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quite on a level with anything we can produce. The prize bull, Argentine
bred, was sold by auction for over £7,000. Admitted this was a fancy
price due to the rivalry of breeders to have the best and to boast about
it. A thousand pounds has been paid by a meat company for a Hereford
bull to kill; but this may be ascribed to advertisement.

The _estancias_ - ranches or stations - are frequently enormous in extent,
as wide as an English county, and are managed as well as any great
estates in Australia, Canada, or New Zealand. There are the usual show
places, maintained by Anglo-Argentines, where the immediate grounds are
laid out like an English park, the farm buildings all on the model plan,
and the animals of the best stock, whilst a successful endeavour is made
toward converting the house into something palatial. Though some
_estancias_ are far inland, and distant from a railway line, life is far
more enjoyable than might be thought. The rich _estanciero_, however,
spends little of his time on his land. He is too often an absentee
landlord. He has tasted the joys of Europe; besides, his wife and
daughters are inclined to prefer Buenos Aires to life in the camp,
however healthy. The place is usually run by a manager. Then there are
sub-managers, often young Englishmen who have heard of the fortunes to
be made; next there are the peons, Spaniards and Italians, who do the
meaner work. Life in the camp is arduous. Men are out at dawn, rounding
up cattle, giving an eye to the "colonists," attending to fencing,
driving beasts to the railway station to be transferred to the
"freezers," and it is sundown when the work is over and men go to their
quarters. It is a strenuous life, and the employees have little of the
pleasures of civilisation.

Within the last ten years the export value of live stock products has
increased from £23,000,000 to £36,000,000, and agricultural products
from £21,000,000 to £53,000,000. Since 1896 the area under cultivation
has grown from 13 million acres to nearly 50 million acres. Of Argentine
cereals the United Kingdom imported 1,654,000 tons. There are 30 million
cattle in the Republic and 80 million sheep. The breeding of sheep is
not what it was, because the Argentine finds he can get a better return
from cattle and cereals. So, whilst the value of exported mutton remains
very much what it was ten years ago (about £1,250,000), the value of the
exported chilled and frozen beef has risen from £1,500,000 to over
£6,000,000 a year.

At the ports are big slaughtering establishments, some belonging to
Argentine companies, and others to American companies. A bitter feud is
being waged to capture the chilled and frozen meat trade, especially in
the English market. As England is only three weeks' distance, meat that
is only chilled has an enormous advantage over meat from more distant
countries which must be frozen. The fact is denied, but it may be taken
as certain that there is a big combination of Chicago houses
endeavouring to squeeze their competitors out of business - and they seem
in a fair way to succeed. The Argentine public are showing fright, and
there have been frantic appeals to Congress that steps be taken to check
the creation of a trust. Also it is hoped that England may take action.
But the authorities in both countries decline to do anything. The
Chicago firms have a long purse and are damaging their rivals at both
ends, first by paying Argentine cattle breeders unprecedented prices for
beasts, and then by selling the meat below cost price in the Smithfield
market. Of course, in reply to what is happening, one hears the
statement, "Why grumble, when the Argentine cattle dealer gets a high
price for his beasts, the London consumer gets cheap meat, and the
Chicago firms pay the difference?" That is true. But it does not need
much business foresight to understand that when the Anglo-Argentine
companies are bankrupt the Chicago trust, having the game in their own
hands, will pay their own price for cattle and lift the price of meat in
London. Meanwhile, the Argentine _estanciero_ is quite happy, and is
willing to let the future take care of itself. One thing, however, may
safely be prophesied. The Argentine Government has a drastic way of
doing things. If the expected happens, and the Chicago houses secure the
meat industry and begin to force down prices for cattle, there will not
be the slightest hesitation in passing a law which will make things
uncomfortable for the trust.

