John M. (John Milton) Niles.

History of South America and Mexico; comprising their discovery, geography, politics, commerce and revolutions (Volume 2) online

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Finally the party of Artigas prevailed, and this favourable oppor-
tunity for an accommodation passed by without producing this de-
sirable object.

While disorders reigned in the east, which cast a shade over
the political horizon, a more brilliant prospect was opening in the
west. San Martin, then governor of Cuyo or Mendoza, had, for
some time, conceived the bold and noble design of crossing the
Andes, with a force sufficient for the emancipation of Chili, which
was groaning under an exasperated tyranny, the Spaniards having


re-established their authority over the country, and banished a
large number of the most influential patriots to the island of Juan
Fernandez. Chili had sent men and money to assist the United
Provinces, when threatened by the Spanish general Elio, which
required a return ; but the constant annoyance of the United Pro-
vinces, by the royalists of Chili and Peru, rendered it an impor-
tant object to the security of the republic, that the royal authority
in those countries should be overthrown. The invasion of Chili,
therefore, promised, not only the emancipation of that country,
but security to the frontiers of the United Provinces, and to ad-
vance the general cause. But how was this to be effected ? San
Martin had no army, and the confederacy had no means of raising
or supporting one ; its affairs had never been in a more deplora-
ble condition since the commencement of the war. The province
of Cuyo was thinly peopled, and impoverished and devastated by
the predatory incursions of the Spaniards. These discouraging
circumstances, however, did not deter San Martin from his noble
enterprise, but only served to bring into requisition the wonderful
resources of his mind. Such was his influence over the people
of Cuyo, and so completely had he engaged their affections and
confidence, that they placed every thing they had at his disposal.
They voluntarily furnished him with 600 slaves, 300 horses,
10,000 mules, and contributed, by money and personal exertions,
to the construction of barracks, and providing arms, munitions,
and equipments. They furnished the means also of conducting
troops from Buenos Ayres.

After one year spent in organizing and disciplining an army,
composed of such materials, San Martin set out on his patriotic
and daring enterprise. He had to cross the majestic Andes,
with an army accompanied with baggage and artillery, which, for
300 miles, presented rugged and almost inaccessible summits
and narrow defiles, admitting of two persons only abreast along
the giddy verge of frightful precipices, where eternal frosts hold
their undisputed reign. This passage with an army over the
highest mountains in the world, is an achievement more daring
and difficult than that of the renowned Hannibal in crossing the
Alps ; and perhaps there is nothing on the page of history that
surpasses it. But no obstacles could shake the purpose of San
Martin : no difficulties were too great for his genius to overcome.
In thirteen days, the frozen Andes were vanquished and passed,
with the loss of 5000 horses and mules, and a few men. The
liberating army encountered the enemy at Chacabuco soon after ;
and the veterans, who had conquered the Andes, experienced no
difficulty in vanquishing the instruments of tyranny. Seldom has
a victory been more complete, or a triumph more splendid. " In
twenty-four days," said the commander, " we have crossed the


most elevated mountains of the globe, terminated the campaign,
put an end to the sway of tyrants, and given liberty to Chili.' f
The remnant of the royalists took refuge in Talcahuano. The
inhabitants formed a junta at Santiago, and, as a reward foi
his services, offered to San Martin the dictatorship of Chili,
which he declined, and this power was vested in Bernando O'Hig-

After this splendid victory, the general of the Andes, as San
Martin was now called, returned to Buenos Ayres to concert a
plan with the government to direct the victorious arms of the
republic against Peru. As he approached Mendoza, the capita]
of Cuyo, the whole inhabitants of the town flocked out to meet
him ; the youth strewed the road with roses, and all demonstrated
the most lively sensations of admiration and joy on beholding
the hero of the Andes, and the liberator of Chili. At Buenos
Ayres the same sentiments prevailed, and preparations were
making to receive him with every mark of respect and honour ;
but being apprized of what was intended, he stole into the city
unobserved, to the no small disappointment of the people.*

