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Title: Notes on the History of Argentine Independence
Author: Whittemore, C. W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Notes on the History of
  Argentine Independence

  ----A PAPER READ BY----


  February 6th, 1920

  Before the
  American Club
  Buenos Aires



In a former paper read before this Club, effort was made to show how
settlements in the Argentine came east and south from Perú, step by
step, until Buenos Aires was eventually founded by Juan de Garay in
1580. In Argentine history this is known as the "Refoundation" of
the city, a sentimental fiction of obscure origin for there was no
connection between the permanent work of Garay and the ephemeral
passing of Pedro de Mendoza forty-four years previously. In the
present paper, we will trace the history of Argentine Independence
as it extended west and north, step by step, reversing the march of
early settlement, until the final battles were fought and won in
Perú, the stronghold of Spanish power in South America.

The Fathers of Argentine Independence took it for granted that
the new nation would embrace all the territory included in the
Viceroyship of the River Plate, which was created in 1776 (note the
year:) as an afterthought of the Spanish Government and intended to
quiet the discontent of the Argentine people over trade restrictions
and to provide a bulwark against Portuguese aggressions, at that time
a serious menace. It included the present Republics of Argentine,
Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, then called Upper Perú, this last
having a considerable frontage on the Pacific Ocean. The population
in 1776, including slaves and tame Indians, was probably less than
five hundred thousand people, of which fully one-half lived in Upper

A noteworthy feature, the only one in all Spanish America, of the
primary Argentine colonization was that it absorbed the Indian
population. In Perú as in Mexico and elsewhere, the conquerors
implanted a feudalism which had as its principal basis the
distribution of the natives as laborers among the mine and ranch
owners. The Indian races crossed with the Spaniards but were not
assimilated. In the Argentine, on the contrary, the Indians _were_
assimilated, there was a minimum of oppression, a limitation to
human exploitation, a rudimentary recognition of equality, with
the result that at an early day the native sons were the backbone
of the settlements, assumed positions of authority, led exploring
expeditions and founded other colonies. Seeds of eventual freedom
were planted from the very beginning.

Spain settled America for the benefit of Spain, the welfare of
the colonies was never considered, and one of the fundamental
manifestations of this erroneous policy was the creation of arbitrary
trade routes in opposition to natural laws. Buenos Aires was located
at the junction of a system of rivers and was readily accessible from
Transatlantic ports, yet all legitimate commerce had to come via
Panamá and Perú, pay heavy sea and land freight charges, multiplied
internal customs dues and much unnecessary handling, to the extent
that by the time merchandise reached Buenos Aires, its cost had
been increased 500 to 600 percent. Contraband flourished, ably and
actively assisted by the British and Portuguese from the headquarters
at Colonia, just across the river. The trade-route policy of Spain
provoked in the Argentine a spirit of steadily growing hostility
which smouldered for many years before the outbreak came.

As an item of passing interest, Buenos Aires because of geographical
position became a port of relative importance in spite of the
restrictions. During the five years from 1748 to 1753, some 150,000
native hides, and gold, silver, copper, tin, cacoa, vicuña wool and
quinine from Perú and Chile to the value of 6,000,000 "pesos fuertes"
were exported, while in the following ten years from 1754 to 1763
these same countries sent out through Buenos Aires 36,000,000 "pesos"
worth of gold and silver.

The establishment of the Viceroyship in 1776 and the consequent
formation in Buenos Aires of a locally semi-autonomous Government,
facilitated and stimulated commercial activity. Wine came from
Mendoza, rum and dried fruits from San Juan, textiles and laces from
Tucumán and Salta where the Inca arts and industries persisted and
flourished, hides and skins from the plains, "yerba", tobacco and
fine woods from Paraguay. This internal commerce varied in value from
10,000,000 to 20,000,000 "pesos" annually. Paraguay sold 60,000 mules
to Perú every year, and sent 2000 tons of "yerba" to Chile. Argentine
exportation to Spain included crude and tanned bull and horse-hides;
sheep-wool, jerked beef, wax, feathers and skins. Freedom of trade
with Africa was obtained and other fields of activity were developed.
Mexico and Lima were Colonial Courts, but Buenos Aires had become a

A Spanish traveller who visited Buenos Aires during the Viceroyship
said:--"The Argentine creoles have a great idea of their equality
with the Europeans"; adding, "There exists a sort of aversion of the
creoles or sons of Spaniards born in America, towards the Europeans
and especially toward the Spanish Government". Incoherent and
crude though they were, handicapped by ignorance and superstition,
especially in the rural regions, democratic tendencies accompanied
the Argentine as it emerged from its two hundred years of isolation
and prepared it for its mission of self-emancipation and for the
salvation of South American independence.

Mitre, the most careful of Argentine historians, says:--"The
embryonic body-politic with its democratic instincts contained,
however, all the vices inherent to and proceeding from its Colonial
origin and environment. The deserts, the solitude, the sloth, the
sparse population, the lack of moral cohesion, the corrupt customs
among the general mass, the absence of ideals, and above all,
the profound ignorance of the people were causes and effects,
which producing a semi-barbarity alongside of a weak and sickly
civilization, concurred at an early age to viciate the organism".
He goes on to say:--"The Colony and the Spanish Crown were not
homogeneous. Thus during the long and ruinous wars waged by Spain
in the XVII and XVIII centuries, Spanish America was neutral or
indifferent, and was not moved by sentiments of patriotism, as
happened among the British Colonies where the Mother-country was
concerned". He further says:--"Unity of religious belief was the
only factor which gave certain cohesion; but the clergy in the
River Plate, with rare exceptions, was below the general average,
without hierarchy, prestige, power or influence. Because of this, the
Argentine clergy was revolutionary and republican when the Colony
revolted, quite the reverse of what happened in the rest of Spanish