With the care taken in breeding, always striving after improving the
strain of the stock, Argentina, with its millions of acres of pasturage,
is determined not to slacken the stride of its improving meat trade. The
best lands are given to wheat, maize, oats; but the use of alfalfa has
meant an amazing expansion of productivity, for this nutritious plant, a
kind of sanfoil, will grow abundantly on land that is little good for
other purposes. Areas at which the agriculturist was inclined to shrug
his shoulders as barren prosper under alfalfa, the best of feeding
stuffs, and several crops can be got in a year. Two acres will carry a
beast. Alfalfa grown for fodder gives a hundred per cent. profit.
Alfalfa, whilst drawing nitrogen from the ground, attracts nitrogen from
the air. One ton of alfalfa contains 50 lb. of nitrogen. Three tons of
alfalfa has as much nitrogen as two tons of wheat. It is easy to grow,
and cattle fatten on it abundantly. The alfalfa of Argentina means more
to the prosperity of the country than rich gold mines. As there is no
winter, as we understand it, the cattle are left out all the year, and
there is no stalling or hand feeding.

Cattle disease is more prevalent than with us. This is partly due to
carelessness, but chiefly to the herds being so large that the scourge
becomes virulent before it is noticed. Then, as I have indicated, there
is the danger of drought and the dread of locusts. Further, so much of
the cereal growing being in the hands of "colonists," too often anything
but expert farmers, the yield is by no means what it would be if the
farming were in more skilled hands. So, whilst the average yield of
wheat in Great Britain is thirty-one bushels to the acre; in Argentina
it is only eleven bushels. But manuring is unknown in the Republic.

Yet, keeping one's eyes open to all the disadvantages, one cannot go
through the country and see its fecundity, go into the killing houses at
La Plata and Buenos Aires, watch the ocean liners, with the Union Jack
dangling over their stern, being loaded with many sides of beef, visit
the grain elevators at the ports of Bahia Blanca and Rosario pouring
streams of wheat destined for European consumption into the holds of
liners, without the imagination being stimulated when standing on the
threshold of this new land's possibilities.

Already Argentina holds first place in the quantity of exported frozen
meat. It was in 1877 that the Republic led the way in exporting such
meat to Europe. It was not till 1885, however, that the business of
freezing was definitely established. To-day £11,000,000 is invested in
"freezing works." And millions of cattle and sheep are slaughtered for
foreign consumption. There seems to be something of a race at present
between live stock products and agricultural products which shall hold
first place in value of exports. The ports of Argentina, with a capacity
for 45 million tons, are ever busy. Yet they are only in infancy.

Like all new lands, where enterprise and optimism frequently leap beyond
rigid economies, Argentina has its heaves and falls. We know of the
hundreds of millions of foreign capital invested. People do not go to
Argentina for the beauty of the scenery. They go for money-making. Often
when I came across some evidence of Latin sluggishness, saw what had not
been done, what might have been done, and then remembered what,
nevertheless, had been done, I found myself exclaiming: "Oh, that this
land were a British colony!"





CHAPTER VII

THE CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT


New countries, in planning their system of government, have advantages
over old lands steeped in tradition and hampered by precedent. They can
profit by the mistakes of the older countries, and can, more or less,
start with a clean slate. As men past middle age are disposed to think
the young fellows of the present day headstrong, lacking in ballast, it
is all in the nature of things that the older countries should look with
a somewhat critical eye upon the experiments in government made by
youngsters amongst the nations. So it is instructive to look at the
system of law and administration in the Republic.

The head of authority, in which the executive power of the nation is
vested, is the President. He must be an Argentine, a Roman Catholic, and
being elected for six years can never be elected again. This is a
provision to prevent a Dictatorship. The President for the time being is
head of the Army and Navy; he nominates the judges, selects bishops,
appoints diplomatic representatives to other nations, and all the
secretaries of State are chosen by him. There are two Houses, the Senate
and the Chamber of Deputies; but a Minister can be neither a senator
nor a deputy. He can attend debates, speak and defend himself from
criticism, but he is beyond the power of either House. If he likes, he
need appear only once a year in Congress to make an annual report about
the working of his Department. So he is removed from the constant
cross-examination which is the fate of Ministers in the British Houses
of Parliament.

