BECK index

Uruguay 1850-1935

by Sanderson Beck

Montevideo & Uruguay to 1902
Uruguay of Ordóñez & Civil War 1903-04
Uruguay of Ordóñez & Williman 1905-10
Uruguay & Ordóñez 1911-15
Uruguay & Reforms 1915-18
Uruguay & Reforms 1919-35

Montevideo & Uruguay to 1902

      In January 1516 the Spanish conquistador Juan Díaz de Solís discovered a break in the east coast of South America that came to be called the Río de la Plata estuary. This led to the mouth of the Uruguay River, and he sailed up that river to the Paraná River. His party was attacked by the fierce Charrúas who killed Díaz de Solís and most of his men. In early 1520 the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan explored the Uruguay River, and according to legend his lookout saw a mountain and said, “Monte vide eu,” and that place later became Montevideo. Magellan went south to the straits that were named after him, and he was killed in the Philippines. Yet his crew in 1522 were the first humans known to have circumnavigated the globe.
      The Venetian Sebastian Cabot in 1527 explored the estuary and the Uruguay River for five months, and in August at the San Salvador River his men built Fort San Salvador, the first European settlement in the area. In 1603 Hernando Arias de Saavedra became Spain’s first governor of the Río de la Plata region. They brought the first cattle and horses to the area, and the cattle became wild and multiplied.
      In January 1680 the Portuguese founded the Colonia del Sacramento across the estuary from Buenos Aires. In 1705 Spaniards founded Nova Colonia do Sacramento. The cowboys were called “gauchos.” Seven families settled across the river from Buenos Aires and founded Felipe de Montevideo in 1726. In 1750 the Portuguese in a treaty gave that colony to Spain in exchange for reduced Jesuits in Paraguay. A treaty in 1763 returned Colonia to Portugal whose Prime Minister Pombal secretly told officials to take over Spanish land. In 1777 the Colonia was permanently given to Spain. In 1805 Montevideo provided 1,150 soldiers to help Spaniards take back Bueno Aires. In late 1806 the British sent 10,000 troops led by John Whitelock, and they captured Montevideo in early 1807. The British left the area in July after losing 3,000 men in an attack on Buenos Aires.
      Javier Elío commanded Montevideo, and in 1808 he persuaded a central junta to make the city independent of Buenos Aires. When the independence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata was declared, the Viceroyalty there was dissolved in 1810. While Elío was preparing to attack Buenos Aires in 1811, a revolution began led by José Gervasio Artigas. Captain Artigas had fought against the British. He offered to recruit soldiers for the junta at Buenos Aires, and they were victorious at Las Piedras on May 18. Then they besieged Buenos Aires during the winter from May to October. Elío asked for Portuguese forces from Brazil, and all the troops besieging Montevideo left the country. The Portuguese stayed until 1812. Artigas led 3,000 troops and 13,000 civilians across the river to Argentina near Salto. Uruguay at this time had about 60,000 people.
      Artigas believed in the federalism adopted by the United States, and in 1813 he wrote “Instructions of the Year XIII.” He lifted the siege of Montevideo in January 1814, and the Spanish surrendered the city in June. During the civil war Artigas led a confederation, and he was called “Chief of the Orientals and Protector of Free Peoples.” He was governing about 330,000 square miles, and they defeated the Spaniards in Buenos Aires early in 1815. That year Artigas attended the Congress of the Oriente when Uruguay was called the Oriental Province. With five other provinces in Argentina they declared their independence from Spain, and they formed the Federal League.
      In 1816 a Portuguese army of 10,000 men invaded the Oriental Province from Brazil, and they took over Montevideo in January 1817. Artigas declared war on Buenos Aires, and the war went on for more than four years. The army of Artigas suffered a major defeat in January 1820. About 800 men were killed, and Artigas and 300 men escaped. In September he went to Paraguay, and the dictator Francia imprisoned him for a few months. He was given a small farm and a pension. Artigas lived there until he died in September 1850.
      In 1821 Portuguese Brazil annexed the Banda Oriental as the Cisplatine Province. On 19 April 1825 Juan Antonio Lavalleja led a band of 33 orientales, and they fought to free their country. On August 25 in a liberated town they declared the province independent of Brazil, and they incorporated it as the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Argentines supported them, and on 20 February 1827 they defeated Brazilians at Ituzaingó. On April 7-8 the Brazilian Navy defeated the Argentine Navy. Battles between Brazil and Argentina were fought in Uruguay from December to August 1828. The British Viscount John Ponsonby mediated a peace agreement that ended the war. On August 27 Argentina and Brazil signed the Treaty of Montevideo and Río de Janeiro that recognized Uruguay’s independence, and they renounced the territories that became part of the independent nation on October 3.
      Argentina and Brazil ratified the new Constitution of Uruguay that was adopted on 18 July 1830. At that time Uruguay had about 74,000 people, and a few families dominated the economy. Lt. Fructuoso Rivera had fought with Artigas, and he became a general and was elected president of Uruguay in 1830. When he and the army controlled the Congress, Lavalleja, who led the 33, revolted. Rivera and Lavalleja in 1835 agreed on General Manuel Oribe, also one of the 33, as the president. Juan Manuel de Rosas governed Buenos Aires with dictatorial power from 1835 to 1852. In 1836 he began aiding Oribe and the Blancos, and on September 19 Oribe’s Argentine troops defeated Rivera’s forces in the battle of Carpentería. In this battle Lavalleja’s forces used the color red in headbands and were called Colorados. Their opponents used white headbands and became the Blancos. Oribe’s federalist policies caused a revolt in 1838 by General Rivera who forced Oribe to resign on October 24. The Senate President Gabriel Antonio Pereira became the interim President of Uruguay until the end of the term on 1 March 1839.
      The General Assembly elected Rivera the President, and he declared war on Rosas, calling him “the tyrant of the immortal people of South America.” This began a civil war that lasted until Urquiza defeated Rosas on 3 February 1852. Rivera allied with the Corrientes Province and 1,000 French troops, and they drove the forces of Rosas out of Uruguay. In 1840 the British allied with Rosas, and on October 29 the French withdrew their ships from the region.
      Oribe commanded Blanco and Argentine forces that invaded Uruguay, thus beginning in February 1843 their Guerra Grande (Great War) in which Montevideo was besieged for eight years. The British and the French intervened from 1843 to 1850. Many Spanish, Italians, and French came to Montevideo, and Giuseppe Garibaldi led Italians and 3,000 French Basques in defending the capital. In 1846 General Rivera was removed for not fighting in the interior. During the war both the Colorados and the Blancos agreed to abolish slavery in order to recruit former slaves for the military. Those in rural areas suffered much from the blockade. In 1849 Brazil intervened during a revolt in Argentina. When Argentines supporting Colorados invaded Uruguay, most of Oribe’s men deserted. On 6 September 1850 the Uruguayan representative Andres Lamas signed an agreement with Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, the Brazilian industrialist and banker, to transfer money through his bank to the government in Montevideo.
      Justo José de Urquiza governed the Entre Ríos Province in Argentina, and his forces defeated Oribe by 1851. In May the Brazilians intervened to support the besieged Colorados. Blancos and Colorados worked out a settlement. Some Uruguayans and Brazilians helped a revolt in Argentina to overthrow the dictator Rosas, and on 3 February 1852 they defeated the forces of Rosas who fled to England. Between 1840 and 1852 Uruguay’s population was reduced from about 200,000 to 132,000. In 1852 Montevideo extended its sewer system.
      Juan Francisco Giró was President of Uruguay from 1 March 1852 to 25 September 1853, and he applied “fusion” to resolve political differences. In 1853 Uruguay got gas services. In 1854 Brazil’s Emperor Pedro II sent 4,000 troops to support the Colorado President Venancio Flores in Uruguay, and they stayed two years before leaving. Conservatives overthrew Flores in September 1855, and that year a report found that Uruguay had only 30 schools with 899 students. Uruguay had ten different presidents between 1851 and 1856 when Gabriel Antonio Pereira, who also used fusion, began a four-year term. Uruguay’s first bank was the Banco Comercial in 1857. Sewage works were developed in 1860. That year the census found that one-third of Uruguayans were foreigners as were one in two in Montevideo. Their numbers in descending order were Italian, Spanish, Brazilian, French, Argentinian, or British. Immigrants improved social mobility. The social elite learned that others with white faces wanted equal rights. Uruguay accepted 170,000 immigrants from 1861 to 1874.
      Bernardo Prudencio Berro was another fusion president in 1860-64. London directors installed Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company at Fray Bentos in 1863. That year Venancio Flores with other Colorados invaded Uruguay, and Argentinians and Brazilians supported them. Flores became president again in February 1865 for about three years. On 1 May 1865 Uruguay joined the secret Triple Alliance with Argentina and Brazil against Paraguay’s dictator Francisco López. Four days after his presidency ended, Flores was murdered in the streets on 19 February 1868. From 1860 to 1868 sheep breeding increased herds from 3 million head to 17 million. Merchants, who were mostly immigrants, increased their wealth during the Paraguayan War from 1865-70. From President Flores in 1865 through President Luis Batlle Berres in 1950 the Colorado Party provided 24 different men who for 85 years were all of Uruguay’s Presidents.
      In 1866 Uruguay built a telegraph, and Montevideo began providing running water. A railroad 20 kilometers into the interior was completed in 1869. Typographers formed the first union in 1870, and other unions followed. During the presidency of Lorenzo Batlle y Grau in 1868-72 a monetary crisis caused conflicts provoking a military uprising and a civil war. In 1870 the Blanco caudillo Timoteo Aparicio began the War of the Lances to get some power away from the Colorados, and the violence caused heavy losses for two years. In 1871 large landowners founded the Rural Association. They advocated fenced-in ranches and held their first Congress.
      In April 1872 a negotiated peace among the traditional parties gave birth to the intellectual principistas who were mostly from the richest families. They studied European ideas that questioned the powers of the state and believed in human rights. They were committed to constitutional government and opposed the strong state that the upper classes desired. The traditional parties still dominated the presidential election. In 1872 an agreement gave the Blancos control over four departments out of the thirteen. In 1873 principista leaders entered the legislature and began working for reforms to increase individual rights and oppose state power, and they gained a majority by 1875. That year the population was about 450,000 including 103,000 foreigners. President José Ellauri in 1873-75 made use of men with a university education.
      José Pedro Varela was born on 19 March 1845 in Montevideo, and in 1846 his father translated from French and published the first book on pedagogy in the region. His son mastered French and English and learned some German and Italian. In 1867 José Pedro Varela visited Europe and the United States. He conversed with Victor Hugo on the Isle of Guernsey, and he met Argentina’s Minister Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in the United States. Varela studied the educational work of Horace Mann. Varela traveled in August 1868 with Sarmiento on his way back to be Argentina’s president. On September 18 Varela spoke to a public meeting in Montevideo on the United States educational system, and they organized the Society of the Friends of Popular Education. Varela was secretary. The next year he became its president, and they established an experimental school. In 1874 he published La Educación del Pueblo on pedagogy and in 1876 De la Legislación Escobar which included a proposal for a new law school.
      Lorenzo Latorre was President of Uruguay for four years. He centralized power and imposed military rule in 1876 along with the Civil Register. On 24 August 1877 the dictator Latorre decreed the Law of Common Education based on Varela’s ideas, and he appointed Varela the inspector of the General Administration of Primary Instruction with broad powers. Varela implemented many reforms making public education compulsory, free of charge, and under a central authority before his death by illness in October 1879. Uruguay installed a telephone system in 1878 and public lighting in 1886. Improved weapons such as the repeating rifle and Krupp artillery increased the power of the state. When President Latorre resigned on 15 March 1880, he said the country was “ungovernable.”
      Latorre was succeeded by Francisco Antonino Vidal who was president until 1 February 1882 when his War Minister, Col. Máximo Santos, forced him out and replaced him for a four-year term to 1886. Then Vidal was president again for only 85 days before the Senate President Máximo Santos removed him and served as interim President for about six months before leaving for Europe in November 1886. British investing helped increase Uruguay’s railroads by extending them from 474 kilometers in 1882 to 1,571 kilometers in 1892.
      Next the Minister of War, General Máximo Tajes, became president until the end of the 3-man term on 1 March 1890. He managed to placate dissenters, opposed militarism, and disbanded unreliable army regiments. The principista Julio Herrera y Obes was a Colorado and a civilian president for four years 1890-94. He reduced the power of the military and increased the capability of the government. The polítical jefes in the departments depended on orders from the President. The Banco Nacional collapsed in 1891. That year unemployment and inflation reducing the value of wages caused vagrancy, poverty, hunger, beggary, and leaving rural areas. The government recruited soldiers, and Aparicio Saravia competed by mobilizing 15,000 men. In 1893 the Blanco Party declined to participate in elections, and some prepared for armed struggle.
      The Senate President Duncan Stewart filled in as Acting President for three weeks to 21 March 1894 when the General Assembly elected Juan Idiarte Borda. His administration promoted public works, and they founded the Banco de la República in 1896. That year a teachers’ pension and retirement fund was established.
      President Borda opposed peace agreements. On 17 March 1897 Saravia began a Blanco insurrection. Idiarte Borda was President until he was assassinated on 25 August 1897 by Avelino Arredondo who supported the Colorado José Batlle y Ordóñez, He successfully denied any role in the crime. Juan Lindolfo Cuestas had been a Finance Minister and Minister of Justice and Education. As President of the Senate in 1897 he became the Acting President of Uruguay. On 18 September 1897 the la Cruz peace agreement was reached that gave the Blancos’ National Party control of six of Uruguay’s 19 departments.
      Lindolfo Cuestas continued as Acting President until 10 February 1898. Then he declared himself De Facto President until 15 February 1899 when he resigned. José Batlle y Ordóñez was Acting President of Uruguay for two weeks. Then the General Assembly elected Lindolfo Cuestas the President, and he served for the full four years to 1 March 1903. By 1900 Uruguay’s population reached about one million. Construction on the Montevideo port began in 1901.
      Eduardo Acevedo Díaz (1851-1921) in 1872 published his spiritual manifesto “Profession of a Rationalist Faith” in which he preferred the immortality of the soul and the existence of the Supreme God as opposed to the Pope. His trilogy of novels on Uruguay’s struggle for independence were published as Ismael in 1888, Nativa in 1890, and Grito de Gloria in 1893. His gaucho novel Soledad was published in 1894. He served as Uruguay’s Minister to the United States from February 1904 to December 1906.