A brief reference to the history of printing in the Argentine will
be illustrative of the intellectual development of the period. The
first book printed in South America was finished in 1705 in the
Guarany language on a press made in the Jesuit Missions of the Upper
Paraná. As a matter of coincidence, one of the first books published
in North America was the translation of the New Testament into
the language of the Massachusetts Indians in 1661, or forty-four
years earlier, by John Elliot. In 1767, under permission granted by
the authorities in Perú, presses and type were brought from Spain
at an expense of 2,000 "pesos" and were set up in Córdoba, the
University city of the Argentine. The first book printed was also
a Jesuit production, this time in Latin, and it was the only book
there produced, for the Jesuits were soon after expelled. Vértiz, a
native of Mexico and the most progressive of the Argentine Viceroys,
wanted to introduce printing in Buenos Aires, and in 1780, after
considerable correspondence, bought this Córdoba press at its
estimated value of 1,000 "pesos", which, history says, was promptly
paid. It was transported from Córdoba to Buenos Aires in one ox-cart,
the charge being 40 "pesos". There were eight cases of type weighing
2785 pounds, one iron and one wooden press, all in bad order, so
much so that the Viceroy subsequently reported that the repairs
cost 1,812 "pesos". On November 21, 1780, Viceroy Vértiz published
a decree establishing the "Royal Press of the Foundling Asylum" on
the corner of Moreno and Perú streets. This was the only press in
the Argentine until 1812 when two other small and incomplete outfits
were acquired. The first publications were Governmental decrees,
many of which can still be seen in the Historical Museum. A book
was produced in 1781, called "Representation of the Corporation
and Citizens of Montevideo", that city having no press of its own.
The first newspaper appeared in 1802, also printed on this Córdoba
press, being "The Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Weekly".
The backwardness of printing in the Argentine at the time of the
Revolution is a clear indication of the illiteracy of the people. As
a matter of incidental interest, a printing press was brought to
Boston in 1630 and in 1724 a weekly called "The Boston News Letter"
was founded.

The English invasions of 1806 and 1807 were not so much the causes of
the Argentine revolution as they were vehicles for the expression of
Argentine readiness for revolution. At that time, Spain was an ally
of France; in 1805 the two countries had together fought and together
had been defeated by the English under Nelson at Trafalgar. It is
worth remembering that English attempts to take Buenos Aires were
efforts to capture enemy territory. The first invasion, known as the
"Conquista", was successful. General Berresford landed at Quilmes in
June of 1806, marched against Buenos Aires with 1560 troops, overcame
the disorganized opposition encountered enroute, and entered the city
in triumphal procession. Buenos Aires with its environments then had
some 70,000 inhabitants, and the intrepidity of the exploit has won
the admiration of all reputable Argentine historians. Berresford made
his headquarters in the Fortress, where Government House now stands,
seized some 1,500,000 "pesos", and issued a proclamation saying in
effect that he would act with unbounded magnanimity provided the city
recognized his authority. He shipped 1,000,000 "pesos" to London;
the money arrived safely and was conveyed from the wharf to the
Bank of England under strong and impressive guard amid much popular
enthusiasm. Before the date of this spectacular event, however,
Berresford had been attacked and had surrendered on August 12, 1806,
after a brave defense in which he lost about one-third of his scanty
forces. This is known as the "Reconquista". The British occupied
Buenos Aires somewhat more than six weeks.

The Reconquest was a turning point in Argentine history. The then
Viceroy Sobremonte and other Spanish authorities, having ran away
upon the first appearance of the British, leading citizens met and
appointed General Liniers to command the native forces, and after the
Reconquest, a Congress was elected by popular vote and conferred on
Liniers all the powers of the Viceroy. It was a revolution in fact if
not in name.

The second British invasion occurred in 1807 and was made by a larger
and more thoroughly organized expedition, being able to disembark
some 12,000 men. Buenos Aires had had ample news of the threatened
danger; troops were drilled and trained; cannon were cast; and
powder was hurried from Chile, carried over the mountains on willing
shoulders. Viceroy Sobremonte had returned and after abortive
attempts to reassume power, had been by popular vote formally deposed
and imprisoned. The man of the hour was Liniers.

As a precautionary measure, the British captured Montevideo in
February. The Commander-in-chief, Sir Samuel Auchmuty, a native-born
North American who had sided with England at the opening of our
Revolution, reported from there to his Government:--"The oppression
of the Mother-country has made the natives anxious to break the
yoke of Spain, and although their ignorance, immorality and innate
barbarity render them completely incapable of self-government, they
desire to follow in the steps of the North Americans and erect an
independent state".

Another North American named William White, who had lived several
years in Buenos Aires, tried to bring about an agreement between the
Argentines and the British by which Argentine independence under
British protection would be secured. Nothing came of the suggestion,
but the attention it attracted shows that even when armed invasion
was threatened, any chance to escape Spanish oppression had adherents.

The British army was brought over from Montevideo and landed at
Ensenada, now the port of La Plata. General Auchmuty had been
succeeded by General Whitelock, a Court favorite of limited military
capacity. The British marched against Buenos Aires, and in places had
partial success, but the result of the attacks which lasted from July
2 to July 6 was complete success for the Argentine defenders. This is
known in history as the "Defensa".

The British retired to Montevideo, and some months later returned
home. During their stay in Montevideo, they published a newspaper
which had considerable circulation both there and in Buenos Aires;
and that organ and contact with British prisoners who had generally
friendly treatment from their Argentine captors, confirmed the public
opinion that Spain was decadent and that unrestricted commerce with
the whole world, as practiced by England, was the one thing most to
be desired.

