When the regents appointed by Spain were expelled in the early part of the present century, republics were established, but they were republics only in name ; the people were neither educated nor fitted for self-government. Their presidents generally exercised the powers of dictators and often assumed that title. They have rarely enjoyed a long rule, for their power and position were sought by others. Revolution in these countries has passed from the acute to the chronic stage.
A recent traveller in Peru, who wished to inspect its railroad system, was informed that only 26 miles were in running order, the remainder being under the control of the revolutionists who were then less than 80 miles from the capital. He asked why the rebels did not take Lima, the capital, and was told, “because there is no unanimity among them ; they are suspicious of each other, and cannot depend upon any one man.” Instead of being anxious to serve their country they are only interested in robbing her.
Another traveller in Bolivia, who witnessed some of these revolutions, says they sometimes occurred three times in as many weeks, and that it would have been ludicrous had not their results been often violent and tragic. There has been no settled government, no continued peace, no permanent policy, in any Spanish country. The hope for the future is that the English, German, and French population will increase and become permanently identified with the country ; they will then take an active interest in politics and direct the policy and administration of the government.
Commercial and banking business is in the hands of the French, Germans, and English. The Italians carry on a small trade at corner groceries and fruit stores ; the French keep the hotels and restaurants ; the English and Germans are the shippers, merchants and bankers.
Regular lines of English, French, and German steamers run from Europe to Panama and thence along the western coast of South America, stopping at ports en route ; some return by Panama, others sail around Cape Horn to Europe by Buenos Ayres and Rio Janeiro. Other lines run direct from Europe to Brazil, and twenty-four lines connect Europe and the Argentine Republic ; while there are only four lines of American steamers trading to South America.
We have given a general description of South America, but three countries—Brazil, the Argentine Republic and Peru require further notice : Brazil, because it is the largest country, occupying three-sevenths of South America, and the only considerable state that was not settled by the Spaniards ; the Argentine Republic, because it is the largest and most populous of the Spanish states and, with Peru, illustrates the political and financial phases through which the Spanish republics have passed.
The valley of the Amazon makes Brazil the most fertile region of the world. The tropical woods are so thick and the creepers and undergrowth so luxuriant that animal life is almost entirely confined to the trees above and the waters below.