José Batlle y Ordóñez

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José Batlle y Ordóñez
José Batlle y Ordóñez
19th and 21st President of Uruguay
In office
1 March 1911 – 1 March 1915
Preceded byClaudio Williman
Succeeded byFeliciano Viera
In office
1 March 1903 – 1 March 1907
Preceded byJuan Lindolfo Cuestas
Succeeded byClaudio Williman
In office
5 February 1899 – 1 March 1899
Preceded byJuan Lindolfo Cuestas
Succeeded byJuan Lindolfo Cuestas
2nd and 5th President of the National Council of Administration
In office
1 March 1921 – 1 March 1923
PresidentBaltasar Brum
Preceded byFeliciano Viera
Succeeded byJulio María Sosa
In office
1 March 1927 – 16 February 1928
PresidentJuan Campisteguy
Preceded byLuis Alberto de Herrera
Succeeded byLuis Caviglia
President of the Senate of Uruguay
In office
Preceded byCarlos de Castro
Succeeded byJuan Carlos Blanco Fernández
In office
Preceded byJuan Carlos Blanco Fernández
Succeeded byJuan P. Castro
Member of the Senate of Uruguay[1]
In office
9 February 1899 – 5 February 1902
ConstituencyMontevideo Department
In office
8 February 1902 – 1 March 1903
ConstituencyMontevideo Department
Member of the Chamber of Representatives
In office
15 February 1891 – 14 February 1894
ConstituencySalto Department
Personal details
Born(1856-05-21)21 May 1856
Montevideo, Uruguay
Died20 October 1929(1929-10-20) (aged 73)
Montevideo, Uruguay
Political partyColorado Party
SpouseMatilde Pacheco

José Pablo Torcuato Batlle y Ordóñez[note 1] ([ˈbaʒe] or [ˈbaʃe][note 2]; 23 May 1856 in Montevideo, Uruguay – 20 October 1929), nicknamed Don Pepe, was a prominent Uruguayan politician, who served two terms as President of Uruguay for the Colorado Party. He was the son of a former president and was widely praised for his introduction of his political system, Batllism, to South America and for his role in modernizing Uruguay through his creation of extensive welfare state reforms.

In 1898, he served as interim president for a few weeks. He was later elected to the presidency for two terms: from 1903 to 1907 and from 1911 to 1915. He remains one of the most popular Uruguayan presidents, mainly due to his role as a social reformer. Influenced by Krausist liberalism,[3] he is known for influencing the introduction of universal suffrage and the eight-hour workday, as well as free high school education. He was one of the main promoters of Uruguayan secularization, which led to the division of the state and the Catholic Church. Education started a process of great expansion from the mid-to-late 19th century onward. It became the key to success for the middle class community. The state established free high school education and created more high schools through the country. The university was also opened to women, and educational enrollment increased throughout the country. Batlle also, in the words of one source, “revitalized the Colorado party and strengthened its liberal tradition, giving way to ideas of general and universal interest, and favoring the right of the working class to organize and put forward just demands.[4]

Government intervention in the economy also increased during Batlle’s time in office. Montevideo’s electric power plant was nationalized; a move Batlle justified in the context of his “interest in the widest diffusion and distribution of all classes of services that are presently considered necessary for the general welfare, comfort, and hygiene.” As one study noted, Batlle intended the power plant “to be only the first of a set of state enterprises that would provide low-cost services, simultaneously saving the public money and keeping Uruguayan capital from being shipped abroad as profits by foreign companies operating in the country.”[5] In 1911 the administration nationalized BROU, a savings and loan institution that monopolized the printing of money, while also establishing industrial institutes for geology and drilling (coal and hydrocarbon explorations), industrial chemistry, and fisheries. In 1914 the administration purchased the North Tramway and Railway Company (which later became the State Railways Administration). In agriculture, a number of government institutes were established “dedicated to technological research and development in the fields of livestock raising, dairying, horticulture, forestation, seeds, and fodder.” A protectionist policy for industry was also pursued, with the government imposing, as noted by one study, "tariffs on foreign products, favoring machinery and raw materials imports, and granting exclusive licensing privileges to those who started a new industry." Indigenous companies also emerged, although but foreign capital (especially from Britain and the U.S.A), as noted by one study, "also took advantage of the legislation and came to control the meat industry. The growth of the frigorífico meat-processing industry also stimulated the interbreeding of livestock, Uruguay's main source of wealth."[6]

These measures reflected Batlle’s belief that the state had a part to play in economic affairs, as he noted in a 1911 when urging the legislature to create government monopolies:

"Modern conditions have increased the number of industries that fall under the heading of public services ... competition has ceased to mean something invariably beneficial, monopoly is not necessarily condemnable… The modern state unhesitatingly accepts its status as an economic organization. It will enter industry when competition is not practicable, when control by private interests vests in them authority inconsistent with the welfare of the State, when a fiscal monopoly may serve as a great source of income to meet urgent tax problems, when the continued export of national wealth is considered undesirable."[7]

Throughout his life, Batlle also expressed his opposition to social injustices in society. One one occasion, he declared that "There is great injustice in the enormous gap between the rich and the poor." In 1917, he argued that "Our population may be divided into those who have received more than they deserve and those who have received less.... But this does not mean that a man is either exploited or an exploiter. The inequality is not deliberate on the part of the most fortunate." That same year, he argued that "The gap must be narrowed-and it is the duty of the State to attempt that task."[8] Batlle believed in the power of the State to reduce inequalities, stating on another occasion that "Modern industry must not be allowed to destroy human beings. The State must regulate it to make more happy the life of the masses."[8]

The reforms introduced under Batlle, and continued by several of his followers, would help make Uruguay a fairer society.

Early life and background[edit]

Batlle was born in Montevideo on May 23, 1856, to Lorenzo Batlle y Grau and Amalia Ordoñez.[9] Batlle's grandfather, José Batlle y Carreó, had arrived in Montevideo on his own ship with Batlle's grandmother from Sitges, a town near Barcelona, and built a flour mill which won a contract to provision the Royal Spanish Navy in Montevideo. Batlle's grandfather was loyal to the Spanish crown through both the British invasions of the River Plate and the first and second attempts to secure Uruguayan independence from Spain led by José Gervasio Artigas, and subsequently returned to Spain in 1814, and the rest of the Batlle family followed in 1818. Batlle's grandmother died in Sitjes in 1823, and his grandfather subsequently returned to Montevideo in 1833 to reopen the flour mill. Batlle's father Lorenzo had been born in Uruguay in 1810, and returned the Montevideo three years before the rest of the family in 1830, after an extensive education in France and Spain. Batlle's father quickly joined and became prominent within the Colorados, and was involved in the Uruguayan Civil War, notably personally escorting Fructuoso Rivera to exile in Brazil in 1847. Lorenzo Batlle married Batlle's mother, the daughter of another Colorado guerrilla, during the Uruguayan Civil War.

A black a white headshot of a man with a beard wearing a suit.
A photo of Batlle's father, Lorenzo Batlle y Grau, taken some time before 1888

The Batlle family were prohombres (prominent figures) within the Colorado Party, with five of Batlle's relatives serving as president. Batlle's father Lorenzo had served as Minister of War during the Great Siege of Montevideo, and was elected President of Uruguay in 1868 when Batlle was 12 years old. Batlle's children César, Rafael and Lorenzo were actively engaged in politics, with César and Lorenzo serving in. He was also the uncle of another Uruguayan president, Luis Batlle Berres, and the great-uncle of President Jorge Batlle, and his uncle-in-law Duncan Stewart served as acting president for three weeks in 1894.

After attending an English school in Montevideo, Batlle began studying at the University of the Republic.[10] At university, he became involved in the discussions and debates between the 'idealists' and 'positivists'. Led by Prudencio Váquez y Vega, Batlle was a prominent member of the idealists. Batlle's political ideology was influenced by the work of philosopher Heinrich Ahrens, whose work was introduced to Batlle by Váquez y Vega. Ahrens 'Course of Natural Law,' as one study noted, "exalted the human personality and made proposals for the reform of society based on the innate dignity of man." Batlle acknowledged a great debt later in life to Váquez y Vega, writing in 1913 on the title page of a gift copy of Ahrens "in this great work I formed my criterion of the law and it has served me as a guide in my public life."[11]

Batlle left university in 1879 without completing his law degree,[12] and the following year a 24-year-old Batlle convinced his father to let him study for a year in Paris, where he took a course in English and sat in on philosophy lectures at the Sorbonne and Collège de France before returning home when money ran out.[13]

Batlle also became a prominent journalist. In 1878 Batlle and a friend founded a raionalistic journal, 'El Espíritu Nuevo,' whose mission was "the total emancipation of the American spirit from the tutelage of the Old World." Batlle contributed scientific articles and poetry to the review, and later that year started contributing articles to a Montevideo newspaper. His first article, published 3 days before he turned 23, was an attack on the dictatorship of Colonel Lorenzo Latorre.[12] In 1881 Batlle assumed the editorship of La Razon to oppose the government of General Santos. Batlle was exposed to all kinds of threats until one night his house was assaulted and an attempt made against the life of his father at whom shots were fired but which fortunately missed their mark.[14] In 1885 Batlle returned to the journalistic field in company with the famous journalist Dr. Teofilo D. Gil. He and Gil devoted themselves to preparing the public sentiment for a revolutionary outbreak. As noted by one study, however, "Hardly had the opportunity arrived when Batlle, who had started with Rufino T. Dominguez the organization of the first battalion of volunteers, abandoned the pen of the journalist, emigrated to Buenos Aires, and devoted himself exclusively to the work of a soldier, until the unfortunate issue of the struggle at Quebracho."[15] in 1886 Batlle founded the newspaper El Día, which he used as a political platform for criticizing his opponents and promoting his reformist agenda. That same year Batlle undertook a campaign in El Día on behalf of the children in an orphan asylum and of pauper maniacs in an insane asylum. This campaign, one study noted, “had the excellent result of depriving the City Council of Montevideo of the control of public charity and entrusting it to a commission of distinguished citizens.” When a new revolutionary movement started at Buenos Aires, Batlle removed there to act as secretary to Colonel Galeano. However, the movement died in its inception, and returning to Montevideo Batlle again assumed the editorship of El Día.[16] By March 1887 however, as noted by one study, "Batlle was ready to launch upon a new aspect of his life's work, that of reorganizing and revivifying the Colorado Party." Batlle's time in the journalistic battle had convinced him that the Colorado Party still had a "powerful vitality" but had been seriously discredited and comprised by several dictatorships carrying the Colorado label.[17] As noted by one study, "Batlle was convinced that the Colorado Party "must recover its prestige" so that the country could enter an era that he characterized as "institutional truth, fruitful freedom, order and solid and enlightened progress." Faced with the lack of structure of the Colorado Party in 1903, the elected President of the Republic became its natural guide, since his influence was decisive for the appointments of candidates and Political Leaders; and Batlle used that power to promote numerous changes in the party organization."[18]

Political career[edit]

Batlle's political career began in 1887, when he was appointed as the jefe político of department of Minas.[19] His appointment was short-lived, for he resigned after six months to seek election to the Chamber of Deputies as a candidate on the Colorado ticket. After a disagreement with then-president Máximo Tajes, however, Batlle lost his spot on the ticket.[20] Following his departure to Minas, El Día stopped publishing, but Batlle reopened the paper in 1889 to support the campaign of Julio Herrera y Obes for the presidency, whose financial support helped Batlle reopen the paper. The new El Día sold at 2 cents a copy on the streets. As noted by one study, it was “the first street sale of newspapers in Uruguay, the first newspaper whose aim was mass readership.” The presidency of Herrera y Obes disappointed Batlle however, with one study noting that

“Batlle had been working to reorganize the Colorado Party so that it could win real elections and name presidents. Herrera y Obes saw the party’s role differently it should be the instrument of the president, not his superior; the power of the government, not the broad base of the party, would win the electins. When Herrera y Obes proceeded to name the Colorado candidates for the legislature, Batlle broke with the President. And when Idiarte Borda continued Herrera y Obes’ political tactics and combined them with overt courruption, Batlle erupted in Colorado party meetings and in the press. The young grocery clerk who assassinated Borda in ’97, during Saravia’s revolution, had been inspired, he said, by the bitter articles against the President in opposition newspapers, but evil tongues insisted that Batlle’s connection with the assassination was more direct than merely writing blistering press editorials.”[20]

Batlle turned his support to Juan Lindolfo Cuestas, whom Batlle saw as an opportunity to have free elections and remake the Colorado Party along the lines Batlle had long preached. Batlle would become President of the National executive Committee of the Colorado Party, or at least the pro-Cuestas faction of the party.[21] He was eventually elected in 1891 as a deputy for the department of Salto, and quickly rose to further prominence within the Colorado party.[22] Batlle started organizing Colorado party clubs based on "grass-roots" democratic assemblies, and towards the end of 1895 circumstances led to Batlle adopting a pro-labor attitude that he would hold for the rest of his life. Montevideo workers who sought to improve their wages and reduce their working hours (which were 15–19 hours daily) organized and went on strike. The government, made up of Batlle's own Colorado party, denounced the strikers as "rebellious workers" and brought all of its force to bear to break the strike The strikers were strongly supported by Batlle and El Día, where Batlle wrote "if this working day ought to be considered suicide for the workers, it is, on the part of the employer, an assassination." El Día started a permanent department called "The Working Man's Movement" as a forum for the employed classes.[23] Batlle continued his ruminations through his years as a Colorado politician. On one occasion, while confiding some of his ruminations with Julio Herrera y Obes (while Batlle was still on good terms with him) the latter replied, astounded "Why, man, you're a socialist!"[24] Similarly, Cuestas, who didn't trust Batlle entirely, described him as such "This citizen is a young man of 45, well educated, the son of the late President Batlle, a newspaperman by profession, a revolutionary political agitator, a very tall man with the muscles of a Roman gladiator. He is popular with the politically active elements of the younger generation. He is not accepted by conservative opinion."[25]

Despite this, Cuestas did not veto Batlle’s candidacy for the presidency as his government still needed the Colorado political support Batlle contributed. However, Cuestas had no intention of allowing Batlle to succeed him, instead wanting a successor who would continue his cardinal principles, strict economy and conciliation of the Nationalists. Cuestas had in mind his Minister of Government, Eduardo MacEachen, who was a substantial landowner and prominent member of the conservative classes.[25] In the end, Batlle would go on to succeed Cuestas as president to put in place policies that tackled the numerous social issues facing Uruguay.


Batlle was elected as a senator for Montevideo Department in November 1898,[26] and rapidly became President of the Senate of Uruguay.[1] As the President of the Senate was (at the time) the first in line to the presidency, Batlle briefly served as the acting President of Uruguay while Juan Lindolfo Cuestas stepped aside to legitimate his de facto presidency in 1899.[27] While President of the Senate Batlle was, according to one study, "second-ranking elective official in the country, until a coalition of conservative Colorados and Blancos expelled him from the post in 1900. He continued his organizational and ideological efforts within the party, however, with much success, so that in 1903 he finally became the President of the Republic. The country's highest post allowed him nearly full control of public policy and the opportunity to forward his broad program of social and economic reform."[28]

At elections in 1900, however, the Colorados performed poorly, and dissident Colorado senators elected Juan Carlos Blanco Fernández as President of the Senate by one vote.[29] Batlle would later briefly regain the position of President of the Senate in February 1903 before becoming President of the Republic.[30]

First presidency (1903–07)[edit]

First Cabinet
Ministry Officeholder Duration
Minister of Government Juan Campisteguy 1903–1904
Claudio Williman 1904–1907
Minister of Foreign Relations José Romeu 1903–1907
Minister of Finance Martín C. Martínez 1903–1904
Eugenio J. Magdalena 1907
Minister of War Eduardo Vázquez 1903–1907
Minister of Industry and Labour Juan Alberto Capurro 1903–1907

Revolution of 1904[edit]

In 1904 Batlle's government forces successfully ended the intermittent Uruguayan Civil War which had persisted for many years, when the opposing National Party leader Aparicio Saravia was killed at the battle of Masoller. Without their leader, Saravia's followers abandoned their fight, starting a period of relative peace.

Social reforms[edit]

During Batlle y Ordóñez's term in office, secularization became a major political issue. Uruguay banned crucifixes in hospitals by 1906, and eliminated references to God and the Gospel in public oaths. Divorce laws were also established during this time. A number of other projects were approved during Batlle's first presidency, such as an increase in resources allocated to teaching, the contracting of a loan of for the construction and improvement of roads, free distribution of seeds and clothing to poor farmers, the permanent sale of seeds on behalf of the State, the creation of the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Agronomy, and the creation of colonies on expropriated estates in Paysandú. According to one study, the modifications introduced to the initial proposal made the expropriation impossible.[31] In 1904 an Education Pension Fund established in 1896 was extended to include the administrative employees of the school system.[32] That same year, a Civil Service Pension Fund was set up that was aimed at regularizing the civil-service pension system "while expanding both coverage and benefits." The Assembly modified the retirement and civil pension system in this way:

"Public employees who have more than 10 years of service and are unable to continue due to illness, disability or advanced age; employees who, after having served the same number of years, cease due to termination of employment or exoneration, not due to omission or crime; and those with more than 30 years of service and 60 years of age. The mother, the widow and the minor and unmarried children of public employees are entitled to a pension. The Fund is integrated with the help of a monthly fee of 6,000 pesos paid by the State, (doubled later), the monthly discount of one day's salary for employees (5% later) and other lesser taxes. The funds will be invested in public debt securities. Retirement will be as many thirty-thirds of the average salary that the employee has enjoyed in the last five years, as long as the years of service rendered. The pension in favor of the relatives of the employee, will be half of the retirement, Retirements and pensions can not be seized or disposed of."[33]

In 1903, the executive branch had to "actively attend to the seed supply service in various agricultural regions of the country", which had punished by drought and the subsequent loss of crops. Stimulated by the first successes of the distribution, it authorized the Department of Livestock and Agriculture to establish a Seed Station on the fiscal lands of Toledo. A later year, the Assembly enacted a law "authorising the Executive Branch to allow the free importation of seeds for three years". The subsequent losses of agriculture gave rise "to the Public Powers intensifying their stimulating action" with a 1906 law authorizing the government to help abandoned farmers with food and seeds. A supplementary credit of 50,000 pesos was allocated for this purpose.[34] In 1904, the Executive Power appointed a commission in charge of drawing up a protection plan for morally and materially destitute minors.[35] In July 1903, a resolution was sent by Defense Minister Jose Serrato to the General directorate of Public Instruction, creating night courses for adults.[36] In 1906, departmental high schools were created.[37]

Batlle's time in office also saw the improvement of roads, the construction of bridges and ports, the navigation of some important interior rivers, the creation of the Veterinary and Agronomy Schools, the construction of school buildings worth $1,000, 000, the improvement of many services,[38] the start of construction of the Pereira-Rossell Children's Hospital and the inauguration of the Military Hospital.[39] In 1905, Batlle negotiated and obtained from the Assembly the abolition of 10% and 5% reductions on salaries of less than $360 a year.[40] A decree established the Central Board of Aid, "under whose supervision the National Charity Commission acted, in the relief and hospitalization of the wounded and sick of the civil war of 1904."[41] A law that authorized the introduction of electric traction in the trams of La Comercial had been vetoed by the Government of Battle's predecessor Cuestas in 1902 on the grounds that the traction systems were in their infancy and that the term of 75 years was excessively long. One of the first measures of Batlle's administration consisted in the withdrawal of that veto, and thanks to this the work began immediately. The Executive Power justified this decision by arguing that the change of traction was a progress that Montevideo demanded and that it would have "effective repercussions in the improvement of the housing of the working class, due to the ease with which he will be able to transpose daily the distances that separate the habitual center of occupations from the localities where land ownership can still be obtained relatively cheaply."[42]

Sanitation works were also carried out, while yielding to the exhortation of the Executive Power, the Charity Commission granted the "Uruguayan League against Tuberculosis” a monthly subsidy of $2,000 which the same Executive Power obtained after it was raised to $3,000, invoking the importance of the work undertaken by the League.[43] The Conversion and Public Works Loan Law passed in 1906 earmarked $1,000,000 for school construction. That amount was reinforced with $200,000 and later with $300,000 during Battle's second administration.[44] The University curriculum was expanded, foreign professors and technicians were brought in, and scholarships for study in Europe and the United States were set up.[45] University expansion also took place.[46] A decree authorized a long-needed house-to-house property reassessment of Montevideo; “the decree required land to be evaluated separately from improvements.”[47] For the first time, army and police uniforms were required to be made from Uruguayan cloth, while the government also stipulated the piece rate paid the seamstresses who sewed the uniforms.[48] Under a law of the 27th September 1906 the name of an enterprise was changed to Usina Eléctrica de Montevideo, “with exclusive privilege of selling electric light and power in Montevideo for twenty years.” The Executive was given power to fix rates, while profits “after setting aside 15 per cent for reserves, were to go to the Junta Económico-Administrativa de Montevideo. The Act’s original purpose had been to enable the Usina to meet power requirements, but the law was passed on the promise of lower lighting rates and better service on the insistence of the Cámara de Representantes.[49]

Various developments in Public Assistance also took place during Batlle’s first presidency. As noted by a 1905 presidential message

"In the past year, the National Charity Commission has had to attend, apart from the ordinary services entrusted to it by law, the numerous wounded and sick from the armed forces, and provide the mobilized corps and the organized expeditions with by the Central Aid Board, the healing elements and the necessary medicines. This extraordinary attention has not prevented, however, the continuation of the expansion and improvement plan begun in previous years, among them worthy of mention the completion and fitting out of the new women's department in the Asylum for Beggars and Chronic People; the expansion of the infirmary of the Asylum for Foundlings and Orphans; the inauguration of electric lighting in the Hospital; several sanitation works in the Isolation House and other works, although of less importance, all tending to improve the hygienic conditions of the Nursing Homes and Hospices. The National Commission has also cooperated with its revenues to support the Dispensaries of the Anti-Tuberculosis League and some departmental hospitals, and has contributed, by dispensing prescriptions free of charge, to the action of Home Public Assistance and various philanthropic societies."[50]

In a 1906 presidential message, other developments in public charity, hygiene and health were noted:

"After having fulfilled the primary duty of rendering solicitous care to the sick wounded of the last conflict, the Government has devoted its attention to the improvement of this important branch, and hopes to obtain satisfactory results. During this period, the National Council of Hygiene sponsored the project of one of its members on the creation of establishments called 'Gota de Leche,' so beneficial to the health of children and to the education of mothers because it provides them with resources and knowledge to raise their children properly. This mission was entrusted to the National Commission of Charity and efforts will be made to complete it through a law that protects newborns and prevents their mothers from abandoning them when exercising the profession of wet nurses. By continuing to apply the current international sanitary agreement, said Council planned to establish a disinfection center in the port, and by accepting said project, the Government offered to provide a credit of $32,000 to be repaid. In addition, said Council was authorized to acquire a steamer equipped with the necessary apparatus for the maritime health service. It was proposed to create the post of terrestrial health inspector whose mission will be to travel to any point in the Republic where an epidemic develops in order to adopt the appropriate measures with due authority and competence. At present, a project to reform the organic law of the Council, the formation of the 'Codex medicamentarius' and several regulations that have to complete the health service are being studied. For the rest, the sanitary state of the Republic is excellent and the municipal authorities cooperate with the National Council of Hygiene to improve all this service and ensure that the ordinances are strictly applied and that a true zeal is shown in combating contagious diseases."[51]

Proposals for labor reform[edit]

A progressive supporter of labor rights, Batlle also presided over a number of pro-labor policies. Batlle had identified his Colorado Party with labor, stating in April 1887, regarding a demonstration that was organized in Montevideo "It is true : in the Colorado Party, the element of the people predominates, the working classes."[52] In a speech he made during his first presidency, Batlle described his Colorado Party as one that was concerned with peoples' well being, stating that "I cannot accompany you in supporting the motto that you carry "Down with peace", because my duty as President of the Republic is to guarantee peace and harmony, because peace means advancement, progress, the well-being of the people, which is the true motto of the Colorado Party. I declare that if I had been brought to this position to provoke the war, I would not have accepted it; but I can guarantee that in this conflict, in which the Nation has been so unjustly involved, I will preserve by all legal means the Colorado Party's stay in power, which currently means the stability of the constitutional order, making an effort at the same time to avoid bloodshed, the ruin of national wealth and all the horrors that civil content brings, as an obligatory procession. It is not enough for the Party to have power, it is necessary to govern to do good, it is necessary to govern with honor for the same."[53] One 1913 study reflected this view, stating that (in relation to the late Nineteenth Century) “In the proximity of the '73 elections, and as always, his first act was to formulate a concise exposition of ideas that honors our party annals. This was the obsessive concern of our party, to root more and more in the field of law, freedom and social justice."[54]

During Batlle's first presidency regulations on police procedure during strikes were promulgated for the first time. Police had to remain neutral, protecting both the right to strike and the right to work. Also for the first time during Batlle's first presidency on May Day labor demonstrators were granted police permits to parade through the center of Montevideo. According to one study "They sang the Internationale and heard fiery speeches. One speaker exulted that Uruguay now led South America in modern ideas because of its President’s liberalism."[55] On another occasion during his first presidency, Batlle helped resolve a rail strike. This occurred after a union formed by railroad workers made a list of demands that the railroad rejected, including dismissal payments to men over 50 who were discharged, 2 days off with pay every month, wages of 80 pesos a month for locomotive engineers and 1 peso and 20 cents a day for manual laborers, and an 8-hour day 6 months a year and a 10 hour day the other 6 months. Claudio Williman, the railroad’s former attorney, was sent by Batlle to offer himself as mediator. As noted by one study, the railroad “knew Batlle’s pro-labor sympathies, verified by Williman’s presence, and accepted most of the striker’s demands, It drew a line at recognizing the union, but promised to take back the strike leaders in due time-a remarkable concession. The jubilant strikers returned to work.”[56]

Batlle also prepared a labor reform project aimed at improving working conditions, although legislative realities delayed the time in which he submitted this to the legislature for consideration. According to one study, "One reason why Chamber debate on divorce and kindred bills had been allowed to drag was the certainty that the Senate, as presently constituted, would not be disposed to their passage."[57] Following senate elections in 1906, the Executive sent Batlle's labor project to the legislature. Explaining in a post-election interview why he had held the bill back for so long, Batlle stated that

"I have worked to prepare a plan of social reforms, all designed to look after and to liberate the working classes. But you must realize that up to now we have had a Senate composed of good patriots, but conservatives. The new Senate, on the other hand, will be entirely liberal and will not put obstacles in the way of the reforms. The workers already know that they will find protection in the government. I believe – in effect – that in countries like ours, where the problem of liberty is already resolved, it is necessary to begin to resolve social problems."[58][59]

The project provided for an eight-hour limit "in the strenuous and intensive occupations and ten hours in the less exacting commercial occupations" while a one-year transition period was provided "during which an additional hour per day was permitted." It also provided for regulation of the labour of women and children, a weekly rest day, and prohibition of the labour of women for four weeks after child-birth "during which period the State would provide suitable financial support." The bill's main objective was the eight-hour day but despite having a workable majority in Congress "he was unable to persuade his party to accept this radical innovation."[60] On 26 June 1911 a new labor bill was sent to Congress by Batlle which provided for an eight-hour day "without the intermediate period of one year established in his earlier bill and with broadened coverage," repeated provisions as to weekly rest and child labour, and increased the compulsory period of rest after child-birth to forty-five days.[61] On May 31, 1913, the Chamber approved in general Batlle's project modified by its Labor Commission,[62] with provisions on child labor and women's work left aside to include them in a separate project, as well as the day of rest.[63] A Chamber Committee had left out these provisions to simplify passage and Batlle, according to one study, "to close off accusations of Godless crackpotism, acknowledged that the one-day-in-six provision was "an aspiration for the future," and agreed to the committee's procedures. The chamber leadership knew what Batlle wanted, and the Chamber voted down requests for delay for additional documentation."[64] The Chamber voted 44 in favor and 8 against. As discussions in the House developed, several conservative Colorado legislators tried to reactivate a proposal to increase the working day by 3 hours through a contract, but that initiative was rejected.[65] By voice vote, with the result being sufficiently close for Gregorio L. Rodríguez (the deputy who put forward the 3 hour overtime provision as an amendment) to call for a second vote, overtime was defeated.[66] In the Senate, however, approval was hindered until the chambers were renewed on November the 17th 1915, when the project was finally voted affirmatively.[65]

New Colorado platforms[edit]

Various Colorado Party platforms were also drafted and/or adopted during Batlle’s first presidency. In September 1905 the Colorado Executive Committee and the Colorado legislators entrusted Pedro Manini Rios (the leader of the young Colorados) to draft a pre-electoral manifesto that would serve as a party program. Manini summed up Colorado accomplishments in 40 years of power and outlined a 5-point program. This included constitutional reform, concern for labor, economic self-suffciency, increase of rural population, and reduction of taxes on consumption. As noted by one study however, "None of the points proposed anything specific. For example, the labor plank invoked the standard consoling fiction “It is an exaggeration to present these problems in our society in the almost dreadful terms in which they are agitated … in some European societies."[46][67] [68] In 1907 Jose Espalter was tasked with drawing up a party program that would include constitutional refor, separation of Church and State, municipal autonomy, and labor legislation. The program favored reduction of consumption taxes and the enacting of progressive taxation, not of the magnitude that would despoil private fortunes but rather “a limited and moderate progression, whose rate oscillates between certain limits.” In addition, the State had a right to intervene in labor questions, but “It is a matter of elevated inspiration and exquisite tact.”[69][70] At the end of the Batlle's first government in February 1907, the National Convention of the Colorado Party met and formulated a declaration of principles. These were "Reform of the Constitution; universal suffrage, that is, authorization to vote in favor of all citizens; election of the President of the Republic directly by the people; proportional representation of the parties; autonomous municipalities; the rights of assembly and association are not expressly enshrined in the Constitution and that gap must be filled; separation: of Church and State; easy naturalization of foreigners; decrease in consumption taxes, establishing instead a progressive tax; solution of problems related to capital and labor, within the limits of justice, law and freedom."[71]

Activities following the first presidency[edit]

Following the end of his first presidency, Batlle went on an extended tour of Europe and other foreign parts. One of Batlle's main purposes was to study Europe's political and economic problems. He also headed the Uruguayan delegation to the Second Hague Conference,[72] where he proposed a plan for a society of nations to maintain peace. After the conference adjourned Batlle visited Switzerland; becoming familiar with the contributions that country made to the science of government. By December 1909, agitation was begun by the Colorado Party to make him their candidate in 1911. A small conservative anti-Batlle sentiment within the Colorado Party "was lost in a growing tide of enthusiasm for a renomination." On July the 3rd 1910 Batlle’s candidacy was unanimously proclaimed by the party’s national committee. Batlle stated in a letter to the party’s committee while he was in Europe the kind of platform he could stand for. Apart from his reiterated advocacy of an eight-hour day, Batlle "took a stand for popular instead of legislative election of the national president; for proportional representation of parties in the congress; for assurance of such workers’ rights as those to life, health, and culture; for full protection of children, women, the ill, and the aged; for free and assisted immigration; for free public instruction in all its levels and obligatory education at the elementary level; for assistance to stock raising and agriculture and the stimulation of national industry; for the organization by the state of all services social interest." According to one study, "Truly it was a broad platform, hewn to a political design far in advance of its time."[73]

Second presidency (1911–15)[edit]

A black and white photo of a group of men in suits.
Batlle with other prominent politicians at the beginning at of his second presidency in 1911. Standing (left to right): Feliciano Viera, Pedro Manini Ríos, Mateo Margariños Solsona, Antonio M. Rodríguez, Colonel Laborde, José Serrato y Domingo Arena. Seated: Claudio Williman, Diego Pons and José Batlle y Ordoñez

In 1913, influenced by visiting and studying French and Swiss politics between his first and second terms, Batlle proposed a reorganization of the government which would replace the presidency with a nine-member National Council of Administration, similar to the Swiss Federal Council.[74] Batlle's proposal for a collective leadership body was defeated in 1916 referendum, but he managed to establish a model in which executive powers were split between the presidency and the National Council of Administration when a variant of his proposal was implemented with the Constitution of 1918.

Further reforms were carried out during Batlle's second presidency. As noted by one study, following the swearing in of Batlle's ministers, "that "rain" of projects which so disturbed conservative opinion during Batlle's first administration again began to fall."[75] A few days after Batlle assumed the presidency, Ramón V. Benzano (the newly appointed Mayor of Montevideo) “ordered the Department of Public Health to inspect all the tenements, most of which, according to a 1906 survey, lacked light and air and space, and close those that were not improved within a year.”[76] A special labor division of the Montevideo police set up under Claudio Williman was abolished, and Batlle announced that he would reintroduce his bill providing for an 8-hour day.[75] In order to prepare materials for the study of the labor problems, the Executive Power resolved in 1913 that the Labor Office would include a number of topics in its program such as Cost of living in relation to wages, Offer and job demand, Labor census, Situation of the worker element, Labor legislation, and Organization of employers and workers.[77] On May 17, 1912, a law was approved providing for the creation of the Women's Section of Secondary Education.[78] Expansion and dissemination of physical education also took place,[79] with a National Commission of Physical Education set up[80] and sports places in Montevideo and in the interior established. Industrial education was expanded while free secondary and university education was introduced and departmental high schools created in the interior while a female section of secondary education was established, which managed to get many girls to go to high school.[79]

Under a law of 21 July 1914 industrial employers, including those in state and municipal establishments, "were required to install safety devices to prevent accidents in the use of machinery."[81] The law required that "dangerous machinery should be inspected, if necessary; that steam engines, wheels, and turbines be accessible only to their operators; that women and children should not be employed in the cleaning or repair of machinery in motion; that gears be shielded; that masons and painters working at a height of more than 3 metres be protected by a rail 90 centimetres on each side, etc."[82] A 1914 law on severance pay, which referred to commercial employees, introduced two months' notice before dismissal together with compensation proportional to the years of work that the worker had in his job.[83]

