timothy e. anna - the peruvian declaration of independence: freedom by coercion

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Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Nov., 1975), pp. 221-248


]. Lat. Amer. Stud. 7,

2, 221-248

Printed in Great Britain


The Peruvian Declaration of Independence: Freedom by Coercion *by TIMOTHY E. ANNA

Peru launchedits historyas an independentstate with one of the world's of In briefestand most directDeclarations Independence. Lima, on 15 July to calledespecially con1821,an open town councilmeeting(cabildoabierto) siderthe question,declared:'All the gentlemenpresent,for themselves and satisfied the opinionof the inhabitants the capital, of of said: That thegeneral will is decided favorof the Independence PerufromSpanish in of domination, and thatof whatever otherforeignpower. .' 1 Peopleactually in present the of chambers the city council,in the corridors and in the streetbelow outside, as in signed the Act thereand then. Recognizingits importance a watershed theircity'shistory,the cabildothen agreedto displaythe boundbook of Acts so containingthe Declarationin the office of the cabildosecretary that the at largecouldfurtherratifyit. The time for the collectionof signatures public was even extended,and in the end a totalof 3,504peoplesigned.2*

The author gratefully acknowledges the research support of the Canada Council, and the helpful suggestions and corrections of his colleague, Professor Douglas N. Sprague. 1Biblioteca Municipal de Lima (hereafter cited as BML), Actas de Cabildo, Libro 45, 15 July I82I. I was privileged, on the occasion of the Fiestas Patrias in 1972, to be given permission to use the original Libro 45 of the Acts, because I needed to read the entire volume. I believe I was the first foreigner allowed to use the book containing this national treasure, which is usually kept on display in a glass case. The cabildo meetings immediately leading up to and following the Declaration, however, have been printed, in edited form, in Fernando Gamio Palacio, La municipalidad de Lima y la emancipacion de i82i (Lima, 197I). This in turn is a re-edition and amplification of the same author's publication under a very similar title, La municipalidad de Lima y la emancipacion (Lima, 1944). All citations here are from the 297I book. A very usable facsimile of the Declaration and the signatures, complete with transcriptionsof the names and an alphabeticlist, was published under the title Acta de la Declaracion de la Independencia Nacional in I97I by the Concejo Provincial de Lima. It is the copy used here. The Biblioteca Municipal of Lima is not a major archive, rather it is the working-libraryfor the Concejo Provincial. It does, however, possess all of the extant Librosde Actas. 2 I used the facsimile of the Declaration to count this number. I have deducted one name, that of Manuel Muelle, the cabildo secretary, who signed twice. Even so, the total of 3,504 may not be perfectly correct because some names are illegible or obscured as a result of smeared ink, bad handwriting, ink transference through the pages, and several rips on


Timothy E. Anna

Few documents in any nation's history appear to be the product of greater consensus than this one. With the exception of the many citizens who had already fled from Lima, almost every literate male signed. The suggestion inherent in the Declaration is 'that Lima's elite was almost unanimous in support of independence. They declared that it was positively 'the general will' of Lima, and of its inhabitants, and of the gentlemen who spoke for them. Therein lies the problem. Unanimity is problematic because, in addition to being suspect on the grounds of logic, it is dubious on the basis of subsequent events. Lima did not distinguish itself in support of independence in the months and years ahead. Quite the contrary, the republic founded by General Jose de San Martin, based chiefly on Lima, collapsed in six months as a result of Peruvian indifference and refusal to sacrificein its defense.3The hypothesis of unanimity in support of independence is, therefore, not plausible. Yet, subsequent generations of historians have never explained all those signatures or what they might mean. The issue representedby the 3,504 signaturesis the problem of motive. The usual approachis simply to assume they representedthe actual wish of Lima, and then to explain the subsequent failure of the movement under San Martin by other factors. But once a historian has decided to treat the Declaration as evidence of the popularity of independence, observe the tortured logic that inevitably follows. If Lima clamoured for independence unanimously, then San Martin, the man whose armies made the Declaration possible, was more than a conqueror or a Liberator, he was no less than a Messiah. His failure at Lima must, therefore, be the result of the inhabitants' ungratefulness or of his own stupidity in failing to sustain the mandate. Neither explanation is satisfactory. San Martin was not stupid, nor is it logical that Lima should have rejected so quickly a political status it unanimously accepted. There must be an alternative explanation that will account for the contradiction between Lima's words and its actions. As a matter of fact, there is, though it is understandably difficult to accept at first glance. Could thepp. I-4. The greatest problem in identifying signers, however, is that many of them used short versions of their names. Consequently, I cannot identify, much less check for possible duplication, names such as Jose Garcia (there are 4), Jose Gutierrez (3), Jose Moreno (3), Jose Rodriguez (3), or Jose Sanchez (4). One would assume that no one but Muelle signed twice, but it is impossible to be sure. I have ventured a positive identification only when the name is clearly distinguishable from others like it by some recognized criterion such as use of a maternal surname or variations in spelling. The Gaceta del Gobierno Independiente de Lima published a special edition on Io Aug. I82I, containing a list of the signatures. It was apparently incomplete. At any rate, the list published as an appendix to the facsimile of the Gaceta (La Plata, 1950) is incomplete, as its editors point out. It showed 3,I36 signatures. 3 See Timothy E. Anna, 'Economic Causes of San Martin's Failure at Lima ', HispanicAmerican Historical Reviewt, LIv, No. 4, (Nov. I974), 657-68i.

The Peruvian Declaration of Independence: Freedom by Coercion


Declaration be a mere sham, a rigged referendum? That is how Pedro Angel de Tado described it in a remarkableletter he wrote to a former Lima oidor after independence. A dedicated royalist priest who lived thirty-two years in Peru, he is an extremely biased eye-witness. He asserted that independence resulted in 1821 because a group of ambitious and bitter petty lawyers, priests and professionalsforced it upon a desperateand starving capital whose citizens were intimidated by armed force, threatened by imminent social chaos, and coerced by violence and fear.4 It may be that historians have long felt such an explanation made sense intuitively; a careful testing of Tado's allegations will permit us to substantiateor rejectit once and for all. Starting with the Indians, whom he knew best after twenty-two years in various curacies in the Sierra, Tado cogently and coherently argued that independence was not the will of Peru. He said the Indians and mestizos were the king's most loyal vassals, the rebel periodicals simply lied when they claimed to have their support.' If the [Indian] pueblos near Lima maintained themselves on the side of the insurrection it was only because they feared the armed Negroes of San Martin who robbed their houses and granaries'. The mestizos thought the same because in the mountains they lived as indigenas. The slaves, who were concentratedon the coast of Peru, had originally joined the rebels, but soon became disaffectedwhen submitted to discipline, and preferred to support a government they knew to one they did not know. Tado said he knew of some liberal hacendados who originally supported independence too, but upon discovering that aiding the rebels meant giving up their slaves to conscription, they also became disaffected. Then there were the whites - both Europeans and those simply described4 Pedro Angel de Tado to Marques de Castell-Bravo de Rivero, Madrid, 14 Nov. I823,

Archivo General de Indias (hereafter cited as AGI), Lima 1024. A word is in order concerning why this startling document, to my knowledge, has not previously been studied. It is a very long letter written on a single sheet of paper in a nearly microscopic script, and folded several times. With no identifying marks to attract the investigator's eye, it literally disappears in its legajo. Its importance was recognized, however, when first received, for Castell-Bravo, an emigrant Lima oidor, turned it over to the Fiscal of the Council of the Indies, who suggested it be published as propaganda. The Council read the letter in a session on 17 Jan. 1826, but there is no indication it was ever published. Two other documents substantiateTado's existence and the details of his career. One (AGI, Lima I563) is an expediente concerning his request in i826 for the crown to grant him a benefice in some church in Spain. It contains his printed Relacion de Meritos (in which his surname is spelled ' Jado'), and personal references from the Archbishop and Castell-Bravo. The second (AGI, Lima 604) is the decision of the Cdmara de Indias of 27 Feb. i826, to find him a position. Throughout both expedientes, Tado is treated as a competent witness with a long experience in Peru. When dispensing benefices the Council was very critical of applicants, and its failure to notice anything amiss in Tado's qualifications or career suggests, quite ' frankly, that everything was in order. I have chosen to use Tado ' as his surname because in his own handwriting it seems to be a T.

224 Timothy E. Anna

as Espanoles. Tado assertedthat before the landing