Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

Life in the Argentine republic in the days of the tyrants; or, Civilization and barbarism online

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Mendoza, he walked to the place of execution by the
side of a priest whom he had condemned to death ; he
did the same with the cur6 of Alguia and the prior of
Tucurnan. It is true that in these cases he did not go,
so far as to have the sentence actually executed, bjnt
it was a great terror and humiliation to the clergy-
men ; yet in spite of all this, the old people and bigots



still offered prayers to heaven for the success of his

But the story of Gutierrez is not quite ended yet.
Fifteen days later he received a sentence of exile, and
an escort was to conduct him beyond the boundaries.
The party having encamped for the night, a fire was
made to cook supper, and while Gutierrez was stooping
to blow the scarcely lighted sticks, the chief official
struck him on the head with a staff, and blows from
others followed, until his brains were literally knocked .

These were some of the events which took place in
Facundo's first attempt at union in the Republic, for
these were but attempts ; the time had not yet come
for the alliance of the pastoral powers by which the
Republic was to be reorganized. Rosas was already
famous in the province of Buenos Ayres, though he
bore no titles as yet ; nevertheless he was busy in his
own cause. The constitution proposed by Congress
was rejected wherever the provincial commanders had
any influence. When the government deputy pre-
sented himself in Santiago del Estero, in his official
dress, Ibarra received him in shirt-sleeves and chiripd.
VRivadavia resigned the presidency because the prov-
inces were opposed to him, " but barbaris.m.-WJll_soon
be dowri ugonjis," he added, after his farewell, fie -
did well to resign. Rivadavia's mission was to present
before us the constitutionalism of Benjamin Constant'
with all its empty words, its deceptions, and absu^jdi*
ties. Rjvadavia did not know that when the civiliza-
tion and liberty of a people are in question, a ruler -haj
great responsibilities both to God and future genera*


tions ; and that there is neither charity nor compassion
in abandoning a nation for thirty years to the devasta-
tion of the first ruthless sword that offers. Communi-
ties in their infancy are like children who foresee
nothing and understand nothing, and need men of
knowledge and foresight to guide them.



There is a fourth element coming ; they are the barbarians, new hordes who
come to throw themselves upon the old society with complete freshness of manners,
soul and spirit, and who have as yet done nothing, but are ready to receive every-
thing with the aptitude of the most suave and naive ignorance. Cherminier.

THE presidency had -fallen amid the hissings and
rejoicings of its enemies. Dorrego, the able leader
of the opposition in Buenos Ayres, was the friend of
the governors of the interior, who were his abettors
and supporters in the Provincial Congress in which he
was triumphant. Victory was no longer with the Re-
public in its foreign wars ; and, though its arms had
met with no disasters in Brazil, the necessity for peace
was everywhere felt. The opposition of the provincial
leaders had weakened the army by destroying regi-
ments, or refusing to furnish recruits. An apparent
tranquillity reigned in the interior, but the earth trem-
bled ; strange rumors were afloat. The newspapers
of Buenos Ayres were filled with gloomy prophecies.
Threats came alike from the government and the oppo-
sition. The administration of Dorrego began to show a
want of strength, because the party of the city, called
Federal, which had established it, had not the power to
sustain itself with honor after the fall of the presidency.
, The new administration, far from resolving any of the


questions which divided the Republic, showed, on the
contrary, all the weakness o Federalism. Dorrego ''
was essentially Buenos Ayrean in his sympathies, and . t
had little regard for the fate of the provinces. He had ,
promised the provincial leaders and communities to da*
all he could to favor the interests of the former and ,
to insure the rights of the latter ; but, having once
obtained the government, he said to his immediate '
friends, " What is it to us if the petty tyrants carry -
things with a high hand ? What are the four thousand""
dollars' salary to Lopez, or the eighteen thousand to
Quiroga, to us who control the seaport, and a custom-
house that brings us in a million and a half, which that
stupid Rivadavia wished to convert into national rev-
enue ? " Let us not forget that the motto of egotism is -
always " Each for himself." Dorrego and his party
did not foresee that the provinces would come some day
to punish Buenos Ayres for having refused them its
civilizing influence ; and that, because of the indiffer-
ence to their ignorance and barbarism, this very igno-
rance and barbarism would penetrate into the streets of
Buenos Ayres and take up its quarters even in the fort.
But Dorrego might have seen it, if he or his party
had had better eyes. Here were the provinces at the
gates of the city, only waiting an occasion to invade it.
From the time of the fall of the presidency the de-
crees of the civil authorities could not be enforced -
beyond the suburbs of the city. Dorrego had em-
ployed, as an instrument of opposition, this outside
resistance ; and, when his party triumphed, he be,-
stowed upon his ally beyond the walls the title of corn-
man der-in-chief of the provinces. What logic of the


