THERE is no figure in English or North American history that exists today in the consciousness of the people as Simón Bolívar exists in the consciousness of millions of South Americans. For them he is no mere vague, heroic character from the pages of books; he is a living entity, a divine, compassionate, omniscient being who dwells apart somewhere and guides their destinies. He is practically a deity, and his adulation almost a cult. Half-naked Indians and ragged peons who could not decipher his name in print repeat his words as though they were spoken yesterday--whisper them in reverence and with a strange air of confidence that his words alone have the power to cure their ills and to protect them from oppression. In the South American cities statesmen and scholars raise their hats at the mention of his name. They have named the building in Caracas, where his body lies, the "Pantheon"; and the president of Venezuela is said to go there and pray for guidance. South American writers speak constantly of Bolívar's "apotheosis." I remember seeing once a litany written to Bolívar and it had some of the mystic quality of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, that strange, beautiful prayer with its haunting phrases-- Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Vessel of Honor, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star. The Litany to Bolívar was scarcely less comprehensible to the uninitiated mind.
This quasi-deification of Simón Bolívar by the citizens of the lands he liberated from Spain obviously places very formidable obstacles in the way of the dispassionate biog-