Patriot, Warrior, Statesman Father of Five Nations
Patriot, Warrior, Statesman Father of Five Nations
A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE AND HIS WORK
BY GUILLERMO A. SHERWELL
Guillermo A. Sherwell (1878-1926) was the recipient of Doctorate Degrees from the National University of Mexico and from the University of Georgetown. Among the posts which he filled was that of Rector of the National University of Mexico, Legal Counsellor of the Inter-American Committee in Washington and Professor of History and of Hispano-American literature. Sincerely interested in the heroes of Spanish-American independence, he dedicated himself to the study of their lives and especially to that of the Liberator. He also wrote a biography of Sucre.
This biography of Bolvar was first published in Washington in 1921. It was again published in Baltimore in 1930. There have been two translations into Spanish, that of Roberto Cortzar and that of R. Cansinos-Assens, published respectively in Bogot (1922 and 1930) and in Madrid (1922).
The Bolivarian Society of Venezuela has decided that in homage to the memory of the Liberator on the occasion of the transfer of the statue in New York to its new site at the head of the Avenue of the Americas, the publication of another edition of this excellent work of Mr. Sherwell's which gives in an excellent condensed form the historical significations of Bolvar. The children of Mr. Sherwell have kindly given their consent to the publication of this edition which is made under the auspices of the Junta de Gobierno of the United States of Venezuela.
In the history of peoples, the veneration of national heroes has been one of the most powerful forces behind great deeds. National consciousness, rather than a matter of frontiers, racial strain or community of customs, is a feeling of attachment to one of those men who symbolize best the higher thoughts and aspirations of the country and most deeply impress the hearts of their fellow citizens. Despite efforts to write the history of peoples exclusively from the social point of view, history has been, and will continue to be, mainly a record of great names and great deeds of national heroes.
The Greeks, for us and for themselves, are not so much the people who lived in the various city-states of Hellas, nor the people dominated and more or less influenced by the Romans and later the Mohammedan conquerors, nor even the present population in which the old pure Hellenic element is in a proportion much smaller than is generally thought. Greece is what she is, lives in the life of men and shapes the minds and souls of peoples, through her great heroes, through her various gods, which were nothing but divinized heroes. Greece is for us Apollo, as a symbol of whatever is filled with light, high, beautiful and noble; Heracles for what is strength, energy, organization, life as it should be lived by human beings. Leonidas stands for us as a symbol of heroic deeds; Demosthenes as a symbol of the convincing powers of oratory and Pericles as the crystallization of Grecian life in its totality of beauty, learning and social and civic life. Greece is a type, is an attitude, is a protest against oppression, is an aspiration towards beauty, is an inspiration and a guide for men who live in the higher planes of feeling and thought. But Greece is not all that as a people; Greece is all that through men converted into symbols.
So it is with other peoples.
Rome still signifies for us the defense of the bridge against the powerful enemy; a man taking absolute power over the State and then surrendering it to the people from whom it came. Rome is Repblican virtue, and imperial power,—and also, alas! imperial degradation. Imperial Rome represents persecution of religion which does not recognize Caesar as a god and the assimilation of religions which do not hesitate to add a god to those they adore. Rome, too, symbolizes the tendency to unity which survives and inspires the life of the nations of Europe, if not of the world,—a tendency altogether manifest in the last gigantic struggle through which mankind has just passed. Rome, finally, stands for Law, for the most marvelous social machine ever devised by human brains. But Rome is all that, and more than that, through Horace, Sulla, Cato, Caesar, Cicero, Nero, Caracalla and Justinian.
The confusion of the Middle Ages has some points of light, always around a man. The great Frederic Barbarossa stands for Germany, as does William Tell for Switzerland, as Ivan the Great for Russia, as the Cid for Spain, as King Arthur for England and Charlemagne for France.
The modern peoples, those who only lately have begun to live as nations, have their heroes, who perhaps do not seem so great to us as the old heroes, because they have not been magnified by time; but, if compared with men of the past, many of them are as great, if not, in some cases, greater. The countries of America are at present forming this tradition about their illustrious ancestors. And, if they want to live the strong life of the nations destined to last and to be powerful and respected, they must persevere in the work of building up around their fathers the frame-work of their national consciousness. Washington every day appears nobler to us, because every day we understand better what is the meaning of his sacrifice and his work; every day we learn to appreciate more the value of the inheritance he left to us when he gave us a free country where we can think and speak and work, untrammeled by the whims and caprices of foreign masters. And the nations to the south of us are also building their national consciousness around their great heroes, among them the greatest of all, Bolvar, one of those men who appear in the world at long intervals, selected by God to be the leaders of multitudes, to be performers of miracles, achieving what is impossible for the common man. They live a life of constant inspiration, as if they were not guided by their own frail judgment, but, like Moses, by the smoke and the flame of God through a desert, through suffering and success, through happiness and misfortune, until they might see before them the Promised Land of Victory, some destined to enjoy the full possession of it, and others to die with no other happiness than that of leaving an inheritance to their successors.
These few pages, devoted to the life and work of Simn Bolvar, the great South American Liberator, will attain their object if the reader understands and appreciates how unusual a man Bolvar was. Every citizen of the United States of America must respect and venerate his sacred memory, as the Liberator and Father of five countries, the man who assured the independence of the rest of the South American peoples of Spanish speech; the man who conceived the plans of Pan-American unity which those who came after him have elaborated, and the man who, having conquered all his enemies and seen at his feet peoples and laws, effected the greatest conquest, that of himself, sacrificing all his aspirations and resigning his power, to go and die, rewarded by the ingratitude of those who owed him their existence as free men. The more the life of this man is studied, the greater he appears, and the nearer he seems to the superhuman.
The American people, made free by Washington, do not begrudge the legitimate glory of other illustrious men, and if they have not rendered up to this time the homage due to Simn Bolvar, it has been mainly through lack of accurate knowledge of his wonderful work. The city of New York, the greatest community in the world, is now honoring his memory by placing in a conspicuous section of its most beautiful park a statue which the Government of Venezuela has given it; the statue of the Man of the South, the brother in glory to our own Washington. No greater homage could be paid to him than to have American fathers and mothers pass by the noble monument, pointing out to their children the statue and telling them the marvelous story of Simn Bolvar.
In a book as brief as this it is impossible to present documents or to give long quotations. Nevertheless, we may fairly affirm that all statements herein made are substantiable by documentary evidence. We have consulted all the books and pamphlets which have been at hand and have studied both sides of debatable questions regarding Bolvar. To follow a chronological order we have been guided by the beautiful biography written by Larrazbal, the man called by F. Lorain Petre "the greatest flatterer of Bolvar." That this assertion is false is proved in the first volume cited below. Petre's monograph contains apparent earmarks of impartiality, but in reality it is nothing but a bitter attack on the reputation of Bolvar. Its translator, a distinguished Venezuelan writer, is to be thanked for the serenity with which he has destroyed his imputations. We find nothing to add in defense of the Liberator.
The following studies have been particularly consulted:
"Bolvar—por los ms grandes escritores americanos, precedido de un estudio por Miguel de Unamuno," Madrid and Buenos Aires, 1914,
a book containing the following monographs:
"Simn Bolvar," by Juan Montalvo (Ecuadorian) "Simn Bolvar," by F. Garca Caldern (Peruvian) "Simn Bolvar," by P.M. Arcaya (Venezuelan) "Bolvar y su campaa de 1821," by General L. Duarte Level (Mexican) "Bolvar en el Per," by A. Galindo (Colombian) "Simn Bolvar," by B. Vicua Mackenna (Chilean) "Simn Bolvar," by J.B. Alberdi (Argentinean) "Simn Bolvar," by Jos Mart (Cuban) "El ideal internacional de Bolvar," by Francisco Jos Urrutia (Colombian) "La entrevista de Guayaquil," by Ernesto de la Cruz (Chilean) "Bolvar, escritor," by Blanco-Fombona (Venezuelan) "Bolvar," by F. Lorain Petre (North American) "Bolvar," by J.E. Rod (Uruguayan) "Bolvar, ntimo," by Cornelio Hispano (Colombian) "Bolvar, profesor de energa," by Jos Verssimo (Brazilian) "Bolvar, legislador," by Jorge Ricardo Vejarano (Colombian)
"Discursos y Proclamas—Simn Bolvar," R. Blanco-Fombona, Paris. "Documentos para la Vida Pblica del Libertador" por Blanco y Azpura, Caracas. "El Libertador de la Amrica del Sur," Guzmn Blanco, London, 1885. "Estudio Histrico," Aristides Rojas, Caracas, 1884. "La Creacin de un Continente," F. Garca Caldern, Paris. "La Entrevista de Bolvar y San Martn en Guayaquil," Camilo Destruge, Guayaquil, 1918. "La ltima enfermedad, los ltimos momentos y los funerales de Simn Bolvar," Dr. A.P. Rvrend, Paris, 1866. "Leyendas Histricas," A. Rojas, Caracas, 1890. "Memorias de O'Leary," translated from English by Simn B. O'Leary, Caracas, 1883. "Orgenes del Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho," discursos del Seor D. Felipe Francia, Caracas, 1920. "Papeles de Bolvar," Vicente Lecuna, Caracas, 1917. "Pensamientos consagrados a la memoria del Libertador," Caracas, 1842. "Recuerdos del Tiempo Herico—Pjinas de la vida militar i poltica del Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho," Jos Mara Rey de Castro, Guayaquil, 1883. "Resmen de la Historia de Venezuela," Baralt y Daz, Paris, 1841. "Simn Bolvar," Arturo Juega Farrulla, Montevideo, 1915. "Vida de Simn Bolvar," Larrazbal, Madrid, 1918; also sixth edition of same book, New York, Andres Cassard, 1883.
