Speech at the Madred Ateneo




Which of the two forms of government best realizes the ideal of Right-a monarchy or a republic?


Mr. Moreno Nieto, President: – Mr. Hostos has the floor. Mr. Hostos:

– Gentlemen: I don’t have to tell you who I am. I am an American;

I have the honor of being a Puerto Rican and a federalist. Being a colonial, a product of colonial despotism, and hindered by it in my feelings, thoughts and actions, I took vengeance upon it by imagining a definitive form of liberty and I conceived a confederation of ideas, given the impossibility of a political confederation. I am a federalist because I am American, because I am a colonial – because I am Puerto Rican. From my island I view Santo Domingo, Cuba and Jamaica, and I think of the Confederation; I look toward the north and feel the Confederation; I look across the semi-circle of islands which geographically link and “federate” Puerto Rico with Latin America, and I prophesy a providential Confederation.

However, since resolutions made with the emotions are not sufficiently rational, I have felt the need to reason them out, and feel the need to do so before you now.

Therefore I will make use of the theme which has been submitted to your discussion. The fIrst part of the topic states: Which of the two forms of government best realizes the ideal of Right, a monarchy or a republic?

I will examine as quickly as possible, as rapidly as my slow manner of expressing my thoughts allows, the four principal concepts in the question: form, realization of the ideal by the form, ideal,and Right.

Is form the realization of an ideal? To realize an ideal is to give it objective life, and every form, by the mere act of realization, gives objective life to its essence and its ideal, and every form of government will realize, its ideal of Right; in which case the discussion becomes pointless, as every form will express its perfect ideal.

. Speech and redress given during a session at the Ateneo in Madrid on the night of Saturday, December 20th, 1868.





But if the form doesn’t realize, does it externalize? If it does, it will be externalizing something internal, essential in se, in which case the form will be nothing but the development of the essence, and even if there are twists in the development, the form will always be an expression of the ideal; they will be inseparable, and where there is a form, there will be an externalization of the ideal. Thus as they remain inseparable, the ideal in every form will be immaterial.

This is false, if for no other reason than because it is a condemnation of freedom and a denial of Right, and as a denial of Right it is also a dissipation of the ideal, an exaltation of arbitrariness, a consecration of misfortune.

The truth is that the form is conditional to the essence; that every essence has its own form, every ideal is attached to its own reality, and there is no realization or externalization, just a distortion of the ideal; that is, there are arbitrary means which are more or less artistic, more or less in agreement with the form and the essence of every ideal expressed.

Thus the ideal is everything-basis and form, reality and idea-which as an infallible norm of justice, truth and beauty, drives the actions, thoughts and emotions of humanity. Thus form and essence are an irreducible unit, and inasmuch as there is an absolute ideal, there is an absolute form which corresponds to it eternally.

This is proven by the definition of Right-incidentally, I caution that this definition, like all the thought behind this speech, is solely my own, since I follow no school whatsoever. Right is the expression of the innate and necessary faculty by means of which we reach the moral goals of our existence.

The ideal of Right is justice. Since there is but one ideal, one justice, there is but one form, one Right, because I know of none other than the one which is forever dependent on unalterable justice.

Applying these principles to forms of government, we can say that the form which will better agree with the ideal of Right will be the one which better concurs with that ideal, with justice. Moreover, since the form itself is either an element or a necessary part of the ideal or it is nothing, -Only one of them is the absolute, necessary and true form.

Which of the two will it be? According to Vico, the revolutionary of historical science, and according to my dear friend Mr. Rayon, it is the monarchy; according to reason and to myself, it is the republic.

Let us examine the two forms:

Monarchy is government by one, which is the first injustice; it is the monopolization of all individual and social rights by an indisputable sovereignty, the second injustice; it is the denial of all inherent liberties by






an artificial authority, the third injustice; it is the establishment of irrevocable  power with no liability, the fourth injustice-all of which makes the great right to insurrection necessary. Does this form of government realize justice?

