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language, nor the same religion, nor the same customs ; they
doubt whether this new Babel can give birth to a national
spirit sufficiently vigorous to impress a character of political
and moral unity upon these new recruits.

In order to prove that these fears are ill-founded, we have
only to take the practical example furnished by the United
States. Into this vast national crucible there poured, from
the outset, the stream of emigration from Great Britain,
Holland, France, and Spain; later came Scandinavians,
Germans, Lithuanians, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Syrians
and Arabs. From the fusion of all these elements has
issued a new race, homogeneous and powerful, with a strong
national spirit which is known as " the American spirit," and
under that name has won the respect of the world. This
result is neither accidental nor due to special antecedents ;
it is the consequence of a natural evolution, ably and
intelligently directed.

The European law, which attributes to the son the nation-
ality of his father, may have had its justification in the past ;
to-day it is maintained only by force of tradition.

Nationality and love of country are only an extension of
the love of the family and the home ; and these sentiments


cannot, any more than others, be forced upon one by law. There
can exist for a man only the home and the family in which
he was born and bred. Doubtless he will feel himself
attached to the home of his forbears by ties of sentiment and
respect ; but all the roots of his intimate feelings bind him
to the home and the family into which he was born ; they
are in his blood, and thence he has received the first impres-
sions which mould his character and imprint those character-
istics which form his personality.

It is the same with nationality and the mother-country.
It is useless to attempt to persuade either child or man that
his country is not that in which he was born, in which he has
grown up, but another distant country which he has neither
known nor seen.

The difference of origin among the children of immigrants
of different nationalities disappears in childhood, through
the community of life in school and workshop; through
sharing alike in work and play ; and it is in the earlier years
of life that the mind is moulded by its surroundings ; in these
years develops that feeling of attachment to the soil, of
union, solidarity, and common memories, that shows itself
later in an ardent patriotism. Unity of language necessarily
favours the process of fusion, and explains the fact that the
descendants of immigrants of different race, religion, language,
habits and traditions, are able to fuse so completely as to form
a perfectly homogeneous population, one in mind and in
sentiment, thus constituting a new nationality, young, vigor-
ous and strongly individual.

We have thus under our eyes a practical example of the
unity of the human race. The hazards of life, in the course of
centuries, having dispersed the primitive race throughout the
earth, it has formed, under the influence of circumstances,
new types, which in the course of time have met and
mingled, to form new crosses in their turn, which as a matter
of fact are only the modalities of a common primitive race.

The same phenomenon is being repeated in the
Argentine, as in all the American republics, and the spontane-
ous and vital sentiment of nationality continually strikes
the observer, who notes the pride with which a child born in
Argentina, whether he be the son of a Spaniard, Frenchman,


Italian, or German, affirms, when questioned, that his
country is the Argentine.

Thus this Republic possesses all the requisite conditions
of becoming, with the passage of time, one of the greatest
nations of the earth. Its territory is immense and fertile,
its surface being equal to that of all Europe, excepting Russia ;
it is capable of supporting with care at least 100 millions of
human beings ; almost every climate is to be found within its
limits, and, consequently, it can yield all products, from those
of the tropics to those of the polar regions. Its rivers and
its mountains are among the greatest of the globe. As its
maritime frontier it has the Atlantic, which brings it into
contact with the whole world.

It is governed by institutions more liberal than those of
any other nation, especially in all that affects the foreigner ;
it regards the influx of immigration with approval, and seeks
to promote it. In proportion as its vast vacant spaces become
peopled their value is increased tenfold, and production grows
at an enormous pace; for a single family, by the aid of
modern machinery, can exploit a larger area of soil, yielding
a produce far greater than is required for its own consump-
tion ; a fact which explains the surprising rate at which
the export trade has increased.

Such are the true causes of the prosperity of this country,
as is proved, with abundant detail, by MM. Martinez and
Lewandowski ; and as these causes are not accidental, but
fundamental and permanent, they should produce in South
America the same results as in the North.

Granted that wealth and prosperity are essentially con-
servative elements, we have here a serious guarantee of
political stability ; the more so as the country has already
passed the difficult age and is cured of the malady endemic
to South America — anarchy.

It is also to be hoped that our Argentine politicians,
taught by experience, and comprehending all the responsi-
bilities imposed upon them by their noble mission — the work of
racial regeneration and the betterment of South America — will
succeed in making constitutional government an actual fact,
by restraining and uprooting the tendency to personal power,
which is the lamentable heritage of indigenous tradition.


It is a great nation that is rising on the brink of the
twentieth century ; the mistress of an enormous inheritance.
Immigration and the increase of the birth-rate are furnishing
it with the arms it requires ; it lacks only those reserves of
capital which, like all new peoples, it has not as yet had time
to create.

In no country can European capital find a more fertile or
advantageous field for its operations: a fact already well known
in England ; and one the authors of this book have wished to
emphasise for the greater benefit of French capital. In this
they serve the interests of France and, still more particularly,
those of the Argentine Republic ; and in the name of my
own compatriots, as well as for myself, I take this oppor-
tunity of expressing my sincere gratitude.




BEFORE commencing a study of the financial and economic
situation in the Argentine Republic, it is important to
decide at the outset as to the spirit in which this examina-
tion should be pursued, and the method most proper to such
an inquiry. We tread upon a novel and peculiar field, and
any too rigid comparison with the events of other countries
might easily lead us to errors of appreciation.

Above all we must practise the philosophical principle
nil admirari ; we must be astonished at nothing, and
abstain from all too absolute judgments. Although, as the
figures of foreign trade will show, the progress of the
country has surpassed all expectation, it is, on the other
hand, almost impossible to foretell how far the results of one
year will be ratified by the year following.

Like all young nations, the Argentine progresses on its
path to the unknown by leaps and bounds ; it is as yet in an
unstable condition, in which the oscillations of prosperity are
still of great amplitude and exceedingly sudden.

It is easy to discern the cause of this essentially unstable

The Argentine, in its present phase, is an agricultural
country, whose principal sources of wealth are cereals and
stock-raising ; the result is that each year the whole life of
the country is affected by the harvest.* On the harvest
depends, in a great degree, the movements of external
commerce ; it produces those sudden changes which occur

* We U80 the word harvest here in its widest sense, but we must ultimately
distinguish the results of stock-raising from those of agriculture, since they do
not necessarily vary in the same direction.



from year to year, and which result occasionally in a
variation of £8,000,000 to £12,000,000 above or below the

The harvest influences not only the exports, more than
half of which consist of agricultural products, but has no
less an influence on the value of importations.*

The national powers of consumption are, in fact, very
intimately connected with the measure of the agricultural
output ; as the latter is bad or good, the home consumption
absorbs more or fewer imported products. Thus the poor
harvests of 1901 and 1902, which resulted in a fall of nearly
£1,800,000 in the cereal exports, produced in 1902 a fall
of £800,000 in the imports of iron and materials used
for construction. The same depression was visible in the
imports of textiles and beverages, and still more so in those
of articles de luxe. The spending powers of the country
being closely dependent on the facility of realising the
products of the soil, it is easy to understand that in the case
of a bad harvest or a poor market the consumers have no
longer the same powers of purchase.

We find the same ups and downs in the figures of the
Budget, the contributive powers of the country being
influenced by the same causes as its consumption. If the
crops are poor, the Budget of the following year shows
immediate traces of the fact. Thus in 1902, the year of the
bad harvest, the total receipts were estimated at £5,534,000 in
paper, and £9,486,669 in gold; but the actual receipts were
only £5,221,000 in paper, and £8,047,755 in gold ; a deficit
of £1,438,913 in gold.

At the same time the Customs receipts, which are the
most variable item of the revenue, on account of their direct
relation to consumption, have fallen from one year to another
(as in 1903 compared with 1902), as much as £1,200,000 in
consequence of the agricultural crisis.

There is an equally direct relation between the financial
situation and the results of the harvest. If the commercial
balance is favourable, the Argentine becomes a creditor of
foreign countries by the excess of its exportations, and the

* The value of the exports in 1!»07 was £59,240,874, and according to the
officii'] figures the products cf agriculture .amounted to £32,818,324


resulting payments in gold, after the deductions of the in-
terest on the foreign debt, increase the proportion between
the metallic currency and the monetary circulation in general.

As these few examples prove, the prosperity of the
country is subordinated to the result of the harvest; the
latter gives the measure of all improvement, all progress of
a financial and economic order. Unlike the ancient European
nations, the Argentine Republic has no reserves of accumu-
lated capital behind it, so that it can live on its own
savings in times of crisis. Its commerce and its industries
depend almost exclusively upon its agricultural yield, and
share all the latter's vicissitudes.

All depends on the value of the soil, the basis of public
and private wealth. The power of expenditure which
follows a good harvest may contribute towards proving
personal property, but the latter remains always strictly
related to the agricultural yield and general produce of the
soil, and does not constitute an easily-realised reserve.

For the rest, we must recognise that, as a rule, this capital
does not remain inactive, and is as little as possible sterilised
by investment in the public funds. Those who possess
available cash, in the shape of revenue from a large estate,
usually employ it by increasing their stock of cattle, or in
reclaiming more land, or by investing it in other estates ;
so that all that comes from the earth returns to the earth,
and goes to increase its yield.

The peculiar situation of this great agricultural country,
which constitutes at once the strength and the instability
of the Republic, shows us in what spirit and by what method
it should be studied. All depends upon the yield of the
soil, for this is the great dispenser of the national wealth ;
^t is therefore the agricultural system that we must examine
first of all, if we wish to arrive at a solution of the problems
arising from the present condition of the Argentine or predict
its future.

To follow out this general plan, we must consider the
country first of all from two standpoints : we must examine
into its production and its markets or outlets, in order to
learn the true conditions of its existence, the value of its
soil, and its sources of revenue.


We shall then proceed to examine its administrative
machinery, showing how the Argentine lives and progresses
as a nation, and to analyse its financial and monetary
organisation with reference to the economic situation.

The two portions of this scheme are closely connected,
and their study must lead us to the same conclusion, that
the Argentine is a nation in a state of growth, and, like all
young nations, still uncertain of its first steps ; but it is
animated by a spirit of initiative, and urged by the breath
of progress, which may lead it to a high destiny among
the great productive countries of the earth.


Is thero an Argentine nationality, and ■what is its significance in respect of the
territory it occupies ? — The formation of this nationality.

An examination of the qualities of the Argentine people. — Sense of progress ;
remarkable faculty of assimilation : character essentially practical. — The
fusion of the Latin genius with Anglo-Saxon energy.

The contrast between the political world, with its instability and lack of organ-
isation, and the economic world, which manifests intense vitality and
national progress. — The necessity of developing the national idea, and
of raising it above material questions. — The slow elaboration of a new
race born of the various elements of immigration.

TO present a complete picture of the Argentine, it is not
enough to describe its configuration, its great rivers, its
climate, its population, its forms of agriculture, and the value
of its soil ; all this is a dead letter, and will by no means
yield us the secret of the country's future, unless we first
resolve one question of a sociological character : Is there an
Argentine nationality, and what does it signify in respect of
the territory which it occupies ? Could one, for instance,
estimate the importance of the United States merely from the
point of view of their agricultural and mineral wealth, with-
out taking into account the work and the character of the
admirable Anglo-Saxon race, which has adapted itself to
American soil, and has succeeded in obtaining from it its full
value ?

* We must here explain that the Argentine possesses two currencies: the
piastre or dollar, whose value is 5 francs, and the paper piastre, which by the
law of conversion is equivalent to 2 francs 20, or Is. 7 •2d.

As for weights and measures, the decimal metric system has been adopted.
In surveying large areas, the square league is occasionally employed as unit,
which contains 2500 hectares, or .5628 acres = about 9| square miles.

We should also explain that the Argentine Republic, of which the Federal
capital is Buenos Ayres, is divided into fourteen autonomous Provinces and
ten national Territories. The Provinces, in the order of population, are as
follows: Buenos Ayres, Santa Fe, Cdrdoba, Entre Rios, Corrient^s, Tucuman,
Santiago de I'Estero, Mendoza, Salta, Catamarca, San Juan, San Luis, La Rioja,
and Jujuy.

The national Territories are : La Pampa, Mision^s, Nequen, Rio Negro,
Ohaco, Formosa, Chubut, Santa Cruz, the Andes, and Tierra del Fuego


And could we explain the fact that certain countries of
South America, which also, thanks to their natural wealth,
have all the elements of rapid development, have remained
stationary, and hardly count as nations, if the question
of race did not throw light on the mystery, showing us
that with the most favourable factors of the soil, a ferment
is essential to start the growth of the seed ?

Concerning the Argentine, this then is the problem which
we have to consider, if we wish to see further than the
present moment, and to judge in what measure its progress
may be consolidated and even accelerated. In other terms,
we must understand whether the Argentine must depend upon
a fortuitous grouping of individuals brought together by the
various streams of immigration, and having no common tie
but the desire to enrich themselves, or whether these various
elements are destined to become fused, and in time to form
a true nationality, with its own traditions, its own ideal.

This latter is naturally the end to be pursued by the
Argentine Government, if it wishes to prepare for the future
by making moral and material progress go hand in hand.
Its role is not to manage the country like a directing
syndicate, but to direct all individual efforts, all initiative,
and all other available forces, to the same national and
patriotic end.

It was this idea that a President of the Republic, Sefior
Quintana, felt it his duty to enunciate, when, upon assuming
the Presidential authority, he stated, in his inaugural
message : " I am the head of a nation which has in
America an ideal"; and he added: "There is one common
characteristic among us that was discovered as early as the
colonial period, in the magnitude of plans of campaign, in
the clamour of intestine conflict, in the government of
the constitutional period; it is, that we all bear in our hearts
the sense of our future greatness."

How far can these aspirations be translated into facts?
That is a question we must examine seriously and with
an absolutely unbiassed judgment.