Mention should be made of Francisco Miranda, the earliest and
greatest of all the apostles of South American freedom, and today
practically forgotten. He was born in Venezuela, fought under
Washington, a friend of Hamilton and of Lafayette, a participant in
the French Revolution, a confidant of the younger Pitt, distinguished
by Catherine II of Russia, and known personally to Napoleón who
considered him a lunatic inspired by a spark of sacred flame. He
was an extraordinary man, a champion of liberty in both the Old and
the New World. He tried to induce England to invade Spanish America
to bring about its independence, but the untimely death in 1806 of
Pitt, the champion of American Colonial freedom, frustrated his
hopes. He centralized the revolutionary tendencies of the Spanish
Americans resident in Europe, organized systematic relations with
the dissatisfied in Spanish America, and founded in London towards
the close of the XVIII century, a great secret society with which
affiliated all those who strove for American emancipation. The London
lodge was named the "Great American Reunión", and under its auspices
during the early years of the XIX century, a chain of subsidiary
lodges called the "Lautaro Society" was organized throughout Spain.
Further reference to this powerful society will be made.

At this point, a brief glance at conditions in Europe is necessary.
The alliance between Spain and France, made in 1795, lasted until
1808, when Spain joined England in the effort to crush Napoleón.
Napoleón thereupon took his armies into Spain and completely
conquered it with the single exception of the city of Cádiz which
held out under the protection of the guns of the British fleet.
In the same year, King Charles IV abdicated in favor of his son
Ferdinand VII, who unhappily was promptly captured by the French.
Napoleón made his brother Joseph, King of Spain, and this improvised
monarch sent a messenger to the River Plate inviting submission.
It was refused. The legitimate King being captive, a Council was
established in Cádiz to govern in his name, but in 1810, the people
of Cádiz revolted against the Council, assassinated the Governor,
and a Regency composed of reactionaries assumed power to act for
Ferdinand VII.

Advices reached Buenos Aires about the middle of May, 1810, that the
first act of the Regency had been to revoke the decree of the new
Viceroy, Cisneros, which had made Buenos Aires a free port, and had
further ordered that the former laws covering monopoly by Spain of
all Colonial commerce should be enforced more strictly than ever.
"This", says Mitre, "was the echo of decadent Spain, which feared its
captive would escape and tried to chain it to abuses by enforcing

The news created a profound sensation. On May 18th., the Viceroy
issued a rogatory decree, entreating the people to remain loyal to
the Mother-country. The Argentine leaders replied that the Government
of Spain had lapsed, that orders emanating from the self-appointed
Regency in Cádiz were without legal value, that as there was no
King there could be no Viceroy, and that therefore it was right and
necessary that steps should be taken to arrange for self-government.
These ideas were proclaimed throughout the city and were received
with general applause. A committee headed by Castelli called on the
Viceroy and on the City Council, asking that an expression of public
opinion be secured, but met with resistance. The leaders threatened
that if the authorities did not convoke the people, they would, and
would employ force if necessary. The Viceroy and Council reluctantly
consented, and the most influential citizens were summoned to a
public meeting to be held on May 22nd. in the Town Hall, now on the
west side of the present Plaza Mayo. At this meeting, Bishop Lue
declared that "While Spanish troops held an inch of Spain, that inch
commanded America, and while a single Spaniard existed in America,
he should command the Americans". The session was adjourned to meet
on the following day, when it was again adjourned until the 24th.
There were intrigues by the Viceroy and his friends, and there were
dissentions among the patriot leaders. The meeting on the 24th.
was prolonged far into the night, and the public, waiting outside
in the cold rain, became impatient. Nothing was decided even after
the protracted discussions and on the next morning, May 25, 1810,
the sun shining brightly, the Plaza filled with people who went in
procession to the Town Hall and presented a written demand signed by
numerous citizens, requiring that full governing powers be placed
provisionally in the hands of a Committee whose names were given.
Refusal was impossible, and the Argentine then and there definitely
assumed the rights of self-government.

"The revolution", Mitre remarks, "was effected without bayonets
or violence, by pure pressure of public opinion, triumphant on
the grounds of reason, law and public welfare; abstaining from
persecutions it with dignity removed the chains which had bound the
nation and assumed the rights of sovereignty with uprightness and

The population of the entire Viceroyship in 1810, including negros
and tame Indians, is calculated at 800,000, of which 250,000 lived
in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Uruguay,
principally close to the rivers. In the same year, the population
of the United States was 7,000,000, most of which lived close to
the Atlantic seaboard. These figures give an idea of the limited
number of people who undertook the foundation of a new State in South

Differing local impulses but the same contributory provocation from
the Regency in Cádiz caused all the Spanish American Colonies to
revolt in the year of 1810. In 1811, a Spanish writer said:--"The
germ of the evils produced by wrong policies, the injustices of
our Government and the iniquities of the public employees in the
Colonies, finally exploded and almost simultaneously". As far back
as 1783, the famous Count Aranda had told the King: "Americans will
undertake to secure independence as soon as favorable opportunity
presents". The opportunity had come, and from Mexico to Patagonia,
all Spanish America threw off the yoke of the Mother Country and
assumed the prerogatives of free and independent nations.

Perú and Upper Perú, now Bolivia, was the stronghold of Spain in
South America. The population all told was about 2,000,000, the Royal
forces were numerous and efficient, and what was more important, the
Viceroy, Abascal by name, was a very able and loyal Governor. If
the revolution in Lima in 1810 had prospered, South America would
have obtained its independence at once, but the movement was there
suppressed within a few weeks, and South America had to endure
disastrous and fratricidal wars for fourteen weary years.

The revolution in Buenos Aires was the most coherent and solidly
founded of all similar Spanish American efforts. During the ensuing
six years Spain succeeded in regaining its ascendancy everywhere with
the single exception of the Argentine, which country was destined to
be the focal point from which radiated new and successful struggles
to achieve independence.

The first thought of the Argentine leaders was to ensure harmony of
action in all the territory within the boundaries of the Viceroyship.
The revolution occurred on May 25th. 1810, and in June of that year,
an expedition of less than 1,000 men, under the nominal command of
Colonel Ocampo, but whose real military chief was Antonio Balcarce,
left Buenos Aires to give support to the movement in Upper Perú.
General Liniers, the hero of the "Reconquista" in 1806 and of the
"Defensa" in 1807, had raised the Royal Standard in Córdoba, but
had fled, in company with a few supporters upon the approach of the
Balcarce army. He was overtaken, judged by a summary court-martial
presided over by Castelli who had adopted the Reign of Terror policy
of the French Revolution, and was immediately executed. Balcarce
continued northward into Upper Perú, and on November 7, 1810 defeated
the Spaniards at Suipacha. This was the first victory of the South
American revolution.

