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Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of Chile

by
Luis Galdames

translated and edited by Isaac Joslin Cox
Russell & Russell
New York 1964

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 10

p205 Chapter IX
The Military Dictatorships

The Period of O'Higgins (1817‑1823)

The man on whom had fallen all public power in Chile since 1817 was an illustrious and serene spirit of indisputable superiority among the best of his contemporaries. Bernardo O'Higgins formed a rare combination of warrior and statesman; he was at the same time a general and a thinker; the swordsman in him did not make him less the man of ideas; nor as such was he less the man of practical judgment. From the first, however, he seemed enveloped in the most serious difficulties. The directing politicians were divided into two personal parties; namely, the friends and partisans of José Miguel Carrera and those of Bernardo O'Higgins. It was chieftainship in action.

It has been mentioned that the former, displeased with San Martín in Mendoza, had considered it necessary to settle in Buenos Aires and then had journeyed to the United States in order to organize a company with which to return and attack the royalists of Chile. Now this enterprise, almost inconceivable on account of its impetuous character, was nevertheless realized. Carrera succeeded in interesting in his own behalf in the struggle for the independence of Chile some North American shipowners and merchants and in equipping three ships, with which he started for Buenos Aires.1 He arrived at that port during the very days when the army of the Andes, after crossing the cordillera, was occupying its first position in Chilean territory and was preparing to engage in battle at Chacabuco.

Supreme Director Pueyrredón was not disposed to let him pass on to Chile, fearful of the disturbances that he might provoke there; and, as he might try to flout the vigilance that the Argentinian executive maintained about him, he was seized and shut up on a vessel from which he took flight for Montevideo. His brothers, Juan José and Luis, shortly after also tried to cross the Andes, and start a new revolution in the name of Don José Miguel, in order to snatch from O'Higgins his recently inaugurated government, but the provincial authority in Mendoza seized them. An odious p206trial followed, and finally, three days after the victory of Maipú and when the news of the same had not yet reached Mendoza, they were condemned to death and executed in that city. The sensation caused in Chile by so cruel a deed, which was attributed to the secret orders of San Martín and O'Higgins, was stupendous, and from that day the friends of Carrera were united in opposition to the supreme director.

That execution was followed in Chile by the assassination of Manuel Rodríguez, the notable warrior and popular agitator. As he was numbered among the ringleaders of the movement hostile to the government which broke out after the death of the Carreras, and as he committed the imprudence during those days of entering the governor's palace on horseback at the head of a multitude of people, O'Higgins ordered him arrested and sent to Quillota. On the way, near Tiltil, where today rises a monument commemorative of his sacrifice, the officer who guarded him had him assassinated by some soldiers on the pretext that he had tried to escape but, in reality, in obedience to the instructions of his superiors. This occurred at the end of April, 1818.

José Miguel Carrera, exiled in Montevideo, thought only of avenging his brothers; and, putting into play his insuperable activity and audacity, he scattered to the four winds from that capital numerous printed proclamations in which he attacked the reputation of the authorities of Buenos Aires and of Chile, employing the harshest kind of epithets, even going so far as to call them mere "assassins and robbers." Later he was mixed up in the civil disputes among the Argentinian provinces. He organized a terrifying mob composed of the Chileans who were living in that country and who wished to follow him, and later of the barbarous Indians of the pampas. He gained the favor of a new supreme director at Buenos Aires, raised to power after the fall of Pueyrredón and then threatened Mendoza and Chile. Becoming the terror of the neighboring republic, he finally fell into the power of the governor of Mendoza in 1821, after two years of most exciting conflict and after many encounters, and was executed in the principal plaza of the city. As a greater disgrace his head and arms were ordered nailed to the trees along the roads. Thus this man, famed for his many merits, ended his life in the same place and manner as had his two brothers — all victims of their ambition and pride, but victims also of a noble desire to free their newborn country.

Such tragic occurrences could only embitter men's minds against the rulers of Chile and create troublesome obstacles in the development p207of their political plans. Even though some of these events took place outside the country, it was well known that an alliance existed between the governments of Chile and Argentina, whereby all that was done in Argentina against Chileans received beforehand the tacit approval of O'Higgins, if not his express order. There really was such an alliance; not only were the ruling men of Chile bound to those of Argentina by official relations, but also by an intimate secret pact, contracted within a revolutionary association called Logia lautarina.2

This society, secret alike in its constitution and in its proceedings, had been established by San Martín in Buenos Aires shortly after his return from Europe. It was similar to the one founded by Miranda in Paris, from which it was derived. Its object was to fight against Spain everywhere possible; its very name, derived from Lautaro, was a symbol. Only certain persons of influence and social connections joined it under the strictest oath of secrecy, any violation of which was punished by death. This same lodge was introduced into Santiago by San Martín shortly after the victory of Chacabuco and was brought into intimate relations with that of Buenos Aires, being, indeed, almost a part of it. Pueyrredón, the director of the Argentine Confederation, and O'Higgins, the director of the Republic of Chile, figured with San Martín among its principal members. Thus is explained the invariable accord with which the governments of Buenos Aires and of Santiago proceeded while those men ruled over them; and, as the lodge was secret and so much mystery was made of its transactions, it was always accused of the death of the Carrera and of Rodríguez and even of the most insignificant extortions of the dictatorship, until it was given all the appearance of a bloody tribunal.

But it was not only the violent ill will shown by the friends of Carrera for the friends of O'Higgins that disturbed the administration of the supreme director; the financial situation of the country was just as serious, or more so. The former military campaigns and those that would have to follow until the territory was completely occupied by patriot arms called for resources in money much larger than those the government had received up to that time, and the public finances were in a woeful state. The methods worked out by the director and his minister, José Ignacio Zenteno, to increase the revenues consisted, aside from the seizure of royalist property, in the complete reform of the system of taxes established up to that time — above all, in employing stamped paper, customs p208tributes, and the tobacco monopoly — and in the imposition of new and heavier tributes on the towns and territory subject to the patriot arms, such as gifts and forced loans, requisitions of animals for forage for the army, extraordinary monthly and annual contributions, and other payments. With all these changes the annual revenues increased to more than two million pesos; and, if one recalls that at the close of the colonial period collections had not reached six hundred thousand, he will understand that the growth of national wealth had advanced rapidly in just ten years, notwithstanding the state of war; otherwise it would have been impossible to bear such heavy burdens.

