H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

Voyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.2) online

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Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeVoyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.2) → online text (page 12 of 25)
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nish monarchy in Europe, the feeble and defenceless state
of the Spanish American colonies, held out strong temp-
tations to the avarice of England. Sobre Monte, at this
time the viceroy of La Plata, seems to have been totally
devoid of energy and talents ; and when the British ex-
pedition, under Beresford and Sir Home Popham, ap-
peared, the city of Buenos Ayres fell an easy conquest.
The Spaniards had neither soldiers nor arms ; the inha-
bitants far from being accustomed to rally round the
standard of their country, in times of danger, had not
even been permitted to think they had a country. From
a people entirely excluded from any participation in na-
tional or political aflairs, indifference and apathy were
to be expected. An idle shew of resistance, it is true,
was made by Sobre Monte, a few arms were distributed

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248 -^ VOYAGE TO

to the militia ;* but to use tlie words of Mr. Poinsett,
" ignorant of their use, they ran out without order to
look at the enemy, while General Beresford with two
thousand men, maixhed into the city and took posses-
sion of the citadel without opposition. Don Juan Mar-
tin Pueyrredon, was the only officer at the head of a com-
pany of hussars, that harassed the enemy's march.'*
The viceroy fled panic struck to Cordova, in the in-

But the same people when left to themselves, soon dis-
covered energies which astonished the invaders. They
appeared to awaken as from a dream, or rather to be
aroused into life, from a state of lethargy or stupor. In-
flamed with indignation at the imbecile conduct of the
ruler, whom chance, favouritism, or bribery, had placed
over them, and chagrined at seeing their native soil in
the possession of foreigners, they soon began to medi-
tate upon the means of effecting their expulsion. Liniers,
a captain in the navy, and a Frenchman by birth, not
being included in the capitulation, was at liberty to take
immediate steps with a view to this object. He entered
into a secret correspondence with several members of the
cabildo of Buenos Ayres, the most conspicuous of whom
were Alzaga, an European Spaniard, and the present
director, Pueyrredon. He at the same time, applied for
assistance to the governor of Monte Video, who could
spare him only the marines and seamen at that place.
With these, and such volunteers as could be collected
at Colonia, he suddenly crossed the river, and in the
vicinity of the capital, was joined by the force collected

• I was told by a respectable officer, that they had not more than
tliree hniidred good stand of arms in tlie city.


and einbodied by Pueyrredon, consisting of the neigh-
bouring peasants, and such of the citizens as had escaped
from the city. The British were attacked, and after
an obstinate resistance, compelled to surrender at dis-

This was the first immediate impulse given to the re-
volution, by an event apparently no way connected with
it. The urgent necessity of their situation, cast upon
them the duty of self-defence, and this disclosed to them
the secret of their capacity and strength. That the re-
volutionary movement would stop here, was not in the
nature of things. It is besides well known that there was
no inconsiderable state of preparation among the better
informed classes of society, arising from their contem-
plation of the revolutions of the United States, and of
France. Liniers was acknowledged their deliverer, and
the people, now abandoned to themselves, by the deser-
tion of Sobre Monte, and being thus self-rescued, con-
ceived they had a right to make choice of their ruler. A
general meeting of the citizens was called, and it was re-
solved to invest Liniers with the power and dignity of
viceroy. Although no other change was effected in any
department of the government, this cannot but be regard-
ed as the first step towards their emancipation.

This single but important exercise of power, was the
principle from which a multitude of important reason-
ings were deduced. It was in its nature and manner,
an act of the people, inasmuch as there were no orders
of nobility, or ancient families claiming hereditary in-
fluence. The audiencia, which, according to the Spanish
American constitution, is the coimterpoise to the power
of the viceroy, was on this occasion passive ; the lead
was taken by the principal citizens, and by the munici-
pality, with some interference on the part of the higher

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150 ^^ VOYAGE TO

clergy, who from the first settlement of the colonies, had
been in the habit of intermingling their voice in all im-
portant secular concerns.^