Uruguay of Ordóñez & Civil War 1903-04

      José Batlle y Ordóñez was born on 23 May 1856 in Montevideo. His father Lorenzo Batlle y Grau was President of Uruguay from 1868 to 1872. Ordóñez attended an English school and studied at the University of the Republic and left in 1879 without the law degree he was pursuing. In 1880 he studied English and philosophy in Paris for a year. He worked as a journalist, and he began publishing El Día on 16 June 1886 to promote reforms. His initial purpose was to criticize dictatorships. In March 1887 he started reorganizing the Colorado Party. In May he was appointed the jefe político (governor) of the Minas Department. After six months he resigned to run as a Colorado for the Chamber of Deputies, but a quarrel with President Máximo Tajes caused his removal from the ticket. In 1891 Ordóñez was elected a deputy for the Salto Department, and he served for three years. In 1895 he adopted a pro-labor policy. Employees in Montevideo worked 15 to 19 hours a day, and they went on strike to reduce hours and to raise wages. The Colorado government called them “rebellious” and suppressed the strike with force. El Día provided “The Working Movement” as a forum. Ordóñez became prominent in the Colorado Party, and in November 1898 the Montevideo Department elected him their senator. The Uruguay Senate elected him their president on 9 February 1899.
      On 20 January 1903 in preparation for the presidential election 27 Colorado legislators had a meeting and agreed to vote together. They gathered 37 signatures, and a total of 45 were needed for a majority. Voting on February 16 was by signed and sealed ballots. After the first ballot candidates with less than 20 votes were eliminated. After the second ballot all those who signed the agreement promised to vote for the citizen with the most votes. Then they formed a committee of three to negotiate for the votes of other parties who were the Nationalists and the pro-Blanco Colorados. President Cuestas had endorsed Eduardo MacEachen, but Aparicio Saravia could not vote for him. Nationalist legislators voted for MacEachen. He and Ordóñez both were for concord of the parties. Ordóñez adopted the slogan of the Nationalist Aureliano Rodríguez Larreta, saying, “The President of the Republic should place himself outside the parties and above them!”1
      On 4 February 1903 President Juan Lindolfo Cuestas invited Eduardo MacEachen’s Colorado supporters to his home, and he asked that the 16 Colorados voting for MacEachen be released to vote for Ordóñez. On February 11 MacEachen had 26 Nationalist votes, and Ordóñez had 8. On the third ballot 37 Colorados voted for him, and as the winning candidate he in a gesture of good will voted for MacEachen. On February 15 Ordóñez met with his eight Nationalists, and they signed an agreement to vote for him on March 1. In the roll call he voted for Acevedo Díaz, and Ordóñez got 55 votes, ten more than a majority. Enrique Anaya received 23 votes from the Nationalists. In his inaugural address on March 1 President Ordóñez said he would carry out “widely accepted ideas,” and he suggested that the building of roads and canals could be carried out without foreign investments so that they would not produce “economic upheaval.” President Batlle y Ordóñez began signing decrees on that day.
      Although Ordóñez admitted that the President must be impartial in running elections, he also said,