In spite of the evident increase in revenues for the public treasury, the obligations to be met by the State were so increased that the taxes were not enough to meet them except in a very limited way. The situation with respect to agriculture and mining, the two constant sources of production in the country, was getting worse because of the very war disturbances and of the routine methods used in exploiting them; and, even when the government enacted different laws in their behalf and even some protective tariff customs, which made the importation of similar products harder, very little benefit resulted from them. In addition, two earthquakes during these same years, one in 1819 which destroyed Copiapó, the mining center of the territory, and another in 1822, which destroyed Valparaiso, the commercial center, brought inevitable economic disaster.

In the midst of the poverty of the treasury and the general tribulation, under the dictatorship of O'Higgins, the dominion of the patriots, nevertheless, extended to the extreme south in the central valley of Chile; the first national squadron was formed; and Peru was liberated with the help of a Chilean force. The war in the south lasted during the whole administration of O'Higgins. The leader directing it for the patriots was Colonel Ramón Freire; and, for the royalists, Captain Vicente Benavides.3 The remains of the army defeated at Maipú retreated to Chillán, whence it soon went to Concepción and from there to Valdivia; but Benavides stayed behind with a respectable body of troops which carried on a fierce war of plunder and extermination that deserved to be called a "war to the death."

This strange personage was a Chilean born in Quirihue, who joined the national army, deserted, and fled to join the royalist p209army, in which he reached the rank of captain. Taken prisoner and twice condemned to die, he was shot on the last occasion after the battle of Maipú; but it happened that the charges were blanks and he was saved without receiving more than a saber blow, which was given him as a coup de grâce. A short time afterward, as he had shown much ability and activity, San Martín wished to make use of him and sent him as a spy to the royalist army to incite the troops to mutiny, but he enrolled in it and later became a dreadful enemy of his country.

Defeated in numerous encounters, he went to rally forces among the Araucanians and, with a group of Indians added to his guerrillas and supplies sent by the viceroy of Peru — who also made him a colonel — he renewed his filibustering and plundering campaign from Chillán to Araucania. Some bandits, the Pincheira brothers, seconded with their depredations the work of the royalist colonel. Even when Freire broke up his bands in various encounters, he did not succeed in taking him, until one of his own friends betrayed him when he was hidden on a lighter coming from Peru and delivered up to the government. Benavides was hanged in Santiago in 1822, and with him ended the most vigorous royalist resistance in Chile.

The First National Squadron

While the war of the south lasted, the first Chilean squadron also was organized. The men of the revolution, O'Higgins among the first, understood very well that the struggle for independence would be completely fruitless it if were not maintained on sea as well as on land; the day after the encounter at Chacabuco they began to consider ways of constructing a squadron to rule the Pacific. Before the reconquest they had succeeded in gathering some small vessels but, as there were not enough to form the basis of a fleet and as the disaster of Rancagua occurred so soon, nothing was salvaged of the results of those first attempts. There was urgent need, then, to begin the work anew; O'Higgins and his minister, Zenteno, undertook it.

Despite the seemingly insuperable difficulties proceeding from the scarcity of resources in the treasury, an English merchant frigate was purchased, manned for war, and named Lautaro.4 This and the brig Aguila, captured in Valparaiso after the triumph of Chacabuco, served as a basis for the first national squadron. p210With the purchase of three more boats this squadron of Chile included five vessels by 1818, and was able to sally forth in search of the enemy. Four of those vessels actually went that same year from Valparaiso to the south, under the direction of Manuel Blanco Encalada, captain of the navy, now promoted to chief command. O'Higgins, watching the boats from a hill at the port as they spread their sails in the distance, said to those accompanying him: "Three tiny craft gave the sovereigns of Spain possession of the new world; those four are going to take it away from them."

The supreme director was not mistaken. This first campaign gave happy results. The capture of the Spanish frigate María Isabel in the Bay of Talcahuano and of some maritime transports of the same nationality established at one stroke the mastery of Chile on the ocean. After its capture the María Isabel was called the O'Higgins. Chilean corsairs helped to carry on the maritime war successfully. In several craft they traversed the Pacific coast, committing hostilities against the commerce and navy of Spain, and in a short time seized about thirty boats of the enemy. The shore line of Chile was now almost completely swept clear of Spanish ships, and the growing squadron was able to undertake an enterprise of greater proportions, which would have seemed beyond reason if in that period all things were not thought possible — nothing less than an attack of the fleet of the viceroy of Peru, for the purpose of preparing the way for the liberating campaign.

To direct this campaign, they engaged Lord Cochrane, a mariner as wise as he was daring. This Englishman [Scot] made Chile his second fatherland. A former chief of the English fleet, he had a reputation which without doubt made him the leading mariner of his time. Son of a peer of that country, he was born in 1775 and became a member of the British parliament, after having comported himself valorously in many naval combats. Involved in a troublesome lawsuit as a result of certain stock speculations, he thought himself condemned and persecuted there, and this induced him to seek another field of action outside his own country.a Moreover his extreme ideas — he was an uncompromising radical in his politics — disgusted him with most persons of his rank. Thus it was that, after entering into relations with the agent of Chile in London, he decided to lend to this new republic all the force of his intelligence and valor.

At first the results did not come up to general expectation. The two expeditions conducted by Cochrane to Peru in the same year, 1819, failed. The viceroy's squadron shut itself up in Callao under the protection of the forts which defended the port and did not p211offer to fight. But Cochrane sailed as far as Guayaquil, effected some landings, and seized some Spanish merchant vessels, which was a good deal, although he did not accomplish the principal object of his enterprise — the destruction of the viceroy's squadron. On returning to Chile, he tried to wipe out the bad impression produced by this relatively fruitless expedition by performing a deed scarcely conceivable in its boldness.

With only one vessel, the O'Higgins, he appeared in 1820 before Corral, the port of Valdivia. After seizing a Spanish ship he found there, he landed a body of troops and at the point of the bayonet by a surprise assault took the fortifications of that place, which unconditionally surrendered. The capture of Valdivia was a military feat, almost inexplicable, since the stronghold of Corral was defended by more than seven hundred soldiers and more than one hundred cannon, and Cochrane did not muster more than three hundred musketeers.

