BECK index

Caribbean & Central America 1817-44

by Sanderson Beck

Haiti, Santo Domingo & West Indies
Puerto Rico and Cuba
Central America & Confederation 1817-34
Central America 1835-44

Haiti, Santo Domingo & West Indies

Haiti’s Slave Revolution

      The Haitian revolution and what Spanish Dominicans called the War of Reconquest had devastated Santa Domingo by 1809. Spain recognized Juan Sánchez Ramírez as governor, and he put many people on the government payroll before his death in February 1811. His successor, Licentiate José Núñez de Cáceres issued paper money in 1812 that devalued the currency 75%. Attempted revolts by French sergeants in 1811 and by blacks in August 1812 were crushed, and the leaders were executed. The military commander Carlos Urrutia arrived in May 1813 to govern and went back to copper coins. Sebastian Kindelan came from Cuba in 1818 and governed Santa Domingo until 1821.
      Haiti’s first President Alexandre Pétion served for eleven years and died on 29 March 1818. He was succeeded in the South by another revolutionary leader, Jean-Pierre Boyer (r. 1818-43). He sent six regiments to put down the peasants’ 13-year revolt in Southern Grande’Anse led by Jean-Baptiste Perrier who was called “Goman” and was trapped on a cliff where he was shot or jumped to his death in May 1819.
      Henri Christophe ruled in the North and had proclaimed himself Haiti’s King Henri in 1811. He ruled autocratically and became unpopular. Col. Paulin led a mutiny by the 8th Regiment at St. Marc that was suppressed. Queen Marie-Louise persuaded King Henri not to execute him, and he sent Paulin to the Laferrière dungeons. On 15 August 1820 Henri suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that paralyzed his right side. Facing a coup by the St. Marc conspiracy joined by General Richard Marmelade, Henri killed himself on October 8, and his son, Prince Jacques-Victor, was assassinated ten days later. Boyer arrived with 20,000 soldiers on October 26, took over the treasury of £11 million, and reunified the Republic of Haiti. He had a firing squad kill Marmelade in February 1821. In three years Boyer’s government at Port-au-Prince spent the surplus left by King Henri.
      On November 8 Haitians led by Major Andrés Amarantes proclaimed independence north of Santo Domingo and urged towns there to join the Republic of Haiti. On the 30th a junta led by José Núñez de Cáceres captured the Santa Domingo fortress and imprisoned Governor Pascual Real. They declared Santo Domingo independent of Spain with a constitution, and Spanish Haiti joined the Colombian federation. Guy-Joseph Bonnet advised President Boyer to mediate; but in early January 1822 the Senate of Haiti authorized troops to defend frontier towns and unify the island. On the 11th Boyer sent a long letter to Cáceres urging unity, and he mobilized the Haitian army and led them east. On the 22nd Cáceres wrote back accepting protection from Haiti. Boyer stopped his soldiers from looting Santiago by bringing cannons into the town square. They reached Ciudad Santo Domingo on February 9, and Cáceres gave Boyer the keys to the city, unifying the island of Haiti. Slavery was abolished again, and freed men were promised land. Boyer proclaimed that the Haiti Constitution of 1816 was the supreme law now in Santa Domingo. In June he appointed a commission to determine what land could be given to freed slaves, and in October they reported that these included Spanish land and much church-related property. Haiti’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies approved the report on November 7. Although Haitians grew vegetables, commercial agriculture suffered. Churches had few priests, and on 5 January 1823 Boyer suspended the salaries of the archbishop and other clergy in the cathedral chapter. After study by commissions the system of terrenos comuneros (communal land) was canceled in the east on 8 July 1824.
      France’s King Louis XVIII sent Jacques Boyé to negotiate with Boyer in Haiti, and in July 1823 they agreed that Haiti would pay an indemnity of 100 million francs; but Louis insisted on controlling Haiti’s foreign relations. On 17 March 1825 France’s Charles X decreed the independence of Haiti and sent 14 warships. Finally Haiti was recognized as a nation, but Boyer had to borrow money at high interest to pay the first 30 million francs. Haitians were upset that their mulâtre (mulatto) President and mulâtre Senate had capitulated to the white French, but the 45,000 in the army relaxed. In Haiti the color line was drawn between the noirs (Africans) and the mulâtre. In 1825 the government stopped supporting financially the immigration of freed slaves from the United States.
      On 1 May 1826 the Haiti Senate enacted the Code Real to improve agriculture that authorized inspectors and the army to supervise cultivation for all those attached to the land, but this code was not enforceable especially in the east. Haiti had exported 9,250 tons of raw sugar in 1801, but this fell to only 16 tons in 1826. Cotton dropped from 1,250 tons to 310. Simón Bolívar refused to recognize the independence of Haiti, and in 1826 he did not invite them to the Congress of American States meeting in Panama. France also would not recognize their former colony.
      By 1830 Haiti could not pay its foreign debt. Spain’s Fernando VII sent a frigate to Santa Domingo, but his envoy Felipe Fernandez de Castro could get nothing. On 23 January 1838 a French delegation came to Port-au-Prince and negotiated a deal that reduced the debt to 60 million francs to be paid without interest over thirty years. Haiti’s Senate ratified the agreement on May 28, and soon Holland, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Britain recognized Haiti. The United States still refused, and no Latin American country did so either until Brazil did in 1865.
      Port-au-Prince suffered from fires in 1820, 1822, and 1832, by an arsenal explosion in 1827, and on 7 May 1842 an earthquake devastated Cap-Haïtien killing 5,000 people, followed by a tsunami that swept away about 250. The newspapers Le Manifeste and Le Patriote criticized the Boyer administration, but his friend Beaubrun Ardouin edited Le Temps in response. Boyer expelled his critic Hérard-Dumesle from the legislature in 1833 and again in 1838.
      Prince Saunders was an African who was born and raised in New England by a white lawyer. He emigrated to Haiti and wrote the Haytian Papers which translated Haitian laws into English with a commentary, and the book was published in London. He became Haiti’s attorney general and wrote the criminal code before his death in 1839.
      In 1842 Boyer used soldiers to keep 28 of the 72 deputies out of the Chamber. In August that year Charles Riviere-Hérard organized the Society of the Rights of Man and of Citizens, and they published their complaints in the Praslin Manifesto. Then his cousin Hérard-Dumesle led the executive committee. On 27 January 1843 they began a revolt that spread from Praslin. The government’s army faced them at Mapou Dampuce on February 11, but after some shooting the soldiers joined them to march on the capital. Two days later Boyer left Haiti and went to Paris. Charles Riviere-Hérard moved into the palace at Port-au-Prince, and he joined a junta. A constitutional convention met in September, and on December 30 they produced a constitution with new elective offices. Charles Riviere-Hérard was inaugurated as President of Haiti on 4 January 1844.
      Juan Pablo Duarte had founded La Trinitaria society in 1838, and in July 1843 the Haiti government had learned of the Trinitarians’ plan to separate the Dominican Republic. On 1 January 1844 a pro-French group proclaimed their desire to be independent of the Haiti Republic, and 15 days later the Trinitarians also urged separation from the Haitians. On February 27 the Trinitarians led by Duarte occupied the fortress in Santo Domingo and proclaimed independence, but two days later Commissioner Barrot persuaded Duarte to capitulate and depart. President Hérard led 30,000 troops who marched to Santo Domingo where he dissolved the assembly. Peasants fought the Haitian troops, and Riviere-Hérard encountered them at Azua on March 19 and had more than fifty men killed. Hérard sent an order to Jean-Louis Pierrot, but on April 25 he would declare the North and the Artibonite a republic to be headed by his friend Guerrier. Louis Jean-Jacques Acaau led a revolt by piquets (soldiers), and on April 5 they fought a government force and entered Cayes. Haiti’s army led by generals Fabre Geffrard and Jean-Baptiste Riché at Aquin defeated spearmen on April 10. On May 5 a wealthy delegation made 86-year-old Philippe Guerrier the President of Haiti. The Trinitarians elected Francisco del Rosario Sánchez chief military commander who told General Pedro Santana that his Southern Army could enter Santo Domingo, and he did so with 2,000 troops on July 12. Santana agreed with the junta that on August 22 accused Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella, Sánchez, and five other Trinitarian leaders of treason and exiled them for life. The conservatives in power now included Tomás de Bobadilla who favored the Church and those who supported the French. Their constitution based on the United States Constitution was adopted on November 6. They elected Santana President, and he appointed a cabinet on the 13th. They discovered a conspiracy and executed the leaders on 27 February 1845.

