Simon Bolivar was born on July 24, 1783 in Caracas to wealthy Creole aristocrats. His father died when he was three years old, and his mother died six years later. His inheritance made him one of the richest men in Caracas. Bolivar traveled to Spain in 1799, and at court he was under the protection of Manuel Mallo and then the Marquis de Ustariz. In 1802 he married the daughter of a nobleman from Caracas. They settled in Caracas, but she died of disease before their first anniversary. He said he would never remarry, but he had mistresses. Bolivar went to Paris, where he lived with Fanny du Villars. Bolivar read books and was most influenced by Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Condillac, Buffon, D'Alembert, Helvetius, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and especially Rousseau. In Paris he met Alexander von Humboldt, who originated the science of ecology and had traveled widely in South America for five years. On December 2, 1804 Bolivar witnessed Napoleon crowning himself. He had admired him as the hero of the republic and the genius of liberty, but now he saw the Emperor Napoleon as "a hypocritical tyrant, an insult to liberty and an obstacle to the progress of civilization."1 In 1805 Bolivar adopted "Freedom and Fame" as his motto, and his old tutor Simon Rodriguez reminded him of the teachings of Rousseau. On the Monte Sacro in Rome, where the ancient plebeians had challenged the patricians, Bolivar made a vow to Rodriguez that he would liberate his country.
Bolivar returned to Venezuela in 1807 after Miranda's failed revolution. He came into conflict with his neighbors over his plan to irrigate his indigo plantation, and he defended himself against the armed slaves of Antonio Nicolas Briceño. In November the French army attacked Portugal, and Napoleon deposed the house of Braganza. On May 5, 1808 Napoleon persuaded Carlos IV and his powerful chief minister, Manuel de Godoy, to abdicate the throne of Spain. The Emperor appointed his brother Joseph Bonaparte to rule Spain and appointed viceroys and governors for the American colonies. French delegates arrived in Venezuela in July 1808. Spaniards rebelled and organized guerrilla warfare, proclaiming Fernando VII king. Francisco Miranda sent a letter from London urging the city council of Caracas to govern. In September the junta suprema (national assembly) of Spain declared war on France. The French delegates were rejected in Venezuela, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and La Paz as the Americans also accepted Fernando as king. Most of the Americans turned to the cabildo abierto of their city governments. Spain allowed the South Americans only twelve delegates for fifteen million people while twelve million Spaniards were represented by 36 delegates. The Americans included only three million Europeans along with eight million Indians and four million Africans.
In November 1808 some aristocrats in Caracas demanded the right to call an assembly to govern until King Fernando VII regained the throne; but Bolivar did not sign it, and the author was arrested. In January 1809 Spain formed an alliance with England against the French. Vicente de Emparan arrived as the new governor of Venezuela in May, but the new inspector of the militia was Bolivar's brother-in-law Fernando Rodriguez de Toro. An uprising was planned for April 1810, but Emparan had some leaders arrested and banished others, including Bolivar. Yet he returned to Caracas a few days later, and the revolutionaries sought to establish the Junta Central as the government. On April 19 the City Council met with Emparan. The religious canon Cortes Madariaga arrived and supported the revolution, and Emparan abdicated the same day. A week later Caracas established a representative government. Bolivar led a mission to London to confer with Miranda. Buenos Aires constituted a temporary assembly on May 25, and the viceroy of New Granada was overthrown at Bogota on July 20. Similar revolutions in Chile and Mexico soon followed. The Creole aristocrats had made a revolution for liberty but rarely mentioned equality and fraternity.
In June 1810 Bolivar was promoted to colonel of the militia, and the official reason for his mission to England was to preserve trade. Bolivar met with the new foreign minister, Richard Wellesley, and told him that independent Venezuela would not recognize the regency-council of Spain. Wellesley promised that the British fleet would protect Venezuela from the French and would work for reconciliation between Venezuela and Spain. He advised Venezuela to preserve friendly trading relations with Spain. The regency-council at Cadiz allowed trade between England and the American colonies, but they declared Venezuelans rebels and blockaded their coast. Bolivar recommended declaring war on Spain. He was grateful for the protection of the British navy, and he studied their parliamentary institutions. He told friends that he hoped for an American federation, and in his painted portrait he wore a medal with the words, "There is no country without freedom." Bolivar told Miranda to return to Venezuela. Miranda was considered an enemy of Spain and could not travel on the same warship as Bolivar.
The government in Caracas proclaimed freedom of trade, abolishing duties and the sales tax. They offered refuge for Spaniards fleeing Europe and pledged to support the war against France. Bolivar joined the Patriotic Society for improving agriculture and industry, and this group advocated complete independence. The Venezuelan provinces of Coro, Maracaibo, and Guayana remained loyal to the regency-council, mostly because they did not like Caracas, and they called up their militias. The Marquis of Toro commanded the Caracas troops and marched against Coro with 3,000 men in November 1810; but they were poorly equipped and retreated with heavy losses. A conspiracy of Puerto Rican Spaniards was suppressed without violence. Public opinion persuaded authorities to grant Miranda permission to enter the country in December, and he became president of the Patriotic Society. Bolivar's brother Juan Vicente went to the United States in May 1811 and met with President Madison, but instead of buying arms he sent back weaving, paper, and minting machines. Juan Vicente died at sea on his return, and Simon took over his wealthy estate. However, according to his uncle's entail, he had to choose between his estate and his brother's.
On July 1, 1811 the Parliament in Caracas accepted a Bill of Rights that abolished torture and protected press freedom. Two days later they began debating independence, and on July 5 the Congress declared the independence of Venezuela with only one dissenting vote. Miranda brought a new flag that was yellow, blue, and red, and people celebrated on July 14, Bastille Day. Bolivar and some other aristocrats freed their slaves.
On July 11, 1811 Spaniards and Capucin monks opposing independence paraded with theatrical pageants mocking the revolution. Sixty men from the Canary Islands rode mules and wore tin helmets, shouting for the King and against traitors. They were arrested; Miranda advised the death sentence, and sixteen were executed and had their heads put on poles by the city gates. Valencia revolted on July 13, but paradoxically its Spaniards supported the republic and its native Venezuelans the King. Miranda accepted command of the army on the condition that Bolivar was not included in the expedition. Bolivar objected, but this was resolved by Toro naming Bolivar his adjutant. Miranda attacked Valencia, and Bolivar fought well. They besieged Valencia, which capitulated in August. Bolivar wanted to liquidate the enemies, but Miranda was lenient.
The Congress debated federal versus central power, and on December 21 the Constitution of the Federated States of Venezuela was signed by 37 representatives. The presidency was a committee of three, and the seven states had liberal autonomy. Bolivar and Miranda believed the country was too divided. Provinces and cities fought each other, especially after the three million pesos in the royal treasury were spent in the first year of independence. In August 1811 state employees had their salaries cut in half. The government issued two million pesos in paper money, but lack of income from customs duties and the tobacco monopoly did not support the notes. Prices went up fast, and severe penalties were used to prevent gold and silver from going out of circulation. People spent large notes to get silver as change, and forged notes circulated. Some private citizens helped pay the civil servants and soldiers. The Congress moved the capital to Valencia in March 1812.
A major earthquake on March 26, 1812 was interpreted by many as a sign of God's anger, though many of those killed were in churches on Holy Thursday. Nearly ten thousand people were killed in Caracas and La Guaira and four thousand elsewhere. Bolivar worked to dig out the wounded and with soldiers dispersed an excited crowd that had been stirred up by a monk. The government issued manifestoes that it was a natural phenomenon. After Toro declined the offer, Congress gave Miranda dictatorial powers. Maracaibo's Governor Fernando Miyares put 500 men under Domingo Monteverde, and Coro commander Jose Ceballos sent 264 men under the priest Torrellas and Reyes Vargas, who was backed by Indians. Monteverde captured Carora and Barquisimeto. Many troops and cavalry went over to Monteverde, who allowed looting while Ceballos did not. Miranda sent Bolivar to defend Puerto Cabello, where the San Felipe fortress had an arms supply and political prisoners. Miranda missed opportunities while training his army. He proclaimed martial law and promised to emancipate all slaves serving under him.