   But the citizen who occupies the presidency
of the republic, and who, in most cases, will be one
of the most important members of his political organization,
can not be denied the right to have his own opinions
about popular movements, or
the right to communicate these opinions to his friends,
thus exercising a moral influence.2

He also believed and warned, “The first result of electoral liberty will be one-party government.”3 People were aware that Ordóñez was in conflict with Nationalist interests.
      On March 5 President Ordóñez announced his cabinet. He chose the conservative Martín C. Martínez as Finance Minister. The engineer and economist José Serrato became the Minister of Development. The physician José Romeu had supported Acevedo Díaz, and he became the Minister of Foreign Relations. Juan Campisteguy had been an editor of El Día and wrote a campaign biography of Ordóñez who appointed him the Minister of Government supervising jefes políticos and the police. Ordóñez’s cousin, General Eduardo Vásquez became Minister of War. On March 13 Ordóñez mollified the divided Acevedo minority by appointing two of their jefes políticos for the Rivera and San José departments that are next to Aparicio Saravia’s Cerro Largo and Brazil. Luis Gil was going to Rivera, and he refused to work with the Nationalist Directorio. After the Montevideo Colorado Committee was appointed, Herrera y Obes and Tajes stopped attending the National Executive Committee meetings. That Committee proposed raising rural land taxes by about 100,000 pesos. The Police Chief agreed to mediate labor strikes, and striking cigarette workers cheered Ordóñez. Saravia asked the Directorio to send a delegation to him, and they spent December 16 there.
      President Ordóñez developed a war plan and alerted the Army. Nationalists had wire taps on department telegraph lines and had broken the Government’s code. Dr. Alfonso Lamas was a close friend of Saravia, and the Jefe Político Carmelo Cabrera in Rivera warned Lamas that the Government sent out military orders. Saravia began preparing for war, and his sons sent out weapons on December 22. One week later Saravia sent orders to Cabrera. On that day Ordóñez ordered Col. Ruprecht to command the forces in Rocha. The Directorio met on December 30 and authorized a negotiation with Lamas. The next day Lamas warned Finance Minister Martínez that they considered the cavalry regiments in Rivera a violation of the Nico Pérez pact. Ordóñez would not remove the regiments, but he arranged that they would not vote there. The Government prepared for mobilization, and weapons were shipped. They sent troops to the interior on New Year’s Eve. His home became command headquarters with telegraph lines. Police in the interior began arresting Nationalist military leaders. Saravia demanded that the regiments withdraw from Rivera. Ordóñez offered to remove one regiment and to sponsor an election law to neutralize the other.
      On 2 January 1904 President Ordóñez ordered all military commanders to call up their divisions. Nationalists in the interior considered this a revolution against them. Saravia ordered mobilizing but no fighting, and he asked his brother to bring arms from Brazil. The Directorio decided to negotiate, and on January 3 Rodríguez Larreta talked with Martínez. The jefe político of Tacarembó reported by telegraph that railroad bridges had been blown up. Telegrams went out, and the 1904 War had begun. On January 5 Ordóñez told the legislature that a state of war existed. The next day El Día called it “The Insurrection.”
      His first war plan failed, and soon Aparicio Saravia’s army of 9,000 was chasing the forces led by General Justino Muniz toward Nico Pérez. Ordóñez sent 7,000 men by railroad. The Revolutionary Army had 10,000 men, but only half were armed. On January 14 Muniz had 9,000 armed soldiers attack them near Mansavillagra. The Government had new machine guns, and the rebels fled. Saravia’s men moved south toward Montevideo, and General Melitón Munoz’s army prepared to stop them at Fray Marcos pass. Ordóñez by railroad sent 2,000 reinforcements for Munoz. Before they arrived, Munoz attacked on January 31. Saravia’s army crossed the Santa Lucia River and took over the artillery and machine guns. They were near Montevideo, and Ordóñez telegraphed War Minister General Vásquez to bring men to the capital.
      Aparicio Saravia moved west to gain more men. The Revolutionaries’ victory at Fray Marcos stimulated contributions from wealthy Nationalists in Argentina, and they bought arms. Ordóñez wanted Argentine mediation while customs guards allowed shipment of weapons. Dissenting Colorados criticized the war, and a young man assassinated Borda. Nationalists proposed eliminating President Ordóñez politically by replacing him with the Colorado leaders Julio Herrera y Obes and General Máximo Tajes. The Government censored newspapers, and El Nacional stopped publishing. Saravia moved north and crossed the Río Negro. On March 2 the army of Muniz attacked Saravia’s forces, and his Nationalists managed to cross the Río Daymán. Saravia returned to Rivera, and on March 23 his army began marching toward his home province of Cerro Largo. Ordóñez gave an interview and said they lacked horses. The Government had an army of 36,000 while Saravia had only 9,000 men. Government Minister Campisteguy resigned, and prominent men declined to take the powerful position that might not have a future after the war. El Siglo called for a negotiated peace, and the censor warned them to stop that.
      On April 11 wealthy ranchers met at the Asociación Rural, and they formed a committee to reduce property damage. Ordóñez assured them that he had given orders on that. Rodríguez Larreta met with Daniel Muñoz, Uruguay’s Minister to Argentina, and he reported to Ordóñez on the peace plan for “a truly representative cabinet.” Ordóñez did not respond to Rodríguez Larreta, and he would not permit the Ranchers’ Committee permission to meet with the Revolution. Dr. Nin and Col. Mascarenhas with the Ranchers’ leaders met with Saravia anyway, and he agreed to their recommendations. He insisted that Ordóñez must be replaced. Mascarenhas proposed a peace plan that the War Directorio rejected on May 9. Ordóñez listened to Nin and Mascarenhas, and he endorsed the preliminaries. El Día reported that his official peace plan was “one law, one government, one army.” The war continued.
      On 14 June 1904 the Colorado deputy Setembrino Pereda introduced a free-press bill, and the President signed his bill. On June 22 the two armies fought at Tupambaé. Both sides were running low on ammunition, and the next day each side had about 20% casualties as machine guns defeated cavalry charges. On June 24 the rebels’ Chief of Staff Col. Gregorio Lamas suggested that the revolution was over because they had no more arms. Saravia led a small force so that most of his army could escape to the north. Saravia’s men harassed Col. Galarza’s army all the way to Nico Pérez. Then they rejoined the revolutionary army at Cerro Largo. Saravia claimed victory on June 29. Rodríguez Larreta reported that both armies had about 2,300 casualties. General Benavente sent 1,000 men to stop the rebels from escaping by the Río Negro pass, and then he resigned. Ordóñez sent General Muniz to replace him.
      A censorship bill passed on July 7, and the next day they closed the independent Colorado El Tiempo for five days. Claudio Williman had become the Government Minister, and he pointed out the errors in their editorial. On July 17 Col. Galarza admitted to Ordóñez that his men could not catch the enemy. On August 2 General Muniz told Ordóñez that his army blocked river passes so that Saravia’s forces could not ford the Río Negro. Ordóñez learned that the Buenos Aires arsenal had shipped six Krupp cannons to the Revolution. On August 2 Uruguay’s Minister in Washington, Acevedo Díaz, asked Secretary of State John Hay for an audience with President Theodore Roosevelt. He sent Díaz back to Hay who “denied all his requests for cause.” On August 13 General Muniz notified Ordóñez that Col. Rodriguez was not going to stop Aparicio Saravia from reaching the city of Rivera. On August 21 the revolutionaries crossed the river with 1,906 rifles, 1,344,650 bullets, three cannons, and three machine guns.
      On August 24 Mascarenhas suggested to Aparicio Saravia that the Nationalists could get six departments. Three days later General Vásquez replaced Muniz and took command of his 7,500 poorly armed men. On September 1 at Masoller his army defeated the rebels. Vásquez telegraphed Ordóñez , and on the 4th rumors spread to Montevideo that Saravia had died. The Government’s army of about 25,000 men had defeated some 10,000 Blanco rebels. Saravia had been wounded at Masoller, and he died on September 10. On that day revolutionary emissaries sent a written request by way of Joaquín Machado to Ordóñez for an armistice. Eventually on October 5 Nico Pérea brought word that the Revolution had accepted Ordóñez’s revised terms, and on October 15 the legislature approved amnesty and the end of interdictions.

