From 1810 to 1813 the course of the patriotic revolution had been relatively peaceful. Besides the victims of Figueroa's revolt and others killed in the military mobs of Carrera, the country had no occasion to mourn the shedding of blood. It was, however, evident that, sooner or later, the new institutions would have to prove their stability on the field of battle. The Spanish government and its representatives in America were not at all reconciled to the loss of this colony; but the peril seemed far away to men of the revolution, because of the crisis in which the mother country was involved; and, although they had the foresight to organize some military forces to look after the defense of the country in case of need, they did not succeed in overcoming all the difficulties in obtaining arms and money. This worked against their purpose, which, indeed, they did not think they should make too great an effort to realize.
Notwithstanding, there were grave reasons for anxiety. In the midst of the revolutionary agitation which shook the whole Hispanic American continent, and while colonial governments fell, the viceroyalty of Peru remained undisturbed although some threats of overturning it had been felt there. Its viceroy, Fernando Abascal, an energetic man and a confirmed royalist, had taken extraordinary pains to uphold the cause of the crown, and the many resources at his command had permitted him to succeed in his effort. His intervention in Chile was greatly feared; he had even sent threats to the rulers of the new government; but not even then had they hastened to gather means of defense.
The viceroy very soon confirmed his threats. Not satisfied with maintaining Spanish sovereignty in Peru, he put into execution a plan of attack against Argentina and Chile, with the object of reducing them to obedience to the mother country. The plan consisted in invading simultaneously the territories of both countries. A division of his army crossed Upper Peru (today Bolivia) in the direction of Buenos Aires; and another division, formed in Chiloé, was sent toward Santiago from the south. The first to arrive at its destination was to cross the Andes and help the other.
In accordance with that combined campaign, at the same time that the army of Upper Peru advanced against Tucumán, General p178 Antonio Pareja, proceeding from Callao, disembarked on the island of Chiloé with a group of instruction officers and subofficers. As this island constituted a military province dependent on the viceroy and no revolutionary manifestation had made itself felt there, Pareja organized a body of troops composed of its garrison and its inhabitants.
He embarked this force in the same boats which had brought him from Peru and reached Valdivia without any trouble. A short time before, an antirevolutionary movement had occurred in that city, which had replaced the patriot authorities with royalists. The place was at once taken at the order of the invading general, who, without loss of time or men, increased his army with new material and went by sea to Talcahuano. Landing his men a little south of this port, in the Bay of San Vicente, he attacked the garrison of the place and, after a short fight, forced it to surrender.
From Talcahuano, the general suggested surrender to Concepción, and the city capitulated under certain conditions, because of a military revolt that had prepared it for surrender. In succession the principal towns of that province as far as its boundary at Maule swore fidelity to Ferdinand VII and made mockery of the national government. Half of Chile was in the power of royalists at the end of the triumphant march of the general's army. This was at the end of March, 1813.
Santiago was completely ignorant of what was occurring in the south. News of such grave events arrived only at the beginning of April, and the sensation they caused was enormous. The most important people congregated at the doors of the junta and the senate, vehemently insisting that the most resolute measures be taken to defend the country. These authorities at once started to billet all soldiers and provincial militia, to form new bodies of troops, and to send them forward to preserve the line of the Maule. José Miguel Carrera, named general in chief of the campaign, hastened to Talca, followed by some officers and soldiers, and began to assemble there all the patriotic contingents which were scattered about, while the forces at Santiago were being brought together.
In a few days the frontier of the Maule was protected from invasion; as Pareja advanced to the vicinity of that river, the two armies at the end of April faced each other with about equal strength — four thousand men on each side — but, while the patriot soldiers consisted only of poorly armed and poorly equipped platoons, the royalists had numerous squadrons of veteran troops, whose superiority to the enemy appeared evident. Nevertheless, p179 in this first campaign of the Chilean army there prevailed the most ardent enthusiasm and determination. Their principal leaders, the three Carrera brothers, O'Higgins, and Juan Mackenna, forgetting old quarrels as all patriots had forgotten them in the common peril, were determined to fight to the utmost in defense of national integrity and the new institutions.
The early encounters took place on the hills of Yerbas Buenas near the town of San Carlos. The first was a surprise attack delivered by a party of patriots against the royalists at night, when, because of the darkness, great disorder prevailed during the assault. The second was a battle in which both sides suffered heavily, as a result of which the patriots were scattered and forced to retire, while the royalists moved forward to entrench themselves in Chillán.
Carrera, with his army considerably augmented by new contingents sent him from Santiago, permitted Pareja to reinforce himself in Chillán and advanced toward the south. Without much trouble he took Concepción, Talcahuano, and other cities in which there were Spanish garrisons. Then he turned back to besiege Chillán. This was in the winter of 1813, from July to August. The siege was a failure. The patriot soldiers, weakened by cold and rain and obliged to fight in the midst of impassable swamps, were defeated and had to retreat.
Lieutenant Colonel Juan Francisco Sánchez took command of the royalist forces on the death of Pareja, which occurred in the same city. That commander celebrated the calamity of the patriots as a great victory and thought all resistance was at an end. Great religious festivals were celebrated in Chillán in honor of the king, and sermons were preached in all the pulpits against the "wicked insurgents."
The rout of the Chilean army was, however, not so complete. Though the commanders had seen many of their squadrons reduced and the spirit of the army languishing, they maintained confidence in the outcome. Taking Concepción and Talcahuano, they entrenched themselves near the Itata River. There they were making ready to undertake a new campaign against Chillán, when one night a Spanish detachment made a surprise attack on the patriot camp situated near a ford of the river Roble. The confusion produced among the Chilean recruits was indescribable. O'Higgins, exhibiting the sang-froid and activity that had always distinguished him, succeeded in uniting the scattered ranks and in repelling the attack.
Meanwhile, on both sides, the war acquired characteristics of unspeakable cruelty. The enemy was robbed, sacked, and killed p180 without compassion. Many people wanted to make an honorable peace with the invader. The junta which governed Santiago during the campaigns of Carrera finally made itself the interpreter of this desire for peace and went to Talca for the purpose of contacting the Spanish leader of Chillán and of depriving Carrera of the command. The disasters of the latter were attributed to lack of skill and his conduct was severely criticized for having put all the army under the control of his brothers. The tentative plans made by the junta did not succeed because, shortly after their arrival at Talca, a new Spanish commander, General Gavino Gaínza, arrived with more reinforcements and greater determination to attack. The junta, indeed, carried out its first purpose, deprived José Miguel Carrera and his two brothers of the command of the patriot army, and appointed Bernardo O'Higgins, who was in Concepción, as general in chief. But its members had scarcely returned to Santiago in March, when they received the news that Talca had fallen into the power of the enemy and that José Miguel and Luis Carrera had been seized in Penco by the royalists and sent to Chillán, in March, 1814.
