-
Civil War era. After the defeat of the dictator Rosas, two
treaties were quickly signed between the successor Urquiza
S government and Washington. One was a Treaty for the Free
Navigation of the Rivers Parana and Uruguay (July io, 1853),
;.I the other a Treaty of Friendship, Navigation, and Commerce
(July 27, 1853), containing a conditional most-favored-nation
clause.8 Under the patronage of these treaties and with the good
will of the liberal government of the Argentine Confederation,
trade between the two countries increased slowly but steadily.
The yearly average value of commerce between the nations
from 1854 to 1860, inclusive, was nearly $4,000,000. Of this
amount, more than two-thirds was in the form of Argentine
exports to the United States.9 The Civil War had a disastrous
effect on United States exports to Argentina, but after the war
trade with Buenos Aires increased rather impressively until
1873, mainly in Argentine exports to this country. Then it fell
off, during the remaining years of the decade, to levels well
below those of I865-1873.10
The reasons for this decline are not hard to find. Argentina
after 1861 and the United States after 1865 entered new phases
of economic development. The former found that Europe was
able and willing to act both as a profitable market and as a
supplier of goods and money. The latter was occupied with
internal expansion; its merchant marine was a derelict drifting
on the oceans of the world; protection against foreign products
was the gospel of the market place.
s David Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States
of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1931-1948), VI, 211-280.
9 The yearly average value of Argentine exports to the United States, 1854-1860,
was $2,716,872; of imports from the United States, $1,157,601. Report on the Com-
mercial Relations of the United States with All Foreign Nations (Vol. I-, Washington,
1856-, Washington, x866), p. 595.
2o From 1865 to 1878, inclusive, the yearly average value of Argentine exports
to the United States was $5,629,497, and of imports from the United States,
$2,o57,140. After 1873 the total value of imports and exports each year ran from
$2,ooo,ooo to $4,ooo,ooo less than the average of the preceding eight years.
United States Treasury Department, Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of the
United States, First Number, 1878 (Washington, 1879), p. 33. The computations are
by the author from annual figures.


The United States Wool and Woollens Act of 1867 had a
specific unfavorable effect in Argentina. The act contained a
provision raising duties on unwashed wool, which was the prin-
cipal Argentine export to the United States. The adverse effect
of the clause upon Argentine wool producers led to a proposal in
1869 by that government for the United States to enter into an
agreement for the reciprocal reduction of duties. This suggestion
was strongly rejected by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. "
By the end of the seventies there was neither sufficient tradeA
nor any vital political relationship to give promise of sustaining
for long a positive friendship between Argentina and the United!
States.12 Yet in the i88o's a significant change occurred in
Argentine-Ufited States trade. The volume of commerce rose,
but-eiq llyimi o-rtant was the shift in direction which occurred.
Since 1850, commerce between the two countries had been
heavily in favor of Argentina. As late as 1881 the value of the
'goods which Argentina sentto the. United States was more-than
two a l-dZ e-halftimes the value of United States products im-
ported by Argentina. After that date, the movement-of trade
altered decidedly (Table i). As in former years, Argentina
c-intiiinued to send the United States hides and some wool,
adding to these products in the eighties important quantities
of linseed and quebracho-a hard wood from which tannic acid
is derived. The United States sent Argentina lumber, cotton
cloth, rice, and flour, but in this decade new items began to

11 Reptblica Argentina, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Reciprocidad Comer-
cial: Negociones entire Estados Unidosy la Repiblica Argentina (Buenos Aires, April 1892),
pp. 30-31. Fish's note is given on p. 31. The Foreign Relations papers have not been
published for 1869.
12 National Archives, Records of the Department of State, American States,
Argentina, Diplomatic Instructions, I801-1906, Vol. 16, January 6, 1872 to the
end of 1879. There was little for the State Department to instruct its representatives
in Buenos Aires to do in these years. Almost all of the instructions-and the des-
patches, too-were concerned with post administration, mainly how the minister
was going to get on leave and how much of his leave would be paid for. The only
political events of this decade were the protracted case against the Argentine
government of an aggrieved American citizen named William Hale, and the
arbitration award made in 1878 by President Hayes in the Middle Chaco boundary
dispute. For the latter, see John Bassett Moore, History and Digest of the International
Arbitrations to Which the United States Has Been a Party (6 vols.; Washington, 1898)
II, 1923-1943.


appear on the manifests of ships unloading American goods in
Buenos Aires: petroleum products, agricultural implements, in-
dustrial machinery. 13 The competitive nature of the economies
of Argentina and the United States in raw materials, which was
a root cause of the declining trade between them up to the