Foreign professors were hired to establish new university schools such as agronomy and veterinary medicine, agricultural and home economics courses were established for rural youth, and study missions were sent abroad.[84] In regards to salary discounts, The Executive Branch addressed the Assembly requesting that the discount suffered by Passive Classes in general be reduced to 10%. The measure came to favor 3,739 people. The Assembly also completely abolished the 19% tax on assignments and salaries that did not exceed $660 per year and reduced that of the largest to 10%. Another law more effectively protected retirees and school pensioners.[85] A network of popular libraries was set up,[86] and the capital of the Bank of the Republic, which issued currency and directly loaned money to the public, was substantially increased, while a series of economic-development institutes in fishing, geological drilling, industrial chemistry, agriculture and ranching were set up.[87] A bill that was converted into law and put into execution authorized an issue of Public Debt for the amount of $500,000 "for the purchase or expropriation of land that would be divided into farms and resold on the basis of combinations with the Mortgage Bank of Uruguay." These colonization centers would be set up "in the most appropriate places due to the unnatural nature of the land, its proximity to the roads of communication and transportation facilities to the centers of consumption, for which 'the necessary facilities of the railways would be opportunely managed, and around the Agronomic Stations, as a means of taking advantage of the progressive impulse of the high agricultural education and the suggestive example of the experimental farms."[88] Under an Act of January the 19th 1912 a rural credit section was established within the Bank of the Republic and the formation of local rural credit banks was authorized.[89] By the law of January 11, 1912, the effects of a provision of 1906 that authorized the Executive to import cereal seeds for resale at cost price, free of customs duties, were extended.[63] The Bank of the Republic was also nationalized, with previous laws paving the way for this. As noted by one study "The laws of July 1907 and November 17, 1908 – sanctioned by Batllist chambers – prepared the nationalization of the Bank."[90] Under the law of the 17th of July 1907, as noted by one study, "$1,000,000 was transferred from the national treasury surplus to increase the capital of the Bank and by the law of 17 November 1908 it was provided that whenever the public revenues exceeded expenditures the dividends on the Bank shares held by the government were to be utilized automatically to acquire the second series of shares originally destined for public distribution."[91]

In 1912 the government purchased control of the National Mortgage Bank "and proceeded to liberalize the bank’s loan policies. More attention was given to small loans and loans on rural property." Ownership of small farms was encouraged, with the bank purchasing large tracts of land and selling them to settlers in parcels usually 60 acres or less, and purchasers of such parcels were granted a tax exemption of 10 years.[92] According to a 1956 study, since the time the Mortgage Bank was converted from a private to a government-owned and –operated status, "it has been active, though by no means monopolistic, in mortgage financing both in urban and rural areas." A State Insurance Bank was opened in 1912 which assumed a prominent role in the fields of fire and workmen’s compensation.[93] As noted by one study, Batlle sought to centralize insurance services "through a state monopoly to lower rates and increase public confidence."[94] Under the State Insurance Bank, insurance was provided for risks such as death,[95] labor accidents,[96] fires, and hail.[97]

The State Insurance Bank was established on 11 January 1912, and started operations in Fire insurance on 1 March, in workmen’s compensation 15 March, and in hail, human life, pedigreed-animal life, marine, glass, and automobile civic responsibility insurance later that year.[98] In 1914 it initiated a campaign to promote old age provision among the poorer classes. As noted by one study, this type of insurance, known as Seguro popular, "was offered without medical examination and without rigid requirements for payment of premium. The poor man was enabled 'to substitute an insurance policy for a savings bank account.' With an ordinary policy he might lose by being unable to continue paying premiums due to loss of his job, but with seguro popular he could deposit money whenever he wished; in the event of becoming incapacitated he withdrew the full amount of his contributions plus 6 percent interest; if he died before the date of policy payment his savings would go to his heirs; if he lived to old age he had a permanent income." A law of 10 November 1916 "provided that capital payments up to $5,000 and income up to $1,200 annually derived from seguro popular could not be attached." However, "Seguro popular (really a deferred annuity with special clauses) failed to gain favour with the public and in 1936 there were less than 200 policies of that type outstanding."[99]

Other highlights of Batlle’s reform program in 1912 included the division of the country into new military zones, creation of an institute of industrial chemistry, the promulgation of a law making the supply of electric light and power a country-wide state monopoly, a bill for suppressing bullfights, decreeing of a law of literary and artistic copyright, approval of an urbanization plan for the city of Montevideo, and the issuance of regulations for a school of nursing.[100] Under a law of 21 October 1912, the State was given, through the Usinas Eléctricas del Estado, "a monopoly of the supply of electric light and power throughout the country."[101] Labour benefited from this decision, with the first budget of Usinas Eléctricas providing for a general increase in wages "which was intended to bring the wage scale up to that of other public utilities and to offset the rising cost of living."[102]

A law of January 1913 authorized the issuance of a loan of 500,000 pesos destined for the purchase and division of land.[103] With the promulgation of the law of 22 January 1913, the State began its direct action "which acquires or expropriates lands to sell them based on the mortgage credit to the settlers. In doing so, it seeks, undoubtedly, to eliminate by competition the colonizing companies that had little or no regard for the interests of the colonists, and that for the same reason — and especially due to the peremptory terms for repayment of the loan — led to failure to most colonizing attempts." The aforementioned law authorized the P.E. to issue a colonization loan worth 500,000 pesos, for "purchase and subdivision of land for agricultural colonization." (art.2) The lots "will be sold in cash or for a term of up to thirty years with a mortgage guarantee, which the P.E. can transfer to the Mortgage Bank by issuing bonds (art.3)." The same Power is also authorized to expropriate the necessary lands "for which purpose it is already declared of public utility" (art. 4), and said lands "shall be free from the payment of Real Estate Tax for a term of ten years and from executions and embargoes originating from debts contracted by the settlers before and during the first five years, except for mortgages." Also, to avoid the concentration of land, it is indicated that "no settler may buy more than one farm". On 6 February 1915, by decree of the P.E., "it was a matter of promoting colonization in a certain specialized sense; In effect, the Colonization Advisory Commission is authorized to buy land for forestry, granting properties with payment facilities to whoever commits to carry out forest plantations in a third of its surface."[104]

Various developments in public assistance and child protection also took place during Batlle’s second presidency. A presidential message from 1914, for instance, noted that "The function of assistance and protection of all individuals included in the law of November 7, 1910, has been carefully attended by the authorities who are in charge of fulfilling such a lofty social mission, dedicating their activities to the organization of services respective implanted in great part in the capital and that, gradually it is tried to extend to the departments of the interior. There are 11 assistance houses operating in the capital, including hospitals and asylums, and 12 hospitals, 5 aid rooms and a colony for the insane in charge of the National Public Assistance, with 25,811 individuals having received assistance in all of them during the past year, a figure which had not yet been reached in our country, which indicates the increase that the public service in question has taken." A Permanent Assistance medical service was inaugurated on March the 1st 1913, with "its true importance could be appreciated, proving its undeniable usefulness, to the point that there has already been a need to expand the elements it has, in order to respond, if not in a complete way, at least very effective, to the needs of the population. The number of emergency assistance, 11,600, in just ten months of operation, is the most eloquent demonstration of the usefulness that the new service provides." Measures were adopted to relieve overcrowding in the Hospital Maciel, including the acquisition of Doecker pavilions, while "The lease of the building in which the British Hospital was installed for many years was resolved, in order to expand the services of the Maciel Hospital, and thus, using that premises, and the extensions that were also made in the year 1913 in the Germán Segura Pavilion, a bit of relief has been achieved for the old Charity Hospital, even though it has not been able to stay within its hygienic proportions." In addition, other improvements "can be noted in the Maciel Hospital during the past year. The transfer of the Electricity Section to another more apparent location within the same Hospital, which contemplates the most rigorous demands of science and in which a very complete installation of apparatus has been made; the installation in a place near the aforementioned establishment, of the Urinary Tract Clinic, whose service is attended by a truly extraordinary number of patients; the replacement of the current poor lighting of the surgery rooms by a system adopted with great success in the United States and in some European countries, having empowered the General Directorate to acquire the necessary equipment, and others, are important improvements made in the said hospital."[105]

