About Maximapedia


COLOMBIA, a republic of South America occupying the N.W. angle of that continent and bounded N. by the Caribbean Sea and Venezuela, E. by Venezuela and Brazil, S. by Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, and W. by Ecuador, the Pacific Ocean, Panama and the Caribbean Sea. The republic is very irregular in outline and has an extreme length from north to south of 1050 m., exclusive of territory occupied by Peru on the north bank of the upper Amazon, and an extreme width of 860 m. The approximate area of this territory, according to official calculations, is 481,979 sq. m., which is reduced to 465,733 sq. m. by Gotha planimetrical measurements. This makes Colombia fourth in area among the South American states.

The loss of the department of Panama left the republic with unsettled frontiers on every side, and some of the boundary disputes still unsolved in 1909 concern immense areas of territory. The boundary with Costa Rica was settled in 1900 by an award of the President of France, but the secession of Panama in 1903 gave Colombia another unsettled line on the north-west. If the line which formerly separated the Colombian departments of Cauca and Panama is taken as forming the international boundary, this line follows the water-parting between the streams which flow eastward to the Atrato, and those which flow westward to the Gulf of San Miguel, the terminal points being near Cape Tiburon on the Caribbean coast, and at about 7° 10' N. lat. on the Pacific coast. The boundary dispute with Venezuela was referred in 1883 to the king of Spain, and the award was made in 1891. Venezuela, however, refused to accept the decision. The line decided upon, and accepted by Colombia, starts from the north shore of Calabozo Bay on the west side of the Gulf of Maracaibo, and runs west and south-west to and along the water-parting (Sierra de Perija) between the drainage basins of the Magdalena and Lake Maracaibo as far as the source in lat. 8° 50' N. of a small branch of the Catatumbo river, thence in a south-easterly direction across the Catatumbo and Zulia rivers to a point in 72° 30' W. long., 8° 12' N. lat., thence in an irregular southerly direction across the Cordillera de Mérida to the source of the Sarare, whence it runs eastward along that river, the Arauca, and the Meta to the Orinoco. Thence the line runs south and south-east along the Orinoco, Atabapo and Guainia to the Pedra de Cucuhy, which serves as a boundary mark for three republics. Of the eastern part of the territory lying between the Meta and the Brazilian frontier, Venezuela claims as far west as the meridian of 69° 10'. Negotiations for the settlement of the boundary with Brazil (q.v.) were resumed in 1906, and were advanced in the following year to an agreement providing for the settlement of conflicting claims by a mixed commission. With Ecuador and Peru the boundary disputes are extremely complicated, certain parts of the disputed territory being claimed by all three republics. Colombia holds possession as far south as the Napo in lat. 2° 47' S., and claims territory occupied by Peru as far south as the Amazon. On the other hand Peru claims as far north as La Chorrera in 0° 49' S. lat., including territory occupied by Colombia, and the eastern half of the Ecuadorean department of Oriente, and Ecuador would extend her southern boundary line to the Putumayo, in long. 71° 1' S., and make that river her northern boundary as far north as the Peruvian claim extends. The provisional line starts from the Japura river (known as the Caqueta in Colombia) in lat. 1° 30' S., long. 69° 24' W., and runs south-west to the 70th meridian, thence slightly north of west to the Igaraparana river, thence up that stream to the Peruvian military post of La Chorrera, in 0° 49' S. lat., thence west of south to Huiririmachico, on the Napo. Thence the line runs north-west along the Napo, Coca and San Francisco rivers to the Andean watershed, which becomes the dividing line northward for a distance of nearly 80 m., where the line turns westward and reaches the Pacific at the head of Panguapi Bay, into which the southern outlet of the Mira river discharges (about 1° 34' N. lat.).

Physical Geography. - Colombia is usually described as an extremely mountainous country, which is true of much less than half its total area. Nearly one half its area lies south-east of the Andes and consists of extensive llanos and forested plains, traversed by several of the western tributaries of the Amazon and Orinoco. These plains slope gently toward the east, those of the Amazon basin apparently lying in great terraces whose escarpments have the character of low, detached ranges of hills forming successive rims to the great basin which they partly enclose. The elevation and slope of this immense region, which has an approximate length of 640 m. and average width of 320 m., may be inferred from the elevations of the Caqueta, or Japura river, which was explored by Crevaux in 1878-1879. At Santa Maria, near the Cordillera (about 75° 30' W. long.), the elevation is 613 ft. above sea-level, on the 73rd meridian it is 538 ft., and near the 70th meridian 426 ft. - a fall of 187 ft. in a distance of about 400 m. The northern part of this great region has a somewhat lower elevation and gentler slope, and consists of open grassy plains, which are within the zone of alternating wet and dry seasons. In the south and toward the great lower basin of the Amazon, where the rainfall is continuous throughout the year, the plains are heavily forested. The larger part of this territory is unexplored except along the principal rivers, and is inhabited by scattered tribes of Indians. Near the Cordilleras and along some of the larger rivers there are a few small settlements of whites and mestizos, but their aggregate number is small and their economic value to the republic is inconsiderable. There are some cattle ranges on the open plains, however, but they are too isolated to have much importance. A small part of the northern Colombia, on the lower courses of the Atrato and Magdalena, extending across the country from the Eastern to the Western Cordilleras with a varying width of 100 to 150 m., not including the lower river basins which penetrate much farther inland, also consists of low, alluvial plains, partly covered with swamps and intricate watercourses, densely overgrown with vegetation, but in places admirably adapted to different kinds of tropical agriculture. These plains are broken in places by low ranges of hills which are usually occupied by the principal industrial settlements of this part of the republic, the lower levels being for the most part swampy and unsuited for white occupation.

Population. - The number of the population of Colombia is very largely a matter of speculation. A census was taken in 1871, when the population was 2,951,323. What the vegetative increase has been since then (for there has been no immigration) is purely conjectural, as there are no available returns of births and deaths upon which an estimate can be based. Civil war has caused a large loss of life, and the withdrawal from their homes of a considerable part of the male population, some of them for military service and a greater number going into concealment to escape it, and it is certain that the rate of increase has been small. Some statistical authorities have adopted 1% as the rate, but this is too high for such a period. All things considered, an annual increase of 1% for the thirty-five years between 1871 and 1906 would seem to be more nearly correct, which would give a population in the latter year - exclusive of the population of Panama - of a little over 3,800,000. The Statesman's Year Book for 1907 estimates it at 4,279,674 in 1905, including about 150,000 wild Indians, while Supan's Die Bevölkerung der Erde (1904) places it at 3,917,000 in 1899. Of the total only 10% is classed as white and 15% as Indian, 40% as mestizos (white and Indian mixture), and 35% negroes and their mixtures with the other two races. The large proportion of mestizos, if these percentages are correct, is significant because it implies a persistence of type that may largely determine the character of Colombia's future population, unless the more slowly increasing white element can be reinforced by immigration.

The white contingent in the population of Colombia is chiefly composed of the descendants of the Spanish colonists who settled there during the three centuries following its discovery and conquest. Mining enterprises and climate drew them into the highlands of the interior, and there they have remained down to the present day, their only settlements on the hot, unhealthy coast being the few ports necessary for commercial and political intercourse with the mother country. The isolation of these distant inland settlements has served to preserve the language, manners and physical characteristics of these early colonists with less variation than in any other Spanish-American state. They form an intelligent, high-spirited class of people, with all the defects and virtues of their ancestry. Their isolation has made them ignorant to some extent of the world's progress, while a supersensitive patriotism blinds them to the discredit and disorganization which political strife and misrule have brought upon them. A very small proportion of the white element consists of foreigners engaged in commercial and industrial pursuits, but they very rarely become permanently identified with the fortunes of the country. The native whites form the governing class, and enjoy most of the powers and privileges of political office.