The capture of Talca by the royalists aroused the most dire fears in Santiago. The capital, unguarded, was left open to the invader. An open cabildo then met and asked the governing junta to resign its command because, under such dangerous critical circumstances, it was necessary to concentrate authority in one man. The junta resigned and Colonel Francisco de la Lastra, who was governing Valparaiso, was at once named supreme director with dictatorial powers. O'Higgins had received news of the fall of that city and immediately advanced toward the north.
Colonel Mackenna with another body of troops found himself in El Membrillar, a farm situated near the Itata River, a little west of its confluence with the Nuble, and entrenched himself there to wait for O'Higgins to join him. The royalist general, Gaínza, who remained in Chillán, aware of these movements, flanked Mackenna and moved to a position south of the two patriot commanders. Near the left bank of the Itata, in a place called El Quilo, the troops of O'Higgins defeated the royalist division sent to stop them. Gaínza then returned to El Membrillar, attacked Mackenna, and suffered a new defeat, which obliged him to fall back on Chillán. Mackenna and O'Higgins joined forces at El Membrillar, as had been planned.
Notwithstanding the two former defeats, the royalist army with its commander advanced toward the north. O'Higgins and Mackenna, noting that this movement meant nothing less than an attack p181 on Santiago, followed them. Both armies then hastened their march in parallel lines, knowing that the first to pass the Maule would possess the capital. On the way O'Higgins learned that the division sent to recover Talca had been conquered at Cancha Rayada. But, undismayed by this bad fortune, he continued the parallel march that he had undertaken and succeeded in crossing the Maule almost at the time that Gaínza did, by an exceedingly uncomfortable ford (that of Las Cruces), with water up to the horses' necks. Going forward rapidly, he cut off the royalist advance and fortified himself in Quechereguas, on the right bank of the Claro River. Gaínza attacked him, trying to open a way to the capital, but in vain. Repelled in two attacks, he had to fall back to Talca. Santiago was saved; but Concepción, in April, 1814, again fell into the hands of the royalists.
After a whole year of warfare the situation of the two armies was not greatly changed. The province of Concepción and the cities of Valdivia and Chiloé were in the possession of the Spaniards; the provinces of Santiago and Coquimbo, in that of the patriots. Talca alone had been wrested from the latter and was the only advantage the royalists had obtained since the opening of the campaign; but both armies were tired, and peace was the common hope of both parties. The damage that agriculture and commerce suffered from the depredations of war and the forcing into service of men devoted to those occupations caused a general protest. Up to a certain point, however, the struggle was a civil war, because the army of the king had been formed of Chileans from Chiloé, Valdivia, and Concepción.
In such circumstances, a commodore, or English naval commander called Hillyar arrived in the country. He was sailing the Pacific in command of some of his country's ships and after visiting Peru he had to go on to Chile. He tendered Viceroy Abascal his services in arranging a negotiation between the belligerents, and his proposition was accepted. Hillyar had scarcely arrived at the Chilean coast when he entered into relations with the authorities and was soon accepted by Director Lastra in his character of mediator. He gained a like acceptance from Gaínza in Talca, and after many conferences a treaty was agreed upon and signed in May, 1814, on the banks of the Lircay River, a tributary of the Maule; for this reason it is known as the Treaty of Lircay.
In this agreement it was stipulated that: first, Chile was to recognize the sovereignty of the king of Spain just as when it formed a province of that monarchy; second, hostilities were to be p182 suspended and prisoners exchanged; third, the Spanish army was to leave the country at the end of a month and Talca after a few hours; fourth, while the deputies were being elected to be sent to Spain, and until the Cortes should decide what ought to be done, the authorities of Chile were to remain at their posts.
At first both parties showed a disposition to comply with the pact. Gaínza gave up Talca and retired to Chillán; and Director Lastra suppressed the national flag that Carrera had had the army adopt two years before, together with the patriot badge, and replaced them with the Spanish flag and badge. But a lively discontent was not long in making itself felt in both the royalist and Chilean camps. Gaínza's troops felt they had lost an opportunity for victory, and the troops of O'Higgins thought the same.
In reality the patriots suffered the greater loss, because, in recognizing themselves anew as vassals of Ferdinand VII, they completely perverted the spirit of the revolution, and because they had lost the chance to impose on their adversaries by force any resolutions they might have desired. The disbandment of the royalist troops had actually begun in Talca to such an extent that Gaínza would not have been able to resist a well-coördinated attack. To sign such a treaty, then, while in such a situation, meant humiliation and disaster to the national cause.
The hope of the most ardent patriots was now personified, as on former occasions, in José Miguel Carrera. This leader, captured by the royalists in Penco, together with his brother Luis, shortly after having been deprived of the command of the army, had been transferred by Gaínza to Chillán. According to the treaty they were to be liberated; but in a secret clause of this agreement it was stipulated that they should continue as prisoners since, their irreconcilable ideas being well known, Director Lastra feared lest they provoke a popular military insurrection against the treaty. The Spanish commander wished nothing better than to find any pretext at all for not complying with the clause which obliged him to evacuate Chilean territory. Calculating that their activity would produce important disturbances, he gave them a chance to escape. As a result the Carrera brothers fled from Chillán and reached Santiago, where they were pursued by the government of Lastra as agitators of the people. They soon effected a military coup d'état and assumed command. They replaced the supreme director by a governing junta composed of three persons, among whom p183 Don José Miguel took his place, occupying the presidency, and hurriedly banished to Argentina those persons who might offer resistance to them. Prominent among those banished was Juan Mackenna, the most outstanding officer in the army of O'Higgins. The purpose of this revolution was to continue the war at all hazards.
The new dictatorship of Carrera was threatened by extraordinary opposition. O'Higgins, who was in Talca with his army, did not recognize the other leader and marched on Santiago in order to disperse his troops. He had no sooner passed the Maipo than he was met by a brigade under Luis Carrera and was obliged to retreat. From this moment the country was in open civil war. O'Higgins, a little south of that river, was in the midst of preparations for a new attack, when he received news of greatest importance. The viceroy of Peru had disavowed the agreement of Lircay and was sending a new contingent of troops in charge of General Mariano Osorio, who was empowered to force the submission of Chile.
Osorio had landed at Talcahuano and had reached Chillán. From this place he sent an official letter to Santiago addressed to "those who command in Chile," asking for the surrender of all revolutionary forces. It was the official bearer of that arrogant demand who, while on his way to the capital, notified O'Higgins of what had occurred. That leader then decided to change his policy and wrote to Carrera proposing that they forget all that had passed and unite the two patriot armies in order to repel the new invasion. Carrera accepted. O'Higgins recognized the junta on September 4 with only one condition — certainly a very generous one — that he should be permitted to form with his troops the vanguard of the army that defended the national integrity, and he went to take his advanced post in Rancagua near the Cachapoal River.
