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The Hispanic Nations of the New World by William R. Shepherd

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At the time of the American Revolution most of the New World
still belonged to Spain and Portugal, whose captains and
conquerors had been the first to come to its shores. Spain had
the lion's share, but Portugal held Brazil, in itself a vast land
of unsuspected resources. No empire mankind had ever yet known
rivaled in size the illimitable domains of Spain and Portugal in
the New World; and none displayed such remarkable contrasts in
land and people. Boundless plains and forests, swamps and
deserts, mighty mountain chains, torrential streams and majestic
rivers, marked the surface of the country. This vast territory
stretched from the temperate prairies west of the Mississippi
down to the steaming lowlands of Central America, then up through
tablelands in the southern continent to high plateaus, miles
above sea level, where the sun blazed and the cold, dry air was
hard to breathe, and then higher still to the lofty peaks of the
Andes, clad in eternal snow or pouring fire and smoke from their
summits in the clouds, and thence to the lower temperate valleys,
grassy pampas, and undulating hills of the far south.

Scattered over these vast colonial domains in the Western World
were somewhere between 12,000,000 and 19,000,000 people subject
to Spain, and perhaps 3,000,000, to Portugal; the great majority
of them were Indians and negroes, the latter predominating in the
lands bordering on the Caribbean Sea and along the shores of
Brazil. Possibly one-fourth of the inhabitants came of European
stock, including not only Spaniards and their descendants but
also the folk who spoke English in the Floridas and French in

During the centuries which had elapsed since the entry of the
Spaniards and Portuguese into these regions an extraordinary
fusion of races had taken place. White, red, and black had
mingled to such an extent that the bulk of the settled population
became half-caste. Only in the more temperate regions of the far
north and south, where the aborigines were comparatively few or
had disappeared altogether, did the whites remain racially
distinct. Socially the Indian and the negro counted for little.
They constituted the laboring class on whom all the burdens fell
and for whom advantages in the body politic were scant. Legally
the Indian under Spanish rule stood on a footing of equality with
his white fellows, and many a gifted native came to be reckoned a
force in the community, though his social position remained a
subordinate one. Most of the negroes were slaves and were more
kindly treated by the Spaniards than by the Portuguese.

Though divided among themselves, the Europeans were everywhere
politically dominant. The Spaniard was always an individualist.
Besides, he often brought from the Old World petty provincial
traditions which were intensified in the New. The inhabitants of
towns, many of which had been founded quite independently of one
another, knew little about their remote neighbors and often were
quite willing to convert their ignorance into prejudice: The
dweller in the uplands and the resident on the coast were wont to
view each other with disfavor. The one was thought heavy and
stupid, the other frivolous and lazy. Native Spaniards regarded
the Creoles, or American born, as persons who had degenerated
more or less by their contact with the aborigines and the
wilderness. For their part, the Creoles looked upon the Spaniards
as upstarts and intruders, whose sole claim to consideration lay
in the privileges dispensed them by the home government. In
testimony of this attitude they coined for their oversea kindred
numerous nicknames which were more expressive than complimentary.
While the Creoles held most of the wealth and of the lower
offices, the Spaniards enjoyed the perquisites and emoluments of
the higher posts.

Though objects of disdain to both these masters, the Indians
generally preferred the Spaniard to the Creole. The Spaniard
represented a distant authority interested in the welfare of its
humbler subjects and came less into actual daily contact with the
natives. While it would hardly be correct to say that the
Spaniard was viewed as a protector and the Creole as an
oppressor, yet the aborigines unconsciously made some such hazy
distinction if indeed they did not view all Europeans with
suspicion and dislike. In Brazil the relation of classes was much
the same, except that here the native element was much less
conspicuous as a social factor.

These distinctions were all the more accentuated by the absence
both of other European peoples and of a definite middle class of
any race. Everywhere in the areas tenanted originally by
Spaniards and Portuguese the European of alien stock was
unwelcome, even though he obtained a grudging permission from the
home governments to remain a colonist. In Brazil, owing to the
close commercial connections between Great Britain and Portugal,
foreigners were not so rigidly excluded as in Spanish America.
The Spaniard was unwilling that lands so rich in natural
treasures should be thrown open to exploitation by others, even
if the newcomer professed the Catholic faith. The heretic was
denied admission as a matter of course. Had the foreigner been
allowed to enter, the risk of such exploitation doubtless would
have been increased, but a middle class might have arisen to weld
the the discordant factions into a society which had common
desires and aspirations. With the development of commerce and
industry, with the growth of activities which bring men into
touch with each other in everyday affairs, something like a
solidarity of sentiment might have been awakened. In its absence
the only bond among the dominant whites was their sense of
superiority to the colored masses beneath them.

Manual labor and trade had never attracted the Spaniards and the
Portuguese. The army, the church, and the law were the three
callings that offered the greatest opportunity for distinction.
Agriculture, grazing, and mining they did not disdain, provided
that superintendence and not actual work was the main requisite.
The economic organization which the Spaniards and Portuguese
established in America was naturally a more or less faithful
reproduction of that to which they had been accustomed at home.
Agriculture and grazing became the chief occupations. Domestic
animals and many kinds of plants brought from Europe throve
wonderfully in their new home. Huge estates were the rule; small
farms, the exception. On the ranches and plantations vast droves
of cattle, sheep, and horses were raised, as well as immense
crops. Mining, once so much in vogue, had become an occupation of
secondary importance.

On their estates the planter, the ranchman, and the mine owner
lived like feudal overlords, waited upon by Indian and negro
peasants who also tilled the fields, tended the droves, and dug
the earth for precious metals and stones. Originally the natives
had been forced to work under conditions approximating actual
servitude, but gradually the harsher features of this system had
given way to a mode of service closely resembling peonage. Paid a
pitifully small wage, provided with a hut of reeds or sundried
mud and a tiny patch of soil on which to grow a few hills of the
corn and beans that were his usual nourishment, the ordinary
Indian or half-caste laborer was scarcely more than a beast of
burden, a creature in whom civic virtues of a high order were not
likely to develop. If he betook himself to the town his possible
usefulness lessened in proportion as he fell into drunken or
dissolute habits, or lapsed into a state of lazy and vacuous
dreaminess, enlivened only by chatter or the rolling of a
cigarette. On the other hand, when employed in a capacity where
native talent might be tested, he often revealed a power of
action which, if properly guided, could be turned to excellent
account. As a cowboy, for example, he became a capital horseman,
brave, alert, skillful, and daring.

Commerce with Portugal and Spain was long confined to yearly
fairs and occasional trading fleets that plied between fixed
points. But when liberal decrees threw open numerous ports in the
mother countries to traffic and the several colonies were given
also the privilege of exchanging their products among themselves,
the volume of exports and imports increased and gave an impetus
to activity which brought a notable release from the torpor and
vegetation characterizing earlier days. Yet, even so,
communication was difficult and irregular. By sea the distances
were great and the vessels slow. Overland the natural obstacles
to transportation were so numerous and the methods of conveyance
so cumbersome and expensive that the people of one province were
practically strangers to their neighbors.

Matters of the mind and of the soul were under the guardianship
of the Church. More than merely a spiritual mentor, it controlled
education and determined in large measure the course of
intellectual life. Possessed of vast wealth in lands and
revenues, its monasteries and priories, its hospitals and
asylums, its residences of ecclesiastics, were the finest
buildings in every community, adorned with the masterpieces of
sculptors and painters. A village might boast of only a few
squalid huts, yet there in the "plaza," or central square, loomed
up a massively imposing edifice of worship, its towers pointing
heavenward, the sign and symbol of triumphant power.

The Church, in fact, was the greatest civilizing agency that
Spain and Portugal had at their disposal. It inculcated a
reverence for the monarch and his ministers and fostered a
deep-rooted sentiment of conservatism which made disloyalty and
innovation almost sacrilegious. In the Spanish colonies in
particular the Church not only protected the natives against the
rapacity of many a white master but taught them the rudiments of
the Christian faith, as well as useful arts and trades. In remote
places, secluded so far as possible from contact with Europeans,
missionary pioneers gathered together groups of neophytes whom
they rendered docile and industrious, it is true, but whom they
often deprived of initiative and selfreliance and kept illiterate
and superstitious.

Education was reserved commonly for members of the ruling class.
As imparted in the universities and schools, it savored strongly
of medievalism. Though some attention was devoted to the natural
sciences, experimental methods were not encouraged and found no
place in lectures and textbooks. Books, periodicals, and other
publications came under ecclesiastical inspection, and a vigilant
censorship determined what was fit for the public to read.

Supreme over all the colonial domains was the government of their
majesties, the monarchs of Spain and Portugal. A ministry and a
council managed the affairs of the inhabitants of America and
guarded their destinies in accordance with the theories of
enlightened despotism then prevailing in Europe. The Spanish
dominions were divided into viceroyalties and subdivided into
captaincies general, presidencies, and intendancies. Associated
with the high officials who ruled them were audiencias, or
boards, which were at once judicial and administrative. Below
these individuals and bodies were a host of lesser functionaries
who, like their superiors, held their posts by appointment. In
Brazil the governor general bore the title of viceroy and carried
on the administration assisted by provincial captains, supreme
courts, and local officers.

This control was by no means so autocratic as it might seem.
Portugal had too many interests elsewhere, and was too feeble
besides, to keep tight rein over a territory so vast and a
population so much inclined as the Brazilian to form itself into
provincial units, jealous of the central authority. Spain, on its
part, had always practised the good old Roman rule of "divide and
govern." Its policy was to hold the balance among officials,
civil and ecclesiastical, and inhabitants, white and colored. It
knew how strongly individualistic the Spaniard was and realized
the full force of the adage, "I obey, but I do not fulfill! "
Legislatures and other agencies of government directly
representative of the people did not exist in Spanish or
Portuguese America. The Spanish cabildo, or town council,
however, afforded an opportunity for the expression of the
popular will and often proved intractable. Its membership was
appointive, elective, hereditary, and even purchasable, but the
form did not affect the substance. The Spanish Americans had an
instinct for politics. "Here all men govern," declared one of the
viceroys; "the people have more part in political discussions
than in any other provinces in the world; a council of war sits
in every house."


The movement which led eventually to the emancipation of the
colonies differed from the local uprisings which occurred in
various parts of South America during the eighteenth century.
Either the arbitrary conduct of individual governors or excessive
taxation had caused the earlier revolts. To the final revolution
foreign nations and foreign ideas gave the necessary impulse. A
few members of the intellectual class had read in secret the
writings of French and English philosophers. Othershad traveled
abroad and came home to whisper to their countrymen what they had
seen and heard in lands more progressive than Spain and Portugal.
The commercial relations, both licit and illicit, which Great
Britain had maintained with several of the colonies had served to
diffuse among them some notions of what went on in the busy world

By gaining its independence, the United States had set a
practical example of what might be done elsewhere in America.
Translated into French, the Declaration of Independence was read
and commented upon by enthusiasts who dreamed of the possibility
of applying its principles in their own lands. More powerful
still were the ideas liberated by the French Revolution and
Napoleon. Borne across the ocean, the doctrines of "Liberty,
Fraternity, Equality "stirred the ardent-minded to thoughts of
action, though the Spanish and Portuguese Americans who schemed
and plotted were the merest handful. The seed they planted was
slow to germinate among peoples who had been taught to regard
things foreign as outlandish and heretical. Many years therefore
elapsed before the ideas of the few became the convictions of the
masses, for the conservatism and loyalty of the common people
were unbelieveably steadfast.