Uruguay of Ordóñez & Williman 1905-10

      President José Batlle y Ordóñez proposed moving the general elections from November 1904 to 22 January 1905 so that the new legislators could assemble on the constitutional date February 15. Having lost the war, the Nationalists no longer controlled any departments. They accepted the January 22 date and prepared to participate in the campaigns. On 3 November 1904 Ordóñez sent the legislature a bill to reapportion the Chamber of Deputies in the upcoming elections. All the Nationalist deputies had been expelled for not attending during the war, though they still had three senators. In the previous reapportionment in 1890 Uruguay had 69 Deputies. Montevideo had 12 deputies, Canelones 6, and the other 17 departments each had 3 including Flores with the smallest population of 5,291. Each of the Montevideo deputies had represented 22,361 people. Ordóñez proposed using Salterain’s 1901 plan to have one deputy per 12,000 people. This would increase the Chamber of Deputies to 75 members. Montevideo would have 22 deputies and Canelones 7. The next three departments would have 4 deputies; seven departments would continue to have 3; six departments would have 2; and only Flores would have one.
      The 69 Deputies in the Chamber approved this plan on 16 November 1904, and the General Assembly meeting on December 27 made it law. The turnout was large for the election on 22 January 1905, and for a change there was not a single fist fight. The Colorado Party got 26,705 votes and the Nationalists 16,871. The Colorados elected 54 deputies and the Nationalists 21. The Colorados would have 13 senators and the Nationalists 6. Only about 30% of those eligible voted. Widespread acceptance of the results began a new era in Uruguay’s politics.
      When the legislature met, they elected the Colorado Party’s president Antonio Rodríguez the president of the Chamber and Juan Campisteguy the Senate president. President Ordóñez gave a harsh annual message in February, and forewarned Nationals did not attend the reading by the clerk which blamed the war on them. In the first five days of April the National Electoral Congress met with one delegate from each of the 19 departments, and they elected the leader Carlos Berro their president. The new Directorio was mostly conservatives who favored Nationalist ranchers and businessmen. On May 23 the Chamber began debating the President’s 3-million peso project for building roads. Ranchers opposed the hide tax on cattle and the horse tax, but they were accepted along with a small license tax on carts. The Chamber elected five Colorados to the Permanent Committee that met when the legislature was not in session, and the Senate chose Campisteguy and the Nationalist Berinduague. While debating schools they learned that less than one quarter of the 120,236 school-age children in the interior attended schools.
      Railroad workers formed a union in December 1904, and in January 1905 they demanded an 8-hour day for six months each year and a 10-hour day for six months. They also asked for pay increases and dismissal payments for the men over 50 who were discharged. The company rejected them, and the workers went on strike. The railroad hoped for a government subsidy, and Ordóñez sent Claudio Williman who had been the railroad’s lawyer. The company accepted most of the demands but did not recognize the union. They took back the leaders, and the strikers went back to work.
      On May 23 men who unloaded ships at the Montevideo port began a strike and had many demands. Construction workers at the port joined the strike. About 11,000 men made this the biggest strike so far in Uruguay. When strikebreakers escorted by police arrived, strikers attacked them. They shot six men, killing one. By the end of June most strikers were back at work. The union’s strike was a failure. President Ordóñez did not have the legal right to intervene. El Día wrote, “The President of the Republic intends to formulate several laws on labor matters in order that the various questions be treated separately.”4
      In May 1905 the Colorados introduced a bill to legalize divorce, and Ordóñez had El Día give it extensive support. In a few months the bill became law. In the September elections the Colorado party had not yet developed its policies, and they were disappointing. On October 15 President Ordóñez announced in El Siglo that he was endorsing the candidacy of Dr. Claudio Williman for president. On October 30 the formal proclamation for Williman was signed by 53 Colorado legislators.
      In late 1905 President Ordóñez by decree abolished income taxes on the lowest-paid public officials and on those receiving small pensions. Although that cost the Treasury 460,000 pesos, that fiscal year Uruguay’s government for the first time had a budget surplus. In his term he did much too improve education. The University curriculum expanded; foreign professors and technicians were hired; and scholarships enabled citizens to study in the United States and Europe. Ordóñez worked to make all public schools free, and Congress provided one million pesos for school buildings. He proposed night school for adults, and every department had a secondary school. His plan guaranteed autonomy for the national university.
      In January 1906 El Día ran several editorials for one-party government, and they criticized cooperation or bipartisanship. El Día responded to criticism this way:

   The reciprocal duties of those in power
and those out of power are therefore fixed.
The one fully complies with the mission
the voters have given it.
The other should resign itself to obtaining
at the ballot box what up to now it has been unable
to achieve either by its arrogance or its hatreds….
   Nor does one-party government mean that
citizens of the opposition, in greater or lesser numbers,
should not be found
among the great mass of public employees….
   This being so, why does the present government
ignore saravista citizens when it fills vacant positions?
Simply because the government feels that, so long as
the saravista party does not renounce its aggressive policy,
does not demonstrate clearly and convincingly
that it has forever abandoned warlike aspirations
in order to take its place tranquilly in the ranks
of those whose only aspiration is to make their rights
count in the wide field of labor and law—
that party can not provide really useful men
for public positions….
To place men of war in public positions
is to hand over the nation, handcuffed, to its enemies.5

      The Colorado José Saravia, who had warned General Muniz at the start of the war, advised President Ordóñez that his brother Mariano Saravia was going to venture a filibustering expedition against Ordóñez in March 1906. Battle also got a warning that Mariano had scheduled horse races across the border for March 4, and that gathering could be used to launch a revolution. The Nationalist Directorio sent Basilio Muñoz, who had succeeded Aparicio Saravia, to dissuade Mariano. On March 2 the Directorio issued a public manifesto that to “renew a bloody and sterile struggle” would “be entirely anti-patriotic and contrary to the political interests of the party.”6 On March 3 the President Ordóñez telegraphed every jefe político to arrest all Nationalist military officers, and they were to relay that order to rural police chiefs. They jailed about 1,000 Nationalists, and they closed Nationalist political clubs and searched for evidence. The press and telegraph lines were censored. On March 12 and 13 the legislators debated whether Ordóñez had acted legally. All the Colorados voted to approve Battle’s message. On March 14 the Nationalist military officers were freed.
      On April 5 and 6 the Directorio president Carlos Berro met in Buenos Aires with Mariano Saravia, Basilio Muñoz, and other Nationalist military officers. The Foreign Relations Minister José Romeu warned Ordóñez of reports against his life, and police spies were watching the Nationalists. Ordóñez’s supporter Julio Sosa edited La Prensa and promoted Williman’s candidacy. He was concerned about high prices and low wages, and he wrote,

   Taxes should rest almost exclusively on inheritances
and latifundia, so that this mass of capital and land
now concentrated in a few hands,
once divided would return to the national patrimony.
It would then spread its regenerative force
on all forms of labor, which once free from restrictions,
will double production, reduce the cost of living,
and because of the constantly expanded demand for
the force supplied by human muscles will increase wages.7

On May 10 the clerk read the Executive branch’s annual financial message to the Chamber. They applauded when the Minister of Development José Serrato announced a budget surplus of 400,000 pesos for the fiscal year 1905-06. The election brought back Conservatives into control, though Radicals gained power in the Directorio. Serrato warned against using the surplus to reduce taxes, and he suggested,

Rather we should use them
to stimulate economic development,
which increases production and not only gives employment
to native sons but also solves the great national problem
of attracting immigrants to these shores.8

President Ordóñez urged the legislators to increase nationalization. He advised,

   The experience of those nations which have taken over
the furnishing of electric light and power,
whose supply it is always dangerous to delegate
to private individuals who sacrifice the needs
of general interest to their own interest demonstrates that
only operation by public administration
can meet the needs of this public service….
Whenever private initiative is lacking,
or the class of public service constitutes a natural monopoly,
it is the State safeguarding the interests of society,
which must take over ownership and operation.9