      In 1828 Mary Prince left Antigua with her master, and they went to London and lived in the home of Thomas Pringle, a founder of the Anti-Slavery Society. Her account of slavery in the West Indies was transcribed there and published in 1831. This was the first slave narrative by a woman published in England, and it had three editions and caused much controversy.
      In 1831 the slaves in Antigua revolted, and the Governor of Barbados had to send reinforcements to quell the rebellion. On December 25 in Jamaica about 60,000 slaves stopped working and demanded more freedom and wages at half the going rate. Samuel “Daddy” Sharpe was a black Baptist preacher who could read, and he led the uprising. During the 11-day “Baptist War” 207 rebels and 14 whites were killed. Afterward about 325 slaves were executed for various reasons. Sharpe surrendered to save Baptist missionaries and was hanged on 23 May 1832. The British Parliament then met to consider eliminating slavery in its dominions.
      On 28 August 1833 Britain passed the Slavery Abolition Act that compensated slave-owners with £20 million. On 1 August 1834 slaves under the age of six were liberated in the colonies. The other slaves became apprentices, and the apprenticeships were to end in two stages on 1 August in 1838 and 1840. In the British West Indies 38,218 owners put in claims for compensation for their 540,559 slaves that included 255,290 in Jamaica, 69,579 in British Guiana, and 66,638 on Barbados. According to Fowell Buxton in the eleven years before 1832 the slave population in British Guiana had decreased by about 52,000 because of more than 20,000 punishments per year that inflicted a total of two million lashes. The British chartered the first Colonial Bank of the West Indies in 1836. The Quaker Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey published The West Indies in 1837 to report that slavery and oppression continued despite efforts to develop apprenticeship. East Indians began migrating to the British West Indies in 1838, and then 22,202 came from Calcutta and Madras to British Guiana, Trinidad, and Jamaica.
      In 1839 the French West Indies had 285,956 slaves. The Parisian Victor Schoelcher advocated abolition, publishing his Slavery of the Negroes and Colonial Legislation in 1833, French Colonies: Immediate Abolition of Slavery in 1842, and History of Slavery during the last Two Years in 1847. The Dutch stopped participating in the slave trade in 1818.

Puerto Rico and Cuba 1817-44

Cuba and Puerto Rico 1744-1817

      Spain governed Puerto Rico as a colony, and in 1815 the Cédula de Gracias encouraged Europeans to settle there by giving them six acres for each member of their family and three more acres for each slave they owned. In the next 19 years the population of Puerto Rico increased 38% to 138,000 people. They were not allowed to trade with anyone else in the Caribbean except for emergencies. In January 1820 some armed forces in Spain supported liberals who restored the 1812 Constitution that made loyal Puerto Rico a province. They elected the San Juan native Demetrio O’Daly, who was in the military in Spain, to represent them in the Cortes. He got a bill passed that separated the civil government from the military. In May 1822 the Spanish businessman González de Linares arrived in San Juan as Governor. The Puerto Ricans elected the liberal José María Quiñones as their deputy, and he co-sponsored a bill for gradual self-rule.
      In 1823 Spain’s Fernando VII was restored as the absolute ruler, and Governor Linares was rewarded for having loyally opposed the revolutionaries. He recruited Marshal Miguel de la Torre, who had been Captain General of Venezuela 1820-22, as the military governor of Puerto Rico, and he ruled with increasing military forces to maintain stability from December 1823 to 1837. Torre used the government newspaper La Gaceta to portray revolutionaries as rapists, terrorists, and anarchists. He implemented the Cédula de Gracias that promoted the importation of African slaves, and the number of slaves in Puerto Rico increased from 21,730 in 1820 to 41,818 in 1834. He imposed a strict slave code that punished any slave who defied the system. Slave conspiracies were discovered in Bayamón in 1821 and Naguabo in 1823, and the military court was given jurisdiction. While Latin Americans were struggling for independence prior to 1825, privateers used the Caja de Muertos Key off the southern coast of Puerto Rico and attacked other ports. In April 1825 Secretary of State Henry Clay said that the United States opposed the liberation of Cuba and Puerto Rico because neither was competent politically to rule themselves.
      In 1826 when independent Latin American republics met in Panama, Governor Torre put 10,000 troops on alert. He decreed the Slave Regulation with some reforms such as limiting the slaves’ workday to 9 hours and during the sugar harvest to 13 hours rather than the usual 18 hours. Slaves were to have three meals a day, medical care when needed, and two changes of clothing each year. Slaves leaving the premises had to have written permission from the owner. Slave holidays and festivities were reduced to prevent conspiracies. Any slave who reported a conspiracy would be freed with 500 pesos. Yet only four of the fourteen conspiracies between 1826-48 were reported. Torre tried to keep Creoles and others happy by allowing dances, drinking, and gambling. He was accused of implementing liberal policies not authorized by the monarchy and was removed in September 1836. In 1837 Spain required Puerto Rico to pay a war tax of 500,000 pesos, and a revolt was planned for July; but an informer alerted Governor Francisco Moredo Prieto who had suspects arrested and tried by a military court. Five were executed, and others were imprisoned.
      In 1834 the mercenary George D. Flinter had published his Account of the present State of the Island of Puerto Rico in Spanish and English arguing that the slaves were better off than free workers in Europe because many owned land and were encouraged to marry and raise families and because masters took care of all their needs. In 1841 the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher visited Puerto Rico and criticized Flinter’s views noting that the slave codes were often violated. He observed that they worked from 3 in the morning to 8 at night and even had to work 4 hours on Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Nistal found that hundreds of slaves ran away despite the risks. Guillermo Baralt learned that some slaves stayed to organize revolts, kill masters and overseers, and burn the sugar fields even though captured leaders of revolts were killed.
      The manufacture of sugar, rum, cigars, and other industries helped Puerto Rico increase its trade from 269,000 pesos in 1813 to 7.8 million in 1835. In the 1830s 75% of sugar exports went to the United States, and Puerto Rico imported manufactures and food. In 1830 sugar acreage was 11,103 cuerdas, and in 1862 it would be over 55,000. During that period coffee went from 9,000 cuerdas to 34,000.
      In 1838 Governor Miguel López de Baños imposed Worker Regulations that required any person 16 years or older without means of support to work for wages, and violators could be fined, imprisoned, or forced to work for half pay; but Spain’s government abolished the Regulations in 1839.

      José Cienfuegos governed Cuba for Spain as Captain-General 1816-19. He encouraged diverse agriculture and decreed the end of Spain’s tobacco monopoly in June 1817. In February 1818 he opened up trade to any country in America or Europe, and exports quadrupled in one year. In 1817 Cuba’s Intendent Alejandro Ramírez hired Ramón de la Sagra, the friend of Marx, Engels, and Proudhon, to teach natural history at the University of Havana. In 1828 Sagra opened the University’s print shop, and he published his Annals of Science, Agriculture, Commerce and Arts. He would start the first anarchist journal in 1845.
      After the 1817 census showed that whites were only 45% of Cubans, Spaniards were offered 33 acres of land, two cows, a horse and a mule with no tax for 15 years to move to Cuba. The 339,959 Africans were 54% of the population, and 225,268 of them were slaves. After Spain sold Florida to the United States on 22 February 1818, more than 3,000 Cuban natives left Florida to return home. In 1819 communal lands were divided up or founded sugar mills. In 1817 the British persuaded Spain to end the slave trade in 1820. As prices were lower in Africa and higher in America, in the years 1817-20 Cuba imported about 77,000 African slaves. Cuba’s port of Matanzas increased its population from 17,000 in 1817 to 45,000 by 1827. In that period their export of sugar multiplied by five and of coffee by more than ten times. Mexico’s independence in February 1821 ended the gold shipments from there. In 1827 there were 286,942 slaves and 106,494 free blacks in Cuba. The census found that 89% of mulattoes were free but only 40% of Negroes. From 1821 to 1865 Cuba imported 200,354 slaves.
      Col. José Francisco Lemus had fought for independence in Colombia. After Spain’s Fernando VII was restored to power in April 1823, Lemus in July led a small uprising in Cuba; but he was captured with other officers on August 1. Francisco Dionisio Vives had become Captain-General of Cuba in May, and he kept order until 1832. In 1831 he had the first railway built in the Spanish empire. In May 1825 Vives was given unlimited power, and Cuba would be under martial law for the next five decades. In April 1826 he prohibited the importation of books that opposed the Catholic religion or monarchy or which advocated rebellion. Conspiracies were crushed with leaders hanged by 1827, the year that Havana’s population reached 100,000. As 40,000 Spanish troops arrived, government spies and informers proliferated. Laws prohibited those born in Cuba from serving in the military or the civil service. Vives allowed the importation of more than 50,000 slaves.
      By 1825 Cuba was collecting £2 million ($8 million) in taxes annually, and this would multiply two and a half times by the 1860s. Steam power and the introduction of the vacuum boiler in 1830 greatly improved sugar production. Coffee was Cuba’s second major crop. In 1829 they invested $85 million in coffee and $84 million in sugar; but sugar yielded $8 million and coffee only $4.3 million.
      Miguel Tacón y Rosique was Captain-General 1834-38, and he promoted law enforcement, sanitation, firemen, and gas lighting in Havana. He banned weapons in Havana except for soldiers, and the military courts he established were more efficient and less corrupt. He initiated the building of a large prison that separated black and white prisoners. Tacón allowed the illegal slave trade to continue, and he banished the journalist José Antonio Saco who criticized his policies. Cuba got its first railroad in November 1837.
      By 1841 Cuba had 425,521 slaves. In 1839 the Matanzas region had 145 sugar mills, and in the next three years this would increase to about 365. In the years 1841-45 Cuba would export about 170,000 metric tons of sugar, almost three times that of previous decades.
      Captain-General Jerónimo Valdés (1841-43) tried to discourage the slave trade and slave rebellions by increasing white immigration, but two slave revolts broke out in 1843. That year Joaquín de Agüero freed his slaves and had to leave Cuba. In June 1844 the La Escalera slave conspiracy was discovered, and some 4,000 people were arrested in Matanzas including more than 2,000 free blacks, over 1,000 slaves, and about 70 whites. Of these 78 were executed; 1,292 were imprisoned; and 435 were banished.

Central America & Confederation 1817-34

Central America 1744-1817

      Captain-general Jose de Bustamante y Guerra governed Guatemala for seven years until he was replaced on 28 March 1818 by the elderly Lt. General Carlos Luis de Urrutia. The independence struggle in Central America had begun in November 1811. Bustamante had 16 leaders arrested in April 1812, and those who survived were released on 25 June 1817. Spain’s Fernando VII ordered other prisoners freed on July 28, but they were not released until 1819. In April 1820 King Fernando restored the laws passed by the Cortes for the progress of the American provinces. On August 9 the Cortes confirmed Guatemala’s Junta Suprema de Censura formed to adjudicate offenses against laws regulating the press. The conservative gazistas led by José del Valle won the elections over the liberal cacos whose chief was José María Delgado. Pedro Molina began publishing El Editor Constitucional to promote American rights, and the Amigo de la Patria opposed his radical views. In 1820 Central America had 1,227,000 people with 595,000 in Guatemala and 248,0000 El Salvador.
      On 25 June 1821 the Central American deputies presented to the Cortes their proposals for peace. They demanded free trade with Spain. Ailing Urrutia was replaced by Gabino Gaínza who opposed independence but was lured to support it by promises of being made the chief magistrate of the new nation. Ciudad de Real in Chiapas accepted the Iguala plan of Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero in Mexico and separated from Spain on September 3. Two days after this news reached Guatemala, on the 15th delegates from the six provinces of Central America (Guatemala, Chiapas, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) signed the Act of Independence of Central America. They agreed to invite one representative for every 15,000 people to a national congress in March 1822. On September 17 Gaínza proclaimed the Act and declared that any attempt to restore Spanish domination was treason. The Junta Consultiva passed decrees that were approved by Gaínza who was made captain-general with a salary of $10,000 a year.
      On September 21 the Ayuntamiento (Council) of Salvador declared independence, and they elected a junta. Honduras was divided by Comayagua which associated with Mexico while Tegucigalpa and Gracias related to Guatemala. On October 11 the city of Leon in Nicaragua seceded from Guatemala, but Granada refused to agree; on the 21st Leon joined Nicaragua with the Mexican empire. On the 27th Costa Rica removed their governor and seceded from Spain. The ayuntamientos in Central America voted, and on December 31 the count showed that a majority favored being annexed by Mexico. On 5 January 1822 the Junta decreed that all of Central America was annexed to the empire of Mexico. Four days later Gaínza decreed that conversations on this subject in public were prohibited. Iturbide sent a Mexican military force of 5,000 men; but many deserted, and only 600 reached Guatemala. The Junta in Guatemala was dissolved on February 21, but Gaínza was retained as captain-general. Tegucigalpa and Gracias rejected union with Mexico, and Granada continued relations with Gaínza. Costa Rica was neutral.
      The revolutionary Salvadoran Manuel José Arce had spent four years in prison, but in 1822 San Salvador’s government gave him a command in defense of the city on June 3 that drove out the Guatemalan troops led by Col. Arzú supporting Mexico. Gaínza was summoned to Mexico and was replaced by General Vicente Filisola who led 600 men, arrived in Guatemala on June 12, and took over the government ten days later. On November 4 the Mexican government decreed the annexation of Central America. Filisola with 2,000 troops took control of Santa Ana and attacked San Salvador. Their government on December 2 repealed incorporation with Mexico and appealed to the government of the United States of America. Governor Filosola’s Mexican army defeated the Arce’s Salvadorans and entered San Salvador on 9 February 1823.
      Filosola declined to use force against disobedient Granada. After Mexico’s revolution at Casa Mata on February 1 he believed his duty was to stabilize the government of Central America, and on March 29 he canceled its incorporation into Mexico. Archbishop Casaus of Guatemala and Bishop Máximo Jerez of Nicaragua wanted to make Costa Rica a province of Mexico; but liberals withdrew from San José, gathered an army, and defeated the imperialists at Las Lagunas on April 15. On May 10 the Assembly of Honduras voted to join the union of Central America.
      During their time under Mexico heavy taxes had been imposed, and in elections the Central Americans elected republicans. A Congress of the five provinces without Chiapas met on June 24 with José Matias Delgado presiding. On the first of July they declared their independence, and the next day they formed the Constituent National Assembly that met for 19 months to organize a government with the Assembly as the legislature, three elected executives, and a judiciary of existing courts. They acknowledged the public debt, proclaimed Catholicism the state religion, and decreed a free press. Liberals favored a federal republic while their opponents strove to retain Guatemala’s influence. To the executive the liberals elected General Arce, Dr. Pedro Molina, and Juan Vicente Villacorta.
      Negotiations persuaded Filisola to withdraw the Mexican forces from Costa Rica and Nicaragua on 3 August 1823. On the 21st they annulled the acts of the previous imperial government, and on October 27 they directed Central American deputies except for Chiapas to withdraw from the Mexican Congress. Unpaid soldiers led by Captain Rafael Ariza mutinied. After some disturbance negotiations led to Ariza being made commander-in-chief. When he refused to follow orders, he was sent to Antigua and then fled. On October 12 a Salvadoran force came to Guatemala City to support the rebelling soldiers, but after some brawls they left three weeks later. The principles of the constitutional republic were decreed and published on December 17. By April 1824 they had emancipated all slaves including those coming from other countries, and they prohibited the slave trade. The constitution was not promulgated until November 22, and the national congress finally ratified it on 1 September 1825. Two senators from each state acted as an executive council, and their president was vice president of the republic. The members of the supreme court were popularly elected. The treasury was depleted, but they got a favorable loan of $7 million from a London firm, using tobacco and customs duties as pledges for repayment.
      On 6 February 1825 the Congress of the Federal States of Central America met and chose the liberal Mariano Gálvez as their president. They began diplomatic relations with Britain and the Netherlands. Pedro Molina had resigned, but as plenipotentiary to Colombia he negotiated a treaty on March 25. On April 21 the Congress declared that Arce had been re-elected to the executive. Central America made a treaty with the United States of America on December 5. Arce tried to please both parties and lost the confidence of the Liberals. A second constitutional congress met on 1 March 1826. Arce was accused of squandering the money borrowed from London, and he dissolved the Congress. Deputies from Salvador and Costa Rica left their seats, and most of the opposing party called “serviles” resented liberal attacks on the clergy and left the chamber without a quorum. Arce survived a coup attempt by the state of Guatemala’s chief executive Juan Barrundia, and Arce had him arrested.
      President Arce summoned an unconstitutional congress on October 10. Salvadoran forces marched toward the capital in March 1827 and were routed at Arrazola on the 23rd. Arce led a federal force that marched into Salvador and attacked the capital on May 18 but suffered heavy losses. They retreated, and by the end of the month Arce had only 300 men. Friends brought reinforcements, and they regained Santa Ana. Arce returned to Guatemala City to restore peace and summoned a new congress on December 5. On 14 February 1828 Arce turned his office over to Beltramena who put Brigadier Manuel Arzú in command of the federal army. They drove Salvadorans back to their state in March; but after much fighting in San Salvador and San Miguel the federal army surrendered on September 20 at Mejicanos and on October 9 at San Antonio in San Miguel. Victorious General Francisco Morazán led a Salvadoran army that besieged Guatemala City on 5 February 1829, but they were driven away. Morazán’s army went back to Mixco and defeated federal forces at Las Charcas on March 15, and on April 9 they attacked and plundered Guatemala City.
      Morazán had Beltramena, the allied commander Aycinema, and Arce arrested, and he assumed power and reinstated Juan Barrundia as chief of Guatemala. Many celebrated the defeat of the serviles. Prisoners were allowed to go into exile if they paid their prison expenses and a third of their estates. Morazán had the archbishop and friars of several orders deported to Havana, and on September 7 the Federal Congress declared that no religious orders would be recognized. Pedro Molina was elected President of Guatemala, but the state rejected his plan to make Guatemala City a federal district in 1830. Molina wanted a confederation with little federal government, and he was removed from office. Spain was planning an invasion, and in the fall of 1829 President Barrundia passed a law prohibiting Spaniards from entering Central American territory until Spain recognized its independence.
      In August 1829 the Federal Congress decreed the expulsion of troublemakers, and some went to British Honduras (Belize) where they aroused people in Olancho. Federal troops and the Assembly of Guatemala sent 500 soldiers on November 24 to Honduras. Morazán was chief in Honduras and commander of the Central American army, and they marched to Olancho and Opoteca with troops raised in Guatemala. The Olancho rebels surrendered, and on 21 January 1830 they agreed to obey the government. On February 19 Morazán’s force defeated the resistance in Opoteca. He sent the liberal Honduran Dionisio Herrera to Nicaragua where he was made the chief on May 12.
      The Federal Congress had opened on 27 March 1830, and the Supreme Court was in place. Morazán was elected President, and Barrundia turned over the government to him on September 16 during the national celebration of independence. The liberal Mariano Prado of Salvador became Vice President. Barrundia had persuaded the British to return the island of Roatan they had seized. The servile party opposed the liberals, and Arce led an invasion from Mexico; but General Raoul’s forces defeated them at Escuintla de Soconusco on 24 February 1832. On 21 November 1831 Ramón Guzmán had seized the Omoa Fort with 200 blacks and raised the Spanish flag; but their ship to Cuba was captured, and after a five-month siege the rebel garrison surrendered on 12 September 1832.
      Arce supported Salvador’s chief José María Cornejo. Morazán wanted to use San Salvador as headquarters, and Guatemala’s chief Mariano Gálvez sent Col. Nicolás Espinosa to resolve the conflict with Conejo who rebelled on 6 January 1832 and drove Morazán away. The next day the Salvadoran Congress seceded from the federal government. Morazán led troops from Salvador and Honduras, and they defeated Cornejo’s force of 600 men at Jocoro in Santa Ana on March 14. On the 28th Morazán attacked San Salvador and deposed the state government, sending them to Guatemala. Morazán’s taking over Salvador was considered illegal by other states. On May 2 the Federation ended the Catholic Church being the state religion and recognized freedom of conscience. Congress adjourned mid-year, and there was peace for a while.
      Between 1829 and 1831 the Guatemala government expelled Archbishop Ramón Casaus and his friars, censored church writings, seized their funds, and confiscated monastic property. In 1831 Gálvez revived native tribute. In 1832 the government stopped the collection of tithes and imposed a land tax on caballeria (knights). They abolished religious feast days in 1834, and that year Guatemala ceded nearly three-quarters of its land to foreign companies for colonization. A poll tax of 2 pesos per person began in 1836.
      The smaller states resented Guatemala. As antagonism increased in 1833, the new Congress met on April 20. The federal government moved to Sonsonate on February 5 and then to San Salvador. Elections were held, and José del Valle was elected president; but he died on 2 March 1834. Congress called a new election in June, and Morazán was elected again, and José Gregorio Salazar became vice president, succeeding Prado who was chosen to be chief of Salvador. A fight broke out on June 23. General Salazar led the federal forces, and they overthrew the local government. Local oligarchs turned people against the liberal ruling party. Based on a revised constitution of the one from 1824, San Salvador was made a federal district on 7 February 1835.