In the Vilardebó Hospital, with a capacity for 600 patients, the amount of 1,500 alienated was reached, while the women's section, which is the one in the worst conditions, "has been alleviated with the installation of the new Doecker pavilions in which about two hundred alienated women have been given lodging. As for the men section, the transfer of some one hundred to the Alienated Colony, and the adoption of other measures that will be put into practice, allow us to suppose that in the future the situation of the referred hospital will improve." Also, "In the course of the past year, the existing facilities in the Alienated Colony have been completed, which were converted into large pavilions for alienated persons, having transferred to them more than 200 inmates, in unbeatable conditions, insofar as it is related to hygiene and safety. comfort they enjoy. In addition to the construction of the kitchen, dining room for the sick and related services, a Doecker pavilion with 25 beds and chalets were built for the director, administrator and butler's homes." Ina addition, "Active work has been done to complete two works of great importance: one refers to the new pavilions of the Fermín Ferreyra Hospital, which will accommodate 240 patients. These pavilions are now completely finished, and very soon they will be released to public service. The other work to which I refer is the Maternity Pavilion and Shelter for Pregnant Women, which is also expected to be enabled as soon as possible." Also, in the Asilo Dámaso Larrañaga, the construction of the classrooms, which occupy the upper part of the building facing San Salvador Street, was completed. This work, for which all requirements in terms of capacity, ventilation and light have been considered, allowed the expansion of the original, insufficient premise.[105] Also, "The benefits that are expected from the School of Nurses, and the convenience of definitively incorporating it into Public Assistance, led to the acceptance of the offer of sale made by the owners of the building in which it is installed."[106]

In the departmental hospitals, many works were carried out by the directing authorities of Public Assistance, "in order to install new services and expand the existing ones. Refurbishments have been carried out in the Molo and Salto hospital buildings, installing electric light service in them. The construction of the San Eugenio Hospital is nearing completion. The magnificent building of the Hospital de la Colonia has been completed and enabled, having transferred to it the Aid Room, which worked in precarious conditions. It is a hospital built in accordance with the modern progress of hospital hygiene. Significant improvements have been made in the Durazno Aid Room, with the construction of an operating room, a restroom and an autopsy room." Also, several ordinances "with the approval of the government have been put into force in the previous period, being able to cite the one that includes epidemic cerebro-spinal meningitis among those of obligatory declaration; the one that authorizes the use of a poster announcing the presence of contagious diseases; the one that declares disinfection optional in cases of measles; the one that determines certain precepts to avoid contagion of epidemic cerebro-spinal meningitis, etc." Other developments included the installation of a small analysis laboratory in the Prostitution Dispensary and another larger and more complete one in the "Doctor Germán Segura" Pavilion, "which indicate an evident improvement in the health service against avariosis, since by virtue of these works, been able to place the fight against such a terrible evil on a completely scientific terrain. In the Lazaretto of the Island of Flores, a reinforced concrete tank has been built, destined to provide drinking water at all times to the personnel of the Island and to the passengers who remain there for observation. In the aforementioned Island of Flores, the reinforced concrete bridge that permanently ensures the passage between the second and third islands has been completed, a work of real importance that will render innumerable services to that Sanitary Station."[106]

In addition, the work carried out by the Council, "which is in charge of the important services that the law of February 24, 1911, places under its care, indicates an advanced step towards the definitive organization of the protection of abandoned minors. The main point of the task of a diverse nature that has concerned the aforementioned Corporation has been that related to the construction of the buildings that will serve as the seat of the two most important dependencies of the benefactor Institution: the Educational Colony for Men and the Reformatory of girls. The works of the first of the mentioned buildings, for which Your Honorability has sanctioned a law that authorizes the investment of the sum of $100,000,—promulgated on June 16 of last year,—are well advanced, since it is about to be finished. the first pavilion for asylum seekers, the second being halfway through its construction. In addition, the building that will be used for the Subdirectorate and the one that will be the house-room of the Subdirector, are already out of the foundations, and it is expected that this first section of the works will be inaugurated before the middle of the current year. Around $50,000 have been spent on the execution of the two pavilions and the Subdirectorate." Provisional constructions that had started at the end of 1912 were completed, "constructions that put the old pastoral establishment in a position to regularly receive close to one hundred asylum seekers, which include: lodging, with three large bedrooms for minors, rooms for employees, dining rooms for employees and minors, kitchens, storage rooms, pantry and two rooms to teach primary instruction classes." Also, "In the house that served as lodging for the owners of the old cabin and that today constitutes the seat of the central offices of the Colony, a comfortable extension of four rooms was made. In addition, the facilities of the Colony were completed with some rural constructions, pigsties, a cistern and a pool, which is supplied through. a water motor from a well for washing clothes, irrigation pipes, a box for the lighting service, enabling a small pavilion duly refurbished for nursing and medicine cabinet. These works, carried out in the old buildings that existed, and which, with the temporary extensions, have meant that the establishment for the Protection of Minors in question could be operating a year ago, have cost $13,050."[106]

The Council also studied and resolved "many points related to its mission, solving difficulties that have arisen in some cases not provided for by law, issuing consultations, regulating procedures, dealing with various projects of the Departmental Committees referring to campaign minors. , etc. Among them we can mention: the approval of a Regulation that establishes the obligation of periodic visits by the Inspectors to the minors delivered in precarious custody and the creation of a system of checkbooks destined to record the way in which the givers fulfill their mission. ; the formation of the money of the minors who work in the radio workshops assigned to them in the Prison and in the works or tasks of the Colony of Suárez; obligatory intervention of the Council in every transfer of minors to the various houses of Public Assistance, as well as for their retirement; surveillance of certain workshops against which the Council had received a complaint that they imposed excessive hours on minors; intervention of the Legal Advisor of the corporation in all the demands established by the Inspector of the Council to whom the respective power has been granted, in order to legally demand the collection of the monthly payments owed by the guardians to their wards, etc."[107]

A presidential message from 1914 also mentioned various agricultural developments. For instance, the Agricultural Inspectors “have carried out a constant work of extensive teaching, through conferences, consultations, practical lessons, contests, demonstrations, etc., in order to bring the latest agricultural advances to the same rural producer. This is a complementary task of the Agronomic Schools, whose productions can be easily appreciated, since instructing the farmer or rancher on the ground implies the immediate application of the education received for the benefit of increasing and improving rural production.” Also, “With the help of the publications, it has also been possible to bring new teachings to the campaign, using, instead of long-read magazines, bulletins of a few pages, with simple instructions and practices written in a style completely within the reach of our rural inhabitants. Seven of these bulletins have been published in the year, five of which have appeared after the month of September, which reveals the effort made, bringing teachings on fruit horticulture; utility, planting and care of trees; land preparation, seed selection and crop rotation; wheat pairing; orange tree cultivation, etc. These publications have circulated profusely and free of charge throughout the campaign, since the editions carried out so far exceed one hundred thousand copies. In addition, the technical personnel of the Inspection have collaborated assiduously in the Magazine of the Ministry of Industries, as evidenced by the fact that more than twenty works have appeared in that publication, and the Zone Agronomic Inspectors publish teaching articles at least every fortnight.” In addition, “The Seed Section is well advanced in its work to establish control over the seeds that are sold in commerce, so that farmers acquire good quality grains,—and just as the Chemistry Section has established minimum rates for that farmers and landowners can have land, seeds and rural products in general analyzed, with the benefits that can be imagined.”[108]

In 1913, in an attempt to prevent future Presidential dictatorships, Batlle proposed a collective Presidency (colegiado) based on the Swiss Federal Council model. This was offered as a way to prevent presidential dictatorship (in a nation where every person older than 13 had lived under a dictator) while also, as Batlle believed, as one study noted, assuring continuing reform “because the Colorado Party, with its ongoing action program, would control the Colegiado for some years, unlike the present arrangement in which every incoming president was free to reverse or ignore his predecessor’s policies.” The Colegiado proposal, however, was not welcomed by several politicians. Cabinet ministers resigned, and the majority of the Senate (despite consisting of men personally chosen by Batlle) announced that it would not bring up for debate the legislation that would enable a Constitutional Convention. An unforeseen gold crisis also struck Uruguay. As one study summed up this depressing situation: “Financing businesses became difficult; financing new government projects became impossible. The Bank of the Republic’s gold holdings dropped below its charter requirements, and it stopped granting credit. Business was depressed, international trade decreased, government revenues dropped, and the budget surplus became a budget deficit. Workers’ wages kept falling, and unemployment rose. Only ranchers, whose meat, wool, and hide exports were bringing first good, and then astronomical, prices were prospering, but they were holding on to their money in these troubled times.” Nevertheless, Batlle resisted economic retrenchment and quickly responded to the political crisis. He chose a new cabinet from the young and obscure members of the Colorado Party, men who were committed Colegialists.[109] In an election held on the 30th of November 1914, the mainstream of the Colorados, the Colegialists, gained 60% of the votes cast, and would have 68 seats in the Chamber of Deputies as opposed to the Nationalists’ 21, while The Anticolegialists didn’t win a single seat.[110]

However, the colegiado proposal was defeated in a 1916 referendum, but Batlle then managed to get support from the Blancos and the Second Constitution was approved by referendum on 25 November 1917. Under the new Constitution, a split executive was created, but the President continued to control the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defence. The new nine-man National Council of Administration, which consisted of six Colorados and three Blancos, controlled the ministries of Education, Finances, Economy and Health.[citation needed] Claudio Williman, who served between Batlle's two terms, was his supporter and continued all his reforms, as did the next President Baltasar Brum (1919–23).[citation needed]

Batlle kept a handwritten list of how the Senators stood on the linked issues of the eight - hour day and the Colegiado . On the eight - hour day there were "12 in favour, one doubtful and nothing beside the other five." Support for the Colegiado was less certain, with "7 in favour, 5 against, 6 blank."[111]

According to one study Batlle’s fight for the collegiate executive "had overshadowed all else during the closing years of his greatest activity, but Batlle still found time to direct the negotiation of a number of arbitration treaties, to initiate a state-owned railway system, to sponsor a law providing equality of rights between legitimate and natural children, and to prepare a bill establishing pensions for the aged.[112] In regards to the pensions proposal, El Día was confident of its passage, noting in an article dated the 31st of January 1916

“The discussion of the old-age pensions project, recommended by the P.E., will continue tomorrow in the Chamber of Deputies. The colorado majority is willing to sanction it as soon as possible, without admitting delays that would hurt too much those who have begun to base hopes for a better situation on the sanction of that project.”

