During the first eight years of the nineteenth century there was no thought of changing the political regime of Chile, but the better-educated Chileans formulated many well-founded complaints against the mother country which may be summarized as follows:
1. In the economic system the lack of commercial liberty was criticized. This condemned the country to poverty, and prohibited it from coming into relations with the rest of the world and increasing its production. It made of the colony a mere trading post (factoria) for gathering supplies from Spain, whose decadent industries were not sufficient for its sustenance. Besides this monopoly, the heavy imposts that burdened commerce, agriculture, mining, and, consequently, the mass of the population caused complaint.
2. In the intellectual system the court was reproached for maintaining the mass of the colonists in ignorance, for not creating schools and colleges in sufficient numbers for their needs, and for not permitting in any way the free introduction of books of general information.
3. In the administrative system there was criticism of the preference which was given to Spaniards over the natives of Chile in filling the high positions of government, however well prepared some of the latter might be and however great was the public influence of their intelligence or wealth.
4. In the moral system the misery of the lower class was regarded as a grievous wrong, which, together with ignorance, led to drunkenness, beggary, and crime.
5. In the juridical system protests arose from the complexity of the laws, the delay of judgments, the arbitrary processes, the venality of some of the judges, the unequal consideration with which different groups of society were treated before tribunals — all of which often made illusory the right claimed by litigants and nullified the guarantees to the individual against being dragged to prison without cause.
Some influences from abroad encouraged those criticisms. In the first place, there were certain books of English and French philosophers and writers who hated the Spanish colonial regime and who p142 presented, as an ideal, liberty and equality of rights for all men in respect to their private relations and to the government. Prominent among those philosophers and writers were Robertson, with his History of America, and Rousseau, with his Social Contract. These works, although prohibited, were read in Chile by certain distinguished men after having been passed secretly through the customs of Spain and the colony. In the second place, the colonists were considerably influenced by the independence of the United States, declared in 1776 and won a few years later with the support lent by Spain itself.1 In the third place, ideas of independence were inspired in the colonists by the French Revolution of 1789, which had put into practice the theories of its thinkers, had formulated the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" — not absolutely unknown in Chile at that time — and had beheaded a king. In the fourth place, the defense of Buenos Aires against the English, carried on in 1806 and 1807 with forces assembled by Argentinian Creoles, showed the colonists that they were as capable of forcing respect for the integrity of their territory as the Spaniards, and gave impulse to the still confused idea of nationality.
This idea, in fact, began taking root in the heart of the enlightened colonists in an unconscious, almost intuitive, manner during the last three decades of the eighteenth century. Added to the philosophical readings of that time and the suggestions arising from events in France and the United States was the regionalist or local tendency inherited from Spain — a tendency toward which the social groups that originally had dwelt in isolated mountain fastnesses, extending only to surrounding heights, seemed to lean. There were born the usages, customs, and institutions which endured for centuries, under the protection of persistent tradition. Such was one of the predominant elements of society in the ancient provinces and first kingdoms of Spain.
In Chile, as in other colonies of America, local individualism lived on in the descendants of the conquerors, aided by new social conditions, by the characteristics of the indigenous race — which the mestizos reproduced — and by the geographic structure of the territory. In no other part was there a more active battlefield, nor p143 were there more indomitable men than those of Arauco. In no other colony did greater order, discipline, and enterprise exist to assure domination. In no other country did misfortune so test perseverance and develop constructive initiative. Warlike devastation, the destruction of cities, earthquakes, floods, plagues, famines, and droughts — all had to be resisted and remedied, and above all they had to be overcome. Periods of calm were prosperous and amply compensated for losses. Thus, there was being formed through three centuries an enterprising and long-suffering people, capable of overcoming the greatest obstacles — a people differing in certain measure from others of the same origin, and the traditional Spanish regional sentiment left with them the germs of future nationality.
Nature — in other terms, the geographical medium — conspired to the same end. As the territory was explored and became better known, the people were persuaded that the subsoil contained enormous riches and that the cultivated soil had unlimited possibilities. The gentle climate, the absence of poisonous reptiles and insets, the abundance of forest vegetation, the fertility of the cultivated fields, the stimulating yield of the mines, the landscape of the forests and mountains, the well-defined demarcation of the country — between the deserts of the north, the great cordillera, and the sea — all stimulated regional pride among the Creoles and furthered a patriotic restlessness, as was shown by their love for their native land and their desire for progress. The very isolation of the colony, at the extreme south of the continent, provided another element favorable to the spirit of nationality; and the name "kingdom of Chile," by which from early times the country was always designated in the chronicles and official documents, revealed the concept that this country constituted a geographic unity, separate and distinct from any other, where a considerable population could support itself from its own resources. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the conviction aroused by these factors was already axiomatic. It was shown not only in the historias of the Abbé Molina, of Robertson, and of Raynal, but in numerous writers of that and of an earlier period.
The state of mind of the colonists, fruit of the internal, external, and traditional factors referred to, definitely expressed itself in new aspirations. Nevertheless, these did not yet go beyond obtaining from the mother country several reforms which might lessen the evils from which they were suffering. No one dared to speak, in public or private, of making the colony of Chile an independent nation by rising up in arms against the king. To reveal by a single p144 word the thought of such a revolution would have been a crime worthy of the gallows. Crimes against the existing regime were uttered in conversations around the hearth within the home, and with the utmost fear, as if one were plotting; and so few were those who commented upon these matters that they did not constitute the least danger. But, all in all, revolutionary thought, as the logical outcome of experience, had already unconsciously taken root in some spirits. All that was lacking for its manifestation was opportunity or what is usually called in history an immediate cause; and that opportunity was not long in coming.
In the middle of 1808 mail from Buenos Aires brought the news of grave events occurring in the Peninsula. The French emperor, Napoleon I, had usurped the Spanish throne just as a short time before he had usurped that of Portugal. In order to effect that usurpation, he had taken advantage of an uprising of the Spaniards against Charles IV, and his minister, Manuel Godoy. The people hated the latter and accused him of treason against the country which he was trying to deliver up to the French.
As a result of this uprising Charles had had to abdicate the crown in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII, who was very much admired and beloved by most of the Spaniards; but, as the former could not reconcile himself to that abdication, he had entered into relations with the French sovereign in order, with his aid, to find a way of restoring himself to the throne. Napoleon I, then master of Europe, had caused Charles IV and Ferdinand VII to come to Bayonne (a French city situated very near the Spanish border). In a conference held there, he had obliged the two to renounce the throne of Spain and then cede it to him. This was the reported usurpation.
The news of such events produced consternation in Chile. But shortly arrived other news of greater gravity. Napoleon had elevated his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, to the Spanish throne, and he was already in Madrid supported by a hundred thousand French bayonets. The highest nobility of the kingdom had formed the court of the usurper; but the people, suffering a revolt of every patriotic sentiment in their souls, had arisen en masse against the invader. A governing committee established in Seville directed the national reconquest in the name of Ferdinand VII.
Overwhelmed by such events, the colonists of Chile were disposed to coöperate in the defense of the mother country and the restoration of the legitimate king, to whom with great pomp they swore p145 allegiance in all the cities and whose forgery they carried through the streets to the cries of "Viva Don Ferdinand VII!" "Death to the usurper!" But at the same time that they performed these acts, it occurred to certain Chileans to ask themselves what would happen if Spain definitely remained subject to the French usurper? Should they submit to him also? Or should they resist and form an independent state?
Napoleon had sent emissaries to the American colonies to demand their peaceful obedience. The queen of Portugal, a sister of Ferdinand VII, called Carlota — who was exiled in Brazil after the French invasion of her kingdom — had herself written to several persons in Chile, offering her protection to the colony in case the legitimate dynasty of Spain should remain conquered; and this fate was greatly to be feared because, in spite of some notable triumphs obtained by the Spanish people, the emperor in person had immediately led an expedition to the Peninsula and conquered the greater part of its territory.
Under such pressing circumstances the colonists had to take some action. Time was passing rapidly. Such events had been brought about in the course of little more than a year (from 1808 to 1809). Thus it was at the latter date there were in Chile two political tendencies: one which aspired to the independence of the country, if the French definitely triumphed in Spain, and the other, uncompromisingly monarchical, which did not wish to hear the loss of the mother country mentioned and confined itself to fighting the enemy, keeping itself free to define its attitude when the war should be concluded.
The first of these groups had no organization or recognized leaders, but the principal point of support was the cabildo of Santiago, and it was logically made up of the most cultured Creoles. The second group was composed of the high officials of public administration, together with the rest of the European Spaniards, and naturally the governor of the colony, García Carrasco, headed it. The men of this affiliation dubbed the others "revolutionists," although their acts were inspired by the most submissive fidelity to Ferdinand VII; and the others called their opponents "Carlotinos" and "Frenchified," because they said that, if the French finally conquered the Peninsula, they would submit to Napoleon or to Queen Carlota of Brazil, provided they kept their privileges and offices. Intrinsically the two tendencies were only an expression of the deep rivalry that for some time had divided the Chilean Creoles from the peninsular Spaniards; the former, concerned especially for the fate of their country, deserved for that reason to be called patriots; p146 and the latter, especially preoccupied with the cause of the mother country, might simply be called Spaniards.