Not Spanish and Portuguese America, but Santo Domingo, an island
which had been under French rule since 1795 and which was
tenanted chiefly by ignorant and brutalized negro slaves, was the
scene of the first effectual assertion of independence in the
lands originally colonized by Spain. Rising in revolt against
their masters, the negroes had won complete control under their
remarkable commander, Toussaint L'Ouverture, when Napoleon
Bonaparte, then First Consul, decided to restore the old regime.
But the huge expedition which was sent to reduce the island ended
in absolute failure. After a ruthless racial warfare,
characterized by ferocity on both sides, the French retired. In
1804 the negro leaders proclaimed the independence of the island
as the "Republic of Haiti," under a President who, appreciative
of the example just set by Napoleon, informed his followers that
he too had assumed the august title of "Emperor"! His immediate
successor in African royalty was the notorious Henri Christophe,
who gathered about him a nobility garish in color and taste--
including their sable lordships, the "Duke of Marmalade" and the
"Count of Lemonade"; and who built the palace of "Sans Souci" and
the countryseats of "Queen's Delight" and "King's Beautiful
View," about which cluster tales of barbaric pleasure that rival
the grim legends clinging to the parapets and enshrouding the
dungeons of his mountain fortress of "La Ferriere." None of these
black or mulatto potentates, however, could expel French
authority from the eastern part of Santo Domingo. That task was
taken in hand by the inhabitants themselves, and in 1809 they
succeeded in restoring the control of Spain. Meanwhile events
which had been occurring in South America prepared the way for
the movement that was ultimately to banish the flags of both
Spain and Portugal from the continents of the New World. As the
one country had fallen more or less tinder the influence of
France, so the other had become practically dependent upon Great
Britain. Interested in the expansion of its commerce and viewing
the outlying possessions of peoples who submitted to French
guidance as legitimate objects for seizure, Great Britain in 1797
wrested Trinidad from the feeble grip of Spain and thus acquired
a strategic position very near South America itself. Haiti,
Trinidad, and Jamaica, in fact, all became Centers of
revolutionary agitation and havens of refuge for. Spanish
American radicals in the troublous years to follow.

Foremost among the early conspirators was the Venezuelan,
Francisco de Miranda, known to his fellow Americans of Spanish
stock as the "Precursor." Napoleon once remarked of him: "He is a
Don Quixote, with this difference--he is not crazy . . . . The
man has sacred fire in his soul." An officer in the armies of
Spain and of revolutionary France and later a resident of London,
Miranda devoted thirty years of his adventurous life to the cause
of independence for his countrymen. With officials of the British
Government he labored long and zealously, eliciting from them
vague promises of armed support and some financial aid. It was in
London, also, that he organized a group of sympathizers into the
secret society called the "Grand Lodge of America." With it, or
with its branches in France and Spain, many of the leaders of the
subsequent revolution came to be identified.

In 1806, availing himself of the negligence of the United States
and having the connivance of the British authorities in Trinidad,
Miranda headed two expeditions to the coast of Venezuela. He had
hoped that his appearance would be the signal for a general
uprising; instead, he was treated with indifference. His
countrymen seemed to regard him as a tool of Great Britain, and
no one felt disposed to accept the blessings of liberty under
that guise. Humiliated, but not despairing, Miranda returned to
London to await a happier day.

Two British expeditions which attempted to conquer the region
about the Rio de la Plata in 1806 and 1807 were also frustrated
by this same stubborn loyalty. When the Spanish viceroy fled, the
inhabitants themselves rallied to the defense of the country and
drove out the invaders. Thereupon the people of Buenos Aires,
assembled in cabildo abierto, or town meeting, deposed the
viceroy and chose their victorious leader in his stead until a
successor could be regularly appointed.

Then, in 1808, fell the blow which was to shatter the bonds
uniting Spain to its continental dominions in America. The
discord and corruption which prevailed in that unfortunate
country afforded Napoleon an opportunity to oust its feeble king
and his incompetent son, Ferdinand, and to place Joseph Bonaparte
on the throne. But the master of Europe underestimated the
fighting ability of Spaniards. Instead of humbly complying with
his mandate, they rose in arms against the usurper and created a
central junta, or revolutionary committee, to govern in the name
of Ferdinand VII, as their rightful ruler.

The news of this French aggression aroused in the colonies a
spirit of resistance as vehement as that in the mother country.
Both Spaniards and Creoles repudiated the "intruder king."
Believing, as did their comrades oversea, that Ferdinand was a
helpless victim in the hands of Napoleon, they recognized the
revolutionary government and sent great sums of money to Spain to
aid in the struggle against the French. Envoys from Joseph
Bonaparte seeking an acknowledgment of his rule were angrily
rejected and were forced to leave.

The situation on both sides of the ocean was now an extraordinary
one. Just as the junta in Spain had no legal right to govern, so
the officials in the colonies, holding their posts by appointment
from a deposed king, had no legal authority, and the people would
not allow them to accept new commissions from a usurper. The
Church, too, detesting Napoleon as the heir of a revolution that
had undermined the Catholic faith and regarding him as a godless
despot who had made the Pope a captive, refused to recognize the
French pretender. Until Ferdinand VII could be restored to his
throne, therefore, the colonists had to choose whether they would
carry on the administration under the guidance of the
self-constituted authorities in Spain, or should themselves
create similar organizations in each of the colonies to take
charge of affairs. The former course was favored by the official
element and its supporters among the conservative classes, the
latter by the liberals, who felt that they had as much right as
the people of the mother country to choose the form of government
best suited to their interests.

Each party viewed the other with distrust. Opposition to the more
democratic procedure, it was felt, could mean nothing less than
secret submission to the pretensions of Joseph Bonaparte; whereas
the establishment in America of any organizations like those in
Spain surely indicated a spirit of disloyalty toward Ferdinand
VII himself. Under circumstances like these, when the junta and
its successor, the council of regency, refused to make
substantial concessions to the colonies, both parties were
inevitably drifting toward independence. In the phrase of Manuel
Belgrano, one of the great leaders in the viceroyalty of La
Plata, "our old King or none" became the watchword that gradually
shaped the thoughts of Spanish Americans.

When, therefore, in 1810, the news came that the French army had
overrun Spain, democratic ideas so long cherished in secret and
propagated so industriously by Miranda and his followers at last
found expression in a series of uprisings in the four
viceroyalties of La Plata, Peru, New Granada, and New Spain. But
in each of these viceroyalties the revolution ran a different
course. Sometimes it was the capital city that led off; sometimes
a provincial town; sometimes a group of individuals in the
country districts. Among the actual participants in the various
movements very little harmony was to be found. Here a particular
leader claimed obedience; there a board of self-chosen
magistrates held sway; elsewhere a town or province refused to
acknowledge the central authority. To add to these complications,
in 1812, a revolutionary Cortes, or legislative body, assembled
at Cadiz, adopted for Spain and its dominions a constitution
providing for direct representation of the colonies in oversea
administration. Since arrangements of this sort contented many of
the Spanish Americans who had protested against existing abuses,
they were quite unwilling to press their grievances further.
Given all these evidences of division in activity and counsel,
one does not find it difficult to foresee the outcome.

On May 25, 1810, popular agitation at Buenos Aires forced the
Spanish viceroy of La Plata to resign. The central authority was
thereupon vested in an elected junta that was to govern in the
name of Ferdinand VII. Opposition broke out immediately. The
northern and eastern parts of the viceroyalty showed themselves
quite unwilling to obey these upstarts. Meantime, urged on by
radicals who revived the Jacobin doctrines of revolutionary
France, the junta strove to suppress in rigorous fashion any
symptoms of disaffection; but it could do nothing to stem the
tide of separation in the rest of the viceroyalty--in Charcas
(Bolivia), Paraguay, and the Banda Oriental, or East Bank, of the

At Buenos Aires acute difference of opinion--about the extent to
which the movement should be carried and about the permanent form
of government to be adopted as well as the method of establishing
it--produced a series of political commotions little short of
anarchy. Triumvirates followed the junta into power; supreme
directors alternated with triumvirates; and constituent asmblies
came and went. Under one authority or another the name of the
viceroyalty was changed to "United Provinces of La Plata River";
a seal, a flag ,and a coat of arms were chosen; and numerous
features of the Spanish regime were abolished, including titles
of nobility, the Inquisition, the slave trade, and restrictions
on the press. But so chaotic were the conditions within and so
disastrous the campaigns without, that eventually commissioners
were sent to Europe, bearing instructions to seek a king for the
distracted country.

When Charcas fell under the control of the viceroy of Peru,
Paraguay set up a regime for itself. At Asuncion, the capital, a
revolutionary outbreak in 1811 replaced the Spanish intendant by
a triumvirate, of which the most prominent member was Dr. Jose
Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia. A lawyer by profession, familiar
with the history of Rome, an admirer of France and Napoleon, a
misanthrope and a recluse, possessing a blind faith in himself
and actuated by a sense of implacable hatred for all who might
venture to thwart his will, this extraordinary personage speedily
made himself master of the country. A population composed chiefly
of Indians, docile in temperament and submissive for many years
to the paternal rule of Jesuit missionaries, could not fail to
become pliant instruments in his hands. At his direction,
therefore, Paraguay declared itself independent of both Spain and
La Plata. This done, an obedient Congress elected Francia consul
of the republic and later invested him with the title of
dictator. In the Banda Oriental two distinct movements appeared.
Montevideo, the capital, long a center of royalist sympathies and
for some years hostile to the revolutionary government in Buenos
Aires, was reunited with La Plata in 1814. Elsewhere the people
of the province followed the fortunes of Jose Gervasio Artigas,
an able and valiant cavalry officer, who roamed through it at
will, bidding defiance to any authority not his own. Most of the
former viceroyalty of La Plata had thus, to all intents and
purposes, thrown off the yoke of Spain.

Chile was the only other province that for a while gave promise
of similar action. Here again it was the capital city that took
the lead. On receipt of the news of the occurrences at Buenos
Aires in May, 1810, the people of Santiago forced the captain
general to resign and, on the 18th of September, replaced him by
a junta of their own choosing. But neither this body, nor its
successors, nor even the Congress that assembled the following
year, could establish a permanent and effective government.
Nowhere in Spanish America, perhaps, did the lower classes count
for so little, and the upper class for so much, as in Chile.
Though the great landholders were disposed to favor a reasonable
amount of local autonomy for the country, they refused to heed
the demands of the radicals for complete independence and the
establishwent of a republic. Accordingly, in proportion as their
opponents resorted to measures of compulsion, the gentry
gradually withdrew their support and offered little resistance
when troops dispatched by the viceroy of Peru restored the
Spanish regime in 1814. The irreconcilable among the patriots
fled over the Andes to the western part of La Plata, where they
found hospitable refuge.