Of the original inhabitants there remain only a few scattered tribes in the forests, who refuse to submit to civilized requirements, and a much larger number who live in organized communities and have adopted the language, customs and habits of the dominant race. Their total number is estimated at 15% of the population, or nearly 600,000, including the 120,000 to 150,000 credited to the uncivilized tribes. Many of the civilized Indian communities have not become wholly Hispanicized and still retain their own dialects and customs, their attitude being that of a conquered race submitting to the customs and demands of a social organization of which they form no part. According to Uricoechea there are at least twenty-seven native languages spoken in the western part of Colombia, fourteen in Tolima, thirteen in the region of the Caquetá, twelve in Panama, Bolívar and Magdalena, ten in Bogotá and Cundinamarca, and thirty-four in the region of the Meta, while twelve had died out during the preceding century. The tribes of the Caribbean seaboard, from Chiriqui to Goajira, are generally attached to the great Carib stock; those of the eastern plains show affinities with the neighbouring Brazilian races; those of the elevated Tuquerres district are of the Peruvian type; and the tribes of Antioquia, Cauca, Popayan and Neiva preserve characteristics more akin to those of the Aztecs than to any other race. At the time of the Spanish Conquest the most important of these tribes was the Muyscas or Chibchas, who inhabited the tablelands of Bogotá and Tunja, and had attained a considerable degree of civilization. They lived in settled communities, cultivated the soil to some extent, and ascribed their progress toward civilization to a legendary cause remarkably similar to those of the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. They are represented by some tribes living on the head-waters of the Meta, and their blood flows in the veins of the mestizos of the Bogotá plateau. Their ancient language has been partly preserved through the labours of Gonzalo Bermudez, José Dadei, Bernardo de Lugo, and Ezequiel Uricoechea, the last having made it the subject of a special study. According to this author the Chibchas were composed of three loosely united nationalities governed by three independent chiefs - the Zipa of Muequetá (the present Funza), the Zaque of Hunsa (now Tunja), and the Jeque of Iraca, who was regarded as the successor of the god Nemterequeteba, whom they worshipped as the author of their civilization. The latter had his residence at Suamoz, or Sogamoso.

The Tayronas, of the Santa Marta highlands, who have totally disappeared, were also remarkable for the progress which they had made toward civilization. Evidence of this is to be found in the excellent roads which they constructed, and in the skilfully made gold ornaments which have been found in the district which they occupied, as well as in the contemporary accounts of them by their conquerors. Among the tribes which are still living in a savage state are the Mesayas, Caquetas, Mocoas, Amarizanos, Guipanabis and Andaquies of the unsettled eastern territories; the Goajiros, Motilones, Guainetas, and Cocinas of the Rio Hacha, Upar and Santa Marta districts; and the Dariens, Cunacunas, and Chocos of the Atrato basin. These tribes have successfully resisted all efforts to bring them under political and ecclesiastical control, and their subjection is still a matter of no small concern to the Colombian government. As late as the year 1900 Mr Albert Millican, while collecting orchids on the Opon river, a tributary of the Magdalena between Bogotá and the Caribbean coast, was attacked by hostile Indians, and one of his companions was killed by a poisoned arrow. These hostile tribes are usually too small to make much trouble, but they are able to make exploration and settlement decidedly dangerous in some districts.

The mestizos, like the whites and Indians, chiefly inhabit the more elevated regions of the interior. They are of a sturdy, patient type, like their Indian ancestors, and are sufficiently industrious to carry on many of the small industries and occupations, and to meet the labour requirements of the inhabited plateau districts. Those of the urban middle classes are shopkeepers and artizans, and those of the lower class are domestics and day labourers. The whites of Spanish descent object to manual labour, and this places all such occupations in the hands of the coloured races. In the country the mestizos are small agriculturists, herders, labourers and fishermen; but there are many educated and successful merchants and professional men among them. There are no social barriers in their intercourse with the whites, nor race barriers against those who have political aspirations. The negroes of pure blood are to be found principally on the coastal plains and in the great lowland river valleys, where they live in great part on the bounties of nature. A small percentage of them are engaged in trade and other occupations; a few are small agriculturists.

Bogotá was reputed to be a centre of learning in colonial times, but there was no great breadth and depth to it, and it produced nothing of real value. By nature the Spanish-American loves art and literature, and the poetic faculty is developed in him to a degree rarely found among the Teutonic races. Writing and reciting poetry are universal, and fill as important a place in social life as instrumental music. In Colombia, as elsewhere, much attention has been given to belles-lettres among the whites of Spanish descent, but as yet the republic has practically nothing of a permanent character to show for it. The natural sciences attracted attention very early through the labours of José Celestino Mútis, who was followed by a number of writers of local repute, such as Zea, Cabal, Cáldas, Pombo, Cespedes, Camacho and Lozano. We are indebted to Humboldt for our earliest geographical descriptions of the northern part of the continent, but to the Italian, Augustin Codazzi, who became a Colombian after the War of Independence, Colombia is indebted for the first systematic exploration of her territory. Geographical description has had a peculiar fascination for Colombian writers, and there have been a number of books issued since the appearance of Codazzi's Resumen and Atlas. Historical writing has also received much attention, beginning with the early work of José Manuel Restrepo (1827), and a considerable number of histories, compendiums and memoirs have been published, but none of real importance. Some good work has been done in ethnography and archaeology by some writers of the colonial period, and by Ezequiel Uricoechea and Ernesto Restrepo.

Territorial Divisions and Towns. - Previously to 1903 the republic was divided into nine departments, which were then reduced to eight by the secession of Panama. This division of the national territory was modified in 1905, by creating seven additional departments from detached portions of the old ones, and by cutting up the unsettled districts of Goajira and the great eastern plains into four intendencias. The fifteen departments thus constituted, with the official estimates of 1905 regarding their areas and populations, are as follows: -

Department. Area
sq. m. Estimated
Population. Capital. Estimated
Antioquia 24,400 750,000 Medellin 60,000
Atlantico 1,080 104,674 Barranquilla 40,115
Bolívar 23,940 250,000 Cartagena 14,000
Boyacá 4,630 350,000 Tunja 10,000
Cáldas 7,920 150,000 Manizales 20,000
Cauca 26,030 400,000 Popayán 10,000
Cundinamarca 5,060 225,000 Facatativá 12,000
Galán 6,950 300,000 San Gil 15,000
Huila 8,690 150,000 Neiva 10,000
Magdalena 20,460 100,000 Santa Marta 6,000
Nariño 10,040 200,000 Pasto 6,000
Quesada 2,900 300,000 Zipaquirá 12,000
Santander 11,970 300,000 Bucaramanga 20,000
Tolima 10,900 200,000 Ibagué 12,000
Tundama 2,390 300,000 Santa Rosa 6,000
Federal District .. 200,000 Bogotá 120,000
Intendencias (4) 277,620 .. .. ..
Totals 444,980 4,279,674 .. ..

Of these departments the original eight are Antioquia, Bolívar, Boyacá (or Bojacá), Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Santander and Tolima. The four intendencias are called Goajira, Meta, Alto Caquetá and Putumayo, and their aggregate area is estimated to be considerably more than half of the republic. The first covers the Goajira peninsula, which formerly belonged to the department of Magdalena, and the other three roughly correspond to the drainage basins of the three great rivers of the eastern plains whose names they bear. These territories formerly belonged to the departments of Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Cauca. The seven new departments are: Atlantico, taken from the northern extremity of Bolívar; Cáldas, the southern part of Antioquia; Galán, the southern districts of Santander, including Charalá, Socorro, Velez, and its capital San Gil; Huila, the southern part of Tolima, including the headwaters of the Magdalena and the districts about Neiva and La Plata; Nariño, the southern part of Cauca extending from the eastern Cordillera to the Pacific coast; Quesada, a cluster of small, well-populated districts north of Bogotá formerly belonging to Cundinamarca, including Zipaquirá, Guatavita, Ubaté and Pacho; and Tundama, the northern part of Boyacá lying on the frontier of Galán in the vicinity of its capital Santa Rosa. The Federal District consists of a small area surrounding the national capital taken from the department of Cundinamarca. These fifteen departments are subdivided into provinces, 92 in all, and these into municipalities, of which there are 740.

The larger cities and towns of the republic other than the department capitals, with their estimated populations in 1904, are: -

Aguadas (Antioquia) 13,000
Antioquia (Antioquia) 13,000
Barbacoas (Nariño) 16,000
Buga (Cauca) 12,500
Cali (Cauca) 16,000
Chiquinquira (Boyacá) 18,000
La Mesa (Cundinamarca) 10,000
Pamplona (Santander) 11,000
Palmira (Cauca) 15,000
Pié de Cuesta (Santander) 12,000
Puerto Nacional 16,000
Rio Negro (Antioquia) 12,000
Santa Rosa de Osos (Antioquia) 11,000
Sonson 15,000
San José de Cúcuta (Santander) 13,000
Soatá (Boyacá) 16,000
Socorro (Galán) 20,000
Velez (Galán) 15,000

Among the smaller towns which deserve mention are Ambalema on the upper Magdalena, celebrated for its tobacco and cigars; Buenaventura (q.v.); Chaparral (9000), a market town of Tolima in the valley of the Saldaña, with coal, iron and petroleum in its vicinity; Honda (6000), an important commercial centre at the head of navigation on the lower Magdalena; Girardot, a railway centre on the upper Magdalena; and Quibdó, a small river town at the head of navigation on the Atrato.

Communications. - The railway problem in Colombia is one of peculiar difficulty. The larger part of the inhabited and productive districts of the republic is situated in the mountainous departments of the interior, and is separated from the coast by low, swampy, malarial plains, and by very difficult mountain chains. These centres of production are also separated from each other by high ridges and deep valleys, making it extremely difficult to connect them by a single transportation route. The one common outlet for these districts is the Magdalena river, whose navigable channel penetrates directly into the heart of the country. From Bogotá the Spaniards constructed two partially-paved highways, one leading down to the Magdalena in the vicinity of Honda, while the other passed down into the upper valley of the same river in a south-westerly direction, over which communication was maintained with Popayan and other settlements of southern Colombia and Ecuador. This highway was known as the camino real. Political independence and misrule led to the abandonment of these roads, and they are now little better than the bridle-paths which are usually the only means of communication between the scattered communities of the Cordilleras. In some of the more thickly settled and prosperous districts of the Eastern Cordillera these bridle paths have been so much improved that they may be considered reasonably good mountain roads, the traffic over them being that of pack animals and not of wheeled vehicles. Navigation on the lower Magdalena closely resembles that of the Mississippi, the same type of light-draft, flat-bottomed steamboat being used, and similar obstacles and dangers to navigation being encountered. There is also the same liability to change its channel, as shown in the case of Mompox, once an important and prosperous town of the lower plain situated on the main channel, now a decaying, unimportant place on a shallow branch 20 m. east of the main river. Small steamers also navigate the lower Cauca and Nechi rivers, and a limited service is maintained on the upper Cauca.

With three exceptions all the railway lines of the country lead to the Magdalena, and are dependent upon its steamship service for transportation to and from the coast. In 1906, according to an official statement, these lines were: (1) The Barranquilla and Savanilla (Puerto Colombia), 17 m. in length; (2) the Cartagena and Calamar, 65 m.; (3) the La Dorada & Arancaplumas (around the Honda rapids), 20 m.; (4) the Colombian National, from Girardot to Facatativá, 80 m., of which 48 m. were completed in 1906; (5) the Girardot to Espinal, 13 m., part of a projected line running south-west from Girardot; (6) the Sabana railway, from Bogotá to Facatativá, 25 m.; (7) the Northern, from Bogotá to Zipaquirá, 31 m.; (8) the Southern, from Bogotá to Sibaté, 18 m.; and (9) the Puerto Berrio & Medellin, about 78 m. long, of which 36 are completed. The three lines which do not connect with the Magdalena are: (1) the Cúcuta and Villamazar, 43 m., the latter being a port on the Zulia river near the Venezuelan frontier; (2) the Santa Marta railway, running inland from that port through the banana-producing districts, with 41 m. in operation in 1907; and (3) the Buenaventura and Cali, 23 m. in operation inland from the former. This gives a total extension of 383 m. in 1906, of which 226 were built to connect with steamship transportation on the Magdalena, 49 to unite Bogotá with neighbouring localities, and 108 to furnish other outlets for productive regions. There is no system outlined in the location of these detached lines, though in 1905-1908 President Reyes planned to connect them in such a way as to form an extensive system radiating from the national capital. Tramway lines were in operation in Bogotá, Barranquilla and Cartagena in 1907.

The telegraph and postal services are comparatively poor, owing to the difficulty of maintaining lines and carrying mails through a rugged and uninhabited tropical country. The total length of telegraph lines in 1903 was 6470 m., the only cable connexion being at Buenaventura, on the Pacific coast. All the principal Caribbean ports and department capitals are connected with Bogotá, but interruptions are frequent because of the difficulty of maintaining lines through so wild a country.

There are only five ports, Buenaventura, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Rio Hacha, which are engaged in foreign commerce, though Tumaco and Villamazar are favourably situated for carrying on a small trade with Ecuador and Venezuela. Colombia has no part in the carrying trade, however, her merchants marine in 1905 consisting of only one steamer of 457 tons and five sailing vessels of 1385 tons. Aside from these, small steamers are employed on some of the small rivers with barges, called "bongoes," to bring down produce and carry back merchandise to the inland trading centres. The coasting trade is insignificant, and does not support a regular service of even the smallest boats. The foreign carrying trade is entirely in the hands of foreigners, in which the Germans take the lead, with the British a close second. The Caribbean ports are in frequent communication with those of Europe and the United States.

Agriculture. - The larger part of the Colombian population is engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Maize, wheat and other cereals are cultivated on the elevated plateaus, with the fruits and vegetables of the temperate zone, and the European in Bogotá is able to supply his table very much as he would do at home. The plains and valleys of lower elevation are used for the cultivation of coffee and other sub-tropical products, the former being produced in nearly all the departments at elevations ranging from 3500 to 6500 ft. This industry has been greatly prejudiced by civil wars, which not only destroyed the plantations and interrupted transportation, but deprived them of the labouring force essential to their maintenance and development. It is estimated that the revolutionary struggle of 1899-1903 destroyed 10% of the able-bodied agricultural population of the Santa Marta district, and this estimate, if true, will hold good for all the inhabited districts of the Eastern Cordillera. The best coffee is produced in the department of Cundinamarca in the almost inaccessible districts of Fusagasagá and La Palma. Tolima coffee is also considered to be exceptionally good. The department of Santander, however, is the largest producer, and much of its output in the past has been placed upon the market as "Maracaibo," the outlet for this region being through the Venezuelan port of that name. Coffee cultivation in the Santa Marta region is receiving much attention on account of its proximity to the coast.

The tropical productions of the lower plains include, among others, many of the leading products of the world, such as cacáo, cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, and bananas, with others destined wholly for home consumption, as yams, cassava and arracacha. Potatoes are widely cultivated in the temperate and sub-tropical regions, and sweet potatoes in the sub-tropical and tropical. Although it is found growing wild, cacáo is cultivated to a limited extent, and the product is insufficient for home consumption. Cotton is cultivated only on a small scale, although there are large areas suitable for the plant. The staple product is short, but experiments have been initiated in the Santa Marta region to improve it. Sugar cane is another plant admirably adapted to the Colombian lowlands, but it is cultivated to so limited an extent that the sugar produced is barely sufficient for home consumption. Both cultivation and manufacture have been carried on in the old time way, by the rudest of methods, and the principal product is a coarse brown sugar, called panela, universally used by the poorer classes as an article of food and for making a popular beverage. Antiquated refining processes are also used in the manufacture of an inferior white sugar, but the quantity produced is small, and it is unable to compete with beet-sugar from Germany. A considerable part of the sugar-cane produced is likewise devoted to the manufacture of chicha (rum), the consumption of which is common among the Indians and half-breeds of the Andean regions.

