Simon Bolivar (1783-1830): “Slavery is the worst human indignity”. Biography
Simon Bolivar (1783-1830): “Slavery is the worst human indignity”.
Biography of a leader who freed Latin America from Spanish colonial power
Before Simon Bolivar freed all of Latin America in 1826 from Spanish colonialism, many revolutions in this continent preceded him and few were successful.
Already Independent Haiti re-armed and supported two expeditionary attempts by Simon Bolivar. The second landing in Venezuela secured the success of the revolution.
Toussaint L’ Ouverture (1743-1803) was a Haitian mulatto who became a general in the French army during Napoleon; he was sent to the island of Haiti/Dominican to dislodge the Spanish troops. He did the job and then revolted against the French troops in the island to free the slaves and install an autonomous regime. He sent Napoleon a respectful letter in 1801 declaring a new Constitution to Haiti and the wish to stay part of French protectorate.
The constitution written by Toussaint stated that f
1. “there cannot exist slaves on the territory of Haiti”;
2. “slavery is abolished and all men, regardless of color of skin, are born, live, and die free men”;
3. “Any man is admissible to all kinds of jobs and employment”; and
4. “The constitution guarantees liberty and security to all citizens”.
Napoleon responded to the letter by dispatching an expeditionary force. Toussaint was made prisoner and died in a prison in the Jura region in France.
In 1802, a lieutenant to Toussaint, Jean-Jacque Dessalines defeated the French troops in “La Verriere” and was appointed Emperor to the Haiti Empire. The new constitution of 1805 stated that
1. “The people living in the island decided to live in a free State, sovereign, and independent of any foreign powers”;
2. “Slavery is abolished and no white individual will be permitted to own properties as master”; and
3. “Every citizen will be called Black regardless of the color of his skin and will enjoy the same equal citizenship rights”. That was the first time that Negro or “negritude” was advanced as a culture.
In 1801, local militants in Guadeloupe pressured the French General Lacross to return to France because he discriminated against colored officers in the army. Louis Delgres (1766-1802) led an insurrection in the island of Guadeloupe but refrained to go on the offensive to keep peace with France. The declaration of emancipation stated:
“Citizens of Guadeloupe; we are revolting as one people regardless of color of our skin. Resistance to oppression is a natural right. Even divinity cannot be offended that we are defending a rightful cause: justice and humanity to all. We will refrain to soil our cause by crimes. Our forces are to defend your life, properties, and children by all means. And you, posterity! Accord us a tear to our miseries and we will die satisfied”
As Bolivar was born in the valley of Aragua (Venezuela), Spain was controlling south America with the exception of Brazil that was a Portuguese colony.
In the 15th century, the Pope of Rome mediated between the two monarchs of Portugal and Spain and divided the world into two parts for colonization: West and East. Brazil was within the Easter part to belong to Portugal that started colonizing the world 50 years before Christopher Columbus discovered Americas at the sold of the Spanish monarchs.
Spain divided south America into four regions headed by viceroys appointed by the monarch: New Spain (current Mexico), New Grenada (Colombia, Equator, Panama, and Venezuela), Peru, and Rio Plata (Argentina and Uruguay).
Up north, the same year Bolivar was born, 13 colonies of the USA won their independence.
In 1789, Joachim Jose Da Siva Javier demands the independence of Brazil. The French Revolution has started. Bolivar, the fourth new-born is breast-fed by the slave Hipolita.
In 1792, Bolivar is orphaned at the age of nine: His mother died of tuberculosis. His uncle appoints Simon Carreno (a freemason) to educate him for two years, before Bolivar is sent to the academy preparing Spanish officers; he graduates at the age of 15 as Lieutenant of the white volunteer militias in Aragua: His father was colonel before he died. Bolivar’s uncle sent him on a long trip to Europe in 1799. Bolivar witnesses the poor conditions of rural Spain but is impressed by Paris and Napoleon and starts to appreciating Republican regimes.
Bolivar returns to Madrid and fall in love with Maria Theresa; they got married in 1802. He is 19 and she is 21. They reach Caracas in 1803.
Simon decided for a settled life-style, as his father, and take care of the vast plantation. History changed when his wife died of fever 4 months later. Bolivar is back to Europe. He meets the geographer Alexander of Humboldt who had crisscrossed south America and explored the Andes mountain chains. Humboldt told Bolivar that south America is ripe for independence and what it lacks is a leader. Bolivar had the privilege of assisting to the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor in 1804.
