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WHY THERE ARE TWO AMERICAS1

BY RAMIRO DE MAEZTU

IN reviewing my recent visit to America I must begin with the fact, known to every educated Latin American, that the United States is at the present time the creditor nation of the world, and that not only the Spanish-speaking peoples, but all the other peoples of the globe, are therefore to a greater or lesser extent economically dependent on that country. But why are the North Americans creditors? Why are we debtors? Does the United States possess some secret of wealth which it behooves us to discover in order to emancipate ourselves?

Important facts are generally visible, but they are not always seen in their true perspective. Even our highschool students glibly quote the motto of the rebellious British colonists, 'No taxation without representation.' That is a dictum so clear and precise that one hundred and fifty years of legal interpretation have not been able to amplify it. Political writers also dwell upon the statement in the Declaration of Independence that all men are born free and equal. Even more important, perhaps, is the affirmation that officials and rulers are only the trustees and servants of the public. But if we confine ourselves to these generalizations we overlook the real reason for the existence of the United States.

Yet that reason is as clear as day. The colonists had three major complaints against Great Britain. First, the Government of that country tried

1 From La Prensa (Buenos Aires Liberal daily), December 23 and 30

to monopolize, directly or through a few privileged persons, the profits derived from developing its transatlantic possessions. Second, England sought to monopolize the commerce of those possessions by compelling their trade to pass through British hands and by forcing the colonists to use British goods. Third, the British Parliament attempted to levy taxes upon them, thus asserting absolute jurisdiction over all parts of the Empire. Summed up in a sentence, Great Britain tried to exploit its colonies by imposing direct and indirect tribute upon them, which the colonists refused to pay. The latter were traders, manufacturers, and farmers. They were growing wealthy, and they lived in a land of unbounded resources. They were determined to get the benefit of those resources for themselves. They had no intention of letting any Government have them. They organized themselves politically in such a way that the State could not interfere with the free growth of private property. That is why there is a United States. No taxation without representation means that the Government cannot without the people's consent take any part of that property for its own use. To be sure, the colonists had to set up a State of their own in order to have the kind of government that they wanted. But they created that State in their own image. Sovereignty was not vested in their rulers and magistrates, but in the people as a whole. The primary pur

pose of this was to prevent the existence of any power that could take their money away from them without their own consent. Thus protected in their property rights, they have become the wealthiest people in the world. . . .

No similar sentiment ever manifested itself conspicuously in Spanish America. The La Paz Proclamation of July 28, 1809, extols the idea of the fatherland, of liberty, and of resistance to Spanish pride. The last seems to have been the dominant sentiment, to judge by the emphasis with which it is expressed. 'We have suffered with a silence akin to the stupidity which the unjust Spaniard attributes to us. We have permitted without protest our birthright as Americans to be converted into a stigma of humiliation and ruin. It is high time to throw off that bitter yoke, so fatal to our own happiness and so flattering to Spanish pride.' Nowhere in that Proclamation do we discover any reference to the economic advantages of independence. The statement that 'it is high time to organize a new system of government founded on the interests of our fatherland, which are arrogantly disregarded by the illegitimate policy of Madrid,' so clearly refers to purely political interests that we can hardly ascribe much economic meaning to it.

I have read dozens of proclamations, manifestoes, and important speeches dating from that period. Rarely have I found in them even the remotest allusion to an economic grievance. I do not say that such grievances did not exist; for no man and no community can be utterly blind to economic interests. But these are never brought to the fore. To control the Government implied the right to levy taxes, to borrow money, to appoint officials, all of which are acts that have an economic VOL. 352- NO. 4300

aspect. But no thought was given to these features of government, or at least not enough to lead to their being mentioned. The moving force of the revolt against Spain was America's pride. It was to this pride that Dr. Pérez Castillano appealed to justify the Constitution of September 21, 1806, before the Bishop of Buenos Aires: 'If it is a cause of regret that Montevideo has been the first city in America to manifest a noble and vigorous desire to occupy a position of equality with the cities of the mother country

