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The Hispanic Revolution: Spain and America, 1808-1826

A revolução hispânica: Espanha e América, 1808-1826
La révolution hispanique: Espagne et Amérique, 1808-1826
Jaime E. Rodríguez O.
p. 73-92


A independência da América Espanhola não constituiu um movimento anticolonial, mas provocou parte da revolução política dentro do mundo espanhol e a dissolução da monarquia espanhola. No início da invasão francesa da Península Ibérica em 1808, alguns agentes da monarquia espanhola tentaram transformá-la num Estado moderno que incluísse a Europa e a América, introduzindo uma das constituições mais radicais do século XIX. No entanto, uma guerra civil surgiu na América entre os que apoiavam o novo sistema constitucional e aqueles que insistiam num sistema próprio e independente. A luta resultou na dissolução da Monarquia espanhola e na criação de novas nações.

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1The collapse of the Spanish Monarchy in 1808 led to a revolution that resulted in the dissolution of that world wide polity and the creation of new nation states, among them Spain itself. In the wake of the French invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, three broad movements emerged in the Spanish world, the struggle against the invaders, a great political revolution that sought to transform the Spanish Monarchy into a modern nation state with one of the most radical constitutions of the nineteenth century, and a fragmented insurgency in America that relied on force to secure local autonomy or home rule. These three over lapping processes influenced and altered one another in a variety of ways. None of them can be understood in isolation. Unfortunately, historians have largely ignored the revolutionary political process preferring to concentrate instead on Spain’s War of  Independence against the French invaders or on the armed struggles in Spanish America, distorting our understanding of the formation of the nations that emerged from the breakup of the Spanish Monarchy.

  • 1 Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «Una cultura política compartida: Los orígenes del constitucionalismo y lib (...)

2Although the governing elites in Spain capitulated to the French in 1808, the people of the Peninsula and the New World were virtually unanimous in their opposition to the French. The external threat underscored the factors that united them: one monarchy, one faith, one general culture, and one society in crisis. They were members of what soon came to be known as la Nación Española, a nation consisting of the Peninsula and the overseas kingdoms. The people of both areas drew upon common concepts and sought similar solutions to the evolving crisis. Inspired by the legal foundations of the Monarchy, most agreed that in the absence of the king, sovereignty reverted to the people who possessed the authority and the responsibility to defend the nation1.

  • 2 Older historians, such as Roger B. Merriman, thought in terms of the Spanish Empire in the Old Worl (...)
  • 3 Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «La naturaleza de la representación en la Nueva España y México», Secuencia (...)

3Napoleon’s invasion of Spain galvanized Americans to defend the Monarchy and expand their rights within that system. Throughout most of their history, the possessions in America constituted part of the worldwide Spanish Monarchy – a confederation of disparate kingdoms and lands which extended throughout portions of Europe, Africa, Asia, and America2. The residents of these kingdoms exercised a high level of political and economic autonomy. Only very late, during the reign of Carlos III (1759-1788), did the Crown attempt to centralize the monarchy and create a modern empire with Spain as the metropolis. That effort, widely known as the Bourbon Reforms, was not implemented fully by the time of Napoleon’s intervention in 1808. Americans everywhere opposed the political and economic innovations that restricted their autonomy and modified many to suit their interests. On the eve of independence, the leaders of the New World retained a significant degree of autonomy and control over their regions3.

  • 4 The national and ayuntamiento archives of Spanish America are replete with reports and imprints of (...)

4News of events in Spain, as well as in other parts of the monarchy, was rapidly and widely disseminated. In the Antiguo Régimen, news and information were spread in a variety of ways. Printed laws, decrees, and official notices were distributed to the relevant authorities who, in turn, informed the people by posting them in public places and by employing town criers to read them to the public. Royal officials and private individuals often wrote letters that contained information or comment about the events of the day to friends and colleagues. The recipients of this mail in turn informed their friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Much information was transmitted orally. Curas often discussed important questions both formally, during mass, and informally outside the church. Public scribes informed the illiterate public of the latest events. Muleteers, merchants, and travelers kept the inhabitants of towns and villages abreast of events occurring in viceregal and Audiencia capitals or in Europe. People talked about the events of the day in social gatherings of all sorts. Thus, even the vast illiterate population was much better informed than is generally believed. Of course, rumor and misinformation were also widespread4. Frequently, the rapidly changing circumstances in the Peninsula confused and disturbed the people of Spanish America.

  • 5 The massive growth of publications in New Spain, for example, is made evident in Impresos novohispa (...)

5Public discourse intensified after 1808. The printing press, which became the indispensable instrument of politics, fueled an explosion of political activity in the entire Hispanic world. In the months and years that followed, important notices – particularly about the struggle against the French –, decrees, laws, minutes of special meetings, reports of elections, statements from prominent persons, and other matters of interest were published and distributed rapidly. News from Europe and America circulated widely in viceregal and Audiencia capitals as well as in the provincial capitals and other cities and towns. Politically active Spanish Americans learned of significant events shortly after their occurrence; they quickly received copies of important documents; and they learned to exercise their rights5. The people of Spanish America possessed a vibrant and public political life.

  • 6 Castel, Jorge, La Junta Central Suprema y Gubernativa de España e Indias, Madrid, Imprenta Marte, 1 (...)

6The establishment of the Junta Suprema Central y Gubernativa del Reino, which first met on September 25, 1808, appeared to be a solution to the crisis of the Monarchy. However the body, formed by representatives of the juntas of the Peninsula, soon realized that it needed the support of the American kingdoms to conduct the war against the French. The Junta Central was particularly concerned about countering French overtures to America. In July 1808, José I had invited the New World kingdoms to send six representatives – one for each virreinato and one each for Guatemala and Cuba – to a constitutional convention in Bayonne, France. Although the Americans rejected the proposal, the Junta Central believed it was prudent to accede to the New World’s desire for representation6. On January 22, 1809, it decreed:

  • 7 «Real Orden de la Junta Central expedida el 22 de enero de 1809», Gazeta de México, XVI, 15 de abri (...)

Considerando que los vastos y preciosos dominios que España posee en las Indias no son propiamente colonias o factorías como los de otras naciones, sino una parte esencial e integrante de la monarquía española…, se ha servido S. M. declarar… que los reinos, provincias e islas que forman los referidos dominios deben tener representación nacional inmediata a su real persona y constituir parte de la Junta Central… por medio de sus correspondientes diputados. Para que tenga efecto esta real resolución, han de nombrar los Virreynatos de Nueva España, Perú, Nuevo Reyno de Granada y Buenos Aires, y las Capitanías Generales independientes de la isla de Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Chile, Provincia de Venezuela y Filipinas un individuo cada cual que represente su respectivo distrito7.

  • 8 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, 59-64.

7Thus, the Junta Central acknowledged the Americans’ claims that their lands were not colonies but kingdoms, that they constituted integral parts of the Spanish Monarchy, and that they possessed the right of representation in the national government. The act was profoundly revolutionary. Thereafter, Americans had to be recognized as the equals of the Spaniards. In ways that were difficult to imagine at the time, that recognition of equality transformed the relationship between Spain and America and granted the people of the New World the rights they had demanded but had not actually expected to receive. It created a relationship between metropolis and the overseas territories that no other European monarchy ever granted its overseas possessions8.

  • 9 Benson, Nettie Lee, «The Elections of 1809: Transforming Political Culture in New Spain», Mexican S (...)

