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CHAPTER X

DEMOCRACY IN SOUTH AMERICA

S early as 1790 a sentiment of discontent with monarchic rule began to manifest itself in Cara

cas and Carthagena, and soon extended to the interior cities of Bogotá and Pamplona. The project of independence and autonomous government was even then freely discussed, and had attracted some attention in the United States and in Europe. It was, however, confined to a small circle of educated men who were hopelessly in advance of local public sentiment, and was easily stifled by the blood of a few victims.

Some years later, when the scheme was again revived, several of the more prominent leaders were banished from the country, and found refuge in Italy. At Rome they met the British ambassador, who offered them asylum in London. England and Spain were then at enmity; and the government at London probably cared less for the fate of the refugees than for the overthrow of a régime which had excluded British trade from South America. At any rate, hating Spain rather than loving an abstraction, the British ministry did not hesitate to encourage sedition and rebellion in the Spanish-American colonies.

Very soon, however, there was a treaty of "peace and amity" between Spain and England which was well calculated to discourage the South American patriots; although, despite this treaty, it was alleged

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that they continued to receive secret assurances of sympathy from Great Britain. But the malcontents of Colombia and Venezuela had already begun to look elsewhere for substantial aid, and were soon encouraged from another quarter. The quixotic schemes of the French democrats had just been proclaimed, whereby it was proposed to reform the politics of the world in general, and, in particular, to republicanize old Spain and emancipate all her American colonies. But the hopes thus inspired were suddenly doomed by the tragic end of the French Republic; and, amid the shifting scenes of European politics, England was again in a position to be appealed to by the Spanish-Americans. They proposed to declare the colonies independent of Spain on condition of a loan of a large sum of money, to be returned in easy instalments after independence should be acknowledged. By the terms of this proposal, England was to have absolute freedom of the isthmian ports and transit; and there was to be established, besides, such a connection between the Bank of England and the colonial commercial houses as would give British merchants and carriers a monopoly of the trade of the country.

But the negotiations failed, or rather were suspended by the sudden renewal of hostilities in Europe; and the patriots were again disappointed. The masses of their people at home were generally indifferent, and the cause of independence now seemed hopeless. Even as late as 1808, when it was again revived, and more generally agitated than before, the extreme apathy and indifference of the masses gave little hope of immediate results. Centuries of political and ecclesiastical vassalage had accustomed them to habits of obedience, and if they had ever realized the depths of their humiliation, they seemed hopeless of any change for the better. But a train of circumstances, over which they had no control, brought on the crisis of two years later.

The treaty of Bayonne had incidentally transferred to Napoleon I. all the Spanish possessions in America; and, having been forced to part with Louisiana, he now turned his attention to the Southern hemisphere. Hardly had he matured his plans, however, before hostilities were renewed in Europe; and the invasion of Spain, at a time when she was unprepared to give much attention to her colonies, afforded the opportunity so long sought by the Venezuelans and New Granadians. So in July, 1810, they deposed the Viceroy and declared the country independent of the Spanish crown. This was accomplished without a struggle;

. not a gun had been fired, not a life had been lost; and a bloodless revolution seemed assured.

But the end was not yet. Some months later, there arrived at Puerto Rico an adventurer named Domingo Monteverde,-a coarse, cruel, ambitious, half-educated fellow, itching for fame. He had espoused the cause of Ferdinand VII., and obtained a commission as field marshal in the royal army. Landing in Venezuela, he invaded Carora, and defeated the patriots in the first pitched battle.

Then followed the twelve years of armed conflict which is perhaps without a parallel in the annals of modern warfare. Venezuela and New Granada, hitherto separate dependencies under Spain, now formed separate juntas, or provisional governments; and each prepared to maintain its independence not only of Spain but of each other. Very soon the process of segregation began in both; and before many months there were some half-dozen petty provinces of each country claiming to be "independent states.” Thus, in New Granada, the de facto Congress, composed of delegates from all the departments or provinces, was forced to choose between a total abandonment of the confederation and a war of coercion. The Congress chose the latter alternative; the refractory provinces were whipped into the Union, and compelled to obey its mandates. A similar condition of affairs existed in Venezuela; and in both countries the contest for independence often partook more of the nature of a civil war than of an organized resistance under a single head.

But even this anomalous state of affairs had its advantages. Although jealous of each other, all factions were united in a common purpose to throw off the Spanish yoke; and when not actively engaged in quarrelling and fighting among themselves, they were unitedly or separately prosecuting the war for independence. In those mountainous regions guerilla warfare is the most effective form of defensive military operations; and when the patriot forces were defeated in one province or section, resistance would spring up in another. When the united armies of the colonists were overthrown and dispersed by the Spanish forces, the little provincial juntas would keep alive the spirit of resistance. When the patriot cause seemed hopelessly lost by reverses in Venezuela, it would be suddenly revived in New Granada. When everything seemed hopeless in New Granada, the cause would come up again in Venezuela. So that the very diversity of governments, all engaged in a common cause, served to distract the attention of royalist chiefs and embarrass their operations.

After several years of this confusion and anarchy, General Símon Bolívar, a young man of aristocratic lineage and brilliant talents, though hitherto little known, came to the front and was made military dictator. A series of decisive victories by the colonial forces under his command soon followed, and the cause of independence seemed assured. A resolution was now introduced into the Congress of the United States, championed by Mr. Clay, looking to the formal recognition of the new Republic. After considerable delay, this measure finally passed both Houses, and received the sanction of the executive; and on the 8th of March, 1822, the United States formally welcomed the new commonwealths into the great family of independent nations.

This step was taken in advance of all the other powers, over the vehement protest of the Spanish minister at Washington, and in defiance of a wordy menace by the Spanish Cortes. And yet many of our people, unacquainted with the civilization and history of the SpanishAmerican countries, expressed surprise that our action had been so long delayed. The war for independence had been going on with varied fortunes, but generally adverse to Spain, for twelve years; and after having inspired the Spanish-Americans by our example of thirty-four years before, people marvelled that we should have been so backward in taking the initiative to put an end to the contest.

But the delay was fully justified when its causes became better understood. The case of the SpanishAmericans was in no true sense parallel to that of our own struggle for independence. The primitive conditions of the two peoples had been totally different. The Anglo-American settlements on the North Atlantic coast had never been colonial in the sense in which that term was understood in Spanish-America. They had been autonomous communities from the very outset. They had never endured, even for one brief month, the commercial restrictions, political vassalage, and long

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