But of all the Spanish dominions in South America none witnessed
so desperate a struggle for emancipation as the viceroyalty of
New Granada. Learning of the catastrophe that had befallen the
mother country, the leading citizens of Caracas, acting in
conjunction with the cabildo, deposed the captain general on
April 19, 1810, and created a junta in his stead. The example was
quickly followed by most of the smaller divisions of the
province. Then when Miranda returned from England to head the
revolutionary movement, a Congress, on July 5, 1811, declared
Venezuela independent of Spain. Carried away, also, by the
enthusiasm of the moment, and forgetful of the utter
unpreparedness of the country, the Congress promulgated a federal
constitution modeled on that of the United States, which set
forth all the approved doctrines of the rights of man.

Neither Miranda nor his youthful coadjutor, Simon Bolivar, soon
to become famous in the annals of Spanish American history,
approved of this plunge into democracy. Ardent as their
patriotism was, they knew that the country needed centralized
control and not experiments in confederation or theoretical
liberty. They speedily found out, also, that they could not count
on the support of the people at large. Then, almost as if Nature
herself disapproved of the whole proceeding, a frightful
earthquake in the following year shook many a Venezuelan town
into ruins. Everywhere the royalists took heart. Dissensions
broke out between Miranda and his subordinates. Betrayed into the
hands of his enemies, the old warrior himself was sent away to
die in a Spanish dungeon. And so the "earthquake" republic

But the rigorous measures adopted by the royalists to sustain
their triumph enabled Bolivar to renew the struggle in 1813. He
entered upon a campaign which was signalized by acts of barbarity
on both sides. His declaration of "war to the death" was answered
in kind. Wholesale slaughter of prisoners, indiscriminate
pillage, and wanton destruction of property spread terror and
desolation throughout the country. Acclaimed "Liberator of
Venezuela" and made dictator by the people of Caracas, Bolivar
strove in vain to overcome the half-savage llaneros, or cowboys
of the plains, who despised the innovating aristocrats of the
capital. Though he won a few victories, he did not make the cause
of independence popular, and, realizing his failure, he retired
into New Granada.

In this region an astounding series of revolutions and
counter-revolutions had taken place. Unmindful of pleas for
cooperation, the Creole leaders in town and district, from 1810
onward, seized control of affairs in a fashion that betokened a
speedy disintegration of the country. Though the viceroy was
deposed and a general Congress was summoned to meet at the
capital, Bogota, efforts at centralization encountered opposition
in every quarter. Only the royalists managed to preserve a
semblance of unity. Separate republics sprang into being and in
1813 declared their independence of Spain. Presidents and
congresses were pitted against one another. Towns fought among
themselves. Even parishes demanded local autonomy. For a while
the services of Bolivar were invoked to force rebellious areas
into obedience to the principle of confederation, but with scant
result. Unable to agree with his fellow officers and displaying
traits of moral weakness which at this time as on previous
occasions showed that he had not yet risen to a full sense of
responsibility, the Liberator renounced the task and fled to

The scene now shifts northward to the viceroyalty of New Spain.
Unlike the struggles already described, the uprisings that began
in 1810 in central Mexico were substantially revolts of Indians
and half-castes against white domination. On the 16th of
September, a crowd of natives rose under the leadership of Miguel
Hidalgo, a parish priest of the village of Dolores. Bearing on
their banners the slogan, "Long live Ferdinand VII and down with
bad government, " the undisciplined crowd, soon to number tens of
thousands, aroused such terror by their behavior that the whites
were compelled to unite in self-defense. It mattered not whether
Hidalgo hoped to establish a republic or simply to secure for his
followers relief from oppression: in either case the whites could
expect only Indian domination. Before the trained forces of the
whites a horde of natives, so ignorant of modern warfare that
some of them tried to stop cannon balls by clapping their straw
hats over the mouths of the guns, could not stand their ground.
Hidalgo was captured and shot, but he was succeeded by Jose Maria
Morelos, also a priest. Reviving the old Aztec name for central
Mexico, he summoned a "Congress of Anahuac," which in 1813
asserted that dependence on the throne of Spain was "forever
broken and dissolved." Abler and more humane than Hidalgo, he set
up a revolutionary government that the authorities of Mexico
failed for a while to suppress.

In 1814, therefore, Spain still held the bulk of its dominions.
Trinidad, to be sure, had been lost to Great Britain, and both
Louisiana and West Florida to the United States. Royalist
control, furthermore, had ceased in parts of the viceroyalties of
La Plata and New Granada. To regain Trinidad and Louisiana was
hopeless: but a wise policy conciliation or an overwheming
display of armed force might yet restore Spanish rule where it
had been merely suspended.

Very different was the course of events in Brazil. Strangely
enough, the first impulse toward independence was given by the
Portuguese royal family. Terrified by the prospective invasion of
the country by a French army, late in 1807 the Prince Regent, the
royal family, and a host of Portuguese nobles and commoners took
passage on British vessels and sailed to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil
thereupon became the seat of royal government and immediately
assumed an importance which it could never have attained as a
mere dependency. Acting under the advice of the British minister,
the Prince Regent threw open the ports of the colony to the ships
of all nations friendly to Portugal, gave his sanction to a
variety of reforms beneficial to commerce and industry, and even
permitted a printing press to be set up, though only for official
purposes. From all these benevolent activities Brazil derived
great advantages. On the other hand, the Prince Regent's aversion
to popular education or anything that might savor of democracy
and the greed of his followers for place and distinction
alienated his colonial subjects. They could not fail to contrast
autocracy in Brazil with the liberal ideas that had made headway
elsewhere in Spanish America. As a consequence a spirit of unrest
arose which boded ill for the maintenance of Portuguese rule.


The restoration of Ferdinand VII to his throne in 1814 encouraged
the liberals of Spain, no less than the loyalists of Spanish
America, to hope that the "old King" would now grant a new
dispensation. Freedom of commerce and a fair measure of popular
representation in government, it was believed, would compensate
both the mother country for the suffering which it had undergone
during the Peninsular War and the colonies for the trials to
which loyalty had been subjected. But Ferdinand VII was a typical
Bourbon. Nothing less than an absolute reestablishment of the
earlier regime would satisfy him. On both sides of the Atlantic,
therefore, the liberals were forced into opposition to the crown,
although they were so far apart that they could not cooperate
with each other. Independence was to be the fortune of the
Spanish Americans, and a continuance of despotism, for a while,
the lot of the Spaniards.

As the region of the viceroyalty of La Plata had been the first
to cast off the authority of the home government, so it was the
first to complete its separation from Spain. Despite the fact
that disorder was rampant everywhere and that most of the local
districts could not or would not send deputies, a congress that
assembled at Tucuman voted on July 9, 1816, to declare the
"United Provinces in South America" independent. Comprehensive
though the expression was, it applied only to the central part of
the former viceroyalty, and even there it was little more than an
aspiration. Mistrust of the authorities at Buenos Aires,
insistence upon provincial autonomy, failure to agree upon a
particular kind of republican government, and a lingering
inclination to monarchy made progress toward national unity
impossible. In 1819, to be sure, a constitution was adopted,
providing for a centralized government, but in the country at
large it encountered too much resistance from those who favored a
federal government to become effective.

In the Banda Oriental, over most of which Artigas and his
horsemen held sway, chaotic conditions invited aggression from
the direction of Brazil. This East Bank of the Uruguay had long
been disputed territory between Spain and Portugal; and now its
definite acquisition by the latter seemed an easy undertaking.
Instead, however, the task turned out to be a truly formidable
one. Montevideo, feebly defended by the forces of the Government
at Buenos Aires, soon capitulated, but four years elapsed before
the rest of the country could be subdued. Artigas fled to
Paraguay, where he fell into the clutches of Francia, never to
escape. In 1821 the Banda Oriental was annexed to Brazil as the
Cisplatine Province.

Over Paraguay that grim and somber potentate, known as "The
Supreme One"--El Supremo--presided with iron hand. In 1817
Francia set up a despotism unique in the annals of South America.
Fearful lest contact with the outer world might weaken his
tenacious grip upon his subjects, whom he terrorized into
obedience, he barred approach to the country and suffered no one
to leave it. He organized and drilled an army obedient to his
will.. When he went forth by day, attended by an escort of
cavalry, the doors and windows of houses had to be kept closed
and no one was allowed on the streets. Night he spent till a late
hour in reading and study, changing his bedroom frequently to
avoid assassination. Religious functions that might disturb the
public peace he forbade. Compelling the bishop of Asuncion to
resign on account of senile debility, Francia himself assumed the
episcopal office. Even intermarriage among the old colonial
families he prohibited, so as to reduce all to a common social
level. He attained his object. Paraguay became a quiet state,
whatever might be said of its neighbors!

Elsewhere in southern Spanish America a brilliant feat of arms
brought to the fore its most distinguished soldier. This was Jose
de San Martin of La Plata. Like Miranda, he had been an officer
in the Spanish army and had returned to his native land an ardent
apostle of independence. Quick to realize the fact that, so long
as Chile remained under royalist control, the possibility of an
attack from that quarter was a constant menace to the safety of
the newly constituted republic, he conceived the bold plan of
organizing near the western frontier an army--composed partly of
Chilean refugees and partly of his own countrymen--with which he
proposed to cross the Andes and meet the enemy on his own ground.
Among these fugitives was the able and valiant Bernardo
O'Higgins, son of an Irish officer who had been viceroy of Peru.
Cooperating with O'Higgins, San Martin fixed his headquarters at
Mendoza and began to gather and train the four thousand men whom
he judged needful for the enterprise.

By January, 1817, the "Army of the Andes" was ready. To cross the
mountains meant to transport men, horses, artillery, and stores
to an altitude of thirteen thousand feet, where the Uspallata
Pass afforded an outlet to Chilean soil. This pass was nearly a
mile higher than the Great St. Bernard in the Alps, the crossing
of which gave Napoleon Bonaparte such renown. On the 12th of
February the hosts of San Martin hurled themselves upon the
royalists entrenched on the slopes of Chacabuco and routed them
utterly. The battle proved decisive not of the fortunes of Chile
alone but of those of all Spanish South America. As a viceroy of
Peru later confessed, "it marked the moment when the cause of
Spain in the Indies began to recede."

Named supreme director by the people of Santiago, O'Higgins
fought vigorously though ineffectually to drive out the royalists
who, reinforced from Peru, held the region south of the capital.
That he failed did not deter him from having a vote taken under
military auspices, on the strength of which, on February 12,
1818, he declared Chile an independent nation, the date of the
proclamation being changed to the 1st of January, so as to make
the inauguration of the new era coincident with the entry of the
new year. San Martin, meanwhile, had been collecting
reinforcements with which to strike the final blow. On the 5th of
April, the Battle of Maipo gave him the victory he desired.
Except for a few isolated points to the southward, the power of
Spain had fallen.

Until the fall of Napoleon in 1815 it had been the native
loyalists who had supported the cause of the mother country in
the Spanish dominions. Henceforth, free from the menace of the
European dictator, Spain could look to her affairs in America,
and during the next three years dispatched twenty-five thousand
men to bring the eolonies to obedience. These soldiers began
their task in the northern part of South America, and there they
ended it--in failure. To this failure the defection of native
royalists contributed, for they were alienated not so much by the
presence of the Spanish troops as by the often merciless severity
that marked their conduct. The atrocities may have been provoked
by the behavior of their opponents; but, be this as it may, the
patriots gained recruits after each victory.