8In 1809, the kingdoms of Spanish America held the first elections for representatives to a monarchy-wide government, the Junta Central. The complicated and lengthy elections constituted a profound step forward in the formation of modern representative government for the entire Spanish Nation. Moreover, the process explicitly recognized the ancient putative right of the provincial capitals of America – the ciudades cabezas de partido – to representation in a congress of cities. However, the degree of regional representation varied widely since New World authorities differed in their interpretation of the election decree. New Spain, with nearly half the population of Spanish America, granted fourteen cities the right to hold elections, whereas, in the much smaller Kingdom of Guatemala, an equal number of cities enjoyed that privilege. The situation also varied widely in South America: twenty cities held elections in New Granada, seventeen in Peru, sixteen in Chile, twelve in the Río de la Plata, and six in Venezuela9.

  • 10 For a different assessment than mine, see: Aguilar Rivera, José Antonio, «La nación en ausencia: pr (...)
  • 11 «Libro de Actas Capitulares del Ylustre Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara, 1809», Archivo Municipal de Gu (...)
  • 12 Timothy Anna confuses the local election by the ayuntamiento de México with the final election in M (...)

9The electoral process – the use of the terna and the sorteo, for example – clearly relied upon existing electoral procedures to corporate bodies. In that respect, the elections followed traditional Hispanic principles and practices10. Traditional electoral processes were being adapted for new political purposes. The elections in Guadalajara provide an example of the electoral process at the regional level. The members of the ayuntamiento de Guadalajara, like those in other capitals with the right to elect a deputy, consulted broadly and received recommendations from representatives of other cities and towns in the intendancy. The Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara met on the April 24, 1809 to hear the reading of the election decree. After discussing the importance of the event, the regidores agreed «que se difiera esta elección para el día de mañana, a fin de que los regidores refleccionaran sobre tan importante asunto, y se convoque a la sesion, a los regidores, Alférez Real y Fiel Ejecutor que no concurrieron a esta.» The following day, after attending a mass de Espiritu Santo, the members of the ayuntamiento met with the intendant to elect their representative. Three ballots were held to select the members of the terna. The three finalists enjoyed great prestige and power: Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas, bishop of New Galicia; José María Gómez y Villaseñor, gobernador provisor vicario general, juez de testamentos, capellanías y obras pías del obispado, and rector of the university; and José Ygnacio Ortiz de Salinas, lawyer of the Real Audiencia and asesor de la intendencia y comandancia general. Slips of paper with their names were placed in a bowl from China and an «innocent child» selected one. Bishop Ruiz de Cabañas won the election11. He was among the eight Europeans and six American selected by lot in the fourteen cities eligible to elect candidates. Their names were sent to Mexico City; the Real Acuerdo met on Wednesday October 4, 1809 to elect the deputy from New Spain to the Junta Central12.

10Before the newly elected delegates from America could join the Junta Central, the French renewed their drive to conquer the Peninsula. French armies reoccupied Madrid and during 1809 defeated Spanish forces throughout the country. They occupied Sevilla at the end of 1810 forcing the Junta Central to retreat to Cádiz and then to the Isle of León, the last corner of Spain free from French control, thanks to the guns of the British navy. News of these calamities frightened Americans, many of whom believed that the Spanish Monarchy would not survive as an independent entity. They feared that the authorities in Spain might surrender America to the French. It was a fear that profoundly influenced New World actions. It is not surprising, therefore, that in 1809, even as they were electing their representatives to the Junta Central, movements for autonomy erupted in the two South American kingdoms that had not been granted individual representation to the Junta Central, the Audiencia of Charcas in May and July and the Audiencia of Quito in August 1809. Both movements were rapidly controlled by the royal authorities.

  • 13 Artola, Miguel, Los orígenes de la España contemporánea, 2 vols, , Madrid, Instituto de Estudios Po (...)

11In an attempt to create a more effective government, the Junta Central which had been unable to halt the French invasion decreed on January 1, 1810, that elections be held for a national Cortes. It subsequently appointed a five member Council of Regency that included an American representative and dissolved itself at the end of January 1810. As its last act, the Junta Central charged the Regency with convening a Cortes. Although some members of the Regency questioned the need for a national assembly they eventually ordered that the Cortes convene in September 181013.

  • 14 Chavarri Sidera, Pilar, Las elecciones de diputados a las Cortes Generales y Extraordinarias (1810- (...)

12In Spain, each provincial junta and each city that was entitled to representation in earlier Cortes could select a deputy. In addition, a deputy was to be elected for every 50,000 inhabitants. The elections in the Peninsula were based on the municipal elections of diputados del común and síndicos personeros introduced by Carlos III in the municipal reforms of 1766. At the parish level, vecinos elected compromisarios who then selected parish electors; these in turn met in the capital cabeza de partido to select partido electors. The latter met in the provincial capital to choose provincial electors who finally elected the deputies from the province by lot14. That complex indirect electoral process, which provided for widespread representation, would be enshrined subsequently in the Constitution of 1812.

  • 15 Gazeta del Gobierno de México, Tomo I, n. 56, 18 de mayo de 1810, pp. 419-420.
  • 16 Timothy E. Anna asserts, without evidence, that in America a deputy was to be elected for every 100 (...)
  • 17 Gazeta del Gobierno de México, Tomo I, n. 56, 18 de mayo de 1810, pp. 419-420. The italics are mine (...)

13The Council of Regency approved an entirely different electoral process for the New World. According to the decree issued by the Council of Regency February 14, 1810: «Vendrán a tener parte en la representación nacional de las Cortes extraordinarias del Reyno Diputados de los Virreynatos de Nueva España, Perú, Santa Fe y Buenos Aires, y de las Capitanías generales de Puerto Rico, Cuba, Santo Domingo, Guatemala, Provincias Internas, Venezuela, Chile y Filipinas. Estos Diputados serán uno por cada Capital cabeza de partido de estas diferentes provincias.»15 Once again the besieged government in Spain focused on the four virreinatos and the capitanías generales. This time, however, it identified eight capitanías generales instead of the five that participated in the elections to the Junta Central in 1809. Moreover, it continued to rely on the partido, a vague and undefined term, as the regional unit for elections. No provision was made for representation based on population16. The electoral decree also indicated that: «Su elección [that of the deputies] se hará por el ayuntamiento de cada Capital, nombrándose primero tres naturales de la Provincia, dotados de probidad, talento e instrucción, y exentos de toda nota; y sorteándose después uno de los tres, el que salga a primera suerte será diputado a Cortes.»17 Thus, the requirements for election and the electoral process were to be similar to those used in 1809 for elections for deputies to the Junta Central. There were, however, two major differences. The candidates had to be «naturales de la Provincia», thus eliminating españoles europeos residing in America, and a deputy would be elected for each ayuntamiento rather than for each reino.

  • 18 Avila, En nombre de la nación, p. 92.

14The Regency’s failure to provide for equal American representation based on population became a focus of discontent in the Cortes and subsequent scholarly debate that has obscured the revolutionary nature of the government’s action18. No other European metropolis granted its overseas territory comparable representation. The English parliament, generally believed to be the most advanced in the world, never considered granting its North American colonies anything but virtual representation.