It now became incumbent on Liniers, to place the
country thus intrusted to his care, in a condition to re-
sist a future attack, of which there was every probabi-
lity. The citizens were formed into volunteer corps,
much on the same principle of those which were seen
in the United States during the war with Great Britain.
From the strong resemblance between them, and at the
same time, the democratic character on this occasion ex-
hibited by Buenos Ayres, I am tempted to make the fol-
lowing extiact from the work of Dean Funes. Speaking
of this military organization of the inhabitants, he ob-
serves, " in these times, all those prerogatives which
arise from a diversity of professions and fortimes, at
once disappeared; since the love of country had placed
all upon a level, or had left no other distinction but that
of merit. It was a spectacle worthy of the contempla-
tion of philosophy, to see men of the greatest wealtli
common soldiers in the ranks, under the command of a
poor labourer, and the brave negro by the side of his
master, who in numerous instances, rewarded his courage
with liberty. Wealth, when placed in competition with
capacity, left the possessor only the privilege of employ-
ing it for the benefit of the common cause, in purchasing
uniforms for the soldiers, and in supplying their necessi-
ties. This disinterestedness, was only equalled by their
assiduity in acquiring the elements of the military art.
The most experienced in the science of war, would

* This was perhaps a remnant of the trois etats ; the three estates,
of whii'.h the clergy was one. In France, Spain, and Portugal, when-
ever the m(</o;t a»e supposed to speak and act, it is through the me-
dium of the three estates.


scarcely believe the progress made in the course of a
few months, by several thousand individuals, who before
were only accustomed to the peaceful occupations of
commerce, to manual labour, or to the mechanic arts."

Several of the corps thus formed consisted of Euro-
peans, and were designated by the provinces of Spain,
of which they were natives, as Catalonians, Andalusians,
Biscayans, &c. Among these, by far the greater number
were of course entirely inimical to the design, soon after
cherished by the leading Americans, of a separation from
Spain ; and here, as in other parts of Spanish America,
they have continued to be one of the most serious ob-
stacles to its success.''^

Sobre Monte, on his return from Cordova, attempted
in vain to resume his authority ; but finding it imprac-
ticable, he descended to Monte Video, and although he
had fallen into general contempt, he succeeded in raising
a party amongst the European Spaniards at this place,
who could not but view with uneasiness, any assumption
of power on the part of the Americans. This is no
doubt, the beginning of that hostility which afterwards
broke out between Monte Video and the capital.

The year after the surrender of Beresford, the formi-
dable invasion under General Whitlock took place. He
attacked the city of Buenos Ayres, mth an army of
twelve thousand men ; but was encountered on this occa-
sion, by a people accustomed to the use of arms, and
who felt a confidence in their ability to defend themselves.
His signal defeat is well known. This second victory
won by the inhabitants of Buenos Ayres, would lose
nothing by comparison with that of New Orleans,.

* The number of Spaniards at Buenos Ayres, was supposedlo be
about three thousand in tiie breaking out of the revolution.


and its effect upon the people themselves, must necessa-
rily have been great. But they were still so far from en-
tertaining publicly, any ideas of complete independence,
that an attempt made by Beresford previous to this last
affair, to induce some of the citizens to form a plan for
throwing off the Spanish allegiance, drew upon him ge-
neral indignation, and occasioned the punishment of
those who lent an ear to his seductions.

Liniers became the popular idol, and appears to
have conducted himself with prudence and modera-
tion, but at the same time, with the most inflexible
fidelity to the king and country of Spain.* For it is
to be observed, that the distinction was made at an
early period of those difficulties, in which Spain and
her colonies were soon after involved, between alle-
giance to the king, to which the latter, according to the
laws of the Indies, believed themselves bound, and alle-
giance to the country of Spain itself, which was claimed
by her jmitas, and other provisional governments. The
troubles of the Spanish nionarchy came on, England be-
came its ally and defender, and Napoleon alone was
held up as the object of fear and hatred, throughout the
colonies. Two parties, however, soon sprung up in
Buenos Ayres, as I believe was the case in all the other
American cities. The more enlightened among the na-
tive Americans, some of whom had long secretly che-
rished the desire of independence, felt a wish to seize