For the expansion of electric power the Chamber increased the Executive’s request for 400,000 pesos to 1,200,000 pesos. The bill easily passed the Chamber and the Senate.
      President Ordóñez commuted a death sentence because the murder had not been premeditated. He proposed a bill to replace the death penalty with a prison term of thirty or forty years depending on good behavior. He had anti-Catholic opinions, and he supported the bill to legalize divorce. He favored a progressive inheritance tax that El Día strongly supported. He worked to prepare a plan of social reforms that were “all designed to look after and to liberate the working classes.” He supported a bill for an 8-hour workday and one day of rest each week but not limited to Sunday so that workers would not find everything closed. He believed that workers have the right to “the life of civilization” and time “to broaden their moral and intellectual culture.” He urged legislation for an old-age pension and a salary for four weeks for women who give birth. In the last three months of his first term he struggled to get the 8-hour work day passed. Late in 1906 Ordóñez did succeed in converting the Uruguay’s foreign debt from 6% interest to 5%, saving 500,000 pesos annually.
      On 14 February 1907 the Senate elected as president the newest and youngest Senator Feliciano Viera who had been working as campaign manager for Claudio Williman. The Senate approved the Chamber-passed budget for 19,160,547 pesos. On February 15 the clerk read Ordóñez’s last annual message of the term, and he announced that last year’s surplus estimate of 450,000 pesos turned out to be 2,143,921 pesos. Government employees collected 16,000 pesos for the outgoing Ordóñez and Serrato, and they agreed it should be given to a worthy cause. A Colorado convention began on February 23, and Williman’s friend José Espalter was working on a program for constitutional reforms, separation of Church and State, municipal autonomy, and labor legislation. On March 1 the Chamber elected Williman the President of Uruguay with 70 votes to 9 for Guillermo García.
      On March 23 a crowd of over 20,000 gathered at the harbor to see Battle off on his trip to Europe. For nearly four years he traveled to learn about political and economic problems visiting France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Egypt.
      In 1899 the Peace Conference at The Hague did not invite South American nations because they were considered uncivilized. They did invite them to the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907, and Williman appointed José Batlle y Ordóñez to lead Uruguay’s delegation. They met for four months, and the Uruguay delegation was allowed to give only two speeches. On July 5 Ordóñez proposed an alliance for obligatory arbitration, and he suggested a world federation on July 29. The rivalry between the British and the Germans prevented approval of even more moderate proposals. The Uruguay proposal was referred to a committee and was never discussed.
      In a letter from Paris to his friend Domingo Arena on 3 January 1908 Ordóñez approved of the El Día article criticizing foreign insurance companies, and he wrote,

We must stop letting them take money from us
as though we are fools.
And I don’t refer only to insurance but to all companies
whose capitalists live outside the country.
As for instance,
why shouldn’t the State create an Insurance Bank?
Doesn’t the Bank of the Republic give excellent results?10

On February 7 Ordóñez received a letter from Pedro Manini Ríos that Uruguay was debating whether to authorize bull-fights. In a letter to Manini and Arena he wrote,

   I have to think of what we could do
to make Uruguay a small model country
in which education is enormously extended,
in which the arts and sciences are cultivated with honor,
in which people’s customs are refined.
I take pleasure in imagining that
we could create universities in all the departments
and great scientific and artistic institutes in Montevideo,
develop the theater and literature, organize olympic games,
build up the national wealth by preventing foreign countries
from taking it out of the country,
provide for the well being of the poor classes, etc. etc.11

      While President Claudio Williman governed Uruguay from 1907 to 1911, the economy grew by 5% per year, and by 1911 the total value of the economy was estimated at 1,900,000,000 pesos. Uruguay’s first census in 1908 counted the human population at 1,024,636 along with 8,192,602 cattle and 26,286,602 sheep. Life expectancy for men was 75 years and for women about 81 years. Williman’s first bill created the Ministries of Education and Public Works. In 1906 there were 57,638 children in 619 schools, and by 1911 they increased to 82,852 children in 931 schools. In the years 1908-10 Uruguay had 31 strikes against private companies, and only eight strikes by 850 strikers were successful. The failures included 3,500 railroad strikers in 1908.
      José Enrique Rodó (1871-1917) published his essay “Ariel” in 1900 that influenced the spiritual unity of Latin America. He discussed morals and ethics in The Motives of Proteus in 1909, and he warned against the “nordomania” materialism in North America.
      In January 1910 Radical Nationalists formed a War Directorio in Buenos Aires, and Argentina had shipped arms to Nationalists in Uruguay. On April 20 Conservatives met in El Siglo offices and organized a Peace League. On May 23 the Colorado Senators who would be voting on March 1 called a meeting of the party’s National Commission and Montevideo Commission, and they voted to convoke a Convention to endorse Batlle’s candidacy for president. On July 3 the Colorado Party nominated Batlle while he was still in Europe.
      On July 31 El Siglo published an interview with Batlle with the headline “Batlle and His Ideas.” He completed his program on August 10 and published it on September 27. He advocated the following policies: the 8-hour day, popular election of the president instead of the Congress electing Uruguay’s executive, proportional representation of parties in Congress, workers’ rights to health and culture, protection of children and women and the elderly, free immigration with assistance, free public schools with compulsory attendance in elementary schools, assisting livestock and agriculture and national industries, and organizing social services.
      On October 24 President Williman mobilized the Army and intervened on telephones and telegraph lines to prevent Uruguayans from leaving the country without permission, and he decreed war censorship, claiming that a Nationalist Party faction was trying to destroy “public peace.” Realizing their policies had failed, the Directorio resigned on October 26. They “prayed that a solution of national confraternity could be found.”12 On November 21 Williman announced that hostilities had ended, and he granted amnesty. He postponed elections from November 27 to December 18. The new Directorio declared that they would abstain in the elections. The Karl Marx Center had 300 members. Emilio Frugoni had been trying to start a Socialist Party since 1904, and he wrote a manifesto against landowners, the military, and the October revolution. The Colorado Club declared Ordóñez “unquestioned and unquestionable chief of the Colorado Party.” In the election the Colorado tickets received 28,386 votes, and the tickets against the Colorados got 1,329 votes.
      The Bank of the Republic increased its commercial credit from 6.3 million pesos in 1901 to 23 million by the end of 1910. The Bank had branches in every department and financed business and ranches. By lowering its basic interest rate from 10% to 8% usurers in the interior were driven out of business, and its influence caused Montevideo’s private banks to lower their interest rates.

Uruguay & Ordóñez 1911-15

      José Batlle y Ordóñez wrote his last letter from Europe in Berlin on 14 January 1911, and he returned to Montevideo on February 11. In his second inaugural address as President of Uruguay he promised that “justice, progress and the welfare of the Republic, under strict compliance of the law” would be his “greatest and constant concern as President.” He appointed 32-year-old Pedro Manini Ríos the Interior Minister, brought back José Serrato again as Finance Minister, and he made Eduardo Acevedo the Minister of Industries. He chose Uruguay’s top engineer Víctor Sudriers to be Minister of Public Works, and young Juan Blengio Rocca became Minister of Public Education. Ordóñez reminded people of the past when he brought back the Foreign Minister José Romeu. Ordóñez had the Intendent order the Health Department to inspect all the slum tenements because a survey in 1906 had found that two thirds of them lacked proper conditions. Those not renovated within a year were to be closed. He abolished the special labor division that Williman had added to the Montevideo police.
      Ordóñez suggested the 8-hour work day, agricultural research stations, nationalizing the Bank of the Republic and adding a section for rural credit, a women’s university, no import duties on agricultural machinery and tools, abolishing honors to symbols and religious persons, a national commission on physical education, a national orchestra, and a school of dramatic art.
      The Labor Federation held their Third Congress for three days in early May, and their unions claimed 7,000 members. They demanded better shop conditions, a 6-hour work day, and an end to child labor. Two electric trolley companies owned by the English and Germans employed more people than anyone except the railroads. Employees complained about the 10 or 11-hour work days. After nine union leaders were fired, they went on strike. Ordóñez said he respected their right to strike, and he would protect operating trolleys from violence. Delegates of 35 unions suggested a general strike, and it began on May 23. The Labor Federation voted to end the general strike after 48 hours. About 1,700 workers had their situations improved. The Chamber of Deputies passed three bills submitted by Acevedo to improve agriculture.
      On July 13 the Bank of the Republic with a new charter began operating officially as a State Bank. President Ordóñez proposed a State Insurance Bank. In September the British government opposed this. He also intended to replace Uruguay’s presidency with an Executive Council. He sent a circular to all public offices ordering them to hire women whenever possible, and he made establishing the Women’s University a high priority. The University Secondary and Preparatory Council advised creating a four-year secondary school that could later add two additional years.
      On December 18 Ordóñez wrote an article proposing the Collegiate Executive, and he gave the Swiss as a positive example.