With this act all Spanish resistance ceased in that part of the country and, once the bands of Benavides were defeated, Chilean control was extended as far as the Channel of Chacao. The admiral attempted a similar in the plaza of Ancud in order to conquer Chiloé, but he was repulsed. Only this island, then, remained unsubdued by the patriots, and at that time there was no other opportunity to attempt to capture it because the whole attention of the navy and army of Chile was now to be concentrated on Peru.

The Liberating Expedition of Peru; the Interview at Guayaquil and its Aftermath

The plan conceived by San Martín years before when he occupied the government of Cuyo had not in 1820 been completely realized. Chile was liberated, but the viceroy of Lima continued to maintain the colonial regime in America. The revolution triumphed in all the former dependencies of Spain except in Peru. On the Peninsula, Ferdinand VII was struggling with a formidable revolt against his absolute rule. The movement sponsored by the liberal Spanish element started at Cádiz where an army of twenty thousand men was almost at the point of embarking in order to put down American independence, and in the bosom of that very army, Colonel Rafael de Riego headed the insurrection on January 1, 1820, in behalf of the reëstablishment of the liberal constitution of 1812. Most profound fear took hold of the court, and the expedition against the American insurgents was frustrated.

San Martín's plan against the royalists of Peru was thus made p212more workable and from that moment the government of Chile devoted all its activities to carrying it out.

The liberating expedition of Peru, it might be said, had really been in preparation since the day following the battle of Maipú. The difficulties opposing its organization are not to be told here. It had been thought possible to count on the wholehearted aid of the government of Buenos Aires in view of the alliance that San Martín had established between Argentina and Chile, but the internal disturbances in which the former confederation found itself involved and the frequent changes of government and of policy in the government itself, which that situation made necessary, finally obliged the supreme director of Buenos Aires to stop lending San Martín Argentine aid. He was even ordered to return with all the forces that he had in Chile. The expedition to Peru was deemed impossible in view of the scarcity of resources in the Argentine treasury and the supposed poverty bordering on bankruptcy of Chilean public finance. Then San Martín, seconded by all his officers, disobeyed this order and O'Higgins decided that his administration should assume entire charge of the equipment and cost of the enterprise. It seemed an act of folly. Chile was the most distant and obscure of the former colonies of Spain. Yet it was assumed to have not merely ambition but resources enough to undertake the work of deposing the viceroys from their century-old throne in the richest American colony. However, it was not impossible.

Accumulating funds largely by means of forced loans, and in many other ways, with unvarying constancy, O'Higgins and his supporters succeeded in suitably equipping an army of forty-five hundred men and a squadron of twenty-three boats and armed transports of war, with a crew of two thousand men. In addition to the necessary provisions for the maintenance of this force, they shipped equipment and armament for organizing fifteen thousand soldiers among the patriots of Peru. In the middle of August, 1820, that entire force was assembled in Valparaiso ready to embark.

Almost all the troops and the greater part of the officers were of Chilean nationality. The two chief leaders, San Martín, commander of the army and of the entire expedition, and Lord Cochrane, in command of the navy, if not Chilean by birth, were such at least in devotion. The treasury of Chile was left without a single cent and burdened with debt. The country had left nothing undone for such a vast undertaking. Hitherto, the Pacific Ocean had not borne a more powerful fleet.

The troops embarked on the eighteenth and nineteenth of August. p213The port of Valparaiso presented a wonderful spectacle. The ships, dressed with the national colors, awaited their contingents of men. The populace, as on a festival occasion, assembled on the shore to take leave of their relatives. There were tears on many countenances. Some wept for fear that they would never see their loved ones again and others because of patriotic emotion aroused by the magnitude of the enterprise undertaken by the republic. The music of military bands softened this sensation of sadness and revived enthusiasm.

The embarkation was performed with surprising order and regularity; and on the morning of August 20 a salvo of twenty-one guns saluted the anniversary of O'Higgins' birth and announced that all was ready for departure. Shortly after noon a south wind filled the sails; the convoy raised anchor for the journey northward. Exclamations of "Viva Chile!" uttered by the crew drew similar cries from the shore. The women waved their handkerchiefs in the air. O'Higgins, following with emotion the gentle movement of the ships, murmured to those around him "On these four bulwarks hang the destinies of America."5

In Peru the liberating army began the campaign by taking possession of Pisco and next by blockading Callao. Here Cochrane took the Spanish frigate Esmeralda by boarding it, in spite of its being protected by the fortifications of the port; but the latter did not capitulate. San Martín, on his side, placed his encampment some thirty leagues north of Lima and entered into negotiations with the viceroy, Joaquín de la Pezuela. These negotiations led to no results; meanwhile the army remained inactive. San Martín had thought that all he had to do was to arrive with his troops and the Peruvian patriots would rise up against monarchical despotism. His disappointment was great; no one stirred in Lima, and only one or two places in the viceroyalty gave signs of insurrection. Neither did the viceroy, certain of the inferiority of his own force, risk battle.

Finally the invading chief resolved to approach Lima and then the royalist army, wearied of Pezuela's passivity, which it regarded as civil war, rebelled and deposed him and named a new viceroy. p214The latter, however, evacuated the capital in a little while, and San Martín entered it peacefully. The people of Lima now declared themselves in favor of the patriots on July 28, 1821; solemnly proclaimed the independence of Peru; and named San Martín chief of the country with the title of "Protector." Following the conciliatory attitude that he had resolved to observe, the general ordered the division which he had sent to the towns of the interior (la sierra) to return. Thanks to this movement, the royalist army was able to reorganize and recruit its force in that same region and to pursue and harry all persons that had declared for the patriot government.

At the end of a long siege and blockade Callao had to surrender; but a severe controversy almost made fruitless the gains of the liberating expedition. Cochrane and San Martín could not agree and broke relations. There seems to be no other reason for their disagreement than that the leader of the squadron, finding himself without means to pay his sailors, had taken upon himself the responsibility of compensating them from the funds of the viceroyalty against the orders of San Martín; but at bottom there was something more. The impetuous and dominating character of Cochrane had not been able to tolerate the passive course of San Martín in Peru and this general, on his part, had not been able to suffer without anger the other's impetuosity and violence. However this may be, Cochrane left Peru with his squadron and coasted along the Pacific as far as Mexico, a foray during which he seized many Spanish ships. In the middle of 1822 he returned to Chile without having become reconciled or even on speaking terms with San Martín.

