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Chapter 1

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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Chapter 3

p21 Chapter II

A Diplomat with a Soul

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.

O'Leary relates that when Vice-President Zea had promoted Sucre to the Generalship in 1819, Bolívar was displeased, for Zea had no authority to make the promotion.

"After the battle of Boyacá, Bolívar was descending the Orinoco and met a vessel going upstream. 'Who goes in that boat?' asked Bolívar. 'General Sucre,' he was answered. 'There is no such general,' he replied with anger. Sucre then explained to him that although he had been appointed general, perhaps because his services entitled him to it, he had never intended to accept the rank without Bolívar's approval. Bolívar understood the reproach and apologized. From that time on the two men who contributed most to the freedom of South America were good friends."1

When the Liberator arrived at the city of Cúcuta, Sucre appeared among his followers. Coming from a distant region, he was unknown. An enemy of personal ostentation, he was simply dressed and his presence was almost unnoticed in the crowd. Some officers close to the Liberator were discussing the unknown officer. Bolívar overheard them, and spoke the following words, as related by O'Leary:

 p22  "He is one of the best officers of the army. He combines the professional learning of Soublette, the kind disposition of Briceño, the brains of Santander and the activity of Salom. As strange as it may seem, his ability is not known or even suspected. I am decided to make him known, and am convinced that someday he will compete with me."

He was appointed Minister of Army and Navy ad interim. In that capacity he followed Bolívar on his way to Valencia, Mérida and Trujillo. There he was made Bolívar's chief of staff.

Before writing of the next activities of Sucre's career, we must devote a few words to what has already been called the "War to Death."

The struggle for the independence of the Spanish colonies was cruel beyond human comprehension. The royalist commander Monteverde initiated systematic cruelty. Miranda surrendered and the terms of his surrender were not respected. He was confined to a dungeon where he witnessed the worst forms of cruelty inflicted upon the most distinguished sons of Venezuela. Monteverde plunged twelve hundred other prisoners into dungeons where they suffered slow torture and death.

The independents answered in kind. A chieftain of the southwest beheaded all Spaniards who fell into his hands and with their blood he wrote the news of their punishment to Bolívar. Bolívar pronounced his terrible words: "Spaniards and natives of the Canaries,  p23 even if you are neutral, you will die." The royalists were everywhere plundering, killing, mutilating and committing innumerable crimes, while eight hundred Spaniards and natives of the Canaries were executed in Caracas and La Guaira in February of 1814.

Ribas ordered that any man in Caracas, whatever his condition and age, who did not present himself at a certain time in a certain place of the city should be executed with only three hours' preparation. He himself was caught by the Spaniards, executed, and his head embalmed and taken to Caracas, where it was exposed to insult at one of the gates of the city. Páez ordered the execution of the prisoners of La Puerta. Santander, the Colombian patriot, put to death the prisoners of Boyacá. At Valencia Boves slaughtered all the prominent men of the independent party. A royalist chieftain called Zuazola took a town, and ordered all the men to present themselves. He had them seated before him, and their ears were cut off and placed in their hands. They were then ordered to follow their executioners, who beheaded them and threw their bodies into a lake. It is related that on this occasion a little child nine years of age offered to die instead of his father. He was killed in his father's sight, and the father was himself executed. Zuazola died, as he deserved, on the gallows.

It was seven years since Bolívar had issued the "War to Death" decree. A man of superior culture  p24 and more humane feelings than his predecessors was now commander of the Spanish armies. The patriots were no longer dealing with Monteverde, Boves or Morales. The freedom of the territory which they occupied was no longer under dispute. They had a regular standing in the eyes of their enemy and consequently it was time to put an end to butchery and humanize the war. In this work no one could help Bolívar more than Sucre, who had himself always conducted warfare in a civilized way. Although his own family had been the victims of the royalists' ferocity, his hands were not polluted with the blood of victims.

Acting with authority from the Spanish Government, Morillo offered peace to the independents. Bolívar declared that no discussion of terms could take place except on the basis of the acknowledgment of Colombia's independence.

Morillo proposed an armistice until the arrival of some commissioners from Spain, with instructions from the mother country. He declared that only the Spanish Cortes (Parliament) could recognize Colombian independence. He also proposed that the Americans should accept the constitutional government of Spain, retaining control of the provinces already in their possession and also their present military degrees and privileges, but subordinating themselves to the army of Morillo or to the Government of Spain. Bolívar refused even to discuss the latter proposal.

 p25  Such was the situation when he arrived at Cúcuta, passing thence to Mérida and Trujillo, with the young general, don Antonio José de Sucre, in his suite.

Bolívar finally decided to accept Morillo's proposals for an armistice. Thus he sought an opportunity to enter into relations with the Americans who were fighting on the Spanish side, and at the same time to prepare himself for the deliverance of Venezuela. In the meantime the world should learn that Morillo was according him treatment as the President of Colombia and the General of an independent army, and not as a leader of bandits, as the royalists had tried to make him appear. He wanted also to rest his troops while he explained to the Americans serving with the Spanish armies the exact advantages that would accrue from freedom.

Morillo appointed as his delegates General Correa, who was the civil governor of Venezuela; don Juan Rodríguez de Toro, mayor of Caracas; and don Francisco González de Linares. Bolívar appointed General Antonio José de Sucre, colonel Pedro Briceño Méndez, and Lieutenant Colonel José Gabriel Pérez.

