World History 2 122 - 8.3.3 The Guayaquil Conference

The northern and southern forces of the South American independence movements converged in the firmly royalist Viceroyalty of Peru and made Lima, the capital city, their target. From the north, one stream of revolutionary armies led by Bolívar flowed from the Viceroyalty of New Granada, and from the south, another led by San Martín swept up from the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata and the newly independent Republic of Chile.

San Martín departed Chile in 1820 with both land forces and sailors on ships. He had the assistance of Scottish former naval officer and mercenary Thomas Cochrane, one of the foreigners who on their own initiative had joined the South American patriots in their struggle for independence. San Martín launched a naval assault on royalist Peru in Lima and landed on its shores in September 1820. Though the highlands remained in royalist hands, his arrival started an uprising along the coast, and he gradually expanded his foothold until he occupied Lima itself. On July 28, 1821, Peruvian creoles in the city were forced to declare independence and accept San Martín as Protector of Peru.

Lima was now under San Martín’s military and civil rule, but royalist troops continued to control the vast Peruvian hinterland, and the inhabitants of the capital saw him and his forces as foreign invaders. Following his liberation of Bogotá in 1819, Bolívar and his armies had moved on to Ecuador. Making little progress against the remaining royalists, San Martín and Bolívar—rivals for control of the independence movement—decided to meet in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In 1821, Guayaquil’s valuable port and naval base had fallen under Bolívar’s control, and in 1822, he had entered the city of Quito and declared Ecuador’s independence. In July 1822, San Martín set sail for Guayaquil with hopes of convincing the port city’s merchants to unite with Lima. However, Bolívar had arrived earlier and pressed his Guayaquil supporters for union with Colombia. When San Martín landed in the city, the possession of the city no longer figured in their discussion. Probably disillusioned, San Martín conferred with Bolívar behind closed doors. The talks were secret, but by their end, San Martín had decided to leave the completion of the liberation of South America to Bolívar. Shortly thereafter, San Martín withdrew from the independence struggle and went into a self-imposed exile in Europe, never again to return.

Bolívar occupied Lima in 1823, and in February 1824, a Peruvian congress named him dictator of Peru. He won a significant victory against Spanish forces in August 1824 at the Battle of Junín, and in December 1824, his skilled chief of staff Antonio José de Sucre defeated a much larger Spanish force at the Battle of Ayacucho. In 1825, following their defeat by Sucre, royalist troops in Upper Peru (renamed Bolivia in honor of El Libertador) accepted a general amnesty.

In regard to the place of South American nations in the larger geopolitical sphere, both Bolívar and San Martín demonstrated a continent-wide outlook and support for close alliances among the newly independent nations. San Martín shared with the Mexican conservatives an admiration for the British constitutional monarchy, but Bolívar rejected the mystical figure of the king and believed the republican system was the best guarantee of stability. In 1822, Gran Colombia became the first Spanish American nation to receive diplomatic recognition from the United States.

The United States was anxious that European countries not use the Latin American wars of independence as an excuse to intervene in the Western Hemisphere. Such an action would threaten not only the young nation’s security but also its commerce. In 1815, in the wake of Napoléon’s defeat at Waterloo, Austria, Prussia, and Russia had formed the Holy Alliance. Its purpose was to protect European empires by discouraging revolution, such as the one that had engulfed France. At conferences in 1820 and 1821, the Holy Alliance declared their right to intervene in rebellions that threatened to unseat European monarchs. And, in 1820–1821, a rebellion in Naples was crushed by invading Austrian troops. Although the Holy Alliance had not intervened in 1820 to help Fernando VII when Spanish liberals had forced him to reinstitute the Constitution of 1812, in 1822, they agreed to support an invasion of Spain by France’s Louis XVIII for the purposes of bringing an end to the Spanish revolutionary movement and restoring the imprisoned Fernando to the throne.

The members of the Holy Alliance intended also to Assert Fernando VII’s control over his rebellious American colonies. The United States opposed such intervention as did Britain, which carried on extensive trade with Latin America. Britain’s foreign minister proposed that the United States join Britain in issuing a joint statement warning France and the Holy Alliance against imposing their will on the former Spanish colonies. U.S. secretary of state John Quincy Adams, however, considered it “more candid as well as more dignified” for the new country “to avow our principles explicitly” than to allow the British to take the lead. Accordingly, with the reluctant agreement of President James Monroe, in 1823, Adams set forth the Monroe Doctrine, a principle of U.S. foreign policy that warned European nations to refrain from interfering with independent countries in the Western Hemisphere. Although gratified by U.S. support, Bolívar trusted more in British influence to block Spain’s attempts to regain its American colonies and did not give much importance to the Monroe Doctrine. In 1824, Great Britain joined the United States in officially recognizing Gran Colombia, whose representatives obtained a significant loan from the London financial market.