[Footnote 1: Duarte Level is not Mexican but Venezuelan.]
[Footnote 2: Lorain Petre is not North American but English.]
For the use of various documents, articles, and papers, we are also indebted to Dr. Manuel Segundo Snchez, Director of the National Library of Caracas, Venezuela, as well as to Dr. Julius Goebel of the University of Virginia for his kindness in letting us examine his notes on certain papers existing in the files of the State Department in Washington.
We beg to express our sincere gratitude to Miss Edith H. Murphy of Bay Ridge High School and St. Joseph College of Brooklyn, and to Dr. C.E. McGuire of the Inter American High Commission, for their revision of the original manuscript and their very valuable suggestions regarding the subject matter and the style.
For the appreciations and judgments appearing in this monograph, its author assumes full responsibility.
Table of Contents
I. The Spanish Colonies in America
II. Bolvar's Early Life. Venezuela's First Attempt to Obtain Self-Government (1783-1810)
III. The Declaration of Independence, July 5, 1811. Miranda's Failure (1811-1812)
IV. Bolvar's First Expedition. The Cruelty of War (1812-1813)
V. Bolvar's First Victories (1813)
VI. Araure. Ribas Triumphs in La Victoria. A Wholesale Execution (1813-1814)
VII. The Heroic Death of Ricaurte. Victory of Carabobo and Defeat of La Puerta (1814)
VIII. Bolvar in Exile and Morillo in Power. The "Jamaica Letter" (1814-1815)
IX. Bolvar's Expedition and New Exile. He Goes to Guayana (1815-1817)
X. Piar's Death. Victory of Calabozo. Second Defeat at La Puerta. Submission of Pez (1817-1818)
XI. The Congress of Angostura. A great Address. Campaigning in the Plains (1819)
XII. Bolvar Pays His Debt to Nueva Granada. Boyac. A Dream Comes True (1819)
XIII. Humanizing War. Morillo's Withdrawal (1820)
XIV. The Second Battle of Carabobo. Ambitions and Rewards. Bolvar's Disinterestedness. American Unity (1821)
XV. Bombon and Pichincha. The Birth of Ecuador. Bolvar and San Martn Face to Face (1822)
XVI. Junn, a Battle of Centaurs. The Continent's Freedom Sealed in Ayacucho (1822-1824)
XVII. Bolivia's Birth. Bolvar's Triumph. The Monarchical Idea. From Honors to Bitterness (1825-1827)
XVIII. The Convention of Ocaa. Full Powers. An Attempt at Murder (1828)
XIX. Difficulties with Per. Slanders and Honors. On the Road to Calvary (1829-1830)
XX. Friends and Foes. Sucre's Assassination. The Lees of Bitterness. An Upright Man's Death (1830)
XXI. The Man and His Work
Patriot, Warrior, Statesman Father of Five Nations
The Spanish Colonies in America
Everybody knows that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who served under the King and Queen of Spain, and who made four trips, in which he discovered most of the islands now known as the West Indies and part of the central and southern regions of the American continent. Long before the English speaking colonies which now constitute the United States of America were established, the Spaniards were living from Florida and the Mississippi River to the South, with the exception of what is now Brazil, and had there established their culture, their institutions and their political system.
In some sections, the Indian tribes were almost exterminated, but generally the Spaniards mingled with the Indians, and this intercourse resulted in the formation of a new race, the mixed race (mestizos) which now comprises the greater number of the inhabitants of what we call Latin America.
African slavery added another racial element, which is often discernible in the existing population.
The Latin American peoples today are composed of European whites, American whites (creoles), mixed races of Indian and white, white and Negro, Negro and Indian, Negro and mestizo, and finally, the pure Indian race, distinctive types of which still appear over the whole continent from Mexico to Chile, but which has disappeared almost entirely in Uruguay and Argentina. Some countries have the Indian element in larger proportions than others, but this distribution of races prevails substantially all over the continent.
It would distract us from our purpose to give a full description of the grievances of the Spanish colonies in America. They were justified and it is useless to try to defend Spain. Granting that Spain carried out a wonderful work of civilization in the American continent, and that she is entitled to the gratitude of the world for her splendid program of colonization, it is only necessary, nevertheless, to cite some of her mistakes of administration in order to prove the contention of the colonists that they must be free.
Books could not be published or sold in America without the permission of the Consejo de Indias, and several cases were recorded of severe punishment of men who disobeyed this rule. Natives could not avail themselves of the advantages of the printing press. Communication and trade with foreign nations were forbidden. All ships found in American waters without license from Spain were considered enemies. Nobody, not even the Spaniards, could come to America without the permission of the King, under penalty of loss of property and even of loss of life. Spaniards, only, could trade, keep stores or sell goods in the streets. The Indians and mestizos could engage only in mechanical trades.
Commerce was in the hands of Spain, and taxes were very often prohibitive. Even domestic commerce, except under license, was forbidden. It was especially so regarding the commerce between Per and New Spain, and also with other colonies. Some regulations forbade Chile and Per to send their wines and other products to the colonists of the North. The planting of vineyards and olive trees was forbidden. The establishment of industry, the opening of roads and improvements of any kind were very often stopped by the Government. Charles IV remarked that he did not consider learning advisable for America.
Americans were often denied the right of public office. Great personal service or merit was not sufficient to destroy the dishonor and disgrace of being an American.
The Spanish colonies were divided into vice-royalties and general captaincies. There were also audiencias, which existed under the vice-royalties and general captaincies. The Indians were put under the care and protection of Spanish officials called encomenderos, but these in fact, in most cases, were merciless exploiters of the natives who, furthermore, were subject to many local disabilities. The Kings of Spain tried to protect the Indians, and many laws were issued tending to spare them from the ill-treatment of the Spanish colonists. But the distance from Spain to America was great, and when laws and orders reached the colonies, they never had the force which they were intended to have when issued. There existed a general race hatred. The Indians and the mestizos, as a rule, hated the creoles, or American whites, who often were as bad as, or even worse than, the Spanish colonists in dealing with the aborigines. It is not strange, then, that in a conflict between Spain and the colonies, the natives should take sides against the creoles, who did most of the thinking, and who were interested and concerned with all the changes through which the Spanish nation might pass, and that they would help Spain against the white promoters of the independent movement. This assertion must be borne in mind to understand the difficulties met by the independent leaders, who had to fight not only against the Spanish army, which was in reality never very large, but also against the natives of their own land. To regard this as an invariable condition would nevertheless lead to error, for at times, under proper guidance, the natives would pass to the files of the insurgent leaders and fight against the Spaniards.
Furthermore, it is necessary to remember that education was very limited in the Spanish colonies; that in some of them printing had not been introduced, and that its introduction was discouraged by the public authority; and that public opinion, which even at this time is so poorly developed, was very frequently poorly informed in colonial times, or did not exist, unless we call public opinion a mass of prejudices, superstitions and erroneous habits of thinking fostered by interests, either personal or of the government.
This was the condition of the Spanish American countries at the beginning of the nineteenth century, full of agitation and conflicting ideas, when new plans of life for the people were being elaborated and put into practice as experiments on which many men founded great hopes and which many others feared as forerunners of a general social disintegration.
Bolvar's Early Life. Venezuela's First Attempt to Obtain Self-Government
Simn Bolvar was born in the city of Caracas on the twenty-fourth day of July, 1783; his father was don Juan Vicente Bolvar, and his mother, doa Mara de la Concepcin Palacios y Blanco. His father died when Simn was still very young, and his mother took excellent care of his education. His teacher, afterwards his intimate friend, was don Simn Rodrguez, a man of strange ideas and habits, but constant in his affection and devotion to his illustrious pupil.
Bolvar's family belonged to the Spanish nobility, and in Venezuela was counted in the group called Mantuano, or noble. They owned great tracts of land and lived in comfort, associating with the best people, among whom they were considered leaders.
The early youth of Bolvar was more or less like that of the other boys of his city and station, except that he gave evidence of a certain precocity and nervousness of action and speech which distinguished him as an enthusiastic and somewhat idealistic boy.
Misfortune taught Bolvar its bitter lessons when he was still young. At fifteen years of age he lost his mother. Then his uncle and guardian, don Carlos Palacios, sent him to Madrid to complete his education. The boat on which he made the trip left La Guaira on January 17, 1799, and stopped at Vera Cruz. This enabled young Simn Bolvar to go to Mexico City and other towns of New Spain. In the capital of the colony he was treated in a manner becoming his social standing, and met the highest offcials of the government. The viceroy had several conversations with him, and admired his wit; but it finally alarmed him when the boy came to talk on political questions and, with an assurance superior to his age, defended the freedom of the American colonies.