TABLE I. Value of Argentine trade with the United States
(dollars): 1882-1890.
Argentine Argentine
Year Imports Exports
1882 2,727,917 5,234,914
1883 3,357,670 6,192,111
1884 4,825,813 4,110,038
1885 4,676,501 4,328,510
1886 4,333,770 5,022,346
1887 5,671,729 4,100,192
1888 6,o99,411 5,902,159
1889 8,376,077 5,454,618
1890 8,322,627 5,401,697
Source: Statistical Abstract, Eleventh Number, 1888 (Washington,
1889), p. 57; ibid., Fourteenth Number, i89g (Washington, 1892), p. 69.
eighties, had not been seriously altered. What had changed was
the industrial capacity of the United States. The Yankees were
beginning to export manufactured goods. However, they still
did not need much in the way of raw materials, at least from
Argentina. Under these changing circumstances, relations be-
tween the two countries altered.
/' The reawakening of United States interest in Latin America,
Typified in these Argentine trade figures, was not wholly
material. The Civil War had been followed by the growth of a
friendly sentiment in the United States toward the other repub-
lics of the hemisphere. This warm attitude was based in part on
the chastening effect which the civil conflict had on the United
States, a country that had formerly believed itself immune from
13 The shift in the balance of trade described here is treated in general terms by
Paul de Witt, "The Commercial Relations Between the United States and
Argentina," The Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly, 1 :163-165 (Sep-
tember 1930).

the internal disturbances so frequent in Latin America, and in
part on the common sense of relief following the expulsion of the
French from Mexico.14 The post-Civil War generation in the
United States stood midway between the era of manifest
destiny of the forties and fifties and the "imperialism" of the
century's end. It was during this time of vague good will toward
Latin America that men in the United States began to assess the
value of developing closer ties with the nations to the south.
James G. Blaine was the first prominent American to grasp
the fact that his country might benefit from a larger export
market and that Latin America might be the market. Taking
advantage of the favorable political attitude toward the United
States existing in most of Latin America, Secretary of State
Blaine in November 1881 invited the American states to a Peace
Congress. This meeting he described in the invitation as solely
for the "purpose of considering .. the methods of preventing
war between the nations of America." Blaine also stated: "It is
far from the intent of this government to appear before the
congress as in any sense the protector of its neighbors or the
predestined and necessary arbitrator of their disputes. The
United States will enter into the deliberations of the congress on
the same footing as the other powers represented .. [that is]
as a single member among many co-ordinate and co-equal
states." 15
Blaine's idea was stillborn. After Garfield's assassination,
Blaine was replaced by Freylinghuysen, who, for domestic
political reasons, cancelled the proposed congress. 1 Some of
the Latin American states had already accepted the invitation;
others, including Argentina, had not replied. After the cancella-
tion, four nations, not including Argentina, expressed regret
that the meeting would not be held.17
14 See John Bassett Moore, The Principles of American Diplomacy (New York and
London, 1918), pp. 383-386, and J. B. Lockey, "James G. Blaine," The American
Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy, S. F. Bemis, ed. (Vols. VII, VIII; New York,
1928), VII, 273-274.
16 International American Conference, 1889-1890, Reports of the Committees and
Discussions Thereon (4 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1890), IV, 256-257.
16 Circular of August 9, 1882, Reports of the Committees, IV, 272-273; D. S. Muzzey,
James G. Blaine, A Political Idol of Other Days (New York, 1934), pp. 214-218.
17 IAC, Reports, IV, 273-277.


Blaine was not the sort of man to take rebuff. When he
learned that the conference would be scuttled he wrote an angry
open letter to President Arthur. Somewhat forgetful of the pro-
claimed purpose of the meeting, he called it "a friendly and
auspicious beginning in a large field which we have hitherto
neglected, and which has been practically monopolized by our
commercial rivals in Europe."18 Although his efforts for this
conference were unavailing, Blaine's interest in Latin America
helped to touch off a chain of Pan American proposals in the
United States Congress which were to culminate six years later
in the issuance of invitations to another inter-American meet-
ing-the First Pan American Conference.
Blaine was correct in stating that Europe had a stranglehold
on Latin American trade. Argentina was the principal-and
willing-victim of this economic invasion. As the eighties went
on and Argentina's internal wealth and foreign trade soared,
the share of the United States in this market also grew, but
I'hat that nation got were only crumbs from Europe's table.
It was not because of any lack of information as to the poten-
tialities of the Argentine situation that the United States lost
out in the rush for the Argentine market. Throughout the
eighties there was an American consul in Buenos Aires whose
reports to his government were more complete than those turned
in by any other of our consular officials in any part of the world.
In detailed and well-informed letters to Washington, Consul
SEdward Baker tried every device-facts, cajolery, pleas-to
\ oen-liiTeeyes of United States businessmen to the vast oppor-
'tunities in Argentina. His first report of the decade it' at a
deTect of American foreign trade which he iterated and reiter-
ated throughout the next ten years-the decayed condition of
United States shipping, which left the port of Buenos Aires
almost empty of American vessels. That same year he sent in
is James G. Blaine, Political Discussions, Legislative, Diplomatic and Popular, 1856-
i886 (Norwich, Conn., 1887), p. 41o.
19 Baker's report of June 2, 188o, Reports from the Consuls of the United States on the
Commerce, Manufactures, etc., of Their Consular Districts. Commercial Relations of the
United States (No. I-, October 1880-, Washington, D.C., 1880-) (Title became
United States Consular Reports with Report No. 37, January 1884, and has since
undergone other alterations. It is cited hereafter as Consular Reports), No. x, October
1880, pp. 73-74-