A Spanish army of more than ten thousand, under the command of
Pablo Morillo, arrived in Venezuela in April, 1815. He found the
province relatively tranquil and even disposed to welcome the
full restoration of royal government. Leaving a garrison
sufficient for the purpose of military occupation, Morillo sailed
for Cartagena, the key to New Granada. Besieged by land and sea,
the inhabitants of the town maintained for upwards of three
months a resistance which, in its heroism, privation, and
sacrifice, recalled the memorable defense of Saragossa in the
mother country against the French seven years before. With
Cartagena taken, regulars and loyalists united to stamp out the
rebellion elsewhere. At Bogoth, in particular, the new Spanish
viceroy installed by Morillo waged a savage war on all suspected
of aiding the patriot cause. He did not spare even women, and one
of his victims was a young heroine, Policarpa Salavarrieta by
name. Though for her execution three thousand soldiers were
detailed, the girl was unterrified by her doom and was earnestly
beseeching the loyalists among them to turn their arms against
the enemies of their country when a volley stretched her lifeless
on the ground.

Meanwhile Bolivar had been fitting out, in Haiti and in the Dutch
island of Curacao, an expedition to take up anew the work of
freeing Venezuela. Hardly had the Liberator landed in May, 1816,
when dissensions with his fellow officers frustrated any prospect
of success. Indeed they obliged him to seek refuge once more in
Haiti. Eventually, however, most of the patriot leaders became
convinced that, if they were to entertain a hope of success, they
must entrust their fortunes to Bolivar as supreme commander.
Their chances of success were increased furthermore by the
support of the llaneros who had been won over to the cause of
independence. Under their redoubtable chieftain, Jose Antonio
Paez, these fierce and ruthless horsemen performed many a feat of
valor in the campaigns which followed.

Once again on Venezuelan soil, Bolivar determined to transfer his
operations to the eastern part of the country, which seemed to
offer better strategic advantages than the region about Caracas.
But even here the jealousy of his officers, the insubordination
of the free lances, the stubborn resistance of the loyalists--
upheld by the wealthy and conservative classes and the able
generalship of Morillo, who had returned from New Granada--made
the situation of the Liberator all through 1817 and 1818
extremely precarious. Happily for his fading fortunes, his hands
were strengthened from abroad. The United States had recognized
the belligerency of several of the revolutionary governments in
South America and had sent diplomatic agents to them. Great
Britain had blocked every attempt of Ferdinand VII to obtain help
from the Holy Alliance in reconquering his dominions. And
Ferdinand had contributed to his own undoing by failing to heed
the urgent requests of Morillo for reinforcements to fill his
dwindling ranks. More decisive still were the services of some
five thousand British, Irish, French, and German volunteers, who
were often the mainstay of Bolivar and his lieutenants during the
later phases of the struggle, both in Venezuela and elsewhere.

For some time the Liberator had been evolving a plan of attack
upon the royalists in New Granada, similar to the offensive
campaign which San Martin had conducted in Chile. More than that,
he had conceived the idea, once independence had been attained,
of uniting the western part of the viceroyalty with Venezuela
into a single republic. The latter plan he laid down before a
Congress which assembled at Angostura in February, 1819, and
which promptly chose him President of the republic and vested him
with the powers of dictator. In June, at the head of 2100 men, he
started on his perilous journey over the Andes.

Up through the passes and across bleak plateaus the little army
struggled till it reached the banks of the rivulet of Boyaca, in
the very heart of New Granada. Here, on the 7th of August,
Bolivar inflicted on the royalist forces a tremendous defeat that
gave the deathblow to the domination of Spain in northern South
America. On his triumphal return to Angostura, the Congress
signalized the victory by declaring the whole of the viceroyalty
an independent state under the name of the "Republic of Colombia"
and chose the Liberator as its provisional President. Two years
later, a fundamental law it had adopted was ratified with certain
changes by another Congress assembled at Rosario de Cucuta, and
Bolivar was made permanent President.

Southward of Colombia lay the viceroyalty of Peru, the oldest,
richest, and most conservative of the larger Spanish dominions on
the continent. Intact, except for the loss of Chile, it had found
territorial compensation by stretching its power over the
provinces of Quito and Charcas, the one wrenched off from the
former New Granada, the other torn away from what had been La
Plata. Predominantly royalist in sentiment, it was like a huge
wedge thrust in between the two independent areas. By thus
cutting off the patriots of the north from their comrades in the
south, it threatened both with destruction of their liberty.

Again fortune intervened from abroad, this time directly from
Spain itself. Ferdinand VII, who had gathered an army of twenty
thousand men at Cadiz, was ready to deliver a crushing blow at
the colonies when in January, 1890, a mutiny among the troops and
revolution throughout the country entirely frustrated the plan.
But although that reactionary monarch was compelled to accept the
Constitution of 1819, the Spanish liberals were unwilling to
concede to their fellows in America anything more substantial
than representation in the Cortes. Independence they would not
tolerate. On the other hand, the example of the mother country in
arms against its King in the name of liberty could not fail to
give heart to the cause of liberation in the provinces oversea
and to hasten its achievement.

The first important efforts to profit by this situation were made
by the patriots in Chile. Both San Martin and O'Higgins had
perceived that the only effective way to eliminate the Peruvian
wedge was to gain control of its approaches by sea. The Chileans
had already won some success in this direction when the fiery and
imperious Scotch sailor, Thomas Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald,
appeared on the scene and offered to organize a navy. At length a
squadron was put under his command. With upwards of four thousand
troops in charge of San Martin the expedition set sail for Peru
late in August, 1820.

While Cochrane busied himself in destroying the Spanish blockade,
his comrade in arms marched up to the very gates of Lima, the
capital, and everywhere aroused enthusiasm for emancipation. When
negotiations, which had been begun by the viceroy and continued
by a special commissioner from Spain, failed to swerve the
patriot leader from his demand for a recognition of independence,
the royalists decided to evacuate the town and to withdraw into
the mountainous region of the interior. San Martin, thereupon,
entered the capital at the head of his army of liberation and
summoned the inhabitants to a town meeting at which they might
determine for themselves what action should be taken. The result
was easily foreseen. On July 28, 1821, Peru was declared
independent, and a few days later San Martin was invested with
supreme command under the title of "Protector."

But the triumph of the new Protector did not last long. For some
reason he failed to understand that the withdrawal of the
royalists from the neighborhood of the coast was merely a
strategic retreat that made the occupation of the capital a more
or less empty performance. This blunder and a variety of other
mishaps proved destined to blight his military career.
Unfortunate in the choice of his subordinates and unable to
retain their confidence; accused of irresolution and even of
cowardice; abandoned by Cochrane, who sailed off to Chile and
left the army stranded; incapable of restraining his soldiers
from indulgence in the pleasures of Lima; now severe, now lax in
an administration that alienated the sympathies of the
influential class, San Martin was indeed an unhappy figure. It
soon became clear that he must abandon all hope of ever
conquering the citadel of Spanish power in South America unless
he could prevail upon Bolivar to help him.

A junction of the forces of the two great leaders was perfectly
feasible, after the last important foothold of the Spaniards on
the coast of Venezuela had been broken by the Battle of Carabobo,
on July 24, 1821. Whether such a union would be made, however,
depended upon two things: the ultimate disposition of the
province of Quito, lying between Colombia and Peru, and the
attitude which Bolivar and San Martin themselves should assume
toward each other. A revolution of the previous year at the
seaport town of Guayaquil in that province had installed an
independent government which besought the Liberator to sustain
its existence. Prompt to avail himself of so auspicious an
opportunity of uniting this former division of the viceroyalty of
New Granada to his republic of Colombia, Bolivar appointed
Antonio Jose de Sucre, his ablest lieutenant and probably the
most efficient of all Spanish American soldiers of the time, to
assume charge of the campaign. On his arrival at Guayaquil, this
officer found the inhabitants at odds among themselves. Some,
hearkening to the pleas of an agent of San Martin, favored union
with Peru; others, yielding to the arguments of a representative
of Bolivar, urged annexation to Colombia; still others regarded
absolute independence as most desirable. Under these
circumstances Sucre for a while made little headway against the
royalists concentrated in the mountainous parts of the country
despite the partial support he received from troops which were
sent by the southern commander. At length, on May 24, 1822,
scaling the flanks of the volcano of Pichincha, near the capital
town of Quito itself, he delivered the blow for freedom. Here
Bolivar, who had fought his way overland amid tremendous
difficulties, joined him and started for Guayaquil, where he and
San Martin were to hold their memorable interview.

No characters in Spanish American history have called forth so
much controversy about their respective merits and demerits as
these two heroes of independence--Bolivar and San Martin. Even
now it seems quite impossible to obtain from the admirers of
either an opinion that does full justice to both; and foreigners
who venture to pass judgment are almost certain to provoke
criticism from one set of partisans or the other. Both Bolivar
and San Martin were sons of country gentlemen, aristocratic by
lineage and devoted to the cause of independence. Bolivar was
alert, dauntless, brilliant, impetuous, vehemently patriotic, and
yet often capricious, domineering, vain, ostentatious, and
disdainful of moral considerations--a masterful man, fertile in
intellect, fluent in speech and with pen, an inspiring leader and
one born to command in state and army. Quite as earnest, equally
courageous, and upholding in private life a higher standard of
morals, San Martin was relatively calm, cautious, almost taciturn
in manner, and slower in thought and action. He was primarily a
soldier, fitted to organize and conduct expeditions, rather than,
a man endowed with that supreme confidence in himself which
brings enthusiasm, affection, and loyalty in its train.

When San Martin arrived at Guayaquil, late in July, 1822, his
hope of annexing the province of Quito to Peru was rudely
shattered by the news that Bolivar had already declared it a part
of Colombia. Though it was outwardly cordial and even effusive,
the meeting of the two men held out no prospect of accord. In an
interchange of views which lasted but a few hours, mutual
suspicion, jealousy, and resentment prevented their reaching an
effective understanding. The Protector, it would seem, thought
the Liberator actuated by a boundless ambition that would not
endure resistance. Bolivar fancied San Martin a crafty schemer
plotting for his own advancement. They failed to agree on the
three fundamental points essential to their further cooperation.
Bolivar declined to give up the province of Quito. He refused
also to send an army into Peru unless he could command it in
person, and then he declined to undertake the expedition on the
ground that as President of Colombia he ought not to leave the
territory of the republic. Divining this pretext, San Martin
offered to serve under his orders--a feint that Bolivar parried
by protesting that he would not hear of any such self-denial on
the part of a brother officer.

Above all, the two men differed about the political form to be
adopted for the new independent states. Both of them realized
that anything like genuine democracies was quite impossible of
attainment for many years to come, and that strong
administrations would be needful to tide the Spanish Americans
over from the political inexperience of colonial days and the
disorders of revolution to intelligent self-government, which
could come only after a practical acquaintance with public
concerns on a large scale. San Martin believed that a limited
monarchy was the best form of government under the circumstances.
Bolivar held fast to the idea of a centralized or unitary
republic, in which actual power should be exercised by a life
president and an hereditary senate until the people, represented
in a lower house, should have gained a sufficient amount of
political experience.