Bolivar is in Italy with his former preceptor Carreno. The anecdote goes that while on the Palatine Hill in Rome Bolivar swore: “On my honor, I will never find rest until the Spanish chains are broken in Venezuela“. Carreno inducts Bolivar a freemason at the Scottish loge in Paris in 1805.
In 1806, England financed a revolt in Venezuela as the French troops of Napoleon occupied Spain: It is a failure. Bolivar reached Charleston in 1807 and visits the battle fields and discovered the “rational liberty”. In 1810, independence revolts starts in Mexico by two priests Hidalgo and Morelos as well as in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the port of Cartagena in (Columbia).
In 1811, Bolivar urges the “Supreme Junta” to declare the independence of Venezuela and pronounced this speech in front of the national congress: “We are discussing what should have been decided long time ago. Are you suggesting that we have to wait for the political outcome in Spain? Why should we care if Spain sells its slaves in Venezuela to Bonaparte or retain them for its own profit since we have decided to be free?” Venezuela became the first Spanish province to declare independence in south America.
By 1812, Spanish loyal to the monarchy recapture Venezuela. Bolivar flee to the island of Curacao under the control of the Netherlands and manages to borrow money for another attempt from Cartagena. He crosses the Andes with 573 armed men and captured the village of Merida, the first village in Venezuela . His small troop increases; he tells the peasants: “The nation is the common land to all who were born and live in, regardless of caste, race, or religion.” It is June 23, 1813 and Bolivar, 30 of age, enters Caracas as the Liberator.
By September 1814, Bolivar is again taking the road to exile.He is badly received in Cartagena, and in Jamaica; he ends up in independent Haiti under president Alexander Petion who supports and arms Bolivar for another come back. The expedition fails. Unexpectedly, Petion supports and finances another campaign writing to Bolivar: “You failed: it happens in life to the better men. Something tells me that this time around you will succeed.”
Things began to move faster in 1816.
The monarch of Portugal recognizes the autonomy of Brazil and the first university is founded. General Jose de San Martin liberate Argentina and Uruguay and then march on to Chili and rescues the insurrection of general O’Higgins.
Chili is liberated in 1818. San Martin advances to Peru and is liberated and then toward Equator. Bolivar will meet San Martin in Guayalquil (Equator) in 1822. San Martin is 45 of age and receives a dispatch informing that his wife is very ill. San Martin renounce all his functions as president of Argentine and as commander of a conquering army to be close to his ailing wife. That is strength of character: refusing glory and power to be able to closely support his immediate family.
In 1817, Bolivar is re-conquering parts of Venezuela and consolidating his hold; he declares during a congress for writing a constitution: “It is far more difficult to maintaining the stability of acquired liberty than enduring the weight of tyranny. It is the people who generally carry dictators to power.”
Bolivar would admit: “Convoking the congress gave me more reputation than all my previous services: The surest way of pleasing people is to convene them to participating at the glory of the commander.”
Bolivar appoints general Santander vice-president of Venezuela and marches on to Bogota (Columbia) and stays there for a year till 1820. He liberates Equator and advance to rescue the independence forces of Peru. The US is already worried of the European alliances to dividing Canada and south America; President James Monroe proclaims that any European interventions in the Americas would be considered as a declaration of enmity toward the USA.
In 1826, all south America is liberated and Bolivar is the man of the year in Europe and the USA. He tried to convene a congress in Panama for a constitution to a federated south America but the US made sure to torpedo the convention.
Bolivar had his text ready: First,the constitution is for all the countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chili. Second, right to vote is not solely based on owning property but also on education and honorable conduct. Third, the supreme magistrate is for life and the vice magistrate is hereditary. Fourth, a legislative branch divided in three chambers, one of the chambers the senate is constituted for the purpose of election crisis when politicians works for re-election instead of catering for the interest of the people. Fifth, the total abolition of slavery. Sixth, separation of State from religions; and Seventh, liberty of religious beliefs.
In 1830, Bolivar realizes that the federation of south America is not for any time soon and renounces all his power and functions. He said: “Learn from nature: Nature is an infallible master for mankind; nature will tell you the necessary laws. You will find your guide in the identity of our country from the Andes to the Orinoco River.”
Bolivar is readying to embark to Europe when he is told that his most faithful general Sucre was assassinated. Bolivar lost all hopes and died in the village of Santa Marta.
The body of Bolivar was repatriated to Caracas in 1842; the head was missing!