Rice is grown to a very limited extent, though it is a common article of diet and the partially submerged lowlands are naturally adapted to its production. Tobacco was cultivated in New Granada and Venezuela in colonial times, when its sale was a royal monopoly and its cultivation was restricted to specified localities. The Colombian product is best known through the Ambalema, Girardot, and Palmira tobacco, especially the Ambalema cigars, which are considered by some to be hardly inferior to those of Havana, but the plant is cultivated in other places and would probably be an important article of export were it possible to obtain labourers for its cultivation. Banana cultivation for commercial purposes is a comparatively modern industry, dating from 1892 when the first recorded export of fruit was made. Its development is due to the efforts of an American fruit-importing company, which purchased lands in the vicinity of Santa Marta for the production of bananas and taught the natives that the industry could be made profitable. A railway was built inland for the transportation of fruit to Santa Marta, and is being extended toward the Magdalena as fast as new plantations are opened. The growth of the industry is shown in the export returns, which were 171,891 bunches for 1892, and 1,397,388 bunches for 1906, the area under cultivation being about 7000 acres in the last-mentioned year. Yams, sweet potatoes, cassava and arracacha are chiefly cultivated for domestic needs, but in common with other fruits and vegetables they give occupation to the small agriculturalists near the larger towns.

The pastoral industry dates from colonial times and engages the services of a considerable number of people, but its comparative importance is not great. The open plains, "mesas," and plateaus of the north support large herds of cattle, and several cattle ranches have been established on the Meta and its tributaries. Live cattle, to a limited extent, are exported to Cuba and other West Indian markets, but the chief produce from this industry is hides. The department of Santander devotes considerable attention to horse-breeding. Goats are largely produced for their skins, and in some localities, as in Cauca, sheep are raised for their wool. Swine are common to the whole country, and some attention has been given to the breeding of mules.

Minerals. - The mineral resources of Colombia are commonly believed to be the principal source of her wealth, and this because of the precious metals extracted from her mines since the Spanish invasion. The estimate aggregate for three and a half centuries is certainly large, but the exact amount will probably never be known, because the returns in colonial times were as defective as those of disorderly independence have been. Humboldt and Chevalier estimated the total output down to 1845 at £1,200,000, which Professor Soetbeer subsequently increased to £169,422,750. A later Colombian authority, Vicente Restrepo, whose studies of gold and silver mining in Colombia have been generally accepted as conclusive and trustworthy, after a careful sifting of the evidence on which these two widely diverse conclusions were based and an examination of records not seen by Humboldt and Soetbeer, reaches the conclusion that the region comprised within the limits of the republic, including Panama, had produced down to 1886 an aggregate of £127,800,000 in gold and £6,600,000 in silver. This aggregate he distributes as follows: -

16th century £10,600,000
17th " 34,600,000
18th " 41,000,000
19th " 41,600,000

According to his computations the eight Colombian departments, omitting Panama, had produced during this period in gold and silver: -

Antioquia £50,000,000
Cauca 49,800,000
Tolima 10,800,000
Santander 3,000,000
Bolívar 1,400,000
Cundinamarca 360,000
Magdalena 200,000
Boyacá 40,000
- - - - -

Three-fourths of the gold production, he estimates, was derived from alluvial deposits. Large as these aggregates are, it will be seen that the annual production was comparatively small, the highest average, that for the 19th century, being less than £500,000 a year. Toward the end of the 19th century, after a decline in production due to the abolition of slavery and to civil wars, increased interest was shown abroad in Colombian mining operations. Medellin, the capital of Antioquia, is provided with an electrolytic refining establishment, several assaying laboratories, and a mint. The department of Cauca is considered to be the richest of the republic in mineral deposits, but it is less conveniently situated for carrying on mining operations. Besides this, the extreme unhealthiness of its most productive regions, the Chocó and Barbacoas districts on the Pacific slope, has been a serious obstacle to foreign enterprise. Tolima is also considered to be rich in gold and (especially) silver deposits. East of the Magdalena the production of these two metals has been comparatively small. In compensation the famous emerald mines of Muzo and Coscuez are situated in an extremely mountainous region north of Bogotá and near the town of Chiquinaquirá, in the department of Boyacá. The gems are found in a matrix of black slate in what appears to be the crater of a volcano, and are mined in a very crude manner. The mines are owned by the government. The revenue was estimated at £96,000 for 1904. platinum is said to have been discovered in Colombia in 1720, and has been exported regularly since the last years of the 18th century. It is found in many parts of the country, but chiefly in the Chocó and Barbacoas districts, the annual export from the former being about 10,000 in value. Of the bulkier and less valuable minerals Colombia has copper, iron, manganese, lead, zinc and mercury. Coal is also found at several widely-separated places, but is not mined. There are also indications of petroleum in Tolima and Bolívar. These minerals, however, are of little value to the country because of their distance from the seaboards and the costs of transportation. Salt is mined at Zipaquirá, near Bogotá, and being a government monopoly, is a source of revenue to the national treasury.

Manufactures. - The Pradera iron works, near Bogotá, carry on some manufacturing (sugar boilers, agricultural implements, etc.) in connexion with their mining and reducing operations. Pottery and coarse earthenware are made at Espinal, in Tolima, where the natives are said to have had a similar industry before the Spanish conquest. There are woollen mills at Popayan and Pasto, and small cigar-making industries at Ambalema and Palmira. Hat-making from the "jipijapa" fibre taken from the Carludovica palm is a domestic industry in many localities, and furnishes an article of export. Friction matches are made from the vegetable wax extracted from the Ceroxylon palm, and are generally used throughout the interior. Rum and sugar are products of a crude manufacturing industry dating from colonial times. A modern sugar-mill and refinery at Sincerin, 28 m. from Cartagena, was the first of its kind erected in the republic. It is partially supported by the government, and the concession provides that the production of sugar shall not be less than 2,600,000 lb per annum.

Commerce. - In the Barranquilla customs returns for 1906 the imports were valued at $6,787,055 (U.S. gold), on which the import duties were $4,333,028, or an average rate of 64%. According to a statistical summary issued in 1906 by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, entitled "Commercial America in 1905," the latest official return to the foreign trade of Colombia was said to be that of 1898, which was: imports 11,083,000 pesos, exports 19,158,000 pesos. Uncertainty in regard to the value of the peso led the compiler to omit the equivalents in U.S. gold, but according to foreign trade returns these totals represent gold values, which at 4s. per peso are: imports £2,216,600, exports £3,831,600. In his annual message to congress on the 1st of April 1907, President Reyes stated that the imports for 1904 were $14,453,000, and the exports $12,658,000, presumably U.S. gold, as the figures are taken from the Monthly Bulletin of the Bureau cf American Republics (July 1907). An approximate equivalent would be: imports £3,011,000, exports £2,637,000; which shows a small increase in the first and a very large decrease in the second. The imports include wheat flour, rice, barley, prepared foods, sugar, coal, kerosene, beer, wines and liquors, railway equipment, machinery and general hardware, fence wire, cotton and other textiles, drugs, lumber, cement, paper, etc., while the exports comprise coffee, bananas, hides and skins, tobacco, precious metals, rubber, cabinet woods, divi-divi, dye-woods, vegetable ivory, Panama hats, orchids, vanilla, etc.

Government. - The government of Colombia is that of a centralized republic composed of 15 departments, 1 federal district, and 4 intendencias (territories). It is divided into three co-ordinate branches, legislative, executive and judicial, and is carried on under the provisions of the constitution of 1886, profoundly modified by the amendments of 1905. Previous to 1886, the departments were practically independent, but under the constitution of that year the powers of the national government were enlarged and strengthened, while those of the departments were restricted to purely local affairs. The departments are provided with biennial departmental assemblies, but their governors are appointees of the national executive.

The legislative branch consists of a senate and chamber of deputies, which meets at Bogotá biennially (after 1908) on February 1st for an ordinary session of ninety days. The Senate is composed of 48 members - 3 from each department chosen by the governor and his departmental council, and 3 from the federal district chosen by the president himself and two of his cabinet ministers. Under this arrangement the president practically controls the choice of senators. Their term of office is four years, and is renewed at the same time and for the same period as those of the lower house. The chamber is composed of 67 members, elected by popular suffrage in the departments, on the basis of one representative for each 50,000 of population. The intendencias are represented by one member each, who is chosen by the intendant, his secretary, and 3 citizens elected by the municipal council of the territorial capital. As the constituent assembly which amended the constitution, according to the president's wishes in 1905, was to continue in office until 1908 and to provide laws for the regulation of elections and other public affairs, it appeared that the president would permit no expression of popular dissent to interfere with his purpose to establish a dictatorial régime in Colombia similar to the one in Mexico.