The Elections of Suplentes

15Elections for the new representative government occurred while warfare engulfed the Peninsula and parts of America. Because many of the occupied provinces of Spain could not hold elections, and because distance delayed the arrival of many American deputies, the Regency decreed that fifty-five suplentes, among them thirty from America and the Filipines, be elected by individuals from those areas who were in Cádiz. In 1810, the city was swollen with refugees, Americans as well as peninsulares, who had retreated to the port from other regions of Spain to escape French control.

  • 19 Ibid., 1-6. The substitute deputies for New Spain were: José María Couto, Francisco Fernández Munil (...)

16On September 8, the Regency announced the electoral procedures. It allocated the overseas realms thirty suplentes, fifteen to América Septentrional: New Spain seven, Guatemala two, Cuba two, the Filipines two, Santo Domingo one, and Puerto Rico one; and fifteen to America Meridional: Perú five, Santa Fé three, Buenos Aires three, Venezuela two and Chile two. Suplentes had to be at least twenty-five years of age and naturales of the provinces that elected them. Members of the regular orders, convicted felons, public debtors, and domestic servants were not eligible. As in the case of the Spanish provinces, the electors were to gather by province and choose seven compromisarios, who then would select three to form a terna from whom one would be picked by lot. Because there were not enough Americans in Cádiz from each province to hold individual elections the procedure had to be abandoned. Instead, the 177 American electors met as four regional groups to pick the New World suplentes: New Spain, Guatemala and the Filipines; Santo Domingo and Cuba; New Granada and Venezuela; and Perú, Buenos Aires and Chile. Puerto Rico did not participate because its proprietary deputy, Ramón Power, was the only one from America who arrived in time for the opening of the Cortes. New World suplentes were a varied group; they included military men, lawyers, academics, clerics, and government functionaries. Two were grandes of Spain and one, Dionisio Inca Yupangui, was a Peruvian Indian who had served as a lieutenant colonel of dragoons in the Peninsula19.

  • 20 Benson, Nettie Lee, Mexico and the Spanish Cortes, 1808-1822, Austin, University of Texas Press, 19 (...)

17The suplentes played a major role in the Cortes on behalf of their patrias and America as a whole. Indeed, some of them like José María Couto and José María Gutiérrez de Terán of New Spain and José Mexía Llequerica of Quito became outstanding parliamentarians. Moreover, when the proprietary deputies from America arrived, most suplentes remained in the Cortes representing New World realms that had failed to send proprietary deputies. The election of substitute deputies has confused many historians who believe that America was only allotted thirty deputies to the Cortes. They confuse the number of suplentes assigned to the overseas territories with the number of proprietary deputies allocated to these areas. As a consequence, these historians overstate the supposed inequality of representation between the Peninsula and the other regions of the Spanish Monarchy20.

Elections in America

  • 21 Rodríguez O., La independencia de la América española, pp. 132-203.

18Representative government in the Spanish world struggled to exist in the midst of a crisis of confidence. By 1810, most Americans expected the French to triumph. Napoleonic armies, after all, controlled the majority of the Peninsula. Fear of French domination strengthened the desire of many in the New World to seek autonomy. In 1810, home rule movements reemerged in Caracas in April, Buenos Aires and Charcas in May, Santa Fe de Bogotá in July and three areas in September – the Bajío in New Spain on the 16th, Santiago de Chile on the 18th, and Quito, once again, on the 20th. All these regions sought to establish caretaker governments to rule in the name of Fernando VII. The autonomy movements of 1810, unlike those of 1809, inadvertently unleashed other social forces. Discontented groups and regions capitalized on the opportunity to redress their grievances. Within a short time, civil wars consumed large parts of the American continent21.

19Elections for proprietary deputies to the Cortes were held in America during late 1810 and part of 1811. Although insurgencies had erupted in various parts of the continent, most kingdoms, with the exception of Chile and parts of Venezuela, New Granada, and the Río de la Plata, participated in the electoral process. The elections had a great impact throughout the New World. The capitals of most of the provinces eligible to elect deputies consulted widely with the villas and pueblos of their regions. Each urban center prepared lists of notables by consulting prominent individuals of the area. During the process of consultation, there was widespread discussion in public places, such as plazas, markets, garitas, government buildings, parks, eating places, inns, and taverns. Curas discussed the importance of the event at mass and outside of church, emphasizing the significance of opposing the godless French – who were a threat to the holy faith, the king, and the patria – by participating in the government of the Spanish Nation. The elections in the provincial capitals were generally conducted in public and were accompanied by ceremonies that usually began with a mass of Espiritu Santo and ended with a Te Deum, the ringing of bells and other public celebrations. Cities, villas, and pueblos decorated the center of the town to commemorate the festive occasion. In large capital cities, the celebrations were accompanied by the firing of cannon and fireworks. These events created a spirit of optimism and gave Americans a sense that they could overcome the grave political crisis.

The Cortes of Cádiz

  • 22 See Lovett, Napoleon and the Birth, I, 371, note 33, for a review of the various estimates of the m (...)

20As their first act, the deputies to the Cortes of Cádiz declared themselves representatives of the nation and assumed sovereignty. When the Cortes convened, 104 deputies were present, 30 of them represented the overseas territories. Twenty-seven Americans and 2 Filipinos had been selected as suplentes in Cádiz. Only 1 of the 38 proprietary deputies elected in America, Ramón Power from Puerto Rico, arrived in time to attend the opening session. The others were admitted as they arrived. Approximately 220 deputies, including 67 Americans, eventually participated in the General and Extraordinary Cortes in Cádiz. The delegates to the Cortes were one-third clergymen, about one-sixth nobles, and the remainder members of the third estate who, because of their professions, might be called «middle class.»22

  • 23 Suárez, Las Cortes de Cádiz, p. 94.
  • 24 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, pp. 64-82.

21The new parliament faced the enormous task of restructuring the government while prosecuting a war in Spain and preserving the overseas possessions. Since the Cortes was extraordinary, it had to establish rules and regulations. On the second day, the members appointed a commission of five deputies to prepare a Reglamento for the governance of the body. Even before the Reglamento was approved, talk began in and out of the Cortes about the need to prepare ‘a code of laws’ that would end despotism and introduce just and liberal practices.23 After much discussion, on December 23, the Cortes appointed a commission of fifteen individuals, among them five Americans, to prepare a project of the political constitution of the Spanish Monarchy. The commission, which acted with great care, took months to complete its project that was submitted on August 18, 1811. In the ensuing debates, which lasted several months, the deputies addressed fundamental issues, such as the role of the Cortes, the king, and the Judiciary; the nature of provincial and local government; the nature of citizenship and political rights; the nature of trade, the role of education and the military, and taxation. In the process of debating the articles of the proposed constitution, the deputies were forced to make political compromises among competing interest groups and ideologies represented in the Spanish Monarchy. The extensive parliamentary debates were widely disseminated by the press and significantly influenced those Spanish Americans who supported as well as those who opposed the new Hispanic government24.