Bolvar lived in Madrid with his relatives, and had occasion to be in touch with the highest members of the court, and even with the King, Charles IV, and the Queen. There he met a young lady named Mara Teresa Toro, whose uncle, the Marquis of Toro, lived in Caracas and was a friend of the young man. He fell in love with her, but as he was only seventeen years old, the Marquis of Ustriz, who was in charge of Bolvar in Madrid, advised him to delay his plans for an early marriage.
In 1801 Bolvar went to Paris, where he found Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul, undertaking his greatest labors of social reorganization after the long period of anarchy through which France had passed following the Revolution. Bonaparte was one of the most admired men at that time. He had come back from Egypt and Syria, had been victorious at Marengo and Hohenlinden, and had just signed the Peace of Lunville. One does not wonder that Bolvar should admire him and that his letters should contain many expressions of enthusiasm about the great man of Europe.
In the same year he returned to Madrid and married Mara Teresa Toro, deciding to go back at once to Venezuela with his wife, to live peacefully, attending to his own personal business and property. But again fate dealt him a hard blow and shattered all the dreams and plans of the young man. His virtuous wife died in January, 1803, ten months after their arrival in Caracas. He had not yet reached his twenty-first year, and had already lost father, mother and wife. His nerves became steeled and his heart prepared for great works, for works requiring the concentration of mind which can be given only by men who have no intimate human connections or obligations. As a South American orator lately declared: "Neither Washington nor Bolvar was destined to have children of his own, so that we Americans might call ourselves their children."
Bolvar decided immediately to leave for Europe. Nothing could keep him in his own country. He had loved his wife and his wife only could have led him to accept a life of ease and comfort. He decided never to marry again and, perhaps to assuage the pain in his heart, he decided to devote his time to the study of the great problems of his country, and to bend all his energies and strength to their solution. At the end of 1803, he was again in Madrid, giving his wife's father the sad news of their great loss.
[Footnote 1: Atilano Carnevali, on the occasion of placing a wreath before Washington's statue in Caracas, July 4, 1920.]
From Madrid, Bolvar went to Paris, and was in the city when the Empire was established. All the admiration the man of the Republic had won from Bolvar immediately crumbled to dust before the young American. "Since Napoleon has become a king," said Bolvar, "his glory to me seems like the brilliancy of hell." He did not attend the ceremony of Napoleon's coronation, and made him the object of bitter attacks when among his own friends. He never hesitated to speak of the liberty of America with all his acquaintances, who enjoyed his conversation in spite of the ideas that he supported.
In the spring of 1805 he went on a walking tour to Italy, with his teacher and friend, don Simn Rodrguez. In Milan he saw Napoleon crowned as King of Italy, and then witnessed a great parade passing before the French Emperor. All these royal ceremonies increased his hatred of monarchy.
From Milan he went to Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples, studying everything, informing himself of all the currents of public opinion, and dreaming of what he intended to accomplish for his own people. While in Rome, he and his teacher went to Mount Aventin. There they denounced in an intimate talk the oppression of peoples and discussed the liberty of their native Venezuela. When their enthusiasm had reached its highest pitch, the young dreamer took the hand of his master, and at that historic spot, he made a solemn vow to free his country.
From Italy, he came to the United States, where he visited Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other towns, sailing from Charleston for Venezuela. He arrived in Caracas at the end of 1806.
Upon his return home, Bolvar devoted himself to the care and improvement of his estate. Yet his ideas continued to seethe, especially when the constant spectacle of the state of affairs in Venezuela stimulated this ferment of his mind.
Among the American colonies, Venezuela was not considered by Spain as one of the most important. Mexico and Per, celebrated by their production of mineral wealth, were those which attracted most of the attention of the Spaniards. Venezuela was apparently poor, and certainly did not contribute many remittances of gold and silver to the mother country. It had been organized as a captaincy general in 1731, after having been governed in different ways and having had very little communication with Spain. It is said that from 1706 to 1722, not a single boat sailed from any Venezuelan port for Spain. Commercial intercourse between the provinces was forbidden, and local industries could not prosper because the purchase of the products of Spanish industries was compulsory for the natives, at prices set after all transportation expenses and high taxes were taken into account. The colonists were oppressed by taxes and kept in ignorance.
This state of affairs had produced a latent feeling of irritation and a desire for a change. The native white population read the books of the French philosophers, especially those of Rousseau and Montesquieu. The ideas proclaimed by the United States of America and those preached by the most radical men of the French Revolution were smuggled in and known in spite of prohibition.
At the middle of the eighteenth century, there had been a movement against the Compaa Guipuzcoana, established about 1730, and which greatly oppressed the people. This movement failed and its leaders were severely punished.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Spain allied herself with England to fight against France. This war ended in 1795 with the Treaty of Basel, by which Spain lost Santo Domingo to France. A year later, Spain allied herself with France against England, and the disastrous war which followed resulted in the loss of the island of Trinidad to England, by the Treaty of Amiens, in 1802. France and England used these possessions to foster revolutions in the Spanish colonies.
In 1797 a conspiracy was started in Caracas, but it too failed. Some of its leaders received death sentences, others were expelled from the country and others were imprisoned. In Mexico, in Per and in the southernmost part of the continent, men were working in favor of the idea of freedom.
In Europe, at this time, there was a very prominent Venezuelan, don Francisco Miranda, who had played an important rle in the world events of that period. Miranda was born in Caracas, came to the North American colonies, and fought under Washington against the English power. Afterwards he went to Europe and fought in the armies of revolutionary France, attaining the rank of general. His friends were among the most distinguished men in Europe in political position or international achievement. He talked to them tirelessly, trying to convert them to the idea of the necessity for emancipating the countries of America. He failed to receive the attention he desired in England, and came to America. In New York he prepared an expedition and went to Venezuela, arriving there in March of 1806, with three boats, some arms, ammunition and men. He found the Spaniards prepared, and was defeated, losing two of his ships and many men as prisoners. He escaped with the other boat to Trinidad. In the West Indies he obtained the help of an English admiral, Sir A. Cochrane, and with larger forces returned to Venezuela, landing at Coro, which he took in August, 1806. But there he found the greatest enemy with which he and Bolvar had to contend, and that was the lack of the sanction of public opinion. Men whom Miranda had expected to increase his army failed to appear, and perhaps this indifference was aggravated by the antipathy with which the natives saw the foreign element which predominated in Miranda's army. Lacking the support of the people and the reserves which Miranda had expected to get from the English colony of Jamaica, he withdrew and went to London, altogether discouraged.
At that time great changes had occurred in Spain. Charles IV, its weak monarch, saw the French army invading his country under the pretense of going to Portugal, and feared that Napoleon would end by wresting the Spanish throne from him. If he allied himself with Napoleon, England could easily seize America, and should he ally himself with England, he would make an enemy of Napoleon, who already was in possession of Spain itself. The Crown Prince of Spain, Fernando, was intriguing against his father, and Charles IV had him imprisoned. Then it was discovered that the Prince was in treacherous relations with the ministers of Napoleon. The King complained to the French Emperor, who persuaded him to forgive and release his son. Meanwhile, the French army was advancing into Spain while the English were fomenting among the Spanish people the hatred for the French. The latter availed themselves of their advantageous position and, feeling sure of their strength in Spanish lands, demanded from the Court the cession of the northern section of Spain contiguous to Portugal. Rumors ran wild in the Court, and it was even said that the monarch and his family would leave Spain for Mexico. A favorite of the King, named Manuel Godoy, received the greatest blame for this situation, and Fernando, the Crown Prince, being the main antagonist of Godoy, was regarded as the champion of Spanish right and was loved by the Spanish people. The people rose and demanded that Godoy should be delivered to them. In March, 1808, the King abdicated and Fernando was proclaimed King. But the abdication was insincere, and Charles IV wrote to Napoleon that he had been compelled to take that action, certain that if he did not do so, he and the Queen would perish. Not content with this communication, Charles IV went to Bayonne to meet Napoleon, where his son Fernando had been invited by Napoleon to meet him. There one of the most disgraceful episodes in Spanish history occurred. Fernando renounced his rights to his father, and then his father renounced his rights and those of his family to Napoleon and to whomever he might select to rule. Napoleon immediately made his brother Joseph King of Spain. This occurred in May, 1808. The Spanish people had never been taken into consideration in all these dealings. But they wanted to be considered and they decided that they would be. Murat was governor in Madrid, and on May 2 the people rebelled against him. Great ensued. Though the rebellion was suppressed, the fire burning in the Spanish soul was not extinguished. Everywhere juntas provinciales (provincial assemblies) were organized against the intruder; they allied themselves with England and declared that Fernando VII was the legitimate King of Spain and that the nation was at war with France. In order to unify the actions of the different juntas, a central junta was established in Aranjuez on September 25, 1808.
All these events had a tremendous effect in the American colonies. News was received in Venezuela of the abdication of Charles and Fernando, with orders to the colonies to recognize the new government. But at the same time an English boat sent by Admiral Cochrane arrived, and announced to the Venezuelan authorities the establishment of the juntas and the organization of resistance to the French. The authorities concluded to obey the orders brought by the French messengers, but the people rose in Caracas as in Spain, went to the city council and forced it to proclaim Fernando VII the legitimate monarch of Spain, thus starting a revolution, which in its inception had all the appearance of loyalty to the reigning house of Spain, but which very soon was transformed into a real movement of emancipation.