The executive power is vested in a president chosen by Congress for a period of four years. The first presidential period, dating from the 1st of January 1905, was for ten years, and no restriction was placed upon the choice of President Rafael Reyes to succeed himself. The constituent assembly gave the president exceptional powers to deal with all administrative matters. He is assisted by a cabinet of six ministers, interior, foreign affairs, finance, war, public instruction and public works, who are chosen and may be removed by himself. The office of vice-president is abolished, and the president is authorized to choose a temporary substitute from his cabinet, and in case of his death or resignation his successor is chosen by the cabinet or the governor of a department who happens to be nearest Bogotá at the time. The president is authorized to appoint the governors of departments, the intendants of territories, the judges of the supreme and superior courts, and the diplomatic representatives of the republic. His salary, as fixed by the 1905 budget, is £3600 a year, and his cabinet ministers receive £1200 each. The council of state is abolished and the senate is charged with the duty of confirming executive appointments.

The judicial branch of the government, like the others, has been in great measure reorganized. It consists of a supreme court of seven members at Bogotá, and a superior court in each judicial district. There are various inferior courts also, including magistrates or jueces de paz, but their organization and functions are loosely defined and not generally understood outside the republic. The supreme court has appellate jurisdiction in judicial matters, and original jurisdiction in impeachment trials and in matters involving constitutional interpretation. Under the constitution of 1886 the judges of the higher courts were appointed for life, but the reforms of 1905 changed their tenure to five years for the supreme court and four years for the superior courts, the judges being eligible for re-appointment.

The departments, which are administered by governors representing the national executive, are permitted to exercise restricted legislative functions relating to purely local affairs. Municipal councils are also to be found in the larger towns. The governor is assisted by a departmental council consisting of his secretaries and the president of the Corte de Cuentas, which places the political administration of the department under the direct control of the president at Bogotá.

The strength of the army is determined annually by congress, but every able-bodied citizen is nominally liable to military service. Its peace footing in 1898 was 1000 men. After the war of 1899-1903 its strength was successively reduced to 10,000 and 5000, a part of this force being employed in the useful occupation of making and repairing public roads. The navy in 1906 consisted of only three small cruisers on the Caribbean coast, and two cruisers, two gunboats, one troopship and two steam launches on the Pacific. There was also one small gunboat on the Magdalena.

Education. - Although Bogotá was reputed to be an educational centre in colonial times, so slight an influence did this exert upon the country that Colombia ended the 19th century with no effective public school system, very few schools and colleges, and fully 90% of illiteracy in her population. This is due in great measure to the long reign of political disorder, but there are other causes as well. As in Chile, the indifference of the ruling class to the welfare of the common people is a primary cause of their ignorance and poverty, to which must be added the apathy, if not opposition, of the Church. Under such conditions primary schools in the villages and rural districts were practically unknown, and the parish priest was the only educated person in the community. Nominally there was a school system under the supervision of the national and departmental governments, but its activities were limited to the larger towns, where there were public and private schools of all grades. There were universities in Bogotá and Medellin, the former having faculties of letters and philosophy, jurisprudence and political science, medicine and natural sciences, and mathematics and engineering, with an attendance of 1200 to 1500 students. The war of 1899-1903 so completely disorganized this institution that only one faculty, medicine and natural sciences, was open in 1907. There were also a number of private schools in the larger towns, usually maintained by religious organizations. The reform programme of President Reyes included a complete reorganization of public instruction, to which it is proposed to add normal schools for the training of teachers, and agricultural and technical schools for the better development of the country's material resources. The supreme direction of this branch of the public service is entrusted to the minister of public instruction, and state aid is to be extended to the secondary, as well as to the normal, technical and professional schools. The secondary schools receiving public aid, however, have been placed in charge of religious corporations of the Roman Catholic Church. The expenditure on account of public instruction, which includes schools of all grades and descriptions, is unavoidably small, the appropriation for the biennium 1905-1906 being only £167,583. The school and college attendance for 1906, according to the president's review of that year, aggregated 218,941, of whom 50,691 were in Antioquia, where the whites are more numerous than in any other department; 4916 in Atlantico, which includes the city of Barranquilla, and in which the negro element preponderates; and only 12,793 in the federal district and city of Bogotá where the mestizo element is numerous. Although primary instruction is gratuitous it is not compulsory, and these figures clearly demonstrate that school privileges have not been extended much beyond the larger towns. The total attendance, however, compares well with that of 1897, which was 143,096, although it shows that only 5% of the population, approximately, is receiving instruction.

Religion. - The religious profession of the Colombian people is Roman Catholic, and is recognized as such by the constitution, but the exercise is permitted of any other form of worship which is not contrary to Christian morals or to the law. There is one Protestant church in Bogotá, but the number of non-Catholics is small and composed of foreign residents. There has been a long struggle between liberals and churchmen in Colombia, and at one time the latter completely lost their political influence over the government, but the common people remained loyal to the Church, and the upper classes found it impossible to sever the ties which bound them to it. The constitution of 1861 disestablished the Church, confiscated a large part of its property, and disfranchised the clergy, but in 1886 political rights were restored to the latter and the Roman Catholic religion was declared to be the faith of the nation. The rulers of the Church have learned by experience, however, that they can succeed best by avoiding partisan conflicts, and the archbishop of Bogotá gave effect to this in 1874 by issuing an edict instructing priests not to interfere in politics. The Church influence with all classes is practically supreme and unquestioned, and it still exercises complete control in matters of education. The Colombian hierarchy consists of an archbishop, residing at Bogotá, 10 bishops, 8 vicars-general, and 2170 priests. There were also in 1905 about 750 members of 10 monastic and religious orders. There were 270 churches and 312 chapels in the republic. Each diocese has its own seminary for the training of priests.

Finance. - In financial matters Colombia is known abroad chiefly through repeated defaults in meeting her bonded indebtedness, and through the extraordinary depreciation of her paper currency. The public revenues are derived from import duties on foreign merchandise, from export duties on national produce, from internal taxes and royalties on liquors, cigarettes and tobacco, matches, hides and salt, from rentals of state emerald mines and pearl fisheries, from stamped paper, from port dues and from postal and telegraph charges. The receipts and expenditure are estimated for biennial periods, but it has not been customary to publish detailed results. Civil wars have of course been a serious obstacle, but it was announced by President Reyes in 1907 that the revenues were increasing. For the two years 1905 and 1906 the revenues were estimated to produce (at $5 to the £1 sterling) £4,203,823, the expenditures being fixed at the same amount. The expenditures, however, did not include a charge of £424,000, chiefly due on account of war claims and requisitions. During the first year of this period the actual receipts, according to the council of the corporation of foreign bondholders, were $9,149,591 gold (£1,829,918) and the payments $7,033,317 gold (£1,406,663). It was expected by the government that the 1906 revenues would largely exceed 1905, but the expectation was not fully realized, chiefly, it may be assumed, because of the inability of an impoverished people to meet an increase in taxation. An instance of this occurred in the promising export of live cattle to Cuba and Panama, which was completely suppressed in 1906 because of a new export tax of $3 gold per head. Of the expenditures about one-fourth is on account of the war department.

The foreign debt, according to the 1896 arrangement with the bondholders which was renewed in 1905, is £2,700,000, together with unpaid interest since 1896 amounting to £351,000 more. Under the 1905 arrangement the government undertook to pay the first coupons at 2% and succeeding ones at 3%, pledging 12 to 15% of the customs receipts as security. The first payments were made according to agreement, and it was believed in 1907 that the succeeding ones, together with one-half of the unpaid interest since 1896, would also be met. It is worthy of note that this debt, principal and accumulated interest, exceeded six and a half millions sterling in 1873, and that the bondholders surrendered about 60% of the claim in the hope of securing the payment of the balance. It is also worthy of note that Panama refused to assume any part of this debt without a formal recognition of her independence by Colombia, and even then only a sum proportionate to her population. The internal debt of Colombia in June 1906 was as follows: -

Consolidated 5,476,887 dollars silver,
Floating 2,345,658 dollars gold.