In September of that same year, Belgrano departed for Paraguay with
an army which likewise numbered less than 1,000 men. After gaining
some slight advantages which enabled him to get close to Asunción,
he was defeated at Paraguarí and subsequently on March 9, 1811,
at Tacuarí, both in Paraguay. Belgrano was a poor general but a
great citizen, and though he lost battles, he won the respect of
his enemies. After Tacuarí, he reorganized and extricated his army
in a way that gave him considerable fame, in addition to which his
insidious revolutionary propaganda destroyed local Spanish authority.
Belgrano was the real founder of Paraguayan independence.

Montevideo at first apparently supported the May revolution of Buenos
Aires, but shortly afterwards changed its attitude, recognized the
authority of the Regency at Cádiz, and though its subsequent history
has many points of contact with that of the Argentine, it never again
became a component part of the nation. The pure Spanish element
was stronger in Montevideo than in Buenos Aires, where the creoles

It should be noted that up to here, no mention has been made of
a Declaration of Independence. Indeed none was made for over six
years or until July 9, 1816 at Tucumán. The May movement was a
revolt against Regency tyranny, an assertion that the colony
should be locally even though temporarily autonomous. The Argentine
intellectuals argued that Spain had ceased to exist as an authority
over America, and that during the King's captivity the Colony and
not the Regency would assume the Royal prerogatives; but there
was no disposition to deny the King's eventual overlordship. The
Provisional Council under the Presidency of Saavedra installed itself
in the Fortress on May 25th. 1810, and swore to preserve the country
under the sceptre of Ferdinand VII and to observe the laws of the
kingdom. Although governing as an autonomous body, it always invoked
the name and authority of the King, a rather anomalous position.
The expeditions to Upper Perú under Balcarce and to Paraguay under
Belgrano used the flag of Spain, and the same emblem daily flew over
the Fortress and city of Buenos Aires for three years. It was not
until 1813 that the oath of allegiance to the King was abolished, and
all Spanish civil, military and ecclesiastical employees were removed
from office.

Belgrano had chafed under the use of the Spanish flag. Acting on his
own initiative, he had lined up his troops on February 27, 1812, on
the heights of Rosario overlooking the river, and made them swear
allegiance to a new flag of his own designing, a celeste and white
tri-bar. For this he was reprimanded by the Government. A few months
later, on the second anniversary of May 25th., as Commander of the
Army to Upper Perú, he had troops again swear allegiance to the same
flag in his camp near Jujuy; and for a third time, on February 13,
1813, on the banks of the river still called "Río del Juramento",
in front of the Spanish Army, one week before he won the battle of
Salta, he had his troops repeat their oath to the new flag. One
of the final acts of the Tucumán Congress on July 25th. 1816, was
to officially adopt as the National emblem of the Argentine, the
Belgrano flag, the same one with which we are all familiar.

The year 1813 was fruitful in reforms. The Assembly ordered a general
census so as to control elections and to learn the civil, economic
and military potentialities of the country; ordered the cessation
of obligatory work in the mines and on the ranches by Indians and
peons; decreed free commerce in and exportation of grains and
cereals; provided for the absolute liberty of foreigners to enter and
leave the country, to traffic and to acquire property; restricted
in various ways the prerogatives of the Church and of the religious
orders; established the liberty of the womb as concerned slaves; and
reformed abusive regulations covering tribunals, codes and prisons.
A new coat of arms was adopted, on which the Phrygian Cap upheld
by clasped hands, symbolizing Grecian Freedom, and the rising sun
shedding its morning beams over the great River Plate, replaced the
lions and crosses of the Arms of Spain. Lastly and sentimentally
the most important, the Assembly adopted the present National Hymn,
which was written by the elder Vicente López--"Oid mortales el grito
sagrado--Libertad, libertad, libertad". The body which effected
these sweeping reforms was presided over by Rodríguez Peña whose
illustrious name is still venerated by all Argentines.

In the same way that San Martín dominated the final chapters of the
history of Argentine Independence, Belgrano dominated the opening
ones. Belgrano was born in Buenos Aires on June 3rd. 1770, being one
of the younger of seven brothers. His father was an Italian, a man
of means and standing, while his mother was an Argentine lady from
Tucumán. He was educated in the San Carlos College in Buenos Aires,
afterwards going to Salamanca, Spain, and eventually graduating in
1793 from the University of Valladolid. He became acquainted with
French philosophers and teachings, and was a close student of the
French Revolution. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1794 to become
Permanent Secretary of the Consulate, in which important position
he continued until the English invasion of 1806. He emerged with
credit from the troublous times which followed and became one of the
leading figures in the May revolution. He was free from ambition,
gentle and modest, and though lacking the iron qualities needed
in times of revolution, had strong principles and an undeviating
sense of duty. He was exceeding patient and was most pains-taking
in his attention to administrative details. His training had not
prepared him to lead armies to combat but when appointed considered
it his duty to accept. He went to Paraguay, as we have seen, and
lost battles but won a moral victory. He started for Montevideo in
1811 at the head of another expedition, but was recalled by civil
strife in Buenos Aires. He was made in 1812 Commander of the Army
to Upper Perú, relieving Pueyrredón who subsequently played such a
distinguished part in Argentine history. Belgrano's specific orders
were to avoid a battle and to retire to Córdoba, instead of which,
on his own responsibility, he awaited the Spanish Army at Tucumán
and completely defeated it on September 25th. and 26th. 1812. José
María Paz, one of the great Argentine military geniuses, who was
present as a lieutenant of artillery remarks that while the fighting
was on, Belgrano seemed confused and irresolute; quite different
from what Mitre says about San Martín whose faculties were never so
active nor his mind so clear as when in the midst of battle. Belgrano
followed the retreating Spaniards northward and inflicted another
and a crushing defeat at Salta on February 20, 1813. As a victor,
he was much too magnanimous, for he released the captured army, and
allowed it to return to Perú on its individual oath never to again
take up arms against the Argentine. The Peruvian Bishops released
the Spaniards from their oaths because they had been given to rebels
against the King and excommunicants of the Pope. Thereupon the
Spanish Army was reorganized and disastrously defeated Belgrano at
Vilcapugio on October 1, 1813 and again at Ayohuma on November 12th.
1813. Belgrano was ordered to deliver the remains of his army to San
Martín, which he did on January 30th. 1814. This was the first and
only time these two great men ever met.