In the Swiss federation the executive faculties
are confided to a council of seven citizens,
who are elected every three years and can be reelected.
One of them carries the title of president,
but his mandate does not last more than a year,
and his attributes are extremely limited,
because the real government is in the Council.13

He also noted, “In France, the Executive Power is exercised by a commission.” He hoped that the Colegiado would help Uruguay to develop into a model country.
      The Chamber of Deputies approved the Women’s University in February 1912. On March 14 Ordóñez used the pen name Laura in El Día calling for woman suffrage in the constitutional reform so that Uruguay could be the first country in America to let women vote. In his first year and a half of this term he increased Uruguay’s budget by 27%. This was partly because they were budgeting 3.2 million pesos for Education, 1.5 million for Industries, and 1.3 million for Public Works. Although the military budget doubled to 4.7 million, this was still about 13.4% of the total budget as it had been in 1904-05. The Chamber and the Senate by August 22 passed a constitutional reform bill. his opponents were concerned that he would use the Colegiado to continue his power. To alleviate their concern on September 21 he gave El Día a long interview in which he said, “Since I put such weight on the transformation of the Executive, I feel it necessary to declare right now that I would not accept any position in the future government.”14
      The government’s Electric Power System multiplied its service and made a profit of 725,450 pesos in 1912. The new State Insurance Bank operated without its monopoly and in the first year collected 354,152 pesos in premiums. Their protectionist legislation stimulated manufacturing. Also in 1912 he decreed new military zones, regulations for a school of nursing, urbanization for Montevideo, a law for literary and artistic copyright, a bill to suppress bullfights, a national monopoly on supplying electric light and power, and an institute of industrial chemistry.
      On 15 February 1913 the Senate unanimously chose Manuel Otero as their president. Feliciano Viera’s Senate term had ended, and on the 19th he became the Minister of the Interior. In January the Nationalist Directorio had decided that they would neither participate in constitutional reform nor oppose such reforms. On March 1 the Chamber began debating Ordóñez’s bill for an 8-hour work day with no overtime allowed. Until a pension system was enacted women would get forty days off with 20 pesos paid by the State. Several organizations submitted a petition opposing the 8-hour day with 104 signatures.
      On March 4 Ordóñez published an article on his Colegiado plan for an executive council. Members would be elected for nine years. In the first election the nine with the most votes would serve different terms with the one having the most votes serving nine years and the others lesser years so that one new member would be elected each year. The Junta would elect by a majority vote one member to a two-year term as president and they could remove the president by a two-thirds vote. No department could have more than one member. He warned against the Latin American tendency to have a dominant president.
      On March 14 the Interior Minister Pedro Manini Ríos gave a speech to the Colorado Club in Montevideo announcing that he was opposed to the Collegiate organization, though he was still a Colorado and a collaborator with Ordóñez’s government. On that day the Finance Minister Serrato resigned, and two days later the Education Minister Blengio Rocca did the same. They both opposed the Colegiado.
      By two-thirds votes the Chamber and the Senate approved the National Convenience of Constitutional Reform. The Senate would not implement it because they considered the election law unconstitutional. Ordóñez urged ex-President Williman to serve as a member on the first Colegiado. On June 14 the Chamber passed the bill for an 8-hour work day. The Colorado Convention met on July 3, and on the 6th they approved the Colegiado. They ratified adopted resolutions and adjourned on July 14. That evening they passed a resolution supporting the candidacy for president of Dr. Feliciano Viera. He had been president of the Senate and was Interior Minister. Eleven senators had forced President Ordóñez to choose a new cabinet.
      The prominent Nationalist José Pedro Ramírez died on July 13 at the age of 76, and 20,000 people attended his funeral after the legislators’ vote not to have a state funeral. Ordóñez justified his conduct writing,

Men who are ennobled by immaculate honesty,
those who have preferred the pain of defeat
to the splendor of an immoral triumph,
those whose political conduct
conforms to the most severe civic morality,
those who have not bought votes nor sold their own,
nor deceived public opinion,
nor formed a reputation on the basis of mystifications,
—all those men do not avoid the judgment
of their contemporaries, they seek it out,
because that pronouncement constitutes
the greatest and purest of their triumphs.15

      In 1912-13 Uruguay’s only profitable Central Railroad exported 2,699,607 pesos in gold. In June 1913 President Ordóñez’s government proposed to its English and French creditors that the United States President Woodrow Wilson arbitrate what damages were due. On July 8 Uruguay’s London banker declined to renew four million pesos in 5% Treasury notes due that day. This caused the gold holdings of the Bank of the Republic to fall to 39%, just under the required 40%. On July 26 the Bank of the Republic notified customers that they were suspending credit. This started a panic, and five million pesos in paper currency were turned in for gold. That Bank had 16,700,000 pesos in gold in May, and by August 1 the gold was down to 7,500,000 pesos. The credit freeze reduced exports and imports. The run on the Bank of the Republic stopped, and on August 14 the legislature authorized a loan of 25 million pesos. On September 6 they voted the divorce bill into law that allowed the woman to end the marriage without stating a cause.
      About 250 Colorados gathered in the Senate antechambers on September 27 to hear Manini argue for the “organization of anti-Colegialist forces.” The anti-Colegialist Executive Committee elected Manini their president, and he wrote the manifesto they signed on October 7. On November 8 Interior Minister Viera informed the departments’ Jefes Políticos that a July decree enabled them to engage in politics. The next day a large Viera for President committee formed. The officers of the Workers Federation were criticized for lacking militancy, and they resigned on November 17. The Federation stopped functioning two weeks before the election. In the election on November 30 Colegialist Colorados received 32,849 votes, Nationalists 15,577 votes, anti-Colegialist Colorados 4,981 votes, Socialists 774 votes, and the Catholic Civic Unión 381 votes.
      Francisco Simón campaigned for the Colegiado and for Viera, and in an interview on December 5 he told El Día,

   I think we should gradually apply the theory of Stuart Mill,
according to which, as many are aware,
the value of real property, when it is not the consequence
of the personal effort of the proprietor,
should go to the benefit of society….
I also believe it desirable to accentuate the progressive tax
on inheritance and other forms of capital, so as
to keep those forms of wealth within a reasonable limit….
That way the enormous differences that
result in many able men living under miserable conditions
while others who are worthless live
in the most irritating opulence would largely disappear.16

He also believed that women should be given the vote as soon as possible.
      Ordóñez agreed with the American Henry George that society should tax the profits of land ownership. Nearly half the ranch land in Uruguay was rented. On December 8 Ordóñez urged the Senate to pass a bill to elect a constitutional convention and allow anti-Colegialists to vote by secret ballot for their delegates.
      By early 1914 the Bank of the Republic’s gold holdings had increased to 13 million pesos. On February 12 President Batlle ordered the arrest of Col. Dubra for plotting against the government, and it was discovered that this was based on false evidence. Education Minister Baltasar Brum worked hard. On March 26 the Chamber approved 150 new teachers, and they also passed a Brum bill to establish public libraries in every department.
      Uruguay declared neutrality at the beginning of the Great War in August. Most imports stopped, and on December 31 the Executive asked the legislature to authorize issuing 3,500,000 in Treasury Notes. Ordóñez offered a bill to establish pensions for the elderly and another giving equal rights to legitimate and natural children. He initiated making the railway system state-owned. His government negotiated several arbitration treaties with other nations.
      On 21 January 1915 the Chamber of Deputies began debating the Ordóñez-Brum bill to make secondary education free and to let the Executive end tuition in the University. Students attending public primary schools had increased from 54,355 in 1903 to 97,313 in 1915.
      On February 21 the Police Chief Sampognaro resigned, and the next day Ordóñez named him and General Duffrechou, who was in charge of his personal security, as his seconds in a demand that Juan Andrés Ramírez retract offenses he inflicted against Batlle in the last four years. Sampognaro withdrew his resignation. After Feliciano Viera was inaugurated as President on March 1, he ordered Sampognaro to stop a duel between Ordóñez and Ramírez. Previously Ordóñez had accepted challenges, but he had never challenged anyone. Ramírez refused this challenge.

Uruguay & Reforms 1915-18

       On 15 February 1915 President Feliciano Viera sent his first annual message to the Congress, and he wrote,

   From the political point of view
the country’s position cannot be improved upon.
All rights are absolutely guaranteed.
   Free speech is absolute to the extreme that
orators of the opposition party use licentious terms,
calling for disorder, force, and revolution without the police
going beyond their calm protection of those orators.17

By 1915 Montevideo had about 400,000 people, and the rest of Uruguay had about one million. On February 17 an 8-hour work day with pay cuts went into effect. On that day about 2,300 workers at the meatpacking plant Frigorífico Uruguayo began a strike because that company had reduced their wages. Only 80 specialists came to work, and the managers claimed they hired 450 new workers. The strike was settled in one week.
      On March 23 the government formed the Committee for Obligatory Military Service and National Defense. Their officers included the War Minister, General Segundo Bazzano, and the Interior Minister Baltasar Brum who was in charge of the police. Pedro Manini Ríos was a member. The newspaper La Democratica, which supported the Nationalist Directorio, also endorsed the committee. On August 12 the Rural Congress appointed a committee to organize the Rural Federation that was led by the very conservative lawyer and rancher José Itureta Goyena. The committee included the Nationalist Luis Alberto de Herrera and the anti-colegialist Manini. Congress finally approved the 8-hour work day bill on November 17.
      On 22 January 1916 the Catholic Unión Cívica del Uruguay announced that they would take part in the Constitutional Convention. On May 8 El Día published “Constitutional Reform” to prepare delegates and the public. The main change was to replace the President with an elected Junta of nine members. The Senate would be doubled from 19 to 38 with two senators for each department. One fifth of the registered voters could require a plebiscite within 60 days after a bill was passed. Each department would elect an unpaid assembly and a paid junta of seven persons. Department governments would continue to receive taxes from the national government, and starting in 1919-20 they would also get 80% of the increases from the annual land tax. The new constitution would become effective on 1 March 1919. The national legislature could amend the constitution with the approval of the voters. The first draft did not include secret voting, proportional representation nor women’s suffrage.
      On May 13 the Chamber of Deputies began debating Ordóñez’s proposed bill to provide pensions for the aged who were indigent. On May 23 it was understood that the obreros (blue-collar workers) and empleados (white-collar workers) would be included, and they passed the bill. On May 26 the Colorado Convention met and endorsed the Colegiado Junta. The ex-President José Batlle y Ordóñez spoke, and they formed a Committee of Eleven to consider his reform project. The Anti-colegialists held their first national convention on June 24. On July 5 President Viera announced that the election for the constitutional delegates would be July 30.
      On July 15 the Anglo-Argentine Frigorífico Uruguayo closed down for the season, laying off 2,000 people in the winter. Since 1913 Uruguay’s government had been feeding the hungry at barracks and police stations in Montevideo. Foreign Minister Baltasar Brum suggested that unemployment insurance was a better solution than providing food, and he proposed a bill that the Senate passed in five days. The Senate had begun debating Batlle’s pension bill for the aged on July 11. The State Insurance Bank already was planning to provide 60% of the average industrial wage as old-age pensions. On July 28 El Día published instructions on how to vote on the new secret ballot.
      The election of delegates on July 30 was by far the largest turnout ever, and it was peaceful. The Nationalists had 68,073 votes that gave them 105 delegates. Colorado Colegialists got 60,470 votes and 85 delegates. Manini’s Anti-colegialist Colorados with 14,548 votes won 22 delegates. The Colegiado was outnumbered 127 to 85. Socialists had 2,001 votes and the Catholics 1,590. President Viera negotiated with Senator Blas Vidal in October. The Finance Minister Martin Martínez resigned on October 26, and Riverista ministers resigned the next day. The Constitutional Convention began meeting on October 27, and delegates elected by a vote of 112 to 3 the Anti-colegialist leader Juan Campisteguy as the president of the Convention.
      On November 18 President Viera’s new cabinet began meeting. On December 7 the legislature with minor changes approved Viera’s bill for tax cuts. Concern that the law would end free secondary schools and universities caused Viera to decree that none of those students would pay any examination fees. The Constitutional Convention took a recess for the campaigning before the elections on 14 January 1917. The Nationalists were outraged when Viera tried to get the Chamber to pass a modified election law and budget reductions on December 14. Shouting led to curses, and the Chamber president suspended the session. Firemen then used rifle butts to beat the Nationalist crowd. The Colorado Gabriel Terra, who had proposed more deputies from Montevideo, tried to stop the beating, and he was arrested.
      Under existing law Nationalists would have 50 deputies and the Colorados 36 while under Viera’s new bill there would be elected 64 Colorados and 59 Nationalists. Montevideo would get 14 more. The Senate approved the bill, and Viera signed it into law. In the elections on 14 January 1917 the Colorados got 49.3% of the votes, the Nationals had 22.7% and their Coalition got 25.0%. The majority would be determined by how the Colorado Riveristas used their 2.5%, and they might stay with the Colorados in order to keep the 8-hour work day. As it turned out, Batlle criticized the Riveristas costing the Colorados six seats in the Chamber and one senate seat.
      By January 24 in Montevideo four clubs had called for the nomination of Batlle for president in 1919, and 72 legislators by the end of March signed a pledge to vote for Batlle. On April 10 the Colorado reformer José Salgado introduced for the first time in the world a law requiring stores, shops, and other establishments to provide chairs for female employees so that when their work allowed it, they could sit down.
      On April 20 the Nationalist Directorio selected their president Vásquez Acevedo, the best lawyer Martin Martínez, the biggest rancher Dr. Gallinal, and Dr. Carlos Berro, the son of the former President, to lead the National Party. The next day the Colorado Executive Committee chose the following four lawyers, the Senate president Areco, the Chamber president Arena, the Foreign Minister Brum, and Juan Buero to join with the Nationalist leaders in the Committee of Eight. On May 26 these eight men signed secret documents agreeing not to veto one candidate for the Council and to avoid sabotaging the plebiscite by having their party boycott the voting. They met in secret and wrote a new constitution that included secret voting, proportional representation, retained the indirect election of the president, and they rejected plebiscites and referenda. On May 30 Brum told Colorado delegates about the draft, and on June 1 Martínez informed the Nationalist delegates. On June 5 Colorado legislators unanimously nominated Brum for president. The next day their new Constitution was presented at the Convention of the Republic. The result was a compromise that allowed citizens to elect a President and a National Council of Administration of nine members to give more than one political influence in the executive branch of the government.
      The British wanted the eight German freighters that were anchored in the Montevideo harbor. President Viera was negotiating arbitration treaties with Britain and France, and the United States persuaded them to reconsider the treaties. After Brazil broke off relations with Germany and was about to seize German ships, Britain and France signed arbitration treaties. Uruguay then seized the German freighters and used them to trade with the Allies. A revised bill allowed the state to rent out the German ships for the remainder of the war. Six ships were used in the Rio de la Plata trade. Ownership of the ships would be decided after the war.
      Celestino Mibelli was the secretary-general of the Uruguayan Socialist Party and a delegate. On May 11 he had asked Batlle to defend his views on military conscription. Batlle replied that he opposed conscription but that he supported military schools for boys. Mibelli would call for the abolition of the army. The delegates at the Convention rejected a petition by women for the vote because it had only 225 signatures.
      On June 11 the United States Secretary of State Lansing asked for the use of Uruguay’s ports. The Uruguay Senate approved that, and on the 15th Foreign Minister Brum cabled Lansing that all US Navy ships could do so.
      On July 15 the Constitutional Convention approved the reforms submitted by the Committee of Eight. In the elections for the Constituent Assembly on July 30 conservatives made gains. On October 7 Uruguay suspended diplomatic relations with Germany. Finally on October 15 the Nationalist and Colorado leaders had the reformed Constitution approved. Two days later the British minister sent to London the treaty signed by Uruguay, Britain, and France that required citizens of these nations to accept national courts with which they have disputes without appealing to diplomats.
      In October the Montevideo Colorado Commission urged Colorado clubs to discuss constitutional reforms and the candidacy of Dr. Baltasar Brum for president. Asked about the referendum, Batlle answered on November 22 that he advised the country and the Colorado Party to vote yes. On November 25 the yes vote was 95%.
      The former radical Duvimoso Terra made a Nationalist proposal prior to the Constitution of 1918 as did the financial expert Martín Martínez who opposed revolutions and had been a member of the Partido Constitucional. The Nationalists on the Committee of Eight made a secret deal that they would not use the veto against Batlle. In 1918 Uruguay formed the National Council of Primary and Normal Instruction.