22Despite strongly held opposing convictions that resulted in heated debate, the delegates from Spain and America to the General and Extraordinary Cortes, in session from September 24, 1810, until September 20, 1813, produced a document that transformed the Spanish Monarchy. The Constitution of 1812 was not a Spanish document; it was a charter for the Spanish world. Indeed, the Constitution of Cádiz would not have taken the form it did without the participation of the representatives of the New World, particularly novohispanos. The arguments and proposals of American deputies convinced many Spaniards to embrace substantial change in America as well as the Peninsula. Novohispanos, such as Miguel Ramos Arizpe and José Guridi y Alcocer, were responsible for the creation of a new institution that formed the basis of the constitutional system: regional administrative bodies called provincial deputations. With the creation of the provincial deputations, the Cortes abolished the viceroyalties, transformed the audiencias from judicial and quasi-administrative bodies into high courts of appeal, and divided the Spanish world into provinces that dealt directly with the national government in Spain. Ramos Arizpe and Guridi y Alcocer also played a key role in the establishment of the second home rule institution created by the Cortes, constitutional ayuntamientos, which substituted popularly elected officials for the hereditary elites who had heretofore controlled city government. Deputies from New Spain also successfully argued for the expansion of those governments in Spanish America; formerly city governments existed only in major cities. The Constitution, therefore, provided Americans who desired autonomy a peaceful means of obtaining home rule. A majority of Americans seized this opportunity.

23The Constitution of 1812, one of the most radical charters of the nineteenth century, abolished seigniorial institutions, the Inquisition, Indian tribute, forced labor – such as the mita in South America and personal service in Spain – and asserted the state’s control of the Church. It created a unitary state with equal laws for all parts of the Spanish Monarchy, substantially restricted the authority of the king, and entrusted the legislature with decisive power. When it enfranchised all men, except those of African ancestry, without requiring either literacy or property qualifications, the Constitution of 1812 surpassed all existing representative governments, such as Great Britain, the United States, and France, in providing political rights to the vast majority of the male population.

  • 25 Rodríguez, Mario, The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1808-1826, Berkeley, University of Calif (...)

24Many critics, then and now have erroneously dismissed the Constitution of Cádiz as unrepresentative of the desires and needs of the people of Spain and America. In fact, the Charter «was the effort of pragmatists who were determined to create a modern Spanish nation while taking into accounts its traditions and experiences.»25 The most revolutionary aspects of the Constitution of 1812 were making the executive and judiciary subordinate to the legislature and introducing mass political participation. Unlike the United States Constitution, which established three equal branches of government, the Charter of Cádiz created three unequal branches. The judiciary received little independent power and the executive was subservient to the legislature. National sovereignty was entrusted to the Cortes. Mass political participation was ensured in two ways. First, local government increased dramatically because population centers with a thousand or more inhabitants were granted the right to form ayuntamientos. The change would have the greatest impact in America which previously possessed fewer ayuntamientos than the Peninsula. And second, granting all males, except those of African ancestry, the franchise without requiring either literacy or property expanded the scope of popular politics beyond that of any other contemporary Western government. Thus, the Constitution placed the Spanish Nation in the forefront of the broader movement transforming Antiguo Régimen societies into modern nation states.

  • 26 Suanzes-Carpegna, Joaquín Varela, La teoría del Estado en los orígenes del constitucionalismo hispá (...)

25The Charter of Cádiz dramatically increased the scope of political activity. The new constitution established representative government at three levels, the ayuntamiento (Ayuntamiento Constitucional), the province (Diputación Provincial), and the Monarchy (Cortes). When it allowed cities and towns with a thousand or more inhabitants to form ayuntamientos constitucionales, it transferred political power from the center to the localities by incorporating vast numbers of people into the political process26. The Constitution of 1812 was widely introduced in those regions of the Monarchy that recognized the government in Spain. It is striking that New Spain and Guatemala, lands that contained more than half of the population of Spanish America, implemented the new constitutional order more fully than any other part of the Spanish Monarchy, including Spain itself. Other areas of America under royal control – the Caribbean, Quito, Peru, and Charcas – as well as in parts of Venezuela, New Granada, and the Río de la Plata also introduced the charter.

  • 27 Benson, Nettie Lee, «The Contested Mexican Election of 1812», Hispanic American Historical Review, (...)

26Despite confusion, conflict, and delay resulting from the implementation of a new system, the first constitutional elections in Spanish America, contributed to the legitimization of the new political culture. Spanish Americans established more than a thousand constitutional ayuntamientos and sixteen provincial deputations during 1812-1814. In some areas, such as the territories of the Provincial Deputations of Yucatán and New Galicia, as many as three successive ayuntamiento elections were held during the 1812-1814 period. Several areas held two elections, first to establish and then to renew their provincial deputations. Americans also elected more than a hundred deputies to the Cortes in Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of citizens, perhaps more than a million, including Indians, mestizos, castas, and blacks, participated in the elections and in government both at the local and provincial levels. It is ironic that scholars have tended to ignore this great political revolution and instead have focused almost exclusively on the insurgencies. By any standard, the political revolution was more profound and extensive than the insurgencies, which have primarily occupied historians27.

  • 28 Guerra, François-Xavier, «El soberano y su reino: Reflexiones sobre la génesis del ciudadano en Amé (...)
  • 29 Rugeley, Terry, Yucatán’s Maya Peasantry and the Origins of the Caste War, Austin, University of Te (...)
  • 30 On elections among insurgents see: Guedea, Virginia, «Los procesos electorales insurgentes», Estudi (...)

27Unlike the elections of 1809 for the Junta Central and those of 1810 for the Extraordinary Cortes of Cádiz, which were conducted by the ayuntamientos, the new constitutional elections of 1812-1813 were the first popular elections held in the Hispanic world. Relatively free elections occurred in those areas dominated by the royalists. In contrast, the insurgents either did not hold elections or failed to conduct them in a «democratic» or «popular» manner. Although the elite clearly dominated politics, hundreds of thousands of middle-and lower-class men became involved in politics in a meaningful way and made their presence felt. François-Xavier Guerra’s analysis of the 1813 election census in Mexico City, for example, concludes that 93 percent of the adult male population of the capital possessed the right to vote28. Most striking, the Indian communities – members of the former repúblicas de indios – participated actively. In a number of regions, such as Cuenca and Loja in the Kingdom of Quito, they not won control of their local towns they also formed inter-ethnic coalitions to participate in the government of the larger provincial capitals29. Ironically, the new Hispanic political system forced many insurgent governments to enhance their legitimacy by drafting constitutions and holding elections. Their constitutions, however, were less revolutionary than the Constitution of Cádiz and restricted suffrage by imposing literacy and property qualifications30. For example, the elections held in New Spain for the Congress of Apatzingan, involved a few thousand voters.

28The first constitutional era ended in 1814 when King Fernando VII returned. The king’s return provided an opportunity to restore the unity of the Spanish World. Virtually every act that had occurred since 1808 – the struggle against the French, the political revolution enacted by the Cortes and the autonomy movements in America – was taken in his name. Initially it appeared that he might accept moderate reforms, but ultimately the king opted to abolish the Cortes and the Constitution of Cádiz. His autocratic government relied on force to restore royal order in the New World. There followed a five year period in which, unfettered by the Constitution, the royal authorities in the New World crushed most insurgent movements. Only the isolated Río de la Plata remained beyond the reach of a weakened Spanish Monarchy.

The Constitution Restored

  • 31 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America169-237; Ibid., «The Transition from Colony to Nat (...)