Meanwhile, the situation of the liberating army in Peru became difficult. Ill-treated by the climate and decimated by illness and strife, it showed itself powerless to resist royalist attacks. San Martín then sought help from Chile and Argentina. Chile alone made a new sacrifice and sent him provisions and troops. The star of the celebrated warrior seemed eclipsed; he lost prestige even among his officers; but, at the very time San Martín declined, in Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, north of Peru, arose a new military genius — Bolívar the Liberator.

After overturning those nations in triumph, he offered to San Martín a plan for combining to liberate Peru and asked for an interview with him. San Martín accepted joyfully, writing him: "America will not forget the day on which we embrace." And they really did embrace on July 26, 1822, at the city of Guayaquil. For several hours the two most influential Americans of their time p215tarried there, conferring behind closed doors and entirely alone, but they did not reach any agreement. It is known, however, that they discussed the way to assure Peru's independence and the most suitable political regime for South America, whether monarchy or republic. San Martín preferred the first and Bolívar the second. The former then thought it would be preferable to withdraw from the military and political scene.

San Martín did not remain much longer in Peru. After having installed the first Peruvian congress and resigning to it the command which he had exercised as protector, he moved to Chile. The army which he had led, however, remained in Peru, except for a few officers who returned with him. That army was later dispersed, but almost all the soldiers enlisted with the troops of Bolívar, who came to consummate the independence of Peru; and, under other banners and without their proper identity, and distributed among the different regiments of the Liberator, they fought bravely in the great and decisive battles of Junín and Ayacucho. And so, no matter how it came about, Chile could flatter itself that it contributed effectively to make Peru a sovereign state.

In spite of this, the end of the liberating expedition was not satisfactory, since it had not succeeded in realizing the mission which had been entrusted to it; and this was all the more to be regretted since the means put into the hands of the leaders had been sufficient and had cost untold sacrifices. Activity and assurance in directing the campaign were lacking on the part of one leader; and the spirit of accord on the part of the other.

It was not strange, then, that the prestige of San Martín and of Cochrane should suffer greatly. Furthermore, the predominance of O'Higgins was also approaching its end and a civil struggle of considerable proportions was proclaimed against him. Rather than see himself enveloped in the overturn which threatened Chile, San Martín retired from the country to Mendoza; and, without further participation in politics, he passed on to France, in one of whose cities (Boulogne) he died in 1850, in very modest circumstances. Cochrane also left Chile for the same reason as San Martín and only a few months later; but he did not refrain, like his rival, from undertaking new campaigns; on the contrary, he went to lend his naval services to Brazil and then to Greece, fighting in same cause of liberty for which he had fought in Chile, always brilliantly and boldly. It was not till 1860 that he died in his native country, after having written the Memoirs of his agitated existence.6

p216 The Social Policy of O'Higgins

The motive which started the agitation in Chile against the supreme director was not only the unflattering conclusion of the campaign against Peru; there were others of a much more important nature which arose from his administrative and political career. It should be noted at once that the dominant tendency of his course was social reform; that is to say, it had as its object the modification of society with respect to the revolution and the republic, with the idea of adapting it to the new political regime. When he came into power the revolution was as yet no more than a simple change of government from which the Spaniards had been eliminated and the Creoles substituted. O'Higgins believed that in order to organize a real republic it was necessary first to modify society, since it was not possible for the same social state which had served to support the colony on a monarchical basis to serve for the republic, which required a popular basis.

Nothing could contribute more, in his belief, to change old habits than the development of education; and few things occupied the supreme director so much as this. In 1819 the National Institute, founded in 1813 and closed during the Spanish reconquest, was reopened, and a year later, the Public Library also, which was entirely reorganized by the old patriot, Manuel de Salas. At the time this was done, there were founded also through official coöperation other educational institutions, such as the Liceo of La Serena in 1821 and the Lancasterian schools in Valparaiso and Santiago, called "Lancasterian" because in them was initiated a new method of teaching, whose author and promoter was an English educator, Joseph Lancaster.7 This method consisted in the children's giving themselves mutual instruction just as was done later in the system of "monitors." In order to establish it they brought in some foreign teachers. Two of them were English Protestants, a circumstance which then could not be viewed with indifference.

In a broader sphere of action, the opening and upkeep of primary schools was relegated to the cabildos and to convents of the religious orders for men and women; and the government, desiring that each should have faculties for instruction, declared books, pamphlets, and periodicals free of customs duties and gave them free circulation p217through the national post offices. It likewise favored the services of the press and, although its liberty was very much restricted in whatever touched on political comment, there were at that time no less than two independent newspapers, besides the government paper called Gaceta ministerial (Ministerial Gazette).

Another very strong interest of the supreme director was the local improvement of the more important towns in country. In Santiago he founded a market for the sale of all food supplies consumed in the capital, on the same site where the Plaza del mercado (Market Plaza) is located today. Up to that time its character was indicated by the name given it — the basural (garbage pile). With this measure the central plaza of the city gained in health and cleanliness because it largely ceased to be what it had been, when the sale of those materials took place on its eastern side and all the waste was thrown into the open ditches. The general cemetery which Santiago has at the present time was then founded against the protest of the clergy who, in defiance of all hygienic prescriptions, persisted in having the dead interred inside the churches or near them.

The present Alameda de las Delicias was converted by O'Higgins into a promenade; the avenues were lined with poplars; the drains were made of brick; and the piles of stone and garbage scattered about there disappeared. The illumination of the streets was also decreed and this was to be done by having each resident place a lantern in the principal doorway of his house and keep it lighted until midnight. The urban and rural police were organized in the best manner that resources allowed. From that time dated the night watchmen (serenos) who for many years loudly announced the hours and changes of weather. Street paving, public hygiene, and local ornamentation since then have given Santiago the appearance of a modern city. Santiago was not the only city to enjoy those blessings; Valparaiso, Concepción, La Serena, and other cities participated in them.