The first duty of the pleni­potentiaries was to fix the conditions for the armistice. But Bolívar desired, and so he stated in his communication to Morillo, that the convention for the armistice should be followed by a treaty to regularize the war, which might be considered, "even among the most civilized nations, as a  p26 monument of civilization, generosity, and philanthropy."

The delegates met at Trujillo. After considerable discussion, they signed a convention on November 25, 1820, fixing the positions which the opposing armies should keep during the armistice. The convention has fifteen articles. Article 14 reads as follows:

"In order to give the world proof of the generous and philanthropic principles which inspire both governments, as well as in order to put an end to the horror and fury which have characterized the sad war in which they are engaged, each government obligates itself to regularize the war in accordance with international law and with the most generous, wise and humane practices of civilized nations."

The treaty to humanize the war was drafted by Sucre, and suffered slight change in the hands of the Spaniards. Since it is a monument of American international law, it should be included in its entirety.

"The Governments of Spain and Colombia, . . . have agreed to the following articles:

Article 1. The war between Spain and Colombia shall be conducted as war is conducted between civilized nations, provided that the practices of such nations are not in craft with the articles of this convention, which shall be the first and inviolable rule of both countries.

 p27  Article 2. Every soldier or employee of either army who may be taken on the field of battle, even before the battle ends, shall be regarded as a prisoner of war and shall be treated and respected in accord with his rank until his exchange is effected.

Article 3. Men taken in marches, garrisons, detachments, cities, towns, and fortified ports, even when the latter are taken by storm; and those who may be captured in the navy, even by boarding of their ship, shall also be considered as prisoners of war and dealt with accordingly.

Article 4. Soldiers or employees of an army who may be taken ill or are wounded, in a hospital or elsewhere, shall not be prisoners of war, but will be free to join their army as soon as they have recovered. Since humanity is in such earnest sympathy with these unfortunate men, who have sacrificed themselves to their government and their country, they shall be treated with even greater consideration and respect than is accorded to prisoners of war; and they shall receive at least the same help, care and relief as is given to the wounded and sick of the army that has them in its power.

Article 5. Prisoners of war shall be exchanged according to number and rank, or as many subordinates shall be given in exchange for a superior officer as are usually given among civilized nations.

Article 6. Those soldiers or civilians who, independently or in groups perform the services of reconnoitering or securing information of one army for the benefit of the other, shall be treated  p28 as prisoners of war and shall be included in exchanges.

Article 7. Since the present war originated in a difference of opinion and since the men who have tenaciously fought on one side are bound by intimate ties with their opponents; and with the desire of sparing blood as much as possible, it is agreed that soldiers or employees of the army who, having served previously for either of the Governments may have deserted and are later apprehended in the ranks of the other, shall be punished by death. This principle shall also apply to conspirators and hostile persons of either side.

Article 8. The exchange of prisoners shall be compulsory and shall occur as soon as possible. Consequently prisoners shall always be kept within the territory of Colombia, whatever their rank or degree, and for no reason and under no pretext whatsoever shall they be taken out of the country to suffer evils greater than death itself.

Article 9. The commanders of the armies shall see to it that prisoners are cared for according to the wishes of their Governments, and the expenses resulting therefrom shall be charged to their respective governments. These same commanders shall have the right to appoint commissioners to go to the place of confinement of the prisoners, to examine their situation and endeavor to improve it and to make their existence less painful.

Article 10. Prisoners already taken shall enjoy the benefits of this treaty.

Article 11. The population of any town which may be occupied by the troops of either government shall be highly respected, and shall enjoy  p29 full and absolute freedom and safety, whatever may be or may have been their opinions, position, service and conduct towards the contending parties.

Article 12. The bodies of those who gloriously end their career on the field of battle, or in any combat, collision or encounter between the armies of the present governments, shall receive the last honors of burial or shall be cremated when, because of their number and the urgency of time, burial is impossible. The conquering army or party shall have the duty of fulfilling this sacred obligation, from which it shall be excused only by reason of extreme and exceptional circumstances, in which case notice must be given immediately to the proper authority of the territory where this condition exists, so that burial will be effected. All bodies demanded by the government or by a private party of one or the other side shall not be refused; and necessary means shall be furnished to transport them.

Article 13. The generals of the armies, the commanders of the divisions, and all authorities shall be obliged to observe this treaty faithfully and strictly, and shall be subject to the severest penalties for its violation, both governments obligating themselves to its exact and religious fulfillment under the guarantee of good faith and national honor.

Article 14. This treaty shall be ratified and ratifications shall be exchanged within sixty hours, and shall be in force from the moment of its ratification and exchange."

p30 This treaty put an end to the "War to Death." Its stipulations merit attention, for they are in advance of the practice of most modern wars. It is a monument of American international law and is one of great glories of General Sucre. In speaking of it, Bolívar used the following words:

"This treaty is worthy of General Sucre's soul. Benignity, clemency, the genius of charity, dictated it. It will be eternal as a most beautiful emblem of mercy applied to war. It will be eternal as is the name of the victor of Ayacucho."

The Author's Note:

1 Memorias del General O'Leary, Vol. II, p67.

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