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Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Antonio José de Sucre

by
Guillermo Antonio Sherwell

Press of Byron S. Adams
Washington, D. C., 1924

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 15

p173 Chapter XIV

Sucre's Farewell Message.

Thayer's Note: For following the geography in the text, the map provided by the author at the end of the book may be useful; it opens in a separate window.

Sucre's message to Congress was so important that it deserves lengthy quotation. It contains a very clear exposition of events and a precise declaration of principles. He wrote:

No sooner were the sessions of the Constituent Assembly ended, early in 1827, than the party which had seized the Government of Peru started to work without interruption in order to introduce discord and civil war into Bolivia. It spared no means in order to succeed; but the people, satisfied with their institutions, shielded themselves against artifices; ignored invitations to disorder, and kept the peace and those guarantees which gave them true liberty. At the time of the elections, when spirits are usually agitated, some malcontents of Chuquisaca who, lacking means of livelihood, could not be elected to public positions, organized a party headed by a few ambitious men and raised the standard of discord. The Peruvian Government had placed a strong body of troops on our border in order to protect the insurrectionists, and these malcontents, finding no support among our people or soldiers, became traitors to their country, seeking assistance among the bayonets of foreigners.

"I was in the Department of La Paz when these disorders began; and since our desire is to maintain  p174 harmony with our neighbors I held a conference with the Peruvian General at Desaguadero. He declared that in no way would he interfere with our domestic affairs, and asked that the thousand auxiliary soldiers remaining in the Republic be sent back to Colombia, for they produced distrust and fear in his country. This was granted, not only because the return of the troops had been decided beforehand, but because their march up to that moment had depended on the consent of the Government of Lima, since they had to cross Arica. Repeated information made known to me that the malcontents were being encouraged to rebellion by Peru; protection of armed forces had been offered them, and through an agreement between the border troops and the rebels, the moment that the battalion Pichincha embarked was decided upon for the rebellion in Chuquisaca and for an invasion. This information was not sufficient to constitute legal evidence, and since our laws did not permit me to take other measures, I had to wait for the uprising; because, on the one hand, I was satisfied that the public opinion would overwhelm the rebellion and give opportunity to put an end to the discord, and on the other hand, even now, I am confident that if I am at the head of the army, our borders will not be crossed. At all events this would give us an opportunity to teach a lesson to our neighbors, so that they would never again interfere with our affairs. The return of the auxiliary soldiers was hastened, only two squadrons being retained; these, with the national  p175 army, formed a strength more than sufficient to repel the invasion.

"I returned from La Paz to Chuquisaca where the garrison was composed of only a few more than three dozen soldiers. At the same time, the election of representatives for the Constitutional Congress was approaching and the malcontents, disappointed by their little influence on the elections, started their activities. They bought with money and promises some Peruvian sergeants and corporals who were in the little garrison; and, paying some wandering adventurers, strangers to Bolivia, they took the garrison by surprise, and mutiny broke out on April 18th.

"My duty was to quell this uprising of the troops. Flinging myself against them I received these wounds which were not included in any calculations of the foreign invasion which has killed Bolivia. Those wounds, still open, have permitted the enemies of the Republic to impose debasing and disgraceful conditions. In the midst of these misfortunes, an opportunity was offered to ascertain the popular spirit. The troops and the entire population rose against the rebels with an enthusiasm which will not easily be repeated in Bolivia, and which evidenced the popular loyalty to the law. While the citizens took up arms to defend their institutions, the illustrious General López, with seventy soldiers of the national guard, advanced from Potosí to Chuquisaca and, on April 22nd, order was re‑established. The small force which obtained this victory shows clearly that the rebels had no following.

 p176  "With the exception of this deplorable event, domestic peace has suffered no alteration. The departments not only remained loyal, but they immediately obeyed the Council of Ministers which, according to the Constitution, succeeded me in the Government of the Republic. Thus the mutiny of April 18th was quelled on the 22nd, and had the administrators been somewhat more expert, the popular excitement would have permitted the increase of the army one‑third, when it was necessary for attention to external affairs.

"Meanwhile, the Peruvian army, under cover of our disrupted regime, and availing itself of the opportunity, crossed the Rio Desaguadero on March 1st and — something unheard‑of in the annals of civilized nations — a body of friendly troops which, like their Government, had often publicly declared strong friendship, presented itself in campaign against the Bolivian army without any reason for complaint, with no explanation whatever, nor with any previous declaration of war.

After enumerating the difficulties with Peru and explaining the ambitions of the Peruvian Government to annex the Bolivian territory, Sucre relates the history of the invasion and of the humiliation of Bolivia, the latter being obliged to consider a treaty dictated by the Peruvians. Then speaking of his own part, he adds:

"I have been stranger to all events since the invasion took place, because of my wounds.  p177 For two weeks I have even been without receiving any news of what has happened, and I had to request this information in order to give some light regarding the value of the treaty of July 6th, until that moment when the general in command gives an account of his conduct in a trial that will make clear the mysteries of this campaign, which is now confused amid cowardice and perfidy; but in which, despite misfortunes, the remnants of the army have kept themselves unsullied and the people have pronounced themselves constantly in favor of independence.