sword is it that makes the rank of commander-in-chief
of the provinces a necessary step in the elevation of a
military leader ? Where this rank does not exist, as
was then the case in Buenos Ayres, it is created ex-
pressly ; as if, before letting the wolf into the fold, 'it
was necessary to expose him to general observation.

Dorrego afterward found that the provincial com-
mander, who had caused the presidency to totter, arid
had contributed so powerfully to overthrow it, was a
lever perpetually applied to the government ; and that
when Rivadavia had fallen, and Dorrego was in his
place, the lever still continued its action. Dorrego and
Rosas were -face to face, each watching and threatening
the other. Dorrego's friends recall his favorite phrase,
" The gaucho-rogue ! Let him be as troublesome as
Jie -pleases ; and when he is least expecting it, I will
shoot him." This was just what the Ocampos said
when they first felt Quiroga's heavy arm upon them.

Indifferent to the people of the interior, not in high
favor with the Federal party of the city, and already in
antagonism with the provincial power which he had
called to his aid, Dorrego, who had obtained the
government through parliamentary opposition, now
tried to win the Unitarios, whom he had conquered ;
but parties have neither charity nor foresight. "The
Unitarios laughed in their sleeves, and said among
themselves, u He totters, let him fall." The Unitarios
did not understand that with Dorrego would fall those
who might have interposed between them and the
provinces ; or that the monster whom they feared was
not seeking Dorrego, but the city, the civil institutions,
of which they themselves were the exponents.


Things were in this condition when peace was con-
cluded 'with Brazil, and the first division of the army,
commanded by Lavalle, was disbanded. Dorrego
; knew well the spirit of these veterans of the War of
Independence, who, covered with wounds, and grown
gray in the service, had obtained only the rank of
colonels, majors, or captains ; two or three, perhaps,
becoming generals ; while in the interior of the Re-
public, without ever having passed the frontiers, were
dozens of leaders, who, in four years, had been raised
from the rank of gaucho-outlaws to that of command-
ers ; from commanders to generals, and from generals
to absolute masters of provinces. Need we look for
any other motive for the implacable hatred of the
? veterans for these men ? What had they to anticipate,
now that the new order of things had taken from them
thk hope of entering the capital of Brazil as conquer-
ors ?

On the 1st of December, two companies of regulars
were drawn up in Victoria Square. Governor Dorrego
had fled to the country, and the Unitarios filled the air
with shouts of triumph. A few days afterward, seven
hundred cuirassiers, commanded by general officers,
went out through Peru Street toward the pampas to
meet several thousand gauchos and Indians, together
with a few soldiers, commanded by Dorrego. For a
moment the field of Navarro was covered with the
dead, and the following day an officer, now in the
service of Chili, brought in Dorrego as prisoner. An
hour later, the body of Dorrego lay pierced with
balls. The officer who had ordered his execution an-
nounced it to the city in the following terms :


" I have the honor of informing the deputy-governor that Colo-
nel Manuel Dorrego has just been shot by my order, in front of
the regiments which compose this division. History will judge
impartially whether Senor Dorrego should have lived or died ; or
whether in sacrificing him for the peace of a city, brought to
grief by him, I could have had any other motive than that of the
public good. Let the people of Buenos Ayres be persuaded that
the death of Colonel Dorrego is the greatest sacrifice that I could
make for them.

" I salute, Seiior, the minister with all due consideration.