Royalist troops under Captain Antonañzes burned villages and killed many. Monteverde flanked Miranda on the north and the south, forcing him to retreat to Victoria in June. Miranda's forces won a battle but did not pursue the enemy. His officers wanted to arrest him. The royalists attacked Puerto Cabello, killing more than a hundred men. The small garrison surrendered on July 6 as Bolivar and seven officers fled by ship to La Guaira. Monteverde held the central region around Caracas, but Miyares was still in command over Maracaibo, Coro, and Guayana. Miyares wanted to punish the rebels, but Monteverde persuaded him to withdraw to Coro. Miranda's army disintegrated, and he capitulated. A war council, which included Bolivar, Casas Leon, and Dr. Miguel Peña, accused Miranda of taking money and arranging his escape. They arrested Miranda and turned him over to the Spaniards, who put him in prison until his death in 1816. Other leaders were also arrested, and eight were sent to prison at Cadiz. Many believed that Monteverde was violating the general amnesty of the capitulation. According to Judge Jose Francisco Heredia, 723 men were unjustly imprisoned. Heredia also reported that Bolivar intended to join Wellington's army to fight for Spain's liberty; but when authorities confiscated his brother's estate, he changed his mind. Casas Leon and Peña were given immunity, and Francisco Iturbe persuaded Monteverde to give Bolivar a pass so that he could go to Cartagena.
In New Granada those favoring independence led by Camilo Torres, Miguel de Pombo, and Jose de Acevedo y Gomez formed a supreme council on July 20, 1810 with the approval of Viceroy Amar y Borbon. Three days later the crowd demanded that the arrest of the Viceroy and his wife, and the junta no longer recognized the Regency Council of Spain. Independent juntas were soon organized in the provinces of Cartagena, Santa Marta, Antioquia, El Choco, Socorro, Casanare, Neiva, Mariquita, Pamplona, and Tunja, but by the end of the year the royalists took over Santa Marta. A Supreme Congress representing the provinces was installed at Santa Fe de Bogota on December 22. Their charter with its legislative, executive, and judicial branches was influenced by the constitutions of the United States and France and was signed on March 30, 1811. They recognized the Catholic religion as the only one in the state; they banned torture; and every citizen capable of bearing arms was considered a soldier. Jorge Tadeo Lozano was elected the first president of Cundinamarca. Antonio Nariño advocated a stronger central government, and he edited the opposition newspaper, La Bagatela. Lozano and his vice president resigned in September, and Nariño was elected president. In November representatives from Cartagena, Antioquia, Casanare, Neiva, Pamplona, and Tunja signed a pact of federation and sent it to other provinces for ratification.
Nariño came into conflict with Antonio Baraya and got the assembly to suspend the constitution and declare him dictator. After a failed military campaign against the federalists, Nariño restored the constitution. When the federalists conspired to kill him, Nariño resigned. On September 12, 1812 the assembly appointed him dictator again. In October representatives from Cartagena, Antioquia, Casanare, Cundinamarca, Pamplona, Popayan, and Tunja formed the United Provinces of New Granada and elected Camilo Torres as their first president. Nariño clashed with this Congress. After another failed military expedition with 1,500 men, he returned to Bogota and fortified the capital. Nariño tried to negotiate with Baraya, who demanded surrender. On January 9, 1813 Baraya attacked with 3,000 poorly armed men, and more than a thousand of them were captured by Nariño's forces. Nariño negotiated an agreement in which the Congress recognized him as president of Cundinamarca, and he released the prisoners.
Cartagena was the first province to declare complete independence from Spain, and its president Manuel Rodriguez Torices befriended Bolivar and his compatriots. Bolivar asked all three governments to help him liberate Venezuela. In Spain liberals had adopted a constitution in 1812. Spaniards occupied the valleys of the Magdalena River and had cut off Cartagena from the interior. On December 15, 1812 in his "Memorial to the Citizens of New Granada" Bolivar analyzed the defeat in Venezuela and suggested that the Americans must unify their government, or they will suffer civil war. He promised that if they entered Venezuela, they would be joined by thousands of patriots eager to overthrow the tyrants and defend their liberty. The Cartagena government commissioned the French captain Pierre Labatut and put Bolivar under his command. Although only ordered to defend Barrancas, Bolivar quickly organized two hundred men and attacked Tenerife; by December 27 his troops had taken Mompox. Labatut wanted him court martialed, but President Torres defended Bolivar's victorious campaign. Labatut marched into Santa Marta in January 1813 and granted a general amnesty. Nariño led 1,400 men in September to subdue Pasto, and in December and January 1814 they defeated the royalist Col. Juan Samano in Popayan. Nariño surrendered himself in May at Pasto and was held in a dungeon for thirteen months. Then Nariño was taken to Quito, Callao, and around Cape Horn to Cadiz, where he was imprisoned for four more years before being freed by the Spanish revolution of 1820.
A thousand Spaniards led by Ramon Correa were advancing toward Colombia from the east. Col. Manuel del Castillo in the south asked Bolivar for help. Bolivar led the patriots, and on February 28, 1813 without ammunition they attacked with bayonets the Spaniards at Cucuta and captured needed money. President Torres promoted Bolivar to brigadier general and commander in the north. Bolivar ordered Castillo to attack the Spaniards; he reluctantly did so and then resigned. Bolivar even threatened to shoot Francisco de Paula Santander. Bolivar was given permission to enter Venezuelan provinces. He was welcomed as a liberator in Mérida on May 23. After doubling his army, on June 14 they marched into the capital of Trujillo. Bolivar issued a proclamation to the people of Venezuela, promising to destroy Spaniards and Canary Islanders who do not support the American side while forgiving the past trespasses of Americans. He believed that in a war to the death the people would fight harder for their liberty than the royalists would for their king. Bolivar's uncle, Jose Felix Ribas, fought off a rearguard attack ordered by Monteverde, and four hundred prisoners joined the army of independence. On July 6 Bolivar captured 200,000 pesos from the Barinas treasury of the tobacco administration, and he used it to pay his soldiers back wages. In the west Ribas led two bayonet attacks on the Spaniards that enabled his forces to reunite with Bolivar's at San Carlos on July 28.
Bolivar now had 2,500 troops, and the 1,200 Spaniards retreated to Valencia. Bolivar attacked them with cavalry, and they killed the officers and captured most of the men, who joined the republican army. Forces led by Atanasio Girardot pursued Monteverde while Bolivar entered Valencia on August 2, 1813. He granted amnesty and allowed people to leave independent Venezuela. He demanded the surrender of Caracas and the port of La Guaira, and four days later he entered the capital as a liberator. Spaniards still held Coro and Maracaibo, and Monteverde was in Puerto Cabello with six thousand supporters. Bolivar delayed reviving the federal constitution and assumed dictatorial power, appointing administrators of finance, war, and the interior. He demanded that the Archbishop of Caracas withdraw his advice to support the Spanish monarchy, and he ordered priests to explain republican principles at least once a week. The Venezuelan economy was paralyzed, and Bolivar organized a state monopoly on tobacco. To stop contraband trading he made tax evasion and secret dealings capital crimes with the state confiscating their property. He urged patriots to contribute, and state employees shared their salaries with soldiers. Every property owner had to support at least one soldier. He founded the Order of the Liberation of Venezuela to honor patriots such as Ribas, Girardot, and Rafael Urdaneta. Bolivar himself claimed only the title Liberator of Venezuela.
In eastern Venezuela the young general Santiago Mariño had started with 45 men and five guns in January 1813, but by August his forces had occupied Cumana and Barcelona. Mariño wanted to partition Venezuela, but Bolivar was determined to achieve unity. Because Mariño declined to cooperate, Bolivar's army had to fight most of the Spaniards. He used spies to uncover conspiracies, and sixty Spaniards and Americans were executed on September 21. A naval attack on La Guaira was not fooled by the presence of Spanish officers released from prison by Ribas, and the convoy brought to Puerto Cabello 1,200 more troops. Monteverde led an attack from Puerto Cabello, forcing Bolivar to lift the siege. However, the Spaniards were defeated at Barbula on September 30, though Girardot was killed.
Although Mariño had pushed some of the Spanish forces east to Guayana, Tomas Boves and Francisco Morales led predatory raids in the plains with llaneros seeking loot. Monteverde commissioned Boves a cavalry captain, and he and Morales gathered about two thousand lancers. Boves and the chieftain Jose Yañez defeated the patriots in Santa Catalina on September 20, 1813 and then looted Villa del Cura. Bolivar sent Campo Elias with a thousand infantry and 1,500 cavalry, and they defeated Boves near Mosquiteros. In the capital Calabozo the patriots killed a quarter of the population. The fighting in the plains was ruthless and cruel, and no pardons were given. Ceballos took 350 men from Coro and gathered a force of 2,000 men, and on October 20 at Barquisimeto they defeated Bolivar and Urdaneta, killing four hundred and capturing as many. Frustrated Bolivar stripped the first regiment that surrendered of their rank, and he ordered Ribas to shoot all Europeans and recruit all the men in Caracas. Ribas ignored the death orders but enlisted 700 men, mostly students. In November about 2,500 men under Yañez entered abandoned Barinas. Ceballos led an army of 3,700 toward Araure, where Bolivar led his cavalry and defeated Ceballos and then Yañez. Urdaneta wrote that their enemy left more than a thousand dead on the battlefield. Bolivar sent a thousand men against Boves, but they were wiped out at San Marcos in December. For one month Bolivar offered amnesty for deserters.
After his defeats in 1813 Napoleon recognized Fernando VII in Spain, and in December he withdrew French forces from the Iberian peninsula. King Fernando cancelled the Constitution of 1812 and all the acts of the Cortes including their abolition of the Inquisition, censorship, and torture; thirty leading liberals were arrested. Bolivar needed arms, but England prohibited the arms trade. The United States refused to sell arms to the revolutionaries because they were trying to purchase Florida from Spain. Venezuela could not produce sophisticated weapons, but Bolivar ordered the manufacture of gunpowder and bullets. He confiscated all precious metals, including silver vessels from churches that were melted down.
In January 1814 Spanish commander Monteverde released all his prisoners. Bolivar called a parliament on the first of February, and Caracas governor Cristobal Mendoza suggested they recognize Bolivar as dictator. Bolivar declined and suggested Mariño, but Bolivar was confirmed by acclamation. Urdaneta's forces defeated and killed Yañez near Ostino on February 2. The next day Boves and Morales defeated the patriots led by Elias at La Puerta, but Boves was wounded. Four days later Ribas forced the llaneros to retreat. Rosete led African slaves shouting for Fernando VII and sacked Ocumare, killing three hundred; but Ribas drove them out and had all the prisoners shot. Bolivar laid siege again to Puerto Cabello. Leandro Palacios wrote Bolivar that his garrison in La Guaira was too small to guard so many prisoners, and the Liberator ordered all the Spanish prisoners shot. In three days more than eight hundred were executed by Palacios in La Guaira, by Juan Bautista Arizmendi in Caracas, and by Bolivar in Valencia. A week later Bolivar issued his Manifesto to the nations of the world on the War to the Death.
On March 25 Boves attacked the patriots at San Mateo. The republicans were defended by their artillery, but Elias was over-run and killed. Monteverde was replaced by Juan Manuel de Cagigal, and his royalist army grew to five thousand. Bolivar attacked them on May 28 on the plains of Carbobo and forced them to flee. However, on June 15 Boves with an army of 3,000, equal to Bolivar's, trounced the patriots and captured their artillery. Bolivar lost his secretary of state Muñoz and four colonels but escaped. He left Caracas for eastern Venezuela on July 6. Valencia capitulated to Boves a few days later, but Boves broke his oath and let his men kill 300 soldiers, 60 officers, and 90 civilians. Twenty thousand people traveled with Bolivar four hundred kilometers to Barcelona. He could only muster 2,500 soldiers, and they were defeated by Morales at the battle of Aragua in which nearly four thousand men were killed. Bolivar escaped again and sent 24 chests of church treasures to Cumana, where he and Mariño got most of it back from Mariño's piratical captain Jose Bianchi. When Ribas and Mariño's chief-of-staff Manuel Piar outlawed Bolivar and Mariño, they returned the treasure and were even arrested for two days. Bolivar again took a ship to Cartagena. Ribas fought on until he was defeated in December 1814 at Urica, where Boves was killed by a spear. Ribas escaped but was caught and executed. Venezuela once again belonged to Spain.
Despite his second failure in Venezuela, in September 1814 Bolivar was welcomed at Cartagena as a hero for his valiant efforts, though he was criticized by Col. Castillo. Urdaneta managed to bring his division of the army west to Colombia. Bolivar went to Tunja in November and appealed to the Congress of the United Provinces and its president, Camilo Torres. Bolivar was appointed captain-general of the Colombian Federation. He marched on Bogota, where the archbishop had excommunicated him. Bolivar adopted a more conciliatory approach and promised to spare Spanish prisoners and release rebels. After two days of battle, Manuel de Bernardo Alvarez, who had succeeded Nariño as president of Cundinamarca, capitulated on December 11. Bolivar urged all Colombians to fight Spanish tyranny, saying, "War is the epitome of all evil; but tyranny is the substance of all war."2 He assigned Urdaneta to defend the border with Venezuela and headed for the coast to attack the Spaniards in Santa Marta. Bolivar liberated Ocaña and Mompox and drove the Spaniards toward the sea, but Castillo in Cartagena disobeyed his orders and even arrested his friends. At Mompox a smallpox epidemic wiped out half his army, leaving him with only a thousand men. Bolivar faced civil war with Cartagena and decided to resign.
In April 1815 a Spanish fleet took the island of Margarita, and over the objection of Morales, General Pablo Morillo pardoned Arizmendi. The expeditionary force landed in Venezuela and took Barranquilla. The largest warship San Pedro was destroyed by sabotage, killing 900 men. Bolivar sailed for Jamaica on May 8, and three days later General Morillo entered Caracas with Spain's largest army in America, 11,000 men. His mission was to pacify America, and he proclaimed a general amnesty. Anyone guilty of killing a soldier who had surrendered would be shot. Morales and then Morillo besieged Cartagena, which suffered starvation and pestilence before surrendering in December. Morillo captured thirteen ships of food sent to Cartagena by patriots and demanded the city contribute 100,000 pesos to his war effort. Leaders of the resistance were given quick trials and were hanged. In 1816 Morillo subjugated Colombia and moved his troops into Bogota, where he executed Torres and Torizes and one hundred others. Yet he released hundreds of prisoners, mostly Indians and Africans.
Bolivar had to borrow money in Jamaica from the Englishman, Maxwell Hyslop. One night Bolivar slept in the house of a French woman, and a courier sleeping in his hammock was assassinated by the African slave Pio, who admitted Spaniards offered him 2,000 pesos. Whether the murder was ordered by Morillo is unclear, but he did have orders to put prices on the heads of all rebel leaders.
On September 6, 1815 Bolivar wrote a letter, and he borrowed money to publish it as "The Jamaica Letter." He referred to the history of Spanish atrocities and praised the humanitarian work of Bartolomé de Las Casas. Bolivar expressed that the hatred between the peninsula and the Americans had grown larger than the ocean between them. He wrote, "The chains have been broken; we have been freed, and now our enemies seek to enslave us anew. For this reason America fights desperately."3 Bolivar described the independence efforts in La Plata, Chile, Peru, New Granada, Venezuela, and Mexico. He argued that 16,000,000 Americans must defend their rights or suffer repression from Spain, which was an empire but is now weak. He described Americans as a young people in a world apart. Americans under the Spanish system are treated like serfs who are forbidden to grow European crops and suffer from royal monopolies and trade restrictions. Montesquieu had observed that releasing a nation from servitude is harder than enslaving a free nation. South Americans were aspiring to liberal institutions for justice, liberty, and equality. Bolivar hoped to see America unified into the greatest nation in the world. Yet he explained why he did not favor monarchies in America.
The well understood interest of a republic is limited
to the matter of its preservation, prosperity, and glory.
Republicans, because they do not desire powers
which represent a directly contrary viewpoint,
have no reason for expanding the boundaries of their nation
to the detriment of their own resources, solely for the purpose of
having their neighbor share a liberal constitution.
They would not acquire rights or secure any advantage
by conquering their neighbors,
unless they were to make them colonies,
conquered territory, or allies, after the example of Rome.
But such thought and action are directly contrary
to the principles of justice which characterize republican systems;
and, what is more,
they are in direct opposition to the interests of their citizens,
because a state, too large of itself or together with its dependencies,
ultimately falls into decay.
Its free government becomes a tyranny.
The principles that should preserve the government
are disregarded, and finally it degenerates into despotism.
The distinctive feature of small republics is permanence:
that of large republics varies,
but always with a tendency toward empire.
Almost all small republics have had long lives.4
Bolivar concluded that Americans will fight for freedom and will ultimately succeed. He hoped for an assembly of representatives from republics to settle issues of peace and war, as Abbé St. Pierre had proposed for Europe. He predicted that New Granada would unite with Venezuela and would be called Colombia. He hinted that a liberal nation (England) could help Americans gain their independence from Spain.
Bolivar foresaw seventeen free republics arising in South America. They needed guns, munitions, warships, money, and a few volunteers, but Bolivar could not buy weapons in Jamaica. He was given enough support to sail for Cartagena in December; but on the way they learned that the city had fallen. So Bolivar went to independent Haiti, arriving at Port-au-Prince on the first day of 1816. The next day Bolivar met with republican Haiti's President Alexander Pétion, who promised him support provided that Bolivar agreed to free all the slaves in the countries he liberated and recognize Haiti. Pétion secretly arranged for Bolivar to get arms and ammunition, and the Curaçao merchant Luis Brion chartered a small fleet.
