Colombian Declaration of Independence
Colombian Declaration of Independence refers to the historic events of July 20, 1810, in Santa Fe de Bogota, which resulted in the establishment of a junta in that capital. This experience in self-government eventually led to the creation of the Republic of Colombia.
In the mid-18th century, King Charles III (reigned 1759-1788) had ruled as a typical enlightened absolutist monarch, promoting the arts and allowing the expression of some of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment in Spain and America, while at the same time maintaining strong political power. The American colonies, however, were forbidden from trading with other colonies or countries, such as the United Kingdom or the British North America, leaving Spain as their only source of goods and merchandise, although Spain was unable to fulfill the trade demands of its colonies. Furthermore, Charles III's support for the independence of the United States generated the creation of new taxes, causing disturbances in Spain's American possessions, such as the Revolt of the Comuneros (New Granada) and the Túpac Amaru II's rebellion. Another major tension was the policy of excluding Criollos, or locally born whites, from public administration.
Charles IV (reigned 1788-1808) was not very interested in exercising political power, leaving such duties to his ministers, especially the disliked Manuel Godoy. Charles IV was more interested in pursuing the arts and science and gave little importance to the American colonies.
The development that precipitated the events of July 20, 1810, was the crisis of the Spanish monarchy caused by the 1808 abdications of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII forced by Napoleon Bonaparte in favor of his brother Joseph Bonaparte. The ascension of King Joseph initially had been cheered by Spanish afrancesados (literally, "Frenchified"), usually elites and important statesmen who believed that collaboration with France would bring modernization and liberty to Spain. An example of Joseph's policies was the abolition of the Spanish Inquisition. However, the general population rejected the new king and opposition, led by the priesthood and patriots, became widespread after the French army's first examples of repression (such as the executions of May 3, 1808, in Madrid) became widely known.
Eventually an emergency government in the form of a Supreme Central Junta was formed in Spain. Most of the authorities in the Americas swore allegiance to the new Supreme Central Junta.
The "Memorial of Grievances"
The Supreme Central Junta ordered the election of one representative from each of the Spanish American kingdoms by the cabildos (municipal governments) of the main cities of the realms. In addition the cabildos were to draft instructions for the representative to present to the Supreme Central Junta. The "Memorial of Grievances" was drafted by Camilo Torres Tenorio in his capacity as legal advisor to the Santa Fe de Bogotá cabildo. In it he criticized the Spanish Monarchy's policy of excluding Criollos from high posts in the Americas and alleging their rights to govern in their homelands as "the offspring of the conquistadores". Furthermore, he proposed equality between Spanish Americans and Spaniards as the basis for maintaining the unity of the Spanish Monarchy:
- [There are no] other means to consolidate the union between America and Spain [but] the just and competent representation of its people, without any difference among its subjects that they do not have because of their laws, their customs, their origins, and their rights. Equality! The sacred right of equality. Justice is founded upon that principle and upon granting everyone that which is his. […] [T]he true fraternal union between European Spaniards and Americans… can never exist except upon the basis of justice and equality. America and Spain are two integral and constituent parts of the Spanish Monarchy… Anyone who believes otherwise does not love his patria… Therefore, to exclude the Americans from such representation, in addition to being the greatest injustice, would arouse distrust and jealousy, and would forever alienate their desires for such a union…
And finally, Torres defended the right of New Granada to establish a junta given the political circumstances. Although the draft expressed many of common sentiments of Criollos at the time and probably was discussed by prominent members of the capital's society, it was never adopted by the cabildo. It would be published for the first time only in 1832.
The first American juntas
As the military situation in Spain deteriorated, many Spanish Americans desired to establish their own juntas, despite their formal declarations of loyalty to the Supreme Central Junta. A movement to set up a junta in neighboring Caracas in 1808 was stopped by the Captain-General with arrests of the conspirators. In Kingdom of Charcas (today, Bolivia) a juntas were established in Charcas on May 25 and La Paz on July 16, 1809.
More importantly to events in New Granada, in the neighboring Kingdom of Quito—a territory under the auspices of the viceroy of New Granada— a group of Criollos led by Juan Pío Montúfar, the second Marquis of Selva Alegre, established an autonomous junta on August 10, swearing loyalty to Ferdinand VII, but rejecting the viceregal authorities. Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón considered this a rebellious act, and fearing for similar developments in New Granada, ordered military action to put down the junta in conjunction with the Viceroy of Peru.
Dissolution of the Supreme Central Junta
In mid-1810 news arrived that the Supreme Central Junta had dissolved itself in favor of a regency. In response to the new political crisis, Spaniards and Criollos in the Americas established juntas that continued to swear allegiance to King Ferdinand VII.
