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The First Venezuela Republic

 

 

 

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Bolívar returned to Venezuela in 1807 and, when Napoleon made Joseph Bonaparte King of Spain and its colonies in 1808, he participated in the resistance juntas in South America. The Caracas junta declared its independence in 1810, and Bolívar was sent to England on a diplomatic mission to seek support. The British decline, not wishing trouble with their Spanish allies . ONE of Bolivar's principal objects in seeking employment in the mission was to get into touch with Miranda, then residing in London, and to induce him to take up actively the cause of the independence of the colonies.

Miranda had been for most of his life a genuine republican, keeping his eye steadily on the definite separation from Spain of her American colonies, just as the United States had broken away from England. That was an idea which, so far, had taken little root in the colonies themselves, where loyalty to the Spanish Crown was still the prevailing note. Bolivar and others had long held views similar to Miranda's. In Bolivar's mind they had been implanted by the early teaching of Rodriguez, by what he saw in Europe, and by the course of study which he had pursued. In Miranda he recognised, not only an enthusiastic supporter, the real originator of the separation scheme, but also a tried soldier, who had had considerable experience in high command of troops whose want of training was almost as great as that of the men who would have to be raised in South America. He was not a first-rate commander, but was certainly- better than any one likely to be found in Caracas. Bolivar himself had no experience of war or command.

Bolívar meets famous exiled revolutionary Francisco de Miranda (1750-1816) in England and asks him to return to Venezuela with him . He agrees and is greeted as a hero in Caracas on Dec 12, 1810 .

Reception of Miranda by Johann Moritz Rugendas

 

 

Francisco de Miranda

(Although his own plans for the independence of the Spanish American colonies failed, he is regarded as a forerunner of Simón Bolívar. Miranda. He participated in the American Revolutionary War, French Revolution and Spanish American wars of independence )

Bolívar starts underground party called the Patriotic Society urging Venezuela's independence . Miranda placed in command of military forces .

Venezuela declares independence from Spain of Ferdinand VII and the French puppet government in Spain . On the 5th July 181 1 the Congress crossed the Rubicon by declaring independence of Spain, whose throne, it was declared, had been shattered by Napoleon, and whose government in South America was nothing but an instrument of tyranny and oppression. With the declaration of independence the tricolour flag had been adopted, and, on the 30th July, a manifesto was issued announcing to the world the reasons which had led to this bold action. The declaration of independence was by no means universally accepted in Venezuela. On the 11th July there was an insurrection in the capital, designed to overthrow the Government and return to the allegiance of Spain. It was forcibly put down, after a sharp fight, by Miranda, and sixteen of the leaders were executed.

Miranda and Bolivar have a falling out

Miranda accepted the command of the republican army but made a condition that Bolivar should not have a part in it. The two men had already fallen out over the question of treatment of European Spaniards residing in Venezuela. Miranda was for letting them remain in peace, provided they were not hostile to the new government; Bolivar would drive them ruthlessly from the country, till such time as the Spanish dominion should be finally overthrown and the independence of the colonies recognised by the mother country.

The general feeling in the Congress was in favour of a Federal Republic in imitation of the " magnificent example of the first and most powerful of the Republics of the world," the United States of North America.

They failed to take account of the fact that the vast majority of the population was plunged in the blindest ignorance, that very few indeed outside the walls of the assembly knew anything whatever about constitutions in general or federation in particular.

Two men at least, Miranda and Bolivar, saw the utter futility of such a constitution in the existing circumstances of the country, and, whilst regarding federation as theoretically the most perfect form of republic, would have none of it as matters stood. To the end of his life Bolivar fought for a centralised as against a federal government.

Massive earthquake hits Venezuela , sign from God ?

Spanish take advantage of the disaster, Miranda surrenders, end of the First Republic

 

March 26, 1812 large earthquake strikes Venezuela, more than 10,000 killed in Caracas alone . The barracks in the north of Caracas almost disappeared, burying in their ruins the greater part of the garrison. The total loss of life has been estimated at as high a figure as 120,000. In Barquisemeto 1000 republican troops, on the march for Coro, were almost entirely destroyed, artillery, arms, and ammunition being buried deep amongst the ruins. What with these losses, and the havoc wrought amongst the garrison of Caracas, the slender fighting forces of the republic were seriously crippled. Some see it as vengeance from God for revolting against the king . Bolivar declares " If nature is against us, we shall fight against her and force he to obey us ." Probably throughout his life, Bolivar, whilst conforming outwardly to the practices of the Catholic Church, was far from being religious.

 

Juan Domingo Monteverde

 

 

 

On July 5,1811 Spanish admiral Juan Domingo Monteverde (1773-1832) sent with troops to restore the colonial government . Everywhere his advance was marked by massacres and summary executions of the enemy. The fear which he inspired, coupled with the recent terror of the earthquake, induced the country to declare generally for the king. The panic had been augmented by a recurrence of earthquake shocks on the 4th April, though they were not comparable in severity to the great tremor of the 26th March. Meanwhile, the government at Caracas, in its despair, had seen no hope save in the appointment of Miranda as commander-in-chief with dictatorial powers. He managed to get together some 7000 men, but they were largely recruits, and the morale of the whole had been rudely shaken by recent events.

 

As for Bolivar, his relations with Miranda were still bad, and the dictator, in order to get rid of him, sent him off to command the fortress of Puerto Cabello, which at the time was full of Spanish prisoners, many of them amongst those who had recently revolted at Valencia. Bolivar left Caracas for Puerto Cabello on the 29th April. When, after a few days' rest, Monteverde again set out towards Valencia, Miranda evacuated that place, which was occupied without resistance by the Spanish commander, on the 3rd May.Miranda and Monteverde fight a vicious civil war . First Republic of Venezuela falls when Spanish forces enter Caracas on July 28 .

 

Puerto Cabello Falls, Bolivar escapes by sea

 

Castillo San Felipe, now inaccessible to visitors,

as it is part of the Augustín Armario Naval Base

 

Miranda appoints Bolivar commander of the fort (castillo San Felipe)   at Puerto Cabello, an important seaport and where a great magazine of supplies of all sorts, and the prison-house of many Spaniards. Bolivar was disgusted at being shelved in this way, and it is perhaps not unwarrantable to assume that he was somewhat slack in what appeared to be a simple matter, the guarding of a number of unarmed men, confined in the citadel, which was separate from the town. The prisoners found means to corrupt Francisco Vinoni, the officer in charge of them, and to induce him to take an early opportunity of setting them free.  On the 30th June, the commandant of the citadel, Ramon Aymerich, had gone to take orders at Bolivar's head- quarters in the town. The moment was seized by Vinoni to release the prisoners, who overpowered the small garrison, proclaimed the king, raised the draw- bridge, and, after threatening an officer whom Bolivar sent to see what was happening, opened fire on the city with the guns of the citadel. Artillery fire between the citadel and Bolivar's artillery continued off and on up to the 5th July, when the city, which Bolivar had left for the fortified heights above, surrendered to the  Spanish loyalist . Bolívar escapes by sea but feels betrayed by Miranda, perhaps fearing Bolivar's growing popularity, who offered no aid . The fall of Puerto Cabello practically decided the fate of the Venezuelan Republic for the time being.

 

July 1812, junta leader Francisco de Miranda surrendered on condition of a guarantee of the lives and property of the insurgents and the introduction of the Spanish constitution of 1812 . From Caracas, Miranda, with some of his officers, went off to La Guaira, intending to embark on an English vessel, the captain of which had offered them a passage to a place of safety.

Bolivar arrests  and imprisons Miranda

Bolivar, meanwhile, had landed at La Guaira on the 7th July, and was proceeding to Miranda's headquarters when he heard of that general's surrender. Strongly disapproving the capitulation, he returned to La Guaira. Miranda reached La Guaira on the evening of the 30th July, to find Bolivar already there, with other leaders of the revolution who had very little confidence in the probability of Monteverde's observance of the terms of surrender. H.B.M. corvette Sapphire lay in the harbour ready to take Miranda off. Other fugitive leaders continued to arrive in the town. Captain Haynes of the Sapphire came ashore as soon as Miranda arrived, being anxious to take him on board at once. But Miranda, worn out with fatigue, sat down to dinner with Casas, the commandant of the place, Pefia, the civil governor, and others, including Bolivar. At dinner it was proposed that Miranda should spend the night on shore and embark next morning, as it was too late to do so now. Haynes protested that there was no difficulty about the embarkation, and that Miranda would be much safer and more comfortable on the corvette, where all preparations had been made for his reception. The others, however, carried the day, and Miranda retired to bed.