Many politicians and soldiers fleeing from Cartagena also arrived in Haiti. Bolivar called a meeting that included Mariño, Francisco Bermudez, Piar, Palacios, Brion, Louis Aury, Gregor MacGregor, Ducoudray-Holstein, and Francisco Antonio Zea. Bolivar proposed having one strong leader. Brion said his fleet could be used if it was Bolivar, and they agreed. However, Bermudez objected, and Aury ordered the schooner La Constitucion to attack Mexico; but this was cancelled by President Pétion. Personal conflicts led to four challenges to duels. Brion was appointed the first admiral and Zea the chief administrator of the new republic.
The fleet sailed on March 31, 1816 with 250 men but with arms for 6,000 and a printing press. Delays occurred while Bolivar waited for his mistress Josefina Machado to come aboard. On May 3 they overcame the Spanish ships blockading Margarita Island, where six months before, Arizmendi had overthrown the Spaniards. Next the patriots landed at Carupano, and Bolivar sent out troops under Carlos Soublette, Piar, and Mariño. Slaves were freed; but men between the ages of 14 and 60 had to join their army within 24 hours, or their families remained slaves. A price of 10,000 pesos was put on Bolivar's head. Spaniards expected him to attack them at the Orinoco River, but Bolivar headed for Caracas instead. Mariño and Piar went east to recruit support. The fleet landed at Ocumare in July. Morales attacked Soublette, and after a battle the patriots fled. The fleet left with tropical fruits they could sell at Curaçao. Bolivar received a report that Morales had taken Ocumare and took the last ship leaving. The report was false, and the officers remaining at Ocumare were soon captured by Morales along with a thousand guns and sixty thousand bullets that had been abandoned on the beach. At sea Bolivar persuaded a captain to take three ladies to St. Thomas. Mariño and Bermudez called Bolivar a deserter and traitor, and they claimed independent command of their army.
Bolivar returned to Port-au-Prince and was again supported by Pétion, who had just been elected president of Haiti for life. In September 1816 MacGregor led an army of 600 that doubled while marching to Barcelona, which he occupied after killing 600 Spanish troops. In October a war council organized by Piar appointed Bolivar commander-in-chief. Piar defended Barcelona from an attack by Morales, who suffered heavy losses and fled west. Bolivar sent Paez to liberate the Orinoco while he himself led a newly recruited army of only 700 that was defeated at Clarines and retreated to Barcelona. Piar had an army of 1,500 and went to the Orinoco to conquer Guayana. In January 1817 he refused to help Bolivar, who faced a royalist army of nearly 4,000 marching into Barcelona. Bolivar held out in the fortified monastery of St. Francis while the Spaniards entered the city in February. However, Mariño was coming with 1,200 men, and the Spanish army departed. This allowed Bolivar to move out to the Orinoco. In the Guayana province the Capucin monks were governing 7,000 Indians. Piar subjugated these missions and imprisoned the Spanish monks, and on April 12 he defeated a Spanish force under General La Torre that Morillo had sent to Angostura. Bolivar reached the northern shore of the Orinoco and ordered the monks to be sent deeper into the interior, but instead 22 friars were shot.
In Cariaco in May 1817 a few men organized a government with Mariño as commander-in-chief. However, several officers, including Urdaneta and Col. Antonio Jose de Sucre, left to serve Bolivar. With help from Brion's fleet, Bolivar occupied Angostura on July 18, and by August the Spaniards had evacuated the province of Guayana. Piar resented Bolivar's coming so far east and asked to be relieved of his post. Bolivar summoned Piar, and he was eventually arrested and charged with desertion, insurrection, and treason. A war council sentenced him to demotion and death. Bolivar overturned the demotion but allowed the execution. Mariño did respond to a summons from Bolivar, and the government was reunified. Jose Antonio Paez had won over many llaneros, who before had been fighting for Boves, by allowing them to plunder. Paez also put his army under Bolivar, who forbade mistreatment of the Indians. Confiscated property was distributed to the officers and men. Angostura (later called the City of Bolivar) was made the capital of the republic, and courts and municipal governments were established, protecting trade and river navigation. Bolivar addressed the new State Council on November 1, 1817 as the Liberator and Supreme Chief.
In February 1818 Morillo with an army half the size of Bolivar's kept the patriots from taking Calabozo, and the Spanish general refused to negotiate. Bolivar forbade the killing of prisoners. The next month Bolivar marched toward San Pablo without help from Paez. Morillo led fresh troops into battle, killing 800 while capturing 400 men and Bolivar's papers; but Spanish losses were also heavy, and Morillo was severely wounded by a spear in the abdomen. In April the Spanish captain Renovales led forty men who were mistakenly let into the patriots' camp and tried to assassinate Bolivar, but he escaped. The next month Bolivar took refuge in San Fernando, and he spent the second half of 1818 in Angostura.
Bolivar encouraged the recruiting of volunteers from Great Britain and Europe. The European wars had ended in 1815, and many soldiers and much equipment were unemployed. Luis Lopez Mendez acted as London agent for the Venezuelan Republic promising money for men and arms. He offered them a higher rank and reimbursement for their transportation, but he gave out so many promissory notes that he was put in debtors' prison. The British who joined Paez had to get their pay by plundering. Col. Wilson led an effort to make Paez commander of the army, and he was later found to be an agent provocateur sent by the Spanish government. Bolivar improved the training of his army by mixing the experienced Europeans with the Americans. About 150 volunteers arrived in the spring of 1818, and all together about four thousand Europeans would fight for American independence. Bolivar used a printing press they brought to publish the weekly Orinoco Post, which began on June 27, 1818. Bolivar wanted to block supplies coming to the royalists from New Granada and appointed Col. Santander commander of that region. General Renovales was a Spaniard who volunteered, and he commanded English volunteers; but he went over to the royalists. Bermudez was defeated in Rio Caribe in October, and Mariño lost 300 men in Cariaco in November.
In October 1818 the rules for a general election were announced. Only free men owning property or having a profession or an adequate salary could vote, and the elections were conducted by the military commanders. On February 15, 1819 at Angostura 26 elected delegates from Caracas, Barcelona, Cumana, Barinas, Guayana, and Margarita met as a Congress. Bolivar felt honored to call together a democratic assembly and said he was glad to hand over his power to a representational government. He wanted repeated elections and said, "Nothing is more perilous than to permit one citizen to retain power for an extended period."5 He also warned, "It is harder to maintain the balance of liberty than to endure the weight of tyranny."6 He recommended democracy even though history had few successful examples. He criticized the federal constitution of 1811 that was based on the United States Constitution, and he noted that Montesquieu had argued that "laws should be suited to the people." He wanted a strong presidency and a more centralized government. The three virtues he believed that government should maximize are happiness, social security, and political stability. Their South American revolution was a struggle for popular sovereignty, distribution of power, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, and the ending of monarchy and privileges.
Bolivar approved of the House of Representatives established by the constitution of 1811, but after the Senate was elected by the House he wanted it to be hereditary so that their sons could be educated for public service. Bolivar suggested that the soul of a republic is permeated by "love of country, love of law, and respect for magistrates." He wanted the president to supervise the administration and the judges in order to prevent abuses of the law. He said that popular education, morality, and enlightenment are the foundation of a republic. Bolivar asked for a fourth branch of government to regulate morals, like the ancient Roman censors. He felt personally obligated to abolish slavery and compensate the patriots for their losses. He promised that Venezuela would reject any foreign interference, and he proposed uniting Venezuela with New Granada as Colombia. Zea was provisionally elected president, and Bolivar handed over his power to him; but the next day the Congress elected Bolivar president and Zea vice president. Bolivar's secretary Luis Briceño Mendez was made minister of war, and Manuel Palacio Fajardo was appointed minister of state and treasury.
General Morillo had 7,000 men in his royal army in Calabozo. In the plains Bolivar's men set fire to the pampas grass and crops to starve the Spanish cavalry. On April 2, 1819 Paez lured Spanish cavalry to pursue his forces, which then turned and destroyed them, killing four hundred while losing only six men. These tactics reduced Morillo's army by half.
Morillo's cruel tactics of suppression made reconciliation difficult and revolution more likely. In March 1817 Viceroy Francisco Montalvo had reestablished the royal audiencia in New Granada. Montalvo resigned the next February, and Morillo appointed Juan Samano to replace him.
Bolivar held a council of war in May 1819 to plan the liberation of New Granada. He proposed leading his army of 3,000 across the Andes Mountains, but the destination was kept secret. They crossed ten large rivers during the rainy season and joined with Santander's army at Tame. On June 27 Santander led the advance guard that drove the Spaniards led by Col. Jose Barreiro from their fortified position. Bolivar's army lost hundreds of men and most of their horses climbing the mountains 5,000 meters high, but the difficult path they took was undefended. The oppressed people of New Granada welcomed them. Bolivar declared martial law and drafted all men able to fight. At Vargas Creek on July 25 Barreiro lost 500 men, Bolivar only 104. As Barreiro retreated, they entered Tunja on August 5. Two days later in a major battle at Boyaca the Americans captured 1,600 men including Barreiro and his staff from his army of 3,000 while only 13 republicans were killed. Most of those who surrendered enlisted in the republican army. Viceroy Samano fled from Bogota to Cartagena. Bolivar treated the prisoners well except he had Vinoni shot for his treason at Puerto Cabello in 1812. Bolivar entered Bogota on August 10 in triumph and found 500,000 pesos in cash and 100,000 in gold in the state treasury.
Bolivar allowed much of the government to remain in place; but he confiscated property of Spaniards who had supported the royal cause, and he demanded that the Church tithe to the state treasury. Santander warned him that the people were more outraged by the Spanish taxes than by their execution of five hundred patriots. Bolivar promised slaves freedom after they served two years in the army, arguing that their fighting for their freedom could diminish their dangerous numbers. The Bishop of Popayan called Bolivar a traitor and excommunicated everyone who supported his cause, but his army soon captured Popayan. Nine provinces in New Granada were liberated by October, and Bolivar appointed military governors in each one. Local mayors and judges remained, but Bolivar established an appellate court in Bogota. He provided education and assistance to orphans. General Francisco de Paula Santander was also a jurist from New Granada, and Bolivar made him his vice president to handle the administration. Bolivar offered Samano an exchange of prisoners but received no reply. He assigned Urdaneta's army of the north to defend New Granada on the border.
Meanwhile in Venezuela when Lt. Matthew Perry arrived in a warship in July, the acting president Zea paid the United States an indemnity for two warships that Brion had sunk. General Urdaneta appropriated scarce resources on Margarita Island and came into conflict with Arizmendi, who disobeyed Zea's orders and was imprisoned. Zea also relieved Mariño of his command. After heated debates in the Congress while Bolivar's fate was unknown, Arizmendi was elected vice president; he made Mariño commander-in-chief and arrested Urdaneta. Bolivar returned to the Angostura parliament on December 14 and announced that New Granada wanted to join with Venezuela to form Colombia. Arizmendi resigned. Plans were made to unify the republics of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. Parliament accepted a new covenant on December 17, 1819, and a new congress was scheduled to meet in Cucuta. Bolivar was unanimously elected president with Zea as his representative.
Bolivar went back to Bogota, and Santander called a meeting that unanimously accepted the unified government. Bolivar wanted the crimes of all parties punished so that justice and freedom could triumph. In the previous fall Santander had executed Barreiro and 38 Spanish officers for smuggling out subversive letters; an observer who protested that Bolivar had granted them reprieves was also shot. Bolivar reproached Santander for this because he now believed it hurt their cause.
Zea tried to get more loans in London and promised to pay all the debts, some of which were questionable. Bolivar asked the young General Sucre to purchase weapons, and he bought about 5,000 guns in the Antilles. In Europe the Spanish army rebelled on January 1, 1820 and demanded the Constitution of 1812, which Fernando VII accepted in May. Expeditionary forces planned for America were disbanded, and General Morillo was ordered to publish the Constitution and work for reconciliation. Bolivar used the opportunity to negotiate an armistice while royalists led by Col. Calzada marched toward Bogota and took Popayan. However, a few weeks later in July patriotic forces led by Manuel Valdes regained Popayan. Bolivar sent Mariano Montilla with Irish troops to liberate Santa Marta and Maracaibo. Montilla knew that the previous year after English soldiers had sacked Rio Hacha, the citizens had butchered all but 46 of the 300 English. The Irish were demanding better food and clothing; when Montilla did not allow them to plunder Rio Hacha in lieu of salaries, they mutinied and took ships to Jamaica. The royalist armies had mass desertions, and Bolivar offered Spanish officers promotions and even money to change sides. He occupied the border provinces of Mérida and Trujillo in early October, and Montilla took Santa Marta. Guayaquil in Ecuador declared its independence on October 9, 1820. A few Colombians led by three Venezuelan officers marched on Quito, but they were defeated at Huachi on November 22. The Peruvians had the leaders imprisoned.
An armistice for six months was signed on November 25, 1820 and two days later Bolivar met Morillo at Santa Ana. Sick and wounded prisoners were to be released, and others were exchanged by rank. Because the war was over opinions, those who changed sides were not to be executed. Morillo gave up his command of the army of 15,000 to La Torre and left America in December. Bolivar sent Sucre to Guayaquil to work for its annexation to Colombia, and he hoped that Valdes would take Quito. Urdaneta had been born in Maracaibo, and using money and a forged order from La Torre he got the garrison to leave the city during the armistice. Bolivar proposed a court of arbitration, but La Torre wanted Maracaibo back. The armistice ended a month early. Urdaneta liberated Coro on May 11; but after he left, the Coreans reverted to loyalty to Spain. Bermudez entered Caracas on May 14, but he lost it ten days later to Morales. Bolivar gathered his armies together and met La Torre's equal army of 6,000 on the plains of Carabobo on June 24. La Torre lost more than half his army and fled with Morales to Valencia as 2,000 surrendered. The remnant of the Spanish army retreated from Valencia to Puerto Cabello and Cumana. Bolivar wrote to La Torre in July to open negotiations so that they could relate as men and not as wild beasts in the detestable arena of mutual extermination. Bermudez besieged Cumana, which capitulated in September. Montilla had besieged Cartagena for 14 months, and it accepted his generous terms in October.
Bolivar was president of Colombia and appointed Soublette to govern Venezuela with Paez as chief general. Antonio Nariño was freed from a dungeon during the Spanish Revolution of 1820, and he led the effort in Cucuta that united the nineteen independent provinces of Colombia. The Constitution of Cucuta was signed on July 12, 1821 and called for a house of representatives elected for four years and senators with eight-year terms. The president was elected for four years and could only be re-elected once. The president had extraordinary powers only during the emergencies of war or internal rebellion. They anticipated that Ecuador would join the union and so placed the capital centrally at Bogota. Bolivar knew that freeing all slaves would antagonize landowners, but on July 19, 1821 the Congress declared free all Colombians born after that date. The head tax on Indians was also abolished. Bolivar was concerned that the commander-in-chief should not also administer justice; but he was persuaded to accept his unanimous election as president under the condition that he would be free to campaign for liberation in the south; he took the oath of office on October 3, 1821. They chose Santander instead of Nariño as vice president. Paez, Bermudez, and Mariño were appointed commanders in Venezuela.
In Ecuador the Spanish governor Melchor Aymerich defended Quito and had destroyed the revolutionary army from Guayaquil in November 1820. General Sucre brought a force of a thousand men to Guayaquil, and in May 1821 he made a friendship pact with their council. Aymerich sent an army of 3,000 royalists. At first Sucre's army defeated one division of them; but then they were routed, and Sucre escaped with only a hundred men. Sucre agreed to an armistice on November 21. General Juan de la Cruz Murgeon was appointed Spanish governor of New Granada and equipped an army of 800 men in Panama that landed in Ecuador and reached Quito on December 24.
Bolivar sent Miguel Santamaria to Mexico and Joaquin Mosquera to Peru, Chile, and Buenos Aires. He ordered General Montilla to invade Panama, where patriots revolted and declared independence on November 28, 1821. Bolivar headed south on December 13 and set up his headquarters at Cali in the Cauca Valley. He wanted every young man drafted into the army or his property confiscated. In March 1822 he crossed the valley of Patia with 3,000 men as thirty a day became ill. With his generals Manuel Valdes and Pedro Leon Torres they fought the royalists under Basilio Garcia at Bombona on April 7. Bolivar lost a third of his men in this bloody conflict. That month Sucre crossed the Cordilleras, and on May 24 they attacked Quito from Mt. Pichincha in the north. The patriots won, and Governor Aymerich surrendered. General Garcia heard this news and capitulated in Pasto on June 6 to Bolivar, who promised the royalists safety. Ten days later Bolivar reached Quito and appointed Sucre president.
An Argentine division had fought at Pichincha, and they hoped also to liberate Guayaquil; but Bolivar held them at Quito and sent his Colombian army to Guayaquil. Bolivar entered Guayaquil on July 12 and met San Martin on July 25. San Martin wanted a plebiscite to see if Guayaquil wanted to join Peru or Colombia. Bolivar agreed to send 1,800 men to help liberate Peru from the Spaniards. San Martin suggested that a European prince could govern America. Bolivar adamantly opposed that, though he wanted a president for life and a hereditary senate. They both wanted a federation of states in South America. After attending a celebration San Martin went back to his ship and departed. By the end of July the Guayaquil Council had voted to become part of the Colombian Republic. Bolivar believed that Colombia still needed his army to stay free. He traveled to Cuenca, Quito, and Pasto. Bolivar met his dearest mistress Manuela Saenz de Thorne at Quito. About this time he began to suffer from tuberculosis, which had killed his mother.
Pasto rebelled, and Sucre had to gather more forces to defeat them. All the fighting men who had supported the royalist cause were drafted into the army and had their property confiscated while the pro-Spanish clergy were marched to Quito prisons, many of them dying on the way. Bolivar approved these and other punishments that were brutally implemented at Pasto by General Bartolome Salom. In July 1823 Bolivar defeated the Pastusos led by the native Agualongo, killing 800 men as no quarter was given. Metal was banned from the region, and Salom defeated Agualongo's 1,500 Pastusos again in August; but they kept fighting back the rest of the year.
Colombian envoy Joaquin Mosquera had signed a treaty of perpetual union at Lima with San Martin's foreign minister Bernardo Monteagudo on July 6, 1822. After San Martin resigned and left Peru, the Congress appointed three men who fought each other. None wanted the troops that Bolivar had sent, and they returned to Guayaquil. In January 1823 at Torata and Moquehua the Spaniards led by generals Jose de Canterac and Jeronimo Valdes defeated the Peruvian army that San Martin had left under General Rudecindo Alvarado, who saved only 500 of his 4,000 men. After Jose de la Riva Aguero became president of Peru on February 27, he sent General Mariano Portocarrero to ask Bolivar for an expeditionary force to liberate Peru. On April 30 Bolivar learned that Morales was making headway in Maracaibo, Venezuela; but he capitulated in August, and the last Spanish garrison in Venezuela abandoned Puerto Cabello in November and went to Cuba. Bolivar promised the Peruvians 6,000 men, but the Colombian Congress did not give him permission to go. So he sent Sucre to command them in Lima; but he refused to accept command of the allies so that they would choose Bolivar. Spanish general Canterac led 7,000 royalists to the coast in June, and the Lima council evacuated the city. Canterac extorted much money by threatening to burn Lima and left the city in July. Sucre withdrew his Colombian army to the harbor at El Callao, where the Parliamentarians impeached President Riva Aguero and appointed Sucre commander-in-chief before taking their forces to Trujillo.
Bolivar received permission from Bogota to go in August, and in September his ship landed in Peru, where seven independent armies representing Peru, its Government, its Parliament, Buenos Aires, Chile, Guayaquil, and Colombia lacked unification. When Riva Aguero tried to convene the Parliament, the army broke it up. The Parliamentarians went back to Lima, proclaimed Riva Aguero a traitor, and elected the Marquis de Torre Tagle president of Peru on August 18, 1823. He welcomed Bolivar, and on September 10 the National Assembly gave Bolivar supreme authority with a salary of 50,000 pesos, which he declined. Riva Aguero called Bolivar a usurping tyrant and won over some officers and men. Bolivar gathered an army of 4,000 to confront Riva Aguero's 3,000. Bolivar persuaded Col. Antonio Gutierrez de la Fuente that Riva Aguero was a traitor, and La Fuente captured him in November. Bolivar felt he could not rely on the Chileans and Argentineans, but he persuaded Admiral George Guise to end his blockade and recognize the government in Lima. While Bolivar organized the revolution from Pativilca, he put Sucre in command at Lima. Torre Tagle sent home a Chilean contingent from El Callao, and Congress returned slaves taken into the army to their former owners. Bolivar recovered from a serious illness in early January 1824. The garrison at El Callao revolted for back pay and so that Argentineans and Chileans could go home. In February they released the Spanish prisoners. The Parliamentarians resigned and named Bolivar dictator of Peru before the royalists occupied Lima again.
Much silver had come out of the mines of Peru, and Bolivar confiscated church treasures to pay his soldiers; but the silver sold raised only 200,000 pesos. Bolivar had only one province while the royalists controlled the rest of Peru. Bolivar at Trujillo gathered all the tin and iron he could find to supply his army, and by April he had almost ten thousand men. Viceroy Jose de La Serna at Cuzco had an army of 12,000, which was mostly natives. General Pedro Antonio de Olañeta had an army of 4,000 men, but he rebelled against the Viceroy and proclaimed himself governor of the La Plata provinces. Bolivar divided his army into three parts to cross the Andes in July, and reunited at Pasco he reviewed 6,000 Colombians and 3,000 Peruvians. He said they were saving the world from slavery, and he declared freedom in America the hope of the world. They met the army of Canterac on August 6, 1824, and in the cavalry battle no guns were fired. The royalists had 400 killed and fled in disorder while the patriots lost 120 men.
On October 24 the Colombian Parliament rescinded Bolivar's authority as commander of the Colombian army; but he was replaced by Sucre, who was loyal to the liberator. The climactic battle for Peru came on December 9 at Ayacucho. Sucre had 5,780 men against the 9,310 of Viceroy La Serna; but before the battle a few relatives and friends from the opposing sides were allowed to talk, and the royalists believed that the patriots were more determined to fight. La Serna had nearly 2,000 killed and 700 wounded, while Sucre lost only 300 killed and 70 wounded. La Serna was taken prisoner, and Canterac surrendered along with 583 officers and 2,000 soldiers. After three centuries Peru had been liberated from Spanish rule.
The commander at El Callao refused to capitulate, and Bolivar besieged the garrison for more than a year. He resigned his presidency of Colombia on December 22. Two days later Sucre entered Cuzco, and in January 1825 he went after Olañeta's army. His nephew Casimiro Olañeta changed sides and persuaded Sucre to declare Upper Peru an independent nation on February 9. The next day the National Assembly of Peru met in Lima and renewed Bolivar's dictatorship for another year. The Congress offered him a million pesos, which he declined; later he suggested that it be contributed to the reconstruction of Caracas. Bolivar appointed Jose de la Mar president and the Peruvians Hipolito Unanue and Jose Sanchez Carrion as councilors to administer the government, but the Colombians Tomas de Here and Jose Gabriel Perez were resented. The liberators had become troops of occupation. On March 10 the Congress of Peru dissolved itself before Bolivar left for the south.
General Sucre entered La Paz on February 20, 1825 and in March he captured all the Spanish generals except Olañeta, who was mortally wounded in April before Sucre reached Potosi. Bolivar was taken aback at first by Sucre's political initiatives in Upper Peru; but after the young general offered to resign, the liberator confirmed his accomplishments. Bolivar arrived at Arequipa in May and called together the deputies of Upper Peru's legislature. Next he went to Cuzco. On August 6 the deputies in Chuquisaca declared their independence and named their new nation Bolivar (which later became Bolivia). The capital Chuquisaca was renamed Sucre. When clergy in the La Paz cathedral offered the liberator a crown, he passed it to Sucre, who also declined. Bolivar visited Potosi, and in October he met with a delegation from Argentina, which in May had accepted Bolivar's authority to settle the boundary dispute between Argentina and the province that became Bolivia. Bolivar established local and appellate courts and promised new laws. The state abolished Indian tribute and the consumer taxes of the Spanish regime and confiscated abandoned mines. They converted clerical revenues for education and established orphanages, hospitals, and schools. Bolivar put his old tutor Simon Rodriguez in charge of education. In the fall of 1825 Paez wrote to Bolivar about making him an emperor; but the liberator wrote back that he considered this plan inappropriate, and he reminded his general that the Constitution of Colombia could not be amended until 1831.
The last Spanish garrison in South America surrendered El Callao in January 1826. Bolivar delegated his authority in Bolivia to Sucre. Bolivar was back in Lima by February, and a conspiracy against him was discovered and crushed. As Dictator he settled a conflict between the deputies and the Supreme Court of Peru in favor of the latter who took his side. When his military power was resented, Bolivar threatened to resign. Fear that this would throw Peru back into anarchy caused 42 deputies to petition for an adjournment of Parliament. In May the National Assembly of Bolivia asked Bolivar for a constitution. He proposed a government with four branches that added the elective to the legislative, executive, and judicial. One out of every ten citizens would be chosen as electors, who would vote for the other offices. The three-part legislature was made up of tribunes with four-year terms, senators elected for eight years, and censors serving for life. The president was elected for life and was to choose his vice president who would succeed him. Slavery and the entailment of property were abolished in order to break up the large estates. This Bolivian Constitution was adopted in July, and Sucre was elected president for life. Also in July a conspiracy to assassinate Bolivar and expel the Colombians was discovered in Peru. Several officers were imprisoned and exiled, and one man was executed. The government of Peru expelled all the Chileans and Argentineans, making Bolivar more unpopular.
Meanwhile in 1824 the Colombian Congress had levied an army of 50,000 men to deter Spanish expeditions. The government was organized into departments, provinces, and cantons. They passed laws to protect private correspondence and residences from unwarranted government intrusion. Some talented literary men founded the newspaper La Miscelanea in September 1825, and later they edited La Bandera Tricolor, which opposed Paez.
In December 1824 Bolivar, as head of the government of Peru, had sent official invitations to the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Chile, and Guatemala to meet in Panama. The deputies from Peru arrived in June 1825, and the Colombians came six months later; but those from Guatemala did not get there until March 1826, and the conference began in June after the delegates from Mexico arrived. By July 15 the conference was over. The delegate sent by the United States had died on the way, and his replacement arrived too late. The four nations signed a treaty of confederation with a convention for common defense, and they promised to meet in alternate years in time of peace and annually during war. The next meeting was to be in the Mexican city of Tacubaya. Bolivar did not like the military agreement nor the shift to Mexico, and he opposed ratification by Peru and Colombia.
Bolivar began to push for a Federation of the Andes which would include three states from Colombia and three states from Peru and Bolivia. Bolivar wanted Peru to adopt a Bolivian constitution, and they did so by a plebiscite in August 1826. Bolivar was also elected president for life, and after declining he was persuaded by the ladies of Lima to accept. Now he hoped that a Bolivian constitution would be accepted in Colombia, Argentina, and Chile.
The Republic of Colombia had adopted free trade, and French and English products caused many local bankruptcies. Roads and transportation were so bad that coastal regions could buy North American flour cheaper than Colombian flour. General taxes on population replaced the customs duties and caused financial stagnation. People generally thought of Venezuela and Caracas as a barracks for soldiers, Colombia and Bogota as a university for lawyers, and Ecuador and Quito as a monastery for priests. A major conflict developed between General Paez of Venezuela and Vice President Santander in Colombia.
In 1824 the African Col. Leonardo Infante, a brave warrior who was feared because of his violence, was convicted on circumstantial evidence of a murder. He claimed he was innocent, but based on a majority vote of the Supreme Court in Bogota he was executed without receiving a commutation by Santander, who was his personal enemy. The mulatto judge Miguel Peña would not sign the sentence and was suspended. Santander charged Peña with shady dealings; Peña refused the summons and fled to Valencia in his native Venezuela. General Paez decreed a draft of all men between the ages of 16 and 50 into the militia in order to suppress the roving bands plundering the country around Caracas. Late in 1825 the Caracas commander warned Paez of a Negro uprising in the city. In January 1826 Paez ordered troops to round up men in the streets, and General Juan Escalona sent a report to Bogota accusing Paez of brutality. The Colombian Congress suspended Paez and replaced him with Escalona. Agitators persuaded Paez to disobey these orders from Santander, and he wrote to Bolivar to come quickly to prevent a civil war. Valencia and the provinces of Caracas, Carabobo, and Apure supported Paez. Santander also wrote to Bolivar that he was desperately needed.
At first Bolivar sent his aide Daniel Florencio O'Leary to Bogota and Caracas. In September 1826 Bolivar left most of his Colombian army in Bolivia and Peru, where they were increasingly unpopular, and went north. In Quito he heard complaints about taxation and from those in the army. He reached Bogota in November, and he took over unlimited executive power under the constitutional provision during internal rebellion. Bolivar explained his Federation of the Andes and used his diplomatic skill with both Santander and Paez, who called an assembly to write a constitution for Venezuela. However, Puerto Cabello under Bolivar's relative Briceño Mendez remained loyal to Colombia even when besieged by Paez. Bolivar proclaimed an amnesty for the Venezuelan rebels on January 1, 1827 and told Paez he could remain supreme leader of Venezuela if he recognized Bolivar's authority as President and Liberator and promised to obey his orders. Paez accepted and abandoned the national assembly. They entered Caracas in triumph.
Bolivar criticized Santander for greed and dishonesty, and the Vice President reluctantly promised to institute reforms. Liberal newspapers supported Santander and condemned the Federation of the Andes with its lifetime presidency. Santander advocated New Granada becoming independent of Venezuela. Col. Jose Bustamente ordered Venezuelan officers in Lima arrested, and the division returned to Colombia. Bolivar's mistress Manuela Saenz in a colonel's uniform had tried to rouse the Bolivarian troops, but she was arrested and put in a convent. She and the Venezuelan officers were shipped to Guayaquil. Peru abrogated its Bolivian constitution and elected Andres Santa Cruz president. The Peruvians even moved toward annexing Guayaquil and Ecuador. Santander celebrated Bustamente's mutiny by having bells rung. Bolivar offered to resign the presidency of Colombia in February 1827, and Santander and his party demanded that he do so; the next month Bolivar renounced his friendship with Santander. The treasury was empty; credit was exhausted; and soldiers and officials were suffering starvation. Bustamente invaded Guayaquil, and the Peruvian general La Mar was put in charge. General Juan Jose Flores persuaded officers that Bustamente was a traitor and had him arrested. In late September 1827 Flores marched into Guayaquil with a Colombian army and declared it under Colombian law.
Bolivar left Caracas for Bogota. The Bogota garrison petitioned for maintaining the Colombian Constitution, but Bolivar got the garrisons of Maracaibo and Cartagena to demand a Bolivian constitution. Bolivar told the Parliament in Bogota that if they reduced the army, he would not accept the presidency. Bolivar took the oath of office, and in his speech he called for a National Assembly to consider a new constitution. The Congress of Peru voted for the Colombian army that had liberated their country at Ayacucho one million pesos from the five million that Sucre borrowed from England, and according to Heres the soldiers received one and a half million.
Captain Valentin Matos attempted to assassinate Sucre in Bolivia, but Sucre commuted his death sentence to exile and even gave him 200 pesos of his own money. Simon Rodriguez caused so much resentment that Sucre dismissed him. Mutinies were occurring in Peru and Bolivia. Agustin Gamarra hated Bolivar for having had an affair with his wife, and he instigated a rebellion in December 1827. A battalion at La Paz mutinied and got 40,000 pesos from the Prefect, but they were exterminated by a larger force on their way to Lima. Sucre suppressed the insurgents; but on April 18 the Chuquisaca garrison cheering Gamarra mutinied and with muskets wounded Sucre in the arm as he rode by their barracks. Peruvian forces crossed the border and compelled the state of Bolivia to expel all Colombians.
Bolivar authorized Montilla to take command of Cartagena in an emergency, and on March 5, 1828 he did so. Admiral Jose Padilla, who was a zambo (African-Indian) and supported Santander, went to Mompox. O'Leary advised Padilla to write to Bolivar, who wanted to appoint him commandant at Pasto; but Padilla retuned to Cartagena, where Montilla had him arrested and sent to Bogota for trial. The district of Cartagena included the city of Ocaña, where a convention would begin in April to revise Colombia's constitution. After his aide William Fergusson disrupted the satirical paper El Zurriago, the next day the paper published the headline "El incombustible." Bolivar took power in the region except in Ocaña. In the Colombian election for the convention Bolivar prohibited officers and himself from campaigning. Santander did participate and won nearly a majority of the delegates. Meanwhile gangs armed by Spaniards from Puerto Rico were ravaging the plains around Caracas. Commander Paez responded by having insurgent leaders shot while pardoning their followers, but the uprisings spread to the Orinoco, Barinas, Coro, Guayana, and Cumana. Again Bolivar invoked his emergency powers under Article 128 of the Constitution, and he decreed that special courts could try traitors. He appointed Soublette and Urdaneta to support him.
Bolivar sent a written message that was read at the opening of the National Assembly at Ocaña in which he asked for a strong and efficient government that could protect freedom. Santander got Dr. Peña expelled because of his unresolved embezzlement charge. A motion to invite Bolivar to the Convention was defeated. Bolivar sent his aide O'Leary to represent him and advised him to seek a Bolivian constitution without any compromises. Bolivar's supporters withdrew from the Convention in early June, and three days later they published the Manifesto to the Colombian People. The rump Convention no longer had a quorum, but they elected Santander their leader and made secret plans. On June 13 the Governor of Cundinamarca and its Council met with people in the plaza of Bogota to disavow the Convention and give power to Bolivar. Eleven days later Bolivar was welcomed back to Bogota with cheers and assumed his office in the presence of the Governor, his officials, and the Supreme Court. His dictatorial power was supported by the loyal generals Urdaneta, Mariño, Paez, Soublette, Arizmendi, Flores, Cordoba, Montilla, Bermudez, and Salom. Bolivar increased the army to 40,000. His "Organic Decree" of August 27 proclaimed him President-Liberator; the vice presidency was abolished, and a state council was to preserve civil rights. Bolivar was to have power until another National Assembly met in 1830.