Napoleón abdicated and Ferdinand VII reassumed the throne of Spain
in 1814. He at once announced his intention to scourge America with
fire and sword as punishment for disloyalty--the days of Pizarro
and Cortez were to be outdone. Belgrano and Rivadavia were sent as
special commissioners to London to arrange for English protection but
were unsuccessful. Rivadavia went over to the Continent where he did
loyal but fruitless work, while Belgrano returned to the Argentine,
reaching Buenos Aires early in 1816, in time to attend the Congress
at Tucumán and there render inestimable service.

When the Tucumán Congress met in March of 1816, the cause of Spanish
American independence was practically lost. In 1810 all the colonies
had revolted, and between 1814 and 1816, all had been reconquered
with the single exception of Buenos Aires. Ferdinand VII had made
effective his threat to punish America with fire and sword. In one
year (1815) he sent to Perú over 10,000 fully equipped veteran
soldiers under the command of an accredited General, Laserna by name;
and in November of that year, the Argentine Army of Upper Perú,
commanded by Rondeau, was thoroughly defeated at Venta-y-media, and
soon after in a rear-guard action, was routed and dispersed at Sipe
Sipe. No defense was possible against an invasion from the North.
This was when Upper Perú was permanently lost to the Argentine.
Another famous Spanish General named Morillo was preparing to sail
from Cádiz for the River Plate with a large force of rested and
veteran troops; and to crown the desperate situation civil strife
had broken out. A horde of bandits from Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and
Uruguay was threatening the doors of Buenos Aires like a pack of
hungry wolves. Nothing could have been more disheartening than the
conditions which confronted the Tucumán Congress when it commenced to
deliberate on the fate of the nation.

The glory of saving the situation is principally ascribable to San
Martín. This unfathomable man, the enigma of Argentine history, was
born on February 25, 1778 in the Province of Corrientes in a town
since obliterated. At the age of eight years, after a short primary
education in Buenos Aires, he was sent to Madrid to school, where
he remained until he was a few months over eleven. He then entered
the Spanish army as a cadet, served in Africa against the Moors,
in France against the Republic, in the Spanish fleet when defeated
by Nelson at St. Vincent, fought against Portugal and again under
Wellington during the Penninsula Campaign. In his twenty years service
under the Spanish flag, he had had experience on land and by sea,
in infantry, cavalry and trenches. In 1811 in Cádiz, he joined the
"Lautaro Society", about which reference has already been made, went
to London and affiliated with the Mother Lodge, taking in company
with Alvear, the fifth and highest degree. About this time, Bolívar
of Venezuela, O'Higgins of Chile, and all the other famous liberators
became active members in the same Lodge. San Martín and Alvear
reached Buenos Aires on the good ship "George Canning" on March 9th.
1812, San Martín being 34 years old while Alvear was only 23. San
Martín was without friends or family or fortune, having as his only
asset, his successful military career, while Alvear, the son of a
wealthy and influential family, stepped immediately into prominence
and became a dominant figure in political circles.

San Martín was made a Lt. Colonel in the Argentine Army, that being
the grade to which he had risen in the Spanish Army; and he started
a school of tactics, discipline and military morality on a plane of
efficiency and elevation theretofore unknown in Spanish America.
He was a profound believer in the axiom that battles are won in
the training camps. His special pride was a regiment of Mounted
Grenadiers, for whom he designed the uniform, the same worn today by
the stalwart young men who do guard duty in Government House.

The Spaniards held Montevideo and controlled the nearby waters.
Raiding parties up the rivers were frequent, one of which destroyed
at San Nicolás three small Argentine sloops-of-war; although the
operations were usually limited to robbing ranches and villages of
cattle and food with which to supply Montevideo. San Martín followed
by land one party which eventually disembarked at San Lorenzo, a few
miles north of Rosario, where he attacked and defeated it. The battle
of San Lorenzo was small in size, the Spanish landing party numbered
250 and San Martín had only 125, but the result was important, for
river raiding ceased. It occurred on February 3, 1813, less than a
year after San Martín's arrival in Buenos Aires, and won for him
considerable fame; so much so that he was selected to take over from
Belgrano the command of the Army of Upper Perú after the defeats of
Vilcapugio and Ayohuma.

In 1814, the famous Admiral Brown blockaded Montevideo by sea
and Alvear attacked by land with 4000 troops which had crossed
to Colonia. The Spaniards sailed out on May 16th. to meet the
Argentines, but by strategy Brown got between them and land and
completely destroyed their fleet. Alvear laid siege to Montevideo and
took it by assault on June 22nd. This was an important victory, for
it gave control of the sea and rivers to the Argentine, and lessened
the danger of attacks on Buenos Aires by expeditions from Spain.

