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Federalism

Fishburn and Hughes: After the Wars of Independence (1810-24) the two major opposing parties in Argentina were the Federalists and the Unitarians, whose differences plunged the country into civil war for nearly six decades. Federalism stood for the autonomy and equality of all the provinces and their traditional Hispanic and criollo values, as opposed to the growing ascendancy of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. Its leaders were self-elected caudillos with a popular following among the local gauchos, the most notable being Facundo in the interior (see Sarmiento) and Rosas in the littoral. This division reflected a difference in economic policy within Federalism itself, the isolated interior wishing to preserve its outmoded factories, while the littoral wished to pursue the more Unitarian policy of an export-oriented international economy, selling off its agricultural produce in return for cheap manufactured goods from Europe. The Federalists wished to restrict the high revenues that such a policy would produce to the littoral, while the Unitarians proposed to share them with the rest of the nation. The last important Federalist leader, Rosas, gradually disposed of all opposition until he became dictator: Unitarian policies were thus achieved under a Federalist banner. Rosas was brought down in 1852 by one of his generals, Urquiza, but the constitution remained Federalist in name and Unitarian in character. Between 1852 and 1880 the struggle continued between the newly formed Federation of Provinces and the province of Buenos Aires, which remained outside it. In many ways it was a struggle between the old criollo values of the patrician families and the cosmopolitan values of the new land-owning and commercial bourgeoisie. This struggle underpins many of the stories in Doctor Brodie's Report.