Bolivar, deserted by fortune, found himself obliged to beat a retreat once more. He took refuge in Jamaica.
Continuing Bolivar and South American Independence,
our selection from Histoire de l’Amerique du sud depuis la conquete fusqu’a nos jours. by Alfred Deberle published in 1876. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Bolivar and South American Independence.
Place: South America
At first Morillo appeared to be animated by paciﬁc intentions, but almost immediately, yielding to the suggestions of Morales, he gave orders that with respect to the rebels “all considerations of humanity” should be set aside. Summary executions, whole sale deportations, imprisonments, forced contributions, and sequestration of property began everywhere. In the meantime the patriots were masters of the plain, which they defended with fierce obstinacy. After an important victory at Puente (February 16, 1816) Morillo allowed himself to be defeated by Urdaneta and Torrices, his position becoming very critical for a time. Five hundred Spaniards went over to the patriots; the corsairs captured his convoys, blowing up one of his ships; Brion, that rich Dutch merchant of Cartagena whom Caracas had made captain of a frigate and afterward an admiral, brought to Bolivar Marilio and fifteen hundred resolute men, with one thousand negroes furnished by Pétion.
Morillo’s bad faith, his tyrannical measures, and his inhuman proceedings threw into the ranks of the rebellion very many men who were convinced that the capitulations and promises of par don were nothing more than deceptions. A good example of this is what occurred in Bogota, which opened its gates to the Royalists after a formal treaty in which the most complete amnesty was ac corded to the inhabitants; a treaty that Morillo did not hesitate to violate by executing Torres, Lozano, Torrices, Cabal, Pombo, Caldas, and two hundred other patriots, exiling their families and confiscating their property. This man, endowed with incontestable military qualities, was nevertheless very far from having those necessary for pacifying a country. By exasperating the vanquished he rendered their submission impossible; and to him alone, who came to reconquer America, must his country impute its loss. He believed in the efficiency of the odious and arbitrary measures adopted by him, the execution of which he had in trusted to a permanent council of war, a council of purification, a committee of sequestrations, and courts-martial.
As we have said before, the Spanish flag floated over all the territory of Nueva Granada, and this fortunate success blinded Morillo, who, exaggerating his power and considering it as stable as it was invincible, was preparing to carry his system of terror to Peru. Bolivar undertook to dissipate his illusions. Having secretly set sail from Cayes, he put himself at the head of an expedition composed of two ships of war and thirteen transports, fitted out for the most part at the expense of Brion. On May 2d Brion defeated the Spanish flotilla, taking two vessels; on the 3d Bolivar disembarked on the island of Margarita, which had fallen into the hands of the mulatto Arismendi, and the insurgents, in a general assembly four days later, proclaimed the Republic of Venezuela, one and indivisible, and Bolivar head of the same. Arismendi presented to the Dictator a gold-headed cane, “emblem of the supreme authority in a country that can bend under the blast of adversity, but never break.”
The Scotchman, Macgregor, at the head of six hundred men was ordered to go to the succor of Mariﬁo and Piar, who were holding out in Guiana, while Paez, taking the province of Apure as the base of his operations, ejected Morillo from it. The Indian Paez, who had passed his youth among the llaneros, proposed to draw his old companions from the reactionary party, uniting them to the cause of independence; a thing that was not difficult for him inasmuch as the Spanish Government, proceeding with the greatest ingratitude and thinking they had no further need of their services, had contemptuously disbanded them without giving them the slightest remuneration. They passed over, then, to serve the cause of the revolution, of which they were the most efficacious instruments. Paez, by his loyal and generous character, had become the idol of these untamed natures. The brave deeds of Paez, as numerous as they are surprising, are those of a legendary hero; it is asserted that he repulsed the Spanish infantry by letting wild oxen loose against them; that he arrested pursuit by setting fire to the steppes; that he seized the Royalist gunboats in the waters of the Apure by swimming; that with his terrible lance he killed as many as forty enemies in the fight, and when he fell upon a flying division he completed the rout by his powerful voice and the fear that he inspired. Endowed with herculean strength and unconquerable energy, he took part in the amusements and the dangers of his men. At the head of the ferocious llaneros of the plains of the Apure, he began those brilliant exploits that were later to make him the terror of the Spanish armies.
Bolivar, deserted by fortune, found himself obliged to beat a retreat once more. He took refuge in Jamaica, where his life was seriously threatened by the poniards of the Royalists; but nothing could abate his courage; active, resolute, and fertile in resources, the moment had arrived when after having fallen to the bottom of the abyss he was to rise and issue from it. The disobedience of some chiefs, his rivals, had been very fatal to the cause of independence and would have been much more so if on their part the Spanish chiefs had not been so divided, since Morrillo had taken the extreme step of arresting two general officers, Morales and Real. After many conferences, Arismendi, Via, Paez, Rojas, Monagas, Sedeno, and Bermudez agreed to recognize him as generalissimo. He called together a general congress in the island of Margarita, and the provisional government, of which he took the direction with the title of “President of the Republic of Venezuela,” was established in Barcelona; but some months later, after sanguinary combats, this city was recovered by the Royalists (April 7, 181 7), who in a short time were once again masters of almost all the coast.
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