Central America 1835-44

      One week later President Morazán was sworn in for his second term as President of Central America. He led 1,500 troops from San Salvador and returned to Guatemala, and after three months of fighting he entered the city. The serviles had gained strength, and they persuaded Morazán to be dictator. On the first day of 1837 the liberals in Guatemala abolished corporate fueros (markets) to reform the legal system with the Livingston Codes that included trial by jury. On 30 May 1838 the Federal Congress allowed the states to act on their own. He returned to San Salvador in July to suppress a revolt. The last Federal Congress meeting was on the 20th, and two days later, the state government of Guatemala dissolved and was replaced by federal officers. Rafael Carrera’s force defeated federal troops at Jalapa and Petapa in August. They pillaged La Antigua and then marched toward Guatemala City. General Carlos Salazar led the garrison of 900 men who defeated Carrera’s army of 2,400 at Villa Nueva on September 11. Carrera gathered forces again, and in October he invaded Ahuachapan and Santa Ana before returning to Guatemala City; but on November 4 he was defeated and retreated to Mita. On December 23 he agreed to give up his arms but turned over only a few useless ones. On 24 March 1839 Carrero denounced the cruelty of Morazán, and on April 13 he led his army into Guatemala City and restored Rivera Paz with his conservative government. The Assembly restored the religious orders, and in December they made natives wards of the state with special treatment. In 1840 the tobacco monopoly was revived. The army demanded the return of the military fuero, and the government agreed to extend that privilege to the militia as well.
      Morazán’s presidential term ended on 1 February 1839. Nicaragua and Honduras had formed an alliance on January 18, and they invaded Salvador in March; but Salvadorans whom Morazán led as federals defeated them near Lempa on April 6. Later that year they invaded Honduras, routed the allies, and captured Tegucigalpa. However, on 31 January 1840 Nicaraguans and Hondurans led by Manuel Quijano defeated the federals and forced them to leave Honduras.
      Liberals in Los Altos had declared its independence, but Carrera’s forces crushed them in January 1840. He had announced his support for the sovereignty of the states, and the serviles asked him to take over Guatemala. Morazán marched an army there and entered the city on March 18. He freed the liberal prisoners including General Agustín Guzmán who was crippled by shackles in a dungeon. The next day Carrera’s forces attacked them, and after 22 hours Morazán retreated. He returned to San Salvador but found little support. He embarked but was not allowed to stay in Costa Rica and went to South America. Antonio José Cañas became the leader of Salvador, but a diplomatic mission from Guatemala led by Carrera persuaded Salvador to agree to their conditions in a convention signed on 13 May 1840.
      A convention at Chinandega on 11 April 1842 declared a provisional national government with seven articles, and Antonio José Cañas was named the supreme delegate; but the Guatemala Assembly rejected the compact. Costa Rica accepted but with conditions on July 20. One week later delegates from Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Central American Confederation under a constitution with sixteen articles. Guatemala’s envoy Jerónimo Carcache said his government would accept a treaty made in October that Costa Rica agreed to in May 1843. On 29 March 1844 Nicaragua’s Fruto Chamorro, who had edited the Mentor Nicaragüense 1841-42, was chosen to be the supreme delegate, and Juan Lindo of Honduras became president of the council. Honduras accepted this on April 27, and Salvador and Nicaragua were satisfied; but Guatemala still considered the Confederation dissolved, and Costa Rica wanted an amendment. The executive of Honduras secretly opposed.
      President Malespín of Salvador was trying to create a theocratic regime to please Bishop Viteri when they learned that troops from Guatemala led by Manuel José Arce had invaded Salvador. Malespín mobilized an army of 4,000 men who forced the invaders to flee. Then he disobeyed the supreme delegate and invaded Guatemala to Jutiapa. The Salvadoran army lacked support and was reduced to 3,000 men. Honduras and Salvador made a treaty 10 July 1844 that both governments ratified, and Salvador and Guatemala made peace on August 5. Two weeks later Hondurans forced a Nicaraguan force to leave Honduras. Malespín wanted to attack Nicaragua and Ferrera; but 1,000 Nicaraguans were defeated at Nacaome in Honduras on October 24, and the Nicaraguans returned to their country. Malespín invaded Nicaragua and then held a conference at Nacaome with the Honduran army on October 31, and on November 7 they recognized him as commander-in-chief. Nicaraguans from Leon made a peace treaty two weeks later, but Nicaragua rejected a secret clause.

