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Chapter 17

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Antonio José de Sucre

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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[image ALT: missingALT. He is Antonio José de Sucre, the South American patriot.]

Antonio José de Sucre,
from a Painting by Tovar y Tovar,
Considered the Best Likeness of the Hero

p221 Chapter XVIII

Sucre's 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.

When a book such as this is written it is not justified by the mere recital of the facts even though they are of interest; and art was not, and could not be, a great concern for us when we undertook its writing. We write to make a man known, and also, using a very common expression, to show what message he brought to the world, or as we should prefer to put it, to show what lesson he taught.

If this essay has not entirely failed to present to the reader the main features of the Gran Mariscal's life, some outstanding qualities are now self-evident to the reader's mind.

Sucre's life may be considered from the standpoint of his personal purity, his relations with his family, his relations with his friends with Bolívar, with Colombia; his relation to the freedom of America. These various points of view will reveal his moral stature, and to them must be added his mental qualities as shown by his double character of military leader and civilian statesman.

Personally, Sucre was an upright and honest man of clean life. Without making an ostentation of obnoxious virtue, he lived in manly cleanliness, helped by his devotion to studies and his absolute consecration since childhood to the cause of freedom.  p222 Treasures passed through his hands, and he remained poor. He had all the brilliancy of fame, and did not use its prestige to seize the property or tarnish the honor of any man. The cultivation of his soul and of his brain was all the attention he gave to himself. He was modest, and by his attire he might have been taken for some minor officer. He was proud, so far as pride is legitimate, and no one, not even Bolívar, could humiliate him without his reacting against the offense. He was generous to such a degree that he was the most ardent defender of a man who had tried to kill him, and actually gave this man money with which to leave the scene of his crime. But he was stern and inflexible in punishing any man who rebelled against discipline or who put any obstacle in the path of liberty. He was liberal with money so that he seldom had any for himself. But his economy was extremely rigid when it came to public funds, and under his direction Bolivia was meeting expenses, keeping a well supplied treasury, and promoting industry; while all other countries of South America were experiencing grave financial embarrassments. He was an affectionate friend; but he had no friends when friendship conflicted with duty. The purity of his soul revealed itself even in the purity of his language; a foul word was never known to come from his lips.

His relations with his family were those of a dutiful  p223 child, a generous brother, and a devoted husband. These were subordinate only to his duties to America. He left his father but never forgot him and always helped him, as well as his brothers and sisters, with his salary. When he was in Bolivia his pay had accumulated in Guayaquil, and in his correspondence we read of his efforts to have it transferred to Venezuela, to help his relatives. On the other hand, he asked for no public favors for his people. An uncle of his lost his position, and when Sucre applied to Bolívar he did not want any avail made of the relationship, but wanted the case judged on its own merits. Only the sadness expressed at the reverses of liberty is greater than the sadness which he communicates to Bolívar when he asks to go home after his father's death. That part of his father's estate which belonged to him he gave to his family. His short home life at Quito with his bride reveals him as a most affectionate husband, and when he was absent at Bogotá he wrote her letters full of affection and the desire to return to his home. It was the attraction of his home that made him take the shortest route to Quito after the "Admirable Congress," when he met his death.

He was loyal to his friends. Without sacrificing his convictions to them, he was ready to give up any gain in reputation or promotion for their sake. He was delicate in avoiding any offense to them. He was not harsh or quick in his judgments. It took all  p224 the disasters of the campaign in the South of Peru to make him pass judgment against Santa Cruz, and even afterwards he was considerate of the man, though he had perhaps been responsible for an undue prolongation of the war. When differences arose between Bolívar and Santander he wrote each and did all in his power to settle the dispute. This was again his attitude as regards Bolívar and La Mar, and had his advice been followed the disastrous war which ended at Tarqui would have been avoided. His letters to O'Leary, Flores, and Soublette, are models of manly and warm affection.

