Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

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

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On one of these occasions Quiroga was passing by
a street, and seeing well-dressed men running without
knowing for what, he looked contemptuously at a group
of armed ruffians, and said, " It would not have been
so, had 1 been here."

" And what would you have done, general ?" asked
his companion, " you have no influence over these

Quiroga raised his head, and with flashing eyes, an-
swered, " Look you, if I should go into the street, and
say to the first man I met, ' Follow me,' would he not
follow ? "

There was such an overpowering energy in Quiroga's
words, and his figure was so imposing, that they rarely
failed to impress strongly.

General Viamont resigned at last, because he saw
that he could not govern ; that there was a powerful
hand holding the reins of the administration ; aijd no'


one could be found to succeed him, none dared' accept
the office. After awhile, however, Dr. Maz^ was
placed at the head of the government, and as lie 4 - was
the old master and friend of Rosas, it was hoped thr.t a
remedy had been found for the evil. A vain hopi
for the distress increased rather than diminished. An -^
chorena petitioned the governor to repress the social
disorders, knowing that this was not in his power, that
the police force would not obey ; that the real power
came from without.

General Guido and Dr. Alcorta, in the chamber of
representatives, earnestly protested against the violent
commotion in which the city was kept, but the evil still
increased, and to aggravate it, Rosas, from his camp,
reproached the governor with the disorders which he
himself had fomented. Finally a committee of repre-, I
sentatives went to offer him the government, saying I
that he alone could put an end to the suffering which I
they had endured for two years. But Rosas refused, I
and then there were new commissions, and new per- I
suasions, until Rosas consented to do the people the I
favor of governing them, on condition that the legal
term of three years should be extended to five years,
and that the " highest public power " should be given'
him ; an expression invented by himself, he alone un-
derstanding its meaning.

s ' In the midst of these arrangements between Rosas
and the city of Buenos Ayres, news came of a difficulty
between the governors of Salta, Tucuman, and Santi-
ago del Estero, which might result in war. Five years
had passed since the Unitarios disappeared from the
political world, and two since the city Federals had lost


their irfliu-'nre in tlie government, but had courage to
exact conditions which made capitulation tolerable..
\Vhi 1e ^ 1( * k dty" surrendered at discretion, with its
j ns titutions, its liberties, etc., Rosas was carrying ,oA
CP mplicated machinations outside. He was evidently
jii communication with Lopez of Santa FC*, and there
was even a conference between the two leaders. The
^^Hmment of Cordova was under the influence of
.Lopez, who had placed the Reinafds at its head. Fa-^
lUmdo was now invited to go and use his influence to
ttle the difficulties which had arisen in the northern*
art of the Republic, no one else being chosen to aid
im in this mission of peace. He refused at first, then
esitated, and finally accepted.

It was on 'the 18th of December, in 1835, that Fa-
do took leave of the city, saying to his friends, " If
succeed, you will see me again, if not, farewell for-
er." At the last moment this intrepid man was
iled by dark presentiments ; it will be remembered
at something similar happened to Napoleon when he
s leaving the Tuilleries for Waterloo.
He had scarcely made half a day's journey when a
Buddy brook stopped his carriage. The travelling at-
^idant came up and tried to get it over ; new horses
Bre.put in, and every effort made to move the car-
Hge, but in vain, and Quiroga falling into a rage,
^Bered the man himself to be harnessed to the vehi-r
cle. 1 1 is brutality and terrorism appeared again as
'soon as he found himself without the city. This first
Ktacle being overcome, he went on across the pampas,
^rays travelling until two o'clock in the night, and
again at four. He was accompanied by Dr.


Qrtez, his secretary, and a well-known youn^r man
who had been prevented from continuing the jo, irnev
in his own carriage by the loss of a wheel soon ^fter

At every post Facundo eagerly asked how long ft
was since a courier from Buenos Ayres had passed .
the usual answer was, " about an hour," after which
he called hurriedly for horses, and drove on rapidly.
Their comfort was not increased by the rain, which
fell in torrents two or three days. On entering the
province of Santa Fe*, Quiroga's anxiety increased, and
it became absolute agony when, on reaching the post
at Pa von, he found that the post-master was absent,
and that there were no horses to be had immediately.
His companions saw no cause for this mood, and were
astonished to find this man who was a terror to the
whole Republic, a prey to what seemed groundless

When the carriage once more started, he muttered
in a low tone to himself, " If I only get beyond the
boundaries of Santa Fd, it is enough."

