South America - A Popular History - H. Butterworth

The Liberty of the North


Early in the year 1821 an armistice had been proclaimed. Morillo had gone to Havana, leaving the army under the command of General La Torre. On March lo, 1821, Bolivar informed General La Torre that hostilities were about to be resumed. Bolivar was now at the head of a splendid army. His forces, gathered in Venezuela, amounted to fifteen thousand men. Among these were the fiery llaneros and two thousand European troops.

The Spaniards had taken position at Carabobo, a village on the high Andes, near the beautiful city of Valencia, a sister city of Caracas. The port of Valencia is Puerto Cabello.

On June 24 a part of the Colombian army, eight thousand strong, appeared before the enemy. Bolivar believed that the future of liberty in South America depended upon this battle. He moved cautiously. He called a council of war and advised care in so great a peril. One of his trusty guides heard what he had said. The guide came up to him and said in a low tone: "I know a foot-path by means of which a body of men could move unseen and turn the Spaniards' right." Bolivar knew the man well. What he, had suggested was, the need of the, hour. "General Paez," Bolivar said, "follow the guide!" Paez went forth, followed by strong columns of cavalry. That order won the battle of Carabobo.

The path over which the faithful guide led the division was almost impassable. The foot-soldiers were obliged to tear up their clothing in order to make bandages for their bleeding feet. The battalions suddenly appeared in the forest to the right of their astonished enemy. The cavalry impetuously charged. The Spanish were thrown into confusion, and General La Torre lost his presence of mind. General Paez threw his forces upon the disconcerted enemy, who fled on every hand. General La Torre and the remnant of his army shut themselves up in Puerto Cabello.

The hero of Carabobo was Jose Antonio Paez, a llanero who rose to the highest offices in the republic. He was born in the province of Barinas, June 13, 1790. He was practically the President of Venezuela for some seventeen years, after that country separated from Colombia. To this man, in the height of his popularity and power, the Congress presented a golden sword, and the title of "Illustrious Citizen."

At the age of seventeen he was intrusted with some money, when he was waylaid in a wild region by four robbers. One of these robbers he slew on the spot. He escaped, fled to the plains of Barinas, and found employment among the shepherds and cattle-dealers.

The Spanish forces offered him a place of honor, but he was unwilling to bear arms against the patriot cause. He fled over the mountains, and in 1810 joined the patriot troops. He became a cavalry leader, and inflicted severe blows on the Spanish forces. For services in the field he was honored by Granada, and when Francisco Santander, the commander of the Granadian army, resigned, Paez became the military chief of the mountaineers.

In 1817 Paez gave his sword to the cause of Bolivar. In 1819 he was made a major-general. He organized an army, won the decisive victory of Carabobo, and was raised to the rank of general-in-chief.

When Venezuela became dissatisfied with the federal union and declared her independence of it, Paez was elected President. He retained his power, either by his own reelection or by the election of men of his choice, for some seventeen years. It was during his administration of affairs that the body of Simon Bolivar was removed to Caracas, and that city paid the dead hero the honors that she had twice bestowed upon him when living.

Paez passed his old age in the United States, dying in New York city in 1873. After his death his remains were removed to his native land.



He was very severely criticized for the influence which he exercised in dismembering the Colombian republic. His political life made for him ardent friends and bitter enemies.

The battle of Boyaca was a decisive event, but its results were completed in the field of the north by the victory of Carabobo, which ended the Spanish power in the new Republic of Colombia.

The triumph of Carabobo brought out the true nobility of Bolivar. He had once given an order of war to the death. It was called forth amid terrible circumstances. Bolivar thus describes those circumstances in a manifesto issued at the time:

"Yes, Americans, the hateful and cruel Spaniards have introduced desolation in the midst of the innocent and peaceful people of the Columbian hemisphere. The war to the death which these Spaniards wage has forced them to abandon their native country, which they have not known how to preserve, and have ignominiously lost. Fugitives and wanderers, like the enemies of the Saviour God, they behold themselves cast away from all parts, and persecuted by all men. Europe expels them, America repels them. Their vices in both worlds have loaded them with the malediction of all humankind. All parts of the globe are tinged with the innocent blood which the ferocious Spaniards have caused to flow. All of them are stained with the crimes which they have committed, not for the love of glory, but in the search of a vile metal, which is their supreme god. The executioners, who have entitled themselves our enemies, have most outrageously violated the rights of people and of nations at Quito, La Paz, Mexico, Caracas, and recently at Popayan. They sacrificed our virtuous brethren in their dungeons in the cities of Quito and La Paz; they beheaded thousands of our prisoners in Mexico; they buried alive, in the cells and floating prisons of Puerto Cabello and La Guayra, our fathers, children, and friends of Venezuela; they have immolated the president and commandant of Popayan, with all their companions of misfortunes; and lastly, O God! almost in our presence they have committed a most horrid slaughter at Barinas, of our prisoners of war and our peaceful countrymen of that capital. . . . But these victims shall be revenged, these assassins exterminated. Our kindness is now quenched, and as our oppressors force us into a mortal war, they shall disappear from America, and our land shall be purged of the monsters who infest it. Our hatred will be implacable, and the war shall be to death.



The critics of Bolivar have made free use of this manifesto. This policy, however, was but temporary. It was in another spirit that he began the campaigns that ended in Carabobo and in Peru. When beginning them he said:

"Soldiers! I hope that you will have humanity and compassion even for your most bitter enemies. Be the mediators between the vanquished and your victorious arms, and show yourselves as great in generosity as you are in victory!


As noble are the words of another manifesto, issued at this period, when complete victory rose clearly in view: "Colombians! This war shall not be a war of death, nor even of rigor; it shall be a sanctified crusade. We shall fight to disarm, not to exterminate, our enemy!"

Such words as these express Bolivar's sentiments. He made mistakes, but at heart he was generous, merciful and true. He lived in the hope of all that was best for humanity. He desired influence, but only to use it for the good of all mankind.

On the 29th of June General Bolivar again entered Caracas in triumph. There were no arches, no strewings, of flowers nor ringing of bells. The city was as one of the dead. There was hardly a white inhabitant in the deserted streets. The houses were empty. There were pitiful beggars and dead bodies everywhere. Some negroes cried, "Vive Colombia!" then all was silent save the wails of the famishing.

But the north was free, and another movement for liberty, under a leader as noble, was going on in the south. The two leaders would soon be marching toward each other, one from the south, one from the north. The high Andes was soon to witness the final triumph of the cause of each.

To that movement we will now turn.