Valparaiso, especially, had developed rapidly as a result of the foreign population which settled little by little in that port. It already numbered more than three thousand individuals, and there was increasing activity in business because of commercial liberty. It ought rightly, therefore, to have merited the special attention of the government. One of the measures that raised a general protest because of religious sentiment was the creation of a cemetery for dissenters, which O'Higgins ordered to be founded there, for the purpose of avoiding trouble among the immigrants p218of other religions than the Catholic. Had not the earthquake of 1822 destroyed the city, its prosperity would have become really extraordinary for the period.

New centers were also established at that time: Unión in the south, Vicuña in the north, and San Bernardo near Santiago. The founding of the last city, whose name was given it out of deference to the director, was joined to a very important event — the completion of the Maipo Canal in 1821 — a half century's work had just been finished, thanks to not less than twenty years of untiring labor and the constant protection that the government of O'Higgins bestowed upon it. Considering the tools for working and the capital that could be obtained at the time, this work, which was the cause of the agricultural wealth of the entire valley, appeared colossal to his contemporaries.

But O'Higgins thought that his administration could also modify some popular customs which had taken root throughout the centuries and were the result of ignorance or of atavistic prejudices. Among the most pernicious figured cockfights, bullfights, the celebration of the carnival (chaya), the festivities in the taverns of the suburbs, in which games of dice and the most offensive drunkenness prevailed, together with quarrels often of a bloody character. The director ordered all these prohibited under penalties of no little severity. He also prohibited processions at night which engendered many scandals, including the fetishistic adoration of certain images or amulets said to be miraculous, which were located in some churches and other public places. On the other hand, he encouraged the creation of a theatre in Santiago, an edifice of light material which was erected in front of the present palace of congress. For some time the first dramatic presentations that in a more or less permanent form were given in the capital took place there. This innovation of O'Higgins was very much opposed by the clergy and other persons who considered those spectacles immoral.

In another field of activity, the government of the supreme director had to carry on a most persistent struggle against banditry. As a consequence of the state of disorganization in which the country had been kept during the war of independence and the economic disturbances to which this situation had given rise, armed robbery in the cities and rural districts had increased enormously. Many parties of bandits overran the country roads, assaulting and frequently murdering passers-by and farm dwellers. At times they carried their excesses into the very centers of the towns. The alarm of the working people who lived in the midst of such insecurity was incessant. O'Higgins appointed special tribunals to p219judge and condemn to death in less than forty-eight hours malefactors who were seized, and periodically sent parties of gendarmes to patrol the farms and mountain ridges where they took refuge. For some months these extraordinary methods produced the desired effect, but the plague revived again with equal vigor and boldness.

The reforming action of the dictatorial executive was exercised not only against the lower classes of society but against all classes. Shortly after coming into power, he decreed the suppression of titles of nobility conferred by the king on certain wealthy residents and the distinctive "coats of arms" which in testimony of these titles were placed on the front of their houses. Such "hieroglyphics" — these were his terms — were "intolerable in a republic"; and a little later he tried, although without success, to abolish the mayorazgos, or privileges of primogeniture, which also were opposed to republican institutions. On the other hand, he created a "Legion of Merit," a civic corporation, in which were incorporated by favor of the dictator all those persons most distinguished in public service.

Up to a certain point the relations of the government with the dignitaries of the Church and the clergy remained friendly; but enemies of emancipation as those dignitaries had been, if they tolerated the dictatorship of O'Higgins, they did not accept it with good grace. His attempt to transform colonial society met with resistance, especially from the conventual clergy. But a good part of the secular clergy had attached itself to the revolution and the dictator had been pleased to make use of them in directing ecclesiastical affairs, assuming the same right as the king of Spain over religious functionaries.

Many difficulties, however, presented themselves for relief, which concerned the regulation and income of the clergy and the naming of the bishops for Concepción and Santiago. These charges were then vacant — Concepción, because the priest had been promoted to serve the diocese in Peru; and Santiago, because the titular, Rodríguez Zorrilla, had been banished to Mendoza on account of his intransigent royalism. The government smoothed out these difficulties as well as it could. It reinstated in his office as bishop, Rodríguez Zorrilla, who at last showed himself disposed to recognize the condition of independence created in Chile, and sent the presbyter, José Ignacio Cienfuegos, to Rome in order to discover a way of arranging these questions directly with the Pope, who still persisted in not recognizing the new states of America. Cienfuegos was a convinced and resolute patriot who had served in the p220interim as bishop of Santiago. Nevertheless, there was much latent displeasure among the greater part of the clergy against the government of O'Higgins.8

Foreign and Domestic Policy

The supreme director was much more fortunate in his foreign policy. He celebrated alliances with the governments of Peru and Colombia and maintained the former pact with Argentina, in spite of a marked coolness of relations which had made itself felt between that country and Chile during the internal discords of the confederacy and the campaign of San Martín in Peru. The recognition of independence was extended by Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. That act by the last-named country produced special rejoicing in Chile, although the United States did not particularly recognize Chile in 1822 but all the nations, formerly Spanish, created in America.9 O'Higgins also kept a diplomatic agent in England, whose government, it was hoped, would recognize the independence of the states of the new continent. For the moment this hope was not realized but, on the other hand, it extended to Chile a very significant gesture: its agent, José de Irisarri — a notable Guatemalan who since 1810 had contributed his advice and his writings to emancipate in — was able to contract there a loan of a million pounds sterling, the first that was extended to a rising republic. This act revealed the kind of confidence and prestige that Chile had gained abroad (1822).

But the dictatorship of O'Higgins was already threatened at its foundation. His internal policy was, little by little, arousing resistance, which continually became greater. There were intellectual people who regarded his government as a parody on a republican system. He himself did not have a much better opinion of it, but he believed that a long and painful transition period was necessary to reach such a system and that a dictatorship was indispensable during that time. For a people like the Chileans, who had recently come out from under an age-long despotism, it was necessary, according p221to his manner of thinking, "to confer good upon them by force," when they would not accept it any other way.

He had sanctioned a provisional regulation, which is known from the date on which it was promulgated as the Constitution of 1818.10 Although he created in this document a legislative senate composed of five members with whom he should exercise command, and a supreme judiciary tribunal, charged with the high administration of justice, he retained for himself almost unlimited powers. He personally named the members of those bodies and set no limit to his own authority. It was true that he offered to convoke a constituent congress, with the whole country should be freed of royalist troops, but it was no less true that when that time had passed and not a royalist soldier remained on national territory, outside of Chiloé, such a body was not convened.

On the other hand the execution of the Carreras in foreign territory, the assassination of Manuel Rodríguez, the heavy forced contributions which he had exacted, his effort to overthrow the interests of the nobility, his slight respect for dominant religious ideas, the favor that he bestowed upon foreigners, the democratic temper of his relations — all these acts were severely judged in the circles affected by his course. Neither the glory of his campaigns nor the acts recognized as having won the country's independence — organizing the first national naval squadron and forming the liberating army of Peru — nor his undeniable learning and probity, nor his constant activity and consecration to public affairs were sufficient to keep his opponents from attributing certain features of despotism to his dictatorship.

Thus it happened that after breaking with his own senate he was obliged to convene a constituent assembly. The election of popular representatives throughout the republic aggravated the evil because it was done under the pressure of the government and at the exclusive will of the director. Such a counterfeit assembly sanctioned the Constitution of 1822. This code was never put into force because a revolution overtook him two months before it was promulgated. What caused the greatest dissatisfaction was that it extended for "ten years more" the authority of dictatorship that forced its approval.

At the end of 1822 Concepción arose in insurrection with its intendant at the head, and some days later La Serena also rebelled. The movement extended through the jurisdiction of both provinces p222in obedience to the juntas created in them, and Ramón Freire was acclaimed chief of the uprising. At the beginning of 1823 the country thus found itself in full rebellion.

The Abdication of O'Higgins

Before the disturbances of Concepción and La Serena, however, O'Higgins did not believe that the agitation would take root in Santiago and entered into negotiations with the rebels in order to come to an agreement. The capital, in turn, arose in rebellion and an open cabildo met to ask the supreme director to abdicate the command. Shortly before noon on February 28 the hall of the Consulado, which had served as a meeting place for the revolutionists in 1810, was invaded by a crowd of the most representative citizens of Santiago, numbering, young and old, more than two hundred.

A commission left that place and went to the government palace, situated as formerly on the Plaza de Armas, to ask that O'Higgins come to hear the complaints of the people. The supreme director refused to take such a step, for he did not recognize the assembly as one that was really representative, and ordered his guard to resist. Learning that its leader was involved with the insurgents, he entered the garrison full of wrath, seized that officer, and violently pulled the epaulets off his coat. He then faced the troops and gave them the order to present arms, which they did with cries of "Viva el Señor Director!" He went at once to the garrison of another corps, whose commander was also among those involved in the revolt. He chided him as he did the former and forced the soldiers to obey him. He stationed the two regiments in the Plaza de Armas and put himself at their head.

Meanwhile, the citizens assembled within the Consulado were uncertain what to do. At nearly five o'clock in the afternoon they had not succeeded in getting the director to attend their assembly and they feared that he would force them to disperse. Then they sent a final delegation, which made the director understand that the people there were not, as he thought, a crowd of irresponsible agitators, and he decided to attend. Once at the table of the presidency, O'Higgins asked: "What is the object of this assembly?" He was told that its object was to ask him to resign, the only means of exorcising the civil war threatening the republic. Three respected citizens in turn gave utterance to this sentiment.

A tumult arose in the hall, O'Higgins, standing up, exclaimed: "Neither seditious cries nor thousands frighten me. I scorn death today as I have scorned it on the fields of battle. I cannot allow the p223discussion to continue in the form it has taken nor ought I to allow it." He added that if they desired to continue the discussion, they should name a commission to come to an understanding with him. The commission was named; the director at once entered into discussion with it behind closed doors; and he was convinced of the necessity of retiring from the government.

The resolution of the director was announced to the people, and it was what the people desired; namely, that he resign his authority. A salvo of applause greeted the announcement. The gathering again invaded the hall and with his approval a junta of government was named to assume provisional control in place of the director. The junta was composed of three members and a secretary, who were, respectively, the citizens Agustín Eyzaguirre, José Miguel Infante, Fernando Errázuriz, and Mariano Egaña.

Then O'Higgins arose and delivered over the command to his successors. Taking off the sash which he used as the distinctive mark of his authority, he said:

I am sorry not to deposit this sash before the national assembly from which I last received it; I regret that I must retire without having made permanent the institutions that have been thought proper for the country and which I have sworn to defend; but at least I have the consolation of leaving Chile independent of all foreign domination, respected by the outside world, and covered with glory for its deeds of arms.

After placing the sash on the table, he added: "Now I am a plain citizen." He begged them to accuse him of the crimes which he was bound to have committed and of all the misfortunes he was thought to have caused. He concluded by opening his coat with such haste that he tore off the buttons, saying: "Take such vengeance on me as you wish! Here is my breast."

A sonorous "Long live General O'Higgins" was the response. Then they accompanied him to the palace with acclamation. The night was spent in popular rejoicing. Some days afterward O'Higgins went to Valparaiso and, at the end of a "trial of residence" (juicio de residencia) that lasted several months and ended in a complete justification of his conduct, he embarked for Peru. No one then doubted that the patriot of 1810, the general of 1813, and the dictator of 1823 was also a great citizen.

The Dictatorship of Freire

The governing junta which provisionally replaced O'Higgins was short-lived. The resignation of the supreme director was scarcely made known in Concepción, when General Freire with his troops went to Santiago. He did not recognize the powers of the p224junta to exercise the authority for the whole country, since it did not represent the three provinces into which the country was divided, and he had a new one named which was composed of three members, one for each province. This junta did nothing but elect a provisional supreme director until another general constituent congress should be convened, and the election fell on the only person who was in a position to take command, because he had a force at his disposal and had headed the rebellion — Ramón Freire.

The new supreme director was a young military man, thirty-five years old, who had performed very valuable service in the campaign for independence, fighting like a hero on different occasions. But if he possessed surpassing qualities as a fighter, he was not endowed with equal attributes as a statesman. Only his influence in the army could justify that designation. As his prime minister he selected Mariano Egaña, a son of Don Juan. Young Egaña was intelligent and energetic. Freire was also advised by a corporation called the conservative senate (senado conservador) composed of nine members, some of whom were individuals of exceptional intellectual attainment — among others José Miguel Infante and Camilo Henríquez.