The following conditions are in opposition to the four main injustices of a monarchy: absolute individual freedom, municipal independence, provincial independence, the omnipotence of national representation, the liability of all powers, and the totally free alliance of all national parties, which is what constitutes a federation. I have mentioned monarchy and federation (absolute republic) because all historical degenerations of both, all the intermediate forms, are either rejections of the absolute monarchy or points of agreement with the federal republic. I have not spoken about the unitary republic, because no republic exists in which there is concentration of power; and I will not speak about historical forms of the monarchy, because-besides my being tired of making you tired-there is already a formula which historically expresses the need for an absolute form of government: the more absolute a monarchy, the more it is rejected as a form of government, because it is further from justice; and the more absolute a republic is, the more it concurs with justice, the ideal of Right.

Now that the first part of the topic has been addressed, gentlemen, I shall express a reservation: I do not want to apply my principles to Spain, because I am an enemy of the political pathology which makes a doctor out of everyone who deals with the present condition of a nation and applies remedies to an illness which is always easier to diagnose than cure.

Gentlemen, I don’t know if it is because of the isolation experienced by Spain, which, like a person restrained by a force of destiny has withdrawn and isolated herself from other nations; I don’t know if because of this isolation Spain is too neglectful of the international movement of ideas. I do know that she is too withdrawn. If Spain, and all of you as well, opened your eyes to the broad horizon Europe offers, you would see how strongly the ideal of confederation, although in a latent state, present itself.

I would like to spare you the weariness’ also share, so I will only go on to prove, through the important events currently taking place or being predicted, that everything is happening because of the peoples’ hope for a political unity equal to the intellectual confederation already existent.

Europe is currently plagued by three problems: the trouble in the East, the German problem and the Italian problem. One of two things occurs in each case: unavoidable activity toward federation or reaction






against absorbing unions. That is, where there is traditional unity, there is a tendency toward federation; where unity is recent, there is intolerable discomfort as a result of not having adopted the federal principle.

The problem in the East has produced a noteworthy phenomenon. While the powers interested in solving the problem complicate it the more they try to simplify it, the peoples who are demanding a place in history and expecting it to be part of the solution are offering the key to the enigma. The Slavic race is preparing for an active life of progress by obeying the idea of alliance or federation among all its members; and while diplomatic activity is concentrated on the Ottoman Empire, Pan­Slavisrn secretly triumphs in the principalities and disturbs the unifying project of the Hapsburg empire in Bohemia and Hungary.

The Hellenic race is struggling to completely free itself from Turkey with increasing success; its members gather around a liberated Greece.

The triumph of federalism is evident in the German question. In spite of the life interest that southern Germany has in uniting with northern Germany, it resists its own interests in order to avoid subjection to Prussian hegemony, and has thus expressed its federal aims, saying it wants unity in liberty, that is, unity in the free association of the different members of its nationality.

Italy’s malaise, its impotence even in resolving the increasingly difficult Roman question, is proof of the reaction against false unities.

The same thing that has occurred within these territorial revolutions is basically happening in this “fourth state” whose advent is being announced by the growing progress of political ideas and the visible disagreement between the established powers and the people.

In spite of the passive middle class which hides when it should come forth, flees when it should fight, and has abolished freedom everywhere with its fear, the “fourth state” is claiming its place in historical and political life.

Economic development, the problems it has sought to solve, and its condemnation of a formerly scorned strength which it has now obliged upper classes and governments to recognize, is proof, gentlemen, that one of those events which transform the lives of nations is going to take place in Europe. And, as if the latent strength wanted to determine its dominant character even before exploding, the “fourth state”-restricted as well as disdained-associates, links and strengthens itself in alliances that will one day make it incompatible, and the international alliances and associations of the working class begin to develop.

What does all of this mean? That the absolute form is winning, that all of Europe is headed toward federation.