The Senate consists of thirty members, two from the capital and two from
each province. Those sent from Buenos Aires are elected by certain high
franchised electors, and those from outside are nominated by the
provincial legislatures. A senator must be thirty years of age, must
have been a citizen of the Republic for at least six years, and have a
personal income of £160 a year. A senator is elected for nine years, and
can offer himself for re-election. But every three years ten senators of
the thirty, decided by ballot, must retire, though they can be
re-chosen. No "carpet-bagging" is allowed. A senator must either be a
native of his province or have lived in it for at least two years before
his election. The provinces vary considerably in population, but they
have equal voice in the Senate. Thus it is a body which may be said to
represent localities rather than individuals.

The Chamber of Deputies, however, is chosen direct by the people. There
is one deputy for every thirty-three thousand inhabitants. No man can
become a candidate unless he is twenty-five years of age, has been a
citizen at least four years, born in the province, or lived in it for
two years. Thus there is never anything in the nature of a general
election, but there is a constant movement going on to secure the proper
representation of the people.

Both senators and deputies receive a salary of £1,500 a year, so they
are the best-paid legislators in the world. Both Chambers meet on May
1st and adjourn on September 30th. Only the Chamber of Deputies can have
a voice in taxation. As I have shown in the preceding chapter, the
Argentine Government - which, like all Governments, is open to
criticism - has done a great deal in advancing legislation for the solid
benefit of the country. There cannot be said to be government on party
principles, but the Government is maintained by the followers of
particular men. Politicians in Argentina, as elsewhere, have their
enemies, and when a man has been elected to Congress he sometimes dare
not attend, for that would mean leaving the constituency, and there
would always be some rival busy sapping his influence. I was in Buenos
Aires toward the close of the session. Day after day the House met, but
nothing could be done, for no quorum could be obtained. Public business
was at a standstill. It was proposed the President should employ the
police to search Buenos Aires, arrest legislators, haul them along, and
thus "make a House" with locked doors, so that business could be
proceeded with. Everybody was crying out against the scandal of
Congressmen drawing such large salaries and doing nothing to earn them.
But nothing was done.

[Illustration:
_Photograph by H. G. Olds, Buenos Aires._
THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES. ]

Besides the excellent remuneration for not attending to business, the
Argentine politician has the advantage of getting jobs for all his
relatives. The majority of Government employees are the relatives of
politicians. There are true and honourable men in political life, but,
so far as I could gather, most men take to politics in Argentina because
they can do their families a good turn. The only group that is cohesive
is that of the Socialists. Socialist deputies are on the increase.
Nearly all the freshly arrived immigrants, Spanish and Italian, when
they get their naturalisation papers after a residence of two years,
vote Socialist.

Now, whilst everything which affects the Republic as a whole is decided
upon by the central Government, each province has its local government,
with governor, two Houses, and considerable power, quite independent of
the central executive. This is following the United States plan. The
principle of devolution is a good one, that districts should administer
their own affairs without interference by those who cannot know local
circumstances. But Argentina has frequently the same trouble that the
United States has, and similarly would like to get rid of. There are
differences in the provincial laws, so that what is allowed in one
province is prohibited in another, with the consequence that, though the
process of trade is not hampered, it is often irritated.

Then the provincial Governments, sovereign in their own realm, sometimes
enact laws which the federal Government declares affect general
conditions in the Republic. They infringe the prerogative of the
central executive. Accordingly, the relationship between the central
Government and the local Governments is frequently strained. It is the
smaller provinces which cause the most trouble. Some of them have a
population that, all told, would not stock a fair-sized town. That,
however, does not diminish their sense of importance. They are
cock-a-hoop. They know what is for their good; they will pass what laws
they like; they are not going to be dictated to by those overpaid
fellows who go to Buenos Aires. The federal Government cannot use force,
and the provincial Governments snap their fingers. For instance, Mendoza
insists on printing her own paper money. It is quite clear, if serious
trouble is to be avoided, that the federal and provincial Governments
must meet in conference and draw up hard-and-fast rules dealing with
their respective powers and limitations.