San Martín became convinced that the conquest of Lower Perú through
Upper Perú was impossible--that only a defensive warfare could be
successfully waged in the north, and that the real road to Lima was
via Chile. He kept his opinion secret, but pleading ill-health asked
for the post of Governor of the Province of Cuyo with headquarters
in Mendoza. He was given this appointment in August, 1814, and upon
arrival began to organize from the limited means at his command what
he subsequently called the "Army of the Andes". He worked on this
for two years, hiding his plan from everybody as far as he could. At
the end of that period, when the Tucumán Congress inaugurated its
labors, San Martín was one of the dominant figures in the Argentine.
It is hard to understand how he acquired this prestige, for his only
military exploit in the Argentine was the battle of San Lorenzo,
and we have seen how small were the proportions of that event. His
command of the Army of Upper Perú had not been marked by anything of
importance, and he had voluntarily sought out a distant and little
visited point, away from the main lines of travel and segregated from
what were considered the seats of war. Yet in 1816, he was one of
the greatest moral influences in the country. He did not attend the
Tucumán Congress, although the Presidency of it would have been his
for the asking. His mouthpiece was Godoy Cruz, and his written advice
and instruction to that faithful representative afford much of the
existing illuminating information covering the period.

We have seen how disheartening the general situation was at the
time Congress convened. San Martín wrote to Godoy Cruz:--"What
steps should be taken to save us? I know what they should be and
Congress must apply them in the interest of public welfare, but if
such steps are not taken during this year (1816) I fail to see any
remedy. Everything will have ended". He allowed his secret to be
known to a few friends. Perú must be attacked through Chile. "Until
we have taken Lima", he said, "the war will not end". He, through
Godoy Cruz and Belgrano in person, constantly urged a declaration of
independence. Members argued that before making such declaration,
the form of Government to be adopted should be agreed upon, and
marked differences of opinion were expressed regarding National
authority and Provincial rights. "I die every time I hear Federation
mentioned" said San Martín to Godoy Cruz. "If in a government
already constituted and in a country educated, inhabited, artistic,
agricultural and commercial (I speak of North America) difficulties
in the conduct of the last war with the English (War of 1812)
arose from the Federation, what would happen to us who lack these
advantages? If with all the Provinces and their united resources we
are weak, what would happen if each one was separated from the rest?"
San Martín and Belgrano continued to insist that the declaration
ought to be made. Congress had been in session for over three months,
and no decision had been reached. "Is it not ridiculous", said San
Martín to Godoy Cruz, "that we coin money, have our national flag
and shield, and even make war on the sovereign to whom it is said
we belong, and do not declare our independence. The enemy treats us
as insurgents, and with much reason". On July 6th. Belgrano made a
long and important speech, and three days later--July 9th. 1816,
the declaration was made, "Truly", exclaims Mitre, "San Martín and
Belgrano were the real founders of Argentine Independence".

Again San Martín wrote to Godoy Cruz, "Congress had made a
master-stroke by the declaration of independence. Only I would
have desired that it had made an exposition of the just motives we
Americans have in emancipating ourselves".

There was a general agreement among the Argentine statesmen of the
period that a constitutional monarchy was the form of Government best
suited to the needs of the country. Great Britain was the model to be
copied, self-governing Britain which had emerged stronger than ever
from the tempest of revolution in Europe that followed the upheaval
in France. Loyalty to an Argentine Crown would unify the divergent
elements and end the civil strife which had commenced within a year
after the May revolution and whose end no one could foresee. In 1814,
Rivadavia, as Argentine Commissioner to Europe, saw Ferdinand VII
and as a solution of the trouble between Spain and the Argentine
intimated that a son of this monarch might be called to Buenos Aires
and made King. Soon after Belgrano's return from England in 1816, he
wrote Rivadavia who was still in Europe. "The public is generally
favorable to a constitutional monarchy, although opinions are divided
between Incas and Bourbons". Belgrano had worked out a plan under
which a descendant of the Peruvian Inca was to be crowned King of
the River Plate to rule under the guidance of a Council of Regency
and the seat of government was to be the ancient city of Cuzco. This
was to be a real American Kingdom. Rivadavia favored the selection
of a European Prince with Buenos Aires as seat of Government, in
order to stimulate contact with the outside world. Both plans had
partizans and both were discussed at the Tucumán Congress, but when
put to a vote, the Belgrano project was formally approved. Today the
plan seems so fantastic that it appears incredible it ever received
serious consideration. The great majority of the delegates wanted a
monarchy; "Where there is no subordination, there is no government",
wrote Rivadavia, and the details were secondary. San Martín approved
of the Inca project, as he would have approved of anything that
promised internal quiet, but on condition that the Regency be limited
in number:

"If the Regency is composed of more than one person", he wrote,
"everything is paralysed and the Devil takes us. In effect, we only
have to change the title of our Director, and we have a Regent".
Pueyrredón had been elected Supreme Director on May 3rd. 1816, and
had undefined but practically dictatorial powers. Three years later
(in 1819) another Congress sitting in Buenos Aires approved in
secret session a project to bring a King from England and looked to
France for support. The leaders had a profound lack of confidence
in the popular capacity for self-government, yet in spite of this,
the public feeling was inarticulately and incoherently inclined to a
Republic, and due to this unspoken pressure, in the end nothing came
of the monarchical plans.

Spain and Portugal in Europe, Brazil and the Argentine in South
America, were always inharmonious neighbors, even when allied, which
was only occasionally for they were more frequently at war. Carlota,
a sister of Ferdinand VII, married the Portuguese Prince Regent who
lived at Rio, and planned to rule both Brazil and the River Plate.
Brazil became an independent kingdom on May 13, 1816, and in the same
year Montevideo separated itself from Buenos Aires, with which it had
been connected since Alvear and Brown took it from the Spanish in
1814. Brazil captured Montevideo in 1817 and held it for ten years,
thus bringing a new danger to the doors of Buenos Aires.

After the Tucumán Congress, San Martín came up from Mendoza and met
Pueyrredón on July 15, 1816, at Córdoba. As in all the San Martín
conferences this one was surrounded by mystery, but it is known that
among other things Pueyrredón approved of San Martín's plans to
attack the Spaniards in Chile, and promised his aid.

