Costa Rica

Costa Rica

The Legal History of Costa Rica

This section provides an overview of Costa Rica, as follows:

Money and Credit

There are three important banks, the Anglo-Costa Rican Bank, with a capital of £120,000, the Bank of Costa Rica (£200,000), and the Commercial Bank of Costa Rica (£100,000), founded in 1905. On the 25th of April 1900 a law was enacted for the regulation of the constitution, capital, note emission and metallic reserves of banks. On the 24th of October 1896 an act was passed for the adoption of a gold coinage, and the execution of this act was decreed on the 17th of April 1900. The monetary unit is the gold colon weighing .778 gramme, .900 fine, and thus worth about 23d. It is legally equivalent to the silver peso, which continues in circulation. The gold coins of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany are legally current. The metric system of weights and measures was introduced by law in 1884, but the old Spanish system is still in use.

Constitution and Government

Costa Rica is governed under a constitution of 1870, which, however, only came into force in 1882, and has often been modified. The legislative power resides in a House of Representatives, consisting of about 30 to 40 deputies, or one for every 8000 inhabitants. The deputies are chosen for a term of four years by local electoral colleges, whose members are returned by the votes of all self-supporting citizens. One-half of the chamber retires automatically every two years. The president and three vice-presidents constitute the executive. They are assisted by a cabinet of four ministers, representing the departments of the interior, police and public works; foreign affairs, justice, religion and education; finance and commerce; war and marine. For purposes of local administration the state is divided into five provinces, Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia and San José, and two maritime districts (comarcas), Limon and Puntarenas. All these divisions except Guanacaste—which takes its name from a variety of mimosa very common in the province—are synonymous with their chief towns; and each is controlled by a governor or prefect appointed by the president. Justice is administered by a supreme court, two courts of appeal, and the court of cassation, which sit in San José, and are supplemented by various inferior tribunals.

Indian Rights

The Indians were enslaved, and their welfare was wholly subordinated to the quest for gold. From 1666 onwards both coasts were ravaged by pirates, who completed the ruin of the country. Diego de la Haya y Fernandez, governor in 1718, reported to the crown that no province of Spanish America was in so wretched a condition. Cocoa-beans were the current coinage. Tomás de Acosta, governor from 1797 to 1809, confirmed this report, and stated 222 that the Indians were clothed in bark, and compelled in many cases to borrow even this primitive attire when the law required their attendance at church.


On the 15th of September 1821 Costa Rica, with the other Central American provinces, revolted and joined the Mexican empire under the dynasty of Iturbide; but this subjection never became popular, and, on the establishment of a Mexican republic in 1823, hostilities broke out between the Conservatives, who desired to maintain the union, and the Liberals, who wished to set up an independent republic. The opposing factions met near the Ochomogo Pass; the republicans were victorious, and the seat of government was transferred from Cartago, the old capital, to San José, the Liberal headquarters.

From 1824 to 1839 Costa Rica joined the newly formed Republic of the United States of Central America; but the authority of the central government proved little more than nominal, and the Costa Ricans busied themselves with trade and abstained from politics. The exact political status of the country was not, however, definitely assured until 1848, when an independent republic was again proclaimed. In 1856-60 the state was involved in war with the adventurer William Walker (see Central America); but its subsequent history has been one of immunity from political disturbances, other than boundary disputes, and occasional threats of revolution, due chiefly to unsatisfactory economic conditions. The attempt of J. R. Barrios, president of Guatemala, to restore federal unity to Central America failed in 1885, and had little influence on Costa Rican affairs.

In 1897 the state joined the Greater Republic of Central America, established in 1895 by Honduras, Nicaragua and Salvador, but dissolved in 1898. The boundary question between Costa Rica and Nicaragua was referred to the arbitration of the president of the United States, who gave his award in 1888, confirming a treaty of 1858; further difficulties arising from the work of demarcation were settled by treaty in 1896. The boundary between Costa Rica and Panama (then a province of Colombia) was fixed by the arbitration of the French president, who gave his award on the 15th of September 1900. The frontiers delimited in accordance with these awards have already been described.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)


See Also

  • Legal System
  • Country
  • Jurisdiction
  • Immigration
  • Consulate


See Also

  • Legal Biography
  • Legal Traditions
  • Historical Laws
  • History of Law

Further Reading

Hierarchical Display of Costa Rica

Geography > Political geography > OAS countries

Costa Rica

Concept of Costa Rica

See the dictionary definition of Costa Rica.

Characteristics of Costa Rica

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Translation of Costa Rica

Thesaurus of Costa Rica

Geography > Political geography > OAS countries > Costa Rica

See also

  • Republic of Nicaragua
  • Republic of Honduras
  • Republic of Costa Rica