The dissensions produced because of happenings in Spain were not the only ones. There were others, of which not only the mother country was a target, but the governor of Chile himself.
In order to control the difficult situation created in the colony there was needed at the head of the government a man of great political tact; but the president of Chile was lacking in this quality. Francisco Antonio García Carrasco, an old military man of little education, had obtained the command of the country by mere chance. At the beginning of 1808, Governor Luis Muñoz de Guzmán died suddenly. Two years before, the king had decreed that, if in such an event the government were left without a head, the vacancy should be filled in the interim by the official of highest rank in the colony, provided he was not lower than colonel. García Carrasco found himself in a position to meet this ordinance. He was brigadier general in the army and the only one qualified to perform the duty of the vacant governorship. He lived in Concepción, completely removed from governmental councils. His life had been spent in encampments.
A stranger to the affairs of public administration, he had brought from Concepción, as his private secretary and counselor, Juan Martínez de Rozas, a Chilean lawyer, who was the person who had induced him to take over the command and had offered him his aid as a person experienced in such weighty matters. Hence, everybody believed that the secretary was going to be the real governor. Martínez de Rozas at that time figured among the very few really educated persons in Chile. Born in Mendoza in 1759, when the province of Cuyo for which this city served as capital was still Chilean, he had acquired his first education in the pontifical university of Córdoba and had been graduated as a lawyer in Santiago, after having studied law in the University of San Felipe. Years later, when Ambrosio O'Higgins occupied the intendencia of Concepción (1786‑1788), Martínez de Rozas was his legal adviser (asesor letrado), and, when O'Higgins himself assumed the governorship of the colony, he left Martínez de Rozas in charge of the intendencia, with the rank of provisional intendant. Afterward, when O'Higgins was promoted to the vice-regency of Peru, Martínez de Rozas also became legal adviser to the new president. But, as the court would not confirm him in this office, notwithstanding the excellent recommendations p147 that his superiors gave him, he had been obliged to return to Concepción after years of service. Aside from his profession, he possessed considerable fortune, belonging almost entirely to his wife.
Martínez de Rozas did not stay with García Carrasco more than a few months. He had tried to guide the president into the realization of certain reforms that would preserve the peace of the colony, and, as he did not succeed, he returned to Concepción, resolved now to put himself in contact with the most intelligent people of the south and of Santiago, in order to prepare for a complete change in the political regime. Meanwhile, García Carrasco went from one blunder to another and soon had alienated the wealthy classes of the colony, the royal audiencia, the clergy directing the Church, and the cabildo of Santiago.
After a year of his government, in 1809, there were already signs of a revolutionary movement, hostile to Spanish rule and to himself. Then he began to adopt methods of severity, the immediate effect of which was to arouse still more hostility. He issued decrees prohibiting conversation even about the affairs of the mother country; he persecuted certain persons charged with talking about these things; and, in obedience to the orders from Spain, he tried to expel the few foreigners who lived there, considering them propagandists for revolutionary ideas. As his unpopularity increased, the power of the Spanish group that he led diminished, and the revolutionary propaganda of the patriotic group prospered, aided by the crisis through which Spain was passing and by the fact that it was a protest against bad government.
As a result, at the beginning of 1810 the patriotic group already looked upon him as an adversary and was organizing to fight him. It represented a combination of vague aspirations for reform which certain educated men defined better than others, and which were still contradictory, since they involved, on the one hand, complaints against the existing regime, and, on the other, the swearing of fidelity to the king. It did not yet affect the people, not so much because the poorer classes were not considered, but because it would have been impossible to interest them in a revolt, for their ignorance kept them from understanding what was going on. The householders of a city formed the only class then called the people. Public propaganda, therefore was not carried on; nothing was printed, because there was no printing press, and open-air assemblies were unknown. Conversation and private letters served as the only means of spreading revolutionary aspirations. But leaders p148 were not lacking; among the most respected were José Antonio Rojas in Santiago and Juan Martínez de Rozas in Concepción, both in constant correspondence.
Already well known were the revolutionary movements which had broken out in Quito and Chuquisaca in 1809. In Buenos Aires, where popular opinion was being prepared for the coming struggle, as in Chile, the authorities had news of what was going on in the latter country, and the viceroy of that jurisdiction informed García Carrasco that conspiracies were being formed against his government. The president was inclined to put down by any method whatever the least effort to revolt; but, however much he investigated what was going on, he succeeded in finding out nothing.
Finally, after many false alarms, he believed that he had found the thread of the conspiracy in the house of José Antonio Rojas in Santiago. He obtained the information through a secret investigation, based on certain denunciatory conversations referring to the establishment of a junta of government in Chile. The principal authors of the plan were the procurador of the cabildo, Juan Antonio de Ovalle Silva,2 the Argentinian lawyer Bernardo Vera Pintado, and Rojas himself, in whose parlors they met. The house of Rojas was then entered on the night of May 25, 1810, by agents of the authorities and it were arrested the three conspirators. These were the first seizures made by the government among the patriotic group. Early in the morning of May 26, the offenders were taken to Valparaiso in order to send them to Peru.
Great was the excitement produced in Santiago by their imprisonment and exile, without any sort of legal proceedings. The three men were of high social standing: Rojas and Ovalle, now old men with extensive family and friendly connections, enjoyed universal esteem within the country; and Vera, although young, also aroused almost unanimous sympathy. A native of Argentina, he had pursued his law studies in the University of San Felipe and had married a lady high in Chilean society.
As soon as the news of the arrest became known, the families of the culprits besought the governor to revoke the order of exile, and their petition was espoused by the cabildo of Santiago, the tribunal of the bishop, the leading businessmen, the most representative citizens, and even the royal audiencia. The order was revoked and a p149 member (oidor) of the tribunal was sent to Valparaiso to formulate the regular process against him.
But at the end of June news came to Santiago, and was rapidly spread about, that a popular revolt had broken out in Buenos Aires on May 25, the very day on which Rojas, Ovalle, and Vera were arrested. The viceroy had been deposed and a national junta of government established. This news determined the president to use more severity. It was not difficult for him to suspect a certain connivance between the conspirators in Argentina and those that he thought he had discovered in Chile. Since, with the knowledge of that revolutionary event, the spirit of restlessness might grow, and even more because of the delay in the lawsuit brought against the presumed conspirators, he gave a private order to put them on board ship without further delay, and on July 10 a frigate raised anchor in Valparaiso and sailed toward Peru, carrying on board Rojas and Ovalle. Vera remained for the moment in Valparaiso, ill of a fever which threatened his life.
On the morning of the following day, there arrived at the capital two messengers, panting with weariness, despatched by Ovalle and Rojas from the port at the moment of embarkation. The news fell on the populace like a thunderbolt. In two or three hours everybody knew it. People of the most diverse conditions and ages assembled at the plaza and paraded the streets, a prey to the greatest indignation.
The cabildo met in extraordinary session which by its own action was converted into an open cabildo, because the multitude thrust itself into the room, demanding that the governor be asked to revoke his order immediately. In the midst of the tumult which was almost a riot, and by means of the intervention of the audiencia, García Carrasco revoked it; but it was already too late. Two days afterwards it was known that, when the messenger who had carried that communication to Valparaiso with the greatest haste arrived at his destination, the prisoners had for many hours been sailing the high seas. This time the excitement came to a head immediately. It is said that García Carrasco, who maintained a troop of soldiers ready armed and strictly quartered, was preparing to revenge himself on the populace and principally on the members of the cabildo who had taken prominent part in the events of July 11. A special guard of residents was formed which, accompanied by the people of the lowest status, patrolled the streets night after night in spite of the rigorous cold of the winter season.
No one neglected to arm himself against vengeance that p150 public rumor foretold. The popular tumults that broke out continually were not, however, checked by the governor. The capital seemed like an encampment. It was in open insurrection. The people began to discuss also the deposing of the president from office and the creating of a purely Chilean junta of government. To this end certain chiefs of the army pledged themselves, and mounted men from the neighboring farms were enlisted to strengthen the movement for revolt.
The royal audiencia, noting such maneuvers, considered it wise to settle the question in a peaceful way. In consequence, it approached García Carrasco and asked him to resign the command and, compelled by circumstances, he decided to do so. On July 16, at noon, it was announced to the populace that the president had resigned the command in favor of the Conde de la Conquista, Mateo de Toro Zambrano, by virtue of the latter's rank as brigadier of the royal armies — a title bestowed the previous year by the governmental junta of Spain.