The same article also noted that

“The observation of the same nationalist representative that they do not have the necessary data to sanction the project lacks solid foundation. It's true, the last census is from 1908. But that's enough. What you need to know is not precisely the number of elderly people and taxpayers in the country. It is the numerical relationship in which they are each other. And this relationship is given as well by the 1908 census as a new one could. On the other hand, if it were necessary to wait for another census to be taken to decree pensions, it can be assured that the project would be postponed for many years.

No! The colorado majorities of the House and Senate allow these beneficent ideas to be carried out and there is no need to stop. All the men in the situation have made them, with beautiful unanimity, their program of principles, which they will not fail to carry out.”[113]

Batlle’s constitutional reform proposals spilt the Colorado Party; a dissident wing called the riverista Colorados (named after party founder Fructuoso Rivera), according one study, "went off the range on the issue of the collegiate or plural executive."[114] They were led by Pedro Manini Rios,[115] a Colorado who used to be close to Batlle; even drafting a law message of 8 hours and weekly rest in 1911,[116] but broke with him. Manini asked rhetorically in 1913[117]

"Are we socialists or are we Colorados? And let's give ourselves the clear, categorical and definitive answer. The Colorado Party in its capacity as liberal, advanced and evolutionary shares several points of the minimum socialist program, from all the secular solutions to almost all the postulates of legal improvement for the working class; but in its capacity as a party of government, order and institutional defense, it cannot share, it does not share, the purposes of social revolution that animate all socialists."[118]

Manini even voted against the 8-hour law, despite the fact that the initial project for this measure bore his signature.[119] However, although a more conservatively inclined group,[120] the Riveristas called for a number of progressive policies similar to those proposed by Batlle. These included "political rights and civil equality for women; the status of the public official; the Labor Code, with regulations on the work of women and minors; workers' insurance for disability; hygiene and safety in workshops; work accident insurance; measures for forced unemployment; conciliation and arbitration, as a solution to the strike; economical and hygienic rooms for urban and rural workers; improvement and development of assistance; vocational technical schools; construction of urban and rural schools, improvement of salaries and guarantees in the appointments and promotions of teaching personnel; compulsory physical education, free vocational education courses, popular libraries; reform of the tax system, deducting essential items; promotion of industries derived from the use of the country's raw material, promotion of public works and improvement of means of transportation."[121][122] Other Colorado factions emerged in later years, such as Vierismo and Sosismo, both of which presented themselves as politically progressive. Sosismo identified itself with the defense of workers' rights while "emphasizing the need for a Colorado agreement to overcome internal divisions and thus avoid the triumph of the whites." Vierismo characterized the National Party "as a conservative, retrograde, anti-democratic, anti-liberal group, and opposed to foreigners, to social-labour rights, to workers and to the humble classes."[123]

Second Cabinet
Ministry Officeholder Duration
Minister for the Interior Pedro Manini Ríos 1911–1912
José Serrato 1912–1913
Feliciano Viera 1913–1915
Minister of Foreign Relations José Romeu 1911–1913
Emilio Barbaroux 1913–1915
Minister of Finance José Serrato 1911–1913
Pedro Cosio 1913–1915
Minister of War and Navy Juan Bernassa y Jerez 1911–1915
Minister for Public Education Juan Blengio Rocca 1911–1913
Baltasar Brum 1913 - 1915
Minister for Public Works Víctor Sudriers 1911–1915
Minister of Industry and Labour Eduardo Acevedo Vásquez 1911–1913
José Ramasso 1913–1915

First presidency of the National Council of Administration (1921–1923)[edit]

At the 1920 Uruguayan general election, Batlle was elected to his first term on the National Council of Administration. He subsequently served as its president for a two-year term from 1 March 1921 to 1 March 1923 alongside president Baltasar Brum.

During the presidency of Baltasar Brum, a project was presented by Batlle to the Batllista caucus and by it to the Legislative Body, which established that two-thirds of the profits of the State industrial companies, whose services were mainly provided by workers, would be used to raise the salaries and wages of workers and employees "up to double at least the average of private services." Although it triumphed in the Chamber of Deputies, it was rejected by the Senate.[124]

Second presidency of the National Council of Administration (1927–1928)[edit]

At the 1926 Uruguayan general election, Batlle was elected to a new term on the National Council of Administration. He served again as its president from 1 March 1927 for just under one year, alongside new president Juan Campisteguy, until he was succeeded by Luis C. Caviglia on 16 February 1928.

Economic developments[edit]

The economy did well for much of Batlle's tenure. The peace following the end of the 1904 war, as noted by one study, “encouraged ranchers, who formed the base of the country’s economy, to buy breeding stock to make up for their war losses and to buy or rent more land to pasture their livestock.” The nation’s businesses started to invest in foreign companies to build miles of new railroad lines and to electrify the trolley lines in Montevideo.[125] In his last annual message Batlle argued that:

"It can be stated without hyperbole that our country has never enjoyed a prosperity superior to the present one or more complete civil and political liberty, from the time it was organized constitutionally. The national energies have been developing with increasing vigor in all economic fields, and for its part the Government has put all its zeal for the public interest into intelligently aiding the progress of the nation. Public works have received a considerable impulse; higher education is moving toward new and fruitful orientations which will widen our general culture and make our principle industries, ranching and agriculture, more scientific. Government income has increased in unprecedented fashion, permitting us to end the financial period with a budget surplus which by itself says more in honor of the Administration than any propaganda could."[126]

Electoral developments[edit]

Both the Batllista wing of the Colorado Party and the Colorado Party performed well during Batlle's presidencies, a trend that would continue in subsequent years. In the legislative election that Batlle called for in January 1905, his hand-picked candidates won the majority of seats. According to one study, "It was the first election in thirty years in which the outcome was not predetermined."[5] In the 1905 elections for the House of Diputados, Batlle’s sector the Batllistas won 57.7% of the vote. In subsequent elections for the House of Diputados and the Constituency Assembly the Batllistas continued to perform well, winning 64.2% of the vote in 1907, 79.9% of the vote in 1910, 60% of the vote in 1913, 45.2% of the vote in 1916, 49.3% of the vote in 1917, 29.5% of the vote in 1919, and 52.2% of the vote in 1920.[127][128] Also, in the elections of 1905, 1907 and 1913, in nineteen departments Batllismo won in seventeen.[129] According to one observer "Batllismo, from 1911 to 1915, was all-powerful, dominated absolutely in the Chamber of Deputies, it had some reservations in the Senate. There was not a single nationalist representative in the Senate at that time."[130] As noted by one study, "Until 1917, Batllismo dominated the successive elections and obtained its best result in 1910 with 79.9 % of the votes."[131] As noted by another study, "The institutional difficulty resulting from the complex reading of the results was apparently not immediately perceived by contemporaries, but it came to the forefront when in January 1917 the legislative elections held according to the traditional rule of public vote gave Batlle back control of both chambers."[132] One study has noted that 1917 "Batllismo had the majority in the chambers that it lacked in the Constituent Assembly."[132]

Later life[edit]

In early 1920 Batlle killed Washington Beltrán Barbat, a National Party deputy, in a formal duel that stemmed from vitriolic editorials published in Batlle's El Día newspaper and Beltrán's El País.[133] His son Washington Beltrán would become President of Uruguay. He also served twice as Chairman of the National Council of Administration (1921–1923, 1927–1928).

After suffering abdominal pain for some time, Battle admitted himself to the Italian Hospital of Montevideo on September 18, 1929, for the first of two planned operations.[134] While Batlle had made somewhat of a recovery a month later (with the second operation planned for another two or three months later), he had suffered some setbacks.[135] Around midday on October 20, Battle suffered the first of two thromboembolisms, with the second one later that afternoon proving fatal.[136]


Probably in no other country in the world in the past two centuries has any one man so deeply left his imprint upon the life and character of a country as has José Battle y Ordóñez upon Uruguay.

