As the first major work published by a professional historian on Antonio Guzmán Blanco, this not-very-fortunate Spanish translation of an unrevised doctoral dissertation is nonetheless a needed contribution. The internal politics of the Septenio, Guzmán Blanco’s first period of government (1870-77), is here viewed as a watershed which ended, if only for these years, political factionalism and the constant search for attaining national order and progress. Floyd starts by reviewing the political forces in conflict since the 1830s, emphasizing Guzmán’s political apprenticeship, first with his father, the Liberal leader Antonio Leocadio Guzmán, then as a soldier during the Federal War (1858-63) and as vice-president and high-ranking official in the Federalist government (1863-68). Chapters III-V discuss the political arrangements of the Septenio. Chapter VI treats the antiguzmancista reaction after the Septenio, ending with Guzmán’s reinstatement in 1879. The last chapter offers a brief conclusion.
The book’s focus is on Guzmán’s alliance with the mercantile and financial elite (institutionalized in the Compañía de Crédito, the financial device organized to permit this group to administer custom duties revenue); on the fragile relationship with the hacendados; and on the mechanisms whereby Guzmán curbed separatist caudillos and imposed a strong, interventionist government. Thus, as Floyd accurately concludes, Guzmán’s avowed federalism was no more than lip service paid to a lost cause.
The book has various shortcomings. The unprofessional citation of the sources from the Archivo Guzmán Blanco (some 100,000 documents in the Fundación Boulton), on which the book relies in part, is inexplicable. Documents are referred to by the date, as in “AGB, 7 de Octubre de 1872”; even worse, note 26 (p. 160) reads: “AGB, various documents,” and note 55 (p. 130) says: “AGB.” Although the central topics are well chosen, a thorough examination of Guzmán’s program is lacking, and deeper consideration would have enhanced the analysis. Full citation in the notes is unaccompanied by bibliography and sources (included in the dissertation). The appendix contains a short and hastily made comment on the Venezuelan archives, which in some respects is now outdated. For example, the AGB has been professionally organized, and although access has been restricted, historians hope this will be only transitory because of the paramount importance of this archive for nineteenth-century Venezuelan history. Finally, Guzmán’s long message to the Congress in 1877 is included, without explaining its relevance.