The next incident happened in Caracas, on April 19, 1810. The mantuanos, (the rich, criollo elite of Venezuela) together with military and eclessiatic authorities, declared autonomy, again, swearing loyalty to Ferdinand VII but rejecting the viceroyalty. The Cadiz Board of government decided to order the destitution of Amar y Borbon, sending a notification with the royal visitor Antonio Villavicencio, who arrived in Cartagena on May 8.
On May 22 in Cartagena de Indias, the Cartagena Board of government was created with similar terms to the previous one. Shortly after, same scenarios surged in Santiago de Cali, Socorro and Pamplona. Finally, Bogota, the central cathedra of the Viceroyalty rebelled on July 20. Initially, the government board declared to Amar y Borbón as president, but shortly after, on July 25, he was deposed and arrested. The spark for this was the flower vase incident at local businessman José González Llorente's Bogota residence on the morning of the 20th.
Llorente's flower vase incident
On the morning of July 20, 1810, Joaquin Camacho went to the residence of the Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón, requesting response on an application for the establishment of a governing board in Santa Fe, but the refusal of the Viceroy coupled his arrogance, made to proceed to join the fray with the excuse of the loan of a vase.
Luis Rubio then went to visit the businessman José González Llorente to borrow the vase, to use it in a dinner for the visiting royal commissioner Antonio Villavicencio, but once Llorente refused to lend the vase with a haughty attitude. In light of this, and as was planned on the previous day, The "criollos" took the vase and broke it to provoke Llorente and thus raised tempers of the people against the Spanish. The "criollos" knew Llorente, being a merchant, would refuse to lend the vase, first because it was for sale and second because he would not lend any objects to the "criollos" to meet fellow "criollos".
Subsequently, a group of natives, among whom was Francisco José de Caldas, made a bow of submission to Spain and the Regency Council. In response, Antonio Morales Caldas scolded him for prompting a turbulent response from the people, who tried to attack Llorente. The mayor of Santa Fe, José Miguel Pey, tried to calm the people attacking Llorente, while Jose Maria Carbonell encouraged people to join the protest. That afternoon, a Junta was formed (later called the People's Junta) with José Acevedo as chairman, but the crowds were angered by the Viceroy's decision to be nominated for president, which he accepted.
Later, a rally called by Juan Sámano, a Spanish Army officer, would lead to the Junta being reorganized (Acevedo had earlier urged the people to help charge him for lese-majesty). The next day, July 21, the Junta ordered the arrest of Viceroy Aman and his officials (and also for his resignation from the Junta presidency), and on the 25th Aman was forced to resign and was arrested. Five days later, July 26, the Junta declared that its ties to the Seville Regency Council were finally cut.
- Royal Order of the Central Junta of January 22, 1809, defined the overseas kingdoms as "the viceroyalties of New Spain, Peru, New Granada, and Buenos Aires, and the independent captaincies general of the island of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Chile, Province of Venezuela, and the Philippines." Quito and Upper Peru were considered by this decree to be parts of the viceroyalties of New Granada and Peru, respectively.
- Rodríguez O, Jaime E. (1998). the Independence of Spanish America. New York: Cambridge University. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0-521-62673-0.
- Proceso histórico del 20 de Julio de 1810 - Documentos. Publicaciones conmemorativas del Sesquicentenario de la Independencia Nacional. Bogotá: Banco de la República. 1960.
- Bushnell, David (1993). The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself. Berkeley: University of California. p. 35. ISBN 0-520-08289-3.
- Lynch, John (2006). Simón Bolívar. A Life, New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11062-6.
- Regarding the anniversary of July 20, 1810, it is important to bring up relevant opinions and judgment of its historical character which, after all is said and done, are being dogmatically consecrated by "law" or "decree." In an unpublished letter to the Mayor of Coromoro, dated in San Gil on January 13, 1841, General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera answered an invitation to celebrate the 20th of July by stating: “Mr. Municipal Chief: To answer your kind letter, I must tell you, that I have never recognized as a magistrate, as a public or private man the national anniversary or revolutionary event which took place in Bogotá on July 20, 1810. If the first pronouncement made in the ancient New Kingdom of Granada has to be celebrated as a memorable anniversary, it corresponds to the one which occurred in Quito in 1809. But if we limit ourselves to what is the territory of Colombia today, the deposition of the Governor of Cartagena, Brigadier Montes, and the establishment of a provisional government in that city on May 22, 1810, which had great political influence in the entire viceroyalty—and was followed by Pamplona on July 4, 1921 and by Socorro on July 10, 1930—should be celebrated. The Legislature of the State of Cartagena was the first one with the character of public representation and officially proclaimed the independence from Spain on November 11, 1811. Mr. Municipal Chief, the public men who still live and are among the founders of the Republic must rectify the facts which we have witnessed so that history cannot be adulterated. Thus, I will conclude manifesting that I will not contribute to celebrate a holiday which does not commemorate the main event of our political generation or our independence. T. C. de Mosquera."