In undertaking the preparation of a monograph on the government of Peru perhaps the most difficult problem that faces the investigator is the necessity of keeping within the restricted boundaries of the subject. Innumerable fascinating but irrelevant questions of historical fact and fancy continuously seek to divert and distract his attention. This storied land of the Incas, with its monuments and its memories, its ancient civilization and its fabulous wealth, its bloody conquest by the immortal Pizarro, whose bones still lie in the great cathedral of the City of the Kings, does not submit itself readily to the consideration of the somewhat prosaic problems of constitutional government. Somehow, the questions of republicanism and democracy seem wholly out of place here; yet in spite of its glorious background of picturesque autocracy, Peru, like its sister states of South America, has adopted the republican form of government, and has striven courageously for more than a century to govern itself in accordance with the formulæ of democracy.
At first glance one is tempted to believe that a country which has rearranged, revised, or rewritten its constitution 16 times in slightly over 100 years has adopted a form of government somewhat alien to its needs. However, when it is noted that the first 9 of these instruments were prepared within the first 15 years of the republic's existence, and of the other 7, 4 were in reality the same constitution of 1860 readopted or very slightly modified, it becomes evident that the instability after all is somewhat more apparent than real.
However, certain conditions are found in Peru which to a considerable extent set her apart from her sister republics and have made the establishment of democratic government, as understood in the United States or Great Britain, a very difficult if not almost impossible achievement. In the firs place, Peru was undoubtedly, of all the South American States, the most closely related to Spain. Many of the leading Creole families of Lima kept in very dose touch with their kindred in Spain, and their Castilian pride of birth strengthened their love for an autocracy in which they had long played the leading parts. So it was that the seeds of revolt which sprang up so quickly in Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico did not find the soil quite so fertile for germinating in Peru. The Fabian-like tactics of San Martín in liberating Peru were eminently suitable to the situation as he found it. When with this condition is coupled the fact that even to-day the. Indians in Peru far outnumber the whites, and if the mestizos be included, the pure-blooded Spanish are in a very considerable minority, the tendency towards