In 1826, Bolívar convened the Congress of Panama to strengthen fraternal ties among the newly independent nations in former Spanish America, adopt programs of mutual cooperation, and create a permanent alliance. Conspicuously absent were the United States, Haiti, and Brazil. However, the main difficulty was the internal fragility of the new nations. The legacy of the Spanish American revolutions was contradictory. Although the new nations had broken free of Spain, colonial social hierarchies persisted. These then escalated into a social struggle among the enslaved Africans, Indigenous groups, mestizos, pardos, and White people. Provinces fought each other, and after defeating royalist forces, the popular armies faced civil wars over a new postcolonial order. Creole leaders like Bolívar and San Martín were not the only heirs of independence. The main postcolonial leaders were the local military chieftains, who often forged alliances with wealthy creole landowners and perpetuated their power.

Dueling Voices

Justification for Revolution

Simón Bolívar and other Spanish American patriots believed they were justified in proclaiming independence from Spain. In his “Letter from Jamaica,” Bolívar deplored Spain’s mistreatment of its American colonies and the brutality of its attempts to defeat their fight for liberty. The Spanish government, however, believed the people in its American colonies had received the benefits of its protection and were now behaving ungratefully. In a letter to U.S. secretary of state John Quincy Adams, a Spanish official named Don Joaquín de Anduaga protested U.S. recognition of the revolutionary governments, reiterated Spain’s lack of responsibility for the rebels’ anger, and took pains to differentiate Bolívar’s revolution from the U.S. War of Independence. Compare Bolívar’s position (immediately following) with that of Anduaga, which follows Bolívar’s.

The hatred that the Peninsula has inspired in us is greater than the ocean between us. It would be easier to have the two continents meet than to reconcile the spirits of the two countries. The habit of obedience; a community of interest, of understanding, of religion; mutual goodwill; a tender regard for the birthplace and good name of our forefathers; in short, all that gave rise to our hopes, came to us from Spain. As a result there was born principle of affinity that seemed eternal, notwithstanding the misbehavior of our rulers, which weakened that sympathy, or, rather, that bond enforced by the domination of their rule.

At present the contrary attitude persists: we are threatened with the fear of death, dishonor, and every harm; there is nothing we have not suffered at the hands of that unnatural stepmother-Spain. The veil has been torn asunder. We have already seen the light, and it is not our desire to be thrust back into darkness. The chains have been broken; we have been freed, and now our enemies seek to enslave us anew. For this reason America fights desperately, and seldom has desperation failed to achieve victory . . . .

We have been harassed by a conduct which has not only deprived us of our rights but has kept us in a sort of permanent infancy with regard to public affairs. If we could at least have managed our domestic affairs and our internal administration, we could have acquainted ourselves with the processes and mechanics of public affairs. We should also have enjoyed a personal consideration, thereby commanding a certain unconscious respect from the people, which is so necessary to preserve amidst revolutions.

—Simón Bolívar, “Letter from Jamaica,” 1819

I have seen the Message sent by the President to the House of Representatives, in which he proposes the recognition, by the United States, of the insurgent governments of Spanish America. How great my surprise was, may be easily judged by anyone acquainted with the conduct of Spain towards [the United States] . . . . And, moreover, will not his astonishment be augmented to see that [the U.S.] is desirous to give the destructive example of sanctioning the rebellion of provinces which have received no offence from the mother-country,—to whom she has granted a participation in a free constitution,—and to whom she extended all the rights and prerogatives of Spanish citizens? In vain will a parallel be attempted to be drawn between the emancipation of this Republic [the U.S.] and that which the Spanish rebels attempt; and history is sufficient to prove, that if a harassed and persecuted province has a right to break its chains, others, loaded with benefits, elevated to the high rank of freedom, ought only to bless and embrace more closely the protecting country which has bestowed such favours upon them.

—Don Joaquín de Anduaga, letter to John Quincy Adams, March 9, 1822

  • What specific grievances against Spain does Bolívar outline? How do you think Anduaga would respond to these?
  • How would Bolívar respond to Anduaga’s claim that Spanish American colonists were given the same rights as other citizens? To what extent is Anduaga’s statement true? To what extent is it false?

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax