France and Latin-American Independence

By William Spence Robertson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
NAPOLEON THE LIBERATOR

That wise political philosopher, Lord Bryce, not inaptly designated the French Emperor as the Liberator of Spanish America. Sporadic outbursts of discontent with the existing régime were, however, not infrequent in the Indies during the last half of the eighteenth century. Historical research may indeed prove that rebellious uprisings in Latin- American colonies were the logical outcome of a long evolutionary process. Economic and political discontent might finally have provoked a far-flung insurrectionary movement in Spanish America, but it was Napoleon who caused the revolutionary tinder scattered about those dominions to burst into devouring flames. This chapter will indicate how his designs upon the autonomy of Spain incited uprisings in the Indies which developed into a protracted struggle for independence.

On April 13, 1806, François de Pons sent a note to Napoleon suggesting methods by which English intrigue in the New World might be checked. De Pons proposed that French commissioners be dispatched to Spanish America with instructions to enlighten the colonists concerning the advantages which would accrue to them by the regeneration of the motherland.1 Spanish colonial officials may also have brought the Indies to Napoleon's attention. In a letter to Count Mollien, the French Minister of Finance, Napoleon

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1
" Mémoire sur l'Amérique espagnol," June 22, 1806, A. N., A. F., IV, plaq. IV, no. 170.

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