Pellegrini, Carlos (1846–1906)
Pellegrini, Carlos (1846–1906)
Carlos Pellegrini (b. 11 October 1846; d. 17 July 1906), president of Argentina (1890–1892). Pellegrini was born in Buenos Aires province to an English mother and an Italian father, a background which exemplifies the cosmopolitan nature of Argentina. He had little interest in religion and was convinced that economic, financial, and political interests were interchangeable. A successful businessman, a veteran of the war with Paraguay, and a skilled orator, Pellegrini fit easily into the upper class. A fervent supporter of European immigration, he made the first of several trips to Europe in 1876. After his election to Congress, he forged an alliance with Julio Argentino Roca. As war minister during Roca's first presidency, Pellegrini played a vital role in establishing Buenos Aires as the national capital. His skill in negotiating foreign loans enabled him to become head of the Partido Autonomista Nacional and vice president (1886). It was no secret that Pellegrini was contemptuous of Miguel Juárez Celman's abilities and policies.
Pellegrini became president in October 1890, after Juárez Celman fled the 1890 revolt. Pellegrini's leadership enabled the elites to keep their opponents out of power while his followers reformed the country. He was Argentina's leading financial representative and a nationalist. He moved to restore fiscal sanity and economic growth. Determined to restore Argentine credit, he began to reduce the foreign debt. The government revived the currency by establishing reserves. When Pellegrini discovered that many banks were fraudulent, he founded a new national bank in 1891. He reduced imports of luxury goods and established the first favorable trade balance in many years. Long a champion of national industries, Pellegrini continued to support the development of sugar, wine, rice, and tobacco. Citizens respected him because he cut waste, frustrated corruption, and prohibited the use of gold in the stock market.
In many ways, Pellegrini challenged the dependency theory that Latin American elites were subservient to U.S. or British influence. He criticized British investments, taxed foreign capital, and clashed repeatedly with the British over the taxation of their businesses and the freezing of the rates that their railroads and tramways could charge in Argentina.
Pellegrini wielded great influence once he left the presidency. He opposed jingoistic calls for war with Chile and opposed an arms race with Brazil. He broke with Roca and urged a better system of labor relations, and until shortly before his death, Pellegrini continued to attack corruption and campaign for electoral reform. His writings are collected in his five-volume Obras (1941), with a two-volume introduction by the editor, Agustín P. Rivero.
The most recent biography of Pellegrini is Douglas W. Richmond, Carlos Pellegrini and the Crisis of the Argentine Elites, 1880–1916 (1989). Donna J. Guy, Argentine Sugar Politics: Tucumán and the Generation of Eighty (1980), describes Pellegrini's protectionism, as does her "Carlos Pellegrini and the Politics of Early Argentine Industrialization, 1873–1906," in Journal of Latin American Studies 11 (May 1979):123-144. John Edward Hodge, has written "Carlos Pellegrini, Argentine Statesman" (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1963) and two excellent articles: "Carlos Pellegrini and the Financial Crisis of 1890," in Hispanic American Historical Review 50 (August 1970): 499-523, and "Julio Roca and Carlos Pellegrini: An Expedient Partnership," in The Americas 36 (January 1976): 327-347. For Pellegrini's differences with British diplomats and investors, see Henry Stanley Ferns, Britain and Argentina in the Nineteenth Century (1960).
Herz, Enrique Germán. Pellegrini, ayer y hoy. Buenos Aires: Editorial Centro de Estudios Unión para la Nueva Mayoría, 1996.
Sanz, Luis Santiago. La Política exterior durante la presidencia de Pellegrini. Buenos Aires: Jockey Club, 1996.
Douglas W. Richmond