— Russell H. Fitzgibbon, Uruguay: Portrait of a Democracy, page 122[137]

Batlle is commonly explained as being “ahead of his times.” He was more than ahead of his times. Batlle created his times. His success reminds us that a man’s ideals can lead other men.

— Milton I. Vanger, José Batlle y Ordoñez of Uruguay: The Creator of His Times 1902 – 1907, page 274[138]
Monument of Batlle in Montevideo

The first implementation of the colegiado system which Batlle had championed, the National Council of Administration, was overthrown in a coup by president Gabriel Terra in 1933 and abolished by the third Constitution of Uruguay in 1934, a little over four years after Batlle's death. The idea of the colegiado system remained influential, however, and was reintroduced with the 1952 Constitution of Uruguay in the form of the National Council of Government. The National Council of Government fully abolished the presidency, making it closer to Batlle's desired system, but was itself abolished for a second time and the presidency re-established by the 1967 constitution.[139]

In addition to his reforms, Batlle also succeeded in moving his Colorado Party in a more progressive direction, with one study arguing that

"The revitalization of the Colorado party was one of the early accomplishments of the great Batlle y Ordóñez. Sterility, a creeping cynicism, the incubus of the military dictatorships of recent years, all combined to put the Colorado party in almost as unenviable a position as that occupied by the Blancos. Batlle sold his party on its need for idealism and a program of reform, on the importance of intra-party democracy, discipline, and cohesiveness. The Colorado program, as Batlle thus evolved it, might have been a Latin archetype for the pattern of the New Deal in the United States a generation later."[140]

According to one source, Batlle was responsible "for directing the liberal, democratic-independence institutional reform of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, which placed her at the head of progressive and justice achievements; and gave him great fame in the American concert."[4]

A public park and a neighborhood in Montevideo are named after him.

There is also a town in Lavalleja Department named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Batlle himself wrote the surname Ordóñez as ‘Ordoñez’ without the accent on the second “o”, but official documents generally used the accent.[2]
  2. ^ Catalan pronunciation: [ˈbaʎ.ʎə]


  1. ^ a b Parlamentarios Uruguayos 1830-2005 2013, p. 390.
  2. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 287.
  3. ^ Coletta 2018, p. 16; Dierksmeier 2019, p. 106.
  4. ^ a b Partido Colorado 2016.
  5. ^ a b Vanger 2010, p. 2.
  6. ^ Hudson & Meditz 1990.
  7. ^ Hanson 1938, pp. 24–25.
  8. ^ a b Hanson 1938, p. 22.
  9. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 18–20.
  10. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 21–22.
  11. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 22.
  12. ^ a b Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 126.
  13. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 126; Vanger 1963, p. 22.
  14. ^ Parker 1921, pp. 57–58.
  15. ^ Parker 1921, p. 58.
  16. ^ Parker 1921, p. 59.
  17. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 126–127.
  18. ^ Bases de la historia uruguaya 1987, pp. 6–7.
  19. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 127; Vanger 1963, pp. 23–24.
  20. ^ a b Vanger 1963, p. 24.
  21. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 24–25.
  22. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 127.
  23. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 127–128.
  24. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 29, 288.
  25. ^ a b Vanger 1963, p. 29.
  26. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 128.
  27. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 25.
  28. ^ Taylor 1960, p. 111.
  29. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 25–26.
  30. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 65.
  31. ^ Alfaro & Bai 1986, p. 22.
  32. ^ Porzecanski 1978, pp. 72–73.
  33. ^ Acevedo 1936a, pp. 502–503.
  34. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 105.
  35. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 227.
  36. ^ Angione 1987, p. 14.
  37. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 385.
  38. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 146.
  39. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 223.
  40. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 150.
  41. ^ Ramos de Segarra 1904, p. 89.
  42. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 92.
  43. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 225.
  44. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 608.
  45. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 129.
  46. ^ a b Vanger 1963, p. 225.
  47. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 194.
  48. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 86.
  49. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 43.
  50. ^ Batlle y Ordoñez 1905, p. 19.
  51. ^ Pan American Union 1906.
  52. ^ Posada-Carbo 1995, p. 84.
  53. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 11.
  54. ^ Antuña 1913, p. 48.
  55. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 85.
  56. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 206–207.
  57. ^ Vanger 1963.
  58. ^ Vanger 1963, pp. 255–256.
  59. ^ El Día 1906.
  60. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 124.
  61. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 128.
  62. ^ Barrán & Nahum 1983, p. 79.
  63. ^ a b Barrán & Nahum 1979.
  64. ^ Vanger 1980, p. 210.
  65. ^ a b Universindo Rodríguez Díaz 2006, p. 48.
  66. ^ Vanger 1980, p. 243.
  67. ^ El Día 1905.
  68. ^ The consoling fiction, as noted by Milton Vanger on page 207 of his study "José Battle Y Ordoñez of Uruguay: the Creator of His Times, 1902-1907," was that local workers were better off than European workers, something that Uruguayan public men usually invoked during strikes.
  69. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 264.
  70. ^ El Día 1907.
  71. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 553.
  72. ^ The Independent 1914.
  73. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 130–131.
  74. ^ Altman 2008, pp. 488–494.
  75. ^ a b Vanger 1980, p. 119.
  76. ^ Las Primeras reformas, 1911-1913 byJosé Pedro Barrán, P.80
  77. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, pp. 62–63.
  78. ^ Cassina de Nogara 1990, p. 45.
  79. ^ a b Partido Colorado.
  80. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 131.
  81. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 182.
  82. ^ Hayes 1972, p. 57.
  83. ^ Traversoni & Lastra 1977, p. 73.
  84. ^ Filgueira 1995, p. 6.
  85. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, p. 593.
  86. ^ Sanguinetti 2023.
  87. ^ Vanger 2010, p. 3.
  88. ^ Anales de la Universidad 1929, pp. 495–496.
  89. ^ United States Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce 1912a, p. 300.
  90. ^ Giudici 1947, p. 86.
  91. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 72.
  92. ^ Farnworth 1952.
  93. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 102.
  94. ^ Porzecanski 1978, p. 3.
  95. ^ Riqueza 1912, p. 20.
  96. ^ United States Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce 1912b, p. 484.
  97. ^ United Nations General Assembly 1950, p. 53.
  98. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 29.
  99. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 30.
  100. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 132.
  101. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 44.
  102. ^ Hanson 1938, p. 53.
  103. ^ Nin y Silva 1930, p. 190.
  104. ^ Moron 1946, p. 42.
  105. ^ a b Batlle y Ordoñez 1914, p. 6.
  106. ^ a b c Batlle y Ordoñez 1914, pp. 6–7.
  107. ^ Batlle y Ordoñez 1914, p. 8.
  108. ^ Batlle y Ordoñez 1914, p. 25.
  109. ^ Vanger 2010, pp. 5–6.
  110. ^ Vanger 2010, p. 7.
  111. ^ Vanger 1980, p. 224.
  112. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 133–134.
  113. ^ Cuadernos de Marcha nº 31, noviembre 1969 Batlle, P.66
  114. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 144–143.
  115. ^ Oddone 1990, p. 106.
  116. ^ La Mañana 2020.
  117. ^ La fuerza de las ideas La impronta del Estado Batllista en la identidad nacional By Julio María Sanguinetti, 2022
  118. ^ Partido Colorado 1916, p. 27.
  119. ^ Pintos & Fernández Ríos 1938, p. 95.
  120. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 148.
  121. ^ La Mañana 2022.
  122. ^ Manini Ríos 1970, p. 122.
  123. ^ Garay 2017, p. 28.
  124. ^ Acevedo 1936b, p. 231.
  125. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 2.
  126. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 262.
  127. ^ Lopez-Alves 2002, p. 104.
  128. ^ Caetano 1992, p. 74.
  129. ^ Pujol 1996, p. 143.
  130. ^ Uruguay General Assembly 1967, p. 333.
  131. ^ Pujol 1996, p. 189.
  132. ^ a b Demasi 2004, p. 26.
  133. ^ The New York Times 1920a; The New York Times 1920b.
  134. ^ Mañé Garzón 2009, pp. 60–61.
  135. ^ Mañé Garzón 2009, p. 63.
  136. ^ Mañé Garzón 2009, pp. 64–65.
  137. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 122.
  138. ^ Vanger 1963, p. 274.
  139. ^ Edelmann 1969, p. 139.
  140. ^ Fitzgibbon 1954, p. 143.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Uruguay

Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Uruguay
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Uruguay
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the National Council of Administration of Uruguay
Succeeded by