* He has been inuch abused in the revolutionary writings, which
charjfe him with being at one time inchncd to favour the pretensions
of the FrencFi, and at another, those of the Princess Charlotte. But
these writings bear the stamp of party spirit, and are contradicted by
a variety of cirtMinist.tnces, which satisfy me, that the misfortunes of
Liniers, proceeded from his iidelily to the Spaniards.


this opportunity, in order to throw off the Spanish yoke
forever; but here they were directly at variance with
their European brethren, whose influence must neces-
sarily have been great, as well from their holding nearly
all the public offices, and from their having the com-
merce of the country in their hands, as from their num-
bers, experience, and intelligence. As to the mass of
the population, the idea was yet too new and too bold.
With this class of people, ancient habits and prejudices
are not at once to be exchanged, even for things which
are the most agreeable to the human heart. For the
truth of this assertion, I need only appeal to the effect
produced by the wTitings of Paine, on our own country ;
and it cannot be forgotten, that when the celebrated ora-
tor of Virginia, as if inspired, ventured to hint at inde-
pendence, he at first astonished and shocked even those
who became afterwards the most distinguished patriots.*
In this situation of the public mind, Liniers, who was
obliged to temporise, incurred the suspicion of both
parties. The circumstance of his being a Frenchman by
birth, gave occasion to those who feared his popularity,
or envied his success, to sow^ distrust of him.

The arrival of General Elio at Monte Video, was fol-
lowed by the first symptoms of disaffection to his autho-
rity. The European Spaniards, who form a much greater
proportion of the population there, than at Buenos Ayres,
uniting with the officers of the army and navy, got up a
junta, acknowledging dependence on those of Spain.
But a more serious attempt was made in the capital it-
self, by persons of the same description, to remove
Liniers from the station of viceroy ; they succeeded so far.

* I refer the reader to the life of Patrick Henry, by Mr. Wirt; %
'.vork faiuiliar to every American of literary taste.


as to place him under the necessity of resigning ; but
this was no sooner made known, than the patricios, or
native civic militia, took up anus in his support, and
again restored him to authority, while a number of the
European Spaniards, concerned in this and the former
transactions, were banished to Patagonia.* Here we
behold the commencement of those vibrations, which
every free state must experience without a well regulated
established government. From this time, it could no
longer be said by them, sterilis transmissimus annos;
the new born republic night use the line of Statins,

Haec aevi mihi prima dies, haec limina vitae.

The state vessel thus launched upon the ocean, was
henceforth to be exposed to all the vicissitudes and
perils of the element.

The neighbouring court of Brazil was at the same time
desirous, in case of a general wreck of the Spanish mo-
narchy, to make sure of these vast and important terri-
tories ; it is therefore to be presumed, that nothing was
left undone towards effecting this object. A complimen-
tary letter, in the name of the Princess of Carlotta, was at
first sent to Liniers, and replied to by him, in a respectful
manner. A formal proposition followed next, on the
part of the princess and the infant Don Pedro, to take
under their guardianship these unhappy countries, now
in a state of orphanage by the imprisonment of her bro-
ther Ferdinand. AVhatever might be the private senti-
ments and wishes of Liniers, it is very evident that public
opinion would not have permitted him to have acceded
to a proposal, which would have been disapproved of

• I speak from the manifestoes and documents, published at the
iirae, and not from the distorted accounts of individuals, actuated hy
party spirit and pu.ssion.


even by the European Spaniards ; and it is equally evi -
dent, that at this time, his authority had scarcely any
other foundation, than that of his popularity. The pro-
position was therefore rejected with some show of indig-
nation. He was, however, successful in preventing the
formation of a junta in Buenos Ayres, which no doubt
would have been immediately attended with serious con-
sequences ; in this he completely seconded the policy of
the provisional governments of Spain, which was only to
permit the formation of juntas in those American cities,
where the preponderance of Europeans insured their fide-

The junta central, which assumed the government at
this period, determined to send a viceroy to Buenos
Ayres, accompanied with some troops, which could be ill
spared from the Peninsula. The removal of Liniers at
such a jxmcture, is universally admitted to have been an
act of great imprudence ; his popularity and talents pe-
culiarly qualified him for the task of retarding the pro-
gress of the revolution. Cisneros, the new viceroy, was
received and acknowledged by Liniers ^^ithout hesita-