Was Lavalle wrong? It is needless to add another
affirmative in support of those who, after seeing the
consequences, assumed the easy task of criticizing his
motives. If an evil exists, it is in tilings not in persons.
When Cassar was assassinated, he re-lived more terrible
than ever in Octavius. Lavalle did not then know
that in killing the body he could not kill the spirit ; and
that political personages take their character and ex-
istence from the ideas, interests, and ends of the party
they represent. If Lavalle had shot Rosas instead of
Dorrego, perhaps he would have saved the world from
a great scandal, humanity from a great opprobrium, and
the Republic from much blood and many tears ; but,
even if Rosas had been shot, the provinces would still
have had representatives ; and there would have been
only the change of one historical picture for another.
But what people pretend to ignore to-day, is, that not-
withstanding the purely personal responsibility of the
deed, as far as Lavalle is concerned the death of Dor-
rego was a necessary consequence of the prevailing
ideas of v the time ; and that by this act the soldier who
was brave enough to defy history, only accomplished



the avowed wish of the citizens. What had interfered
with the proclamation of the Constitution of 1826 but
the hostility of Ibarra, Lopez, Bustos, Quiroga, Ortiz,
and the Aldaos, each of whom ruled a province, and
some of whom influenced the others ? Now, what
would appear so reasonable at that time, and to those
.men who reasoned a priori, as to get rid of what they
considered the only obstacle to the desired organization

the Republic ? "

These political errors which belonged to the time
rather than to the men, are yet worthy of considera-
tion, for upon them depend the explanation of many
social phenomena. Lavalle in shooting Dorrego, just
'as he would have shot Bustos, Lopez, Facundo, and
others of that class, only fulfilled the requirements of
his time and party. Even in 1834 there were still
men in France who believed that if they could get rid
of Louis Philippe, the French Republic would revive
in all the greatness and glory of the past ! Perhaps
also the death of Dorrego was one of those fated events
which form the nucleus of history, without which it
would be incomplete and unmeaning. Civil war had
been long threatening the Republic. Rivadavia had
foreseen it with all its horrors ; Facundo had uncon-
sciously kept his hordes on the slopes of the Andes in
waiting for this event ; and Rosas' private life had
been a ten years' preparation towards the same end. ,
Dorrego was in the way of all parties : of the Unitarios,
for they despised him ; of the provincial leaders, for he
had proved useless to them ; and in that of Rosas, be- "'
cause he was impatient of keeping under the shadow of
the city parties, and eager to obtain the government, -


or in other words, to become what he was not, and-
could never be, that is, a Federal, in the strict sense of
the term. He represented the third social element, '
which from Artigas to Facundo .had been eagr to
show itself without disguise, and to measure its strength
with that of European civilization. If Dorrego had
not died, it does not follow that the craving thirst of
Facundo would have been quieted, or that Rosas would
have failed to represent the provinces in the struggle
- which had begun long before 1820. No, Lavalle only
lighted the match which was to fire the mine long ago
prepared by both Unitarios and Federals.

From this moment there was nothing for the timid
but to stop their ears and shut their eyes. All others
everywhere rushed to arms ; the tread of horsemen was
heard over the pampas, and the cannon's black mouth
was seen at the gates of the cities.

We must now leave Buenos Ayres to see what is
passing in the other provinces. It must be mentioned,
by the way, that Lopez, having been beaten in several
encounters, sued in vain for reasonable terms of peace ;
and that Rosas had serious thoughts of going over to
the side of Brazil. Lavalle refused to share in any of
the transactions, and was soon put down ; here was the i
true Unitario disdain of the gaucho, and faith in the
final triumph of the " city." If Lavalle had adopted
another line of conduct and kept the seaport in thq
hands of the citizens, might not the cruel Pampas Gov-
ernment have been prevented ?

Facundo was in his element. A campaign was about
to begin ; expresses rushed to and fro ; the feudal system
of independence was to become a confederation of war.


Everything was put in requisition for the corning cam-
paign, and it was found unnecessary to go to the banks .
of the La Plata for a good battle-field. General Paz, s *
with eight hundred veterans, had gone to Cordova,
fought and conquered Bustos, and taken possession of
the city, which was but a step from the Llanos, and
within reach of the cries from the " montoneras " of the
Sierra Cordova.