General Belgrano, who had been appointed by Pueyredon, to
the command of the army in Upper Peru, by his talents and ex-
ertions, had retrieved the disasters of the republic in that quar-
ter. The Spanish general Pezuela was succeeded in the com-
mand by general Serna, a less skilful general than his predeces-
sor. After the death of Padilla and Merceces, the bloody Facon
was successfully opposed by Warnes, Ganderilla, and Fernan-
dez, who pressed him hard ; but he was destined to fall a victim
to a higher power ; a stroke of lightning from heaven put an end
to his days and his cruelties. General Serna, haughty and pre-
sumptaous, resolved to recover the provinces which his prede-
cessor had been obliged to abandon. At the head of 2000 men
he pushed forwards into Jujuy, but was so closely pursued and
harassed by Guemes with his formidable guerrilla, that he soon
had occasion to repent of his temerity. After several engagements,
in which he sustained considerable loss, as well as from the con-
tinual annoyance of several guerrilla corps, Serna was com-
pelled to retreat with the remains of his army, and abandon his
designs of conquest.

The state of affairs in the Banda Oriental remained essentially
the same ; Erenu and Samanuego, the chiefs in the province of
Entre Rios, made some concessions, and manifested a disposi-
tion for an accommodation with the United Provinces ; but Ar-
tigas sent an abusive letter to the director, accusing him of se-
cretly favouring the Portuguese, of having connived at the sup-
plies which had been furnished them, and threatening to attack

* Funes.


him even in the capital. To secure Santa Fe, which commands
the interior of the province of Buenos Ayres, and at the same
time to furnish relief to the people of Entre Rios, the director
sent a body of troops under Montes de Oca, which were furious-
ly attacked and defeated by a detachment ordered against them
by Artigas ; a re-enforcement sent under colonel Balcarce, was
also attacked with still greater desperation, and shared the same

These disasters were soon followed by intelligence still more
disagreeable from Chili. Whilst San Martin and O'Higgins
were exerting all their means to reduce the fortress of Talcahu-
ano, the last strong hold of the royalists, the viceroy of Lima
succeeded in throwing 1500 men into that fortress, which as to
strength will almost compare with Gibraltar. San Martin, how-
ever, instead of being discouraged by this untoward f ?ent, was
re-enforcing his army, and preparing for a grand expedition to
Peru, intending to strike the same blow there, which he had with
such important results in Chili. Alarmed at this threatened in-
vasion, the viceroy resolved to decide the fate of Peru in Chili,
and accordingly, after great preparation, embarked an army of
nearly 5000 men, under Osorio, for Talcahuano. Almost imme-
diately after the landing of his troops, Osorio, confident of vic-
tory, and despising the army, and the general whose valour he
had not yet tried, commenced his march for the capital of Chili.
Being re-enforced by the garrison of the fortress, and the royal-
ists in the country, his army amounted to 8000 men. He march-
ed rapidly through the province of Conception, and advanced as
far as Talca. Previous to this, the divisions of San Martin's
army had united and kept up a continual skirmishing with the
royalists, and on the 19th of March, the van of the Spanish army
was attacked and driven back into the streets of Talca. Osorio
now became alarmed for his safety, and resolved to attack the
patriots in the night in their encampment. The attack was made
in the most unexpected and furious manner ; and the independ-
ents were surprised, thrown into confusion, and completely routed.
San Martin, with the remains of his army, retired to the pass of
Angulemu, on the route to Santiago, and in a few days marched
towards the capital, where, in a short time, by his own incredible
exertions, and the patriotism of the inhabitants, his army was re-
enforced, re-organized, and prepared to dispute the dominion of
Chili and of Peru, on the plains of Maypu. Here on the 5th of
April, 1818, was fought one of the most sanguinary actions which
the records of the revolution in South America afford, the result
of which was equally decisive and glorious. It annihilated the
Spanish army, secured to San Martin an imperishable renown,
and established the independence and liberty of Chili and Peru.