Osorio, meanwhile, advanced from Chillán toward the north with five thousand soldiers. On the last day of September, 1814, the two armies came within sight of each other at a distance from either bank of the river. In the night Osorio moved to Cachapoal, as if to make an attack on Rancagua. When O'Higgins saw that it was impossible to fight in the open country with an enemy that had such superior forces, he fortified himself with seventeen hundred men in the plaza of Rancagua. This plaza, situated in the center of the city, faced then, as today, the four streets which intersect its four sides. The entrances to the side streets, therefore, were a block apart. It was exactly at the intersections of these four streets, p184 where they gave access to the plaza, that O'Higgins constructed adobe trenches with which he fortified himself and his troops.
These forces, of course, did not constitute all the army of the country. José Miguel Carrera, in his capacity of general in chief of the campaign, had given the command of the other two divisions to his brothers, Juan José and Luis and he remained about a league north of Rancagua with more numerous but much less disciplined forces than those of O'Higgins.
On the morning of October 1 the Spanish troops attempted to blockade the fortified plaza. The struggle lasted all day; three consecutive assaults were represented by the defenders. The cannon placed in the trenches and the gunfire from roofs and windows of buildings that surrounded the fort caused much bloodshed in the rank of the besiegers. The flag of the country flew from each trench and from the tower of the church. There the flagstaff was crowned by a black streamer, a sign that the garrison would fight till death. Night separated the combatants. From time to time desultory shots filled the air and raised alarm in the silent encampments.
As the Spaniards gradually apprehended disaster for themselves, the patriots grew more spirited in their vigorous defense of the plaza, but they realized that their situation would soon become indefensible if they did not receive help from the outside. The arbiter of the campaign at that moment was José Miguel Carrera, who with fresh troops was holding himself ready a league away from the place of combat. Consequently, O'Higgins sent a message to the general in chief — a message which was carried by an intrepid soldier who leaped over the walls and scaled the buildings. Written on a sheet of paper, it simply said: "If munitions come and the third division attacks, all is accomplished." By the same carrier Carrera replied: "Munitions cannot leave except at the point of the bayonet. This division will make its sacrifice tomorrow at dawn."
In the early morning of October 2 Osorio renewed the attack and the contest continued with terrible carnage. The defenders of the plaza confided blindly in the aid of Carrera. At eleven o'clock in the morning the watchman situated in the tower of the church at Merced announced that a cloud of dust was visible on the roads to the north. A cry of "Viva la Patria" greeted the happy news because that cloud of dust could be raised only by the approaching forces of Carrera. Soon, however, this cry of triumph and hope was changed into a despairing lament. The same watchman began to cry: "They are already fleeing." The division of Luis Carrera, p185 meeting with the first royalists who had advanced to check it, scattered and retreated in the direction of Santiago.
In spite of all, resistance in the plaza did not cease. The royalists cut off the water in the ditches that entered the encampment of the defenders and the latter, with munitions almost exhausted, perspiring under the hot sun, and hungry and weary after more than thirty hours of fighting, had no water either to drink or to use in cooling the cannon. In the latter the powder took fire before the charge could be rammed home. The defenders saw no way of continuing the fight. Even the bodies of the fallen served as trenches.
Moment by moment the steady assault, skillfully directed, became more intense. The decisive instant finally approached. The buildings on one side of the plaza were set on fire by the besiegers. A spark that fell on the powder supply of the patriots caused an explosion that sent it flying. Protected by the confusion and the smoke, the enemy then entered from different sides. O'Higgins, still serene and comprehending that further resistance was useless, now ordered as many as were able to mount and flee. About five hundred men followed him and opened a way through the trenches amid a rain of bullets. A third of them remaining lying on the field, but the general saved the banner together with the remainder of his army. Meanwhile, the conquering soldiery took possession of the plaza and attacked with savage fury the wounded, and women and children who had taken refuge in the churches. When the column of O'Higgins from afar cast a last look back on the destroyed plaza, the sun was just sinking and they could still perceive on the horizon the smoke arising from its ruins.
With that day's events ended what was called "the Old Fatherland" (1810‑1814). The period was marked by institutions and reforms that a small but energetic minority succeeded in implanting. It was also characterized by the failure of the revolutionists through indecision to follow frankly the way of independence, and by civil dissensions and disturbances that brought about the final catastrophe of Rancagua.
With the taking of Rancagua, the way to Santiago lay open to the royalists. In fact, three days later the advance host of Osorio entered the capital to the pealing of bells, the discharge of sky-rockets, and the applause of the multitude. On the next day the streets were trimmed with banners, while the troops stationed in them awaited the arrival of the victorious commander, who was p186 received late in the afternoon in the midst of great manifestations of joy. From that moment the colonial government was reëstablished and the Spanish reconquest consummated.
While this was going on, the remaining hosts of the patriot army, with O'Higgins and Carrera in their ranks, together with many of the foremost residents from the capital began the emigration to Argentina and about three thousand crossed the Andes through Uspallata Pass. Without other than ordinary clothing they were fleeing from persecutions to come and from the disordered and wretched populace which had given itself up to looting almost as soon as news of the national disaster reached them. This emigration did not halt until it reached Mendoza, where it was kindly received by the governor of the province of Cuyo, José de San Martín.1
In Santiago Osorio at first showed himself amiable and merciful toward the conquered people. Many persons of rank approached him and offered their assistance in the work of government, and many of them certainly had not figured in the royalist group, which seemed to have greatly increased with victory. Little by little, however, Osorio showed the real tendencies of his spirit — tendencies directed toward the establishment of a severe and watchful regime of obedience throughout the country, although without exaggerated abuses or shedding blood.
But reaction against the work of the national government was energetically begun. Ferdinand VII had months before entered Madrid, in May, 1814, restored to his throne, thanks to the decline of Napoleon's power in Europe, and had undertaken a similar campaign on the Peninsula. He had disavowed the acts of the government of the Regency which in his name had directed the reconquest of Spain during his captivity and dissolved the Cortes which gave a liberal constitution to the monarchy, because he aspired to reëstablish, by any and every means, the absolute system in force at the date of his abdication at Bayonne in 1808. This reactionary effort against the ideas of liberty, which was carried out in the political institutions of the kingdom, must necessarily be completed with the reëstablishment of the same regime in the colonies. The "insurgents" of the latter corresponded to the "liberals" of the former. The royalist policy in America as well as in Spain was inspired p187 by the same idea: a return to the past. And because of this Osorio also considered himself obliged to obey that policy.
The first repressive act that served as a basis for starting serious persecutions was the establishment of the tribunals of adjustment, created in Spain by order of Ferdinand VII, and established also in Chile. The cabildos of each locality composed these tribunals, and all persons charged with having in any manner failed in their duty of loyalty to their king had to appear before them; but it should be understood that it was not the cabildos that gave definite sentence in these causes, but the chief or president of the colony.