Facundo hastened his preparations ; he longed for a
personal encounter with a one-armed general who could
not manage a lance or flourish a sword. What could
Paz hope for in an encounter with the conqueror of
Colonel Madrid ? Facundo was to be joined by Don
Felix Aldao, a friar general from Mendoza, with a
regiment of trained auxiliaries equipped entirely in
red ; and without waiting for a force of seven hun-
dred regulars from San Juan, he set out for Cordova
with four thousand men, eager to measure arms with
the cuirassiers of the second division and their officers.

The battle of Tablada is so well known that details
are" unnecessary. It has been brilliantly described in
the " Revue des deux Mondes ; " but there is one fact
jvorth remembering. Facundo attacked the city with
all his army, and was repulsed for a day and night by
one hundred young clerks, thirty mechanics, and seven
sick soldiers, from behind slight breastworks defended
by only four pieces of artillery. And it was only when
he announced his intention of burning the beautiful
city, that they consented to surrender the place. Know-
ing that Paz was approaching, he left his infantry as
useless, and went out to meet him with a cavalry force
at least three times as large as the army of his oppo-


nent ; then came hard fighting, and the cavalry charged
again and again, but in vain. That mass of horsemen,
.though surrounding the eight hundred veterans, were
driven back every moment, and compelled to return to
the charge. The lance of Quiroga forcing back his
own retreating men, caused as much terror in the rear
of his army as the guns and swords of the enemy in
front. But all was in vain ; it was like the raging
billows of the sea beating against a rough, motionless
rock ; sometimes, indeed, it is engulfed by the angry
waves, but its black summit presently reappears firm
and unshaken. Of the eight hundred auxiliaries only
sixty survived, and of the six hundred red cavalry, not
a third were living ; the numerous other companies
lost all discipline, and fled in every direction. Facundo
retreated to the city, and the next day lay with his
guns and infantry like a tiger in ambush : but all was
soon over, and fifteen hundred dead bodies proved how
obstinate the contest had been on both sides.

'The battles of Tablada and Cordov_a_were trials of
strength between the provincial and city forces under
their great leaders, Facundo and Paz, worthy repre-
sentatives of the two powers which were struggling for
dominion in the Republic. Facundo, ignorant, barba- /
rous, for the greater part of his life an outlaw, and fa- .
mous only for his acts of desperation ; brave to rash-
ness, endowed with herculean strength, always upon
his horse, which he managed skillfully through terrpr\ .
and violence, knowing no other power than that bf
brute force, had no faith but in his horse, and dependent
for success upon bravery, the lance, and the terrrole
charges of his cavalry. In all the Argentine Republic %


there was not a more perfect specimen of the " gauclio

PaZjOn the contrary, was a true son of the city, and
representative of the power of civilization. Lavalle,
Madrid, and others like them, were native Argentines ;

'cavalry officers, as brilliant as Murat, perhaps, but the

, cuirass and epaulets could not hide the gaucho nature*
But Paz was a European soldier, and only believed in

. (bravery as subordinate to tactics, strategy, and disci-
pline. He hardly knew how to ride, and having only

'one hand, could not use a lance. A very large army
was unwieldy and troublesome to him ; what he liked,
was a small number of soldiers thoroughly disciplined.
A regiment of his training was sure to be perfect of its
kind, and could he have selected his own battle-fields,
the fate of the Republic would have been secure. He
was in spirit a European soldier, even to the arms he
used ; he was an artillery officer, and therefore math-
ematical and scientific. A battle was a problem which
he could solve by equations, and foretell the unknown
quantity that is, the victory. General Paz was not
a genius, but an able officer, who employed science
where others made use of brute force ; in a word, he
was the representative of European civilization, which
was in a fair way to die out in our country. Unfortu-
nate General Paz ! Honor be to thee in thy repeated
disasters ! With thee are the household gods of the
Republic ! Destiny has not yet decided between thee
and Rosas, between the cities and the pampas, be-
tween the blue stripe and the red ribbon ! Thou hast
the only quality of mind that in the end conquers brute
force, the quality in which lay the power of the old


martyrs ! Thou hast faith. Faith has saved thee, and
in thee is the only hope of the Republic.

There is certainly a destiny about this man. He*
alone, in the ill-advised revolution of the first of De-
cernber, was able to justify it 'by victory. Taken t at ^
<^last from the head of his army by the irresistible power
of the gaucho, he was kept ten years in prison, Rosas, .
even, not daring to kill him, as if a guardian angel
watched over his life. He escaped almost miracu-
lously one stormy night, and through the rough waters
of the La Plata, reached the eastern bank. Repulsed at
one place, and disappointed at another, he at last
obtained command of the few remaining forces of a
province which had seen three armies successively
destroyed. From such remnants he again gathered
with much care and patience means of resistance, and
when the armies of Rosas had triumphed everywhere,
and carried terror throughout the Republic, the one-
armed general called aloud from the marshes of Cagu-
azu, " The Republic still lives ! " Afterwards, de-
spoiled of his laurels by those he had served, and igno-
miniously taken from the head of his army, he sought
refuge among his enemies in Entre Rios, where the
very elements seemed to protect him, and even the
gauchos of the forest Montiel did not have it in their
hearts to kill the one-armed man who harmed no one.
.At last he reached Montevideo, and learned that Ri-
bera had been defeated, probably because he was not
there to take the enemy in his own snares. The whole
city was in consternation, and hurried to the poor
lodging of the fugitive to beg for advice and comfort.
." If I can only have twenty days, they will not take


the city," was the only answer, given, not with enthu-
siasm, but with mathematical certainty. Oribe gave .
Paz all he asked for, and three years have passed since
that day of terror at Montevideo. When he had
secured the place well, and accustomed the garrison' to
fight daily as a matter of course, he went to Brazil and
remained longer than was agreeable to his friends, and
when Rosas was hoping to hear of him in the hands of
the imperial police, he learned that he was at Cor-
rientes training six thousand men ; that he had formed
an alliance with Paraguay, and also that Brazil had
invited France and England to take part in the con-
test ; so that the question between the provinces and
the cities had now become a struggle between the
one-armed, scientific Paz and the gaucho barbarian
Rosas ; between the Pampas on one side and Para-
guay, Uruguay, Brazil, England, and France on the ^

It was especially to the honor of General Paz that
even the enemies he had fought with neither hated nor >
feared him personally. The " Gaceta "- of Rosas, so
prodigal of its calumniations, never succeeded in abus-
ing him thoroughly, a proof that he inspired his very'
detractors with respect. Many of the followers of Rosas
in their hearts admired Paz, and the old Federals never
forgot that he had always protected them from the fury x '
of the old Unitarios. Who knows if Providence, which ,
holds in its hand the fate of nations, has not preserved''
this man through many dangers to aid in the recon-
struction of the Republic under laws which permit
liberty without license, and do not need to be enforced
by violence. Paz is a provincial by birth, a guarantee


that he would never sacrifice the provinces to Buenes
Ay res and the port, as Rosas has done to obtain mill- -
ions while he impoverishes the people of the interior ;
just what the Federals had accused the Congress of 1826
of wishing to do.

The conquest of Tablada was the beginning of a
new era for the city of Cordova, which, until then,
according to the message of General Paz to the pro-
vincial representatives, " had occupied the lowest place
among the Argentine cities, constantly opposing effort
towards the construction of a jconstifeutioiL- for the
nation, or for its own province, either under the rule
of Federals or Unitarios."

However, Cordova, like all the Argentine cities, con-
tained its liberal element, but kept under until then by
an absolute and conservative government like that of -

JBustos. From the moment that Paz entered the city,
this element appeared openly, and showed how much it
had strengthened during nine years of that Spanish

I have before described Cordova as antagonistic in
spirit to Buenos Ayres ; there is one circumstance in
favor of its future development. The inhabitants have
the greatest possible respect for learning, an effect pro-
duced by the university of two centuries standing.
The love of learning presupposes a certain degree of
civilization, so that notwithstanding the conservative
nature and direction of the studies, there must be in

v Cordova a large number in favor of progressive* cul-
ture and intelligence. This respect for learning, ex-

- tends even to the lower classes of society, and Jthis
explains why the masses embraced the revolution with


Online LibraryDomingo Faustino SarmientoLife in the Argentine republic in the days of the tyrants; or, Civilization and barbarism → online text (page 13 of 30)