Notwithstanding its provisional disposition, the government thus constituted showed itself as well disposed as the one preceding it and promoted several social reforms. It tried to abolish honorary titles with which individuals of public character were invested, such as "excellency" or "most illustrious señor," as well as the Legion of Merit created by O'Higgins. It tried also to abolish punishment by the lash which degraded criminals more than it corrected them, but in none of those attempts was it successful because of the opposition of Minister Egaña. One reform succeeded, although not before surmounting many obstacles; namely, complete abolition of slavery. It will be recalled that in 1811 the first Chilean congress had abolished this wretched institution, but such a measure had only affected sons of slaves born in Chile and persons who were enslaved when they arrived in the country. This time the resolution of the senate, in 1823, sanctioned by the executive, made it effective for all who were still held as slaves in Chile.

The democratic spirit of the corporation was opposed by the ministry of Freire; but Egaña and the senate were in accord with regard to the attention that should be given public instruction, and the diffusion of scientific knowledge among all popular classes. In this spirit they attempted to reform the plan of studies for the National Institute, giving a place in it for manual arts and trades. p225A junta of education was created to take charge of the inspection and immediate direction of this service and to propose to the government the future studies that might be thought advisable; and this body founded a special university for the cultivation and propagation of science, called the Chilean Academy. As yet, however, these initial measures were not realized and existed only as aspirations.

The importance attributed to the constituent congresses, notwithstanding their previous failures, soon induced the educated class of the country to concentrate upon the election which was to be held. The election was freely made. The new assembly met in Santiago without hindrance and its first act was to name Freire permanent supreme director. Besides many projects which they did not adopt, congress passed the republican constitution, which they had gathered to discuss, and it was promulgated at the end of 1823. This fourth attempt at a fundamental code (the others are dated 1812, 1818, and 1822) is called the Constitution of 182311 and is the most curious political document of the period.

It was drawn up by Juan Egaña. It established three powers: executive, legislative, and judicial, already basic in public law. A supreme director exercised the first, closely associated with the second, which was vested in two houses — one, of the senators, which functioned permanently and one, of the deputies, which functioned only by special summons. But the distinguishing feature of this constitution was its regulation of private as well as public life. It lasted only half a year. Freire, by a coup d'état, suppressed its operations and the senate accorded him dictatorial powers.

The gravest difficulty encountered by this and the preceding administration was the precarious state of public revenues. The disturbances that occurred at O'Higgins' fall and the same revolutionary movement that motivated them caused a decline of production in the outcome and an increase of fiscal expenditures. Moreover, the loan previously contracted in London, the interest on which had greatly increased, very seriously prejudiced the government. It was to have been invested in works of public benefit, but almost all of it had been spent to save urgent promissory notes which did not have that character.

Among the many measures then devised to meet that situation, the most important was the delivery to a private concessionaire of the tobacco monopoly and other similar monopolies (playing cards, p226tea, and foreign liquors), under obligation to assume the payments on the loan. The monopoly of those articles which the State previously controlled now became the privilege of a mercantile association (1824), which carried on business under the firm name of Portales, Cea and Company, the manager of which was Diego Portales — a transaction that soon acquired widespread notoriety. This arrangement did not last more than two years, however. The enterprise did not make good, could not meet its obligations in regard to the loan, and had to abandon the monopoly and return it again to the State.

One more operation, not so complicated as this, but one which aroused formidable opposition against Freire, was the seizure of the possessions of the regular clergy, to which was added a complete reform in their regulations. These measures provoked the sudden rupture between Church and State, a rupture toward which affairs had been moving since the last years of O'Higgins' dictatorship. The solution of the different questions disturbing the harmony between Church and State had, in fact, deserved the constant attention of O'Higgins, up to the point of sending an emissary to Rome to treat personally with His Holiness. It will be recalled that this mission was entrusted to the presbyter, José Ignacio Cienfuegos. Notwithstanding the difficulties that he encountered there because the pope refused to recognize the sovereignty of the new American states, Cienfuegos succeeded in having an apostolic mission sent to Chile with the special purpose of normalizing the religious situation of the country.

The vicar, Juan Muzi, designated by the pope to undertake this mission, arrived in Chile in 1824, and he was in the country when the arrangements mentioned above were adopted for the reform of regular clergy and the seizure of their goods. He was there also when the government removed from his post Bishop Rodríguez Zorrilla,º the celebrated priest and enemy of the revolution. The latter had returned from his exile in the last years of the dictatorship of O'Higgins, who had reëstablished him in the diocese, trusting in his avowal of adherence to the republican regime. But hardly had O'Higgins fallen, when the bishop began a new campaign against the government and, when he saw himself favored by the presence and friendship of the apostolic delegate, he redoubled his efforts. Freire then removed him from his office; but shortly after Infante, in charge of a provisional government, banished him.

This resolute act of the chief of state and the premonitory signs of the dominance he was just beginning to exercise against the Church induced Vicar Muzi to leave the country, declaring his p227mission a failure.12 This very act aroused the religious prejudices of the majority of the people and placed the director in a very delicate situation, under the weight of general condemnation because his work of organization and his demonstrations of firmness in governmental acts were represented by his adversaries as signs of an irreligious attitude harmful to the faith.

Although surrounded by the difficulties mentioned above, the directors of the republic believed then that it was absolutely necessary to complete national control by incorporating the archipelago of Chiloé with Chilean territory. When Freire was raised to power, the general, Antonio Quintanilla, still maintained the Spanish flag in Chiloé. The director, who was above all a military man, directed two campaigns against the large island of the archipelago, in the last of which he triumphed over the royalist commander and the flag of Chile has remained hoisted forever on the fortifications of the port of Ancud (1826). With the taking of Chiloé, the long struggle against Spain in behalf of independence came to its final, irrevocable end not only in Chile but in all the former colonies of America.