another report analyzing the Argentine market in general and
specific terms. The great bulk of the imports of manufactures,
he wrote, still belongs to the countries of Europe. What else
could be expected, he asked, when United States businessmen
paid no attention to the local demands, disregarded "the usages

TABLE 2. Argentine imports from and exports to various coun-
tries through the port of Buenos Aires for 1882
Country Imports Exports
England 15,650,644 12,870,797
France o1,640,919 14,355,550
Germany 4,384,000 4,520,120
United States 2,727,917 5,234,914
Source: Report of January 20, 1883, Consular Reports, No. 30,
April 1883, p. 543. The figures for the United States have been taken
from Statistical Abstract, 1888, p. 57; Baker's figures for United States
Commerce in 1882 are unaccountably incorrect. He himself con-
tradicts them on p. 546 of this same report.

and customs of the market," and sent goods so carelessly packed
that they were usually in a ruinous state upon arrival? United
States merchants, he went on, "must consult the styles and
tastes which are in vogue here The Argentine people are
exceedingly fastidious in their tastes and in their surroundings
... and they affect in a wonderful degree whatever the fashions
of Paris approve." But to get this trade, Baker asserted, the
United States had to make up severe deficiencies. There should
be direct United States agents, or better yet, branch offices.
There should be American steamships capable of competing
with those of the European powers-not antiquated sailing
vessels which formed the bulk of our shipping. Only by such
steps, he said, can we establish.the "secret, silent influences of"a
cdiosrand more intimate intercourse," and thus win Argentina
-to-uir side "ii the race of empire." 20
2o Consular Reports, No. 3, January 1881, pp. 60-64.


In his report for 1881, Baker showed who was winning the
race. Argentine foreign trade for that year amounted to about
1oo,ooo,ooo pesos, of which imports totaled 44,000,000 and
exports 56,000,000. Europe controlled 80,ooo,ooo pesos of the
total trade-34,ooo,ooo of imports, 46,000,000 of exports.
United States trade was about 8 per cent of the total. The
European merchants and governments, Baker wrote, have
worked hard to get this business. "They have laid the founda-
tions of a fixed and permanent trade" on three main factors.
First was regular steam communication-twenty- to thirty-day
service from England and western Europe, which meant smaller
inventories and quick ordering for European houses; in contrast,
orders from the United States usually required fifty or sixty days
of shipment in sail. Second, Europe had branch houses or direct
agents. And third, Europe had its own banks in Argentina,
doing a most lucrative business. 21 Baker followed this letter
with another of the same date in which he described the des-
perate need for a United States bank in Buenos Aires. He wrote
mournfully that "There is scarcely a hide or a pound of wool

21 Report ofJanuary 16, 1882, Consular Reports, No. 17, March l882, pp.35-318.
Baker's trade figures are in gold pesos, which were worth about $.96 US. His
figures were obtained for the most part from the Argentine government-and are
for the most part inaccurate. This is a fact which neither Baker, nor any student of
the subject, can remedy, since it is a result of the Argentine practice of that time of
attributing imports and exports to the country from which or to which the goods
were actually shipped, and not to the country of origin or ultimate destination.
Baker himself acknowledged the inaccuracy of Argentine commercial data in his
report of December 22, 1889, ibid., No. 115, April 1890, pp. 597-598. Curiously,
such error as was introduced into Argentine data by this method affected the
United States as much or more than any other country because some part of the
American goods imported into Argentina went from the United States to England
and then came to Buenos Aires on British ships.
Another grave but irreparable defect of Argentine trade data of this period
results from the method then used for computing the value of goods. This method
was that of the "aforos medios," whereby a more or less theoretical value was
assigned to an imported or exported product-a value derived from the cost of
freight, insurance, and other charges, as well as the worth assigned to the item.
No effort was made to assign products their actual market value where produced.
On this point, see the report of H.Jacobson which forms part of the following docu-
ment: The Pan American Union. The Columbus Library. "Fourth International
Conference of the American Republics, Buenos Aires, July 19io. Memoranda
Submitted by the Pan-American Committee of the United States for the Use of the
Delegates from the United States." Confidential. Typescript. No date.

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