29Autonomists in America and Spanish and American liberals grew increasingly dissatisfied with the autocratic government of Fernando VII, which failed to conform to Antiguo Régimen government practice. In March 1820, liberals in Spain forced the king to restore the Constitution of Cádiz. The restoration of constitutional government elicited disparate responses from the American regions. New Spain and the Kingdom of Guatemala enthusiastically reestablished the constitutional system. In the months that followed, they conducted elections for countless constitutional ayuntamientos, provincial deputations, and the Cortes. Political instability in the Peninsula during the previous dozen years, however, convinced many novohispanos that it was prudent to establish an autonomous government within the Spanish Monarchy. They pursued two courses of action. New Spain’s deputies to the Cortes of 1821 proposed a project for New World autonomy, which would create three American kingdoms allied with the Peninsula and governed by Spanish princes under the Constitution of 1812. At the same time, fearing that their proposal might be rejected, they organized a movement throughout New Spain to establish an autonomous monarchy under the Constitution of 1812. When the Spanish majority in the Cortes, faced with political, social and economic crises in the Peninsula, rejected their proposal to create autonomous American kingdoms, the leaders of New Spain chose to secede and established the Mexican Empire. Mexico achieved independence not because royalist forces were defeated militarily but because novohispanos no longer supported the Monarchy politically. They convinced royalist military officers who were weary of fighting the insurgency to change sides. Central America also declared independence and joined the newly formed Mexican Empire31.

  • 32 Iturbide, Manifiesto al mundo, 43. Despite the fact that Nettie Lee Benson long ago demonstrated th (...)
  • 33 This view is developed at length in Rodríguez O., «The transition from colony to nation». Following (...)

30Emancipation, however, did not initially signify either rejection of the Spanish Monarchy or of Hispanic political traditions, particularly the recent parliamentary experience in the Cortes where novohispanos not only participated with distinction but also played a prominent role in framing the Constitution of 1812. Instead, New Spain’s elite proposed to govern at home, while retaining strong ties to the mother country. That fact is clearly demonstrated in the two documents central to the process of independence: the Plan of Iguala, which called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy with the Spanish king or a member of the royal family as sovereign and which acknowledged the Constitution of 1812 and the statutes enacted by the Hispanic Cortes as the laws of the land, and the Treaty of Córdoba, signed by Juan O’Donojú, the last jefe político superior of New Spain, which ratified the Plan of Iguala and recognized the independence of Mexico. While Agustín de Iturbide subsequently asserted that he alone conceived and executed the Plan of Iguala32, it is quite clear that the document was based on long held views, was prepared by many individuals, and fulfilled the objectives of New Spain’s autonomists, a group which had been seeking home rule since 1808. By 1821 novohispanos generally agreed on the need to establish an autonomous commonwealth within the Spanish Monarchy. It is no accident, therefore, that the Plan of Iguala and the proposal for autonomy, which New Spain’s deputies submitted to the Cortes in Madrid, were virtually the same33.

31Like América Septentrional, in the Río de la Plata and Chile the military did not dominate politics. Because autonomists in the southern cone gained control early and did not face major opposition from royalist forces, civilians were not forced to relinquish power to military leaders. Although Buenos Aires and Santiago experienced partisan conflicts and civil wars during the early years, the region escaped the brutal campaigns waged in northern South America. The Río de la Plata obtained its autonomy and ultimately its independence in 1816 by default; the Spanish Monarchy lacked the resources to mount a campaign to regain control of the area. Similarly, Chile endured only limited combat in the struggle for emancipation and the military forces that liberated the Andean nation in 1818 quickly departed to secure the independence of Peru. As a result, civilians dominated the Chilean government.

  • 34 Almer, «‘La confianza que han puesto en mí’« , pp. 365-395.

32In contrast to the rest of America, the independence of northern South America was achieved by military force rather than political compromise. In 1816 the republicans renewed the struggle to take control of Venezuela and New Granada. The restoration of the Hispanic Constitution provided insurgents favoring independence the opportunity to press their campaign to liberate the continent. They accepted the armistice offered by the Cortes in order to strengthen their forces, confident that the Monarchy would not send a new expeditionary army to restore royal order in the region. However, those favoring independence faced strong resistance because large parts of Venezuela, New Granada, Quito, Peru, and Charcas eagerly implemented the restored constitutional system. They elected hundreds of constitutional ayuntamientos, but most were unable to complete elections for provincial deputations and deputies to the Cortes in Madrid because the insurgents violated the truce in 1821 and began a military campaign to bring those areas under their control34.

33The conflict in northern South America enhanced the power of military men. Self-proclaimed generals like Simón Bolívar and former professional soldiers such as José de San Martín gained immense power and prestige as the leaders of the bloody struggles to win independence. Although civilian and clerical institutions – ayuntamientos, courts, parishes, cathedral chapters – continued to function, and although new constitutional governments were formed and congresses elected, military power was dominant. Colombia provides the clearest example of that phenomenon.

34Convened by Bolívar in February 1819, the Congress of Angostura legitimized his power and in December created the Republic of Colombia, incorporating Venezuela, New Granada, and Quito. Although a few regions of Venezuela and New Granada possessed representation at Angostura, Quito and the most heavily populated parts of Venezuela and New Granada had none. Later in 1821, the Congress of Cúcuta, pressured by President Bolívar and intimidated by the army, ratified the formation of the Republic of Colombia, again without any representation from Quito. There and in large parts of Venezuela and New Granada the Republic was imposed by force. In contrast to the Hispanic Constitution of 1812, written by a Cortes composed of elected representatives from all parts of the Monarchy – which granted considerable autonomy to the regions via the constitutional ayuntamientos and provincial deputations, restricted the power of the king, and bestowed sovereignty on the legislature – the 1821 Colombian constitution created a highly centralized government and granted vast authority to the president.

  • 35 Rodríguez O., La revolución política en la época de la independencia: el Reino de Quito, pp. 179-18 (...)

35Bolívar’s actions in the Kingdom of Quito demonstrate his disdain for civilian rule and his willingness to subjugate other independent governments and impose martial law in his drive to expel royalist forces from the continent and consolidate power. Guayaquil declared independence and formed a republican government on October 9, 1820; in the following months, it attempted without success to free the highland provinces of the Kingdom of Quito. Guayaquil subsequently requested help from San Martín and Bolívar in liberating the highlands. A mixed force consisting mainly of local troops, Colombians, and men from San Martín’s army, under the command of General Antonio José de Sucre finally defeated the royalist forces in Quito on May 24, 1822, at the Battle of Pinchincha. Bolívar, who arrived from the north in June with more Colombian troops, incorporated the region into the Republic of Colombia despite opposition from both Quito and Guayaquil. Subsequently, Bolívar imposed martial law in the former Kingdom of Quito to impress men as well as to requisition money and supplies for the struggle against the royalists in Peru, the last bastion of royal power in America35.

36Earlier, San Martín landed in Lima in August 1820 with a liberating army composed of Chileans and rioplatenses. Although he controlled the coast, San Martín could not overcome the royalists in the highlands. In an effort to win the loyalty of the population, liberal officers in the royal army forced Viceroy Joaquín de la Pezuela to abdicate on January 29, 1821, implemented the Constitution of 1812 and named General José de la Serna captain general. The constitutionalists reorganized the royal army and nearly drove San Martín’s forces from the coast. But divisions within the royalist ranks prevented them from expelling the republican forces.

  • 36 Anna, Timothy E., The Fall of the Royal Government in Peru, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, (...)

