Benjamín Montes with Bourgan, Funge, and Company
Since 1810, social critics in Buenos Aires had long been concerned about young people from the lower classes—especially young men—exercising greater independence within the home. With the decline of parental authority, they were alarmed at the sight of growing numbers of young people as a potential source of disorder, and they looked to the state for solutions. As a result, the police were granted broad authority to place youngsters into jobs that would keep them off of the streets and supply businesses and homes with badly needed laborers.
In 1841, Benjamín Montes, a minor, signed a contract with Bourgan, Funge, and Company, a hat factory in Buenos Aires, to work for three years as an apprentice. At first glance, the terms of the contract seem harsh. It limited Montes's mobility, governed his behavior in and out of the factory, and the work was probably very grueling. However, this type of arrangement was also illustrative of the weakening of parental authority in favor of state authority. Montes's mother, Juana María Olivera, clearly transferred power over her son to the company (mothers could sign contracts if male heads of households were unavailable). These kinds of jobs provided greater opportunities for young people, like Benjamín, to gain enough income to make a life of their own when they reached adulthood.
This source is a part of the Parents, Children, and Political Authority in 19th century Argentina teaching module.
LONG LIVE THE FEDERATION!
General Department of Police
Buenos Aires, March 1841
Year 32 of Liberty, 25 of Independence,
and 12 of the Argentine Confederation
We, the undersigned, in accordance with the Law of November 17, 1821, agree upon the following articles:
Art. 1. We, the principals of Bourgan, Funge, and Co., declare that, in accordance with the proposal made to us by Doña Juana María Olivera to accept her son, Benjamín Montes, as apprentice in our factory, and receiving her promises of his good conduct, have agreed to do so for a term of three years, beginning at such time as we commence his training in the making of plush and silk hats at the level of perfections at which they are currently produced.
Art. 2. We commit ourselves to his maintenance and to give him shelter and thirty-five pesos monthly during the agreed-upon term of three years.
Art. 3. Benjamín Montes commits himself to perform all duties customary in the factory on Sundays and holidays, as required of him. He will maintain his cleanliness, he will be punctual in his working hours, and with his obligations away from the factory during such days when there is no work, and he will comply with his religious obligations.
Art. 4. Benjamín Montes, apprentice, will be obligated to maintain good order and harmony with the other members of the house during the agreed-upon term of three years, and to obey without hesitation whatever we or the foreman may ask of him (which will be only those things related to the factory or to its good order), and in the event that Benjamín should flee from the factory, it is the obligation of his mother to find him and to bring him back, and two days will be added to the contracted period of service for every day that he remains a fugitive.
Art. 5. I, Benjamín Montes, fully cognizant of everything contained in the previous four articles, and with the approval of My Lady Mother, declare that from this day forth I enter into apprenticeship for the agreed upon term of three years in the hat factory of Messrs. Bourgan Bunge (sic) and Co. under the conditions and obligations herein expressed, and as proof or our [agreement] they add their signatures to the one of My Lady Mother…and to the same effect it is all hereby authorized by the Chief of Police.
Archivo General de la Nación, X-31-9-5, Policía, 1823–50. Reprinted in Szuchman, Mark D. Order, Family, and Community in Buenos Aires, 1810-1860. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Annotated by Jesse Hingson.