It was about this period, that Pueyrredom, who had
been sent to Spain, as the agent of the viceroyalty, at the
same time that Liniers was appointed viceroy, ha\ing re-
turned to his native country, was arrested on the charge
of entertaining revolutionary designs, but through the aid
of some officers of the patricios, or native troops,
escaped from confinement, and sailed in an English ves-
sel for Rio Janeiro. He was supposed to be one of the
prhicipal leaders of the party among the Americans, de-
sirous of an entire separation from Spain ; a party,
which at this time, had not yet tried its strength. Li-
niers and some other officers of distinction, were dis-
missed with titles and pensions, while the meritorious


Americans, in the late contest with Great Britain, were
entirely neglected, greatly to their disgust ; a circum-
stance, of which those who were aiming at independence,
did not fail to take advantage . The junta of Monte Vi-
deo, on the arrival of Cisneros, was dissolved, having
been formed for the mere purpose of keeping down the
Americans ; and the power of the viceroy was now
thought to be fixed on its ancient basis, to the great joy
of the Europeans, especially of the audiencia, and per-
sons in the diflferent offices of the government. But here
they were greatly deceived ; for setting aside the want
of talents in the new viceroy, the people whom he was
about to govern, were no longer the same. The mist
which had before enveloped them, was beginning to be
dispersed ; they had felt their strength and consequence,
and had begun to lose their habitual veneration for the
Spanish monarchy. A deadly hostility had already de-
clared itself between the Americans and Spaniards ; a
hostility whose foundation had long before been laid, in a
variety of the most powerful causes. Even under the
government of Liniers, the members of the audiencia
had been grossly insulted by the people, and the vene-
ration, with which these high officers were formerly re-
garded, had entirely ceased. From the very nature of
their employments, as well as from their birth and opi-
nions, they were known to be attached, under all events,
to the European sovereignty. Cisneros was received
with some outward show of respect by the people, but
it was not difficult to foresee, that his government would
be a series of troubles, in a democracy rapidly gathering
its restless energies, and struggling to break loose from
its restiaints.

A more free intercourse with foreigners had begun to
subsist under the administration of Liniers. A vast quan-
tity of English manufactures had been smuggled into the


country, and from the friendly footing of the English
and Spanish nations, the individuals of the foimer were
received with peculiar favour. It is natural, therefore,
that the subject of trade and commerce should be seized
upon by those secretly planning the revolution, in order
to give direction to the public feeling. The inhabitants
of the city and vicinity convened for the purpose of con-
sidering these important matters. The result was an ela-
borate memorial addressed to the viceroy, by the mer-
chants and landholders, praying for an entire freedom of
commerce with all the world. This paper was drawn
up with considerable ability, by an eminent lawyer, of
the name of Moreno, who afterwards became one of the
most conspicuous leaders of the revolution. An attempt
like this, mider the kingly constituted viceroys, ten
years before, would have subjected its authors to certain
ruin and destruction. But the times had changed, and
Cisneros was compelled to yield. The door was thrown
open to commerce with all nations ; while this concession,
far from satisfying the people, only gave rise to new de-
mands, and increased the prevailing uneasiness. We
find Cisneros, early in May, 1810, issuing a most humble
manifesto, " to the loyal and generous people of his
viceroyalty ;" he begins, by laying before them the then
hapless situation of Spain, in order to excite their com-
passion, and frankly acknowledges, that the island of
Leon had become the last refuge of the Spanish mo-
narchy in Europe. He then exhorts them, by all those
topics of ancient veneration and attachment to their be-
loved monarchs, their affections to their mother country,
and their regard for their holy religion, to yield a blind
obedience to his mandates ! He enjoins upon them the
observance of order, and warns them to shun, as they
would vipers, those unquiet and malignant spirits, en-
gaged in sowing jealousies and distrusts, as well among


the respectable citizens, as against the government ; and
finally warns them of the precipice they are about to ap-