37San Martín who was unable to secure additional resources to pursue the Peruvian campaign ceded the honor of final victory to Bolívar. Although the Colombians arrived in force in 1823, they made little progress. Divisions among Peruvians, shortage of supplies, and strong royalist armies kept them pinned down on the coast. However, the royalists also were divided. In Charcas the absolutist general Pedro Olañeta opposed La Serna and the liberals. After the Constitution of Cádiz was again abolished in 1823, General Olañeta took up arms against the liberals on December 25, 1823. This internecine conflict contributed to the royalists’ defeat. For nearly a year, while Bolívar and his men recovered, royalist constitutional and absolutist armies’ waged war against each other in the highlands. Ultimately, General Sucre defeated the royalist constitutional army in the decisive battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824. Olañeta’s absolutist forces, however, remained in control of Charcas. Political intrigue finally settled the struggle. Olañeta was assassinated in April 1825. The death of the absolutist commander marked the end of royal power in Charcas. Subsequently, General Sucre formed the new republic of Bolivia in the territory of the former Audiencia of Charcas. By 1826, when the last royalist forces surrendered, Bolívar dominated northern and central South America as president of Colombia, dictator of Peru, and ruler of Bolivia36.


38After independence, Spanish American political leaders faced two fundamental questions: determining the territory of the nation and selecting the best form of government. Although, most Americans considered the viceroyalties synonymous with the nation, the new nations were formed on the basis of audiencias. The two exceptions were Mexico, which remained united even though it had two audiencias, and the former Audiencia of Guatemala, which fragmented into five countries. After independence the Spanish American nations formed republics even though most Spanish Americans, including the large indigenous peasantry in the former república indios, favored constitutional monarchies. Mexico initially established a monarchy but replaced it with a republic when its first emperor failed as a political leader. In Spanish South America some countries considered establishing a monarchy but failed to convince a European prince to become their king. In north and central Spanish South America, Bolívar opposed monarchy but favored a lifetime president with the ability to select his successor. Most civilians whether monarchists or republicans preferred legislative dominance as established by the Constitution of Cádiz and many of the American charters. In contrast, in parts of South America where military men, such as Bolívar, triumphed the executive dominated the civilian legislatures.

  • 37 Rocafuerte, Vicente, «Examen analítico de la constituciones formadas en Hispano-América», Revista d (...)

39América Septentrional and América Meridional lived through profoundly different experiences during the years 1810-1825. While the Americans in the north participated fully in the political transformation of the Hispanic world, many in the south did not. The South American areas under royalist control during the two Hispanic constitutional periods (1810-1814 y 1820-1823) – Quito, Peru, and Charcas and parts of  Venezuela and New Granada – were not only the most populous regions they also held constitutional elections for the Cortes and established provincial deputations and constitutional ayuntamientos. The other regions of South America, those controlled by the autonomists – Río de la Plata and Chile as well as large parts of  Venezuela and New Granada – did not share that constitutional experience. Unlike Mexico’s 1824 constitution, which was based on the Hispanic Constitution of 1812 that defined all men, regardless of race or class as Spaniards and granted the franchise without property or literacy qualifications to all free men who were not of African ancestry, most South American governments imposed literacy and property qualifications and divided their people into active and passive citizens37.

40The two halves of America also followed different paths to emancipation. While the elites of América Septentrional gained independence through a political compromise in which civil and military officials changed sides and supported the decision to separate from the Spanish Monarchy, the republicans of northern and central América Meridional fought prolonged and bloody wars to defeat the royal authorities. It is often said that Simón Bolívar was the «liberator» of five nations. It is more correct to say that he was the «conqueror» of those countries. The majority of the population in those nations, including his native Venezuela, preferred the Hispanic political system to those offered by the republicans. There independence was the product of military force, not debate or elections.

41By 1826 the overseas possessions of the Spanish Monarchy, one of the world’s most imposing political structures at the end of the eighteenth century, consisted only of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Filipines, and a few other Pacific islands. Having achieved independence, the countries of the American continent would henceforth chart their own futures. Most, however, entered a prolonged period of economic decline and political instability. The break up of the Monarchy destroyed a vast and responsive social, political, and economic system that functioned relatively well, despite its many imperfections. For nearly three hundred years the world wide Spanish Monarchy had proven to be flexible and capable of accommodating social tensions and conflicting political and economic interests. After independence, the former Spanish Monarchy’s separate parts functioned at a competitive disadvantage. In that regard, nineteenth-century Spain, like the American kingdoms, was just one more newly independent nation struggling to survive in an uncertain and difficult world. During the first half of the nineteenth century, military strongmen – caudillos but not institutional militarists – dominated many nations. The stable, more developed, and stronger countries of the North Atlantic, such as Britain, France, and the United States, flooded Spanish America with their exports, dominated their credit, and sometimes imposed their will upon the new American nations by force of arms.

42As a result of the great political revolution that led to the dissolution of the Spanish Monarchy, Spain and the new nations of Spanish America developed a unique political culture based not on foreign models but on their own traditions and experience. After independence in America and after Fernando VII’s death in the Peninsula, the old absolute monarchy disappeared. The people of the Spanish-speaking world ceased to be subjects of the Crown and became citizens of their nations. During the nineteenth century, the new political systems of Spain and Spanish America were consolidated on the basis of the liberal traditions that had emerged in the Cortes of Cádiz and its rival regimes in America. Despite power struggles, such as those between monarchists and republicans, centralists and federalists, and parliamentarians and caudillos, a liberal representative, constitutional government remained the political ideal of the Spanish-speaking nations. Indeed, even caudillos and dictators were forced to acknowledge, at least in principle, the supremacy of the rule of law and the ultimate desirability of civilian, representative, constitutional government. That tradition, together with the achievement of nationhood, remains the most significant heritage of Spanish American independence.

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1 Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «Una cultura política compartida: Los orígenes del constitucionalismo y liberalismo en México», in: Minguez, Victor & Chust, Manuel (eds.), El imperio sublevado. Monarquía y naciones en España e Hispano-américa, Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2004, pp. 195-224.

2 Older historians, such as Roger B. Merriman, thought in terms of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and the New, as the title of his great work indicates: The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and the New 4 vols., New York, The Macmillan Co., 1918-1934. Recently, Henry Kamen has reasserted this view in a «modern» fashion; see: Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763, New York, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

3 Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «La naturaleza de la representación en la Nueva España y México», Secuencia: Revista de historia y ciencias sociales, n. 61, 2002, pp. 6-32. Ibid., The Independence of Spanish America, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 19-35.

4 The national and ayuntamiento archives of Spanish America are replete with reports and imprints of a wide variety of events. It is common to find letters and reports discussing not only events in Spain but also throughout the American continent. An official, for example, wrote in January 1810: «y como son tan interesantes las noticias» he was sending them immediately to his colleague. AGN, Historia, vol. 326, exp. 7, f. 1. Official documents often included the following instruction: «y para que llegue la noticia a todos los habitantes, mando que se publique y se fije en los parajes acostumbrados.» In addition, pasquines and hojas volantes conveyed public reaction, often in opposition to official actions. See also Young, Eric Van, The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 311-349.

5 The massive growth of publications in New Spain, for example, is made evident in Impresos novohispanos, 1808-1821, 2 vols. Amaya Garritz, Virginia Guedea, and Teresa Lozano (eds.), México, UNAM, 1990; and in Rocío Meza Olivier and Luis Olivera López (eds.), Catálogo de la colección LaFragua de la Biblioteca Nacional de México, 1800-1810, México, UNAM, 1993; and ibid, Catálogo de la colección LaFragua de la Biblioteca Nacional de México, 1811-1821, México, UNAM, 1996. Ayuntamiento archives throughout Spanish America are filled with copies of a wide variety of imprints.