San Martín returned to Mendoza, and completed his preparations. He
brought back word that the Supreme Director intended to liberate all
slaves, and suggested that owners anticipate the act of emancipation
and turn their slaves into the army. By this means he added 710
colored troops to his infantry, that being the branch of service
he desired to strengthen. He found a practical chemist and made
powder locally. He discovered a young priest, Fray Beltrán, with
a turn for mechanics, and made him chief of ordnance. Beltrán not
only made rifles and cast cannon, but invented successful devices
for transporting heavy and cumbrous articles over the rugged Andes.
Shoe-makers and harness-makers and clothes-makers, and the makers of
all the rest of the multitudinous articles required by an army, were
found or improvised. San Martín needed mounts for the cavalry, and
he induced local ranchmen to sell him horses at six "pesos" each,
payable in script acceptable at the local Custom House. He obtained
900 head.

By the middle of January, 1817, he was ready to start. To divert
attention and confuse the Spaniards, four expeditions simultaneously
crossed the mountains. One left San Juan and took the road for
Coquimbo; another left La Rioja with Copiapó as destination; a third
went through the southern pass which lead to Talca; while the main
force, in two divisions, took the nearer routes. Las Heras, with the
artillery, went over the Uspallata trail, through the divide where
the Christ now stands; while San Martín with the bulk of the army,
travelled the Los Patos road, some forty miles to the north. The two
columns were to meet at Chacabuco on the Chilean side. The entire
undertaking was perfectly planned and admirably executed.

The three minor expeditions were small in number, from 100 to 200 men
each, and all victoriously attained their objectives. The main body
was composed of 4000 fighting men, of which 3000 were infantry; there
were 1200 camp helpers, 120 miners to break road, and drivers and
mechanics. It started with 1500 horses, 13,000 mules and 600 steers.
The trip across the Andes took 23 days. On February 12, 1817, the
two columns reunited at Chacabuco and found awaiting them a Spanish
army of about one half their own strength. San Martín's tactics of
diverting the enemy's attention by attacks at various points had

The battle was short and the Argentines were completely victorious.
Two days later, or on February 14, 1817, San Martín entered Santiago,
and sent a memorable despatch to Buenos Aires.--"The Army of the
Andes has the glory to report:--In 24 days campaigning, we crossed
the highest mountain chain on the globe, finished with the tyrants
and have given liberty to Chile."

Chacabuco was the battle of most momentous consequences in South
American history. When news of defeats on every hand had killed
patriotic hopes and nothing remained to the Argentine but the same
humiliating domination which had been imposed on all other Spanish
American countries, news of a victory as complete as it was
unexpected was heralded from one end of the continent to the other,
and faith in the cause of independence was renewed.

San Martín did not follow up his victory as thoroughly as he should
have. His mind had turned with characteristic absorption to the next
step of his great plan, the preparation for an expedition against
Lima where existed the headquarters of Viceregal strength and
authority in America. The Spanish forces after Chacabuco reunited
and reorganized in southern Chile, and important reinforcements from
Perú landed at Talcahuano, a port which had successfully resisted
Argentine attacks. A strong army capably officered and fully
equipped, started northward from Talcahuano to recapture Santiago
and reconquer Chile. Comparatively little opposition was encountered
until the Spaniards were close to Santiago, when San Martín took the
field and resisted further advance. More than that, he slowly but
surely pushed the Spaniards southward, and seemed about to force
them back into Talcahuano. A surprise attack by night by the enemy
at Cancha Rayada was unexpectedly successful and the combined armies
of Argentine and Chile were defeated and dispersed, losing all their
artillery and most of their military stores. The disaster happened on
March 20, 1818. The patriot armies reformed as they retreated before
the victorious Spaniards; and sixteen days after Cancha Rayada,
San Martín turned at Maipú, faced the confident and more numerous
Spaniards, and administered a defeat which freed Chile forever from
the domination of Spain. San Martín always considered this his best
campaign. By pure force of character and of genius, he rehabilitated
in a few days a crushed and retreating army, and turned defeat into
victory. The Spaniards took refuge in Talcahuano, and from there
sailed back to Perú. Chile was free.

The Anglo-Spanish alliance of 1808 to crush Napoleón gave Spain
freedom at sea, and she took full advantage of the privilege. Between
1811 and 1818, she transported 42,000 veteran troops to different
points in America, and moreover kept trade routes open on the Pacific
coast of South America and elsewhere. San Martín could not risk an
expedition to Perú until he controlled the Pacific Ocean from Chile
to Panamá. Reference has been made to the destruction of the Spanish
fleet of Montevideo in 1814, by Admiral Brown, an Irishman who had
spent his youth in the United States. In response to insistent
suggestions from San Martín, an expedition under Brown sailed from
Buenos Aires in October, 1815, went through the Straits and on
January 21, 1816, attacked Callao. Failing to capture that port Brown
blockaded it for three weeks, went on to Guayaquil and Ecuador, and
returned to Buenos Aires after numerous and picturesque adventures.
This is the first time the Argentine flag had appeared on the
Pacific. In 1818 the celebrated Lord Cochrane offered his services
and was given command of the Pacific squadron. By purchase and by
capture, the naval forces were augmented and in 1820, San Martín
saw the realization of his desire to control the sea from Panamá

This paper would be too long if it attempted to cover all the
difficulties with which San Martín had to contend. He had trouble
with the jealous and avaricious Cochrane; a mutiny occurred among
a body of his troops in San Juan, there was anarchy in Tucumán,
Córdoba, San Luis and even in his beloved Mendoza. The Government
of Buenos Aires ordered him to return to put down the growing
civil strife, but he refused, urging the fundamental necessity of
destroying Spanish domination in America. Historians call this "The
Great Disobedience." He allowed none of these things to distract
his attention, and on August 20, 1820, sailed from Valparaíso in 8
ships and 16 transports, carrying 4430 soldiers of which 2313 were
Argentines, 1805 Chilians, and the rest of scattering nationalities.
There were also 1600 sailors and mariners, of which 600 were
foreigners, mostly British. The expedition stopped at intermediate
ports, from which incursions were made. Again the Spaniards did not
know where to expect the attack, and when the fleet appeared before
Lima early in July, 1821, but little defense was made. The trip from
Valparaíso to Lima consumed 10½ months. The Spanish forces retreated
to Upper Perú, where they strongly entrenched themselves in the
mountains and settled down to await reinforcements from Spain. San
Martín took the title of "Protector of Perú" and assumed full civil
and military authority.

Brief mention must be made of the Venezuelan movement, whose dominant
figure was Bolívar. Venezuela revolted in 1810, was reconquered
in 1813, uprose again and was again reconquered in 1814. A third
uprising took place in 1815, and a war of fluctuating fortunes
followed until 1818, when the Spaniards were driven from the country.
In that year (1818) O'Higgins whom San Martín had installed as
President of Chile, wrote Bolívar suggesting united action against
the enemy. Bolívar replied that he would operate against Quito while
the Argentine-Chilean forces operated against Perú. In effect Bolívar
crossed the Andes in 1819, winning an important victory at Boyacá,
similar in many respects to the Argentine achievement at Chacabuco
two years before.

During his absence across the mountains, the Spaniards reorganized,
and Bolívar returned to Venezuela and in 1821 at Carabobo won another
great victory. As Maipú had freed Chile and the South three years
previously, so did Carabobo free Venezuela and all the North. It
occurred eighteen days after San Martín entered Lima. At San Martín's
suggestion a conference between Bolívar and himself was agreed upon,
and took place in Guayaquil on July 26, 1822. The interview was
continued on the following day and then San Martín departed for Perú.
Nothing is known of what transpired at this historic conference. No
one was present except the two principals, and neither at that or at
any subsequent time did either ever reveal what happened.

San Martín returned to Lima, convoked a Peruvian Congress, and
on September 20th. 1822, delivered to it all of his civil and
military authority. He placed his army at the disposition of the
new government to assist in the final steps in the destruction of
Spanish power, and sailed for Valparaíso on that same night. The
only recorded expression of the reason for his sudden abdication was
made to his friend and secretary, Guido, a few moments before his
departure. "Perú is not large enough to hold Bolívar and me." He felt
his work was done, that South American emancipation was absolutely
assured, and he retired.

The final battle was won at Ayacucho in 1824 by an army under Sucre
in which Colombian troops predominated, and the liberation of Spanish
America was consummated. Fourteen years had elapsed since the first
victory at Suipacha, years of effort and sorrow. The theatre of
action was far greater than in our own revolution, the resources more
limited, the difficulties greater. South America had won its freedom,
but was exhausted and prostrate, Bolívar said: "We have acquired
freedom, but at the expense of everything else." Even so, the cost
was not too high.

In 1818 a mission from the United States under Rodney and Graham,
accompanied by Secretary Brackenridge visited Buenos Aires, and from
here advised that the independence of the Argentine be recognized.
Rodney was named Minister, but died shortly after, and his body was
the first one interred in the then new Protestant Cemetery. He was
succeeded as Minister by Col. Forbes who served many years and was
most highly regarded.

While San Martín was still in Perú, and two years before the final
victory at Ayacucho, the United States recognized the independence
of all the new republics as an accomplished fact, declaring in
1822:--"It is the right of the South American peoples to break the
bonds which tied them to Spain, assume the character of nations
among sovereign nations, and create their own institutions in harmony
with the natural laws of Almighty God." This declaration was followed
one year later (1823) by the promulgation of the memorable Monroe
Doctrine, in intent and in effect a policy of amity and protection.

England supported the attitude of the United States, Canning
declaring in 1823:--"The independence of the Spanish Colonies is an
accomplished fact. A new political element has appeared which in the
future will dominate the relations between the two worlds. The battle
has been bitter but has been won. The nail is driven and clinched.
South America is free."

As the North American revolution was the great event of the XVIII
century, in the light of the magnitude of its consequences which even
yet are only partially visible, so was the South American revolution
the greatest event of the XIX century. The United States can be
considered as having reached full manhood, while the South American
states must be still looked on as lusty youths whose growth is
unattained. When growth has been attained, the South American states
will take their places among the mighty powers of the earth and will
play their important part in the struggle of humanity to make this a
better and a freer world in which to live.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  pg. 3,  "bead" => "read" (A PAPER READ)
  pg. 3,  "origen" => "origin" (obscure origin for)
  pg. 4,  "lead" => "led" (led exploring)
  pg. 6,  "origen" => "origin" (it's Colonial origin)
  pg. 7,  "religous" => "religious" (religious belief was)
  pg. 11, "oppresion" => "oppression" (Spanish oppression)
  pg. 12, "confident" => "confidant" (confidant of the younger)
  pg. 12, "extraodinary" => "extraordinary" (extraordinary man)
  pg. 13, "reaccionaries" => "reactionaries" (composed of reactionaries)
  pg. 13, "profund" => "profound" (a profound sensation)
  pg. 15, "employes" => "employees" (employees in the Colonies)
  pg. 16, "fraticidal" => "fratricidal" (and fratricidal wars)
  pg. 16, "ascendency" => "ascendancy" (ascendancy everywhere with)
  pg. 18, "employes" => "employees" (employees were removed)
  pg. 19, "religous" => "religious" (religious orders)
  pg. 19, "Hymm" => "Hymn" (present National Hymn)
  pg. 20, "seem" => "seen" (as we have seen)
  pg. 22, "commisioners" => "commissioners" (special commissioners to)
  pg. 24, "eventualy" => "eventually" (eventually disembarked)
  pg. 24, "nombered" => "numbered" (landing party numbered)
  pg. 24, "occured" => "occurred" (occurred on February)
  pg. 25, "En" => "In" (In 1814)
  pg. 25, "assult" => "assault" (by assault on)
  pg. 25, "imposible" => "impossible" (Perú was impossible)
  pg. 30, "Custon" => "Custom" (local Custom House)
  pg. 32, "the the" => "the" (from the domination)
  pg. 35, "en" => "on" (on September 20th)

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