Whether or not this included the unpaid war claims was not stated.

Money. - The monetary system, which has been greatly complicated by the use of two depreciated currencies, silver and paper, has been undergoing a radical reform since 1905, the government proposing to redeem the depreciated paper and establish a new uniform currency on a gold basis. The paper circulation in 1905 exceeded 700,000,000 pesos. The issue began in 1881 through the Banco Nacional de Colombia, its value then being equal to that of the silver coinage. Political troubles in 1884-1885 led to a suspension of cash payments in 1885, and in 1886 Congress made the notes inconvertible and of forced circulation. In 1894 the Banco Nacional ceased to exist as a corporation, and thenceforward the currency was issued for account of the national treasury. On October 16, 1899 - the outstanding circulation then amounting to 46,000,000 pesos, - the government decreed an unlimited issue to meet its expenditures in suppressing the revolution, and later on the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Cauca, and Santander were authorized to issue paper money for themselves. This suicidal policy continued until February 28, 1903, when, according to an official statement, the outstanding paper circulation was: -

National government issues 600,398,581
Department of Antioquia 35,938,495.60
" " Bolívar 18,702,100
" " Cauca 44,719,688.70
" " Santander 750,000
- - - - - -

So great was the depreciation of this currency that before the end of the war 100 American gold dollars were quoted at 22,500 pesos. The declaration of peace brought the exchange rate down to the neighbourhood of 10,000, where it remained, with the exception of a short period during the Panama Canal negotiations, when it fell to 6000. This depreciation (10,000) was equivalent to a loss of 99% of the nominal value of the currency, a paper peso of 100 centavos being worth only one centavo gold. International commercial transactions were based on the American gold dollar, which was usually worth 100 pesos of this depreciated currency. Even at this valuation, the recognized outstanding circulation (for there had been fraudulent issues as well) amounted to more than £1,400,000. In 1903 Congress adopted a gold dollar of 1.672 grammes weight .900 fine (equal to the U.S. gold dollar) as the monetary standard created a redemption bureau for the withdrawal of the paper circulation, prohibited the further issue of such currency, and authorized free contracts in any currency. Previous to that time the law required all contracts to specify payments in paper currency. Certain rents and taxes were set aside for the use of the redemption bureau, and a nominally large sum has been withdrawn from circulation through this channel. On the 1st of January 1906, another monetary act came into operation, with additional provisions for currency redemption and improvement of the monetary system. A supplementary act of 1906 also created a new national banking institution, called the Banco Central, which is made a depository of the public revenues and is charged with a considerable part of their administration, including payments on account of the foreign debt and the conversion of the paper currency into coin. The new law likewise reaffirmed the adoption of a gold dollar of 1.672 grammes .900 fine as the unit of the new coinage, which is: -

Gold: -
Double condor = 20 dollars.
Condor = 10 "
Half condor = 5 "
Dollar (mon. unit) = 100 cents.
Silver: -
Half dollar = 50 cents.
Peseta = 20 "
Real = 10 "
Nickel: - 5 cents.
Bronze: - 2 cents and 1 cent.

The silver coinage (.900 fine) is limited to 10%, and the nickel and bronze coins to 2% of the gold coinage. The new customs tariff, which came into force at the same time, was an increase of 70% on the rates of 1904, and provided that the duties should be paid in gold, or in paper at the current rate of exchange. This measure was designed to facilitate the general resumption of specie payments.

Weights and Measures. - The metric system of weights and measures has been the legal standard in Colombia since 1857, but its use is confined almost exclusively to international trade. In the interior and in all domestic transactions the old Spanish weights and measures are still used - including the Spanish libra of 1.102 lb avoirdupois, the arroba of 25 libras (12 kilogrammes), the quintal of 100 libras (50 kilog.), the carga of 250 libras (125 kilogs.), the vara of 80 centimetres, and the fanega. The litre is the standard liquid measure.

(A. J. L.)


The coast of Colombia was one of the first parts of the American continent visited by the Spanish navigators. Alonso de Ojeda touched at several points in 1499 and 1501; and Columbus himself visited Veragua, Portobello, and other places in his last voyage in 1502. In 1508 Ojeda obtained from the Spanish crown a grant of the district from Cape Vela westward to the Gulf of Darien, while the rest of the country from the Gulf of Darien to Cape Gracias-a-Dios was bestowed on his fellow-adventurer, Nicuessa. The two territories designated respectively Nueva Andalucia and Castella de Oro were united in 1514 into the province of Tierra-firma, and entrusted to Pedro Arias de Avila. In 1536-1537 an expedition under Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada made their way from Santa Marta inland by the river Magdalena, and penetrated to Bogotá, the capital of the Muiscas or Chibchas. Quesada gave to the country the name of New Granada.

By the middle of the century the Spanish power was fairly established, and flourishing communities arose along the coasts, and in the table-lands of Cundinamarca formerly occupied by the Muiscas. For the better government of the colony the Spanish monarch erected a presidency of New Granada in 1564, which continued till 1718, when it was raised to the rank of a viceroyalty. In the following year, however, the second viceroy, D. Jorge Villalonga, Count de la Cueva, expressing his opinion that the maintenance of this dignity was too great a burden on the settlers, the viceroyalty gave place to a simple presidency. In 1740 it was restored, and it continued as long as the Spanish authority, including within its limits not only the present Colombia, but also Venezuela and Ecuador. An insurrection against the home government was formally commenced in 1811, and an incessant war against the Spanish forces was waged till 1824.

In 1819 the great national hero, Bolivar (q.v.), effected a union between the three divisions of the country, to which was given the title of the Republic of Colombia; but in 1829 Venezuela withdrew, and in 1830, the year of Bolivar's death, Quito or Ecuador followed her example. The Republic of New Granada was founded on the 21st of November 1831; and in 1832 a constitution was promulgated, and the territory divided into eighteen provinces, each of which was to have control of its local affairs. The president was to hold office for four years; and the first on whom the dignity was bestowed was General Francisco de Paula Santander. His position, however, was far from enviable; for the country was full of all the elements of unrest and contention. One of his measures, by which New Granada became responsible for the half of the debts of the defunct republic of Colombia, gave serious offence to a large party, and he was consequently succeeded not, as he desired, by José Maria Obando, but by a member of the opposition, José Ignacio de Marquez. This gave rise to a civil war, which lasted till 1841, and not only left the country weak and miserable, but afforded an evil precedent which has since been too frequently followed. The contest terminated in favour of Marquez, and he was succeeded in May 1841 by Pedro Alcantara Herran, who had assisted to obtain the victory. In 1840 the province of Cartagena had seceded, and the new president had hardly taken office before Panama and Veragua also declared themselves independent, under the title of the State of the Isthmus of Panama. Their restoration was, however, soon effected; the constitution was reformed in 1843; education was fostered, and a treaty concluded with the English creditors of the republic. Further progress was made under General Tomas de Mosquera from 1845 to 1848; a large part of the domestic debt was cleared off, immigration was encouraged, and free trade permitted in gold and tobacco. The petty war with Ecuador, concluded by the peace of Santa Rosa de Carchi, is hardly worthy of mention. From 1849 to 1852 the reins were in the hands of General José Hilario Lopez, a member of the democratic party, and under him various changes were effected of a liberal tendency. In January 1852 slavery was entirely abolished. The next president was José Maria Obando, but his term of office had to be completed by vice-presidents Obaldia and Mallarino.