However, many of Bolivar's leading officers were Europeans and were resented by the people. His living openly with his eccentric mistress Manuela in the presidential palace was also unpopular. A committee of seven plotted to assassinate Bolivar so that Vice President Santander could take over the government. Bolivar wanted Santander out of the country, and on September 5 he appointed him ambassador to the United States. Santander knew of the conspiracy and asked them to wait until he left Colombia, but on September 25 Captain Triana got drunk and exposed the plot. Col. Guerra had his aide Major Carujo call a meeting at the house of Vargas Tejada, and that night three groups formed. One group went to the palace of San Carlos at midnight. Manuela helped Bolivar escape out the window and delayed the assassins. Fergusson approached despite her warning, and Carujo killed him. Bolivar hid under a bridge with a servant until his forces had taken control. Once again Bolivar wanted to resign, but he was persuaded to assert his power. Padilla and fourteen of the conspirators were executed, but Santander had his sentence commuted to exile. Then Bolivar granted a general amnesty. Masonic lodges were closed, and liberal aspects of education were curtailed.
When the Bolivian Congress convened on August 3, 1828, Sucre resigned and went into retirement at Quito. The Peruvian government sent Jose de Villa as ambassador to Bogota, and he repudiated Peru's treaties and debt to Colombia for aiding their liberation. Colombia then broke diplomatic relations with Lima. President La Mar began mobilizing the army of Peru, but his cabinet persuaded him not to resort to war. La Mar had 4,000 troops on the border of Ecuador, and the Peruvian fleet blockaded Colombia's Pacific ports in October; but Peru suffered a major blow when Admiral Guise was killed during an attack on Guayaquil in November. Col. Jose Maria Obando and Lt. Col. Jose Hilario Lopez plundered the Cauca Valley, and at Pasto they recruited 300 Indians. Obando wrote to La Mar, offering him an alliance against Bolivar.
Bolivar put Sucre in charge of the southern war and sent General Jose Maria Cordoba ahead to drive the rebels out of Popayan. The Peruvian army of 8,400 men held Guayaquil and occupied Cuenca. Bolivar promoted Mosquera over the more experienced Cordoba. Disregarding the advice of Sucre and Cordoba not to march to Guayaquil during the rainy season, Bolivar lost many men on this expedition. Sucre had only 6,000 men, but on February 27, 1829 O'Leary led a cavalry charge with 1,500 Colombians against 5,000 Peruvians and prevailed. In this battle of Tarqui 1,500 soldiers were killed, and more than a thousand were wounded, captured, or missing. The next day La Mar signed the Treaty of Giron that guaranteed Colombia's territorial integrity and awarded them modest reparations. Bolivar, not knowing the results of this battle, negotiated with Obando, promoting him to general and exempting Pastusos from military service for a year. La Mar gave orders not to evacuate Guayaquil; but he was deposed in June by a revolution in Lima led by General Antonio Gutierrez de la Fuente on behalf of Gamarra, who ratified the Giron Treaty, signed an armistice, and let the Colombian army occupy Guayaquil. Sucre opposed the war with Peru, and Bolivar criticized him for the generous terms he gave them in the treaty.
In June 1829 a meeting of officials, officers, and clergy in Bogota agreed to let Bolivar remain president for life and then replace him with a French prince. Venezuelans led by Paez, Soublette, and Peña used this as a reason to revolt against the Colombian union. General Cordoba resigned and joined the liberals, and with 300 volunteers he tried to overthrow Bolivar in his province of Antioquia; but General Urdaneta sent O'Leary with a force that defeated and killed Cordoba on October 17, 1829. Bolivar wrote and published his anonymous "View of Spanish America" in Quito and concluded pessimistically,
There is no good faith in America,
nor among the nations of America.
Treaties are scraps of paper; constitutions printed matter;
elections, battles; freedom, anarchy; and life, a torment.
Such, Fellow-Americans, is our deplorable situation.
Unless we change it, death is to be preferred.7
Bolivar blamed the ministers for their monarchist scheme, and his Colombian cabinet resigned. In 1830 Bolivar returned to Bogota and selected a new cabinet. On January 20 Colombia's third constitutional convention elected Sucre president and the bishop of Santa Marta vice president, pleasing Bolivar who wanted the support of the Church and Sucre to succeed him. That day Bolivar spoke to the Congress about the challenge they faced.
Arduous and great is the task of creating a nation
out of a people emerging from oppression
through the path of anarchy and civil war,
a people lacking the necessary preparation
with which to profit from the salutary reforms
to which they aspire.
You will learn much from the study of our history,
and much from an investigation of our needs,
but more convincing still will be the cries of the people
against the woes that they suffer
because of the lack of established order and freedom.8
He concluded that they needed a thorough reorganization because "Justice demands codes capable of protecting the rights and the honor of free men.9
Bolivar withdrew from power in March by naming Domingo Caicedo provisional president. Caicedo lifted the press restrictions that Bolivar had imposed in 1828, and liberal newspapers began attacking Bolivar. Regiments on the coast deserted, and the commanding officer put himself under Paez. Bolivar proposed a war on the Venezuelan secessionists, but most believed the war would be unpopular and that Venezuelan independence should be accepted. Nevertheless he organized two divisions under O'Leary and the Swede Friedrich de Adlercreutz. Some in the latter's division mutinied and went over to Paez, who called for a Venezuelan constitutional convention in April.
Bolivar made his farewell speech in Bogota on April 27. A week later a new constitution was accepted for Colombia, and the Congress elected Joaquin Mosquera president. Bolivar was exiled and voted an annual pension of 30,000 pesos, but the treasury was empty; he sold jewelry and horses to raise 17,000 pesos. On May 13 General Flores declared Ecuador independent. Three days after the liberal newspaper El Democrata reported that Obando may do to Sucre what they had failed to do to Bolivar, Sucre was murdered on June 4 while returning from Bogota to Quito. Manuela Saenz in Bogota tried to organize a movement to return Bolivar to power with Urdaneta and other veterans. The Venezuelan Congress sent a message to the Congress of Colombia that they would enter into relations with them only if Bolivar left the country. In mid-August Col. Jimenez led rebel forces into Bogota and demanded that Urdaneta be made minister of war. President Mosquera tried to negotiate and then sent a force against the rebels that was defeated. Mosquera capitulated and agreed to banish fourteen Santanderists from the September 1828 assassination attempt. Mosquera and Vice President Caicedo resigned on September 4, and the next day the municipal council of Bogota had Urdaneta sworn in as head of the government. Some cities proclaimed Bolivar president. He was pleased, but he realized that humans are unfortunate in never being satisfied. A commission was sent to Bolivar in Cartagena. He considered this anarchy and refused to return unless he was popularly elected. Now he condemned insurrections and even deplored their own insurrection against the Spaniards.
Bolivar's tuberculosis became worse. In his last written address to the Colombians he hoped that his death would contribute to the ending of factions so that the union of Colombia would be consolidated. On December 11 Bolivar wrote to General Justo Briceño urging him to be reconciled with Urdaneta and to support the present government of Colombia. He advised that only by suppressing their personal feelings could their friends "save Colombia from anarchy." Bolivar died on December 17, 1830 one hour after noon, exactly eleven years to the hour after he had signed the covenant for a united Colombia. In 1829 he had made the following prophecy:
I have achieved no other good than independence.
That was my mission.
The nations I have founded will,
after prolonged and bitter agonies,
go into eclipse, but will later emerge
as states of the one great republic, AMERICA.10
1. Memories of General Daniel Florencio O'Leary quoted
in Bolivar by Salvador de Madariaga, p. 65.
2. O'Leary, Vol. 13, p. 589 quoted in Simon Bolivar by Gerhard Masur, p. 237.
3. Selected Writings of Bolivar tr. Lewis Bertrand, Volume 1, p. 105.
4. Ibid., p. 116.
5. Ibid., p. 175.
6. Ibid., p. 178.
7. Ibid., Volume 2, p. 747.
8. Ibid., Volume 2, p. 749.
9. Ibid., Volume 2, p. 755.
10. Quoted in Simon Bolivar by Gerhard Masur, p. 698.