Shortly afterward, Osorio had more than forty of the principal patriots left in the country seized and deported to the island of Juan Fernández, where they had to endure a life of poverty, far from their families and from all centers of appeal. Among those deported were the old patriots José Antonio Rojas, Juan Antonio Ovalle, Juan Enrique Rosales, Ignacio de la Carrera (father of José Miguel) Manuel de Salas, and Juan Egaña. Nor did the North American who introduced printing into the country, Mateo Arnaldo Hoevel, escape this fate.
Such punishments immediately brought on the inevitable result — the creation about Osorio of an atmosphere of hatred, which continually became heavier. Although this general in taking such measures was only complying with the mandates of his king and of the viceroy in Peru, it is certain that some of his subalterns exercised a terrible espionage. The Regiment of the Talaveras, to which was entrusted the policing of the city, committed so many and such cruel arbitrary acts against individuals accused as patriots that it acquired an unsavory reputation. Its captain, Vicente San Bruno,2 became particularly notorious among the implacable and bloody persecutors of the vanquished patriots.
There were other acts that contributed to make the government of the reconquest more hateful and at the same time weaken it. An unjust distinction was very soon established between the troops brought from Peru or Spain, like the Talaveras, for example, and those organized within the country, principally from Chiloé. The former received good wages punctually, the others, miserable pay, much delayed. The rivalry thus introduced into the army assumed a very grave character. Only the influence of the priests, who incited the soldiers to fight for the faith, succeeded in keeping these p188 resentments from developing into an uprising. Furthermore, as the maintenance of the armed forces required increased expenditure, extraordinary contributions were levied on the inhabitants of the whole country, and these payments gave rise to insuperable resistance. Nor was the sequestration of the goods of the patriots, which was also decreed and produced no little rancor, sufficient to meet the large deficit that the financial situation continued to create.
To those violent measures, employed to assure the restoration of the old regime, was added the reëstablishment of almost all the former institutions that the revolution had abolished. The royal audiencia and the university again arose, and, as a result, the courts of justice created by the revolutionists were suspended and the National Institute was closed. The Inquisition was again introduced, to which was added the Order of Jesuits, who reappeared after their dissolution in 1773 and were summoned by Ferdinand VII to establish themselves in his dominions; and finally, liberty of trade was suppressed and the monopoly of the mother country again ruled. An official newspaper was founded in order to favor this reactionary work, under the title of the Gaceta del gobierno de Chile, which carried "Viva el Rey" for its motto.
When Osorio was most busily engaged in making secure the colonial institutions, he received notice that he was relieved from command and that his successor was on the way. Although he deemed this act an injustice, because it meant that his services were not recognized, and was profoundly depressed by it, he prepared to deliver the power to the new president and actually did give it up at the end of 1815, after governing for a year and some months.
The successor of Osorio was a Spanish general of not very worthy military antecedents, but of good social connections, by the name of Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont. The imposing ceremonies with which he was received and the peaceful conditions observed in the country made him and the royalists think that the reconquest was finally accomplished. The new governor brought quantities of trunks full of clothing and jewels which he showed little by little, to the great astonishment of the colonists; he also brought special coaches and costly furniture. All this luxury led them to look upon him more as a man of society than as a soldier and ruler.
But this man, who would have been ineffective outside of government, p189 when endowed with power became a tyrant. The numerous proclamations issued by him, threatening with the severest penalties, even death, those who were caught in any radical conversation, those who left Santiago without his permission, those who did not wholly pay the extraordinary contributions imposed by Osorio, those who gave shelter to any deserter from the army, those who did not give up the arms they had, and so on are still famous for their lack of consideration and their uselessness. At the same time he showed a cold, implacable cruelty. He established a tribunal of vigilance and public security, charged with judging by means of a very speedy proceeding — "brief, summary, and secret," according to the legal expression — all those who in any way might constitute a menace to the established order and to the monarchical cause. It thus constituted a kind of "court-martial" over which an army officer was to preside. He bestowed the presidency on the very notorious Captain San Bruno, who exercised it with the diligence and inflexibility that only he knew how to use in these cases, and the tribunal soon made itself so abominable to certain social classes that it became the symbol of the most ominous tyranny.
In another way the energy that Marcó del Pont put into pushing the proceedings against prisoners exiled to Juan Fernández, his disobedience to royal decree that conceded them the pardon they asked for, his prohibition of popular diversions — among them the chaya (confetti or water throwing), and the carnival — and a forced loan that he obliged them to subscribe to, ended in his incurring the hatred of almost all the people of the country. That system of terror, with its implacable persecutions and very severe levies, brought to mind the worst days of the colony and popularized an aversion to the king and his followers among the lower classes of society. The idea of revolution took firm root among all the people.
The Spanish reconquest in this way wrought its ruin by its own actions; for, if the prisoners on Juan Fernández could not attempt revenge, and those of lesser rank shut up in the jail of Santiago did not have enough influence to start a new revolution, the emigrants to Mendoza, on the other hand, were necessarily led to attempt an attack against that unpopular and arbitrary government for the purpose of restoring the institutions buried in the disaster of Rancagua.
Various events made Marcó del Pont and his counselors understand the reality of this danger and led them to believe the people p190 of Chile themselves were disposed to support a patriotic restoration. Among the clearest warnings were uprisings in different parts of the country incited by Manuel Rodríguez against the government of Marcó del Pont during 1816 and the beginning of 1817. There was no man more popular in Chile during the last months of the reconquest than Rodríguez. About thirty years old, graceful in appearance, and of easy speech, he had graduated as a lawyer from the University of San Felipe and had taken part in the opening events of the revolution as a public agitator. When Carrera came to the dictatorship, he had been his secretary. He emigrated to Mendoza after Rancagua, but recrossed the cordillera, like many other patriots, to prepare public opinion against the Spaniards, so that the expedition fostered there against the government of reconquest might find opinion in Chile disposed toward a general uprising.
He fulfilled his mission better than anyone else. Entering into relations with all classes of people, even bandits, he improvised guerrilla bands with which he made numerous assaults on the royalist parties who guarded the different towns in the center of the country. He diffused everywhere news of the expedition that should come from the other side of the Andes to free Chile. He revived hope of a definite patriotic restoration. He so alarmed Marcó del Pont that the latter put a price on his head — a thousand pesos — and was obliged to divide the troops into many parties in order to pursue and break up Rodríguez' bands. Especially noteworthy was the capture of Melipilla and of San Fernando, with only a few men and in only a few minutes. Using the inexhaustible resources of his cunning, Rodríguez entered the first of those cities, in the midst of confusion and in full daylight, to the cries of "Viva la Patria," "Kill the Saracens!" Followed by some eighty horsemen, he instantly took possession of the garrison and of the public authorities, distributed the public funds among his own men, and then began his retreat. He did the same in San Fernando, where he succeeded in terrorizing the garrison with a few bundles of skins filled with stones and dragged by horses, bundles that sounded, during the night of assault, like pieces of artillery.