At last they arrived at Cordova, at half-past nine at
night, just an hour after the courier from Buenos
Ayres, who had preceded them all the way. One of
the Remafe"s hastened to the post-station where Fa-
cundo still sat in his carriage calling for horses, and
greeting him respectfully, invited him to pass the night
in the city where the governor had already prepared
for his reception. But to each renewed offer of hos-
pitality, Quiroga only answered by a call for horses,
until Reinafe* retired mortified, and Facundo set out
again at twelve o'clock at night.


Meanwhile the city of Cordova was filled with mys-
terious rumors ; the friends of the young man who had
by chance come with Quiroga, and who stopped at
Cordova, his native place, went to see him in crowds^
seeming to be much astonished at finding him alive*
They informed him that he had a narrow escape ; that
Quiroga was to have been assassinated at a certain
place ; that the assassins were engaged and the pistols
purchased ; but he had escaped them by his haste, for
the courier had scarcely arrived and announced his
coming, when he appeared himself, frustrating all their
plans. Never was such a thing undertaken with so
little secrecy ; the whole city knew all the particulars^
of the 'crime intended by the government, and Quiro-
ga's assassination was the only subject of conversation.

Quiroga arrived at his destination, settled the diffi-
culties between the hostile governors, and started back
to Cordova, in spite of the reiterated entreaties of the
governors of Santiago and Tucuman, who offered him
a large escort, and advised him to return by way of
Cuyo. It would seem that some avenging spirit made
him obstinately persist in defying his enemies, without
escort, and without any means of defense, when he
might have gone by the Cuyo road, disinterred his
immense deposit of arms at Rioja, and armed the eight
provinces which were under his influence. He knew
all ; had received repeated intimations in Santiago
del Estero ; he knew the danger he had escaped by
his rapid progress ; knew the greater one which awaited
him, for his enemies had not given up their design.
" To Cordova ! " he cried to the postilion, as if Cor-
dova was to be the end of his journey.


Before they reached the post-station of Ojo del Agua,
a young man came out of the woods into the road, and
asked at the carriage for Dr. Ortez, who got out and
heard from the young man, that Santos Perez with a
military company was stationed near a place called
Barranca-Yacco ; that as the carriage passed they were
to fire into it from both sides, and afterwards kill the
postilions ; no one was to escape ; the orders were
' positive. The young man, who had formerly been
befriended by Ortez, now came to save him, and had a
horse ready at a little distance for him to ride. The
secretary, astounded by this news, told Quiroga what
4ie had heard and urged him to save himself. Facundo
questioned the young man again, and thanked him for
the information, but told him he might make himself
easy, adding in a loud voice, " The man is not born
who will kill Quiroga ; at a word from me to-morrow,
that whole company will put itself under my command,
and escort me to Cordova."

These words of Quiroga, which I have but recently
learned, explain why he so strangely persisted in de-
fying death. Pride and faith in the terror of his name, j
urged him on to the fatal catastrophe. I had already
so accounted for it in my own mind, before I had the
confirmation of his words.

The night which the travellers passed at the post-
statioh of Ojo del Agua, was one of great agony to the
unhappy secretary, who was going to a certain death
without the half-savage valor and rashness which in-
spired Quiroga ; death never seems more terrible than
when imposed by the senseless bravado of a friend, and
when there would be no dishonor in avoiding it. Dr.