To the army he was general, father and friend. He was unyielding; duty had to be performed unhesitatingly. Death might overtake the man who did not follow orders strictly. But who, like Sucre, took such care for the comfort of the common soldiers? Who saw personally to the proper hospitalization, and the proper comforts for sick and wounded? Who thought with more paternal care of the food, clothing, and shelter of the rank and file of his army? He did not consider his task finished when victory had been obtained on the field of battle, but he saw to it that the victors were given proper rest and care. He never sacrificed a man unless it was absolutely necessary. His battles did not result from gambling chances or from flashes of genius, but from well conceived and carefully planned strategy. If his army suffered comparatively  p225 few desertions it was mainly due to the fact that his soldiers, even when frightened, did not think that they would be much safer anywhere than under the care of Sucre. Of the many generals of armies only Sucre deserved Bolívar's dictum: "He is the soldier's general."

History presents few examples of affection and loyalty greater than that of Bolívar and Sucre. He sometimes called the Liberator his father, and on many occasions acted like a dutiful son. He consulted him, followed his advice, and subordinated his will to the Genius of America. But he was always ready to see any danger in the path of his illustrious chief, and warned him with unbounded frankness. This was especially true when the false friends or treacherous enemies of Bolívar tried to put monarchial ideas into his head. Sucre could say no on all occasions, and he did so then, and not because he believed in the fitness of the Latin American peoples for democratic government. He opposed sound reasons, not sentiments. He wanted energy in government, and despised ambitious politicians. He would not have opposed an iron hand that would have crushed the scurrilous self-seekers for the sake of the general good. But he knew the danger of a monarchy in America, especially since Bolívar had no children and his inheritance would be the cause of endless discord. Between Sucre and Bolívar were always those relations which should  p226 exist between a subordinate and his chief. He was obedient within the limits of dignity; loyal to the extent of saying hurting truths.

Colombia was the creation of Bolívar. The Colombia of Bolívar and Sucre was not the Colombia of today. When they said this name they referred to the three modern republics united at that time. The Colombian generals might have been born in Venezuela, Ecuador or Nueva Granada. The Colombian armies came from the banks of the Orinoco, Magdalena, and Guayas. Colombia was not only a material thing, but was an ideal and a symbol as well. The Colombia of Bolívar was an uncompromising attitude against oppression, an unflinching purpose of continental freedom, a high ideal of unity, and a practical experience in democracy. For all this Bolívar gave his life. Sucre did no less. He might have found himself filled with disgust on account of the difficulties he met in Peru and Bolivia, but he could always think of Colombia and of his Colombian army. Only one accusation with a shadow of foundation have we found against Sucre in Peru and Bolivia — partiality to his Colombians. Is this strange on the part of the Colombian general, especially in view of their tradition of victory?

American freedom was the dream of those two great men, Bolívar and Sucre. A free Nueva Granada was not enough. Venezuela had to be redeemed  p227 at Carabobo. But that was still insufficient. Pichincha had to break the chains of Ecuador. Free Colombia could not see her sisters in slavery, and Ayacucho gave liberty to Peru and Bolivia and insured the freedom of the entire continent. If it had been necessary, they were ready to make still greater sacrifices. With the continent liberated, they were ready to prepare an expedition to Cuba, and Sucre wanted to be there in person. An American for the Americans was their aim.

Little is to be added to what has already been said regarding the moral aspect of Sucre, to show him in his entirety. His mental qualities have been shown in his methodic study of all problems presented to him, as warrior and as statesman. As a warrior his greatest triumphs were Yaguachi, Pichincha, Ayacucho and Tarqui. In all of these battles his army was inferior in numbers, and the triumph was due to his ability and careful preparations. Between the battles were long campaigns when it was sometimes necessary to display more resourcefulness than in the actual conflict. His retreat in the south after the disaster of Santa Cruz, and the events prior to Ayacucho, deserve the highest praise. The first act in which Sucre's statesmanship appears is in the Venezuelan armistice and the treaty for the regularization of the war. His last is the treaty with Peru after Tarqui. Between these two diplomatic triumphs are his armistice  p228 after the defeat at Ambato and the treaty with the Spanish after Ayacucho. Even at the hour of dissolution, when he proposed to Mariño that all generals in command retire from the political sphere, he still reveals himself the consummate statesman. But the greatest document, worthy of study and admiration, is his farewell to the Bolivians. In it are evident his virtues as man, citizen, and patriot, and his talents as a statesman.

For the proper conception of public duties, and the highest development of private virtues, no life presents more abundant and eloquent lessons than that of Antonio José de Sucre.

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Page updated: 21 Dec 17