King Ferdinand VII nevertheless continued to maintain a hostile attitude in respect to these states and refused to recognize their sovereignty; but any project whatever for Spanish reconquest in America now became merely a dream. Four of the larger European powers (France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia), which together formed what was called the Holy Alliance, had thought of offering their aid to Spain in order to recover these dominions. They purposed to restore to its former height the absolute power of all the European monarchs. The pope himself in an encyclical had fostered the initiative of those sovereigns, after condemning American emancipation.13

But these schemes had empty with strong opposition from the United States and England, causing the plans to fail. Monroe, the president of the United States who had recognized the sovereignty p228of the new republics, was led by that presumptuous intervention to formulate in 1823 the celebrated international theory which is known as the Monroe Doctrine. According to this, his government declared that the American continents were "henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers," and, as for the nations newly constituted in it, "we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power, in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." That theory, which has been synthetized in the formula "America for Americans," caused great alarm in Europe, except in England, which was itself in accord with the United States with respect to the recognition of the American republics, as in 1825 it actually did recognize some, although Chile was not among the number at that time.14

England and the United States acted thus because they were impelled in the first place by the liberal ideals of their governments; and in the second place by their economic interests, which made them comprehend that the recently formed republics would furnish excellent markets for their industrial products. But these republics did not at the time respond to such demonstrations of adherence and confidence as came to assure their independence in an unchangeable form. They had struggled stubbornly and heroically for fifteen years without the help of anyone, performing prodigies of energy. Thus their triumph became not merely a national, but almost a personal glory; but lack of traditions and political habits compatible with the liberty they had gained could not yet permit them the firm and enduring organization that they needed.

Everywhere the two principal tendencies shaping their organizing purpose were in ceaseless opposition. One element wished to see a republic established in accordance with the logic of the revolutionary movement, a real republic, free and democratic, regardless of the popular elements that were necessary for it, which the colony had not bequeathed to them; and the other, taking this fact p229into account, aspired to a system little different from the one overthrown — a system which would not break completely with the past, which would not profoundly modify society, and which, in short, would result in a colonial republic. To accomplish all this, leaders came and went, rose and fell from power.

In Chile Freire, surrounded by these group complications, could not accomplish abundant profitable results. A new congress succeeded the one of 1823 and abolished the constitution issued by the latter but, amid the revolutionary plots that arose in different cities and, amid the stormy sessions for which congress itself was a stage, this was forcibly dissolved by the director. A third then followed, which met a like fate, until Freire, tired of this fruitless and seemingly endless political play, called together a fourth legislative assembly and to it delivered the public authority in 1826.


The Author's Notes:

1 For an account of Carrera's mission to the United States and of his relations with prominent individuals there in 1816, see Collier and Cruz, La primera misión de los Estados Unidos de América en Chile, chaps. xi, xii.

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2 See p166, n. 10.

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3 Vicente Benavides, born in Quirihue about 1785, was a ferocious guerrilla leader who filled his page in Chilean history "with blood and grief." For details of his tempestuous career, see Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, XII, 98‑102, n. 5.

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4 For a contemporary description of the initial exploit of the Lautaro, see John Miller, Memoirs of General Miller in the Service of the Republic of Peru (2 vols. London, 1828), I, 182‑184.

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5 For the quotation see p210, supra. For a general account of this expedition, compare the following: Hancock, A History of Chile, pp181‑194, passim; Markham, A History of Peru, pp241‑251; and Pilling, The Emancipation of South America, chaps. xxvi, et seq. A contemporary narrative is afforded by Miller, op. cit., Vol. I, chaps. ix‑xvi, passim. See also Mitre, Historia, Vol. III, chaps. xxvi, et seq.; and Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, Vol. XII, chap. ix, and Vol. XIII, chaps. II, et seq.

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6 Some of the documents connected with the departure of San Martín and Cochrane are to be found in Miller, op. cit., App. G and H, pp386‑389.

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7 See Webster E. Browning, "Joseph Lancaster, James Thompson, and the Lancasterian Systems of Mutual Instruction, with Special Reference to Hispanic America," in Hisp. Amer. Hist. Rev., IV (February, 1921), 49‑98, particularly pp75‑81.

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8 For the mission of Cienfuegos to Rome see J. Lloyd Mecham,º "The Papacy and Spanish-American Independence," in Hisp. Amer. Hist. Rev., IX (May, 1929), 160‑165.

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9 For the message of President Monroe, suggesting this recognition, and the report of the Comment on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives, see Manning, Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States concerning the Independence of the Latin American Nations, I, 146‑156. See also Henry Clay Evans, Chile and its Relations with the United States, p27. Heman Allen of Vermont was appointed first minister of the United States in Chile.

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10 For the text of this document, issued under the joint signature of O'Higgins and Irisarri, see Briseño, Memoria histórico-crítica, pp356‑370. See also Galdames, La evolución constitucional de Chile, 1810‑1925, I, 483‑504.

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11 For the text see Briseño, op. cit., pp405‑434. Briseño's comments on the document appear in ibid., pp111‑172. See also Galdames, Evolución constitucional, I, 600‑658.

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12 Professor Mechamº pronounces the mission of Muzi as significant because it marked "the beginning of a modus vivendi" between the American governments and the papacy. See his "The Papacy and Spanish-American Independence," in Hisp. Amer. Hist. Rev., IX, 165.

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13 For a general discussion of the attitude of Spain and of the continental powers, including the pope, and of the United States, see Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, Vol. XIV, chap. xx. A supplementary discussion of value is Dexter Perkins, "Europe, Spanish America, and the Monroe Doctrine," in American Historical Review, XXVII (January, 1912), 207‑218. See also H. W. V. Temperly, "The Latin American Policy of George Canning," in ibid., XI (July, 1906), 779‑797.

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14 For Monroe's annual message containing these extracts, see J. D. Richardson (comp.), Messages and Papers of the Presidents of the United States (10 vols. Washington, 1789‑1897), II, 218‑220. For the subject of general British relations with the South American republics during this period, see F. I. Paxson, The Independence of the South American Republics (Philadelphia, 1903), chap. iii. The correspondence between the United States and Chile during this period will be found in Manning, op. cit., II, 1091, et seq.; between the United States and Great Britain in ibid., III, 1474‑1524. See also Evans, op. cit., pp36‑41; and Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, XIV, 368, 469‑535.


Thayer's Note:

a For a different view of Admiral Cochrane (as well as his involvement in a plot to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena), see Macartney and Dorrance, The Bonapartes in America, pp261‑262.


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