Ortez took the post-master aside and asked him about
the report he had heard, promising not to abuse his
confidence ; he was told that Santos Perez had been
there with his company of thirty men not an hour be-
fore, and they were then stationed at the appointed
place, fully armed ; that all who accompanied Quiroga
were to be killed, as Perez himself had said. This
corroboration of the information before received did
not alter the determination of Quiroga, who, after
taking a cup of chocolate, as usual, slept profoundly ;
unlike Ortez who lay awake thinking of his wife and
children whom he would see no more, and only because
he could not incur the charge of disloyalty to his friend,
a friend more to be feared than many enemies. At
midnight, his agony becoming insupportable, he got
up with a faint hope of receiving some comfort from
the post-master. But the man could only repeat what
he had already told, and showed unfeigned anxiety
himself, for, as he said, the two postilions he was
obliged to provide would have to share the same fate.
Ortez then aroused Quiroga, and made one more at-
tempt to dissuade him from his purpose, saying that he
could not accompany him if he persisted. Quiroga
laughed at his fears, and gave him to understand that
his own anger would be more dangerous than anything
he could meet at Barranca- Yacco ; so that the unfor-
tunate man could only submit. Quiroga then called
his strong negro servant and set him to cleaning some
arms ; this was all he could be induced to do in the
way of precaution.

Daylight came at last, and the carriage started, ac-
companied by two postillions, one of whom was a mere


lad and nephew of one of the company which lay in
wait for them ; two couriers who accidentally joined
the party, and the negro who went on horseback.
They soon reached the fatal spot, two discharges were

.fired into the carriages from each side of the road, but ,.
without wounding any one ; then the soldiers rushing
up sword in hand, disabled the horses in a moment,
and cut to pieces the driver and couriers. Quiroga
meanwhile put his head out of the window and said to
the commander of the company, " What is all this ? "

Sis only answer was a ball through his head. Santos
^Perez then passed his sword several times through the
body, and when the butchery was completed, had the
carriage filled with dead bodies, and dragged into the
woods, with the murdered postilion still on his seat.
The young lad alone was alive, and Perez seeing him,
asked who he was. His sergeant replied, that the boy
was a nephew of his, and that he would answer for
him with his life. Without a word, Perez walked up
to the sergeant, shot him through the heart, and then
seizing the boy by the arm, threw him on the ground
and cut his throat in spite of his childish cries for
mercy. Yet in after life the death cries of this lad be-
came a pursuing torment to him, and sounded in his
ears, sleeping or waking, wherever he might be. Fa-
cundo had said of all the deeds he had committed, but
one remorse troubled him, which was for the death of
the twenty-six officers shot at Mendoza.

This Santos Perez was a gaucho-outlaw, celebrated N
in all the Sierra and city of Cordova for the many
murders he had committed, for his bold audacity and
extraordinary adventures. While General Paz was


at Cordova this man had gathered about him a large
band of the most lawless men, and occupied one of the
wild mountain districts. With higher ideas, he would-
have been equal to Quiroga, as it was, he was only his
assassin. He was very tall, had a pale, handsome face,
with a curly black beard.

Perez was long pursued as a criminal by the govern-
ment, and more than four hundred men were sent out
to look for him. Once he narrowly escaped being
poisoned by Reinaf ; at another time a party sent to
take him was commanded by an old friend of his, who
sent for him under pretense of having something to
say to him. Perez went down to him, saying, " Here
I am, what is wanted ? " and when the captain hesi-
tated a moment with embarrassment, he turned on his
heel, saying contemptuously, " I knew you wanted to
betray me, and only came to make sure of itj "* and
before they could seize him, he had disappeared. After
numerous escapes of this kind, he was at last delivered
up to justice through a woman's revenge. He had
beaten his mistress one night, and when he had fallen
asleep, she went out and told some policemen where
he was, having first removed his pistols from beside his
pillow. Being suddenly awakened, and seeing him-
self surrounded by armed men, he reached out his
arm, and then said, quietly, " I surrender, they have
taken my pistols."

An immense crowd assembled in the streets when
he was carried into Buenos Ayres, and showered upon
him every kind of abusive epithet, but he only held
his head the higher, and murmured disdainfully, " If I
but had my knife." He was followed with execrations


as he walked to the scaffold, and his gigantic form,
like that of Danton, towered above the crowd around

The government of Buenos Ayres gave great solem-
nity to the execution of Quiroga's assassins ; the blood-
stained, ball-pierced carriage was long exposed to pub-
lic view, and lithographs of Quiroga, and of those
executed on the scaffold, were distributed among the
people. But the impartial historian will one day ex-
pose the real instigator of the assassination.