I have dwelt on this high-spirited sentiment of American pride because I believe it is an enduring stimulus, which will eventually enable the people of Spanish America not only to win economic independence but also to fulfill their higher destinies. That sentiment animated the French Revolution, which was characterized by the same appeal to national pride and by the same absence of economic ends. While the British colonists in North America fought a war of independence because they refused to place their property at the disposal of anybody but their own chosen servants, the Latin Americans rebelled against Spain chiefly because they were weary of playing second fiddle to their transatlantic masters. The North American fought against paying taxes; the Spanish American fought for the privilege of levying them. The North American fought for the power of money; the South American fought for the money of power. The Northerners were manufacturers, merchants, farmers, ever on the alert to keep the State from interfering with their private business. The men of the South were political leaders and their followers, ambitious to be the State. The last thing that the man of the North desires is to be associated with the Government. Yet that is the supreme ambition of the Southerner.

All other contrasts between AngloSaxon and Iberian America can be traced back to this initial difference: Yankee capitalism never permits the Government to interfere with its own progress. Because North America has made private property supreme, she has progressed faster than her neighbors. Her people always have had money enough to provide employment for the immigrants who have flocked to her shores, while the immense resources of Latin America have lain fallow for want of capital to make them available for human use. No Spanish American republic has been able to attract immigrants until it has first attracted capital. And that capital is never sufficient, because its natural increase goes to the foreign lender.

It is logical, therefore, that a nation which won its independence primarily in order freely to multiply its wealth should actually be the richest nation on the globe. The Spanish Americans fought Spain because they would not permit the men of another continent to be set above themselves. They, too, gained their object, but in defending their personal pride and dignity they let economic questions take care of themselves. Therefore they are debtor peoples. Yet their very pride may ultimately help them win their economic independence.

I might illustrate this by a little Mexican town called Las Vegas, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, not far from Colorado. The fact that this town stands on the remotest confines of that part of America peopled by the Spanish-speaking race makes the example more significant. At the time when transcontinental railroads were being built across the Union, several North American families settled near Las Vegas, which had hitherto been inhabited exclusively by Mexicans, who had retained their

national characteristics, their language, and their customs ever since 1847, when the United States took those territories from Mexico. In the course of time the two settlements incorporated themselves as a city. But the Mexicans were accustomed to live à la buena de Dios, with very few public services, even fewer public improvements, and practically no taxes. They rather took pride as frontiersmen in being able to do without so many things that other people considered necessary. So they did not like their civic amalgamation with the North Americans, and the two communities finally separated. The Mexicans went on living as they had before, without anyone trying to induce them to change their ways. Very soon, however, the North American town began to go ahead, put in extensive public improvements, housed its public schools in palatial buildings, and became a modern city. As time went on the Mexicans began to compare the neglect and retrogression of their town with its progressive neighbor, until finally their pride stimulated them to a sense of rivalry. They decided to show that they could do as much as the Yankees on the other side of the town line. So they levied higher taxes, borrowed money, built schoolhouses, and to-day have a town that rivals, in neatness, beauty, progress, and municipal services, other American towns of equal size and wealth.

In fact, the present problem of Spanish America, in its relations with the Anglo-Saxons, is to place at the service of material development the same spirit of pride and self-respect that it has hitherto devoted to the conquest of political power.

North Americans do not differ from Spanish Americans so much in temperament, or in a natural love for material things, as because their history and traditions have given them a

different mentality, and above all a different idea of money.

Keyserling, in his Travel Diary of a Philosopher, has acutely observed that all the North American sects, from the seventeenth century down, have agreed in considering wealth a sign of divine grace. I need only cite, as evidence that this is still a guiding article of faith with the North Americans, a paragraph from a book printed in their country, not in the seventeenth century, but in 1926. Its title is The Present Economic Revolution in the United States, and its author is Professor Thomas Nixon Carver, of Harvard University. The author's distinction as an economist and the high standing of the institution with which he is connected give the opinion exceptional authority. I quote the paragraph in full, and ask my readers to give close attention, for nothing quite like it has ever been written in the language of Castile:

"The amazing material prosperity that is coming to this country through the pursuit of the noble ideal of equality under liberty, and our failure to develop the arts of leisure, are deceiving many superficial observers into believing that our ideals are themselves materialistic. But this prosperity is coming to us precisely because our ideals are not materialistic. It is coming to us because we are pursuing the exalted ideal of equality under liberty, as it must of necessity come to any nation that pursues that ideal whole-heartedly and enthusiastically. No nation can fail to prosper, up to the limit set by its physical resources, that genuinely seeks equality under liberty. All these things are being added unto us precisely because we are seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, as they are always added and must of logical necessity always be added unto any nation that seeks

whole-heartedly those ideals of justice. that are the very essence of the Kingdom of God.'

The Fathers of the Revolution in North America had been educated in the school of Benjamin Franklin. That philosopher still guides, in a degree, the thinking of the present generation, for his life is studied in primary and higher schools, together with that of Washington, and the characters of the two men are constantly compared and extolled in school recitations and debates. Now Franklin wrote, in 1736, a pamphlet entitled Necessary Hints to Those Who Would Be Rich, and in 1748 another, entitled Advice to a Young Tradesman. These homilies abound in such sentiments as the following:

'Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expence; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides. . . Remember that credit is money. If a man lets his money lie in my hands after it is due, he gives me the interest, or so much as I can make of it during that time. . . . Remember this saying, "The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse." . . . The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or nine at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer: but if he sees you at a billiard table, or hears your voice in a tavern . ́.. he sends for his money the next day.'

And above all note the following sentences:

'Remember that money is of a prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, and turned again it is seven and three-pence; and so on till it

becomes an hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.'

One cannot comprehend the full meaning of these words unless he sees in them more than merely utilitarian advice, or the technique of living as conceived by a practical mind. Their significance comes, as Max Weber has observed, from the fact that they picture for us as an ideal type of man him who is worthy to enjoy credit, and, above all, that they teach the moral obligation resting upon every individual to multiply his fortune. This is not merely a counsel of expediency, but a categorical imperative, an ethical obligation. We may add that Benjamin Franklin's philosophy involves also what we call a 'reverential' attitude toward money, although that expression dates from a much later period. Money is conceived as a power of infinite possibilities, as an aspect of the infinite, and this metaphysical concept of money produces in a man who finds inspiration in Benjamin Franklin a sentiment of reverence.

Furthermore, Franklin's pages portray the birth of capitalism to our eyes. For capitalism is not wealth. There have always been rich men and poor men in the world. The essential characteristic of our capitalist civilization, which dates only from the eighteenth century, is the exploitation of natural wealth through the agency of capital investment. Only by applying capital to natural resources can money be made reproductive and indefinitely increased. Mere exchange would never convert the five shillings of Franklin into a hundred pounds.

How different from this is the attitude toward money and private property which we find in Spanish America! The aboriginal Indian had no conception of property as an absolute and individual possession. The thought that a particular piece of land could belong to a single person never entered the head of the nomadic native, and the sedentary native never got beyond the idea of communal property owned by his village or by his chief. The Spaniard or Portuguese of the sixteenth century usually took up a large tract of land which he cultivated very casually or devoted entirely to grazing. He had none of the peasant's love of the earth he tilled. He knew nothing of careful economies and attention to detail. He occupied himself with horses and jewels rather than with fields and buildings. Although beginning with the eighteenth century emigrants from Galicia and Catalonia began to flock to the Spanish colonies, and subsequently Italians and Germans settled there, and although these later comers were men of the peasant type, accustomed to an hacienda de montaña, dos huevos y una castaña and trained to look carefully after trifles, and although, since they came from countries having a regular rainfall, they were used to calculating their crops in terms of labor and not of the caprices of the season, they did not change the earlier customs of the country.

In fact, both the earlier and the later immigrants accepted Saint Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of property and money, while the Puritans of North America took literally Saint Paul's admonition: "This we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.' Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the duty of labor has been imposed upon the human race as a whole but not upon the individual. He believed that there was no ethical value

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