The elevation of the Conde de la Conquista to the command of the colony could not solve the conflict between Chileans and Spaniards, because the movement was not simply a change of presidents but the overturning of the governmental system. The group of patriots aspired to "nationalize" authority; and, if some of their most advanced men understood that this nationalization logically involved the independence of the country, others — the majority no doubt — thought only of remaining loyal to Ferdinand VII. What all patriots agreed upon was that Chile should create its own government, as the provinces of Spain and other colonies of America had done — among them, for example, Chile's nearest neighbor, Buenos Aires.
The cabildo of Santiago headed by its procurador, José Miguel Infante, was the most active center of the revolutionary movement and Juan Martínez de Rozas, accompanied by Bernardo O'Higgins, a son of the colonial governor of that name, was equally untiring in his propaganda at Concepción. The rich and ardent youth of the country served as the agency to further the ideas of reform. The group of Spaniards, on their side, did not spare means to hinder or pervert that propaganda. The royal audiencia was their support and their bulwark and the upper class of merchants followed its lead. The army and the clergy were divided into two parties; one, which adhered to the liberals; the other, which helped to resist them. Those figuring in the patriotic group were the officers of the p151 civic militia together with some chiefs of the regular army who resided in Santiago; and, among the clergy, several priests of the ecclesiastical court. In the Spanish group other permanent officials of the regular army and the most prominent secular ecclesiastical authorities had a place, followed by the religious orders.
In the main, the struggle between Chileans and Spaniards seemed headed respectively by the cabildo of Santiago and the royal audiencia. From the beginning of his administration, the provisional president, appointed during the riots of July, felt buffeted about by the two opposing currents, and he vacillated between them. Mateo de Toro Zambrano, eighty-five years of age, was absolutely incapable of carrying on government in such difficult circumstances. He was born in Santiago, and a great part of his life had been devoted to private business. His public activity had been spent in filling the offices of corregidor and alcalde of Santiago and of superintendent of the mint. His being also an army official gave the governing junta of Spain occasion to appoint him brigadier in 1809, for the purpose of attaching him to the mother country. When the audiencia considered the resignation of García Carrasco, it determined that by virtue of that promotion the command ought to belong to the count — just as it had belonged to his predecessor two years before in accordance with the law; and as the count was a Chilean, the audiencia thought the agitation of the reform party would be pacified by seeing a fellow countryman elevated to the post of governor.
Events soon showed the supreme tribunal that it was mistaken. The cabildo of Santiago, which had accepted the new situation only as a truce, did its utmost to control the weak spirit of the president. Through their influence, two members of the patriot group who inspired confidence were placed beside him, Gaspar Marín, as adviser (asesor), and José Gregorio Argomedo, ex-procurador of the cabildo, as secretary.
The state of equilibrium between the two forces did not last more than two months. At first the count seemed to favor the audiencia. With the greatest solemnity he recognized the council of the regency, installed in Cádiz as a substitute for the former junta of government in order to keep up the fight for the independence of the Peninsula and the rights of King Ferdinand VII; but the propaganda and agitation of the patriotic party, far from ceasing, continued with more alarming characteristics.
The council of regency had sent to the Americas a proclamation which implied the most explicit condemnation of the dominant regime. In it the colonies were asked to appoint deputies to the p152 Cortes of the Peninsula, and, after declaring equality of rights between them and the provinces of the mother country, it said to them: "From this moment, Spanish-Americans, behold yourselves elevated to the dignity of free men. . . . In the act of selecting your deputy, it is necessary that each elector should say to himself: This man is the one who has to expose and remedy all the abuses, all the extortions, all the evils caused by the arbitrary and useless action of the chieftains of the ancient government. . . ."
Encouraged by this frank recognition of the necessity for political reform, the patriots displayed the most lively efforts in hastening the formation of a governmental junta, for which they had long been agitating. During the month of August their activity never ceased. Private meetings were daily held in the homes, on the estates, and at the countryseats of the richest people. The most active young men of the Creole aristocracy were sent in different directions, principally to the farms near the capital, to bring together groups of horsemen who should be ready for the moment of going into action. They circulated written proclamations from hand to hand and posted revolutionary placards at the corners of intersecting streets.
Among the most notable writings that were read during those days, the Political Christian Catechism (Catecismo político-cristiano) was conspicuous. Its author, hidden under the pseudonym of José Amor de la Patria,3 distributed this "for the instruction of free people in South America." A long document, rational and strong in its language, it was at bottom an attack against the colonial regime and a brilliant apology for the system of republican government; and because of its simplicity it was within the intellectual range of all kinds of readers. Never had anything yet been written in Spanish America as vigorous as the contents of this piece of work — a truly admirable product for the time.
In the political argument set forth in its lines were such utterances as these, based on the proclamation of the council of regency:
Americans! Restrain the irritation in your breasts! In another age the declaration of a pope was necessary in order that the primitive inhabitants of these countries should be regarded as rational beings. Today the declaration of a government is necessary in order that you may be esteemed as an essential and integral part of the Spanish empire, that you may consider yourselves as elevated to the dignity of free men, and that you may no longer be what you have been, that is, wretched slaves. . . .
p153 You have been colonists and your provinces have been colonies and wretched trading posts. It has been said that is not so; but this vile condition is not effaced by beautiful words, but by a perfect equality of privileges, rights, and prerogatives. By a wicked procedure and eternal injustice, the power, authority, honor, and income have been the patrimony of Europeans. . . .
The mother country has monopolized commerce and has forbidden foreigners from coming to sell or coming to buy at our ports and us from being able to negotiate in theirs, and with this eternally iniquitous and unjust prohibition we have been reduced to the most terrible misery.
Every year the mother country sends out swarms of employees who come to devour our substance and to treat us with insupportable insolence and arrogance; flocks of ignorant, greedy, lazy, unjust, barbarous, vengeful governors, who make their depredations without check or fear, because court appeals are most difficult, because the supreme government is three thousand leagues away, because they have relatives and protectors there who defend them and participate in their thefts and because they are Europeans and we are Americans.
The mother country burdens us daily with duties, taxes, contributions, and imposts without number, which in the end ruin our fortunes, and there are no means nor measures to prevent them. The mother country permits us to have no manufactures nor even vineyards, and desires us to buy everything from it at exorbitant and ruinously scandalous prices. . . . The whole plan of the mother country consists in not wanting us to try or think anything but working mines as good slaves and as Indians of encomiendas, which we are in every sense, and they have treated us as such. . . .
The employees and Europeans in general come to the Americas very poor and leave rich and powerful. We go rich to the Peninsula and return plucked without a copper. How are these miracles wrought? Everybody knows. The mother country abandons the people of America to most frightful ignorance, not mindful of its education or of useful institutions for its prosperity; mindful, yes, to destroy them as much as possible and when they have drained and destroyed the provinces with taxes and exorbitant contributions and with the monopoly of commerce, they even desire charitable institutions and as much as possible of everything else to be carried on at the expense of these wretched peoples; for the treasures wrested from us by means of fiscal exactions must be used only for endowing European employees magnificently, for paying soldiers who oppress us, and for enriching the mother country and its favorites. . . . This has not been the work of two or three wretches who have abused their office. It has been the system invariably followed by the nation and the government. . . .
Americans! The Central Regency and Junta make fools of us! They want our money, they want our treasures and lastly they want us to nourish a serpent that has devoured our entrails and will continue to devour them while it exists. They want to keep us asleep in order to dispose of us as they please at the end of the tragedy. . . .
Generous Chileans! The inept despot who oppresses and tramples on us has snatched from the bosom of their families three of your most worthy citizens simply because they were not mute and stupid and did p154 not keep silent like slaves. Let us remember the eleventh of July and try to understand that oppressors can do nothing when the people do not wish them to. . . .
No doubt there was passion and exaggeration in all this tirade; but there is as little doubt that in the existing state of mind such language could not be more inspiring. Although the Political Christian Catechism maintained that the republican form of government would result in more happiness for the country, it did not ask for such a creation in Chile. In the first place, its author understood that such an advanced demand would find no echo except among a few persons; secondly, he was not ignorant of the fact that the country lacked preparation for accepting a republic; and third, such a complete change of regime, under the above circumstances, could do no less than fail.
Furthermore, it expressed the belief that after their independence all the Spanish colonies of South America would join together to form a single nation just as in the United States. Therefore, it pointed out a more conciliatory proceeding as being convenient and opportune. It counseled the Chileans as follows:
Convene an open cabildo; form a provisional junta as soon as possible to take charge of the superior authority, and call together the deputies of the kingdom to make a constitution and provide for its well-being. The national representation of all the provinces of South America should reside where all agree. . . . Form your government in the name of King Ferdinand, so that when he comes to reign among us . . .
But for the immediate future, no intrusive kings, no French, no English, no Carlotas, no Portuguese, no other foreign domination. Let us all die Americans, before suffering or bearing the foreign yoke!