ON the 4th of February, 1817, the following inci- 1
dent happened in a deep, narrow valley of the Andes,
through which the river Aconcagua rushes from rock "
to rock in its sudden descent. It was near sunset as
the vanguard of the division, commanded by ColoneL
Las Heras, marched silently down the mountain to-
wards Chili, by the rough, rocky road leading through"
Uspallata. The fort, known by the name of "La
Guardia Vieja," was visible far down in the valley, and
had the appearance of being entirely unoccupied, but
a detachment of Spanish soldiers was concealed within,
watching the approach of the insurgents, and prepared
for a combat. Presently two discharges were fired
from the fortifications ; a company of the eleventh
rebel regiment immediately advanced, firing, from the
bank of the river to within twelve paces of the fort,
while another defiled along the mountain side to pre-
vent all possibility of the escape of the Spaniards. A
moment afterwards they carried the walls at the point
of the bayonet, and wherever the contest was mosA
desperate, were seen flashing the swords of thirty
grenadiers, under Lieutenant Jose* Aldao. Among
these was a strange figure dressed in white, like some


phantom, and dealing blow after blow with wild feroc-
ity^ -This was the chaplain of the division, whoy

carried away by excitement, had obeyed the order t6
charge, which, when given to the conquerors of San
Lorenzo, was sure to be followed by a battle in which
no quarter was given.

When the victorious vanguard returned to the forti-
fied encampment occupied by Las Heras and the rest -r
of the division, the commander saw by the blood-stains^
on the scapulary of the chaplain, that he had been in-
creasing the number of the dead instead of comforting
the dying, and signified to him that he would do better j/
to keep to his breviary and leave the sword to warriors.
The hot-tempered chaplain could ill-brook this reproof,
and turned hastily away with flashing eyes and com-
pressed lips. On dismounting at his lodgings, he
grasped the sword still hanging at his side, saying to
Jiimself, " We shall see." Thus was formed an irrev-
ocable resolution. That evening's combat had re-
vealed his natural instincts in all their strength, proving
how little fitted he was for a profession requiring mild-
ness and brotherly love ; he had felt the pleasure in
shedding blood which is natural to those who have the
organ of destructiveness strongly developed ; war at- ,
tracted him irresistibly ; he wished to rid himself of
the troublesome gown he wore, and to win the laurels
of the soldier in place of the symbol of humiliation and^
penitence ; he therefore determined that he would Jbje-
no longer a priest, but a soldier, as were Jose* and
Francisco, his brothers. The fear of scandal would
not deter him, for he could cite many examples in his "
favor; the celebrated engineer Beltran, who had lighted .


with resinous torches the dangerous passes of the Andes,
and who afterwards prepared at Santiago congreve'
rockets to be thrown into the forts of Callao, was also
a priest who had laid aside the gown, finding that he
was able to serve his country more effectually than the
church. In all parts of America, especially in Mexico,,
priests and monks had led the insurgents, taking ad-
vantage of the influence which their priestly office
gave them over the common people. However, the
chaplain Aldao was not troubled with a scrupulous/^
conscience, and would not have been deterred from
his resolution even without the excuse of such exam-
ples. He belonged to a poor, but honorable family of
Mendoza, and had shown from his infancy such willful-
ness and disregard of authority, that his parents edu- >
cated him for the priesthood, in the hope that its
solemn duties would reform his evil tendencies; a fataj
mistake, for his novitiate was, like his childhood, a
continued course of violence and immorality. Not-
withstanding this, he received sacred orders in Chili/
in 1806, under the episcopacy of Meran, and the pat-
ronage of the reverend father Velasquez, who assisted
him at his first mass at Santiago, and who was greatly
scandalized at seeing the newly made priest after the
battle of Chacabuco in military costume, and with the
martial bearing of a soldier. " Thou wilt repent of
this," cried the good priest, in his horror at this profa-
nation ; but unfortunately for the Argentine people
the prophecy was not fulfilled, for the apostate, though,
^unmourned, died a natural death, and with the honors '
of a victorious general.


Colonel Las Heras, in his official report of the battle
of La Guardia Vieja, made favorable mention of the
priest, for capturing two officers, which, according to
military rule, gives a claim to promotion ; and conse-
quently, the priest who had made his first experiment
in fighting at Guardia Vieja, appeared at the battle of
Chacabuco in the uniform of a lieutenant of grenadiers,
and won a soldier's laurels. Though he could never
rid himself of his priestly title, he soon proved in his
new career that he did not wear the sword in vain,
and became renowned as a formidable warrior and an
implacable enemy ; known to the army and the public
generally, as " El fraile,'' or the monk.
'- I will mention one of the many remarkable deeds
performed by him at that time. In the pursuit after
the Jbattle of Maipu, a Spanish grenadier of gigantic
^tature was cutting his way through the surrounding

- enemies, and with each blow of his mighty sworcf
stretching a lifeless body on the ground ; the brave
Lavalle attempted to approach him, but felt his eager
valor cool whenever the confusion of the struggle
brought them together. Aldao, seeing this, made his
way up to the giant, and, instead of falling with the
many other victims, beat aside the terrible sword and
passed his own again and again through the body of
the huge Spaniard, amidst the loud acclamations of his

J But whatever honorable deeds in arms the recreant
priest may have accomplished, his conduct would at'

" any other time, or in any other circumstances, have
covered him with opprobrium. Freed from the re-
straint hitherto imposed upon his inclinations by the


priestly office, eager for pleasure, and perhaps impelled
to excesses by the necessity for excitement in which
men often seek to drown any possible remorse for a
wrong step in life, the monk henceforth became famous
for his disorderly habits ; his private life being devoted
to intoxication, cards, and women. But perhaps ever?
these vices would have been forgiven, had they nqt
outlasted the first excitement of unrestrained y4>uth, x
and followed him to the end of his life. He abused
even the large indulgence with which his companions
in- arms regarded his conduct, and though his* com-
manders were very willing to make use of his courage,
they took care to send him to a distance whenever ijp
was possible to do so with advantage. Whatever differ-
ences of opinion there may be among men, all feel -a
repugnance at seeing a priest stained with blood, and '
given over to intoxication and vice.

Aldao had the rank of captain in the army which
left Valparaiso under command of San Martin, to de-
liver Peru from the Spanish dominion. In that coun-
try, where the main body of Spanish forces was sta-
tioned, the insurgent army needed auxiliaries to harass
the enemy on all sides, and act as reserve forces. For
this purpose bands of guerrillas were organized in the
mountains, which kept the royalists in continual alarm.
These bands required bold, fearless commanders, who
would risk everything to attain their ends, and who
shrank from nothing, not even pillage and assassination;
After taking part in the contests at Lacca and Pasco^>
Captain Aldao was sent to raise one of these bancte arid'-
to act on his own responsibility, as circumstances should
suggest. . His own master, and within reach of no



higher authority than himself, it can easily be con-
ceived that his violence and unrestrained passions found|
.plenty of victims among a timid people quite incapable
of resistance. A characteristic incident soon happened.
Aldao had determined to defend with his troop of
Indians the bridge of Iscuchaca, but at the approach of
a detachment of Spaniards, more than a thousand na-
tives fled, thus losing their advantageous position, and
without resistance delivering to the enemy an impor-
tant post. Their furious leader, unable to prevent
their flight, fell upon them as upon a flock of sheep,
and did not cease slaying until a large heap of dead
and wounded had fallen under the repeated strokes of
his sword. However bloody might have been a con-
test at the bridge, and however deadly the fire of the
Spaniards, fewer Indians would have fallen than thus
lay on the ground, the victims of one man's anger.

The circumstances which occasioned the disbanding
of San Martin's army, made it unnecessary for Aldao to
remain longer in the mountains, and with the rank ofi,
lieutenant-colonel, he went to Lima, where fortune!
favored him at cards, until he had gained a large for-
tune, and then he left for Pasto. He there met a
beautiful young girl of respectable family, with whom
he became violently enamored, and who returned his
passion. This was no passing fancy, but a deep, last-
ing feeling on both sides, only strengthened by the
impossibility of a lawful union, which would ever be
prevented by his priestly vows. Fortunately for him,
she was unselfish enough to consent to be the mistress

Online LibraryDomingo Faustino SarmientoLife in the Argentine republic in the days of the tyrants; or, Civilization and barbarism → online text (page 18 of 30)