6 Castel, Jorge, La Junta Central Suprema y Gubernativa de España e Indias, Madrid, Imprenta Marte, 1950, pp. 71-76.

7 «Real Orden de la Junta Central expedida el 22 de enero de 1809», Gazeta de México, XVI, 15 de abril de 1809, p. 326.

8 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, 59-64.

9 Benson, Nettie Lee, «The Elections of 1809: Transforming Political Culture in New Spain», Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, vol. 20, n. 1, 2004, pp. 1-20. Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, 1992, pp. 59-64. Guerra, François-Xavier, Modernidad e independencias; Ensayos sobre las revoluciones hispánicas, Madrid, Editorial MAPFRE, 1992, pp. 177-225. Almarza Villalobos y Martínez, «Presentación», in: Instrucciones para los diputados del Nuevo Reino de Granada y Venezuela. Jordana Dym, From Sovereign Villages to Nacional States: City, State, and Federation in Central America, 1759-1839, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006, pp. 75-82. Rodríguez O., Jaime E., La revolución política durante la época de la independencia: El Reino de Quito, 1808–1822, Quito, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2006, pp. 65-69 and 134-138. Paniagua Corazao, Valentín, Los orígenes del gobierno representativo en el Perú. Las elecciones (1809-1826), Lima, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú y Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003, pp. 79-92.

10 For a different assessment than mine, see: Aguilar Rivera, José Antonio, «La nación en ausencia: primeras formas de representación en México», Política y gobierno, vol. 2, 1998, pp. 423-457. Another version of that article is found in chapter IV: «La nación en ausencia: primeras formas de representación en México» in his En pos de la quimera. Reflexiones sobre el experimento constitucional atlántico, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica y CIDE, pp. 129-166.

11 «Libro de Actas Capitulares del Ylustre Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara, 1809», Archivo Municipal de Guadalajara (en adelante AMG), ff. 39-43.

12 Timothy Anna confuses the local election by the ayuntamiento de México with the final election in Mexico City by the Real Acuerdo; see his Spain and the Loss of America, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1983, p. 52. He does not discuss the election in his The Fall of the Royal Government in México City. His only reference to this significant event is: «Miguel de Lardizábal y Uribe, a member of the Council of the Indies and native of Tlaxcala (though he lived all his life in Spain) represented New Spain in the Junta Central», p. 61. Antonio Annino makes the same error; he states: «Este [Lardizábal y Uribe] había sido electo por el cabildo de la ciudad de México en cuento cabecera del reino, pero su cargo lo ponía al servicio de todas las demás cabeceras de provincia y, través de éstas, de todos los territorio de Nueva España.» Antonio Annino (1992), «Prácticas criollas y liberalismo en la crisis del espacio urbano colonial. El 29 de noviembre de 1812 en la ciudad de México», Secuencia. Revista de historia y ciencias socilales, 24, p. 123; and Alfredo Ávila also appears to make the same mistake; he states: «Las listas de los candidatos… fueron remitidas a la ciudad de México, la cual por sus privilegios fue destinada a hacer la elección final.» En nombre de la nación. La formación del gobierno representativo en México, México, Taurus y CIDE, 2002, p. 85.

13 Artola, Miguel, Los orígenes de la España contemporánea, 2 vols, , Madrid, Instituto de Estudios Políticos, vol. 1, 1959, pp. 383-385; Lovett, Gabriel, Napoleon and the Birth of Modern Spain, 2 vols., New York, New York University Press, I, 1965, pp. 370-372.

14 Chavarri Sidera, Pilar, Las elecciones de diputados a las Cortes Generales y Extraordinarias (1810-1813), Madrid, Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1988, pp. 1-90.

15 Gazeta del Gobierno de México, Tomo I, n. 56, 18 de mayo de 1810, pp. 419-420.

16 Timothy E. Anna asserts, without evidence, that in America a deputy was to be elected for every 100,000 inhabitants in contrast to Spain, which elected a deputy for every 50,000 persons. Spain and the Loss of America, 66.

17 Gazeta del Gobierno de México, Tomo I, n. 56, 18 de mayo de 1810, pp. 419-420. The italics are mine. The electoral decree is also published in: Hernández y Dávalos, Colección de documentos para la historia de la Guerra de Independencia, II, pp. 37-38. Alfredo Avila appears not to know that a requirement existed that the diputado be a «natural de la provincia»; he writes, for example: «Si hubo alguna diferencia con el proceso del año anterior, fue que en 1810 resultaron electos un buen número de criollos o por lo menos individuos estrechamente vinculados con los colonos de sus ciudades…. Incluso en Veracruz, con todo y su Consulado peninsular, el electo fue un criollo….» (Las cursivas son mías). Avila, En nombre de la nación, pp. 94-95.

18 Avila, En nombre de la nación, p. 92.

19 Ibid., 1-6. The substitute deputies for New Spain were: José María Couto, Francisco Fernández Munilla, José María Gutiérrez de Terán, Máximo Maldonado, Salvador de Sanmartín, Octaviano Obregón, Andrés Sabariego.

20 Benson, Nettie Lee, Mexico and the Spanish Cortes, 1808-1822, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1966, pp. 4-8. The following are examples of prominent historians who maintain that America was only allocated 30 deputies for the Cortes of Cádiz. After mentioning the unequal representation to the Junta Central, François-Xavier Guerra afirms: «Cuando un año después se convoquen las elecciones a las Cortes extraordinarias se manisfestará una desigualdad aún mayor, puesto que se prevén 30 diputados para representar América frente a alrededor de 250 para la España peninsular». Revoluciones Hispánicas. Independencias americanas y liberalismo español, Madrid, Editorial Complutense, 1995, p. 28; and Josep M. Fradera declares: «frente a los doscientos diputados de la Península, treinta correspondían a Ultramar, veinteocho a América y dos a Filipinas», Gobernar colonias, Barcelona, Ediciones Península, 1999, p. 52.

21 Rodríguez O., La independencia de la América española, pp. 132-203.

22 See Lovett, Napoleon and the Birth, I, 371, note 33, for a review of the various estimates of the members of the Cortes. Federico Suárez identifies 67 deputies from overseas in: Las Cortes de Cádiz (Madrid: Rialp, 1982), 41-46 whereas Marie Laure Rieu-Millan, Los diputados americanos en las Cortes de Cádiz, Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1990, p. 37, lists only 63, but she does not incluye the deputies who represented the Filipines. According to Miguel Artola, «Los firmantes del acta de apertura de las sesiones de Cortes no son sino 104. La Constitución lleva al pie 184 firmas, y el acta de disolución de las Cortes [Generales y Extraordinarias], en 14 de septiembre de 1813, reúne 223 nombres», Los orígenes de la España contemporánea, I, 404. On the American deputies see: Berruezo, María Teresa, La participación americana en las Cortes de Cádiz (1810-1814), Madrid, Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1986, pp. 55-299, who has a detailed analysis of each American deputy.

23 Suárez, Las Cortes de Cádiz, p. 94.

24 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, pp. 64-82.

25 Rodríguez, Mario, The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1808-1826, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1978, p. 94. For a recent example of criticism of the work of the Cortes see: Anna, Timothy E., Spain and the Loss of America, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1983, chap. 3.

