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Full text of "The first lecturer on Hispanic American diplomatic history."




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THE FIRST LECTURER ON HISPANIC AMERI- 
CAN DIPLOMATIC HISTORY 



By 



Lewis Hanke 



Reprinted from The Hispanic American Historical Revieiv, 
Vol. XVI, No. 3, August, 1936 



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THE FIRST LECTURES ON HISPANIC AMERICAN 

DIPLOMATIC HISTORY IN THE 

UNITED STATES 

Daniel De Leon, one of the most colorful figures in the history of 
radicalism in this country, seems to have been the first lecturer in a 
university in the United States on Hispanic American diplomatic 
history. 1 The son of a Dutch medical officer, De Leon was bom in 
Curacao in 1852 and after some secondary school education in Holland 
and Germany entered Columbia Law School and formed one of a 
small group of students taught by the late Professor John Burgess 
at the beginning of his distinguished career at Columbia University. 
Burgess has described De Leon as a 

very peculiar man in many respects, but a remarkably well-informed one. He 
knew more international law and diplomatic history than any man of his age I 
have ever met. 2 

After receiving the degree of LL.B. in 1878, 3 De Leon practised 
law for a time in Texas and returned to Columbia in 1883 to win 
the first prize lectureship which had been established in 1882 in the 
new School of Political Science. 4 

The lectureship was to run for three years with an annual value 
of five hundred dollars. In order to be eligible for appointment the 
candidate must have been a graduate of Columbia and an active mem- 
ber of the Academy of Political Science, and must have read at least 
one paper before the Academy of Political Science during the year 
preceding the appointment. The duty of the lecturer was to deliver 
annually a series of at least twenty lectures, the result of original 
investigation, before the students of the School of Political Science. 5 

Therefore, in the second half of the academic year, Daniel De Leon, 
"prize lecturer on South American Diplomacy", 6 delivered a series 

1 Most of the biographical information concerning De Leon come from a first- 
rate article by W. J. Ghent in the Dictionary of American Biography, V. 222-224. 

2 John W. Burgess, Reminiscences of an American Scholar (New York, 1934), 
p. 182. 

a In the college handbooks De Leon is listed as also possessing the Ph.D. 
degree, but according to a letter to the writer from the Eegistrar of Columbia 
University he received only an LL.B. from Columbia. 

* Annual Report of the President of Columbia College (1884), p. 36. 

5 Handbook of Information, Columbia College (1884), p. 209. 

6 Ibid. (1884), p. s. 




of twenty lectures which was described as follows : 

South American Diplomacy.— This course of lectures embraces the history of 
the relations of Spain and Portugal to America during the eolonial period, and 
the history of the diplomatic relations between the Empire of Brazil and its 
republican neighbors, down to our own time. The course closes with the new 
relations established between these States (and especially between the Platine 
States) after the war against Paraguay, 1865-1870. 7 

In the Handbook for the next year, 1885, De Leon is entitled "Lec- 
turer on Latin- American diplomacy" 8 and the following announce- 
ment shows what an interesting group of lectures he provided for the 
students in the School of Political Science: 

Latin-American Diplomacy. — The object of this course is to give a knowledge 
of the leading questions of international law that have arisen in Latin America, 
of their historical development, and of the attitude taken in reference to these 
questions by the government of the United States. The course embraces: 

I. The history of the diplomacy of Spain and Portugal with respect to 
America, during the colonial period; and the history of the diplomatic relations 
between the empire of Brazil and its republican neighbors down to our own time. 
The course closes with the new relations established between these states after 
the war against Paraguay, 1865-1870. 

II. European interventions in Latin America. 

a. The forcible occupation by Great Britain of the Malvinas (Falkland 

Islands), 1833. 

b. The French intervention in La Plata, 1838-40. 

c. The French intervention in Mexico, 1838. 

d. The British intervention in Central America, 

e. The joint intervention of France and England in La Plata, 1845-50. 

f. The Spanish intervention in St. Domingo, 1861. 

g. The joint intervention of England, France, and Spain in Mexico, 

1861. 
h. The Spanish intervention in the South Pacific, 1864. 8 

De Leon delivered lectures according to the above program during 
the last year of his three-year lectureship (1883-1886) and during 
the second three-year term to which he was appointed in 1886. Ac- 
cording to W. J. Ghent, De Leon's partisans have always asserted that 
"his retirement from the college was forced by his radical activities 
but the statement has been denied by competent authority". 10 

In any case, it would seem that De Leon did not do much to en- 
courage the study of Hispanic American diplomacy at Columbia. 
During the whole of his six-year term as lecturer, he seems to have 

■'Ibid. (1884), p. 203. 

s Ibid. (1885), p. xiii. 

B Ibid. (1885), p. 206. 

10 Dictionary of American Biography, V. 223. 












attracted no advanced students to the field and he published nothing 
on Hispanic American diplomatic questions except an eight-page 
political tract issued in 1884 "to business men" by the National Com- 
mittee of Republicans and Independents, entitled A specimen of Mr. 
Blaine's diplo-maeij: is he a safe man to trust as president? In this 
pamphlet De Leon severely criticized Blaine's support of the Calderon 
government in Peru and exulted that the 1882 Blaine proposal for an 
American Congress had failed, because 

had this foundation been laid, the doors would have been flung open for eternal 
foreign complications; our policy of peace would have become a thing of the 
past- at every moment we would have been called in by the underdog in each 
of those countries, and WE WOULD HAVE INVITED OURSELVES TO 
BECOME PARTIES IN ALL COMMOTIONS IN PERU, THE SAME AS 
GREAT BRITAIN HAS DONE IN THE EAST INDIES! 11 

The elder statesmen of the School of Political Science faculty may 
have felt that Hispanic American diplomacy was too esoteric a sub- 
ject to have as a permanent part of their curriculum or De Leon's 
growing interest in practical labor questions may have won out over 
his scholarly inclinations. In 1886, he actively supported the candi- 
dacy of Henry George for mayor of New York City and in 1888 
joined the Knights of Labor. Thereafter, he enjoyed a prominent 
position in radical circles though never great influence because of 
personal peculiarities, but he did work out in his writings the concept 
of a revolutionary working-class organization formed by industries in- 
stead of crafts which Lenin accepted later as a picture of the ultimate 
form of government in Communist Russia. 12 Whatever may be 
the true reason for De Leon's retirement from the lectureship in 1889, 
the study of Hispanic American history at Columbia languished until 
William R. Shepherd offered a course in the "History of Spanish 

America" in 1904. 13 

Lewis Hanke. 

Harvard University. 

"On page 8 of the tract. De Leon also published during the lectureship 
period an article on "The conference at Berlin on the West African question" 
in the Political Science Quarterly (I. 103-139) and a couple of book reviews 
in the same journal (I. 346-347; IV. 195-196). 

* Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, V. 67. 

"Shepherd had been a prize lecturer in 1896-1899 but apparently did not 
lecture on Spanish America Until 1904 {Catalogue of Columbia University for 
1904-1905, p. 121). 




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THE LIBRARY 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF TEXAS 



PRESENTED BY 
LEWIS ULYSSES HANKE 

DIRECTOR 

INSTITUTE OF LATIN AMERICAN 

STUDIES 





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