When San Martin returned to Lima he found affairs in a worse
state than ever. The tyrannical conduct of the officer he had
left in charge had provoked an uprising that made his position
insupportable. Conscious that his mission had come to an end and
certain that, unless he gave way, a collision with Bolivar was
inevitable, San Martin resolved to sacrifice himself lest harm
befall the common cause in which both had done such yeoman
service. Accordingly he resigned his power into the hands of a
constituent congress and left the country. But when he found that
no happier fortune awaited him in Chile and in his own native
land, San Martin decided to abandon Spanish America forever and
go into selfimposed exile. Broken in health and spirit, he took
up his residence in France, a recipient of bounty from a Spaniard
who had once been his comrade in arms.

Meanwhile in the Mexican part of the viceroyalty of New Spain the
cry of independence raised by Morelos and his bands of Indian
followers had been stifled by the capture and execution of the
leader. But the cause of independence was not dead even if its
achievement was to be entrusted to other hands. Eager to emulate
the example of their brethren in South America, small parties of
Spaniards and Creoles fought to overturn the despotic rule of
Ferdinand VII, only to encounter defeat from the royalists. Then
came the Revolution of 1820 in the mother country. Forthwith
demands were heard for a recognition of the liberal regime.
Fearful of being displaced from power, the viceroy with the
support of the clergy and aristocracy ordered Agustin de
Iturbide, a Creole officer who had been an active royalist, to
quell an insurrection in the southern part of the country.

The choice of this soldier was unfortunate. Personally ambitious
and cherishing in secret the thought of independence, Iturbide,
faithless to his trust, entered into negotiations with the
insurgents which culminated February 24, 1821, in what was called
the "Plan of Iguala." It contained three main provisions, or
"guarantees," as they were termed: the maintenance of the
Catholic religion to the exclusion of all others; the
establishment of a constitutional monarchy separate from Spain
and ruled by Ferdinand himself, or, if he declined the honor, by
some other European prince; and the union of Mexicans and
Spaniards without distinction of caste or privilege. A temporary
government also, in the form of a junta presided over by the
viceroy, was to be created; and provision was made for the
organization of an "Army of the Three Guarantees."

Despite opposition from the royalists, the plan won increasing
favor. Powerless to thwart it and inclined besides to a policy of
conciliation, the new viceroy, Juan O'Donoju, agreed to ratify it
on condition--in obedience to a suggestion from Iturbide--that
the parties concerned should be at liberty, if they desired, to
choose any one as emperor, whether he were of a reigning family
or not. Thereupon, on the 28th of September, the provisional
government installed at the city of Mexico announced the
consummation of an "enterprise rendered eternally memorable,
which a genius beyond all admiration and eulogy, love and glory
of his country, began at Iguala, prosecuted and carried into
effect, overcoming obstacles almost insuparable"--and declared
the independence of a "Mexican Empire." The act was followed by
the appointment of a regency to govern until the accession of
Ferdinand VII, or some other personage, to the imperial throne.
Of this body Iturbide assumed the presidency, which carried with
it the powers of commander in chief and a salary of 120,000
pesos, paid from the day on which the Plan of Iguala was signed.
O'Donoju contented himself with membership on the board and a
salary of one-twelfth that amount, until his speedy demise
removed from the scene the last of the Spanish viceroys in North

One step more was needed. Learning that the Cortes in Spain had
rejected the entire scheme, Iturbide allowed his soldiers to
acclaim him emperor, and an unwilling Congress saw itself obliged
to ratify the choice. On July 21, 1822, the destinies of the
country were committed to the charge of Agustin the First.

As in the area of Mexico proper, so in the Central American part
of the viceroyalty of New Spain, the Spanish Revolution of 1820
had unexpected results. Here in the five little provinces
composing the captaincy general of Guatemala there was much
unrest, but nothing of a serious nature occurred until after news
had been brought of the Plan of Iguala and its immediate outcome.
Thereupon a popular assembly met at the capital town of
Guatemala, and on September 15, 1821, declared the country an
independent state. This radical act accomplished, the patriot
leaders were unable to proceed further. Demands for the
establishment of a federation, for a recognition of local
autonomy, for annexation to Mexico, were all heard, and none,
except the last, was answered. While the "Imperialists" and
"Republicans" were arguing it out, a message from Emperor Agustin
announced that he would not allow the new state to remain
independent. On submission of the matter to a vote of the
cabildos, most of them approved reunion with the northern
neighbor. Salvador alone among the provinces held out until
troops from Mexico overcame its resistance.

On the continents of America, Spain had now lost nearly all its
its possessions. In 1822 the United States had already acquired
East Florida on its own account, led off in recognizing the
independence of the several republics. Only in Peru and Charcas
the royalists still battled on behalf of the mother country. In
the West Indies, Santo Domingo followed the lead of its sister
colonies on the mainland by asserting in 1821 its independence;
but its brief independent life was snuffed out by the negroes of
Haiti, once more a republic, who spread their control over the
entire island. Cuba also felt the impulse of the times. But,
apart from the agitation of secret societies like the "Rays and
Suns of Bolivar," which was soon checked, the colony remained

In Portuguese America the knowledge of what had occurred
throughout the Spanish dominions could not fail to awaken a
desire for independence. The Prince Regent was well aware of the
discontent of the Brazilians, but he thought to allay it by
substantial concessions. In 1815 he proceeded to elevate the
colony to substantial equality with the mother country by joining
them under the title of "United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and
the Algarves." The next year the Prince Regent himself became
King under the name of John IV. The flame of discontent,
nevertheless, continued to smolder. Republican outbreaks, though
quelled without much difficulty, recurred. Even the reforms which
had been instituted by John himself while Regent, and which had
assured freer communication with the world at large, only
emphasized more and more the absurdity of permitting a feeble
little land like Portugal to retain its hold upon a region so
extensive and valuable as Brazil.

The events of 1820 in Portugal hastened the movement toward
independence. Fired by the success of their Spanish comrades, the
Portuguese liberals forthwith rose in revolt, demanded the
establishment of a limited monarchy, and insisted that the King
return to his people. In similar fashion, also, they drew up a
constitution which provided for the representation of Brazil by
deputies in a future Cortes. Beyond this they would concede no
special privileges to the colony. Indeed their idea seems to have
been that, with the King once more in Lisbon, their own liberties
would be secure and those of Brazil would be reduced to what were
befitting a mere dependency. Yielding to the inevitable, the King
decided to return to Portugal, leaving the young Crown Prince to
act as Regent in the colony. A critical moment for the little
country and its big dominion oversea had indubitably arrived.
John understood the trend of the times, for on the eve of his
departure he said to his son: "Pedro, if Brazil is to separate
itself from Portugal, as seems likely, you take the crown
yourself before any one else gets it!"

Pedro was liberal in sentiment, popular among the Brazilians, and
well-disposed toward the aspirations of the country for a larger
measure of freedom, and yet not blind to the interests of the
dynasty of Braganza. He readily listened to the urgent pleas of
the leaders of the separatist party against obeying the
repressive mandaes of the Cortes. Laws which abolished the
central government of the colony and made the various provinces
individually subject to Portugal he declined to notice. With
equal promptness he refused to heed an order bidding him return
to Portugal immediately. To a delegation of prominent Brazilians
he said emphatically: "For the good of all and the general
welfare of the nation, I shall stay." More than that, in May,
1822, he accepted from the municipality of Rio de Janeiro the
title of "Perpetual and Constitutional Defender of Brazil, " and
in a series of proclamations urged the people of the country to
begin the great work of emancipation by forcibly resisting, if
needful, any attempt at coercion.

Pedro now believed the moment had come to take the final step.
While on a journey through the province of Sao Paulo, he was
overtaken on the 7th of September, near a little stream called
the Ypiranga, by messengers with dispatches from Portugal.
Finding that the Cortes had annulled his acts and declared his
ministers guilty of treason, Pedro forthwith proclaimed Brazil an
independent state. The "cry of Ypiranga" was echoed with
tremendous enthusiasm throughout the country. When Pedro appeared
in the theater at Rio de Janeiro, a few days later, wearing on
his arm a ribbon on which were inscribed the words "Independence
or Death," he was given a tumultuous ovation. On the first day of
December the youthful monarch assumed the title of Emperor, and
Brazil thereupon took its place among the nations of America.


When the La Plata Congress at Tucuman took the decisive action
that severed the bond with Spain, it uttered a prophecy for all
Spanish America. To quote its language: "Vast and fertile
regions, climates benign and varied, abundant means of
subsistence, treasures of gold and silver . . . and fine
productions of every sort will attract to our continent
innumerable thousands of immigrants, to whom we shall open a safe
place of refuge and extend a beneficent protection." More hopeful
still were the words of a spokesman for another independent
country: "United, neither the empire of the Assyrians, the Medes
or the Persians, the Macedonian or the Roman Empire, can ever be
compared with this colossal republic."

Very different was the vision of Bolivar. While a refugee in
Jamaica he wrote: "We are a little human species; we possess a
world apart . . . new in almost all the arts and sciences, and
yet old, after a fashion, in the uses of civil society. . . .
Neither Indians nor Europeans, we are a species that lies midway
. . . . Is it conceivable that a people recently freed of its
chains can launch itself into the sphere of liberty without
shattering its wings, like Icarus, and plunging into the abyss?
Such a prodigy is inconceivable, never beheld." Toward the close
of his career he declared: "The majority are mestizos, mulattoes,
Indians, and negroes. An ignorant people is a blunt instrument
for its own destruction. To it liberty means license, patriotism
means disloyalty, and justice means vengeance." "Independence,"
he exclaimed, "is the only good we have achieved, at the cost of
everything else."

Whether the abounding confidence of the prophecy or the anxious
doubt of the vision would come true, only the future could tell.
In 1822, at all events, optimism was the watchword and the total
exclusion of Spain from South America the goal of Bolivar and his
lieutenants, as they started southward to complete the work of
emancipation which had been begun by San Martin.

The patriots of Peru, indeed, had fallen into straits so
desperate that an appeal to the Liberator offered the only hope
of salvation. While the royalists under their able and vigilant
leader, Jose Canterac, continued to strengthen their grasp upon
the interior of the country and to uphold the power of the
viceroy, the President chosen by the Congress had been driven by
the enemy from Lima. A number of the legislators in wrath
thereupon declared the President deposed. Not to be outdone, that
functionary on his part declared the Congress dissolved. The
malcontents immediately proceeded to elect a new chief
magistrate, thus bringing two Presidents into the field and
inaugurating a spectacle destined to become all too common in the
subsequent annals of Spanish America.