In 1853 an important alteration of the constitution took place, by which the right was granted to every province to declare itself independent, and to enter into merely federal connexion with the central republic, which was now known as the Granadine Confederation. In 1856 and 1857 Antioquia and Panama took advantage of the permission. The Conservative party carried their candidate in 1857, Mariano Ospino, a lawyer by profession; but an insurrection broke out in 1859, which was fostered by the ex-president Mosquera, and finally took the form of a regular civil war. Bogotá was captured by the democrats in July 1861, and Mosquera assumed the chief power. A congress at Bogotá established a republic, with the name of the United States of Colombia, adopted a new federal constitution, and made Mosquera dictator. Meanwhile the opposite party was victorious in the west; and their leader, Julio Arboleda, formed an alliance with Don Garcia Moreno, the president of Ecuador. He was assassinated, however, in 1862; and his successor, Leonardo Canal, came to terms with Mosquera at Cali. The dictatorship was resigned into the hands of a convention (February 1863) at Rio Negro, in Antioquia; a provisional government was appointed, a constitution was drawn up, and Mosquera elected president till 1864. An unsuccessful attempt was also made to restore the union between the three republics of the former federation. The presidency of Manuel Murillo Toro (1864-1866) was disturbed by various rebellions, and even Mosquera, who next came to the helm, found matters in such a disorganized condition that he offered to retire. On the refusal of his resignation, he entered into a struggle with the majority in the congress, and ultimately resorted to an adjournment and the unconstitutional arrest of 68 of the senators and representatives. To the decree of impeachment published by the congress he replied by a notice of dissolution and a declaration of war; but he soon found that the real power was with his opponents, who effected his arrest, and condemned him first to two years' imprisonment, but afterwards by commutation to two years' exile. The presidency of Santos Gutierrez (1868-1870) was disturbed by insurrections in different parts of the republic, the most important of which was that in Panama, where the most absolute disorganization prevailed. Under his successor, General E. Salgar, a Liberal candidate elected in opposition to General Herran, a treaty was finally concluded with the United States in connexion with an interoceanic canal, a bank was established at Bogotá, and educational reforms instituted. Manuel Murillo Toro (1872-1874) and Santiago Perez (1874-1876) saw the country apparently acquiring constitutional equilibrium, and turning its energies to the development of its matchless resources.

The election for the presidential term 1876-1878 resulted in favour of Aquiles Parra, who was succeeded in April 1878 by General Julian Trujillo. His administration was marked by a strong effort to place the financial position of the government on a more satisfactory footing, and the internal indebtedness was substantially reduced during his rule. In April 1880 Señor Rafael Nuñez acceded to the presidency. During his term of office revolutionary disturbances occurred in the provinces of Cauca and Antioquia, but were suppressed with no great difficulty. Provision was made in 1880 for a settlement of the boundary dispute with Costa Rica, and in July of that year the federal Congress authorized the formation of a naval squadron. A movement was now set afoot in favour of a confederation of the three republics of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela on the basis of the original conditions existing after the expulsion of Spanish authority, and a resolution was passed by the chamber of deputies to that effect. The opposition shown by Venezuela and Ecuador to this project prevented any definite result from being achieved. In April 1882 Señor Francisco J. Laldua became president, but his death occurring a year later, General José Eusebio Otalora was nominated to exercise the executive power for the unexpired portion of the term. In 1883 the dispute in connexion with the boundary between Colombia and Venezuela was submitted by the two governments to the arbitration of Alphonso XII., king of Spain, and a commission of five members was appointed to investigate the merits of the respective claims. The decision in this dispute was finally given by the queen regent of Spain on the 16th of March 1891. In April 1884 Señor Rafael Nuñez was again proclaimed president of the republic in his absence abroad. Pending his return the administration was left in the hands of General Campo Serrano and General Eliseo Payan. The Liberal party had been instrumental in the re-election of Nuñez, and looked for a policy in conformity with their views and political convictions. President Nuñez had no sooner returned to Colombia than the Liberals discovered that his political opinions had changed and had become strongly Conservative. Discontent at this condition of affairs soon spread. Nuñez from motives of ill-health did not openly assume the presidential office, but from his house near Cartagena he practically directed the government of the republic. The Liberals now began to foment a series of revolutionary movements, and these led in 1885 to a civil war extending over the departments of Boyaca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena and Panama. General Reyes and General Velez were the two principal leaders of the revolt. In order to protect the passage of the traffic across the Isthmus of Panama during these disturbed times detachments of United States marines were landed at Panama and Colon, in accordance with the terms of the concession under which the railway had been constructed. After a number of defeats the leaders of the revolt surrendered in August 1885, and on the 5th of September following peace was officially proclaimed. Nuñez, who had meanwhile assumed the presidential duties, now brought about a movement in favour of a fresh Act of Constitution for Colombia, and a new law to that effect was finally approved and promulgated on 4th August 1886. Under the terms of this act the federal system of government for Colombia was abolished, the states becoming departments, the governors of these political divisions being appointed by the president of the republic. Each department has a local legislative assembly elected by the people. The national congress is constituted of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is composed of twenty-seven members elected for six years, one-third retiring every two years, three of whom are nominated by each of the nine departments. The House of Representatives comprises members elected for four years by universal suffrage, each department forming a constituency and returning one member for every 50,000 inhabitants. Congress convenes every two years. The presidential term of office under the new act was fixed at six years in place of the two years formerly prevailing. The judiciary was irremovable, and trial by jury was allowed for criminal offences. Capital punishment was re-established, and the press was made responsible for matter published. The unlicensed trade in arms and ammunition thitherto existing was prohibited. Previous to 1886 the crime of murder was only punishable by 10 years' imprisonment, a sentence which in practice was reduced to two-thirds of that term; slander and libel were formerly offences which the law had no power to restrain, and no responsibility attached to seditious publications.

After the promulgation of this new Act of Constitution President Nuñez was proclaimed as president of the republic for the term ending in 1892. He was unable, however, in consequence of ill-health, to reside at Bogotá and discharge the presidential duties, and consequently in August 1888 Señor Cárlos Holguin was designated to act for him. In 1892 President Nuñez was again elected to the presidency for a term of six years, his continued ill-health, however, forcing him to place the active performance of his duties in the hands of the vice-president, Señor Miguel Caro. In 1895 the Liberals made another attempt to seize the government of the country, but the movement was suppressed without any very great difficulty. In this same year Nuñez died, and Vice-President Caro became the actual president, an office he had practically filled during the three previous years. In 1898 Señor M. A. Sanclemente, a strong Conservative, and supported by the Church party, was elected to the presidency for the period ending in 1904. In October 1899 the Liberals organized another revolutionary outbreak for the purpose of trying to wrest the power from Conservatives, but this attempt had no better success than the movements of 1885 and 1895. In January 1900, however, Vice-President José Marroquin seized upon the government, imprisoned President Sanclemente (who died in prison in March 1902), and another period of disturbance began. The rebels were defeated in May in a desperate battle at Cartagena; and continuous fighting went on about Panama, where British marines had to be landed to protect foreign interests. As the year 1900 advanced, the conflict went on with varying success, but the government troops were generally victorious, and in August Vice-President Marroquin was recognized as the acting head of the executive, with a cabinet under General Calderon. In 1901 the rebellion continued, and severe fighting took place about Colon. Further complications arose in August, when trouble occurred between Colombia and Venezuela. On the one hand, there were grounds for believing that the Clericals and Conservatives in both countries were acting together; and, on the other, it was expected that President Castro of Venezuela would not be sorry to unite his own countrymen, and to divert their attention from internal affairs, by a war against Colombia. The Colombian revolutionary leaders had made use of the Venezuelan frontier as a base of operations, and the result was an invasion of Venezuelan territory by Colombian government troops, an incident which at once caused a diplomatic quarrel. The United States government in September offered its good offices, but President Castro refused them, and the state of affairs became gradually more menacing. Meanwhile both Panama and Colon were seriously threatened by the rebel forces, who in November succeeded in capturing Colon by surprise. The situation was complicated by the fact that the railway traffic on the Isthmus was in danger of interruption, and on the capture of Colon it became necessary for the American, British and French naval authorities to land men for the protection of the railway and of foreign interests.

On the 18th of September the Venezuelans, who had entered Colombia, were totally routed near La Hacha, and after fierce fighting the insurgents at Colon were compelled to surrender on the 29th of November. But the Civil War was not yet ended. For another eight months it was to continue, causing immense damage to property and trade, and the loss of tens of thousands of lives. In many towns and villages the male population was almost entirely destroyed. Not till June 1903 was internal peace finally restored. In the autumn of that same year Colombia, exhausted and half ruined, was to suffer a further severe loss in the secession of Panama.

The abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty in 1901, and the failure of the second French company to construct a canal between Colon and Panama (see Panama Canal) had, after many hesitations, induced the United States government to abandon the Nicaragua route and decide on adopting that of Panama. Negotiations were set on foot with Colombia, and an arrangement - under what was known as the Hay-Herran treaty - was made to the following effect. Colombia agreed (1) to the transfer of the rights, under the concession, of the French company to the United States; (2) to cede, on a hundred years' lease, a right of way for the canal, and a strip of land 5m. broad on either side of the waterway, and the two ports of Colon and Panama. The United States agreed to pay Colombia (1) £2,000,000 down in cash, and, ten years later, an annual rental of £50,000, and further a share of the price paid to the French company, i.e. £8,000,000, in which Colombia held 50,000 shares. This treaty was signed by the plenipotentiaries and ratified by the United States Senate. The Colombian Congress, however, refused to ratify the treaty on the ground that when the negotiations had taken place the country was in a state of siege, really in the hope of securing a larger money payment. The adjournment took place on the 31st of October. On the 3rd of November a revolution broke out at Panama, and the state seceded from Colombia and declared itself to be an independent republic. This opportune revolution was no doubt fomented by persons interested in the carrying through of the United States scheme for piercing the isthmus, but their task was one that presented no difficulties, for the isthmian population had been in a state of perennial insurrection against the central government for many years. Whoever may have instigated the rising, this much is certain, that American warships prevented the Colombian troops from landing to suppress the revolt. On the 7th of November the United States government formally recognized the independence of the republic of Panama (q.v.). The other powers in succession likewise recognized the new state; the recognition of Great Britain was given on the 26th of December. Colombia thus sacrificed a great opportunity of obtaining, by the ratification of the Hay-Herran treaty, such a pecuniary recompense for the interest in the territory through which the canal was to be constructed as would have gone far to re-establish her ruined financial credit.

In 1904 the troubled term of President Marroquin came to an end, and by the narrowest of majorities General Rafael Reyes was elected in his place. He had been sent as a special envoy to Washington to protest against the recognition of Panama, and to attempt to revive the Hay-Herran treaty, and to secure favourable terms for Colombia in the matter of the canal. He failed to do so, but it was recognized that he had discharged his difficult task with great skill and ability. On his accession to office as president he found the country exhausted and disorganized, more especially in the department of finance, and the congress was on the whole hostile to him. Finding himself hampered in his efforts to reform abuses, the president dissolved the congress, and summoned a national constituent and legislative assembly to meet on the 15th of March 1905, and with its aid proceeded to modify the constitution.

Having personal acquaintance with the success of the rule of President Porfirio Diaz in Mexico, General Reyes determined to set about the regeneration of Colombia by similar methods. His tenure of the presidency was extended to a term of ten years from the 1st of January 1905, and the restriction as to re-election at the end of that term was withdrawn, other alterations being made in the constitution with the effect of placing General Reyes really in the position of a dictator. He soon proved that he had the ability and the integrity of purpose to use his great opportunity for the benefit of his country. His firm and masterful government and wise measures did much to allay the spirit of unrest which had so long been the bane of Colombia, and though an attempt at assassination was made in the spring of 1906, the era of revolution appeared to be over.

The chief foreign treaties entered into by Colombia in the last quarter of the 19th century were: - (1) A treaty with Great Britain, signed on the 27th of October 1888, for the extradition of criminals; (2) a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with Italy, signed on the 27th of October 1892; (3) two protocols with Italy, signed respectively on the 24th of May and on the 25th of August 1886, in connexion with the affair of the Italian subject Cerruti; (4) a consular convention with Holland, signed on the 20th of July 1881; (5) a treaty of peace and friendship with Spain, signed on the 30th of January 1881; (6) a convention with Spain for the reciprocal protection of intellectual property; (7) a concordat with the Vatican, signed on the 31st of December 1887; (8) an agreement with the Vatican, signed on the 20th of August 1892, in connexion with ecclesiastical jurisdiction; (9) an agreement with the republic of San Salvador, signed on the 24th of December 1880, in regard to the despatch of a delegate to an international congress; (10) a treaty of peace, friendship and commerce with Germany, signed on the 23rd of July 1892; (11) a treaty with the republic of Costa Rica, signed in 1880, for the delimitation of the boundary; (12) the postal convention, signed at Washington, on the 4th of July 1891; (13) a convention with Great Britain, signed on the 31st of July 1896, in connexion with the claim of Messrs Punchard, M'Taggart, Lowther & Co.; (14) a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with Peru, signed on the 6th of August 1898; (15) an extradition treaty with Peru, signed on the 6th of August 1898; (16) a treaty of peace, friendship and defensive alliance with Venezuela, signed on the 21st of November 1896, and on the same date a treaty regulating the frontier commerce.

(G. E.)

AUTHORITIES - C. E. Akers, A History of South America, 1854-1904 (New York, 1905); J. J. Borda, Compendio de historia de Colombia (Bogotá, 1890); Salvador Roldan Camacho, Notas de viaje (Bogotá, 1890), and Escritos varios (Bogotá, 1892); Dr Alfred Hettner, Reisen in den colombianischen Anden (Leipzig, 1888); Angel Lemos, Compendio de geografia de la Républica de Colombia (Medellin, 1894); Albert Millican, Travels and Adventures of an Orchid Hunter (London, 1891); J. M. Cordovez Mauro, Reminiscencias Santafé y Bogotá (Bogotá, 1899); Norris and Laird (Bureau of Navigation), Telegraphic Determination of Longitudes in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and on the North Coast of South America (Washington, 1891); R. Nuñez and H. Jalhay, La République de Colombia, géographie, histoire, etc. (Bruxelles, 1893); J. M. Q. Otero, Historia Patria (Bogotá, 1891); Lisimaco Palaü, La Républica de Colombia (1893); M. Paz and F. Perez, Atlas geográfico e histórico de la República de Colombia (1893); R. S. Pereira, Les Etats Unis de Colombia (Paris, 1883); Felipe Perez, Geografia general, fisica y politica de los Estados Unidos de Colombia (Bogotá, 1883); F. Loraine Petrie, The Republic of Colombia (London, 1906); Elisée Réclus, Geografia de Colombia (Bogotá, 1893); W. Reiss and A. Stübel, Reisen in Südamerika. Geologische Studien in der Republik Colombia (Berlin, 1893); Ernesto Restrepo, Ensayo etnografico y arqueologico de la provincia de los Quimbayas (Bogotá, 1892), and Estudios sobre los aborigines de Colombia (Bogotá, 1892); Vicente Restrepo, Estudio sobre las minas de oro y plata de Colombia (Bogotá, 1888, translated by C. W. Fisher, New York, 1886); W. L. Scruggs, The Colombian and Venezuelan Republics (London, 1899; Boston, 1900); W. Sievers, Reisen in der Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Leipzig, 1887); F. J. Vergara y Velasco, Nueva geografia de Colombia (Bogotá, 1892); Frank Vincent, Around and About South America (New York, 1890); R. G. Watson, Spanish and Portuguese South America during the Colonial Period (2 vols., London, 1884).

See also the diplomatic and consular reports of Great Britain and the United States; publications of the International Bureau of American Republics (Washington, D.C.); Bureau of Statistics, Commercial America in 1905 (Washington, 1906).

[1] See A. Hettner and G. Linck, "Beiträge zur Geologie und Petrographie der columbianischen Anden," Zeits. deutsch. geol. Ges. vol. xl. (1888), pp. 204-230; W. Sievers, "Die Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta und die Sierra de Perijá," Zeits. Ges. Erdk. Berlin, vol. xxiii. (1888), pp. 1-158 and p. 442, Pls. i. and iii.; A. Hettner, "Die Kordillere von Bogotá," Peterm. Mitt., Ergänzungsheft 104 (1892), and "Die Anden des westlichen Columbiens," Peterm. Mitt. (1893), pp. 129-136; W. Reiss and A. Stübel, Reisen in Süd America. Geologische Studien in der Republik Colombia (Berlin, 1892-1899), - a good geological bibliography will be found in part ii. of this work.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR