The National Party, a Chilean political organization which functioned between 1857 and 1932, was the creation and the vehicle of President Manuel Montt and his protégé Antonio Varas. Initially conservative, it was distinguished from other contemporary parties by its predilection for authoritarian methods—not all that unusual at the time—and an intense hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church. In truth, the party owed its existence as much to a fight between Montt and his political opponents on both the Right and the Left as to a clash between the hierarchy and the Moneda, or administration, over the right of the civil government to assert jurisdiction over clerics. Still, the new organization became known as the National Party presumably because it sought to protect national interests from Chilean ultramontanes who wished to subordinate Santiago to the will of Rome.
Once in power, the Nationals, whose motto was "liberty within order," enjoyed only a brief place in the political sun. When it became clear that Montt could not impose Varas as his successor, the party began to lose its power. The Montt-Varistas lost their parliamentary majority in 1864, and a coalition including the Nationals proved unable to elect its candidate in the 1871 election. After President José Joaquín Pérez, the Nationals would not win the Moneda, although numerous Montt-Varistas held ministerial portfolios and the party supported the election of Aníbal Pinto and Domingo Santa María González. The Nationals were among the last to abandon José Manuel Balmaceda. Perhaps because of this fact, they suffered heavy losses in the 1894 parliamentary elections. The party, however, did enjoy a resurgence during the parliamentary period of the 1890s and saw its founder's son, Pedro Montt, become president in 1906. It also elected a total of sixteen deputies in 1909. After that date, however, the Nationals again began to lose ground slowly, though often backing winning candidates in ensuing presidential elections. In return for their support, the Nationals occupied, however briefly, various cabinet posts.
Fundamentally the brainchild of Manuel Montt, the Nationals initially lacked any clear ideology beyond a willingness to adhere to their founder's wishes. Once it lost control of the Moneda, the party, like many of those which no longer dominated the government, advocated reducing the powers of the chief executive, expanding individual liberties, and restricting the power of the church. While it was perhaps not politically unique, the National Party did provide a vehicle for the emerging Chilean middle class, particularly those involved in the civil service and later commerce as well as finance.
Insulted by the Chilean political system, the party continued to function even after its political rationale had ceased to exist. Moreover, the party began to fracture, thus accelerating its decline. After 1925 the National Party lost its appeal. Although it participated in selecting the Thermal Congress (1930–1932), the National Party ceased to exist. In 1932 it joined with various Liberals and some long-time supporters of Balmaceda to form the United Liberal Party.
Galdames, Luis. A History of Chile (1941), pp. 294-298.
Scully, Timothy. Rethinking the Center: Party Politics in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century Chile. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.
Stuven, Ana María. La seducción de un orden: Las elites y la construcción de Chile en las polémicas culturales y políticas del siglo XIX. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Católica de Chile, 2000.
Urzúa Valenzuela, Germán. Diccionario político institucional de Chile (1979), pp. 103-104.
William F. Sater