Those accusations as well as these projects reflected perfectly what the most advanced men of the patriotic party were thinking and doing. There was a reason for such qualifying terms as "insurgents" and juntistas, which the Spaniards gave to their adversaries, just as there was significance in the nicknames "Goths," "Carlotinos," and "Frenchified," with which they were paid back; but, just as the campaign to realize such vast aspirations was sustained and energetic, no less powerful and untiring was the campaign made against it by the Spanish group. To the efforts of the audiencia were added the manipulations of Vicar Rodríguez Zorrilla and of the bishop of Concepción,4 and the violent preachments p155 of the clergy. The vicar sent a protest to the parish priests to be signed by the parishioners, in which the spirit of the rebellion was most severely condemned and in which the signers were urged to be "constant, loyal, and faithful to their much loved king and lord." The bishop also issued a pastoral of the same sentiment. The monastic clergy used all sorts of measures to second their prelates.
An intelligent priest of La Merced in Santiago sounded the highest note in a sermon which he preached in his church at that time, and which in comparison with the Political Christian Catechism represented exactly the way the Spanish party was thinking with regard to the crisis through which the mother country and its colonies were passing. After condemning as the scandal of the day the revolutionary spirit of many Chileans, he added:
Left us speak clearly: nothing can threaten our salvation more than this nor bring greater evils upon us. But how can Christians think of their salvation when they are stirred up and agitated with that new plan of government which is against the laws and precepts of God? — Because of so consequential a contempt, we have no order on the Peninsula.
The constitution of the governments of America already has its being. . . . No order has been given to us to alter it; we have not been told that we can govern ourselves by and at our own will; on the contrary, we know that the junta which represents the authority of the monarchy has given its orders. . . . To think, then, of resisting these orders is to desire to resist ordination, as the apostle says: "qui potestati resistit, Dei ordinationi resistit" (he who resists authority resists the orders of God).
In Spain, there is no other authority recognized by the nation than the junta that Providence has given us. Say clearly that you do not wish to subject yourselves to nor obey the precepts of God; that you do not wish to obey the authority of the kings of Spain whom God has given us since the conquest and who have mercifully kept us until today; say that you think you can govern yourselves alone better than you can be governed by the authority on high; and then you will not wonder at our declaiming in the pulpits against such devilish disobedience and against such a lamentable ambition, which not only degrades our kingdom from the concept of faith, obedience, and submission in which nations have held it, but which excites the justice of God to discharge upon us all his thunderbolts and anathemas.
The "anti-junta" propaganda did not limit itself to the above. The clergy established missions and made supplications, so that with the help of Heaven the formation of the projected national government might fail. The statement was spread abroad by the p156 Spaniards that, if that government was organized, the nuns would be dragged from their cloisters, and assassinations, sackings, and a thousand and one outrages committed.
All was in vain; the Chileans definitely recovered their influence over the Conde de la Conquista. They intimidated him with the spectacle of a violent overturn, the result of factional strife, and finally succeeded in making him decide to convene a great open cabildo in which would be represented as many as possible of the most respectable elements in the capital — civil and religious bodies, wealthy residents, and professionals of prestige, in order to discuss what ought to be done in the difficult circumstances through which the country was passing.
Having prepared this assemblage six days beforehand, the eighteenth of September was fixed upon for bringing it to a head. During those days invitations to the number of about four hundred and fifty were sent out and, of course, the persons to whom they were directed were for the most part favorable to the new ideas. The agitation of the patriots was now incessant. Armed patrols were organized among the people from the country and the most ardent residents of the capital to watch over the populace because it was feared that the regular troops and the leading men of the Spanish party would try to strike a blow which would cause the assembly to fail.
Thus the seventeenth arrived, and the excitement felt in the city showed very clearly that it was on the eve of a great event. At night there was a preparatory meeting among those most interested in the venture to make final agreements for the following day, and all separated at a late hour, resolved to persist in their design.
September 18, 1810, was a spring day radiant with sunshine. The site selected for the assembly was in the center of the community: it was the great hall of the commercial tribunal (consulado). From an early hour regular troops, directed by a sergeant major belonging to the Chilean party, guarded all the side streets that gave access to the small square that stretched in front of the Plaza de Armas and even beyond. In order to pass through the cordon of troops, each person invited had to show his ticket of invitation to the officers who headed the pickets of the guard.
At nine o'clock that morning, the hour fixed for the meeting, the room of the consulado was full; in it were some three hundred and fifty persons, with powdered hair, and ceremoniously dressed in frock coats, three-pointed hats, short pantaloons, silk stockings, shoes with silver and gold buckles, and wearing small swords. About one hundred of those invited were absent — almost all belonging to p157 the Spanish party — among them the regent of the audiencia. This tribunal had no desire to be represented there.
Some minutes later the Conde de la Conquista made his entrance, accompanied by the secretary, Argomedo, and the adviser, Marín. The three took seats on the platform or dais, and the others gathered around on wooden benches placed there for that purpose. The aged president soon addressed his expectant audience. Arising he said, showing his badge of authority: "Here is the staff, dispose of it and of the command." Then turning to his secretary he added: "Announce to the people what I have prepared for you," and again he took his seat. Argomedo then arose and in a firm voice pronounced a brief discourse in which he confirmed the resignation offered by the count and asked the cabildo to propose "the most certain means of keeping them the assured, defended, and eternally faithful vassals of their most adorable monarch, Ferdinand." Then the procurador, José Miguel Infante, spoke in behalf of the cabildo. His discourse was long and unimpassioned. He showed how desirable it was to create a governing junta, similar to the one that existed in Spain, in the name of Ferdinand VII, as a means of securing his interests. He made an effort to prove that it was right for the Chileans to take this step, basing his argument on the declarations of the Royal Council of the Regency, and ended by showing that the junta would not be a menace to anyone because all elements of the country desired only union and harmony.
Notwithstanding the conciliatory terms of this proposal, the Spaniards present gave signs of rejecting it. Two of them, one after the other, endeavored to speak against it; but the murmur of disapproval and protest that spread through the room with their first words silenced them. Unable to continue, they had to retire from the assemblage. Almost all those present then stood up and in a loud voice began to repeat, "We want a junta!" The suggestion from the cabildo was at once approved by general acclamation and the procurador, Infante, nominated the persons who should compose it. At each name the assembly burst into applause.
The junta was constituted as follows: president, Mateo de Toro Zambrano, Conde de la Conquista; vice president, José Santiago Martínez de Aldunate, bishop elect of Santiago, who was abroad; members, Fernando Márquez de la Plata, Juan Martínez de Rozas, Ignacio de la Carrera, Juan Enrique Rosales, and Francisco Javier Reina,5 a Spanish colonel, who if not connected with the patriots, p158 at least did not openly oppose them; secretaries, Gaspar Marín and José Gregorio Argomedo. There were nine in all; but of these the count was merely a figurehead and, because of his age, had no influence. His death occurred four months later. Martínez de Aldunate never became a member of the body. Thus only seven of the members were in a position to serve.
The open cabildo was dissolved at three in the afternoon amid great signs of rejoicing. The ringing of bells announced to the populace the advent of the first national government. At night the city was illuminated, and a band of musicians was improvised to serenade the Conde de la Conquista and other members of the junta. Two days later a public proclamation of the new government was made from a stage erected in the main plaza for this purpose; three salutes of artillery were fired, the oath of obedience was administered to the army and to the administrative bodies, and money was thrown to the crowd that had gathered there out of curiosity.
In Santiago no one opposed the recognition of the junta except the audiencia. In Concepción recognition also called forth a special ceremony. The intendant retired from his post and Martínez de Rozas, who took it over as a member of the junta, increased the rejoicing of the popular celebration. In the following month the enthusiasm of the patriots was augmented by the return of those exiled to Peru — José Antonio Rojas and Juan Antonio Ovalle. They were received with a veritable ovation.
The work of this first Chilean government was determined by the attending circumstances. It had to prepare for its own defense against the probable reaction that its adversaries might attempt and to institute some of the more desirable reforms in which there was unanimous accord to satisfy, in some measure, the aspirations that had produced it. The moment was not one for discussion but for action. Arms and money were lacking. Money was obtained in different ways; namely, by increasing the taxes on the tobacco monopoly, by lessening the salaries of public employees, and by soliciting private contributions. But weapons were more difficult to get.
p159 The relations that the cabildo of Santiago maintained with the junta of Buenos Aires helped greatly in this matter — relations which were closer as soon as the installation of the junta of Chile became known there. The reception of the news at Buenos Aires had been saluted with a salvo of twenty-one guns, which was followed by other demonstrations of sympathy. Moreover, that junta sent to the one in Chile a representative, a kind of diplomatic agent, so that both governments might work together in the reforms they undertook as much as in the armed defense which they saw would certainly have to be made in behalf of their rights and their territory. This mission had fallen to the Argentina lawyer, Antonio Álvarez Jonte.
After some months of labor they succeeded in organizing some fifteen hundred men — armed in whatever way possible, and worse clothed than armed — who, together with as many of the regular troops as were in the entire country, were to form the first army for the fatherland. This force was intended to repel whatever aggression might be attempted from Peru, because in that colony the old regime, with the viceroy at its have, continued without change. The junta of Buenos Aires, in coöperation with that of Chile, was to look after the defense against any attack from Montevideo or from Europe. The guiding spirit of the junta of Santiago during these preparations was Martínez de Rozas, who, when he had barely arrived from Concepción to take his place as a member of it, had, to a certain extent, assumed the exclusive direction of the government.
The most outstanding reform instituted by the junta in February, 1811, one designed to increase the public revenue and raise the country out of economic prostration, was freedom of trade. From then on the principal ports of Chile remained open to all the world, which was an old aspiration, one most eagerly demanded by intelligent colonists, and it meant a complete overturn in the existing economic system. However, its benefits in the first years were not very apparent, because the distance that separated the nation from the commercial centers of Europe, and the practice of contraband, which was exercised even in the most remote inlets of its coast, prevented any great development in the legal movement of trade. At any rate, the customs duties doubled at the end of the first year, and in the following years kept increasing at a steady rate. This reform, aside from an increase in revenue, was a most obvious demonstration of the revolutionary spirit which animated the new government. The duration of the latter, however, was limited to the time that would intervene until the election of a national congress, p160 the legitimate representative of the interests and ambitions of the country.
At the beginning of 1811 everything showed that revolutionary ideas were gaining ground among the most educated Creoles — among other things, written placards nailed on street corners, frequent quarrels between Spaniards and patriots on the streets, and other similar demonstrations. Prominent among the writings that produced the greatest impression at that time was the proclamation of Quirino Lemáchez.6 In this document the patriots were urged to declare complete independence. He said: "Nature made us equal, and only by virtue of a free pact made spontaneously and voluntarily, can another man exercise just, legitimate, and reasonable authority over us."
From these affirmations he drew the conclusion that, as neither the ancestors of the patriots nor the patriots themselves had agreed on a pact, the new government of Chile ought to be established by absolutely ignoring Spain. In high-sounding, burning language he painted the horrors of colonial domination and arrogantly added that "some day one would speak of the republic, the power of Chile, the majesty of the Chilean people." This proclamation, printed abroad many times, had a continental echo, because in Europe it was taken as the truest expression of the aspirations of the Spanish American people.
Its author, meanwhile, was unknown, for his signature was a plain anagram. Quirino Lemáchez meant Camilo Henríquez. Born in poverty in Valdivia in 1769, this agitator had been educated in Lima under the guardianship of relatives in the convent of the friars of Buena Muerte. After finishing his studies he became a priest of this order. He was fond of reading, and, beside mystic books, he had others not of that kind, principally those of French philosophers. Although he read these prohibited works secretly, he was discovered and in Lima subjected to trial by the Inquisition. When liberated he was sent to Quito to found another convent of his order. The patriotic uprising that took place there in 1809 found him at this task and, as it was suspected that he had taken some secret part in the events, he was called to Peru. From there he determined to go to Chile and actually was in that country at the end of 1810. When he sent out the proclamation at the beginning of the following year, no one had even thought of him; but from that day he became one of the most popular and active personages in the revolution.
p161 To the exaltation produced by that propaganda there was added in the following months a serious dilemma, which deepened the rivalry between Chileans and Spaniards. Word came from Buenos Aires that a new viceroy, Francisco Javier Elío, had been appointed for that colony, and that he had arrived at Montevideo with a thousand men and was attempting to take possession of his government by force. At the same time, the junta of that city asked the Santiago junta for men and munitions. Under the impression that Viceroy Elío would take Buenos Aires and would be able to proceed to Chile, the Argentinian representative in Chile made use of every possible method to recruit men and send them to his country. The junta, on its side, also ordered a supply of gunpowder to be sent, and enlisted a body of regular troops to cross the Andes to aid the revolutionists of La Plata. The defeat of Viceroy Elío made this aid unnecessary.
In the midst of such anxieties, the junta decided to hold the election for deputies to congress. Preparations for that event were being made in Santiago, where the representatives of the district were to be elected on April 1, 1811, when, on the morning of that very day, the capital was aroused by a revolt among the troops which had as its object a counterrevolution in order to restore the fallen regime. It was what had been feared from the first.
The Spanish lieutenant colonel, Tomás de Figueroa, headed the movement and, although it consisted only of the force under his command, it produced great alarm. The revolt of Figueroa, however, was put down the same morning, after a brief exchange of shots on the main plaza between the rebels and the zealous patriot forces, formed almost entirely of recently incorporated recruits. The leader of the revolt, taken at nightfall in the convent of Santo Domingo where he had hidden, was tried and condemned to death that same night and executed in the public jail at dawn the next day, without being allowed any other personal privilege than to confess to the priest Camilo Henríquez.
This reactionary movement had more serious consequences than the death of the lieutenant colonel, Tomás de Figueroa, and some soldiers. The complicity of the royal audiencia being proved, the junta decreed the dissolution of that high tribunal that very month (April) and sent the members who did not voluntarily leave the country to places at a distance from the city. The junta took similar precautions with the ex-governor, García Carrasco, who still lived in Santiago and who was transferred to Valparaiso, from whence two months later he was sent to Lima.
p162 The junta did not stop functioning until congress had been installed; but, after putting down the reactionary revolt, it could flatter itself that it had opened up and cleared the road to revolution. It had proceeded as a de facto government, assuming all public power, even forming its own army and, by introducing freedom of trade, reforming an economic system which had existed for centuries. It dissolved the highest secular court of justice in the colony and finally endowed the country with a national congress, as if it were already acting as an independent state. The responsibility for such acts was terrifying because of the consequences they must carry with them, but it had no terror for the men of the junta, among whom Martínez de Rozas was leader and continually guided that body toward the constitution of the new state.
A serious concern of the governing junta was the constitution of the national congress. Through the measures taken by it, almost all the deputies composing it were elected by the second fortnight of March, 1811. According to the regulations issued by the junta, the cabildos were to direct the elections in each province or partido. They were to make a list of the most honorable men in their jurisdiction and summon them to vote on a set day in its hall. The candidate obtaining the majority of votes was to be declared elected. Only one deputy was appointed for each district, but in some cities of importance two were allowed — Concepción, which was given three, and Santiago whose cabildo claimed twelve. The whole congress would thus be composed of forty-two deputies.
This simple mechanism functioned everywhere without hindrance, except in Valdivia, where the Spanish royalists ruled without opposition, and in Santiago, where the revolt of Figueroa held up the election on April 1, which was to be the final election; nor was it possible to effect it during that month.
The first of May came, the date set for the opening of congress, and the representatives of the capital were not yet chosen; but the deputies of the provinces, who were present and ready to exercise their functions and desirous of doing so, were not content to remain inactive until Santiago should elect its deputies, and asked the junta on that day to admit them into its sessions. The junta, led by Martínez de Rozas, granted the request and from that moment it was converted into a deliberative assembly. Without doubt the instigator of that maneuver was Martínez de Rozas himself, who, continually meeting strong resistance in the junta from certain moderate colleagues and counting on the majority of the provincial p163 deputies, had to avail himself of that means in order to maintain his superiority.7 Desiring at all costs to assure the advance of liberal ideas, he had used his influence so that the recently organized army should be entirely attached to him, and had not hesitated to place his personal friends, and even his nearest relatives, in command of the forces. These acts had aroused bitter hatred against him and had given occasion for his enemies to show him up daily in comic lampoons as a vulgar, ambitious man.
The cabildo of Santiago had declared itself against him and, when this body realized the importance of the party he had gained by incorporating the provincial deputies with the junta, it started an active campaign to hasten the election of the representatives from Santiago, and a week afterward they brought about the election and obtain a splendid victory — the twelve deputies elected by the capital were in opposition to the southern leader. They entered the junta and constituted a majority by which Martínez de Rozas lost his dominating influence in the government and withdrew from congress. Certain as he was of being elected in Santiago, he had not consented to enroll himself among the deputies for Concepción.
Congress and the junta, thus united into one body, constituted what they called the executive directorate. This new supreme power lasted until the formal opening of congress, and its work was principally concerned in opposing the policy of Martínez de Rozas. It filled the vacant offices with conservative men who would not help demolish the colonial regime as quickly as he had tried to. It created a court of justice to take the place of the defunct audiencia and filled it with lawyers of like affiliation; and lastly, by various means, it tried to persecute the most important followers of Martínez de Rozas and of his policy.
Conveniently prepared for by the executive directorate, the opening of the first national congress took place on July 4, 1811. At ten o'clock on the morning of that day the troops from the garrison were formed on the plaza and adjacent streets. At the same hour the deputies, the members of the junta and of the cabildo, the university doctors and residents of high birth left the governmental palace and with great solemnity entered the principal church. A mass was sung there, and from the pulpit Father Camilo p164 Henríquez preached a commemorative sermon in conservative terms. The oath of the representatives was then administered, to the effect that they would protect the Catholic religion, obey Ferdinand VII, and defend the country and its recently founded institutions. After responding in chorus, "Thus we swear to do," they filed two by two before a crucifix surrounded by four lighted candles. This ceremony over, all left the church in due order; then they went to the session hall, which was the one the audiencia had used, and celebrated there the inaugural session of congress.
Juan Martínez de Rozas, in his rôle of provisional president of the governing junta of 1810, delivered a patriotic address to the deputies upon their duties and left the hall declaring that from that moment the junta established on the preceding September 18 ceased to function. Continuing the session, the oldest member among those present, Juan Antonio Ovalle, assumed the presidency and read another address in which he expressed his hopes for the intellectual and material grandeur of the nation. The session then adjourned. The city was illuminated that night and there was a display of fireworks. One of these represented a captive woman breaking her chains and regaining her liberty. It was the symbol of the country. Likewise there was by chance an allusion to the celebrated document of the United States of North America, whose anniversary of independence was the day on which the congress opened its sessions.
The session of the first national congress was one of controversy. All the interests and aspirations of the country were represented in it, except those of the lower classes of society, who witnessed such important occurrences merely as spectators.
From the beginning, three distinct currents of opinion made themselves felt in the assembly. These might be considered as corresponding to as many political parties. Men of quiet, conservative ideas, midway between those of the colonial regime and the one recently established, formed the majority. They did not wish to change the former completely and would have been disposed to remain dependent on the mother country, provided they were assured of certain reforms like free trade and the right to elect deputies to the Spanish Cortes. That faction of the patriotic party of 1810, influential because of its numbers, called itself "moderate," although it would have merited better the name "conservative." Its apparent leaders were the president of congress and José Miguel Infante. United to this faction and increasing its ranks because of affiliated tendencies was the "reactionary" or royalist group, which p165 desired to reëstablish the fallen regime. Its deputies did not number more than three.
Opposing these dominant groups was another faction of the patriotic party, less numerous, but making up for lack of numbers by its boldness, for it attempted to end the colonial system and form the country into a republic; they were the exaltados, or radicals. In spite of the fact that certain men of the moderate party cherished ideas identical with those of the radicals, they did not attach themselves to the group because of their aversion to Martínez de Rozas, its chief, whom they continued to regard as the inspiration of this group, although he had remained out of congress.
Nevertheless, there were other men in congress itself of just as marked personality as Martínez de Rozas, who were among the most cultured inhabitants of the country. They now came forward to head the radicals in the first parliamentary debates. One of them was Manuel de Salas, the learned economist and philanthropist, whose activity had been so brilliant in the last years of the colony. Another man, still little known but soon to acquire chief prominence among the directors of the revolution, was Bernardo O'Higgins.
This leader was at this time thirty-three years old. He was born in Chillán on August 20, 1778, of the union of Ambrosio O'Higgins, who was governor of Chile, with Doña Isabel Riquelme.8 He was educated in a Franciscan convent of Chillán and then in a seminary at Lima, and he had gone to England in accordance with his father's orders, with the idea of studying for some honorable profession. He was left there without any supervision whatever and without resources. His period of study was limited to two years and he shortly after returned to Chile when his father died in 1801, in order to look after his inheritance.
During his stay in England, O'Higgins had had occasion to ally himself with some distinguished Americans who happened to be living in London, who were already forming projects for the emancipation of the colonies. Among these was the Venezuelan general, Francisco Miranda, the greatest forerunner of Hispanic American independence. After fighting as a leader in the army of Washington for the emancipation of the United States9 and striving p166 with no less courage in the ranks of the French revolutionists of 1789, Miranda emigrated to England with the idea of interesting the king in a project for Hispanic American independence.
In 1798 O'Higgins, a young man of twenty years, knew Miranda and was an intimate acquaintance of his in London. He became imbued with his ideas and enthusiastic over his emancipation plans and joined a lodge organized by Miranda in order to realize them — a lodge which was afterward called Lautarina,10 whose aims he represented in Chile. Moreover, being a master of English and French, young O'Higgins read many revolutionary works which were published in those languages at the end of the eighteenth century. His connection with Martínez de Rozas and Concepción had finally convinced him that some day it would be necessary to found a sovereign state in Chile; and, when news of the upheaval in Spain arrived, all his thoughts were governed by that purpose. Rich, educated, brave, of handsome presence, he possessed admirable qualities for leadership. Once in congress, he and Salas assumed direction of the radical party.
p167 For about a month they succeeded in maintaining their position as radical deputies. But when the nomination of an executive junta was attempted, which was to have charge of public affairs while a national constitution was being prepared, twelve of the members of congress retired as a frank sign of protest because in that junta, which was composed of three members, they were not to have representation. The junta was named, nevertheless, and the radical group was ignored; but the junta did not last long because, in the first days of September, a military coup d'état occurred in Santiago and overthrew its influence.
The radical elements, deprived of power, saw the failure of their aspirations for political liberty in the course which the latter party viewed the colonial past, the royalist group gained strength and plotted in secret the restoration of the fallen system. Martínez de Rozas had left Concepción to stir up the districts of the south, with the purpose of arraying them against this assembly. In Santiago itself there was a conspiracy of the same sort.
Under these circumstances, a bold young Chilean officer, recently come from Spain, made himself interpreter and executor of the radical proposals. This man, José Miguel Carrera, was born in Santiago on October 16, 1785, of one of the wealthiest and most influential families of the country. His father, Ignacio de la Carrera, had been one of the members of the first junta of government. His brothers, Luis and Juan José, had been among the most enthusiastic agitators in the popular movements of 1809 and 1810. At that time Carrera was in Spain. He had been sent there by his father to devote himself to trade and to the completion of his education, because his bold and arrogant character had early given much trouble to his family. However, he enjoyed the open sympathy of the young men of his time because of his vivacity, his intelligence, and his generous character.
When the French invasion occurred in the Peninsula, he abandoned his mercantile tasks, for which he felt little attraction, and joined the army that was defending national integrity. He fought in many battles until he was seriously wounded and had to remain in bed and be carefully treated. He now ranked as sergeant major of cavalry and, on recovering from his illness, he received news of the events in Chile and among other things went to take part in the struggle which was beginning there.
His ideas were frankly revolutionary. He was associated in p168 Spain with Americans distinguished for their culture and he had formed, in intercourse with them, the belief that it was necessary to make the old colonies independent of the mother country, as the only way of achieving their prosperity. Upon reaching Santiago and observing the condition of affairs, he took his place without hesitation among the most advanced patriots and, counting on the prestige of his military campaigns and the high position of his family, he planned the movement which should snatch control from the moderate faction of congress. As his brothers were officers of high rank in two bodies of troops, it was not difficult for him to win proselytes in the army. The more radical deputies refused to coöperate in the projects of the new leader; so on September 4, 1811, at noon, two battalions assembled at his orders, arrested Colonel Reina, chief of the garrison of Santiago, disarmed other companies, and laid siege to the hall in which congress was in session.
The military coup d'état was carried out in a few hours, without resistance. The deputies from Santiago were reduced to six; others were dismissed; and new deputies, adherents of the radical party, were added to form a majority. The membership of the cabildo was modified; certain members opposed to the new regime were removed, and their places filled with others who were favorable to it. Lastly, the most substantial modification introduced was the formation of a new executive junta, composed of five members, of whom at least four, if not all, were radical patriots.
The junta thus formed, as well as the congress thus modified, was recognized throughout the country. In Concepción where a similar movement had been brought about through the influence of Martínez de Rozas at almost the same time as in Santiago — September 5 — but by a civil element imbued with the separatist tendencies of the congress, the new junta was also enthusiastically recognized; but the provincial junta, created and maintained there by Martínez de Rozas, was still continued. Even in Valdivia a reaction shortly after occurred which gave the patriots predominance and incorporated the city in the reformist movement. In this way, the liberal party was entirely in control of the government and was able to celebrate the first anniversary of the installation of the junta of 1810 with a solemnity that foretold independence.
From that moment congress was very active — it formulated the greater part of the reforms which were afterward promptly carried p169 out, and brought reforms of really patriotic scope to a successful conclusion. If unfortunate circumstances had not soon involved the State in civil and external disputes, without doubt the first representative assembly of Chile would have realized a more effective and enduring work.
From the beginning, with regard to administrational matters, it improved the local governments and the judiciary by inaugurating many suitable measures. Among others were the nominating of subdelegates by the central authority and the forcing of inferior tribunals to consult trained lawyers when they judged and sentenced criminals for serious crimes. It created the province of Coquimbo, which, like that of Concepción, was to be ruled by an intendant, and established a supreme court of justice in place of the tribunal in Spain, called "Council of Indies," just as the executive directorate had a while before created a court of appeals in place of the audiencia. Furthermore, in the principal cities it suppressed the sale of certain municipal offices or those whose incumbents served without pay — such as members of the cabildo or other municipal posts — and made them elective.
With regard to moral and religious matters, it suspended the remittances of money sent to Peru to pay the inquisitorial agents in Chile. This, in fact, was equivalent to closing that tribunal. It suppressed the parochial fees which were paid to parish priests for christenings, marriages, or burials, and established a fixed salary for these priests — a reform which raised many protests, greater no doubt than were caused by the abolition of slavery, a reform that alone would have been enough to immortalize that congress.
It is well known that there was a multitude of Negro slaves in Chile who had been brought from Africa — some ten thousand; and that, although their treatment was not so severe as had been accorded the Indians under the encomienda system, still the mere condition of slavery constituted an affront to humanity, according to the later view of all civilized nations. Therefore, the congress of 1811 declared that the children of slaves born in Chilean territory should be free and that all who should come in as slaves from the outside should also be free after six months' residence there. They did not emancipate those already in the country prior to the enactment of the law, in order not to injure the interests of their owners, who would have been able to inaugurate too strong a campaign in opposition to the government; but there were some people p170 who, in keeping with the spirit of that resolution, freed their slaves of their own accord. Up to that time no country in America had taken such a step.11
Congress also enacted various economic measures tending to facilitate the interchange of national products with foreign countries. It established in clear terms the right of fiscalization12 over acts of government that concerned each citizen and decreed publicity of its sessions by means of placards.
In regard to foreign affairs, it definitely broke off relations with Peru, whose viceroy had threatened it, and sent to Buenos Aires a diplomatic representative with instructions to make even closer the alliance existing between its government and that of Chile. It was the young lawyer, Francisco Antonio Pinto, who filled the post.
Conspicuous among the projects were the census of the national population; the creation of secular cemeteries in the environs of the city, and not within the churches or parochial churchyard, as had been permitted thitherto; the formulation of a constitution, for which task congress appointed a special commission; the extension of public education from the elementary school to the creation of a great establishment of secondary and higher education; and the general militarization of men within the country who were able to bear arms. But this congress was not continued much longer. It came to an end before the close of 1811.
The military revolt of September had assured the most liberal patriots of their predominance in congress and had enabled them to urge the country on toward the rebirth of its political and social institutions; but the men of the new government had not been careful enough to flatter the young chief who led it or to use him in a way that would satisfy his ambitions. José Miguel Carrera and his brothers, alienated from governmental councils, then prepared a new military coup, this time with the design of taking upon themselves the direction of the country. They thought that in this way they would be able to improve the ideals of political reform already initiated.
p171 Not having reasons powerful enough to make a change in governmental personnel justifiable, they took as a pretext the fact that the national government, as constituted up to 1811, had no popular foundation because only certain persons designated and invited beforehand had taken part in the elections. In their opinion, therefore, the elections were illegitimate and congress itself was not free from that fault. The lower class, who did not understand anything at all of this, lived, according to Carrera, in a state of dissatisfaction with the authorities established in this manner; and from similar premises they inferred that the army, making itself the interpreter of the popular will, should reëstablish the direct participation of all citizens, without distinction of class or fortune, in the appointment of the governing class.
The revolt, which took place on the basis of these principles, after secret preparation, on November 15, 1811, was ostensibly led by Juan José Carrera, sergeant major of the regiment of grenadiers, but he was really acting on the incentive of his brother, José Miguel. Like the preceding outbreak, this movement triumphed without resistance. Its leader obliged congress and the junta to convene a great open cabildo to which could come not only those invited as before, but all those who desired to come; and this assembly, which was carried out under pressure from the revolting troops, appointed a new junta of government, composed of three members to represent the three provinces of the country. José Miguel Carrera was named for Santiago; Gaspar Marín, for Coquimbo; and Juan Martínez de Rozas, for Concepción. But Rozas was not in Santiago; so it was agreed that Bernardo O'Higgins should act as substitute for him until his arrival.
That situation did not last long. Marín and O'Higgins accepted membership unwillingly, claiming that it was the duty of the provinces to elect their representatives and that Santiago could not take upon itself the powers of the three. They maintained indifferent relations with their colleague, Carrera, and shortly, at the end of November, a conspiracy against the three brothers was discovered. Carrera then broke off relations with congress, considering it the instigator of the assassination that had been plotted against him. Marín and O'Higgins, seeing themselves subordinate to their colleague who had control of the military force, resigned their offices. This time Carrera assembled a third military mob and with it he dissolved congress on December 2, 1811.
Forgetting now those "principles of representative government," p172 in whose name he had led the revolution in November, and declaring that the division of public power into legislative and executive was prejudicial to the state, Carrera assumed all authority and declared himself dictator. His military dictatorship, however, was not acknowledged throughout the whole country. The principal resistance occurred in the province of Concepción, where the local junta, directed by Martínez de Rozas, declared that it could not recognize his authority, since it did not constitute a representative government. Thereupon, Carrera organized several bodies of troops and sent them south, locating them near the Maule River, the southern boundary of the province of Santiago, for the purpose of making them march to the province which refused to recognize him as chief of the country and force its junta to respect and obey him.
Concepción took similar action, and even sent a more powerful army to defend the line of the Maule. Civil war seemed imminent; but Martínez de Rozas, leader of Concepción, was opposed to opening hostilities and entered into negotiations with Carrera. There was a conference on the banks of the river, and a long exchange of notes; in the end they did not reach an agreement. They merely decided that the troops of each province should return to their quarters. Martínez de Rozas for that reason lost prestige among his fellow provincials, who were sure of the superiority of their military units and come what may desired to strike an armed blow against Carrera. They accused their leader of lack of power for having opposed the fulfillment of their wishes.
As a consequence of such mishaps, relations between the two rival provinces were interrupted, commerce between them was paralyzed, and the agriculturalists of the south suffered considerable loss. The army of Concepción could not be paid, for lack of funds; their salaries up to that time had always been met from Santiago from the general funds of the country. Soon the unpaid soldiers started a revolt in Concepción; they deposed the provincial junta and formed a new one, composed of army officers, and attached themselves to Carrera.
The principal victim of these deplorable dissensions was Juan Martínez de Rozas. Seized by the rebel officers of the province, he was turned over to Carrera, who confined him on a farm near Santiago, and shortly after exiled him to Mendoza. Weak and already ill, the famous leader, initiator of national independence, became exhausted in crossing the cordillera of the Andes; and after a few months' residence in the city of his exile, which was also the city of his birth, he died in 1813 at the age of fifty-four years.
p173 Meanwhile, the revolutionary spirit was spreading so widely that a few people now thought of again being subject to the old mother country. In various public documents the name of Ferdinand VII appeared as a mere formula. In 1812 Carrera sanctioned a constitutional ordinance which is generally known as the Constitution of 181213 — the first put in force in Chile — by which the country was organized almost wholly on a republican form, although recognizing by courtesy the legitimate sovereignty of His Majesty, the captive king. The supreme power continued to be vested in a junta composed of three members, each representing one of the provinces. A senate was also created. Carrera, however, remained in his position of military dictator, for, though he was only called a member of the junta, his other two colleagues, whom he himself appointed, lacked personality.
On the other hand, the arrival at the capital in the same year, 1812, of a North American consul, Joel Roberts Poinsett,14 officially received by the government, led the patriots to entertain the hope that the United States would give aid to the colony that was trying to gain its independence. If to this is added the fact that the consul showed from the first decided leanings toward revolutionary ideas, one can easily understand that his assignment to Chile was celebrated as a victory for those who desired emancipation. Very soon also a national flag was created by decree, the first Chilean flag, which was to consist of three bands — one yellow, one white, and one blue. At the same time, it was ruled that the army and all the citizens should wear a badge of the same colors.
But these were not the only acts of the kind that showed clearly that the government directed by Carrera was leading the colony toward absolute independence. The impetus given to general education by various measures showed it better than anything else. Very soon, through the efforts of this leader, the first newspaper of the country appeared in Santiago on February 13, 1812, under the title La aurora de Chile (The Dawn of Chile). It is a fact that up p174 to that date printing was unknown in Chile. But the other American colonies possessed printing presses, which, although small, gave valuable service. Chile, so far removed from Europe, and poorer than other Spanish colonies, had not succeeded in introducing the press despite the strongest efforts made by the cabildo of the capital.15 Finally, the North American merchant, Mateo Arnaldo Hoevel, settled in Santiago, and, being a constant partisan of the patriots, sent to the United States for a printing press — the first in Chile — and all its materials, even including typesetters. It had scarcely arrived when the government of Carrera bought it and, as soon as it was set up, took steps to publish a newspaper in order to support his policy. Camilo Henríquez was put in charge of it, as editor and, on the day and under the name mentioned, the first edition appeared on the street.
The newspaper — which was to be published once a week — consisted of four pages only, printed in two columns, and was the size of a sheet of official paper. However, its appearance created a great feeling of novelty and enthusiasm in the public mind. A contemporary relates that "men ran through the streets with an Aurora in their hand detaining as many as they met and read and reread its contents, expressing congratulations for such happiness and prophesying that, by this means, the ignorance and blindness in which they had lived until then would be banished."
In this work of diffusing the ideas of independence and self‑government in all directions, Camilo Henríquez was not the only one who distinguished himself. The old philanthropist and economist, Manuel de Salas, the learned and esteemed jurisconsult, Juan Egaña, and the young patriot, Manuel José Gandarillas, also collaborated with him on the Aurora. These four eminent Chileans have deserved the honor of being celebrated as the first national writers, and, in reality, their work of that period is admirable for its liberal policy and intelligent foresight.
They saw, though imperfectly, Chile converted into a democratic and prosperous republic, and exerted themselves to make their colonial compatriots, who had been accustomed to passive obedience to the monarch, understand the desirability of advancing along the road leading to the formation of a new political entity in the company of nations. To these men, this road was public education, free labor, moral customs, and patriotism — a civic virtue that demanded of each individual the giving up of many personal interests and even the sacrifice of life to the service of his fellow citizens.
p175 They went even further — they enlarged the national horizon to take in all of the Spanish American portion of the continents, at least all that of South America. Through its unity in race, language, religion, culture, customs, and historic memories, this continent was called to make one country only, the American country. Some official documents and various publications of the period testify to this generous spirit of "continental fraternity," which from the first movements for emancipation was shown among the intelligent men of the country, and also in other Spanish colonies. These, then, were the pioneer writers who guided the generation of that time toward emancipation and toward the republic; and not a few of their ideas were already being practiced.
Public education was also an object of active attention. According to those patriots and many others, it was the supreme necessity of a people that aspired to govern themselves by the rule of liberty. Under the inspiration of this doctrine, numerous methods were attempted to establish primary schools in all towns and a large seminary for secondary and higher education in the capital. The difficulties that surrounded the national government prevented their immediate success. In 1813, when the political situation became somewhat normal, the junta over which Carrera presided sanctioned a new plan of primary instruction, according to which each place where more than fifty families lived was to have a school for males and another for females. Moreover, each convent of nuns must have a school for girls. Teaching was to be absolutely free. They also tried to create the profession of schoolmaster and to raise his social level, for the calling was still exercised by any person whatsoever, and often by those lacking essential knowledge and even morality; hence, this public servant was then considered as no more than a domestic servant.
As for secondary and higher instruction, the founding of the National Institute, inaugurated in August, 1813, was a work of that government. In order to give life to this establishment it was necessary to fuse together the three seminaries in Santiago at the end of the colonial epoch; namely, the Convictorio Carolino, the Academy of San Luis, and the Conciliar Seminary, to which was added also the University of San Felipe.
In the institute not only the teaching of the humanities and free professions was to be offered, but also primary instruction, for which purpose a school was annexed; and not only was civil teaching to be offered but also religious instruction for clerical preparation, so that the Conciliar Seminary was included without losing p176 its identity. The place selected for it was the square that congress occupies today, in whose buildings the Jesuits had held their boarding school in the middle of the eighteenth century. In order to complete this educational work, provision was made for the creation of a public library, which was accomplished by taking as a basis the collection possessed by the University of San Felipe and adding books through private donations.
Such a vast work thus contemplated needed internal peace in order to flourish. The country did not have it because scarcely were the political dissensions in which it found itself involved at an end, than it had to sustain a war against a royalist invasion directed by the viceroy of Peru against Chile. Therefore, some of the reforms that had been inaugurated, like the creation of the institute, could not be made permanent in the midst of the perils of war. Nevertheless, the spirit that animated them continued to survive, until they were established afterward in permanent form.
At all events, in the three years of propaganda, of reforms, and of internal strife, the idea and purpose of being definitely free from Spain had possessed the major part of the educated population of the old colony. Martínez de Rozas first, and after him, Carrera, were the men who had best understood the real trend of the revolution and had given it its logical impetus.
1 Spain's part in helping win the independence of the United States was substantial, but by no means a voluntary or definitive one. Juan F. Yela Utrilla, in España ante la independencia de los Estados Unidos (Lerida, 1923), Vols. I, II, narrates the diplomatic events connected with Spain's intervention and accompanies his account with a substantial volume of documents. See also E. S. Corwin, French Policy and the American Alliance of 1778 (Princeton, 1916); and F. E. Chadwick, The Relations of the United States and Spain: Diplomacy (New York, 1909), chap. 1.
2 Ovalle Silva, after pursuing his legal studies in Lima during the middle of the eighteenth century, returned to Santiago to practice his profession. By 1810 he had acquired a wide reputation for his public services. See Medina, Dic. biog., p635.
4 The diocese of Concepción was then under the control of Don Diego Antonio Navarro Martín de Villodres (1758‑1820), a native of the province of Granada and a doctor in theology of the University of Salamanca. He was appointed to the see at Concepción in 1807 through the influence of Godoy and brought to his charge an "invincible hatred of free, representative government." He was especially disturbed by the activities of Martínez de Rozas and the latter's adherents. See Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, VIII, 191; Medina, Dic. biog., p566.
5 Francisco Javier Reina entered upon a military career in 1761 and was transferred to Chile in 1804, with the rank of lieutenant colonel of artillery. He was placed on this junta against his will, but seemingly lacked the courage to resign. Hence he had to agree to many acts that he really condemned, including the death sentence imposed on Figueroa (see p161). During the Spanish restoration he sought to "purify his conduct" and to show that he had really been faithful to his king. See Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, VIII, 317, n. 27; Medina, Dic. biog., p728; Virgilio Figueroa, Diccionario biográfico de Chile, IV, 613.
6 The pen name of Camilo Henríquez González (1769‑1825).
7 The following sentence, omitted from the seventh edition of Galdames' work, appears in the sixth edition: "The cause of that resistance lay not only in the conciliatory spirit of the members of the junta who still retained sympathy with the past, but also in the excess to which Martínez de Rozas had carried his control."
8 The parents of Bernardo O'Higgins were not married. See A. U. Hancock, A History of Chile; J. J. Mehegan, O'Higgins of Chile.
9 This is not quite exact. William Spence Robertson in his Life of Miranda (2 vols. Chapel Hill, 1929), I, 32‑33, says: "By his service under the Spanish banner against outlying English colonies Miranda promoted the cause of the American Revolution. His relations with soldiers who won the independence of the Thirteen Colonies, however, extended little farther than a participation with Spanish troops in the conquest of English posts near the Gulf of Mexico. With French Allies who took part in these operations presumably he became acquainted. Available records of his coöperation with American patriots demonstrate that during the Bahama campaign he had unpleasant experiences with Carolinian insurgents. An entertaining legend long cherished by South American historical writers that he was a comrade of Lafayette and a soldier of Washington in the American Revolution is thus consigned to limbo." — J. A. R.
10 La logia lautarina, introduced into Chile in March, 1817, was a branch of the one established by San Martín and Alvear in Buenos Aires, on the arrival of the former from Europe in 1812. Much uncertainty surrounds this "lodge" and its forbears. Some writers have sought to connect its origins with Miranda. That leader was, indeed, early interested in the Masonic order and possibly was initiated therein during his first visit to the United States. South American revolutionists gathered about Miranda in London during his stay there between 1806 and 1810, but it is hardly likely that they were ever formally initiated into a lodge to work for independence. The relations between O'Higgins and Miranda during that period were, however, very close. Freemasonry seems to have been a force among the Spanish patriots who resisted Napoleon and later opposed the reactionary government of Ferdinand VII and from Spain the movement evidently spread to South American centers. Among the autograph papers of O'Higgins was found what purports to be the statistics of a lodge which Vicuña Mackenna connects with the adjective lautarina. See his Ostracismo del Jeneral D. Bernardo O'Higgins (Valparaiso, 1860), pp269‑283. See also Robertson, Life of Miranda, I, 199; and Benjamin Oviedo Martínez, "La Logia lautarina," in Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia (Caracas), XII (October-December, 1929), 436‑451. See also López, Historia de la república argentina, Vol. VI, chap. v.
11 Through their own efforts during the last decade of the eighteenth century the people of color in Haiti had virtually abolished slavery and the equality of all races was recognized in the constitution promulgated by Toussaint l'Ouverture. For a discussion of the action in Chile, see Alcibíades Roldán, Las primeras asambleas nacionales, pp210‑214.
12 The "right of fiscalization" implies the right to censure or review the acts of another; hence, to call officials to a public accounting.
13 For a summary of this document, see Galdames, La evolución constitucional de Chile, 1810‑1925 (1 vol. to date. Santiago, 1926), I, 320‑335; Ramón Briseño, Memoria histórico-critica del derecho público chileno, desde 1810 hasta nuestros dias, pp56‑57. The text is to be found on pp276‑279.
14 For the official status of Poinsett, see W. R. Manning, Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States concerning the Independence of the Latin-American Nations, I, 6, 11; Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, VIII, 564. See also W. M. Collier and Guillermo Feliú Cruz, La primera misión de los Estados Unidos de América en Chile; and J. Fred Rippy, Joel R. Poinsett, Versatile American (Durham, N. C., 1935), pp41‑49.
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