Hundreds of such exploits are recalled, but nothing was more curious than the means he used to introduce himself everywhere, to collect whatever information he wanted, and finally to communicate it himself to the emigrants at Mendoza. A historian relates:
Taking fictitious names, on occasions dressing in the habit of a Franciscan friar, the poncho of a countryman, or of a servant, or carrying p191 the pack of a travelling merchant, he entered garrisons and houses that the officers of the Talaveras battalion frequented, prepared tricks to make them lose their reputation, and craftily incited soldiers to desert the service. It has been related that one day wishing to see the president, Marcó del Pont, at first hand, he had the singular boldness to place himself at the entrance of the palace and open the door of the coach, feigning the most respectful submission.
A personage like Manuel Rodríguez could do no less than become extremely popular with the multitude and exert an enormous influence on the revolutionary spirit of the people, but he was not the only one. With him at the time were a hundred young patriots who stirred up mobs and disorders in various towns and caused the greatest alarm to the government. The perturbation of the president increased to such an extent that he issued absurd proclamations in order to find a way to put down the revolutionary movement he saw spreading throughout the entire nation. One may judge of them by the following, issued at the beginning of 1817:
No person, of whatever class or condition, shall henceforth travel the road from Maipo to Maule on horse or mule, nor in any other manner ride on these animals within the limits comprised in the territory between the sea and the cordillera. Any individual, whether soldier or countryman, is authorized to seize any one who goes mounted on the above animals and may take for his own the mount which the transgressor shall lose, his person being subject to the penalty of death, which I impose in this case and which shall be infallibly applied.
But this decree was issued during the exigencies and afflictions in which the governor saw himself involved, in order to make headway against the patriot invasion, which, according to announcement, would at any moment pass the Andes, and it could not be carried out for lack of time.
While throughout the territory of Chile the Spanish authorities were trying to blot out completely rebel ideas — ideas that were, however, kept alive by patriots from the other side of the Andes — Chilean emigrants in Mendoza were being organized to undertake the restoration of the rule of liberty that began in 1810. After the disaster of Rancagua, the persecutions of Osorio, and the violence of Marcó del Pont, conditions had so changed that now no patriot thought of respecting Ferdinand VII as his legitimate sovereign; absolute independence had come to be the inmost aspiration of all Chileans.
Formerly, as long as the captivity of the king lasted, there could p192 be diversity of opinion in the national party concerning him; now these differences could no longer exist, since the king had already been reëstablished on the throne and revolution had necessarily to go against him. Under these conditions the emigrants of Chile had planned the problem of national restoration.
José de San Martín, an Argentinian by birth, although a son of a Spanish captain, was then governor of the province of Cuyo, with his residence in the capital, Mendoza. He was born in 1778 in a village near the Uruguay River, known by the name of Yapeyú, in the territory of Misiones. While San Martín was still a boy, his father took him to Spain and entered him in the best institution of military instruction in Madrid. The young San Martín left there as an officer in the Spanish army and served in it with bravery during those unfortunate days of the Napoleonic invasion, until he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Becoming acquainted in Cádiz with some prominent Americans, he consented to their proposal that he return to his native land in order to lend to it the coöperation that circumstances might require. On arriving at Buenos Aires, he placed himself under the orders of the revolutionary leaders and was entrusted with organizing a regiment of horse grenadiers and in several campaigns distinguished himself with this regiment. He found himself in Tucumán, where he had been detailed to hold back the troops of the viceroy of Peru, which, after winning two battles, were advanced toward the interior, and he conceived the plan of warfare, the execution of which has given him his renown. Ignoring the plan of the viceroy, according to which the army that was marching against Buenos Aires must work in conjunction with the one marching on Santiago, he discovered what was precisely the most effective method to defeat or curb it.
In his opinion the defense of northern Argentina against the soldiers of the viceroy was entirely useless in insuring the success of the revolution, because the viceroy could continue sending more and more troops without fearing loss of his government, even if these troops should be defeated. It would be more convenient, first, to free Chile; then, to send from there a squadron with an army in it against Peru and to attack the viceroy in his own territory. The Peruvian patriots would then take up arms and help the invasion. Once the viceroy fell, not only would Argentina remain free but all South America, since the center of royalist power on the continent rested in Lima. Such was San Martín's plan. His best strength was devoted to its realization.
p193 Feigning illness, he requested that he be retired from Tucumán and granted the governorship of Cuyo. In Mendoza, according to his statement, he would regain his health, and meanwhile he would peacefully continue to drill recruits. His request was granted. The arrival of emigrants from Chile in search of refuge confirmed him in the necessity of putting his plan into practice, which, aside from sentiments of fraternity that inclined him to receive them kindly, was another reason why his courtesies bore marks of special interest.
At first the emigrants did not respond worthily to such marked favors. The civil discord in Chile which had caused the loss of the country followed them even here. The partisans of Carrera and those of O'Higgins made mutual recriminations, throwing the blame for the past disaster in each others' faces. Carrera, furthermore, tried to maintain on that foreign soil the same rank and preëminence that he had enjoyed in Chile, and conducted himself before the governor of Cuyo with arrogance very inappropriate to his condition as a mere guest. Such imprudent conduct obliged San Martín to take energetic measures against Carrera and his more influential partisans, going so far as to send them out of his jurisdiction so that the central government of Buenos Aires might take what action it wished. But even after they had been transferred to that city, dissensions did not cease. Many other Chilean emigrants had gone to establish themselves in that center for the purpose of gaining a livelihood in any manner. Carreristas and O'Higginists again found themselves in discord there; and the scandal came to its climax when Luis Carrera, because of such disagreements, killed Juan Mackenna in a duel.
But these emigrants who showed themselves so deaf to conciliation and misfortune did not for a single instant lose sight of their country. José Miguel Carrera, assured that he could do nothing in Buenos Aires, went to the United States in order to find a way to arm a company there with which to undertake the reconquest of Chile. The O'Higginists, on their side, labored with the revolutionary government of Buenos Aires to assume the expense of the patriotic expedition that was being prepared. O'Higgins in person had gone to settle in that city. In perfect accord with San Martín, he was wholeheartedly ready to second the latter's plan. When the greater part of the obstacles were overcome, O'Higgins returned to Mendoza to take his post in the army of San Martín. Finally, in the middle of 1816, the expedition against Chile was definitely determined on, through the vigorous support of the supreme director p194 of Buenos Aires, Juan Martín Pueyrredón,3 who was in accord with the general in chief.
The declaration of Argentine independence, made July 9, 1816, revived still more the enthusiasm of the troops enlisted for the campaign. The "army of the Andes," as it was called, reached the number of some four thousand men by the end of 1816, and its organization had taken San Martín more than two years. Many of the emigrant Chileans were also incorporated in its ranks. Finally, at the beginning of January, 1817, the army started on its march from Mendoza. It was separated into five divisions, which were to cross the Andes at the same time at as many different points. One, in charge of Ramón Freire, a brave soldier in the former army of O'Higgins, was to cross the cordillera through the Planchón Pass in order to fall on the district of Talca, Curicó, and San Fernando; another was to cross the "gate of the Piuquenes," in order to slip quietly into the valley of the Maipo; a third, very superior in numbers to the two mentioned, led by Colonel Gregorio las Heras, was to advance through the Uspallata Pass and then descend upon the city of Los Andes; and finally the bulk of the army, distributed in two divisions — one of which O'Higgins commanded — with the general in chief at the head, was to pass through the Garganta de los Patos (Ravine of the Ducks) and establish its camp in Putaendo. Still two more platoons of troops, which did not number a hundred men each, were ordered by San Martín to march, the first from Rioja toward Copiapó, and the other from San Juan toward La Serena. In this way the Argentine general would simultaneously occupy the north and the center of the country.
By the beginning of February all those divisions and groups came within sight of the territory of Chile. The passage of the Andes had been most dangerous; the altitude, caused among the soldiers the strange vertigo called puna. The changing terrain, the length of the routes, the intense cold at night would, it seems, have presented an insurmountable obstacle to the methodical advance of the troops. However, no considerable disaster occurred, and the divisions of Las Heras and San Martín, following constantly the itinerary as planned, arrived at their respective destinations after several small skirmishes with royalist parties. San Martín went p195 forward from Putaendo with his army to San Felipe and from there to Curimón, continually pressing toward the south in the direction of the capital.
Meanwhile the governor of Santiago sent more and more troops to meet the invaders. Completely stupefied, Marcó del Pont did not know what to do in face of the peril that was threatening him because he had dispersed his powerful contingent of forces to different points of the country and did not know how to unite them in order to give battle with probability of success. Thus it was that the troops he succeeded in bringing together to face San Martín did not number half of the latter's force — fifteen hundred men against three thousand. General Rafael Maroto, put at the head of the royalist army, determined to fight on the hill of Chacabuco, at the northern entrance to the valley of the capital; and, as was to be expected, he lost the battle. In the early hours of the morning of February 12, 1817, the encounter took place, and two charges of the division commanded by O'Higgins were enough to disorganize his forces completely; soon the rest of San Martín's army was added to that attack and midday had hardly passed when the victory of the patriots was complete. The execrable San Bruno was numbered among the prisoners.
The authorities of Santiago received the news of the defeat late in the afternoon but tried to hide it from the people, and the town went to sleep, a prey to the greatest uncertainty. However, on the same night, Marcó and his subalterns abandoned the capital going toward Valparaiso where they had several ships on which to take refuge. At dawn on the thirteenth no one could doubt the patriot success, since Santiago was left without authority and completely unguarded. The populace arose and sacked the houses of the royalist merchants, but on the same afternoon the first vanguard of the victorious army arrived to restore order in the town.
On the next day, the fourteenth, San Martín and O'Higgins entered the city with their troops and were received with delirious manifestations of joy. The most powerful residents, united in an open cabildo, offered San Martín the command of the state, but he refused to accept it, giving as an excuse his position as general in chief and the necessity of executing the war plans which his government had put in his charge. Then O'Higgins was proclaimed supreme director of Chile.
The fugitives of Chacabuco, however, continued to wander secretly through different parts of the central region of the country. Many of them, and among them Maroto, had succeeded in embarking p196 for Peru on the ships at anchor at Valparaiso; but others, among them Marcó del Pont, had been taken prisoner in the days immediately after the victory. The unfortunate president was lodged in Santiago and shortly after sent to Argentina, where he died. The prisoner, however, who did merit being treated with no consideration was San Bruno, the chief of the Talaveras, on whom principally fell all the wrath of the people. Two months after the battle he was executed in the capital.
Meanwhile the other divisions of the Andean army, which at that time had entered Chilean territory through the different northern and southern gaps of the cordillera, had subjugated the rest of the country from Copiapó to the banks of the Maule, the region in which, at that time, the control of the patriots was made permanent. One of the first acts of Governor O'Higgins was to release the Chileans confined on Juan Fernández. The Aguila, a boat seized in Valparaiso, sailed to get them and all were restored to their homes. The return of these patricians was celebrated in that port and in Santiago as a triumph. They had suffered so much during the two long years of their captivity — because of the copious rains and the flooding of the ravines and because of the scarcity of food — that the stay in that desolate place seemed like a horrible nightmare.
But the greatest activity exercised by O'Higgins was in the organization of a national army, since he could not help foreseeing that the royalists who ruled the province of Concepción would attempt an attack and that, if they did not, the viceroy of Peru would not hesitate to send a new contingent of troops to join them. Moreover, he had to suppress stoutly the counter-revolutionary attempts of many Spaniards who, believing that all had not been lost, secretly plotted to revolt. The sequestration of the goods of the royalists, the exile of Bishop Rodríguez Zorrilla,º and some of his canons, were among the many repressive methods which were put into effect immediately.
San Martín betook himself to the Argentine capital in order to plan with Director Pueyrredón the best method to begin the campaigns that were to follow. O'Higgins, meanwhile, did not delay in sending against Concepción a body of troops to take possession of that province. That body, in charge of Colonel las Heras, fulfilled its mission, but the royalists of Concepción concentrated their forces in Talcahuano and firmly entrenched themselves there. O'Higgins himself left shortly after with new troops to support Las Heras and succeeded in gaining control as far as the south p197 bank of the Biobío. General Freire, on the other side, took the plaza of Arauco; but in Talcahuano, the royalists, reinforced by the remnant of the army of Chacabuco, which the viceroy of Peru had forced to return to that plaza, offered effective resistance to the patriots and their positions could not be taken. At all events the national government and the patriotic regime, begun in 1810, were restored until the hazard of arms should again decide their fortune.
Just as was foreseen, at the end of 1817 news was received in Chile that the viceroy of Peru was sending a new army under command of General Osorio, the conqueror of Rancagua. It was then resolved to raise the siege of Talcahuano and concentrate all the army north of the Maule, and this course was actually followed. The patriotic population of Concepción also evacuated the city and at the beginning of 1818 Osorio with his new army landed at Talcahuano without being molested. Active war was to begin once more.
While O'Higgins was returning from the south, San Martín, who was in Santiago on his return from Buenos Aires, was working without rest, under the patronage of the provisional government located there, to place the army on a footing for defense. O'Higgins had halted in Talca in order to assemble there all the army of the south. In that city he then put his signature to a memorable document which meant the boldest challenge launched at the enemy — the act declaring Chile's independence. Some days after this act, on February 12, 1818, the first anniversary of the battle of Chacabuco, the proclamation and oath of independence were made effective with extraordinary solemnity in all towns of the country from Copiapó to Talca. People without being forced handed over as much money as they were able to give in order to meet the expenses of war, and even the women gave their most valuable jewels.
The beginning of the campaign, however, did not meet popular expectation. Osorio left Talcahuano and crossed the Maule, while O'Higgins, abandoning Talca, joined San Martín, who brought up troops from Santiago and was to take the chief command of the whole army. The royalist camp was then situated in Talca, with five thousand men, and the patriot army, seven thousand in number, moved to occupy the broken plain of Cancha Rayada, a league northeast of Talca. In view of the inequality of forces and the weariness of his troops, Osorio considered himself lost, but suddenly, p198 on the night of March 19, taking advantage of the Chilean army's being in motion, and confident that he would not be noticed, he fell upon it by surprise and completely routed it. In the confusion caused by the assault most of the troops were scattered.
O'Higgins was wounded by a ball in the right arm and with difficulty saved himself from being left on the field or falling into the hands of the enemy. San Martín remained unhurt. Only one division of three thousand soldiers commanded by Colonel las Heras was able to retreat in order from the field of battle toward Santiago. Many of the fugitives were with him. On the following day when the first news of this great disaster reached the capital, it produced the deepest dismay and grief. Many began to prepare to emigrate once more to Mendoza. The rumor became current that O'Higgins and San Martín had perished or were prisoners. Other rumors affirmed the report that the royalist army was coming against Santiago by forced marches and that the patriot forces, completely annihilated, could not anywhere offer resistance to it. Measures of the provisional government tending to revive the spirit of the people, to appease the terrible unrest, and to unite some elements of defense were all in vain.
When three days of anguish had passed, more complete reports began to show clearly that the defeat was not of such magnitude as was supposed. At this time that energetic and astute man who had directed the guerrillas of the reconquest, Manuel Rodríguez, betook himself to the public plaza, held an open cabildo, harangued the multitude and, exhorting them to persist in the defense of the territory to the uttermost, succeeded in arousing anew the hope of salvation. The popularity of this leader then reached its height and the legend that formed about him still recalls the celebrated apostrophe with which it is said he electrified the multitude: "Citizens! We still have a country!" For one day he exercised in Santiago the power of a virtual dictator. He distributed arms to the people and formed a battalion of what men to which he gave the name "Hussars of Death," because they were to carry as a device a skull painted white on a black background.
If his authority did not last longer, it was because O'Higgins soon entered Santiago and resumed command as supreme director. San Martín also arrived shortly, and both leaders again received the felicitations of the entire city.
After the disaster of Cancha Rayada the work of the moment consisted in uniting all the forces that were still on foot to defend p199 the capital against Osorio's army, which was advancing slowly toward the north. A battle that would decide the fate of the Chilean, and even of the American, revolution was to occur. If it were lost, perhaps Argentine independence would be endangered; and, if it were gained, the liberating expedition to Peru which San Martín had resolved upon would become a reality.
Days of unheard-of anxieties were these for the two men who had taken over the responsibility of the expedition. O'Higgins, recovering from his wound, did not rest, however, in the task of preparation, and San Martín, tenacious beyond all others, drilled and maneuvered the troops with surpassing activity. With the division of Las Heras as a basis, the patriot army was reorganized in a little more than a week, and in the first days of April established its quarters a league south of Santiago on the plain of Maipú. On April 4 the army of Osorio already had passed the Maipo River and taken its position facing San Martín.
Meanwhile, the most desperate anxiety reigned in Santiago. The women went to the churches to ask for divine protection, in behalf of the country. The few men who had not taken up arms to meet the enemy now grasped them to guard the people. Some merchants, fearing the excesses of the suburban mobs, barricaded the doors of their stores. Orderlies on horseback came and went at a gallop and kept the whole city in a state of most intense alarm. O'Higgins, nervous and restless, unable to be present on the battlefield because of his wound, took whatever precautions he thought necessary in order to guard the capital or to undertake a retreat to Coquimbo. The night was passed wholly without sleep, each one imagining from moment to moment that he heard the gunfire announcing battle.
Thus dawned April 5, 1818 — a clear, mild day. The armies passed the morning in observing each other, and now and then the advance guards of one or the other exchanged shots. The plain of Maipú, the site on which the battle was to take place, is not entirely level, being divided by numerous chains of hills generally called the "Cerrillos."º On a series of these toward the north, extending almost directly from east to west, San Martín developed his line of battle. On another series of hills toward the south, which formed a sort of triangle, one of whose sides paralleled the other army, Osorio developed his line. Between the two was a space of lower ground as long as the whole line of attack and varying from five hundred to a thousand meters in breadth. This was the distance that separated the combatants. Their forces were equal, about five thousand men on each side.
p200 A little before noon the patriot army began the firing that started the battle. The Chilean artillery functioned from the first with rare precision; the cavalry wrought havoc. There was an instant, however, when the infantry retreated in order to flank the right wing of the royalists, which was resisting with terrific force. That resistance, however, did not last very long. Bodies of fresh troops, despatched by San Martín to reinforce the infantry thus driven back, reëstablished the superiority of the patriot army. Following these movements there was a sharp attack on the Spanish line, which was extended out farther and farther and forced to make up in discipline and bravery for the number who had fallen. At two o'clock in the afternoon it was already exhausted and then had to retire in defeat and fortify itself in the houses of Lo Espejo, about a kilometer farther south.
At that hour the bells of Santiago started to ring. People embraced on the streets, giving vent to the most intense emotion and mingling their cries of "Viva la Patria" with the peals sent forth from the bell towers. The din of the battle caused an indescribable anxiety among the population. Emissaries came and went reporting at intervals the varying events of the day. Finally one messenger, in a voice choking with emotion, gave news of the patriot victory, now openly declared.
At that moment, O'Higgins was not in the government palace. He had departed in the direction of Maipú with the troops that guarded the vicinity and with a number of townspeople. He had not been able to resist the impression made on him by the boom of cannon and the odor of powder that the wind brought to the city. Popular legend recalls him as pacing through the town on his war horse with his right arm bound and in a sling, amid the acclaims of the multitude, especially of the women. He is supposed to have said before leaving: "Only one arm is left me but with it I shall decide the fate of the country." Reaching the tent of San Martín at the very moment when the royalists were dispersed, he embraced him, exclaiming, "Glory to the savior of Chile!" And San Martín replied, "Chile will never forget the name of the illustrious invalid who today presents himself on the battlefield."
The fact is, however, that O'Higgins, in spite of his wound, repaired to the plain of Maipú with a considerable reinforcement and arrived there when the battle was already decided in favor of the patriots. But as it was renewed in the houses of the hacienda of Lo Espejo, where the entrenched royalists made a heroic resistance, he was able with his men to contribute to the victory. The most horrible part of the battle was that very attack on the redoubt of p201 Lo Espejo, because the successful soldiers were enraged and gave no quarter, in spite of their leaders' exhortations for moderation.
Meanwhile Osorio, with a portion of his guard, had taken flight, when he barely saw that the day was lost. In spite of the quick pursuit made after him, he succeeded in escaping. Some days later he shut himself up in Talcahuano and months afterward embarked for Callao. In this manner the last cannon shot of Maipú, discharged at sunset on April 5, 1818, meant for Chile the decisive moment of emancipation and the advent of "the new country" three and a half years after the end of "the old country," which Osorio himself had buried in Rancagua.