26 Suanzes-Carpegna, Joaquín Varela, La teoría del Estado en los orígenes del constitucionalismo hispánico (Las Cortes de Cádiz), Madrid, Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1983; Chust, Manuel, La cuestión nacional Americana en las Cortes de Cádiz, Valencia y México, Fundación Historia Social y UNAM, 1999; Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America, pp. 82-92.

27 Benson, Nettie Lee, «The Contested Mexican Election of 1812», Hispanic American Historical Review, 23:3, August 1946, pp. 336-350; Guedea, Virginia, «The First Popular Elections in Mexico City, 1812-1813», in: Jaime E. Rodríguez O., ed., The Origins of Mexican National Poliltics, 1808-1847, Wilmington, SR Books, 1997, pp. 39-63; Jaime E. Rodríguez O., «Las primeras elecciones constitucionales en el Reino de Quito, 1809-1814 y 1821-1822», Procesos: Revista ecuatoriana de historia, n. 14, II semester de 1999, pp. 3-52; Warren, Richard, «Elections and Popular Political Participation in Mexico, 1808-1836», in: Vincent Peloso & Barbara A. Tenenbaum (comps.) Liberals, Politics & Power: State Formation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1996, pp. 30-58; Peralta Ruíz, Victor, «Elecciones, constitucionalismo y revolución en el Cuzco, 1809-1815», in: Carlos Malamud (ed), Partidos políticos y elecciones en América Latina y la Peninsula Ibérica, 1830-1930, Madrid, Instituto Universitario Ortega y Gasset, 1995, 2 vols, I, pp. 83-112; Gómez Vizuete, Antonio, «Los primeros ayuntamientos liberales en Puerto Rico, 1812-1814 y 1820-1823», Anuario de estudios americanos, 47, 1990, pp. 581-615;
Avendaño, Xiomara, «Procesos electorales y clase política en la Federación de Centroamérica (1810-1840)», Ph.D. Thesis, El Colegio de México, 1995; Dym, Jordana, «La soberanía de los pueblos: ciudad e independencia en Centroamérica, 1808-1823»; Almer, Carl, «‘La confianza que han puesto en mi’: La participación local en el establecimiento de los Ayuntamientos Constitucionales en Venezuela, 1820-1821»; and Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «La Antigua provincia de Guayaquil en la época de la independencia, 1809-1820», in: Rodríguez O. (coord.),
Revolución, independencia y las Nuevas Naciones, Madrid, Fundación MAPFRE-Tavera, 2005, pp. 309-337, 365-395, 511-556.

28 Guerra, François-Xavier, «El soberano y su reino: Reflexiones sobre la génesis del ciudadano en América Latina», in: Hilda Sabato (coord.), Ciudadanía política y formación de las naciones: perspectivas históricas de América Latina, Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1999, p. 45.

29 Rugeley, Terry, Yucatán’s Maya Peasantry and the Origins of the Caste War, Austin, University of Texas, Press, 1996; Escobar Ohmstede, Antonio, «Del gobierno indígena al Ayuntamiento constitucional en las huastecas hidalguense y veracruzana, 1780-1853», Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, vol. 12, n. 1, invierno de 1996, pp. 1-26; Guardino, Peter, «‘Toda libertad para emitir sus votos’: Plebeyos, campesinos, y elecciones en Oaxaca, 1808-1850», Cuadernos del Sur, vol 6, n. 15, junio 2000, pp. 87-114; Rodríguez O., Jaime E., «Ciudadanos de la Nación Española: Los indígenas y la elecciones constitucionales en el Reino de Quito», in: Marta Irurozqui Victoriano (ed.), La mirada esquiva: Reflexiones históricas sobre la interacción del Estado y la ciudadanía en los Andes (Bolivia, Ecuador y Perú). Siglo XIX, Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2005, pp. 41-64.

30 On elections among insurgents see: Guedea, Virginia, «Los procesos electorales insurgentes», Estudios de historia novohispana, n. 11, 1991, pp. 201-249; Valencia Llano, Alonso, «Elites, burocracia, clero y sectores populares en la Independencia quiteña (1809-1812)», Procesos: Revista ecuatoriana de historia, 3, II semester de 1992, pp. 55-101.

31 Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America169-237; Ibid., «The Transition from Colony to Nation: New Spain, 1820-1821», in Jaime E. Rodríguez O. (ed.), Mexico in the Age of Democratic Revolutions, 1750-1850, Boulder, Lynne Reiner Publications, 1994, pp. 97-132; Ibid., «Rey, religión, independencia y union:» el proceso político de la independencia de Guadalajara, Mexico, Instituto de Investigaciones José María Luis Mora, 2003; Ibid., «‘Ningún pueblo es superior a otro’ Oaxaca and Mexican Federalism», in: Jaime E. Rodríguez O. (ed.), The Divine Charter: Constitutionalism and Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Mexico, Boulder, Rowan & Littlefield, 2005, pp. 65-108; Avendaño Rojas, Xiomara, «El gobierno provincial en el Reino de Guatemala, 1821-1823», in Virginia Guedea (ed.), La independencia de México y el proceso autonomista novohispano, 1808-1824, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México & Instituto Mora, 2001, pp. 321-353.

32 Iturbide, Manifiesto al mundo, 43. Despite the fact that Nettie Lee Benson long ago demonstrated the earlier and widespread nature of those ideas, Timothy E. Anna accepts Iturbide’s claims. See his, The Mexican Empire of Iturbide, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1990, p.18; and Benson, Nettie Lee, «Iturbide y los planes de la Independencia«, Historia Mexicana, 2:3, enero-marzo, 1953, pp. 439-446.

33 This view is developed at length in Rodríguez O., «The transition from colony to nation». Following the suggestion of Edmundo O’Gorman, Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach has examined the relationship between Dominique de Pradt’s De las colonias y de su revolución actual de la América 2 vols., Burdeos, Impreso por Juan Pinard, 1817, and the Plan of Iguala, which she calls «hijo spiritual de Pradt». México en 1821: Dominique de Pradt y el Plan de Iguala, México, Ediciones El Caballito y Universidad Iberoamericana, 1982, p. 131. While it is true that the Plan de Iguala bears a resemblance to the arguments advanced by Pradt in the 1817 publication, there is no evidence that the latter influenced the former. Those ideas had been widely debated in the Spanish world since the 1780s. Moreover, there is evidence that novohispano autonomists had contributed both to the Plan of Iguala and the Michelena plan presented to the Cortes in Madrid in 1821.

34 Almer, «‘La confianza que han puesto en mí’« , pp. 365-395.

35 Rodríguez O., La revolución política en la época de la independencia: el Reino de Quito, pp. 179-186.

36 Anna, Timothy E., The Fall of the Royal Government in Peru, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1979.

37 Rocafuerte, Vicente, «Examen analítico de la constituciones formadas en Hispano-América», Revista de historia de América, n. 72, Julio-diciembre de 1971, pp. 419-484.

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Jaime E. Rodríguez O., « The Hispanic Revolution: Spain and America, 1808-1826 », Ler História, 57 | 2009, 73-92.

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Jaime E. Rodríguez O., « The Hispanic Revolution: Spain and America, 1808-1826 », Ler História [Online], 57 | 2009, posto online no dia 01 Junho 2016, consultado no dia 18 Janeiro 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lerhistoria.1848

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Jaime E. Rodríguez O.

Universidade da California, Irvine

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