As I said, gentlemen, I have not wanted to apply the principles I de­






fend to the Spanish peninsula; but I must seriously address patriotism and call your attention to a type of Spanish federation that will help Spain safeguard two extremely important members of its present nationality.

Gentlemen: this is a crucial moment for the Spanish colonies. Victims of a tradition of despotism, they have been deceived a thousand times-I repeat, deceived, gentlemen! They cannot and should not continue to be subjected to an absurd union that has prevented them from becoming what they should be and which forbids them to live.

Spain has not carried out its rightful purposes in the Americas, and one by one the continental colonies have freed themselves from its yoke. History will not blame the colonies.

If Spain wants to be worthy of history; if she wants to preserve the remnants of the great family acquired through the Conquest and lost through tyranny, then she should think deeply about her duty and make amends for the injustices committed; Spain should become less greedy about freedom; she should extend the freedom just conquered at home and the one she has promised, the one which cannot be denied without indignity to the peoples always obedient to her call, always ready to help, the ones who have helped Spain with their wealth everyone of the thousand times it has been necessary; Spain should call back with open arms those who are fleeing because of her behavior, saying with self-confidence:

“Generous’ people of Puerto Rico and Cuba, forgive the torments I have imposed on you for three centuries. In the name of God and in accordance with reason and justice, all of whom reject slavery for both individuals and nations, let us unite with the bonds of liberty-be free within yourselves! Let us join together in our common love and for our mutual comfort; let us live as brothers, independently living our own lives but depending on each other in times of need, difficulties and common afflictions.

The bond of liberty that can still unite the Antilles and Spain is the federal bond; the way to realize independence. within dependence is through federation.

I have said enough.

(Mr. Aguilera asks for the floor and in the name of patriotism attacks Mr. Hostos’ speech, accuses him of being anti-Spanish, cites the Overseas Provinces’ summons to the Cortes in 1812, and criticizes the Antilles for being ungrateful.)

Mr. Hostos:

– Since I do justice to Mr. Aguilera’s patriotism, His Excellence






should also note my own firm and resolute patriotism-I respect in others  what I encourage in myself. But since I have not attacked Spain, but rather told the truth; since I have not dealt with a question of patriotism, Mr. Aguilera, but rather with a problem of justice; since I have not wasted my time repeating what history  already knows, but rather used it to give a redeeming solution to an increasingly  dangerous problem, I firmly reiterate everything I have said, and add that far from being ungrateful, the colonies (not the “Overseas Provinces”) have proven their love for the metropolis and have received nothing but indifference in return.

(Mr. Aguilera insists on his evidence of the summons to the Cortes and asks what the Antilles have done for Spain).

Mr. Hostos:

– Earlier I praised Mr. Aguilera’  patriotism, and now I commend his cunning, but he should not thank me for this-I detest cunning too much to respect it. While he again insists on the summons to the Cortes in 1812 and credits it with the liberation of the continental colonies, His Honor cleverly forgets that between 1812 and 1868, there was 1837 and 1854. Mr. Aguilera is right, during 1812-when liberalism first evolved in Spain-the American colonies were summoned to the Cortes. Why? To show them that Spain feared freedom in the colonies. Where his honor is mistaken, what is contemptible about his explanation is the deception it echoes. His Honor assumes the colonies were liberated because they were granted the right to present their thoughts and needs before the National Assembly. This is an absurdity worthy of its creators.