The situation of Chile on the date of the battle of Maipú was that of a country affected by a revolution lasting eight years (1810‑1818); that is to say, it was an irregular situation in which all classes of society were disturbed and all public services disorganized. The disturbance had been so profound that it could not be limited to a simple change of political rule. It must necessarily transform many of the existing social habits and institutions to adapt them to a new form of government to be established in place of the old one that had been overthrown. But it is a fact that up to that time colonial society had been only slightly modified, and for that very reason there were serious obstacles to the republican organization which the government tried to give the former colony. A slight examination of the situation then existing will give a more precise interpretation to those difficulties.
The military spirit, atavistic because it was the inheritance of the two races that here mingled their blood, and because the long-drawn‑out Araucanian war had stimulated it much more, still had an influence on popular custom through its qualities of powerful leadership and its very barrack-room firmness, and it led people to regard each pretentious swordsman as chieftain in his own right. The campaigns for independence had only accentuated this kind of respect for force which was at the same time the most visible manifestation and the most solid foundation of authority; and this respect for men of arms was justified by their intervention in former events, which had been effective, disinterested, and brilliant.
The same lack of initiative and of public action, the same old passivity, accustomed to hope for all there was good and to fear all that was evil from the omnipotence of a master — whether he be called king, captain general, supreme director, president, or master — continued as before to dominate the character of the masses, the p202 educated as well as the ignorant. The prejudices of nobility, blood, and fortune still caused productive labor and the laborer to be looked upon with contempt and learning, with compassion. Those who bore the titles of count and marquis, the old primogenitive aristocrats, continued to exhibit their parchments and to make their superiority prevail over other social classes and even over men of their own class.
The extreme piety of former times, still very little tempered in spite of the adherence of the majority of the clergy to the conquered colonial regime, always inclined the people to consider the priest not only as the guardian and support of Catholic faith, but as the depository of all truth. The absolute absence of civic culture caused men of slight education to misinterpret the noble struggle for the common good and frequently to attribute them to petty motives of personal interest. This interpretation scattered the seeds of discord over any attempt to unite for the common good.
The good qualities of the period were of a private nature and were confined to home and to business, not to public life. This last, as a matter of fact, since it had never existed, lacked traditions and doctrinaire precedents. Only from the nascent patriotism, from that spirit of social solidarity that had been developed in the conquering class during the recent battles and persecutions, could one hope to triumph over the mass of obstacles that stood in the way of the new order.
The attempt to organize a democratic republic on a popular representative basis was being made; but the people had not been prepared for the exercise of sovereignty and consequently were unable to make their representation effective in the government. What we now call the "people" — the proletariat group of society, which occupied the most subordinate rank in the life of the nation and was composed of the mestizo class, formed by the crossing of Indian with Spaniard — was to be converted into a power through its numbers, for in the new organization of government it was summoned to be the legitimate sovereign, and upon its vote was established the election of the higher authorities.
If at first the adherence of the masses to the revolutionary movement had been feeble and of no consequence, after the disaster at Rancagua and the arbitrary course of the reconquest, and above all, during the campaigns for national restoration, when they saw their blood flow in defense of free institutions, they were converted into firm supporters of independence and became entitled to the consideration of the public powers. But their lack of culture and their misery kept them from comprehending the importance of and p203 participating in the benefits of the recently created situation, and they continued to occupy the same servile rank as formerly. It is understood that a republic with such a social foundation can be a republic in name only. In this way only the rich, educated class of Chileans had the privilege of exercising political power. From that moment, through force of circumstances, the wealthy Creoles constituted a dominating oligarchy, and the republic was to be organized in disregard of the people.
The social class of Creoles had made the revolution, and by its aid independence triumphed. It had overthrown the authority of the king, together with the traditional respect which until then had been yielded to him. It had overpowered the privileged class of European Spaniards, which it had expelled from the country or had assimilated, annihilating it completely; and now that the popular mass could do nothing, the Creoles themselves concentrated in their hands all public power. Among them were three influential elements — the colonial aristocracy, the clergy, and the army — which had to form the government and organize the republic. For the moment the colonial aristocracy could do little or nothing, because it was principally occupied in recovering from the material losses suffered in behalf of the movement for emancipation. Not all its men were formerly patriots, but now all were, because the patriots had triumphed. Under the circumstances, neither could the clergy aspire to be the directing force, since they had scarcely recovered from the unfavorable opinion occasioned by their adherence to the monarchy. Only men of the sword and men of civil prestige, such as writers and thinkers, remained to face the situation. The military element then prevailed and the country continued under its command. Aside from this, the war could not yet be considered finished, since a great part of the territory, from Chillán to Chiloé, was still held by royalist troops; and the center of colonial power in South America, the vice-regency of Peru, remained intact.
To organize a republic under such difficulties was more than difficult — it was impossible. On the one side, colonial society was not adapted to the new political form; and, on the other, the constant menace of war prevented the completion of tasks of that kind. Consequently the people would have to live under a provisional military regime before constituting a political state. Accordingly they lived in that way.
The only thing in which there was unanimous accord was in adopting the republican form of government, now that the establishment of a national monarchy was in no way acceptable. No one was in a position to become king, and the hatred fostered p204 against Spain extended to the whole monarchical system. The ideas of liberty and equality which had given form to the revolution were irreconcilable with the absolute power represented by a king; and the example offered by the English colonies of North America, which had won independence from their motherland and had formed a prosperous federation, seemed to the revolutionists conclusive proof that the only system possible in America was the republican.
So, if it was feared that the prevailing military power might abuse governmental faculties, in no case could the thought of a monarchical reaction be entertained. Briefly, emancipation had a character almost exclusively political. It substituted for the monarchical and colonial form of government a republican one and transferred the predominance of the Spanish social group to the purely Chilean Creole group; but in no respect did it affect the institutions on which such things as property, family labor, religion, and law were founded. The revolution had, however, to strike little by little against those social institutions until it modified them profoundly.
1 The standard work on San Martín, the publication of which did much to fix that general's reputation, is Bartolomé Mitre's Historia de San Martín y de la emancipación sud-americana, in three volumes. A later edition appeared in four volumes in 1890. Based upon this is William Pilling's Emancipation of South America. For San Martín's plan, with reference to his earlier and later career, see chap. ix,º infra.
2 San Bruno's bloody reprisal in the prison of Santiago in February, 1815, is detailed in Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, X, 41‑48. His energetic resistance on the battlefield of Chacabuco is noted in ibid., p605, n. 18.
3 For a description of the Platine provinces under Pueyrredón as supreme director and of the director's relations with San Martín, see López, Historia, Vol. VI, chap. v. See also Mitre op. cit., Vol. I, chaps. xi‑xiii, and pp603‑628.
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