      Costa Rica had elected Braulio Carrillo chief, and he began governing in April 1835. A revolt broke out in Cartago on September 24, and Alajuela and Heredia supported the rebellion. They marched on San José, but the government had more weapons. They also suppressed an invasion from Nicaragua in Guanacaste. Carrillo’s term ended in April 1837, and he was succeeded by Joaquin Mora for one month and then by Manuel Aguilar. In May 1838 Carrillo and his followers used force to depose Aguilar and his Vice Chief Juan Mora, and Carrillo governed for four more years. A constituent assembly met in November.
      On 8 March 1841 Costa Rica’s President Carrillo claimed life tenure and inviolability. His enemies appealed to Morazán who landed at Caldera on 7 April 1842 with 500 men. The government had a force of 1,000 men led by Col. Vicente Villaseñor. Morazán announced that he only wanted to remove Carrillo from power, and on the 11th the two sides had a friendly meeting at Jocote and joined forces. They agreed to let Morazán govern with Villaseñor acting in his absence, and Carrillo at San José accepted this. They revived the state’s constitution of 1825, and the people elected 13 to a constituent assembly that met on July 10 and unanimously accepted Morazán as Chief of Costa Rica. Those who did not like this gathered, and 600 men came together under the command of Florentin Alfaro. They marched to besiege San José, and their numbers increased to 5,000. Morazán and a few supporters retreated to Cartago where they were captured. Villaseñor stabbed himself but survived. On 15 September 1842, the anniversary of their independence, a firing squad executed him and Morazán at San José.
      Alfaro was made provisional chief of Costa Rica. Minister-general José María Castro summoned a constituent assembly that met on 1 June 1843 and enacted human rights. They adopted a constitution that was promulgated on 11 April 1844. On June 28 Alfaro resumed the executive office, and on November 15 the legislature elected Francisco María Oreamuno chief of Costa Rica. He was opposed by many and resigned on the 26th.

      In February 1837 Guatemala City had 3,000 sickened by cholera, and 900 died. Natives resented being forced to work building prisons, and on March 6 they rebelled at Ostuncalco. The cholera epidemic was spreading. The insurrection was greatest at Mita, and on May 6 they forced a magistrate with 40 dragoons to flee. These rebels were led by 21-year-old Rafael Carrera of mixed race who looked so native that he was called “El Indio.” The government forces defeated the rebels near Mataquescuintla on June 15. That month Carrera announced his revolutionary plan to abolish the Livingston Codes and the poll tax, to grant amnesty to exiles, to restore the religious orders, and to gain respect for law by threatening death. In October he annulled the law on marriage and divorce, and he canceled English colonization contracts. He raised a large force and avoided fighting the army, but they defeated detached regulars. Many rebels gathered in La Antigua, and they threatened Guatemala City where a federal garrison mutinied on 26 January 1838. Three days later 800 rebels entered the capital, and on February 1 they were joined by about 10,000 natives led by Carrera who let 4,000 guerrillas pillage the city. Gálvez stepped down as chief of Guatemala and was succeeded by Pedro Valenzuela. Carrera wanted to sack the city but was bought off by 1,000 pesos and 10,000 for his troops, and he was appointed commandant of Mita. Carrera survived an assassination attempt by the bandit Andrés Monreal who stayed to loot and was killed.
      Although Carrera could not write, he had others write for him. While Rivera Paz was Guatemala’s head of state, Carrera often governed as the military leader, and on 7 December 1841 he had Paz and others arrested. He chose José Francisco Barrundia as his deputy, but he resigned in March 1842. Paz became president again in May. In March 1844 Carrera had the Assembly replaced by a council, and the Assembly dissolved itself. On September 20 unpaid troops began looting Guatemala City, and Lt. General Rafael Carrera stopped the violence. President Rivera Paz resigned, and on December 11 the Guatemala Assembly elected Carrera president to protect the elites as well as the natives.

