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Argentine Republic

Argentine Republic a State of South America which occupies the southern part of the continent excepting the western slope of the Andes Cordillera and some lands of the southernmost extremity that belong to Chili. It is bounded on the north by the republics of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, and on the east by those of Brazil and Uruguay. Its sea coast is very extensive. The total area of the country amounts to over 1,700,000 square miles.

The greater part of the country is composed of a large plain, the Pampa; but there are some mountain groups that are directly connected with the great Chilian or Bolivian Cordillera, or that may be considered as isolated prolongations of the great orographical system of the continent. The Tertiary formation is prevalent. Extending through all the Argentinian plain a thick layer of clay is found, called the Pampean formation. In certain parts this clay is mingled with lime, and this compound is known as Fosca, and is excellent for manufacturing hydraulic lime. Embedded in this formation a great quantity of interesting fossil skeletons of extinct species of mammalia have been discovered.

The rivers of the northern provinces are small: torrential in the rainy season, but quite dried up in the dry season. The great fluvial system of the Plata is very important for its extent and its ramifications; its more noted streams are the Pitcomayo (unexplored for the most part), that penetrates into the heart of the continent in Bolivia; the Bermejo, which crosses De Chaco, the Salado, the Dulce, and the Parana and Uruguay, the sources of which are in Brazil, and both of which are increased by various tributaries. The Plata, properly speaking, is only the vent or discharge of this enormous system.

The greater part of the Republic is situated in the temperate zone of the south. The northern provinces are in the tropical zone, and the soil here yields all the produce natural to it. The Chaco is a very dry, hot wilderness, of which the colonisation was comparatively recently begun: it is covered, as are the northern provinces, with large and valuable forests. The central portion, the Pampa, together with the lands on the rivers, is excellent for the breeding of every sort of cattle, and for the cultivation of cereals. The Patagonian lands of the south are dreary deserts, but according to explorers they are full of fertile oases.

The aboriginal race of the country has been greatly reduced in its numbers on account of war and of absorption into the invading European race. Not more than some thousands of representatives of the African race are to be found now in the Republic. The population is mainly formed by the Creoles, who are descendants of the Spanish conquerors, who have intermingled afterwards with the immigrants from Europe, Italians principally. They are a handsome and strong race, vivacious, progressive, and very hospitable. They assimilate quickly all modern ideas and practices, and if they are rather inclined to speculation, they are also patriotic, and jealous of the good name of their country. The population numbers about four millions. The immigration is, however, very great, and influxes of Italians and Spaniards have sometimes added a quarter of a million annually.

Buenos Aires is a fine capital with half a million inhabitants. La Plata, the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, and Rosario are other important towns, and the towns of the interior are less active, but they have advanced greatly in a very short space of time. The country has already many railway lines (in 1896, 8,998 miles) mainly constructed by British capital, and is becoming colonised with prodigious rapidity.

Solis discovered the river Plate in 1516. The first settlement, which was immediately destroyed, was made by Sebastian Cabot thirteen years afterwards. The first settlement of Buenos Aires took place in 1535; this was also destroyed by the Indians, and the second settlement of the city in its present place was made by Juan de Garay in 1580. In this first period of conquest the Spaniards founded many cities: Santiago del Estero, Tucuman, Santa Fe, Cordoba, San Juan, Salta, and others. These conquerors were military adventurers, violent and greedy, who divided the lands and the enslaved natives among themselves. The Jesuits, who had by this time arrived on the scene, founded rural colonies. Some order was established in those settlements, at first exposed to the attacks of many sea-pirates, by a governor called Gongora. At last, with the growth of a settled native population of Spanish origin, domestic practices and social virtues arose, and these were developed by the creation of the vice-royalty of La Plata, the expulsion of the Jesuits, and the nomination of certain good men to the government of the country by King Charles III. of Spain.

During the Napoleonic wars an English military expedition suddenly appeared before Buenos Aires, landed and entered the town. The Spanish viceroy, Sobremonte, fled to the interior of the country; but the natives fought well, and the English troops had to surrender. Another English expedition, commanded by General Whitelock, was also defeated by the citizens and militia of Buenos Aires. These victories gave the Creoles an indication of their strength, and as the imbecility and abuse of the Spanish authorities were unbearable, the people of Buenos Aires, in 1810, solemnly declared their political liberty, and, after deposing the Spanish viceroy, Cisneros, constituted an independent government. All the country was in favour of the Independence, and the Argentine soldiers had to fight the Spanish armies in Chili, Bolivia and Uruguay. Rivadavia, the first president, was a patriot and able organiser; in his administration a war took place with Brazil on account of the disputed possession of the Banda Oriental, in which the Argentinian arms were victorious both on land and sea.

Great disturbances, which led to terrible civil wars, broke out among the provinces, and great anarchy reigned throughout the whole country, until the despot Rosas silenced the country under his bloody rule. After twenty-three years of unlimited power, he was defeated in the battle of Caseros by Urquiza (1852).

With the fall of Rosas the old strife between the provinces was kindled again, but in the battle of Pavon, won by General Mitre (1861), the factions were destroyed. General Mitre was then elected President of the Republic, which was reconstructed on firm foundations by his wise and honest policy. During Mitre's administration a successful war was carried on by the allied forces of the Argentine and Uruguayan republics and the Brazilian empire, against the tyrant Lopes, of Paraguay.

Sarmienti, who followed Mitre in the presidency, was an energetic statesman, but was the first who introduced the practice of naming his successor, a practice which corrupted the political body. After Sarmienti, Avellaneda was named president, and after them came General Roca. Juarez Celman succeeded Roca, but was overthrown in June, 1890, by a revolution which delivered the country from a shameful regime of nepotism and public plunder.