Spain and the Independence of Colombia 1810-1825

Spain and the Independence of Colombia 1810-1825

Spain and the Independence of Colombia 1810-1825

Spain and the Independence of Colombia 1810-1825

Synopsis

Between 1808 and 1825, Latin America was engulfed in a wave of revolution that destroyed the Spanish empire in the Americas. This book studies the process of imperial collapse in one of these Spanish colonies: the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the future Republic of Colombia. Rebecca Earle makes extensive use of previously unexplored Spanish documents to suggest that Spanish royalists inadvertently engineered their own defeat.

Excerpt

In 1808 the country now known as the Republic of Colombia did not exist. In its place stood the Viceroyalty of New Granada, a colony of Spain rather than an independent state. New Granada was certainly not the jewel in the Spanish crown; metropolitan officials considered it a distincdy second-rate element within the Iberian empire. From the monarchy’s point of view, New Granada’s importance had once lain in the gold-bearing streams of the provinces of Popayán, the Chocó and Antioquia, that in earlier centuries had generated a substantial profit for the Spanish crown in the form of taxes. By 1808, the primitive mines of these provinces had ceased to yield a revenue sufficient to cover the cost of the viceroyalty’s administration. Nonetheless, colonial officials had reason to look favourably on New Granada. The viceroyalty offered Spain a strategically useful Caribbean port at Cartagena de Indias, and its population, as Viceroy Pedro de Mendinueta had explained to his successor Antonio Amar y Borbón in 1803, was ‘docile’. An ancien regime society of perhaps 1,400,000 inhabitants, New Granada did not appear to Spain a particularly problematic colony. Although in 1781 an alarmingly widespread popular rebellion had challenged the right of the crown to impose new taxes, by 1808 Spanish officials believed the majority of New Granada’s population to be loyal subjects of the crown. When in February 1808 French troops acting on the orders of Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Viceroy Amar y Borbón expected the viceroyalty’s population to rally around the stricken metropolis. ‘Your love of the Catholic faith, your subjection to the legitimate kings of Spain, your respect for the magistrates and established authorities is famous’, he reminded New Granada’s inhabitants. The public was exhorted to contribute towards Spain’s defence: ‘Imitate the heroines of Spain: reduce your expenses, renounce excess. Do not let a single ounce of silver or gold remain on your soil except those destined for the holy use of the Church.’

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