Portraits of Six Exceptional Twentieth Century Premiers
Chapter 2 The Philosopher-Ruler: José Batlle y Ordóñez of Uruguay (1903–1907, 1911–1915) 25
CHAPTER TWO The Philosopher-Ruler: José Batlle y Ordóñez of Uruguay (1903–1907, 1911–1915) The history of Uruguay for much of the twentieth century has been described as ‘the lengthened shadow of a man’.1 That man was José Batlle y Ordóñez, who served two terms as the country’s presi- dent, from 1903 to 1907 and from 1911 to 1915. His impact and legacy lasted well beyond these two terms. ‘Probably in no other country in the world in the past two centuries’, wrote Russell Fitzgibbon in 1954, ‘has any one man so deeply left his imprint upon the life and character of a country as has José Batlle y Ordóñez’. His impact can be compared to that of Ata- turk on Turkey. ‘For a half century past’, continued Fitzgibbon, ‘the course of Uruguay’s history has been turned, the policies of its government have been molded, the thinking of its people has been oriented by the vision, the courage, the crusading fervor of the man Batlle’.2 He came to be venerated in Uruguay for decades after his death in 1929. His followers revered him, cherished his ideals, chanting his name for long periods at party conventions. A cult grew up around him. 1 Russell H. Fitzgibbon, Uruguay: Portrait of a Democracy (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1954), p. 122. 2 Ibid. Note that in Uruguay the name Batlle is pronounced ‘Bah-jay’. 26 CHAPTER TWO Why such reverence? There are two main aspects to Batlle’s achieve- ment. First, his...
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