We cannot study this question of the Argentine nation-
ality in books; for a country which has been so rapidly
carried awa}^ on the tide of material progress has but


little time to examine itself. Neither has it been able
to form a literature or a sociology which might reflect the
dominant characteristics of the generation ; it is only by
an inquiry and an analysis of the facts that we can isolate
this element of nationality from the various foreign elements
which have contributed to its formation.

One factor that facilitates our task is the clear-sighted-
ness of the Argentines themselves, who are the first to
recognise, with abundant good-temper, their own short-
comings. They are almost exaggerated in their self-criticisms
when depicting themselves ; and our work has been cut out
for us in avoiding too hasty generalisations and in softening
certain too rigorous judgments, although these emanated
from men who were certainly in a position to understand
the tendencies of their generation.

One principle dominates the whole question : it is that
which a contemporary historian expresses in these tei-ms :
" When peoples come into contact they begin by an exchange
of their faults." Such an observation might well apply
to a people like the Argentines, who are not yet settled
on their own foundations, and are constantly increased by

All the varieties of the Latin race have contributed to
form this people : Spain and Italy have made the largest
contributions, and France has also in her time contributed
her share. The Argentine has even assimilated a Basque
population, of especial interest on account of its aptitude
for agricultural work, and its adaptability to its new

Finally, the Anglo-Saxons have also entered the Argentine,
to mingle with the Latin element, and have given great
assistance in opening up the country, by setting an influential
example of initiative, progress, and energy. This penetra-
tion of the Latin race, a little indolent and inactive as it is,
by the energetic and progressive Anglo-Saxons, enables us
the better to understand the good and bad qualities of the
Argentine nationality.

In short, if we are to obtain an unbiassed view of the
national physiognomy of this adolescent people, we must
remember that its good qualities, like its faults, are the


result of the commingling of the varied elements which have
entered the country by immigration; elements that have
mixed and reacted upon each other, so that their dominant
characteristicshave finally appeared in the Argentine character.

There is one gift which we cannot deny this people :
intelligence, joined to a remarkable power of assimilation.
It also has that gift of enterprise, that sense of progress,
which are found in the Anglo-Saxon races, and which have
found such magnificent scope in the United States.

A young nation, without a past, the Argentine is not
impeded, like most of the Latin nations, by a load of custom,
prejudice, and routine, hampering its motions and impeding
its progress. Profiting by the experience of others, it
knows how to adapt itself to the best ; taking its good
wherever it finds it. It creates nothing, invents nothing, but
appropriates all new ideas, which find upon its soil the
conditions favourable to a rapid expansion. It is, indeed,
formed after the likeness of its own soil, which produces
without eflfort and lends itself admirably to every kind
of culture.

This sense of progress is certainly the most characteristic
trait of the Argentine, and the one by which it is distinguished
among the other Latin nations of South America. Uruguay,
for example, which possesses a soil as rich, and offers the
same facility of transport, has given no proofs of initiative
and vitality to lead one to hope that she has really entered
upon the path of progress. It is the same with Paraguay
and many other States, which have not succeeded in ac-
complishing any of the changes demanded by modern

The Argentine, on the contrary, has always known how
to derive benefit from whatever source was available, thanks
to the current of immigration which keeps it in permanent
touch with foreign countries. It has also assimilated the
inventions and the methods of more civilised nations, and
has attracted men capable of applying them. At the head
of the great administrations of the State, one often finds
specialists from Europe or the United States, who bring the
fruits of their experience, and increase the intellectual
possessions of the nation. The departments of railroads,


navigation, public works, and hygiene, thanks to these happy-
selections, offer every security of efficiency in operation.

One may say, it is true, that this is the result of foreign
influence ; but what does the origin of all these improvements
signify in respect of the future, so long as they become
incorporated in the life of the Argentine and contribute to
its evolution ? One thing which proves that the instinct for
progress is at the heart of the national tenipei-ament is
that it is found in the lower strata of certain public services
in which the foreign element plays no part. The administra-
tion of the police, for instance, and that of the posts and
telegraphs, to cite no other examples, are conducted with as
great a regularity as in any European country.

Thus, while allowing that the initiative of all improve- ^
ments comes from abroad, we must not overlook the factt^
that the Argentine has assimilated them with the utmost
facility, and that this gift of assimilation forms to-day a
valuable portion of the national patrimony.

Despite its eminently cosmopolitan character, which is
a peculiarity of its development, the Argentine Republic /
has succeeded in retaining its own personality among so
many diverse elements. It is the type of the modern nation,
whose ideal is that of the United States — business. A man
is zonzo or vivo — a fool or more than capable — there is no

From this point of view the Argentine is at the apex of
its period ; it has no use for abstract ideas or immortal
principles ; its ambition being above all to sell its corn and
cattle and to enrich itself. Behind the agitation of the
political parties there is no other object than this : to share in

Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 5 of 33)