South America - A Popular History - H. Butterworth


The whole of South America for the two centuries after the Columbian discovery was a viceroyalty of Spain. At first it had but one viceroy, the seat of whose government was in Peru. From a very early period Lima, which came to be called, in the poetic language of the conquerors, the "Pearl of the Pacific," was the "City of the Kings." In the golden days of the Spanish Main colonial settlements multiplied in the viceroyalty, and some of the most important of these were on the eastern coast. There New Granada arose, with the city of Cartagena, whose gigantic fortifications and walls are still a wonder.

As the population grew the viceroyalty was found to be too large for the administration of the government. For this reason Spain created another viceroyalty in New Granada in 1718, and a captaincy at Caracas in 1734. During this period of subdivision a viceroyalty was founded at Buenos Ayres, and a captaincy in Chili.

South America was wholly governed by the kings of Spain, who maintained for the judgment of its common affairs the Council of the Indies, or of West India. This council instituted a local court of inspection, called the Audiencia. This was also a court of appeal. The authority of these bodies was only advisory. The King of Spain governed all; his will was supreme.

The viceroy, or vice-king, represented the Spanish throne. He was president of the Council of the Indies. His salary was sixty thousand dollars, or pesos, in Peru, and forty thousand dollars in New Granada and Buenos Ayres. The viceroy, as a rule, held his office for five years.

The cabildo  was a popular assembly somewhat corresponding in purpose and form to a council of a mayor and aldermen. An alcalde  was a judge, or a justice of the peace. A Spanish creole  was a Spaniard born in the colony. He was little more than a Spanish slave.

These simple explanations are a necessary introduction to Spanish-American history for popular reading.

The purple flag of the liberation of the north of South America went from Venezuela to New Granada, and thence to Ecuador and over the Peruvian Andes. It was first thrown to the breeze by Miranda, and was borne on its march of flame and blood to Peru by Bolivar. This was the southward march of liberty.

The purple flag of the liberation of the south of South America went from Buenos Ayres (Argentina) over the Andes, and emancipated Chili and Peru. The flag was borne by San Martin, and the banner of the southern army of the Andes was emblazoned with the emblem of the Sun. This represents the northern march of liberty.

The two flags of liberation, that of the north and that of the south, met in Peru, in Lima, the "City of the Kings." General Sucre completed the liberation in the Peruvian Andes.

It is our purpose to describe the march of the two flags of liberation, the victory of the united banners in Peru, and to trace in outline the industrial and educational progress of the republics of the Sun.

Ducoudray-Holstein, an officer under Bolivar in the war of the liberation, thus clearly presents the march of events in the Atlantic provinces of South America from the beginning of the revolution to the battle of Carabobo, near Valencia, Venezuela, which was the Yorktown of the war of the patriots of the north:

"The following are the principal revolutions and changes of government on the Main, from April 19, 1810, until December, 1819, when Venezuela and New Granada united under one government, which took the name of the Republic of Colombia.

"In Venezuela the Spanish government was changed by a revolution which took place at Caracas, April 19, 1810, when the Captain-General Emparan and the Real Audiencia were arrested, and a provisional junta was formed, under the name of 'Junta Established for the Preservation of the Rights of His Majesty, the King Ferdinand VII.'

"On March 2, 1811, the Congress of Venezuela opened its sessions at Caracas. It was composed of the deputies of. the following provinces: Margarita, Caracas, Merida, Cumana, Barcelona, Barinas and Truxillo. By an act of July 5, 1811, Congress declared the republic of Venezuela free and independent of Spain. On the 21st of December of the same year it sanctioned a constitution which bound the provinces together by a federal act, like that of the United States of America. But these several provinces, being exposed both to internal faction and to invasion from without, were scarcely able separately to bear the expense incurred for their own preservation, so that the expenses of the general government, and the support of the army and navy, fell chiefly upon Caracas. Congress was in a prosperous state, when the dreadful earthquake, together with the loss of Puerto Cabello, and the capitulation of Vittoria, between Generals Miranda and Monteverde, ruined the government, and destroyed the Congress and republic of Venezuela (July, 1812). The country was left to anarchy, and subjected to the power of the sword.

"On August 14, 1814, General Simon Bolivar entered the city of Caracas as conqueror, and assumed the title of 'Dictator Liberator of the West of Venezuela,' and established an arbitrary military government. General San Iago Marino had done the same before in the provinces of Cumana, Barcelona, etc., under the title of 'Dictator Liberator of the Provinces East of Caracas.'

"July 17, 1814, the Spaniards again entered the city of Caracas. In consequence of the battle of La Puerta, where the two dictators were beaten by Boves, the Spaniards shortly after took possession of the provinces, which the two dictators and their troops had evacuated. In the night of the 24th and 25th of August the dictators embarked at Cumana.

"Venezuela again became subject to the bayonet, and each military chieftain governed despotically the territory occupied by his troops.

"May 5, 1816, Simon Bolivar, with some armed men, entered again the territory of Venezuela (the island of Margarita), and assumed the title of 'Supreme Chief, Captain-General of the Forces of Venezuela and New Granada,' etc.

"On the 6th of July of the same year he lost that title and Venezuela, when he suddenly embarked at Ocumare for the Dutch island of Buen Ayre.

"On December 31, 1816, General Bolivar landed again at Barcelona, and reassumed the title of 'Supreme Chief, Liberator of the Republic of Venezuela, Captain-General,' etc. He had been called through the powerful influence of Admiral Louis Brion, but under the express condition that he should, upon his arrival, assemble a congress at Barcelona. He not only neglected to do so, but he persecuted the members of the Congress at Cariaco, May, 1817.

"In consequence of General Bolivar's unfortunate campaign in 1818 against Morillo, the general dissatisfaction of the inhabitants of Angostura with that campaign, and the strong representations of Brion, Zea, Manuel Torres, Dr. Roscio, Dr. Carli, and other patriots, the supreme chief was compelled at last to assemble a congress at the city of Angostura, under the name of the Congress of the Republic of Venezuela. Bolivar was chosen President of the republic."

After the battle of Boyaca, Bolivar united Venezuela and New Granada, under the name of Colombia.

The revolution against the Spanish rule in America began in Buenos Ayres, and in the north at Caracas at about the same time. The two movements met in Altro, Peru.

Under the rule of the viceroys the people of South America had practically no rights. Spain only allowed them certain privileges in return for obedience and service. They were made slaves and were robbed in the name of the government. Out of their servitude and enforced labor Spain became one of the richest of nations. It was death for a creole  to protest in any open way against injustice. One of the greatest forms of injustice was the mita, or the enforced labor of the native population. On the Spanish Main the tyranny was as great as it was on the land.

There were enlightened and patriotic priests; some of the leading heroes were priests; but in general the ecclesiastical tyranny was as rigorous as that of the state. (See Appendix.) The church as well as the state enforced the view that America was the gift of the Holy See to Spain, and that it was the divine right of the king to rule, and that the king could do no wrong. Any plea for justice outside of royal authority was both treason and heresy.

Such was the civil condition in South America when the first revolution arose under Tupac Amaru.