When Bolivar arrived at Callao, the seaport of Lima, in
September, 1823, he acted with prompt vigor. He expelled one
President, converted the other into a passive instrument of his
will, declined to promulgate a constitution that the Congress had
prepared, and, after obtaining from that body an appointment to
supreme command, dissolved the Congress without further ado.
Unfortunately none of these radical measures had any perceptible
effect upon the military situation. Though Bolivar gathered
together an army made up of Colombians, Peruvians, and remnants
of San Martin's force, many months elapsed before he could
venture upon a serious campaign. Then events in Spain played into
his hands. The reaction that had followed the restoration of
Ferdinand VII to absolute power crossed the ocean and split the
royalists into opposing factions. Quick to seize the chance thus
afforded, Bolivar marched over the Andes to the plain of Junin.
There, on August 6, 1824, he repelled an onslaught by Canterac
and drove that leader back in headlong flight. Believing,
however, that the position he held was too perilous to risk an
offensive, he entrusted the military command to Sucre and
returned to headquarters.

The royalists had now come to realize that only a supreme effort
could save them. They must overwhelm Sucre before reinforcements
could reach him, and to this end an army of upwards of ten
thousand was assembled. On the 9th of December it encountered
Sucre and his six thousand soldiers in the valley of Ayacucho, or
"Corner of Death," where the patriot general had entrenched his
army with admirable skill. The result was a total defeat for the
royalists--the Waterloo of Spain in South America. The battle
thus won by ragged and hungry soldiers--whose countersign the
night before had been "bread and cheese"--threw off the yoke of
the mother country forever. The viceroy fell wounded into their
hands and Canterac surrendered. On receipt of the glorious news,
the people of Lima greeted Bolivar with wild enthusiasm. A
Congress prolonged his dictatorship amid adulations that bordered
on the grotesque.

Eastward of Peru in the vast mountainous region of Charcas, on
the very heights of South America, the royalists still found a
refuge. In January, 1825, a patriot general at the town of La Paz
undertook on his own responsibility to declare the entire
province independent, alike of Spain, Peru, and the United
Provinces of La Plata. This action was too precipitous, not to
say presumptuous, to suit Bolivar and Sucre. The better to
control the situation, the former went up to La Paz and the
latter to Chuquisaca, the capital, where a Congress was to
assemble for the purpose of imparting a more orderly turn to
affairs. Under the direction of the "Marshal of Ayacucho," as
Sucre was now called, the Congress issued on the 6th of August a
formal declaration of independence. In honor of the Liberator it
christened the new republic "Bolivar"--later Latinized into
"Bolivia"--and conferred upon him the presidency so long as he
might choose to remain. In November, 1896, a new Congress which
had been summoned to draft a constitution accepted, with slight
modifications, an instrument that the Liberator himself had
prepared. That body also renamed the capital "Sucre" and chose
the hero of Ayacucho as President of the republic.

Now, the Liberator thought, was the opportune moment to impose
upon his territorial namesake a constitution embodying his ideas
of a stable government which would give Spanish Americans
eventually the political experience they needed. Providing for an
autocracy represented by a life President, it ran the gamut of
aristocracy and democracy, all the way from "censors" for life,
who were to watch over the due enforcement of the laws, down to
senators and "tribunes" chosen by electors, who in turn were to
be named by a select citizenry. Whenever actually present in the
territory of the republic, the Liberator was to enjoy supreme
command, in case he wished to exercise it.

In 1826 Simon Bolivar stood at the zenith of his glory and power.
No adherents of the Spanish regime were left in South America to
menace the freedom of its independent states. In January a
resistance kept up for nine years by a handful of royalists
lodged on the remote island of Chiloe, off the southern coast of
Chile, had been broken, and the garrison at the fortress of
Callao had laid down its arms after a valiant struggle. Among
Spanish Americans no one was comparable to the marvelous man who
had founded three great republics stretching from the Caribbean
Sea to the Tropic of Capricorn. Hailed as the "Liberator" and the
"Terror of Despots," he was also acclaimed by the people as the
"Redeemer, the First-Born Son of the New World!" National
destinies were committed to his charge, and equestrian statues
were erected in his honor. In the popular imagination he was
ranked with Napoleon as a peerless conqueror, and with Washington
as the father of his country. That megalomania should have seized
the mind of the Liberator under circumstances like these is not

Ever a zealous advocate of large states, Bolivar was an equally
ardent partisan of confederation. As president of three
republics--of Colombia actually, and of its satellites, Peru and
Bolivia, through his lieutenants--he could afford now to carry
out the plan that he had long since cherished of assembling at
the town of Panama, on Colombian soil, an "august congress"
representative of the independent countries of America. Here, on
the isthmus created by nature to join the continents, the nations
created by men should foregather and proclaim fraternal accord.
Presenting to the autocratic governments of Europe a solid front
of resistance to their pretensions as well as a visible symbol of
unity in sentiment, such a Congress by meeting periodically would
also promote friendship among the republics of the western
hemisphere and supply a convenient means of settling their

At this time the United States was regarded by its sister
republics with all the affection which gratitude for services
rendered to the cause of emancipation could evoke. Was it not
itself a republic, its people a democracy, its development
astounding, and its future radiant with hope? The pronouncement
of President Monroe, in 1823, protesting against interference on
the part of European powers with the liberties of independent
America, afforded the clearest possible proof that the great
northern republic was a natural protector, guide, and friend
whose advice and cooperation ought to be invoked. The United
States was accordingly asked to take part in the assembly--not to
concert military measures, but simply to join its fellows to the
southward in a solemn proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine by
America at large and to discuss means of suppressing the slave

The Congress that met at Panama, in June, 1826, afforded scant
encouragement to Bolivar's roseate hope of interAmerican
solidarity. Whether because of the difficulties of travel, or
because of internal dissensions, or because of the suspicion that
the megalomania of the Liberator had awakened in Spanish America,
only the four continental countries nearest the isthmus--Mexico,
Central America, Colombia, and Peru--were represented. The
delegates, nevertheless, signed a compact of "perpetual union,
league, and confederation," provided for mutual assistance to be
rendered by the several nations in time of war, and arranged to
have the Areopagus of the Americas transferred to Mexico. None of
the acts of this Congress was ratified by the republics
concerned, except the agreement for union, which was adopted by

Disheartening to Bolivar as this spectacle was, it proved merely
the first of a series of calamities which were to overshadow the
later years of the Liberator. His grandiose political structure
began to crumble, for it was built on the shifting sands of a
fickle popularity. The more he urged a general acceptance of the
principles of his autocratic constitution, the surer were his
followers that he coveted royal honors. In December he imposed
his instrument upon Peru. Then he learned that a meeting in
Venezuela, presided over by Paez, had declared itself in favor of
separation from Colombia. Hardly had he left Peru to check this
movement when an uprising at Lima deposed his representative and
led to the summons of a Congress which, in June, 1827, restored
the former constitution and chose a new President. In Quito,
also, the government of the unstable dictator was overthrown.

Alarmed by symptoms of disaffection which also appeared in the
western part of the republic, Bolivar hurried to Bogota. There in
the hope of removing the growing antagonism, he offered his
"irrevocable" resignation, as he had done on more than one
occasion before. Though the malcontents declined to accept his
withdrawal from office, they insisted upon his calling a
constitutional convention. Meeting at Ocana, in April, 1828, that
body proceeded to abolish the life tenure of the presidency, to
limit the powers of the executive, and to increase those of the
legislature. Bolivar managed to quell the opposition in
dictatorial fashion; but his prestige had by this time fallen so
low that an attempt was made to assassinate him. The severity
with which he punished the conspirators served only to diminish
still more the popular confidence which he had once enjoyed. Even
in Bolivia his star of destiny had set. An outbreak of Colombian
troops at the capital forced the faithful Sucre to resign and
leave the country. The constitution was then modified to meet the
demand for a less autocratic government, and a new chief
magistrate was installed.

Desperately the Liberator strove to ward off the impending
collapse. Tkough he recovered possession of the division of
Quito, a year of warfare failed to win back Peru, and he was
compelled to renounce all pretense of governing it. Feeble in
body and distracted in mind, he condemned bitterly the
machinations of his enemies. "There is no good faith in
Colombia," he exclaimed, "neither among men nor among nations.
Treaties are paper; constitutions, books; elections, combats;
liberty, anarchy, and life itself a torment."

But the hardest blow was yet to fall. Late in December, 1829, an
assembly at Caracas declared Venezuela a separate state. The
great republic was rent in twain, and even what was left soon
split apart. In May, 1830, came the final crash. The Congress at
Bogota drafted a constitution, providing for a separate republic
to bear the old Spanish name of "New Granada," accepted
definitely the resignation of Bolivar, and granted him a pension.
Venezuela, his native land, set up a congress of its own and
demanded that he be exiled. The division of Quito declared itself
independent, under the name of the "Republic of the Equator"
(Ecuador). Everywhere the artificial handiwork of the Liberator
lay in ruins. "America is ungovernable. Those who have served in
the revolution have ploughed the sea, " was his despairing cry.

Stricken to death, the fallen hero retired to an estate near
Santa Marta. Here, like his famous rival, San Martin, in France,
he found hospitality at the hands of a Spaniard. On December 17,
1830, the Liberator gave up his troubled soul.

While Bolivar's great republic was falling apart, the United
Provinces of La Plata had lost practically all semblance of
cohesion. So broad were their notions of liberty that the several
provinces maintained a substantial independence of one another,
while within each province the caudillos, or partisan chieftains,
fought among themselves.

Buenos Aires alone managed to preserve a measure of stability.
This comparative peace was due to the financial and commercial
measures devised by Bernardino Rivadavia, one of the most capable
statesmen of the time, and to the energetic manner in which
disorder was suppressed by Juan Manuel de Rosas, commander of the
gaucho, or cowboy, militia. Thanks also to the former leader, the
provinces were induced in 1826 to join in framing a constitution
of a unitary character, which vested in the administration at
Buenos Aires the power of appointing the local governors and of
controlling foreign affairs. The name of the country was at the
same time changed to that of the "Argentine Confederation"(c)-a
Latin rendering of "La Plata."

No sooner had Rivadavia assumed the presidency under the new
order of things than dissension at home and warfare abroad
threatened to destroy all that he had accomplished. Ignoring the
terms of the constitution, the provinces had already begun to
reject the supremacy of Buenos Aires, when the outbreak of a
struggle with Brazil forced the contending parties for a while to
unite in the face of the common enemy. As before, the object of
international dispute was the region of the Banda Oriental. The
rule of Brazil had not been oppressive, but the people of its
Cisplatine Province, attached by language and sympathy to their
western neighbors, longed nevertheless to be free of foreign
control. In April, 1825, a band of thirty-three refugees arrived
from Buenos Aires and started a revolution which spread
throughout the country. Organizing a provisional government, the
insurgents proclaimed independence of Brazil and incorporation
with the United Provinces of La Plata. As soon as the authorities
at Buenos Aires had approved this action, war was inevitable.
Though the Brazilians were decisively beaten at the Battle of
Ituzaingo, on February 20, 1827, the struggle lasted until August
28, 1828, when mediation by Great Britain led to the conclusion
of a treaty at Rio de Janeiro, by which both Brazil and the
Argentine Confederation recognized the absolute independence of
the disputed province as the republic of Uruguay.

Instead of quieting the discord that prevailed among the
Argentinos, these victories only fomented trouble. The
federalists had ousted Rivadavia and discarded the constitution,
but the federal idea for which they stood had several meanings.
To an inhabitant of Buenos Aires federalism meant domination by
the capital, not only over the province of the same name but over
the other provinces; whereas, to the people of the provinces, and
even to many of federalist faith in the province of Buenos Aires
itself, the term stood for the idea of a loose confederation in
which each provincial governor or chieftain should be practically
supreme in his own district, so long as he could maintain
himself. The Unitaries were opponents of both, except in so far
as their insistence upon a centralized form of government for the
nation would necessarily lead to the location of that government
at Buenos Aires. This peculiar dual contest between the town and
the province of Buenos Aires, and of the other provinces against
either or both, persisted for the next sixty years. In 1829,
however, a prolonged lull set in, when Rosas, the gaucho leader,
having won in company with other caudillos a decisive triumph
over the Unitaries, entered the capital and took supreme command.

In Chile the course of events had assumed quite a different
aspect. Here, in 1818, a species of constitution had been adopted
by popular vote in a manner that appeared to show remarkable
unanimity, for the books in which the "ayes" and "noes" were to
be recorded contained no entries in the negative! What the
records really prove is that O'Higgins, the Supreme Director,
enjoyed the confidence of the ruling class. In exercise of the
autocratic power entrusted to him, he now proceeded to introduce
a variety of administrative reforms of signal advantage to the
moral and material welfare of the country. But as the danger of
conquest from any quarter lessened, the demand for a more
democratic organization grew louder, until in 1822 it became so
persistent that O'Higgins called a convention to draft a new
fundamental law. But its provisions suited neither himself nor
his opponents. Thereupon, realizing that his views of the
political capacity of the people resembled those of Bolivar and
were no longer applicable, and that his reforms had aroused too
much hostility, the Supreme Director resigned his post and
retired to Peru. Thus another hero of emancipation had met the
ingratitude for which republics are notorious.

Political convulsions in the country followed the abdication of
O'Higgins. Not only had the spirit of the strife between
Unitaries and Federalists been communicated to Chile from the
neighboring republic to the eastward, but two other parties or
factions, divided on still different lines, had arisen. These
were the Conservative and the Liberal, or Bigwigs (pelucones) and
Greenhorns (pipiolos), as the adherents of the one derisively
dubbed the partisans of the other. Although in the ups and downs
of the struggle two constitutions were adopted, neither sufficed
to quiet the agitation. Not until 1830, when the Liberals
sustained an utter defeat on the field of battle, did the country
enter upon a period of quiet progress along conservative lines.
>From that time onward it presented a surprising contrast to its
fellow republics, which were beset with afflictions.

Far to the northward, the Empire of Mexico set up by Iturbide in
1822 was doomed to a speedy fall. "Emperor by divine providence,"
that ambitious adventurer inscribed on his coins, but his
countrymen knew that the bayonets of his soldiers were the actual
mainstay of his pretentious title. Neither his earlier career nor
the size of his following was sufficiently impressive to assure
him popular support if the military prop gave way. His lavish
expenditures, furthermore, and his arbitrary replacement of the
Congress by a docile body which would authorize forced loans at
his command, steadily undermined his position. Apart from the
faults of Iturbide himself, the popular sentiment of a country
bordering immediately upon the United States could not fail to be
colored by the ideas and institutions of its great neighbor. So,
too, the example of what had been accomplished, in form at least,
by their kinsmen elsewhere in America was bound to wield a potent
influence on the minds of the Mexicans. As a result, their desire
for a republic grew stronger from day to day.

Iturbide, in fact, had not enjoyed his exalted rank five months
when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a young officer destined later
to become a conspicuous figure in Mexican history, started a
revolt to replace the "Empire" by a republic. Though he failed in
his object, two of Iturbide's generals joined the insurgents in
demanding a restoration of the Congress--an act which, as the
hapless "Emperor" perceived, would amount to his dethronement.
Realizing his impotence, Iturbide summoned the Congress and
announced his abdication. But instead of recognizing this
procedure, that body declared his accession itself null and void;
it agreed, however, to grant him a pension if he would leave the
country and reside in Italy. With this disposition of his person
Iturbide complied; but he soon wearied of exile and persuaded
himself that he would not lack supporters if he tried to regain
his former control in Mexico. This venture he decided to make in
complete ignorance of a decree ordering his summary execution if
he dared to set foot again on Mexican soil. He had hardly landed
in July, 1824, when he was seized and shot.

Since a constituent assembly had declared itself in favor of
establishing a federal form of republic patterned after that of
the United States, the promulgation of a constitution followed on
October 4, 1824, and Guadalupe Victoria, one of the leaders in
the revolt against Iturbide, was chosen President of the United
Mexican States. Though considerable unrest prevailed toward the
close of his term, the new President managed to retain his office
for the allotted four years. In most respects, however, the new
order of things opened auspiciously. In November, 1825, the
surrender of the fortress of San Juan de Ulua, in the harbor of
Vera Cruz, banished the last remnant of Spanish power, and two
years later the suppression of plots for the restoration of
Ferdinand VII, coupled with the expulsion of a large number of
Spaniards, helped to restore calm. There were those even who
dared to hope that the federal system would operate as smoothly
in Mexico as it had done in the United States.

But the political organization of a country so different from its
northern neighbor in population, traditions, and practices, could
not rest merely on a basis of imitation, even more or less
modified. The artificiality of the fabric became apparent enough
as soon as ambitious individuals and groups of malcontents
concerted measures to mold it into a likeness of reality. Two
main political factions soon appeared. For the form they assumed
British and American influences were responsible. Adopting a kind
of Masonic organization, the Conservatives and Centralists called
themselves Escoceses (Scottish-Rite Men), whereas the Radicals
and Federalists took the name of Yorkinos (York-Rite Men).
Whatever their respective slogans and professions of political
faith, they were little more than personal followers of rival
generals or politicians who yearned to occupy the presidential

Upon the downfall of Iturbide, the malcontents in Central America
bestirred themselves to throw off the Mexican yoke. On July
1,1823, a Congress declared the region an independent republic
under the name of the "United Provinces of Central America." In
November of the next year, following the precedent established in
Mexico, and obedient also to local demand, the new republic
issued a constitution, in accordance with which the five little
divisions of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa
Rica were to become states of a federal union, each having the
privilege of choosing its own local authorities. Immediately
Federalists and Centralists, Radicals and Conservatives, all
wished, it would seem, to impose their particular viewpoint upon
their fellows. The situation was not unlike that in the Argentine
Confederation. The efforts of Guatemala--the province in which
power had been concentrated under the colonial regime--to assert
supremacy over its fellow states, and their refusal to respect
either the federal bond or one another's rights made civil war
inevitable. The struggle which broke out among Guatemala,
Salvador, and Honduras, lasted until 1829, when Francisco
Morazan, at the head of the "Allied Army, Upholder of the Law,"
entered the capital of the republic and assumed dictatorial

Of all the Hispanic nations, however, Brazil was easily the most
stable. Here the leaders, while clinging to independence, strove
to avoid dangerous innovations in government. Rather than create
a political system for which the country was not prepared, they
established a constitutional monarchy. But Brazil itself was too
vast and its interior too difficult of access to allow it to
become all at once a unit, either in organization or in spirit.
The idea of national solidarity had as yet made scant progress.
The old rivalry which existed between the provinces of the north,
dominated by Bahia or Pernambuco, and those of the south,
controlled by Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, still made itself
felt. What the Empire amounted to, therefore, was an
agglomeration of provinces, held together by the personal
prestige of a young monarch.

Since the mother country still held parts of northern Brazil, the
Emperor entrusted the energetic Cochrane, who had performed such
valiant service for Chile and Peru, with the task of expelling
the foreign soldiery. When this had been accomplished and a
republican outbreak in the same region had been suppressed, the
more difficult task of satisfying all parties by a constitution
had to be undertaken. There were partisans of monarchy and
advocates of republicanism, men of conservative and of liberal
sympathies; disagreements, also, between the Brazilians and the
native Portuguese residents were frequent. So far as possible
Pedro desired to meet popular desires, and yet without imposing
too many limitations on the monarchy itself. But in the assembly
called to draft the constitution the liberal members made a
determined effort to introduce republican forms. Pedro thereupon
dissolved that body and in 1826 promulgated a constitution of his

The popularity of the Emperor thereafter soon began to wane,
partly because of the scandalous character of his private life,
and partly because he declined to observe constitutional
restrictions and chose his ministers at will. His insistent war
in Portugal to uphold the claims of his daughter to the throne
betrayed, or seemed to betray, dynastic ambitions. His inability
to hold Uruguay as a Brazilian province, and his continued
retention of foreign soldiers who had been employed in the
struggle with the Argentine Confederation, for the apparent
purpose of quelling possible insurrections in the future, bred
much discontent. So also did the restraints he laid upon the
press, which had been infected by the liberal movements in
neighboring republics. When he failed to subdue these outbreaks,
his rule became all the more discredited. Thereupon, menaced by a
dangerous uprising at Rio de Janeiro in 1831, he abdicated the
throne in favor of his son, Pedro, then five years of age, and
set sail for Portugal.

Under the influence of Great Britain the small European mother
country had in 1825 recognized the independence of its big
transatlantic dominion; but it was not until 1836 that the Cortes
of Spain authorized the Crown to enter upon negotiations looking
to the same action in regard to the eleven republics which had
sprung out of its colonial domain. Even then many years elapsed
before the mother country acknowledged the independence of them


Independence without liberty and statehood without respect for
law are phrases which sum up the situation in Spanish America
after the failure of Bolivar's "great design." The outcome was a
collection of crude republics, racked by internal dissension and
torn by mutual jealousy--patrias bobas, or "foolish fatherlands,"
as one of their own writers has termed them.

Now that the bond of unity once supplied by Spain had been
broken, the entire region which had been its continental domain
in America dissolved awhile into its elements. The Spanish
language, the traditions and customs of the dominant class, and a
"republican" form of government, were practically the sole ties
which remained. Laws, to be sure, had been enacted, providing for
the immediate or gradual abolition of negro slavery and for an
improvement in the status of the Indian and half-caste; but the
bulk of the inhabitants, as in colonial times, remained outside
of the body politic and social. Though the so-called
"constitutions" might confer upon the colored inhabitants all the
privileges and immunities of citizens if they could read and
write, and even a chance to hold office if they could show
possession of a sufficient income or of a professional title of
some sort, their usual inability to do either made their
privileges illusory. Their only share in public concerns lay in
performing military service at the behest of their superiors.
Even where the language of the constitutions did not exclude the
colored inhabitants directly or indirectly, practical authority
was exercised by dictators who played the autocrat, or by
"liberators" who aimed at the enjoyment of that function

Not all the dictators, however, were selfish tyrants, nor all the
liberators mere pretenders. Disturbed conditions bred by twenty
years of warfare, antique methods of industry, a backward
commerce, inadequate means of communication, and a population
ignorant, superstitious, and scant, made a strong ruler more or
less indispensable. Whatever his official designation, the
dictator was the logical successor of the Spanish viceroy or
captain general, but without the sense of responsibility or the
legal restraint of either. These circumstances account for that
curious political phase in the development of the Spanish
American nations--the presidential despotism.

On the other hand, the men who denounced oppression,
unscrupulousness, and venality, and who in rhetorical
pronunciamentos urged the "people" to overthrow the dictators,
were often actuated by motives of patriotism, even though they
based their declarations on assumptions and assertions, rather
than on principles and facts. Not infrequently a liberator of
this sort became "provisional president" until he himself, or
some person of his choice, could be elected "constitutional
president"--two other institutions more or less peculiar to
Spanish America.

In an atmosphere of political theorizing mingled with ambition
for personal advancement, both leaders and followers were
professed devotees of constitutions. No people, it was thought,
could maintain a real republic and be a true democracy if they
did not possess a written constitution. The longer this was, the
more precise its definition of powers and liberties, the more
authentic the republic and the more genuine the democracy was
thought to be. In some countries the notion was carried still
farther by an insistence upon frequent changes in the fundamental
law or in the actual form of government, not so much to meet
imperative needs as to satisfy a zest for experimentation or to
suit the whims of mercurial temperaments. The congresses,
constituent assemblies, and the like, which drew these
instruments, were supposed to be faithful reproductions of
similar bodies abroad and to represent the popular will. In fact,
however, they were substantially colonial cabildos, enlarged into
the semblance of a legislature, intent upon local or personal
concerns, and lacking any national consciousness. In any case the
members were apt to be creatures of a republican despot or else
delegates of politicians or petty factions.

Assuming that the leaders had a fairly clear conception of what
they wanted, even if the mass of their adherents did not, it is
possible to aline the factions or parties somewhat as follows: on
the one hand, the unitary, the military, the clerical, the
conservative, and the moderate; on the other,the federalist, the
civilian, the lay, the liberal, and the radical. Interspersed
among them were the advocates of a presidential or congressional
system like that of the United States, the upholders of a
parliamentary regime like that of European nations, and the
supporters of methods of government of a more experimental kind.
Broadly speaking, the line of cleavage was made by opinions,
concerning the form of government and by convictions regarding
the relations of Church and State. These opinions were mainly a
product of revolutionary experience; these convictions, on the
other hand, were a bequest from colonial times.

The Unitaries wished to have a system of government modeled upon
that of France. They wanted the various provinces made into
administrative districts over which the national authority should
exercise full sway. Their direct opponents, the Federalists,
resembled to some extent the Antifederalists rather than the
party bearing the former title in the earlier history of the
United States; but even here an exact analogy fails. They did not
seek to have the provinces enjoy local self-government or to have
perpetuated the traditions of a sort of municipal home rule
handed down from the colonial cabildos, so much as to secure the
recognition of a number of isolated villages or small towns as
sovereign states--which meant turning them over as fiefs to their
local chieftains. Federalism, therefore, was the Spanish American
expression for a feudalism upheld by military lordlets and their

Among the measures of reform introduced by one republic or
another during the revolutionary period, abolition of the
Inquisition had been one of the foremost; otherwise comparatively
little was done to curb the influence of the Church. Indeed the
earlier constitutions regularly contained articles declaring
Roman Catholicism the sole legal faith as well as the religion of
the state, and safeguarding in other respects its prestige in the
community. Here was an institution, wealthy, proud, and
influential, which declined to yield its ancient prerogatives and
privileges and to that end relied upon the support of clericals
and conservatives who disliked innovations of a democratic sort
and viewed askance the entry of immigrants professing an alien
faith. Opposed to the Church stood governments verging on
bankruptcy, desirous of exercising supreme control, and dominated
by individuals eager to put theories of democracy into practice
and to throw open the doors of the republic freely to newcomers
from other lands. In the opinion of these radicals the Church
ought to be deprived both of its property and of its monopoly of
education. The one should be turned over to the nation, to which
it properly belonged, and should be converted into public
utilities; the other should be made absolutely secular, in order
to destroy clerical influence over the youthful mind. In this
program radicals and liberals concurred with varying degrees of
intensity, while the moderates strove to hold the balance between
them and their opponents.

Out of this complex situation civil commotions were bound to
arise. Occasionally these were real wars, but as a rule only
skirmishes or sporadic insurrections occurred. They were called
"revolutions," not because some great principle was actually at
stake but because the term had been popular ever since the
struggle with Spain. As a designation for movements aimed at
securing rotation in office, and hence control of the treasury,
it was appropriate enough! At all events, whether serious or
farcical, the commotions often involved an expenditure in life
and money far beyond the value of the interests affected.
Further, both the prevalent disorder and the centralization of
authority impelled the educated and wellto-do classes to take up
their residence at the seat of government. Not a few of the
uprisings were, in fact, protests on the part of the neglected
folk in the interior of the country against concentration of
population, wealth, intellect, and power in the Spanish American

Among the towns of this sort was Buenos Aires. Here, in 1829,
Rosas inaugurated a career of rulership over the Argentine
Confederation, culminating in a despotism that made him the most
extraordinary figure of his time. Originally a stockfarmer and
skilled in all the exercises of the cowboy, he developed an
unusual talent for administration. His keen intelligence, supple
statecraft, inflexibility of purpose, and vigor of action, united
to a shrewd understanding of human follies and passions, gave to
his personality a dominance that awed and to his word of command
a power that humbled. Over his fellow chieftains who held the
provinces in terrorized subjection, he won an ascendancy that
insured compliance with his will. The instincts of the multitude
he flattered by his generous simplicity, while he enlisted the
support of the responsible class by maintaining order in the
countryside. The desire, also, of Buenos Aires to be paramount
over the other provinces had no small share in strengthening his

Relatively honest in money matters, and a stickler for precision
and uniformity, Rosas sought to govern a nation in the
rough-and-ready fashion of the stock farm. A creature of his
environment, no better and no worse than his associates, but only
more capable than they, and absolutely convinced that pitiless
autocracy was the sole means of creating a nation out of chaotic
fragments, this "Robespierre of South America" carried on his
despotic sway, regardless of the fury of opponents and the menace
of foreign intervention.

During the first three years of his control, however, except for
the rigorous suppression of unitary movements and the muzzling of
the press, few signs appeared of the "black night of Argentine
history "which was soon to close down on the land. Realizing that
the auspicious moment had not yet arrived for him to exercise the
limitless power that he thought needful, he declined an offer of
reelection from the provincial legislature, in the hope that,
through a policy of conciliation, his successor might fall a prey
to the designs of the Unitaries. When this happened, he secretly
stirred up the provinces into a renewal of the earlier
disturbances, until the evidence became overwhelming that Rosas
alone could bring peace and progress out of turmoil and
backwardness. Reluctantly the legislature yielded him the power
it knew he wanted. This he would not accept until a "popular"
vote of some 9000 to 4 confirmed the choice. In 1835,
accordingly, he became dictator for the first of four successive
terms of five years.

Then ensued, notably in Buenos Aires itself, a state of affairs
at once grotesque and frightful. Not content with hunting down
and inflicting every possible, outrage upon those suspected of
sympathy with the Unitaries, Rosas forbade them to display the
light blue and white colors of their party device and directed
that red, the sign of Federalism, should be displayed on all
occasions. Pink he would not tolerate as being too attenuated a
shade and altogether too suggestive of political trimming! A band
of his followers, made up of ruffians, and called the Mazorca, or
"Ear of Corn," because of the resemblance of their close
fellowship to its adhering grains, broke into private houses,
destroyed everything light blue within reach, and maltreated the
unfortunate occupants at will. No man was safe also who did not
give his face a leonine aspect by wearing a mustache and
sidewhiskers--emblems, the one of "federalism," and the other of
"independence." To possess a visage bare of these hirsute
adornments or a countenance too efflorescent in that respect was,
under a regime of tonsorial politics, to invite personal
disaster! Nothing apparently was too cringing or servile to show
how submissive the people were to the mastery of Rosas. Private
vengeance and defamation of the innocent did their sinister work
unchecked. Even when his arbitrary treatment of foreigners had
compelled France for a while to institute a blockade of Buenos
Aires, the wily dictator utilized the incident to turn patriotic
resentment to his own advantage.

Meanwhile matters in Uruguay had come to such a pass that Rosas
saw an opportunity to extend his control in that direction also.
Placed between Brazil and the Argentine Confederation and so
often a bone of contention, the little country was hardly free
from the rule of the former state when it came near falling under
the domination of the latter. Only a few years of relative
tranquillity had elapsed when two parties sprang up in Uruguay:
the "Reds" (Colorados) and the "Whites" (Blancos). Of these, the
one was supposed to represent the liberal and the other the
conservative element. In fact, they were the followings of
partisan chieftains, whose struggles for the presidency during
many years to come retarded the advancement of a country to which
nature had been generous.

When Fructuoso Rivera, the President up to 1835, thought of
choosing some one to be elected in constitutional fashion as his
successor, he unwisely singled out Manuel Oribe, one of the
famous "Thirty-three" who had raised the cry of independence a
decade before. But instead of a henchman he found a rival. Both
of them straightway adopted the colors and bid for the support of
one of the local factions; and both appealed to the factions of
the Argentine Confederation for aid, Rivera to the Unitaries and
Oribe to the Federalists. In 1843, Oribe, at the head of an army
of Blancos and Federalists and with the moral support of Rosas,
laid siege to Montevideo. Defended by Colorados, Unitaries, and
numerous foreigners, including Giuseppe Garibaldi, the town held
out valiantly for eight years--a feat that earned for it the
title of the "New Troy." Anxious to stop the slaughter and
destruction that were injuring their nationals, France, Great
Britain, and Brazil offered their mediation; but Rosas would have
none of it. What the antagonists did he cared little, so long as
they enfeebled the country and increased his chances of
dominating it. At length, in 1845, the two European powers
established a blockade of Argentine ports, which was not lifted
until the dictator grudgingly agreed to withdraw his troops from
the neighboring republic.

More than any other single factor, this intervention of France
and Great Britain administered a blow to Rosas from which he
could not recover. The operations of their fleets and the
resistance of Montevideo had lowered the prestige of the dictator
and had raised the hopes of the Unitaries that a last desperate
effort might shake off his hated control. In May, 1851, Justo
Jose de Urquiza, one of his most trusted lieutenants, declared
the independence of his own province and called upon the others
to rise against the tyrant. Enlisting the support of Brazil,
Uruguay, and Paraguay, he assembled a "great army of liberation,"
composed of about twenty-five thousand men, at whose head he
marched to meet the redoubtable Rosas. On February 3,1852, at a
spot near Buenos Aires, the man of might who, like his
contemporary Francia in Paraguay, had held the Argentine
Confederation in thralldom for so many years, went down to final
defeat. Embarking on a British warship he sailed for England,
there to become a quiet country gentleman in a land where gauchos
and dictators were unhonored.

In the meantime Paraguay, spared from such convulsion as racked
its neighbor on the east, dragged on its secluded existence of
backwardness and stagnation. Indians and half-castes vegetated in
ignorance and docility, and the handful of whites quaked in
terror, while the inexorable Francia tightened the reins of
commercial and industrial restriction and erected forts along the
frontiers to keep out the pernicious foreigner. At his death, in
1840, men and women wept at his funeral in fear perchance, as one
historian remarks, lest he come back to life; and the priest who
officiated at the service likened the departed dictator to Caesar
and Augustus!

Paraguay was destined, however, to fall under a despot far worse
than Francia when in 1862 Francisco Solano Lopez became
President. The new ruler was a man of considerable intelligence

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