As soon as he was out of the way, a secret meeting was held by the republican leaders present in La Guaira to discuss his case and what was to be done.  At this meeting the most active part was played by- Bolivar. He argued that Miranda's proposed departure showed his disbelief in Monteverde's observance of the treaty, that Miranda, having signed the capitulation, was in honour bound to see it through, if he believed it to be worth the paper it was written on, and that he should be compelled to stay to the bitter end. The secret assembly soon determined upon the arrest and detention of Miranda, who was peacefully sleeping in a room

the actual arrest of the old warrior was entrusted to Bolivar, Chatillon, and Tomas Montilla. At 3 A.M. the three conspirators entered Miranda's room, and, after removing his sword and pistols, awakened him. The weary old man muttered that it was not yet time to get up, and then awoke to a consciousness of what was really occurring. Resistance he saw was useless, so, after dressing, he quietly followed his captors to the castle, where, for several months, he was immured. Bolivar and others had apparently intended to shoot Miranda as a traitor, but Casas, the military commandant, saw a better way of saving himself from the vengeance of the Spaniards by betraying the dictator to them. To have shot Miranda would have been to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Miranda in prison by Arturo Michelena 1896

The  unfortunate Miranda, he was presently removed to Puerto Cabello, then to Puerto Rico, and finally to Cadiz, where he was confined in the arsenal in chains till, worn out by suffering and misery, he died on the 14th July 1816.

 

Monteverde's growing  rule of terror

It was soon evident that the capitulation, in so far as Monteverde's observance of it went, was not worth the paper it was written on. It is not necessary to assume that he deliberately accepted it with the intention of violating it. Some historians hold that he was not naturally cruel or false, but that he was weak and liable to be led astray by the evil councilors by whom he was surrounded, especially by the Islenos (the Canary Islanders), who were detested above all others by the republicans, and who were anxious to revenge themselves on irreconcilable enemies.

On his first arrival in Caracas the Spaniard issued reassuring proclamations, asserting his intention of loyally observing the terms of capitulation. So clear were these terms that confidence was largely restored, and all, except the extremists, began to see that the best thing, under the circumstances, was the union of all moderate men of both sides, with the object of preventing the spread of anarchy, and combating the danger which was still threatened by the insurgent slaves to the east of Caracas.

But the suggestions put forward by the Islenos, that fresh plots were on foot amongst the republicans, soon began to work on Monteverde, and to gain predominance over the better advice of many of his followers who saw the falsity of these witnesses. From the 14th August there commenced a reign of terror for the leaders of the late revolution. In Caracas, and many other towns, the streets were patrolled by troops, whilst numerous arrests of the most prominent leaders were effected, often with great brutality and violence. Numbers of the prisoners were hurried off to the dungeons of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello. Despite promises of no reprisals, Monteverde arrests anyone suspected of being a rebel, members of the new republic congress sent to prison in Spain . Property of Creoles such as Bolivar's seized .

Bolivar meets Monteverde

Bolivar had left La Guaira early on the evening of the 31st July, and passed unrecognised through the Spanish posts to Caracas, where he remained in hiding with the assistance of the worthy Francisco Iturbe, a mutual friend of his and Monteverde's, and a royalist by conviction. This gentleman addressed himself to Monteverde with a view to getting a passport for Bolivar to leave the country. With some difficulty he succeeded in obtaining the promise, and Bolivar appeared before Monteverde for the purpose of getting his passport. The Spaniard at first charged him with having put himself beyond the terms of the capitulation by having shot two Spaniards at Puerto Cabello. To that Bolivar replied that they were spies, liable to their fate under the rules of war. Monteverde then said, " You have done a praiseworthy deed in arresting Miranda, and that entitles you to the king's favour." To this Bolivar replied, " Since that was not my intention in arresting Miranda, I disclaim the right and the merit which you attribute to me ; my conduct had a very different motive ; I saw in Miranda a traitor to my country." Monteverde, at once, on hearing these words, withdrew his promise of a passport, but it was eventually obtained by the personal intercession of Iturbe.

When he sailed from La Guaira on the 27th August 1812 at the age of 23, he was about to pass very shortly from a secondary position in the revolt of the northern colonies of South America to the very foremost, which he continued to occupy for the remaining eighteen years of his life.

Bolivar flees to Curacao

Monteverde  soon had good reason to regret having let Bolivar escape. The future Liberator landed at Curacao, then in the possession of the British, on the 28th August 1812. He was almost penniless, for, owing to informalities in the papers of the ship by which he arrived, all his property on board was seized by the customs, and Monteverde had sequestrated his Venezuelan possessions. He is said to have talked of going to England to seek employment in the Peninsula under Lord Wellington. Whatever his real intentions, his financial difficulties prevented any such scheme. At Curacao he found some of his companions who had escaped from La Guaira, and others had accompanied him.

 

 

 

 

 

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