So far as the individual is concerned, the theory is liberty and
equality. The stranger has the same rights before the law as the
citizen. The State, however, interferes in the matter of property. A man
is not allowed, as in England, to leave his possessions to whom he
likes. A father must leave his wife and children four-fifths of his
property; a husband, if there are no children, must let half his
belongings go to his wife; an unmarried son is obliged to leave his
parents two-thirds of his property. Only the man without parents, wife,
or children can dispose of his property by testament.

There is no obligation upon a foreigner resident in the country to
become a citizen before he can start a trade or own estate. Two years'
residence is the qualifying period to become a citizen of the Republic.
If you enter the public service you can become a citizen earlier. If you
marry an Argentine woman you can become a citizen right away. Every
child born in Argentina, even though its parents be British and on a
fortnight's visit, and have no desire to change their nationality, is
counted an Argentine. Thus there are lots of residents with a dual
nationality, Argentine in the Republic, but British in any other part of
the world.

Though the Roman Catholic faith is that of the State, and other faiths
are not restricted, the average Argentine pays little attention to
religion. He likes his wife to go to church because it does her good.
Education comprises three divisions: primary, secondary, and higher. The
former is free, secular, and compulsory for children between six and
fourteen years. If religious instruction is to be given it is only for
those children who voluntarily remain after school hours on certain
days. Public schools are scattered all over the Republic - though there
are extensive districts where the population is thin where there is no
instruction, and thousands of children grow up illiterate - and are
subsidised by both the national and provincial Governments. Also there
are primary schools for grown-ups, men whose education has been
neglected, and who want to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and
elementary history and geography. This teaching is given during the day
or evening, and is free.

Secondary education for pupils over fourteen years is neither compulsory
nor free, though the fees only amount to 8s. 9d. a year. This secondary
instruction, quite as wide in range as elsewhere, is given in national
schools, of which there are five in Buenos Aires and one in each of the
capitals of the provinces, and normal schools, which are twenty-eight in
number, three in Buenos Aires and the remainder in the provinces. Five
years is about the length of tuition at these schools. Then the students
can enter one or other of the faculties which form the university. There
are three universities in Argentina; the oldest is in Cordoba, and the
others are in Buenos Aires and La Plata. To qualify in either of these
universities for the practice of medicine, law, or engineering, a
seven-years' course is required for the former and a six-years' course
for the two latter. Minor terms of special study are required for
qualification as a chemist, accoucheur, dental surgeon, surveyor, or
architect. In order to obtain the degree of doctor in physical sciences
further studies are required outside those of the faculties. The
university council cannot grant a qualification for a notary public,
which must be acquired before the Supreme Court of the particular
province in which the applicant seeks permission to practise.

[Illustration: THE KINDERGARTEN AT MENDOZA.]

Primary education in the capital and national territories is under the
National Ministry of Education. In the provinces it is under the control
of the Provincial Council of Education, who receive subventions from the
national exchequer as occasion may require. The intuitive method is
employed exclusively, and the whole system is modelled on that of the
United States. As a rule, Spanish children learn Italian from their
classmates, and vice versa. In the elementary higher standards, boys
learn manual labour and French, and girls learn French and domestic
duties. The schools are well built, well ventilated, the rooms are airy,
each child has a separate desk, there is a medical visit every day, and
where schools are within reach they are fairly well attended. But only
42 per cent. of the children in the Republic who ought to go to school
do so. The low attendance may be put down to the great distances which
separate the children's homes from the schools in the country districts.
Very general complaints are heard in the villages of the manner in which
the schools are conducted, and the small amount of knowledge acquired in
spite of the flattering picture presented by the education authorities.

Considerable attention is paid to technical education, which is largely
encouraged throughout the country by means of schools and training
colleges maintained at the expense of the nation. Prominent among these
institutions stands the National School of Commerce, which trains and
prepares mercantile experts, public accountants, and sworn translators.
There are also commercial schools in Cordoba and Bahia Blanca. These
schools are attended by about a thousand pupils, who receive instruction
in commercial arithmetic, account and book-keeping, French, German,
etc. The schools are open to both sexes, and in them the pupils can
qualify for employment as book-keepers, accountants, clerks, etc. The
Industrial School has its own workshops for the teaching of trades. The
entrance conditions are similar to those for the national schools.
Thorough practical instruction is given to about four hundred pupils in
a number of subjects, including chemistry, mechanics, physics, optics,
electricity, architecture, practical carpentry, mechanical and
electrical engineering. The complete course lasts about six years, and
the school is said to have given very good results. There is a School of
Mines at San Juan, to which was added, by a decree dated April 20th,
1906, a section of chemical industry. There is an important agricultural
college known as the Agrarian and Veterinary School at Santa Catalina in
the immediate neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, and at Mendoza there is a
viticultural training school where the practical cultivation of the vine
is taught. Various other agricultural and horticultural schools are
being established by the Government, which also supports the National
School of Pilots, several conservatories of music, and a drawing school.

There is a naval and military college, from which officers are chosen
for the navy and army, but they do not come under the Ministry of
Education. By order of the Ministry of War physical drill and rifle
shooting are taught in the two highest classes of all secondary schools,
these exercises being subject to the supervision of a military officer.
The Argentine Government has founded numerous scholarships, and sends
students to England, the United States, Italy, France, and Germany. It
will be seen that the plan of education is very complete; but it would
not appear to give such good results as might be anticipated, for it is
a very general complaint that there are no good schools in the country
districts.

The attention of the public is frequently called in the newspapers to
the unsatisfactory condition of education, in spite of the large sums of
money spent upon it annually. It is shown how small is the attendance at
the primary schools compared with what it should be if the law was
properly obeyed, as would be the case were the results more
satisfactory. It is also asserted that the education in the secondary
schools is especially defective, and that certificates are issued to
university candidates without previous examination, and after merely
nominal questioning by inspectors. There are numerous foreign private
schools in the country, which all have to submit by law to Government
supervision.[A]

[A] This information respecting education in Argentina is
extracted from a British Foreign Office memorandum.

There is compulsory military service. The period of continuous training
does not exceed one year, and this only in the case of a proportion of
the annual contingent. The others are released after three months'
drill. With varying periods of training every Argentine from the age of
twenty to forty-five is liable to be called upon to defend his country.
Though years may pass without any call to attend military drill, every
man in the country must learn to shoot.

Heavy duties are imposed on most manufactured articles imported, except
in the case of material directly beneficial to the development of the
country, such as machinery. Anything which helps in the progress of the
Republic has easy entry. So, though it means two years' residence to
become a naturalised citizen, anyone who establishes a new industry, or
introduces a useful invention, who has contracted to build railways or
establish a colony, or who is going to be a teacher in any branch of
education or industry, is admitted at once. All these regulations go to
show that, despite the perfectly legitimate criticisms which can be
made, there is sound common-sense and foresight in the minds of the
governing classes.

Everyone in any business or profession must pay an annual licence, and
these vary from five to sixty thousand dollars. The latter sum is paid
by banks. Money-lenders have to pay from five to seven thousand dollars,
whilst in some provinces the _patente_ varies from three to six hundred
dollars a year. The postal and telegraph services are under the control
of the Ministry of the Interior. Most of the taxation is indirect.
Though the tariffs imposed on manufactured articles coming into the


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Online LibraryJohn Foster FraserThe amazing Argentine : a new land of enterprise → online text (page 5 of 18)