"The Peruvian General, who sees his army victorious for the first time, has carried the use of power to the extreme and has committed violent deeds. By the treaty of July 6th he has imposed upon Bolivia terms that are harder and more offensive than those a conqueror would impose. The Government is required to dismiss from its service and expel from the Republic some of its most faithful servants, under the pretext that they are foreigners, while the Peruvian army, as well as the Government, is filled with aliens. At the same time the Government is forced to reward the soldiers who rebelled. The Peruvian General, when crossing the Desaguadero, announced in various communications that he was not going to interfere in our domestic affairs and that his instructions were to respect Bolivian independence, that his only objects were to avoid anarchy and protect my person, which he thought in danger on account of the mutiny of April 18th. But in drawing these negotiations he has hastened to demand the reform of our institutions, to prevent  p178 the assembly of the Constitutional Congress, to impede the Executive in our foreign relations, to force the Government to exceed its powers, granting a general amnesty such as can be granted only by the Legislative Power and which, though necessary under certain circumstances, constitutes a transgression of the law . . . The other pretext of the invasion, that of protecting my person, is so ridiculous that it does not need to be mentioned in this paper, especially since his conduct toward me, after so many declarations of respect and regard, is worthy of his principles, his education and his career, and less decent than I should expect from a Cossack. He knew well that my person was never safer and more respected than among the people of Bolivia.

"On account of all this, gentlemen, not even in the midst of danger will I debase myself to the point of violating our institutions, and of staining my administration by a single deed when during all of it I did not break one law. You know that after having established the foundations of this Republic through my decree of February 9, 1825, and having led the country toward a Constituent Congress, I declined the tokens of favor which you wished to give me, designating me as President of the Republic . . . The almost unanimous vote of the electorate put me in the Presidency, but I desired private life, and declined the honor for the second time. Then, you issued the law of November 3, 1826, declaring that you had no power to accept the resignation from a position given by the whole country and reserving it to  p179 the Constitutional Congress to accept or refuse. I declared for the third time that I should occupy the Presidency only until I might resign it, according to law, to the Constitutional Congress at its first meeting. Circumstances have prevented the meeting of the Chambers. My presence in Bolivia is dangerous to Peru, which under this pretext will want to keep her troops here, certain that in whatever capacity I remain, the people and the army will unite more and more with me every day in order to avenge the honor of the national army. I must, then, for several reasons absent myself from the country. But in fulfillment of the law of November 3rd, I give back to the country, through the authority designated by this law, the Presidency of the Republic, declining it from this moment wholly and utterly, and once more declaring never to accept it again. And I call the Constituent Assembly to witness my resignation, and at the same time call it to witness that I resign only to the Constitutional Congress appointed by the people in accordance with our law the first Sunday of May last.

"This restriction, gentlemen, is necessary to my honor and to the honor and the independence of Bolivia. There exists in this territory a large body of enemy troops and it might be believed that I present my resignation through fear of them. It may also be believed that this Congress debases itself to the extent of violating its own law of November 3rd, and of submitting to the foreign pretensions so that the Constitutional Congress does not meet. If enemy bayonets continue to make use of the barbarous  p180 right of force and oblige you to exceed your powers, in the name of the country I appeal to the American nations for vengeance, because it is within the rights of all to do away with that intervention which Peru has undertaken and which would submerge our country in endless war and calamities. I appeal especially to the Liberator, acclaimed by this Republic as the father and protector of Bolivia, so that he may defend it from its enemy and allow it to reform its institutions free from foreign intervention. On account of these weighty considerations, I solemnly declare before the country that any change made while the Peruvian troops occupy the Republic is void; and every citizen, every soldier, the tribunals and corporations, are not only empowered not to obey them, but are empowered to destroy them and establish constitutional order . . .

"In Peru it has been said that the Bolivians are displeased with the Constitution . . . I have not observed such displeasure in the country, but if there is any, the country and not foreigners should declare it. On my part, I confess sincerely that I am not a partisan of the Bolivian Constitution. It gives on paper a stability to the Government while in reality it takes from it all means of making itself respected; and since the President has no strength to keep himself in power, his rights mean nothing, and disorders will be frequent. Read the address which I made when you called me to take my oath of office and you will find that I told you that I was not responsible for the good or evil that might arise from it. I was convinced  p181 that part of it would lead to disorders which the Executive Power, so feebly supported, could not stop. On account of this, I repeat that when all foreign forces are out of the land and the people are free to declare themselves, the Constitutional Congress should listen to public opinion and take means to inform itself of the desires of the country, and dictate undisturbed the reforms necessary for the interests of Bolivia. But I again repeat that never shall we acknowledge changes made in the midst of enemy bayonets and much less those of an army which, humiliating Bolivia, offered with vague words to respect its independence while with deeds it scandalously misused its power to impose shameful terms; and that, finally, unable to obtain domination, has begun by dividing our citizens and soldiers and introducing germs of anarchy, by forming parties and fomenting discord, so that their Government may thus exercise an influence which may prove the same as domination."