Uruguay & Reforms 1919-35

      In early 1919 the Colorado colegialistas persuaded the Montevideo commission to make the elected members of the Representative Assembly in Montevideo keep promises they made in campaigns. In February the National Commission was elected. The list of 15 nominees included Batlle at the top and his friend Domingo Arena. President Viera had his friends Juan Aguirre y González and Justino Jiménez de Aréchaga on the list. When the National Commission met on March 17 Batlle proposed that they not meet at the President’s home as before but in the party headquarters. This caused a division between the Colorado Party and the outgoing President Viera who had been succeeded by the Colorado President Baltasar Brum on March 1. Viera did not want political committees dominating the administration, and Jiménez de Aréchaga backed him up.
      On May 2 Viera’s supporters began publishing the newspaper La Defensa which published a manifesto by 49 Vierist legislators. They were opposed by Batlle’s colegialista Colorados. President Brum had friends on both sides and stood between them. The Nationalist leader Luis Alberto de Herrera criticized Brum’s policies. Brum in May announced that he was starting his own group that would become the Colorado Union Party. On June 9 El Pais editor Rodriguez Larreta accused Brum of politicizing the chiefs of police. On June 23 the Interior Minister Javier Mendívil resigned. After midnight Brum went to police headquarters. He had dismissed the Vierist police chief of Montevideo and two regimental chiefs who were Viera’s brothers. Viera was now President of the Council.
      Brum appointed Pedro Manini Ríos the Interior Minister who had opposed Batlle for six years. Manini believed that Uruguay was moving from a presidential system to a parliamentary government. On October 1 a Vierist in the Chamber proposed an investigation of the Montevideo police force, and the Deputies appointed a commission. On October 15 Manini resigned because of the dismissed police officers, and he was replaced by Gabriel Terra. The Commission demanded that Terra answer questions in the Chamber. On October 24 Uruguay ratified the Versailles Treaty, and on 10 January 1920 Uruguay became a founding member of the League of Nations.
      In the November 1919 election the Nationalists got 83,520 votes and 56 Mandates while four Colorado parties added together had more votes and 63 more mandates. The Batllists had 40 Mandates, Riverists 9, Vierists 7, and Unionists 7.
      The Communist Revolution in Russia stimulated strikes and labor disruptions. A Rent Commission was established to limit rent, and on December 30 the State Bank financed building houses for workmen in Montevideo.
      On 2 April 1920 in a duel Batlle killed Dr. Washington Beltran, a co-director of a Nationalist newspaper. Uruguay did not outlaw dueling. At the end of April members of the legislature began meeting twice a week with Batlle at the offices of El Día. Batlle believed that all citizens should be able to express their opinions.
      In March 1921 in the election for the Council the Vierists were reduced from four to two; a Battlist added a second; Riverists had one, and there was one neutral Colorado. Conflicts between leading Customs officers resulted in the Customs House being burned down on December 15. Julio Sosa ran to be president of the Council, and Batlle opposed him. The Council’s president had little power.
      In September 1922 a Battlist convention nominated Julio Sosa for National Council of Administration president and the former Minister José Serrato for President of Uruguay. The Colorado parties elected him, and they held six seats on the Council. President Serrato selected cabinet members from all four Colorado parties. In February 1924 Colorados elected Pedro Cosio the Minister of Finance over the Nationalist Martínez.
      Because of reforms in election laws the next election was postponed from November to February 1925. In that election for the first time the Nationalists gained a majority in the Senate. Colorados had five members on the Council. They appointed two Batllists to be the Ministers of Finance and Industry and one Riverist to be Minister of Education. The Council elected the Nationalist Julio Herrera y Obes as their president. Batlle became president of the Council in March 1927, and that year women began to vote in local elections. The independent Colorado Juan Campisteguy was President of Uruguay 1927-31. During his presidency women were allowed to vote in a local election. Julio Martínez Lamas published Riqueza y pobreza del Uruguay. In 1928 the Nationalists gained a majority in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in a half century and the only time until 1959. Colorados still controlled the Council. In 1929 the National Economic Inspection Committee was organized to regulate businesses.
      José Batlle y Ordóñez died on 20 October 1929. The former President Baltasar Brum described Batlle’s “humanizing capitalism.”

   What we acknowledge is that society, the great family,
must assure each one of its members the necessary
means of subsistence, to the strong, the bright, the diligent
as well as to the weak, the ignorant and the lazy,
so that every man at all moments has the strength, health,
and the time necessary to give himself a direction in life,
so that he is not forced to submit himself to misery;
and to complete this base of action for each individual,
society must provide all the institutions intended
to spread knowledge, to perfect the human race
and to guarantee all the legitimate results of the efforts
an individual makes to improve his station in life.18

In the elections held on 30 November 1930 three Colorados won a majority over Herrera’s Nationalists. Exports reached a peak in 1930 and fell 22% the next year and 20% more in 1932. Imports declined 30% between 1930 and 1932.
      The Colorado Gabriel Terra had opposed the Constitution of 1918, and in the 1930 election he received 52% of the votes to defeat the Nationalist Luis Alberto de Herrera. Terra was inaugurated on 1 March 1931. Some Batllists criticized his government. Terra’s policies modernized agriculture, and that reduced hunger. His Field Distribution Law helped over 2,000 poor families. Colorados won the elections for the Chamber in 1931 and for the Council in 1932. They established the National Administration of Fuels, Alcohol, and Portland Cement as a state enterprise. The State Electric Power Company was merged with the telephone system.
      During the economic crisis President Terra on 31 March 1933 led the coup that was supported by National Police and the Army. On April 14 he decreed an end to debt collection. He dissolved the General Assembly, imposed press censorship, and persecuted opposing political parties. Elections were held in June for a constituent assembly to reform the constitution. Terra‘s 1934 Constitution included social rights that gave women vote the vote and decriminalized homosexuality, and it was approved by a plebiscite. New electoral laws and the Political Parties Law were enacted so that Terra could be re-elected. The National Council of Administration was replaced by the Council of Ministers.
      The new government appointed the Honorary Commission for Imports and Exchange to allot import quotas and regulate foreign exchange. In 1935 President Terra survived an attempted assassination. Uruguay broke off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.


1. José Batlle y Ordoñez of Uruguay: The Creator of His Times 1902-1907 by Milton I. Vanger, p. 54.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 212.
5. Ibid., p. 227, 228.
6. Ibid., p. 232, 233.
7. Ibid., p. 239.
8. Ibid., p. 243.
9. Ibid., p. 244.
10. The Model Country: José Batlle y Ordoñez of Uruguay 1907-1915 by Milton I. Vanger, p. 38.
11. Ibid., p. 39.
12. Ibid., p. 87.
13. Ibid., p. 161.
14. Ibid., p. 182.
15. Ibid., p. 254.
16. Ibid., p. 284.
17. Uruguay’s José Batlle y Ordonez: The Determined Visionary, 1915-1917 by Milton I. Vanger, p. 86.
18. Ibid., p. 241.

Copyright © 2023 by Sanderson Beck

Latin America & Canada 1850-1935 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Latin America & Canada to 1850

Brazil 1850-1935
Uruguay 1850-1935
Argentina 1850-1935
Paraguay 1850-1935 
Bolivia 1850-1935
Chile 1850-1935
Peru 1850-1935
Ecuador 1850-1935
Colombia 1850-1935
Venezuela & Guianas 1850-1935
Haiti & Dominican Republic 1850-1935
Cuba 1850-1935
Puerto Rico 1850-1935
Panama 1850-1935
Costa Rica 1850-1935
Nicaragua 1850-1935
El Salvador 1850-1935
Honduras 1850-1935
Guatemala 1850-1935
Mexico 1850-1935
Canada 1850-1935

Chronology of Latin America to 1935
Chronology of Canada to 1935
Chronology of North & South America to 1786
Chronology of North & South America 1787-1844
Chronology of North & South America 1845-1896
Chronology of United States to 1896
World Chronology to 1830


BECK index