The Governmental System of Peru

By Graham H. Stuart; Carnegie Institution of Washington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I. CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF PERU.

Under the Inca regime, the government of Peru was an autocracy of the most absolute type, one which left almost no initiative to the individual,1 and when Pizarro made his conquest, the great conquistador merely substituted his own authority for that of the Inca Atahualpa, the unfortunate victim of his treachery. The Spanish successors to Pizarro ruled in the same autocratic fashion, and except for the ill-starred revolution of Tupac-Amaru in 1788, Peru accepted and was apparently satisfied with its governmental system. But the American revolution opened a breach in the walls of autocracy in the new world, and the French revolution extended the breach to Europe. Conversant with the fascinating theories of Montesquieu and Rousseau, with the doctrine of the rights of man before them, and with the successful exemplification of democratic theories in the United States, it is not surprising that a republican form of government seemed to the South American patriots as the open sesame of happiness for the newly emancipated peoples. Therefore, when the battle of Ayacucho, fought in the highlands of Peru in 1824, gave the South American states their freedom from European control, every one of the states except Brazil, for better or for worse, adopted, forthwith the republican form of government.

Peru took its first step on the ladder of constitutional government on February 12, 1821, when San Martín, although not yet in full control of the country, issued a reglamento provisional by his authority as protector of the country. This provisional instrument, consisting of 20 short articles, extended only to the four provinces of Trujillo, Huailas, La Costa, and Tarma. As its introduction declared, this decree "established the demarcation of the territory which the liberating army of Peru actually controlled and the form of administration which should exist until there should be constituted a central authority by the voluntary action of the free people."2 Under the circumstances it could be little more than a military despotism.

About 8 months later, October 8, 1821, when the Spanish army had evacuated Lima and General San Martín was in control of the city, the

____________________
1
D. Agustin de la Rosa Toro in his Historia política del Perú, p. 51 says: "The Peruvians were submitted to a blind dependence which took away all individual liberty, reducing them to cogs in a well-regulated machine; one which limited their property, giving them only the necessities of life, one which permitted few private pleasures, limiting both the time and deed, and one which kept them in ignorance, so that their submission might be the more certain and their occupation limited to the trades of their fathers."
2
For text, vide J. F. Olivo, Constituciones Políticas del Perú ( Lima, 1922), pp. 5-10.

-3-

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