The Girondins of Chile: Reminiscences of an Eyewitness

Synopsis

The Girondins of Chile tells of the strong influence that the European revolutions of 1848 had in Chile, and how they motivated a young Santiago society with high cultural aspirations but little political knowledge or direction. Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna, a Chilean writer and historian who lived during those days in Santiago, relates the events of the time, events in which he was a participant. He pays special attention to how the 1848 revolutions and their attendant ideas influenced the thoughts and actions of a group of young liberals he called "Chilean Girondins." When the news of the fall of Philippe d'Orleans and the subsequent installation of the Second Republic reached Chile, there was an explosion of jubilation in Santiago. Now there were no barriers to ideas, Vicuna Mackenna wrote, "much less to the generous ideas proclaimed by the sincere people of France." But it only took a few days for warnings and critiques of French events to surface, and when a proletarian revolution took place in June in France, Chilean public opinion became virulently anti-revolutionary. Except, of course, among the liberal youth, the Chilean Girondins, who were headed towards revolution--and sooner than anyone thought. When revolution came in 1851, Vicuna Mackenna found himself sentenced to death for taking part in the uprising. He escaped, spent some years in exile, and was able to return in 1855. He remained active in politics, yet his account of what happened to the Chilean Girondins in the 1851-52 revolution was not published until 1876.

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