Such a disclosure of his weakness, as is natural to
suppose, had directly a contrary effect to that intend-
ed. It was seized upon by the promoters of the re-
volution, and in the course of a few days, the popular
ferment became so great, that nothing was left for him
but to yield. The universal cry was for the forma-
tion of a junta, into whose hands the people might safely
confide the government. The cabildo, or municipality,
taking the lead on this occasion, sent an intimation to
the viceroy, on 20th May, 1810, that it had become in-
dispensable that he should resign his office, since the
power whence he derived if, appeared no longer to
exist. The civic corps assembled in arms, and Cis-
neros finding his party too weak for resistance, made
known his intention to comply, and accordingly re-
signed his authority to the cabildo. This body, on
the evening of the twenty-first, gave notice through
the town criers, for the curates, prelates, alcaldes of
sections, the bishop, the oidores in their individual ca-
pacities, and the citizens in gener2d, to assemble at
the town-house the evening following.* The meet-
ing took place, and discussions on this all-important
occasion, continued till one o'clock in the morning.
The result of their deliberations was published the
next day, by bando, (a printed proclamation,) signed
by the members of the cabildo. The cabildo was
declared to be invested by the general congress, which

• This is what they call a congress, in reality an assemblage of
the troii etats. The name of congress is at present applied to the
deliberative body or assembly, formed sinee the detrlaration of inde-


name was given to this meeting, with supreme power
for the present, and until the formation of a junta
guhernativa; to be dependent, nevertheless, on that
which should legitimately govem in the name of Ferdi-
nand VII. ; it being also understood, that the cabildo
would immediately proceed to the erection of a junta,
that would exercise authority until a general meet-
ing of the deputies from the provinces could take
place, for the purpose of establishing such form of
government, as might be thought most proper to be

On the twenty-fourth it was announced by bando,
that the following persons were elected to compose
the junta, to wit : the viceroy Gisneios, Dr. Soler, Dr.
Casteli, Colonel Saavedra, and Inchauraqua, to be
conjointly styled their excellency. This selection was
no sooner made known, than general murmurs and
discontents broke forth. The civic officers, who in
virtue of their military characterSjf took the lead in
these popular commotions, presented themselves to
the cabildo, who annulled their former election, and
proceeded to appoint persons more agreeable to their
wishes. These were the chief of the patricios, (native
corps,) Colonel Saavedra as president, and Dr. Cas-
teli, Manuel Belgrano, Manuel Alberti, curate of the
parish of St. Nicholas, Miguel de Ascuenega, colo-
nel of militia, Domingo Matteo, a Catalonian mer-
chant, and Juan Larrea, also an European Spaniard
from the same province. Two persons were selected

* The neglect or tardiness in the first junta, to carry this promise
into effect, is one of the causes of dissatisfaction afterwards expressed
by the provinces.

t It is to be recullected, that the revolution was effected by the
citizens, tvith arms in their hands.


as secretaries, Dri Juan Jose Passo, and Mariano
Moreno. The next day, the 25th, which has ever
since been observed as the anniversary of their po-
litical regeneration, a msmifesto announced these pro-
ceedings of the cabildo, and which seemed to give
universal satisfaction. On the members of the ca-
bildo presenting themselves in the gallery of the town-
house, before the assembled multitude in the public
square, and the act being read, it was approved by
general acclamation. In the manifesto just mention-
ed, several reforms were declared, though not of much
^importance. The tribunal of accounts, and the duty
on tobacco were done away ; the salary of the viceroy
was to cease, and those of the oidores diminished ; at
the same time, liberty was given to the junta to make
such further retrenchment, as they might judge proper ;
for such, says this paper, is the manifest wish of the
people. These retrenchments, it states, are to be ap-
plied to the purpose of raising a regular force of five
hundred men, to be marched, without delay, to the aid
of the interior provinces.* After this, the manifesto spe-
cifies the powers and duties of the junta, in ten distinct
articles, which may be considered the first constitution
adopted by the infant republic.

During the six days taken up with these occur-
rences, one might expect, in a city of fifty or sixty
thousand souls, (the greater part of whom would be
of that class called the rabble under despotic govern-
ments, where pains are taken to keep the poor igno-
rant and degiaded,) that there would be many disor-

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Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeVoyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.2) → online text (page 12 of 25)