      Natives called “Indians” who had converted to Spanish ways and mestizos were referred to as “ladinos.” In 1837 El Salvador had an estimated 230,000 Ladinos, 90,000 Indians, and 80,000 “Whites” (Europeans).
      Salvador had formed a constituent assembly in August 1839, and during a new session in January 1841 the chief Norberto Ramírez resigned and was succeeded by Juan Lindo, but he and the Assembly were led by the commandant Col. Francisco Malespín. On the 30th they called their country the República del Salvador, and they adopted their second constitution on February 18 with a legislature having two chambers. Some were friends of Morazán, and Lindo dissolved the chambers on November 6 in a coup d’état for Malespín. On 13 January 1842 three senators organized a constitutional meeting at San Vicente. Juan José Guzman emerged as the provisional president in September, and he tolerated the press, especially El Amigo del Pueblo. Malespín urged the rebelling volcaneños in Santa Ana to overthrow the government. Bishop Viteri quarreled with Malespín, but both supported Friar Vazquez. He criticized President Guzman who praised Carrera. Guzman ordered the friar arrested, but Viteri, Malespín, and Vazquez aroused crowds. Malespín returned to Salvador and banished several people. Guzman resigned and was succeeded by Vice President Pedro Arce. No presidential candidate had a majority, and the Assembly made Malespín the President on 5 February 1844. Viteri exerted his influence which was resented by many as revolutionary.

      During the difficult years in the early 1840s Francisco Ferrera had been President of Honduras in 1841 and 1842 and from 23 February 1843 to the end of 1844. Troops mutinied at Olancho in early December 1844. After its quick resolution Ferrera decreed stringent measures against the leaders on the 13th. The 1839 constitution did not allow Ferrera to be re-elected, but he became Minister of War with command of the army. No candidate obtained a majority in the election, and the legislature chose Ferrera’s follower Coronado Chavez as President. While Ferrera was leading the army in Nicaragua, the former chief Rivera invaded Honduras to try to overthrow the government; but they were defeated. He and three others were captured on 4 January 1845, and Rivera was hanged.

       Nicaragua’s population was estimated at 186,000 in 1820 and 278,000 in 1860, and during this period the rest of Central America had more than twice as much population density. In 1838 Nicaragua’s second constitution called for the Director Supremo to have a term of two years. Pablo Buitrago acted as the first director, though the chambers did not declare him constitutionally the Director Supremo until 4 March 1841. He replaced the liberal Minister General Francisco Castellón with Simon Orozco. Buitrago rejected Costa Rica’s chief Morazán and favored Guatemala. On 1 April 1843 he was succeeded by Juan de Dios Orozco temporarily until the Assembly chose Manuel Perez because no candidate had a majority. He brought back Castellón as Minister General.


      On 18 December 1818 Scottish Gregor MacGregor led 417 men from England, and on 8 April 1819 they took over the town of Portobello in the Colon province of Panama. The unpaid invaders lacked discipline, and some sold ammunition for liquor. Governor Alejandro de Hore sent troops who occupied the nearly deserted town on the 29th, the day a ship from Jamaica brought supplies to the invaders. The next day Hore’s troops took back Portobello. MacGregor fled on a ship, and 340 of his men were captured. They were cruelly treated in chain-gangs with some officers shot, and only 121 survived and were deported to Jamaica on 20 September 1820. That year Panama got its first printing press.
      On 10 November 1821 José de Fábrega in Panama City called for Panama’s independence. On the 28th leaders in the City Council declared Panama free of Spain with Fábrega as head of state, and they joined the Republic of Colombia that included New Granada. In February 1822 José María Carreño became intendent, and Fábrega was made governor of Alange, Veragua, and annexes. They prohibited the importing or exporting of African slaves, and future children of slave mothers were declared free. In 1824 the British navy captain Charles Cochrane journeyed across the isthmus of Panama and wrote a book about his experience. In September 1830 General José Domingo Espinar led the Panamanians withdrawing from Colombia.
      In early 1831 Panama became part of New Granada which included most of what was Colombia. In May 1836 the US Congress approved a road across the isthmus of Panama. Charles Biddle of Pennsylvania and fourteen citizens of New Granada got a grant of 140,000 acres and bought 750,000 more acres for $375,000, and he returned to Washington in September; but his death and the Panic of 1837 ended the venture. In November 1840 Panamanians led by General Tomás Herrera as their President tried to become independent of Bogotá as the Free State of the Isthmus; but they rejoined New Granada on the last day of 1841.

Copyright © 2020 by Sanderson Beck

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Brazil, Argentina & Chile 1817-44
Venezuela, Colombia & Peru 1817-44

Caribbean & Central America 1817-44
Mexico and Democracy 1817-44
US Era of Monroe & J. Q. Adams 1817-2
Native Tribes, Removal & the West
Jacksonian Democracy 1829-37
US Depression, Van Buren & Tyler 1837-44
Canada Becomes Democratic 1817-44
Slavery and Abolitionists 1817-44
Women Reforming America 1817-44
American Philosophy & Religion 1817-44
Emerson’s Transcendentalism
Literature of Irving, Cooper & Whittier
Summary & Evaluating America 1817-44

World Chronology to 1830
Chronology of America to 1844

BECK index