Some days later the city council asked the governor to establish a junta in Caracas, similar to those already established in Spain. The Spanish authorities wanted to have recognized the supremacy of the junta assembled in Seville, Spain, which had assumed the name of Supreme Junta of Spain and her Colonies. The Venezuelans insisted that they should have a junta in Caracas, and in order to foster this idea the most prominent leaders of public thought met secretly at the house of Simn Bolvar. Most of the conspirators were young men, united by strong ties of friendship or family. Among them were the Marquis of Toro and don Jos Flix Ribas, a relative of Bolvar, two very distinguished men. The meetings were sometimes held at the house of Ribas. It was not long before they were discovered. They determined to petition for the establishment of a junta in Caracas. The authorities ordered them to be put into prison; and in spite of their efforts, the Supreme Junta of Spain and her Colonies was recognized in January, 1809. The Junta Central declared in that same month that all the Spanish colonies formed part of the Spanish monarchy itself, which statement apparently was a declaration of equality. However, in fact, it was not so, since the elections of deputies to the junta were not to be made by the people but by the captain general, advised by the city council. The representation was also very disproportionate. The deputies for Spain were to number 36 while those for America only 12.
In May of that year, a new captain general, don Vicente Emparan, arrived in Venezuela. This man was more imperious than his predecessors had been, and immediately alienated the good will of the city council and the audiencia. He set up still greater obstacles to commerce, sent many prominent men into exile, declared criminals those who received printed matter from abroad, and established an organized system of espionage.
In 1810, when Emparan was exercising his power with the strongest hand, the patriots were meeting in the country wherever they could under different pretexts, in order to organize themselves and to work for their ideals. Bolvar was on the point of being exiled; many prominent men were either imprisoned or sent out of Caracas. The French armies seemed to conquer all opposition in Spain, and the Junta Central had been forced to take refuge in Cdiz. Rumors were circulated that Cdiz had fallen into the hands of the French. Then the patriots decided to wait no longer, and Bolvar, Ribas and other friends planned to take immediate steps.
On the morning of April 19, 1810, Holy Thursday, the city council assembled to attend the religious services in the cathedral, and Emparan was invited to be present. Before leaving for the service, the council told the governor that it was necessary to establish in Venezuela a government of its own in order to defend the country and the rights of the legitimate monarch. The governor answered that he would consider the matter after the service, and left the council. On arriving at the church he was stopped by a patriot called Francisco Salias who asked him to return to the council, declaring that the public welfare so required. Emparan saw that the troops were not ready to support him and, willingly or not, went back to the hall, where he yielded to everything that was proposed to him. Emparan was deposed and the first locally chosen government of Spanish America was established. The principle that the provinces of America possessed the right of self-government, since no general government existed, was proclaimed.
The Declaration of Independence, July 5, 1811. Miranda's Failure
The first acts of the Junta were acts of moderation and wisdom. Emparan and other Spanish authorities were expelled from the country. The Spaniards were assured that they would be treated as brothers, with the same consideration as all Americans. The Junta sent notice of this movement to the other countries of the continent in the following lofty words:
"Venezuela has placed herself in the number of free nations, and hastens to give advice of this event to her neighbors so that, if the aspirations of the new world are in accord with hers, they might give her help in the great and very difficult career she has undertaken. 'Virtue and moderation' have been our motto. 'Fraternity, union and generosity' should be yours, so that these great principles combined may accomplish the great work of raising America to the political dignity which so rightly belongs to her."
The tributes formerly paid by the Indians were abolished. The alcabala, an excessive tax on sales, was also suppressed. The introduction of slaves was forbidden. Different branches of the government were organized.
One of the first works of the Junta was to send emissaries to the several provinces of the old captaincy general to invite them to unite with Caracas in the movement. It was the first government of Spanish America to initiate diplomatic missions abroad. Among her envoys we find Simn Bolvar representing Venezuela at London.
Most of the provinces followed the example given by Caracas, but some of them did not take that action, and among these were Coro and Maracaibo, which exercised powerful influence against the movement for liberty. The emissaries who went to Maracaibo were even sent to Porto Rico to be tried there as rebels and were sentenced to prison in that colony.
Among the diplomatic representatives, some were well received and some were ignored. Bolvar was very highly praised by the London authorities, although he could obtain no substantial assistance because of a treaty of alliance then existing between England and Spain. Bolvar worked not only as a diplomat, but he also wrote and published articles of propaganda to acquire friends for the cause he represented, and from the first his influence was felt all over the continent, especially when he was able to give substantial help to the representatives from Buenos Aires, who went to London to secure the alliance and friendship of England.
The attitude of Venezuela was not only generous and conciliatory, but it was even inspired by a great regard for Spain. The junta declared itself ready to send help to Spain in her fight against the intruder, and also offered the Venezuelan soil as a refuge for those who might despair of the salvation and freedom of the mother country. The Council of Regency which had been established in Spain, instead of thanking Venezuela for her offer, declared the Venezuelans insurgents, rebels and traitors, and submitted the province of Caracas to a strict blockade. This decision on the part of the Council served to arouse the Venezuelans and to change the ends of the movement. The sea became infested with privateers and pirates and, within the country, royalist agencies promoted war and insurrection. Towns which had declared themselves in favor of the Junta were destroyed by the royalists, and everywhere the situation was very difficult for all who had expressed any sympathy with the new rgime. Nevertheless, the new authorities persevered in their purpose to show loyalty to Fernando VII, and tried by all means to avoid bloodshed. Even with regard to the governors of Coro and Maracaibo, Caracas tried persuasion rather than force. The uncompromising attitude of the Regency, however, indicated clearly that the Venezuelans could not expect to effect any agreement with Spain. Bolvar, thinking that he could be more useful in his own country than in London, decided to return to Venezuela, but he did not go back alone. We have mentioned before that General Miranda was then living in London. Bolvar invited him to return to Venezuela to help the cause of freedom, for he deemed him the ablest man to lead the movement. He gave him the hospitality of his own home and praised him generously, increasing his popularity.
Miranda was very well received, and the Junta at once appointed him Lieutenant General. At that time the Venezuelans were electing representatives to Congress, and Miranda was elected deputy from one of the cities of the East. Congress entered into session March 2nd with forty-four members, representing seven provinces, and its very first decision was to appoint three men to exercise the executive power and a council to sit for purposes of consultation. Thus the first autonomous government in Latin America was established.
There were several factors active in the creation of public opinion: the press was free, and popular orators held meetings in which they spoke of the new ideas and tried to prepare the people for the new institutions. Special mention should be made of the Sociedad Patritica (Patriotic Society) whose promoters and leaders were Miranda and Bolvar. This association worked constantly for absolute freedom, putting forward as an example the independence of the North American colonies. Some representatives distrusted the association, considering it as a rival of Congress, but Bolvar relieved their fears by an inspired address delivered on July 3, 1811, which might be considered as the beginning of his career as a great orator. He denounced the apathy of the deputies, denied that there were two congresses, and among other things said:
"What do we care if Spain submits to Napoleon Bonaparte, if we have decided to be free? Let us without fear lay the corner-stone of South American freedom. To hesitate is to die."
Obeying these feelings, the association sent a memorandum to Congress, which was read on July 4, 1811. The following day this assembly proclaimed the independence of Venezuela. The document contained an exposition of the wrongs suffered by the colony, a decision to live and to die free, and the pledge of seven provinces to sacrifice the lives and fortunes of their inhabitants in this great work. On that same day the national flag of Venezuela was adopted, one containing three horizontal stripes: yellow, blue and red.
Up to this time the revolution had been peaceful and bloodless, but now the royalists of Valencia, a very important city to the west of Caracas, rebelled against the new institutions and asked help from the governors of Coro and Maracaibo. Miranda besieged and took the city, Bolvar fighting on his side. Insurrections broke out in other places and were speedily repressed. In some cities the new state of affairs was welcomed with great joy. The obvious political needs became the object of study of the new Congress. From the beginning the federal system and the central system appeared in opposition. Bolvar was opposed to the federation, arguing that the people of Venezuela were still ignorant and unable to understand the obligations of a federation. At last the partisans of the federation movement were victorious, and Venezuela adopted a federal constitution, in which the most advanced principles with regard to individual rights were incorporated. The epoch of independence was to be called the Colombian epoch, and the first country to free itself from the bond of Spain was to be called Colombia. Colombia (from the name of Columbus) was an ideal of the South American patriots, and the greatest apostle of this ideal was Bolvar, as will be readily seen by this study. Valencia was selected as the capital, and in this city the government established itself on March 1, 1812.
The work of organizing the new government did not interrupt the royalist activity in Venezuela nor the preparations made by Spain to suppress the revolution. The East and the Orinoco valley were in constant agitation, and we have seen that in the West, Coro and Maracaibo were on the side of Spain, and their governors ready to send help to the enemies of independence. Domingo Monteverde, a Spanish naval officer, had arrived in Coro as a member of a Spanish contingent, and when the governor learned that a royalist conspiracy was being prepared in a town called Siquisique, he organized an expedition and gave command of the troops to Monteverde, with instructions to help the conspirators. At that place more men joined his troops. Transgressing the orders he had received, which were only to occupy the town, Monteverde constituted himself head of the army and advanced to fight the insurgents. Luck was undeservedly on his side. On March 23, 1812, he defeated a small body of patriots.
The news of this defeat added to the effect of a natural catastrophe, which came directly on the heels of it, and which was painted by the fanatic royalists as a punishment of Heaven for the uprising. In the afternoon of March 26, at a moment when the churches were filled with people, for it was Holy Thursday, there occurred a violent earthquake in Venezuela. Caracas, La Guaira and many other towns were reduced to ruins, and some small dwellings entirely disappeared. It was pointed out that the towns punished by the earthquake were those that had shown themselves as favoring independence. Whole bodies of troops were buried. In a church of Caracas, the coat-of-arms of Spain had been painted on one of the pillars, and the earthquake destroyed the whole building with the exception of that one pillar. Orators went out into the streets to proclaim that this was unmistakably the result of divine anger because of the rebellion of the people against Fernando VII, "the anointed of God."
In this cataclysm, Bolvar distinguished himself in Caracas, going hither and thither among the ruins, counteracting with his words the effect of the speeches of the royalists and assisting to dig out of the debris corpses and the wounded, giving the latter first aid.
The advance of Monteverde was substantially helped by this earthquake. Many soldiers of the patriots' army had died in their armories and others on their way to fight the enemy and on parade grounds. All the patriot government had was reduced to practically nothing in a moment. Monteverde continued to advance eastward, and took the important town of Barquisimeto, where he received a large contingent of men, who flocked to him fearful of the divine anger. His lieutenants were meeting with success in different fields and he himself soon entered the city of San Carlos.
On the 4th of April, there occurred a second earthquake which lasted eight hours, and which destroyed the little remaining courage of those who were not heart and soul with the movement of emancipation.
In the midst of these difficulties, the executive power appointed General Francisco Miranda supreme commander of all the forces of the Republic, on land and sea, and the government withdrew from Valencia to the town of La Victoria, situated between Valencia and Caracas. Miranda went to Caracas to obtain some resources, and while there associated Bolvar with him in the army. Later, Miranda sent him to Puerto Cabello, while Monteverde seized Valencia, the capital of the country.
Various events continued to favor Monteverde, and when Miranda came back to besiege Valencia, Monteverde was so successful that the independent military commander saw himself forced to take a defensive attitude instead of an offensive one. From that moment, Miranda committed error after error, all of which resulted in victories for the fortunate Spanish leader. The patriots grew distrustful of their chief, who withdrew to La Victoria. There he was attacked by Monteverde, but defeated him. This victory availed the patriots little, for Miranda did not want to abandon his defensive position. He had 12,000 men and could have destroyed his enemy, but he preferred to wait. Meanwhile, Bolvar was requesting help to defend Puerto Cabello, where there were deposited many provisions, and also to attack Monteverde by the rear. Miranda refused assistance. Monteverde, upon being defeated in a second attack on La Victoria, withdrew in the direction of Puerto Cabello. Already one of the forts had hoisted the Spanish flag. Monteverde was successful, and Bolvar sailed for La Guaira. The loss of Puerto Cabello, and other facts which need not be mentioned here, decided Miranda to capitulate, at a time when he was still stronger than his enemy. The capitulation was ratified in La Victoria by Miranda on the 25th of July, 1812. The following day Monteverde occupied the city and on the 30th he entered Caracas.
All the patriots denounced Miranda for the capitulation, which meant the dissolution of the army and the abandonment of all the elements which had so raised their hopes.
Bolvar, who, ignorant of the capitulation, had arrived in Caracas on his way to join Miranda, decided to return to La Guaira and to emigrate, resolved never to submit to the Spanish rule. Before departing, he issued a proclamation denouncing emphatically the action of Miranda, and the conduct of Monteverde who had transgressed the laws of war by encouraging the barbarous actions of the undisciplined crowds which, in the interior of the country, were committing all kinds of atrocities. Monteverde had also violated the articles of the capitulation stipulating that the lives and properties of the inhabitants should be respected and that there should follow a general oblivion of all past actions.
Bolvar was in La Guaira when Miranda arrived there with many other officers who were escaping persecution from Monteverde. The generalissimo intended to remain in La Guaira that night, sailing from there the following day. That evening the most prominent men of the city assembled and denounced the supreme commander for his conduct. Among the most bitter judges of Miranda was Bolvar, the man who had asked the London exile to return to Venezuela to work for liberty in his country. The word treachery was uttered and all agreed to imprison Miranda, a culpable action performed on the morning of July 31. That same day the port of La Guaira was closed by order of Monteverde, and the most distinguished patriots who fell into his hands were sent to prison, and cruel persecutions were exercised everywhere. A committee of public safety was established and immediately the prisons of Caracas and Puerto Cabello were filled with men, many of whom died of suffocation. Into a dungeon in Puerto Cabello, a Spaniard threw five flasks of alkali, thus causing the death by asphyxiation of all the prisoners locked there.
The properties of the leading citizens were seized. It was enough to have means of comfortable livelihood to be denounced as an enemy of Spain. The most peaceful men were dragged from their homes, and the tears of wives and children never moved to pity Monteverde's agents.
Miranda, a prisoner in Puerto Cabello, appealed in vain to the audiencia against these crimes. From Puerto Cabello he was sent to Porto Rico and finally to Cdiz, where he was locked in a fortress called la Carraca. There he died on July 14, 1816, his remains being thrown with the corpses of common criminals. Such was the end of the noble man who had been the guest of Catherine II of Russia, a soldier of Washington and a general of the French Republic. He spent his last days in a dungeon, chained to the wall like a dog. Venezuela has erected in the Pantheon of Caracas a beautiful marble monument in the shape of a coffin, the cover of which is held open by the claws of a majestic eagle, waiting for the remains of the great Venezuelan, who committed errors, it is true, but whose devotion to his country has never been doubted and whose martyrdom, and the fortitude with which he bore it, place him among the noblest characters of history.
Bolvar remained in La Guaira for a short while, but inactivity was distasteful. Through the efforts of a Spanish friend, he obtained a passport from Monteverde and left the port for Curaao at the end of August.
This action marks the end of the first part of Bolvar's life, his restless youth, the preparation for struggles through sorrow and patient study, his military training under Miranda, and the clarification in his mind of the supreme purposes to which he was going to devote his life, no longer in a secondary position, but as a leader, a commanding figure on the American continent.
Bolvar's First Expedition. The Cruelty of War
After the entrance of Monteverde in Caracas and the ensuing persecutions, all Venezuela could be considered as reconquered for Spain, and it seemed that all was lost for the cause of independence. The disobedience of Monteverde, who, as we have remarked before, had no instructions to continue the campaign, had been forgiven and rewarded, for it had been sanctioned by success. Until the end of 1812, Caracas was treated high-handedly and was very cruelly punished for all interest it had manifested in, and all support it had given to, the cause of independence.
Bolvar joined some patriots in Curaao, where he remained until October in the company of his relative and loyal friend, Jos Flix Ribas. He then sailed for Cartagena, a city of New Granada which at that time was free from Spain, and offered his service to the Repblican government of that city. Bolvar was made colonel under a Frenchman called Pedro Labatut.
In Cartagena, Bolvar continued to write, supporting his idea that the only salvation for the colonies lay in war with Spain. At the end of that year he published a memorandum of so great importance that it can be considered as the first real revelation of his true genius. He explained the reasons for the defeat of Venezuela, and set them forth as a lesson of the urgent need of unity and firmness on the part of the American colonies. He denounced the weakness of the first government, evidenced in the treatment accorded Coro, which was not conquered immediately, but was permitted to be fortified so as to defy the whole federation and finally to destroy it. Recognizing the lack of friendly public opinion, he denounced the junta for not being ready to free the "stupid peoples who do not know the value of their rights."
"The codes consulted by our magistrates," he wrote, "were not those which could teach them the practical science of government, but those formed by certain idealists who build republics in the air and try to obtain political perfection, presupposing the perfection of the human race, in such a way that we have philosophers as leaders, philanthropy instead of law, dialectic instead of tactics, and sophists instead of soldiers. With this subversion of things, social order was shaken up, and from its very beginning advanced with rapid strides towards universal dissolution, which very soon was effected."
He emphasized the necessity for regular soldiers, trained to fight and experienced enough to know that a single defeat does not mean the loss of all hope, and that "ability and constancy correct misfortune." He denounced the misuse of public funds and declared himself against state paper money not guaranteed, pointing out that such a currency was a clear violation of the right of property, since men who had objects of real value had to exchange them for paper, the price of which was uncertain and even imaginary. Acknowledging that the federal system was the best, he declared that it was the most inadequate for the good of the new states. He added that,
"as yet our fellow citizens are not in a condition fully to exercise their rights, for they lack the political virtues which characterise a true republic, and which cannot be acquired under an absolute government where the rights and obligations of citizens are ignored."
In another part he said,
"It is necessary that the government identify itself, so to speak, with the circumstances, times and men surrounding it. If they are prosperous and calm, the government must be mild and protective, but if they are calamitous and turbulent, the government must show itself terrible and must arm itself with a firmness equal to the dangers, without paying heed to laws or constitution, until peace is reestablished."
Bolvar well understood the character of his people when he declared
"Public elections performed by the ignorant peasants and by the intriguing inhabitants of the city are an obstacle to the practice of federation among us, because the former are so ignorant that vote like machines, and the latter are so ambitious that they make everything into factions. For these reasons Venezuela has never k a free and reasonable election and the government has fallen into the hands of men, either opposed to the cause, weak or immoral. Partisan spirit decided everything and, consequently, it disorganized us more than circumstances did. Our divisions, and not the Spanish Army, brought us back to slavery."
Summarizing the causes of the fall of Venezuela, he attributed it in the first place to the nature of its constitution; secondly, to the discouragement of the government and people; thirdly, to the opposition to the establishment of a regular military organization; fourthly, to earthquakes and superstitions strengthened by those calamities, and fifthly and lastly to
"the internal dissensions, which, in fact, were the deadly poison which carried the country to its doom."
Then he appealed with persuasive eloquence to Nueva Granada for help, arguing that it was indispensable for Nueva Granada to reobtain the freedom of Caracas, pointing out that as Coro, as an enemy, had been enough to destroy the whole of Venezuela, so Venezuela as a center of Spanish power would suffice to recover Nueva Granada for the Spanish crown. The possession of Caracas by Spain was a danger for all Spanish America. Then he showed the possibility of a military undertaking, starting from Nueva Granada, and expressed his faith that thousands of valiant patriots would join the ranks of the army of liberty as soon as it set foot in Venezuela. He gave the details of the proposed campaign, and finished with a most eloquent and forceful appeal in the following words:
"The honor of Nueva Granada imperatively requires the punishment of the daring invaders, their persecution to the last trenches. Her glory will be the undertaking of going to Venezuela, and freeing the birthplace of Colombian independence and its martyrs, and that worthy people of Caracas, whose clamors are addressed to their beloved fellow patriots of Nueva Granada, for whom they are waiting with deadly impatience as for their redeemers. Let us hasten to break the chains of those victims who moan in the dungeons, ever expecting their salvation from you. Do not betray their confidence, do not be heedless of the lamentations of your brothers. Be eager to avenge the dead, to bring back to life the dying, to relieve the oppressed and to give liberty to all."
This noteworthy document was published in Cartagena, on December 15, 1812, and presents Bolvar as he was in the maturity of his life, as a thinker, apostle, general, and practical statesman; it shows him as the man destined to give liberty to five countries. This proclamation is the first full display of Bolvar's genius.
Bolvar was sent to command a small place where he had to be inactive. He prepared an expedition against the city of Tenerife, considered one of the strongest in Nueva Granada and which prevented the free navigation of the Magdalena River. He left with only 400 men and seized the castle abandoned by the garrison, thus obtaining some artillery, boats and war material. Following his success, the government of Cartagena placed him in full command of his own army and gave him orders to conquer the upper Magdalena. Bolvar accomplished this with only 500 men, freeing the east bank of the river. When he arrived at Ocaa, he was received amidst the greatest enthusiasm. He had won five victories in five days.
The Congress of Nueva Granada was holding its meetings in the city of Tunja. Bolvar got in touch with it and received instructions to lead an expedition against Ccuta and Pamplona. He started out with 400 men and a few spare rifles to arm patriots who might join the ranks. With the greatest alacrity he advanced, defeating several detachments on the way. He finally attacked the city of Ccuta, where 800 royalists were awaiting the attack of his men. On the 28th of February, after a bloody fight, Bolvar took the city and considerably increased his supply of war implements. The royalists occupying Pamplona and neighboring towns evacuated their possessions upon learning of the defeat of the royalists of Ccuta. On sending communications to the governor of Cartagena, Bolvar dated them in the city of "Ccuta delivered" (libertada). His habit of adding the word "libertada" to the cities captured from the royalists contributed greatly to his later receiving the name of "Libertador," by which he is most generally known in history.
As soon as he entered Venezuelan territory, he declared that on that very day Venezuela had returned to life. Addressing the soldiers, he said:
"In less than two months you have carried out two campaigns and have begun a third one, which commences here and which must end in the country which gave me life."
He regarded his two previous campaigns merely as an introduction to the third, and most important for him, whose supreme ambition was to obtain once again the freedom of Venezuela. At the close of the address to the soldiers, we find these words:
"All America expects its liberty and salvation from you, brave soldiers of Cartagena and of the Union." (The Union of Nueva Granada.)
These words indicate that he was thinking not in local terms, but in terms of Greater America.
The government of the Union promoted him to the rank of brigadier general and conferred upon him the honorary title of citizen of Nueva Granada. He asked immediate authority to use the troops of the Union to continue his march, until he could recover the ruins of Caracas. To convince the government he repeated the arguments put forth in the proclamation of Cartagena, tending to prove that the freedom of Venezuela was essential to the continued liberty of Nueva Granada. He insisted so eloquently on receiving permission to advance, that at last he obtained it, with authorization to occupy the southwestern provinces of Venezuela: Mrida and Trujillo. In thanking the executive power for this privilege, he evidenced his confidence in his future triumph by the following words, addressed to the president:
"I ask Your Excellency to send the answer to this communication to Trujillo: I shall receive it there."
Bolvar started his campaign from San Cristbal on the 15th of May, 1813, with 800 men. The royalists had 15,000 and sufficient resources to equip 6,000 additional men. The work of the young warrior seemed a dream; perhaps no wise general would have undertaken that campaign, but Bolvar was above common wisdom; he had the power of making the most beautiful dreams come true. Among the men who accompanied him were many who have received the greatest honors history can confer. Two of them may be noted here, for we shall have occasion to mention them again very soon; they are Atanasio Girardot and Antonio Ricaurte.
Upon his approach to Mrida, the royalists, numbering 1,000, left the city, and Bolvar took it on the 30th of May without any opposition. He was received with enthusiasm as the liberator of Venezuela. The general began at once to attend to the organization of the emancipated territory, and to increase the strength of his army. He sent some men to attack the retreating Spaniards, and Girardot to occupy the province of Trujillo. The royalists escaped to Maracaibo and, on the 14th of June, Bolvar was in Trujillo, reorganizing the province. From there he sent Girardot to pursue the royalists.
On the next day Bolvar took an action which has been the subject of many debates, and which some writers consider is the one stain in the career of the great man of the South. We must devote a few lines to frank discussion of this subject, not neglecting to declare immediately that in our minds there has never been the slightest doubt that Bolvar was right in his conduct, and that a different action would have been the height of folly. Bolvar proclaimed "War to Death to the Spaniards," considering the conduct of Monteverde, the savage crimes committed in the interior cities of Venezuela, the many instances in which the Spanish authorities had shown an utter disrespect for the sanctity of treaties and the lives and properties of enemies who had surrendered, and even of peaceful natives, these acts coupled with documents like the proclamation published by a Spanish governor of a province in which he stated that his troops would not give quarter to those who surrendered. The documents proving that this proclamation had been issued were received by Bolvar in Trujillo. In Bolvar's mind this idea was a permanent obsession: "Americans are dying because they are Americans, whether or not they fight for American freedom." He took into account the long list of crimes committed, the harmless citizens, women and children who had died, the barbarous asphyxiation of the prisoners in Puerto Cabello, the horrors committed on the peaceful inhabitants of Caracas, and even the atrocities perpetrated by the royalist armies in Mexico and other parts of the continent. He recalled the leniency and mercy of the first independent government of Venezuela and the cruelty of the Spanish authorities, and thought, not only of the reprisals necessary to punish and, if possible, to stop these cruel deeds, but also of the salutary effect of a rigorous attitude on hesitating men, and the necessity that those who had not taken part on one side or another should declare themselves immediately, whether they sympathized with and were ready to help the cause of liberty, or favored a foreign rgime. He was still in Mrida when in a proclamation he spoke of avenging the victims, and threatened with war to death. But Bolvar was not only a man of genius but one of equanimity, poise, deep thought and attention. He did not want to carry out his threats immediately, but decided to think at length over the transcendent step he was considering. The night of the 14th of June was a night of torture for the Liberator. On the morning of the 15th he himself wrote the decree of War to Death, and then called for an assembly of his officers to hear their opinions of this decree. Not one of them dissented. At the close of the meeting Bolvar signed the proclamation, in which these terrible words appeared:
"Spaniards and Natives of the Canary Islands: Be sure of death even if you are indifferent. Americans: Be sure of life even if you are guilty."
[Footnote 1: Many of the natives of the Canary Islands had distinguished themselves by their cruelty against the independents in Venezuela.]
The law of war is a terrible law, and Bolvar could not but take this step, unless he preferred to wage a losing fight.
As a measure of legitimate reprisal and as a measure of wisdom in warfare, the War to Death decree is fully justifiable.
Regarding it as a reprisal, let us mention only two or three facts. When Monteverde learned of the asphyxiation of the prisoners in Puerto Cabello, he wrote to the commander of the port:
"I strongly recommend that your activity on this point be not slackened (the expulsion of foreigners from Puerto Cabello), nor on that of the safe-keeping of the prisoners in the dungeons. If any one is to die, that is his fate."
On the plains some towns were entirely destroyed by bands of assassins. Women and children were the victims of the royalists in a number of cities. There were occasions where men and women of all ages had their ears cut off, were skinned alive, or in other ways cruelly tortured. A Spaniard called Boves distinguished himself among the worst criminals. He systematically organized the work of destroying Americans. His theory was that no American should live, and he simply destroyed them mechanically, for he thought that that was the only thing to do with them. Bolvar, himself, in a letter sent to the governor of Curaao on October 2, 1813, makes the most eloquent exposition of facts, and shows clearly the reasons he had for the decree of War to Death.
Still, Bolvar did not carry out the decree of War to Death immediately, nor did he do so constantly. Whenever he found any opportunity to exercise mercy, he did so; and when he was forced to let the severity of this law fall upon his enemy, there was generally an immediate reason for his action. In San Carlos, a few days after the issuance of this decree, when addressing the Spaniards and the Natives of the Canary Islands, he said:
"For the last time, Spaniards and Natives of the Canary Islands, listen to the voice of justice and clemency. If you prefer our cause to that of tyrants, you will be forgiven and will enjoy your property, and honor; but if you persist in being our enemies, withdraw from our country or prepare to die."
Several proofs are recorded of his clemency in spite of his threats; but at last, when he saw that there was no other way to bring the royalists to terms, he ordered that war be waged mercilessly.
Bolvar's First Victories
The Congress of Nueva Granada had ordered Bolvar to take Trujillo and there to await new instructions. It was reluctant to permit him to advance, because the patriots in Nueva Granada found themselves in a difficult position. Bolvar wrote them, showing the necessity of his advancing immediately, in order to prevent the enemy from discovering the reduced size of his army and destroying it. His plan was to advance steadily against the royalists, to destroy them, and thus secure the freedom of Nueva Granada. Finally, the Congress yielded.
Bolvar's situation was an exceedingly dangerous one. There was a good-sized royalist army to his right, while to his left were the old hostile cities of Maracaibo and Coro. Before him was Monteverde with the men who had helped him to conquer Venezuela and with an abundant supply of war material. He became so impatient that he advanced without having received an answer to his last communication to Congress, crossed the Andes and, on the first of July, took the city of Guanare. Meanwhile, General Ribas, following Bolvar's orders, also advanced, meeting a detachment of royalists sent to cut off Bolvar's retreat. Ribas had less than half as many men as his opponent, but he was a man of the stamp of his leader, and on the same day that Bolvar entered Guanare he attacked the enemy. When his limited supply of ammunition was exhausted, he fought with the bayonet, and succeeded in completely destroying his foes. This battle occurred in a town called Niquitao, and is considered one of the most brilliant battles of the War of Independence.
Bolvar continued his rapid advance to the city of Barinas, and found it abandoned by the royalists, who had left behind artillery and ammunition. He ordered his trusted Girardot to continue the prosecution of the enemy, but they made their escape towards Venezuelan Guiana (Guayana) by means of one of the tributaries of the Orinoco, leaving behind them a path marked with crimes and depredations.
Once in possession of Barinas, Bolvar reorganized the province, created his first troops of cavalry, instilled enthusiasm in the population and prepared himself for new steps in his brilliant career. To Ribas, he entrusted the defeat of some 1,500 royalists whose position might hinder his progress. With only one-third this number of men, Ribas encountered and destroyed the enemy on the plains of Los Horcones, which victory, together with that at Niquitao, did much for the success of the whole campaign.
Leaving a detachment in Barinas, Bolvar advanced to San Carlos, which he entered on the 28th of July, and then continued onward towards Valencia.
While Bolvar was advancing from the western border towards the heart of his country, very important events were taking place in the eastern extremity. A young man named don Diego Mario, after having made preparations in the Island of Trinidad to fight against the Spanish domination in his country, entered Venezuela and advanced to the city of Cuman. There is a striking similarity in the lives and labors of Bolvar and Mario. Both were young, both were animated by the same hatred of tyranny and the same love for independence; both knew how to arouse enthusiasm in their followers and both displayed the greatest devotion to their friends; both were inspired by the same ambition for glory and honor, and both realized a very important part of the first liberation of Venezuela.
Monteverde attacked Mario and met with disaster, being compelled to withdraw to Caracas, where he learned of the victories of Bolvar in the West. He immediately prepared to go personally to Valencia to stop the advance of the independents. There he was informed of the latest triumph of Ribas.
Bolvar advanced, destroyed in Taguanes a strong army sent to check him, and continued his march toward Valencia, prepared to meet a strong resistance on the part of Monteverde. Great indeed was his surprise when he found that Monteverde had escaped toward Puerto Cabello during the night, leaving everything to the mercy of the conqueror.
From Valencia, the victor went to Caracas, where he granted an honorable capitulation to the city, offering passports to the Spanish soldiers and officers and permitting them to evacuate the town in the most dignified way. Upon his arrival in Caracas, Bolvar. found that soldiers and officers, as well as about six thousand persons who considered themselves guilty, had already escaped to La Guaira, confident that Bolvar would act as Monteverde had done in the past.
August 6th, 1813, marks the entrance of Bolvar in Caracas, the end of the campaign which he had begun with 500 men,—his first campaign as a general, one in which he fought six pitched battles, covered a distance of 1,200 kilometers, destroyed five hostile armies, captured 50 pieces of artillery and three ammunition depots, and reconquered all the western part of Venezuela, while Eastern Venezuela had been recovered by Mario. All this was done within ninety days, and established forever the reputation of Bolvar as one of the most distinguished generals in history.
Caracas received him with the highest honors. The most beautiful young ladies of the city, dressed in white, brought flowers and branches of laurel to the conqueror; church bells were rung; flowers were strewn in his path. Bolvar, with his usual energy, set to work at once to reestablish order and to arrange to continue operations against La Guaira. He issued a proclamation announcing the rebirth of the Republic, and expressing his gratitude to Nueva Granada, to whom Venezuela owed the beginning of this undertaking. In order to avoid the necessity of fulfilling his decree of War to Death, he sent messengers to Puerto Cabello to ask Monteverde to ratify the convention by which he granted life to all Spaniards caught in Caracas or on their way to La Guaira, but Monteverde refused, explaining that he did not want to have any dealings with the insurgents.
As soon as the most urgent work of organization was finished, Bolvar, who had sent cordial congratulations to Mario, went himself to conduct the siege of Puerto Cabello.
At that period, when his glory was at its greatest splendor, he made the first public declaration by which the world could know that he had no personal ambition. He, who in his youth had enjoyed all the comforts and pleasures of life; who had had, in various parts of Venezuela, vast estates, slaves which he had set free, and all kinds of personal possessions; and who had abandoned everything to devote his life to his efforts in the service of his country, said these words:
"The Liberator of Venezuela renounces forever and declines irrevocably to accept any office except the post of danger at the head of our soldiers in defense of the salvation of our country."
And Bolvar lived up to his words.
Monteverde held many patriots in Puerto Cabello. Bolvar proposed an exchange of prisoners, but the Spaniard steadily refused all reasonable demands. The siege of Puerto Cabello was not altogether successful because the city was open to the sea and the royalist army was able to receive provisions. A strong expedition commanded by don Jos Miguel Salomn arrived from Spain to help Monteverde, and Bolvar realized that he could not hope to succeed unless the enemy could be drawn out of the city to fight in the open. Consequently, he ordered his troops to withdraw. Monteverde came out of the city on the 30th of September, and was attacked by three independent columns which defeated him completely. They themselves suffered a distressing loss in the death of Colonel Girardot, who was killed by a bullet in the forehead while hoisting in a captured position the flag of independence. Bolvar paid the greatest honor to Girardot, and took the heart of his young lieutenant to Caracas to receive the homage of the people. The soldiers and followers of Girardot asked Bolvar the privilege of being sent to avenge the young colonel. Monteverde had established himself in a place which he considered impregnable. The insurgents attacked with all their might, and the enemy was routed. Monteverde had to withdraw to Puerto Cabello, where he was deposed by his subordinates and Salomn was elected to take his place. His successor accepted the exchange of prisoners, and Bolvar, leaving some troops to continue the siege of the port, went to Caracas, where he had to face new difficulties.
The communication with Nueva Granada had been cut by the Spanish troops sent from Maracaibo. In Ccuta the royalists were committing all kinds of brutal deeds. It is said that assassinations were committed as the result of bets. Children under ten years of age had their hands cut off. In the Orinoco plains, the llanos, Boves with his lieutenant, Morales, exceeded whatever imagination can fancy in the way of bloodthirsty cruelty. Some independent detachments had been destroyed in the South, and several fanatical priests were discouraging sympathizers of freedom, declaring that "The King is the representative of God."
[Footnote 1: It is necessary, at this point, to make very plain the attitude of the Catholic clergy in the wars of American independence. Of course, no man of good sense and culture will today pay any attention to the accusations against Spain, the clergy and the Inquisition, all inspired by religious hatred, which is one of the worst forms of fanaticism. Nevertheless, there are still fanatics who refuse to open their eyes to the truth, either because they find their ignorance a very comfortable frame of mind or because they maliciously devote themselves to the abominable work of slandering a country and institutions which have played and are playing a very important historical rle.
There appears to be only one serious monograph on Simn Bolvar written in English, and this is an article which appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, No. 238, V. 40, published in March, 1870. This article was written by Eugene Lawrence, and pretends to be a eulogy of the Man of the South. In substance it is nothing more than a superficial synopsis of the main facts of the public life of Bolvar, and a constant and virulent attack against Spain and the Catholic Church. It would seem that to the author Spain is nothing, and has never been anything, but kings and priests, and that kings and priests are a curse on the population. The cruelties of the Spanish kings and priests constitute his main subject. As a matter of fact, in the political revolutions of America, the priests have been divided and have acted like other men, availing themselves of their right to their own opinions. The greatest proof that the Church is not to take any blame or praise for whatever happened in the War of Independence is that it did not force its dignitaries to take any particular stand. They did as they pleased. There were priests on the side of Monteverde and there were priests on the side of Bolvar. Undoubtedly, the former thought and preached that the will of God was to keep the American countries in subjection, while the latter might have believed that the independence of the American countries would satisfy the desires of God. If the Church was on the side of Spain, the Spaniards certainly failed to reward her. In a letter to the Governor of Curaao, Bolvar wrote: "Many respectable old men, many venerable priests, have seen themselves in chains and in other infamous ways prisoners, herded with common criminals and men of the lowest stamp, exposed to the insults of brutal soldiers and of the vilest men of the lowest station." On the other hand, several priests accompanied Bolvar, and he always showed the greatest veneration for the Church and for its members. Speaking, then, of priests exploiting the fanaticism of the crowd, no sober-minded historian would ever intend an attack against the Church in general. Furthermore, we must not forget that most of the enemies of independence were Americans, and that some publicists refuse to speak of it as a war of independence but term the revolution a civil war.]
Bolvar sent Brigadier General Urdaneta, who had distinguished himself in the previous campaigns, to take charge of the army of the West. Campo-Elas, another trusted officer, was sent to the plains, while Bolvar himself went to Caracas to pay his last homage to the heart of Girardot, an action by which he not only honored his dead officer, but also showed his appreciation of the help received from Nueva Granada in the work of securing the independence of his country. In Caracas, Bolvar for the first time received officially the name of "Savior of the Country, Liberator of Venezuela." On receiving the decree conferring these titles upon him, he said that the title of Liberator of Venezuela was more glorious and satisfying to him than the crowns of all the empires of the world, but that the real liberators had been the Congress of Nueva Granada, Ribas, Girardot and the other men who had been with him throughout the campaign.
Bolvar was very much concerned with the increasing wave of discontent which threatened to destroy his work. As we said at the beginning, there was no public opinion to support him. The masses were moved by their feelings, by early acquired habits, by superstitions or by low interests, and the llaneros (inhabitants of the plains) would follow any chieftain who could guarantee them sufficient loot. At only thirty years of age Bolvar had proved himself as great a statesman as he was a soldier. He arranged for the organization of all public services, and when this was attended to, he took care to satisfy the natural pride of the patriots, by creating an order called "The Military Order of the Liberators of Venezuela."
Araure. Ribas Triumphs in La Victoria. A Wholesale Execution
The Governor of Coro had come out of the city with 1,300 men and had destroyed an independent army. He now threatened the possession of Valencia and the security of the troops engaged in the siege of Puerto Cabello. Yez, at the head of 2,500 llaneros, had destroyed another patriot army and had seized the city of Barinas, leaving his path strewn with corpses and stained with the blood of his victims.
Urdaneta sent news of his danger to the Liberator, and the latter came at once to the rescue, and defeated in Barquisimeto the army of Coro, only to see this victory turned to defeat as the result of a mistaken bugle order which caused the retreat of one of his regiments. Urdaneta was entrusted with the organization of the remains of the patriotic army, and Bolvar went to Valencia to obtain new reinforcements. The Governor of Coro, D. Jos Ceballos by name, succeeded in getting in touch with Yez and the Governor of Puerto Cabello, and concerted a combined attack. Bolvar ordered Ribas, who was at that time in Caracas, to come to the rescue with all the men he could gather. The commander of Puerto Cabello, Salomn, advancing on the road which leads from Valencia to Caracas, was attacked by Ribas and by Bolvar and, after three days of constant fighting, was forced to withdraw to the port, having suffered very heavy losses. Then Bolvar, with all the men that he could summon, proceeded to San Carlos, where he found himself with 3,000 armed men ready to fight the royalists. With this army he advanced to meet Ceballos, and met him, commanding 3,500 men, near a place called Araure. The great battle of Araure was fought on the 5th of December, 1813. At first it was costly to the insurgent armies, which lost their best infantrymen. But the Liberator was present everywhere, encouraging his soldiers and directing their movements. At last, the independents obtained the victory, and the royalists had to withdraw, leaving 1,000 dead and many guns. After that battle, Ceballos and Yez had to escape to the south, to the valley of the Orinoco. Bolvar's prestige was shown at its best.
The regiment which, through a mistake, had begun the retreat at the battle of Barquisimeto, Bolvar punished by depriving it of the right to have a flag and a name until it would conquer them in the field of battle. The "Nameless Battalion" was placed in the center of the independent forces in Araure, and ten minutes after the battle had started, it had conquered a flag from the enemy and had broken through the royalist army. From that date the "Nameless Battalion" was called "The Conqueror of Araure."
The victory at Araure destroyed in one day the armies oppressing Venezuela, and was the last military triumph of 1813, a year of success for the independent army.
On thanking his staff for the congratulations which they addressed to him, Bolvar uttered the following significant words:
"It is true that our armies have avenged Venezuela. The largest army which has tried to subjugate us lies destroyed on the field. But we cannot rest. Other obligations await us. And when our native is entirely free, we shall go to fight the Spaniards in any part of America where they are in control, and we shall throw them into the sea. Freedom shall live protected by our swords."
But Bolvar's concern was increasing. He well knew that he was not supported by public opinion, and he was also aware that the cruel crowds of the plains were his greatest menace.
He sent a communication to the Congress of Nueva Granada, notifying it of the conquest of the West and of his preparation for war against the men of the plains, explaining again his attitude with regard to personal power.
"The possession of supreme authority," he wrote, "so flattering for the despots of the other continent, has been for me, the lover of liberty, heavy and displeasing."
In another he added:
"I shall not retain any part of the authority, even if the people themselves would entrust it to me."
His report of the 31st of December is one of the most conspicuous documents of the life of Bolvar. It ranks as high as his proclamation of Cartagena at the beginning of the campaign. In this report, through his Secretary of Foreign Relations, he expressed his idea about union between Nueva Granada and Venezuela. The document appears as addressed to him, and of it the following words deserve special consideration:
"The lessons of experience should not be lost for us. The spectacle presented to us by Europe, steeped in blood in an endeavor to establish a balance which is forever changing, should correct our policy in order to save it from those bloody dangers.... Besides that continental balance of power which Europe is seeking where it seems less likely to be found, that is, through war and disturbances, there is another balance, a balance which concerns us, the balance of the universe. The ambition of the European countries is to reduce to slavery the other parts of the world, and all these other parts of the world should endeavor to establish a balance between themselves and Europe in order to destroy the preponderance of the latter. I call this the balance of the world, and it must enter into the calculations of American policies.
"It is necessary that our country be sufficiently strong to resist successfully the aggressions which European ambitions may plan; and this colossal power, which must oppose another great power, cannot be formed but through the union of all South America under a national body, so that a single government may use its great resources a single purpose, that of resisting with all of them exterior aggressions, while in the interior an increasing mutual cooperation of all will lift us to the summit of power and prosperity."
The present ideas of inter-American coperation do not differ very much from those existing in the mind of Bolvar.
Following the deposition of Monteverde, the army of Puerto Cabello had left for Coro and practically disappeared on its way. But some royalists had gone to the south, and entered the city of Calabozo, after having destroyed an insurgent force. Its commander was one of the worst men who had ever breathed the air of America, Jos Toms Rodrguez, a native of Spain, who, after having been a pirate, was sentenced to the prison of Puerto Cabello. Several Spaniards applied for a mitigation of the sentence, and he was set free within the city of Calabozo, where he was employed when the revolution began. By that time he had changed his name to that of Boves. He first joined the patriots' army, but for some reason or other he was imprisoned. He was released in 1810 by the royalists, and swore revenge against the revolutionists. He organized a cavalry corps and committed infamous deeds of cruelty wherever he happened to be, at the same time achieving military success for, though morally a beast, he was clever in the field of battle and possessed dauntless bravery. He held the banks of the Orinoco with the aid of his lieutenant, Francisco Toms Morales, a native of the Canary Islands, whose moral worth can be judged by a single word applied to him by Boves himself. Boves called him "atrocious." While Boves killed Americans systematically, considering that it was the best, and perhaps the only way to end the insurrection, Morales killed Americans for pleasure, whether or not their death would foster the ends of the royalists. He had formerly been a servant. He was brave and obdurate, and a very able second. In the army of Boves, composed of 4,000 llaneros, he helped to take the city of Calabozo. Bolvar immediately asked Mario, who was commanding in the East, to help him, but for several reasons, and perhaps mainly because Mario wanted to have supreme power, he did not go to the rescue. This was the sad state of affairs at the beginning of 1814.