VOL. II. 2 C


San Martin was universally greeted as the saviour of the coun-
try, and the hero of the revolution. Soon after this, he returned
to Buenos Ayres, where he was received with the honour due to
his private worth and important public services.*

At this period many privateers were fitted out at Buenos Ayres,
or sailed under commissions of the government of the United
Provinces ; some were fitted out in the United States, in viola-
tion of our laws, and others in England, which obtained commis-
sions from that government ; many also sailed with commissions
from Artigas. These privateers scoured the ocean, and de-
stroyed what remained of the Spanish commerce, and some of
them committed outrages on neutral vessels.

The war on the other side of the river still continued between
the Orientals and the Portuguese ; but the government at Buenos
Ayres tdk no part against the Portuguese, and Pueyredon was
even accused of secretly assisting them. On the first of May
1818, the Portuguese got possession of Colonia, either by force
or treachery, and stationed there a garrison of 1000 men. About
the same time the Portuguese general Curau, with a force of
3500 men, took Purification and Pysander, and a body of caval-
ry crossed the river Uruguay, and ravaged the country. Puri-
fication was afterwards abandoned and the troops took a station
between the Uruguay and Pysander. Their vessels went up the
river to co-operate with their troops, without any efforts being
made by the government of Buenos Ayres to prevent it.

A strong party existed in the United Provinces, opposed to
the administration, which was charged with secretly favouring
the designs of the Portuguese against the Banda Oriental ; but
the principal ground of dissatisfaction, was an alleged opposi-
tion on the part of the director and his party to the rights of the
provinces, which complained of the controlling influence of
Buenos Ayres. The opposition were in favour of what was call-
ed federalism, or a different system of government, which should
give to all the provinces an equal participation therein. The vio-
lence of the opposition led to a conspiracy against the adminis-
tration, which was discovered in August, 1818. The plan was
to seize and carry off the director, but the plot was discovered,
and the leader arrested, who accused three distinguished citizens
as being the authors of the conspiracy, who were arrested, tried,
and acquitted. This conspiracy, and the measures adopted to sup-
press it, increased the agitation of the public mind, and the director
issued a proclamation to quiet the alarm, and preserve tranquillity.

In the month of February this year, (1818,) the commission-
ers of the United States, Messrs. Rodney, Bland, and Graham,
who sailed from our shores the preceding December, arrived at
* Funes' History of the Revolution in the United Provinces.


Buenos Ayres, and were the first public functionaries received
by the republic from any foreign power. They were sent by
the president, as special agents to obtain information as to the
state of the country, and the condition of the new government
They were received by the public authorities at Buenos Ayres
with much respect, and obtained extensive information respect-
ing the country and the war, which the following year was laid
before congress, contained in the reports of the commissioners,
and the accompanying documents.

In the month of August, a Spanish transport, which had sailed
from Cadiz with 200 troops for Lima, arrived at Buenos Ayres.
The troops mutinied, killed such of their officers as would not
join them, and compelled the captain and crew to conduct the
vessel to Buenos Ayres, where they took the oath of allegiance
to the independent government, and joined the forces of the re-
public. On the 12th of December the congress passed a decree
recognising the independence of Chili. Most of the troops of
the government being in Chili, under San Martin, or on the
frontiers of Upper Peru, the Monteneros or hordes of Indians,
disturbed the public tranquillity, and cut off all communication
with the interior. Early in the year 1819, the Spanish prisoners
at San Luis revolted, and seven of them, headed by a general
officer, attacked the governor in his own house ; but, undaunted
by their number, he defended himself, killed one, and compelled
the rest to retreat. Twenty-seven of the conspirators were ar-
rested, condemned, and shot; including one brigadier-general,
two colonels, and several other officers. The expedition, which
had long been preparing at Cadiz, occasioned considerable excite-
ment, and attracted the principal attention of the government,
which made all the preparations its situation would admit of, to
meet any force that might invade the country.

The congress of the confederacy assembled on the 25th of
February, and the session was opened by a message from the
supreme director, who speaks of the dissensions which prevail-
ed, and of the conspiracies against the government. He says,
that " the frequency of disorders, and the repeated instances in
which he had been under the painful necessity of punishing the
authors of disturbances, and the enemies of the republic, had
rendered him obnoxious to the malice and vengeance of many
individuals who might be useful to the country," and adds that
he would resign, did he not think it would have an unfavourable
influence, at home and abroad, under present circumstances.
He urges the speedy adoption of a constitution as the most effect-
ual means of pacifying the disaffected, and restoring the public
tranquillity. " The threatened expedition from Spain," he re-i
marks, " requires preparations for defence commensurate to th


danger ;" and recommends that the provinces assume a warlike
attitude, and be put in the most complete state of defence ; and
intimates that " this will require a head possessing more military
experience and capacity than he can claim." Whilst engaged in
providing for the defence of the country, the congress were also
deliberating on a constitution for the state, and one having been
prepared, was publicly proclaimed on the 25th of May. It was
formed on the federal basis, and its principles did not vary essen-
tially from the constitution of the United States. It presented
the great features of liberty ; the legislative power being vested
in two chambers, one consisting of deputies, chosen by the people
for four years, the other of senators, elected by the provinces or
states ; the executive authority was vested in one person, called
a director ; it declared the equality of the citizens, the freedom of
the press, the inviolability of persons, their dwellings, &c.

Shortly after this event, Pueyredon, in consequence of ill
health, as he alleged, but perhaps from the disaffection to his ad-
ministration, and the apprehension of a gathering storm, resigned
the directorship, and Joseph Rondeau succeeded him ad interim,
until a new director could be chosen according to the forms of the
constitution. Great preparations to defend the country against
the long threatened expedition from Cadiz continued to be made
until all apprehensions, from that quarter, were put at rest by the
revolution in Spain, which defeated the expedition. No impor-
tant operations of the armies of the United Provinces, in Upper
Peru and Chili, occurred this year ; but the war, on the east side
of the river, was kept up by the indefatigable Artigas, who with
astonishing perseverance and ability, maintained the unequal con-
test with the Portuguese, without any assistance from the govern-
ment of Buenos Ayres, and whilst often at open war with it.

The revolution in South America early attracted the attention
of the great powers of Europe, forming the " holy alliance ;" and
from the period it became evident that Spain could not re-establish
her authority over her American colonies, there is the strongest
reason for believing that the allied powers seriously meditated
such an interference as should dispose of the destinies of those
countries. The primary object of the allied powers, the proscrip-
tion of all revolutions and political reforms originating from the
people, and their determination to oppose the establishment of
free institutions, could leave no doubt of the concern and hostility
with which they viewed the developement of events in Spanish
America, and the probable establishment of several independent
free states, resting on institutions emanating from the will and the
valour of the people. But there is more specific evidence of their
hostile intentions. Don Jose Vaventine Gomez, envoy from the
government of Buenos Ayres at Paris, in a note to the secretary


of his government of the 20th of April, 1819, says, that "the di-
minution of republican governments was a basis of the plans
adopted by the holy alliance for the preservation of their thrones ;
and that, in consequence, the republics of Holland, Venice, and
Genoa, received their death blow at Vienna, at the very time that
the world was amused by the solemn declaration, that all the
states of Europe would be restored to the same situation they were
in before the French revolution. I also expressed the belief, that
the sovereigns assembled at Aix la Chapelle, had agreed, secret-
ly, to draw the Americans to join them in this policy, when Spain
should be undeceived, and have renounced the project of re-con-
quering her provinces ; and that the king of Portugal warmly pro-
moted this plan through his ministers."

By a circular not addressed by the Spanish minister to the
allied powers in 1817, it appeared that these powers had agreed
with the Spanish sovereign to interfere in the dispute between
Spain and her American colonies, and that the manner and extent
of their interposition was to be determined on at the congress to
be held at Aix la Chapelle.* The great obstacle to the inter-
ference of the allied powers, was Great Britain, whose commer-
cial policy, in this instance, was opposed to the political designs
of the alliance, and to her own political views. Her commercial
interests were the strongest, and she could not be persuaded to
favour the designs of the other allied powers against the inde-
pendence and liberty of Spanish America. The condition of the
United States, and the attitude assumed by the government, (the
president having declared, subsequently, that the interference of
any foreign power against the independence of the states of South
America, would be viewed as dangerous to the peace and safety
of the United States,) were not without their influence on the de-
signs of these powers.