Sucre then proceeds to report on his administration, giving details which are too lengthy to be enumerated here, but which may be understood from the following summary.

Diplomatic relations at the time were good with all countries except Peru, and Bolívar's first Pan American idea was supported by Sucre, who recommended that Bolivia send delegates to the assembly which was to meet in Tacubaya, Mexico.

Public instruction had developed considerably.  p182 Colleges were opened in all the departments and grammar schools had been multiplied. Asylums had been established and Sucre recommended reforms intended to make their inmates more useful. Proper attention had been given to religion, and convents had been reduced in number, with the approval of the Holy See. The police were organized, agriculture had improved considerably and in the preceding year mining produce had been one‑third larger than in former times. In spite of difficult financial conditions, the Government had attended to all expenses with the ordinary revenues. There was a foreign debt, due to the War of Independence, and for the payment of the auxiliary army. The service of this debt had been maintained. The domestic debt consisted of half a million pesos in treasury bonds, issued to pay a bonus to the army, and three million more already existing. The army was small but in good condition, and the auxiliaries had returned or were about to return to their proper countries. He criticized the conduct of the war against Peru, showing that the soldiers were sufficient to defend the country with success, or at least with honor. His parting words were:

"After giving a minute account of the events and position of the Republic, I must inform you that, having fulfilled my promise to remain in Bolivia until August, 1828, I now leave for my own country . . .

 p183  "I take leave, gentlemen, of you and of Bolivia, and I am certain that it is forever, because I am sure that you will at once convoke the Constitutional Congress . . . I believe that you will use the time of your sessions well, and that they will be guided by dignity, firmness and patriotism, with as much wisdom, moderation and philanthropy as was displayed in 1826.

"Upon leaving, I have to make a frank declaration which shall serve as an example to my successors. Since I have been in charge of the Government of Bolivia, I have subordinated my feelings to my duty towards her. Even in relations with our neighbors, I have never used any other language than that required by my public position, and on this account my personal inclinations have been silenced. Following the principles of an upright man, I have adhered to the belief that in political life there is neither friendship nor hatred, nor any duty to fulfill except making the people happy, preserving their laws, their independence, and their freedom. My hatred and my love during my administration have been only for the enemies of Bolivia or her friends. Even this document, which is my last public report, follows the same line of conduct . . .

"The Constitution makes me inviolable. No responsibility may follow me for acts of government. I beg that this prerogative be taken away from me, and that my conduct be scrupulously examined to determine whether any transgression of the law can be proven against me up to April 18th. If the Constitutional  p184 Congress finds cause for a trial of the Cabinet, I shall return from Colombia to submit myself to the decision of the laws . . . On departing I ask this reward from the representatives of the nation, and if through respect of the law they refuse it to the President of Bolivia, let them not refuse it to its first citizen, who has so devotedly served her and who asks this as a protection to shield him against those accusations with which slander and envy will seek to stain him.

"I shall also ask another reward of the whole country and of her rulers: not to destroy the work I have created, to preserve the independence of Bolivia through all dangers, and to prefer all misfortunes and even the death of their children to the loss of the sovereignty of the Republic which was proclaimed by the people and which was obtained as a reward for their generous sacrifices in the revolution.

"For the rest, gentlemen, it is enough remuneration for my services to return to my country after an absence of six years employed in serving Colombia's friends with honor. And although as a result of foreign instigations I carry broken the arm which put an end to the war of American independence at Ayacucho, which broke the chains of Peru and gave life to Bolivia, I feel comforted, knowing that in the midst of difficult circumstances my conscience is free from crimes. Upon crossing the Desaguadero I found a group of men divided into murderers and victims, slaves and tyrants, eaten up by hatred and thirsty for vengeance. I reconciled all these spirits, I have  p185 formed a country which has its own laws, which is reforming its colonial education and customs, which is recognized by its neighbors, which has no foreign debt, which has only a small domestic debt that was acquired for its own benefit, and which will be happy if a wise Government rules it. When I was called by the General Assembly to take charge of Bolivia, I was told that the independence and organization of the State were based on my labors. In order to obtain these benefits in the midst of party agitations which lasted fifteen years, and desolated the country, I at least have not caused suffering to any Bolivian. No widow or orphan mourns because of me. I have spared many condemned men from punishment, and my government has been distinguished by clemency, tolerance and kindness. It might be said that this mildness is the cause of my own wounds; but I am glad of them if my successors with equal kindness will accustom the Bolivians to follow the law without any need that bayonets constantly threaten life and put snares in the way of freedom. From my seclusion I shall view my scars and shall never be sorry for them, for they will remind me that in order to create Bolivia I preferred the empire of law to the tyranny of the sword.

"Representatives of the people, children of Bolivia, may God protect you. From my country, from the bosom of my family, my constant wishes will be for the welfare of Bolivia. Chuquisaca, August 2, 1828."

Reading these words it seems that Washington's spirit smiles lovingly on this, his brother soul.


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