In the continental colonies and in Cuba and Puerto Rico there is a race of exploiters who in their eagerness to exploit everything, have even become traders in human flesh. Those “good people” perceived then, as they do now, that freedom would have destroyed the edifice built by despotism and by their own greed, and to avoid its destruction in the

Antilles they credited the rights of 1812 with the liberation of the colonies. History laughs at those good people. But history does not laugh at the despicable violation committed in 1837. Does His Lordship know what happened in 1837? Well, in 1837-during the second period of development of liberalism-the remaining colonies were summoned to the Constituent Cortes. But since for unworthy personal reasons the colonies represented an obstacle (some liberals harbored the fears of colonial monopolists), a pretext for getting rid of the obstacle was invented. They said to themselves: “Let us pretend we are taking a liberal step; let US pretend we want more freedoms for Cuba and Puerto Rico and rid ourselves of their representatives, who could very well be like those indomitable South Americans who in 1812 eclipsed our glory with theirs.”






And then, gentlemen, under the pretext that Spain’s colonial principle was changing from one of assimilation to one of expansion, from the Spanish system to the English, they added an article to the Constitution, and committed the injustice of throwing the Cuban and Puerto Rican representatives out of Congress.

The year 1854 came, and with it the third period in the evolution of liberalism in Spain. And was anything done for Cuba and Puerto Rico? No. Nothing.

Then came 1868 and the ebullience of the liberal idea. It is a victory for all of us because we all have contributed to the triumph of this revolution. Perhaps the Antilleans who have taken part in it have contributed more vigorously than some of those now reaping its benefits. At a moment when we all expected and hoped that the revolution would have the dignity to extend itself to Cuba and Puerto Rico, when those of us who served liberty here in order to serve it there, expected our sacrifices would be rewarded with such liberty, that our bravery in speaking out when no one else did would be rewarded and personal commitments would be honored-yes gentlemen, personal commitments made to some of us on behalf of our homeland-at this moment they point to Cuba, who has taken arms against the hateful contributions which have impoverished both Cuba and Puerto Rico and against the oppression we have defeated here, and they say to us: “either you lay down your arms or we won’t grant you liberties”, to which we answer: “either you grant us our liberties or we won’t lay down our arms”.

Mr. Aguilera, asks what Spain owes the Antilles. She owes them the monetary sacrifices which financed her war in Africa; she owes them the money that ran the war in Santo Domingo; above all she owes them the kindness of three centuries of patience with which they have waited for their much needed freedom; she owes them justice, which is what we are asking for. (Several voices exclaim, “Yes, justice!”.)

(The president, in phrases vigorously inspired by a strong feeling of patriotism, acknowledges Mr. Hostos’s own patriotism, and discreetly asks him to declare that he has not intended to encourage the events in

Cuba with his words.)

Mr. Hostos:

– Mr. Moreno Nieto, whose wonderful eloquence I have admired at this moment more than ever, asks me for a statement-I am going to please my eloquent friend by making two statements:

First: That I do not believe that Cuba’s uprising, brought about by hunger and by the oppression of the old regime, will be maintained in the face of freedom, in whose quick effects and peaceful influence I trust.

Second: That if, contrary to what I expect, justice is not done, and if






with the same right which has been exercised here, a fight for freedom ­ as deeply rooted in my country as it is in every part of the world-were waged over there, I would not be in this room.

(The President applauds Mr. Hostos’s intense patriotism, which he says is all the more deserving of respect when it goes from words to deeds.)

(Mr. Goicorretea, in defense of someone who is absent from the meeting, asks Mr. Hostos what he has to say about the taxes from Cuba and Puerto Rico.)

Mr. Hostos:

– You flatter me; and since I do not know whom the gentleman who was kind enough to question me is alluding to, I will say, first of all, that I do not deal with individuals; I have said and I repeat that the contributions are a hateful product of a contemptible combination. The last men of that regime, who have left because they were ruining this country; the . last men of that regime conceived of a simple way of filling the chests they emptied. While the wretched islands were destroyed by hurricanes, which had not hit them in twenty years; while their crops were torn out by the roots; while earthquakes shook  hem as never before; while they lay back with their arms crossed and their eyes fixed on the sky and asked, “Dear God, how much more will we have to bear!”, from here they responded by imposing on them a contribution which doubled and tripled the tax rate.

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