But, if the obstacles which Great Britain and the United States
interposed, prevented their attempting to dispose of the countries
of South America by force, as they had of Naples and Spain, they
were in hopes to control their destinies by the arts of diplomacy
and disguised friendship. Taking advantage of the threatened
invasion from Spain, and the alarms which it excited at Buenos
Ayres, the French cabinet attempted, by intrigue and artifice, to
establish in the United Provinces, a monarchy under a European
prince related to the house of Bourbon. Rondeau, the director,
was by birth a Frenchman, a circumstance which favoured this
bold intrigue.

The French minister for foreign affairs, in a conference with
Gomez, the envoy of the United Provinces, after expressing the
ardent wish of the ministry for the success of the glorious cause
* See President Monroe's Message, in 1818.

VOL. II. 18


in which the United Provinces were engaged, and regretting tho
obstacles which prevented France from affording them assistance,
said, " that on reflecting on their true interests, he was convinced
that these entirely depended on the choice of a government, un-
der whose influence they might enjoy the advantages of peace ;
and that he firmly believed this form of government could only be
a constitutional monarchy, with a prince of Europe at its head ;
whose relations might command and increase a respect for the
state, and facilitate the acknowledgment of their national inde-
pendence. This measure he thought alone would ensure tran-
quillity to the provinces, conciliate the powers of Europe, and
even lead to peace and a recognition of the independence of the
country on the part of Spain itself. He recommended the Duke
of Lucca, late heir of the kingdom of Etruria and a Bourbon by
his mother's side, as a suitable prince ; and said that the empe-
rors of Russia and Austria were very friendly to him, and that
England could find neither reason nor pretext to oppose his eleva-
tion. It was proposed that France would furnish the necessary
land and naval forces to render the new king respectable, and se-
cure the independence of the country ; that the duke should marry
a princess of Brazil, on condition of a cession from the govern-
ment of Brazil of the country east of the La Plata to the United
Provinces, and that France would use her influence with the king
of Spain to induce him to acknowledge the independence of the

Gomez informed the secretary that he had no authority to ne-
gotiate on this delicate and important subject ; but that he would
communicate what he had expressed to him, to his government,
which he did by a note dated the 19th of June, 1819. The
same intrigue was undertaken with the government of Chili
through its deputy, Don Jose Yrizarri. The despatches from
Gomez were received in October, 1819, and on the 26th of that
month, Rondeau, the director, communicated them to congress,
without expressing any opinion, but urging a speedy decision.*
After long deliberation, at a secret session on the 12th of Novem-
ber, strange as it may seem, the congress approved of the project
of France, subject to nine conditions ; the principal of which
were, that his most Christian majesty, the king of France, should
obtain the assent of the five great powers of Europe, including
England and Spain ; that he should facilitate the marriage of the
duke of Lucca with a princess of Brazil, and procure a cession of
the provinces east of the La Plata ; that France should afford to
the duke all the assistance necessary to defend and consolidate
the monarchy, and to comprise within it all the east side, includ-
ing Monte Video and Paraguay, and also furnish troops, ships,
* See the despatch of Gomez to his government.


and four millions of dollars by way of loan, to put the country in
a condition to defend itself, and secure its independence. The
design and result of this scheme, had it succeeded, could not
have occasioned a moment's doubt. It was intended to pros-
trate the republic, and to have established a monarchy on its
ruins, under the protection, and consequently, entirely under the
control of France. If this daring plot against the independence
and liberties of Spanish America had succeeded, the example would
have been laid hold of to favour similar attempts, by other Eu-
ropean powers, against the other governments in Spanish Ameri-
ca. Fortunately for the interests of South America, and the
cause of liberty, there was too much virtue and intelligence in the
people, in the midst of all their dissensions, to permit so degrad-
ing and pernicious a scheme to be carried into effect. And those

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Online LibraryJohn M. (John Milton) NilesHistory of South America and Mexico; comprising their discovery, geography, politics, commerce and revolutions (Volume 2) → online text (page 23 of 26)