This series has seven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Revolutions Begin in South America.
Three great periods have been marked in the history of the South American countries—that of discovery and conquest, chiefly by Spain and Portugal; that of colonization; and the period of revolution in which the Spanish colonies became independent. In these colonies the kings of Spain at first established a single viceroyal government, that of Peru. Later, separate viceroys were sent to New Granada and Buenos Aires, and captains-general to Caracas (Venezuela) and Chile. These governments were despotisms modeled on that of Madrid, but administered with colonial license and caprice.
The population included European Spaniards; their children born in America, who were called creoles; mestizos, children of mixed blood, white and Indian; mulattoes, children of European and negro parentage; zambos, children of negroes and Indians; African negroes, and the native Indians. This admixture of races led to social jealousies and class hatred, which complicated political troubles whenever they arose. The European Spaniards, there as elsewhere, looked with contempt upon the creoles, who returned the feeling with violent animosity. The native Indians were mere slaves under the other classes, and subject to outrageous abuse. The native Indians were mere slaves under the other classes, and subject to outrageous abuse.
By a policy of ruinous imposts, oppression, and violence, the Spanish kings at last wore out the patience of their South American colonists. Not only were the persecuted Indians provoked to open mutiny; the creoles also rebelled; and when at last, early in the nineteenth century, the rapacious rulers sought to save themselves by some show of reform, they found that they were too late. The Revolution of the United States and that of France had had their influence upon the intelligent patriots of South America, and the work of deliverance was soon to begin. In i808 Napoleon set his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, upon the Spanish throne, and while the latter, during his short-lived rule, was vainly endeavoring to cope with insurrection in Spain, the South American colonies continued their revolutionary preparations.
For the history of South America, from its discovery to the early 20th. century, there is no authority to be preferred to Débérle, whose work, from which the following narrative is taken, is based upon those of the best previous authors, and verified from authentic documents — many of them never before published — in archives and public and private libraries, in America and Spain
This selection is 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.
Place: Quito, Ecuador
The third period of the history of the South American colonies, in relation to their respective mother-countries, we may say begins for the Spanish possessions with the events in Caracas and Buenos Aires (1810), and for the Portuguese with the “declaration of independence” of Brazil, which was converted in 1822 into a constitutional empire.
To the cruelty of the conduct of Spain at the end of the eighteenth century, and to her obstinate persistence in refusing to listen to counsels that would have been profitable to her, may be attributed the fact that the idea of an insurrection spread everywhere. It soon became general, and seems fully justifiable on the impartial ground of history.
The revolution in Spain itself brought matters to a head. The Spanish people had dethroned the feeble Carlos IV (1808), that King who, occupying himself only in the pleasures of the chase and the care of his stables, had placed all his authority in the hands of Godoy. When Ferdinand VII, the evil son of an imbecile father, assumed the crown of Spain, numerous quarrels broke out between these degenerate Bourbon kings whose influence Napoleon was, at the same time, endeavoring to undermine at all costs. Determining causes of the rupture with the South Americans may also be found in the imprisonment of the unfortunate Bourbons at Valengay; in their exchanging their rights for certain pensions; in the imposition of the Napoleonic dynasty, and the want of tact of the political parties who were disputing for power. All these facts gave the colonies a secret right, as it were, to rebel against the mother-country and throw off what to them was equivalent to the heavy yoke of slavery. South Americans would no longer participate in the fate of conquered Spain, which, even in the midst of her misfortunes, endeavored to exact from them a strict obedience. They could not know whom to obey, since decrees and proclamations arrived simultaneously from Carlos IV, Ferdinand VII, and even from the puppet king, Joseph Bonaparte; neither could they tell which junta to respect, since they received, in addition to these, conflicting orders from those of Cadiz, Seville, and Asturias, each claiming to be the only legitimate source of authority; and, at the same time, they received orders from the Council of Regency. A ray of hope was seen in this kind of anarchy, and the idea of independence began to germinate in the minds of the colonists.
The movement, begun in 1809 at Quito, in the northwest of the Department of Ecuador, in the Province of Colombia, was repressed for the time — two of its promoters having paid for it with their lives — but a year had not elapsed before it was success fully carried out.
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