United Provinces of the Río de la Plata

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United Provinces of the River Plate
(United Provinces of South America)
Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata
(Provincias Unidas de Sudamérica)



Flag of the United Provinces, 1812 Coat of arms
Patriotic March
United Provinces in 1816, during the Independence War. In lighter green, the territories not under Independentist control.
Capital Buenos Aires
Languages Spanish
Religion Christianity
Government Republic
Historical era Napoleonic Wars
 -  British invasions of the Río de la Plata 1806-1807
 -  May Revolution 25 May, 1810
 -  Declaration of
9 July 1816
 -  Battle of Cepeda
End of centralized authority
1 February 1820
 -  First Presidency 8 February 1826
 -  Treaty of Montevideo
Independence of Uruguay
28 August 1828
 -  Pacto Federal 4 January, 1831
Currency Real (since 1813)
Sol (since 1815)
Peso fuerte (since 1826)

The United Provinces of South America (Spanish: Provincias Unidas de Sudamérica) was the original name of the state that emerged from the May Revolution and the early developments of the Argentine War of Independence. It comprised most of the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata dependencies and had Buenos Aires as its capital.

It is best known, in Spanish literature, as Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata ("United Provinces of the River Plate"), this being the most common (occasionally the official) name in use for the country, until the enactment of the 1826 Constitution. Moreover, this is still technically one of the official synonyms for designating Argentina, as stated in the Argentine Constitution.[1]


The United Provinces of South America were neighboured to the south by the sparsely populated territories of the Pampas and Patagonia, home to the Mapuche, Ranquel and Puelche peoples. To the north, the Gran Chaco was populated by the Guaycuru nations. To the northwest, across the Upper Peru, lie the Spanish Viceroyalty of Perú. Across the Andes, to the west, it was the Spanish controlled Captaincy General of Chile. To the northeast, Colonial Brazil, a part of the Portuguese Empire (in 1815, the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves), later the Empire of Brazil in 1821.


The change from the Viceroyalty into the United Provinces was not merely a change of governors, but a revolutionary process that would replace the absolutist monarchy with a republic. The main influences in this were the Enlightenment in Spain, promoting new ideas, and the Peninsular War that left Spain without a legitimate king after the Abdications of Bayonne. The concept of separation of powers gradually became a tool to prevent despotism.[2]

The new political situation generated great political conflict between the cities for two reasons. First, the vacatio regis removed the sovereignty from the King of Spain, but there was no clear view about who and how would be able to claim such sovereignty. Some people thought that it passed to other offices of the Spanish monarchy, while others held the notion of the retroversion of the sovereignty to the people: sovereignty returned to the people, who had now the right to self-governance. The vertical organization of the absolutist monarchy was compromised as well. Patriots thought that all cities, both in Spain and in the Americas, had the right to self-government, whereas Royalists recognized that power only to European Spain, holding that the Americas should stay subject to the new government that Spain would provide.[3]

The other source of conflict was the nature of the new governments, which declared themselves to be provisional during the King's absence but were making strong changes in the political organization. Unlike the First Republic of Venezuela, which declared independence early on, the United Provinces were faced with the inconsistency of acting like an independent state without actually having declared such independence.


The United Provinces of the Río de la Plata were established through a lengthy process that started in May 1810, when the citizens and militias of Buenos Aires, the capital city of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, ousted the Spanish Viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros in the May Revolution. Although there was not a formal declaration of independence at the time, and the government that emerged from the revolution declared loyalty to the deposed king Ferdinand VII, in fact it attempted to reorganise the social, political and economic structures of the Viceroyalty. As it faced immediate resistance in some quarters (namely the Banda Oriental, under self-proclaimed Viceroy Javier de Elío, Córdoba under former Viceroy Santiago de Liniers, the local government of Asunción in Paraguay and, notably, the royalist forces from the Viceroyalty of Perú), the revolution soon turned to be a War of Independence.

In the midst of the war of independence, during the entire 1810-1831 period there were serious conflicts among ever-changing factions regarding the organization of the state and the political aims of the revolutionary governments. These conflicts involved coup d'états, mutinies, politically motivated trials, banishments and imprisonments and finally developed in an outright civil war.

United Provinces in the 1820s as understood by political cartographers at the time. 1821: Carte physique et politique de l'Amérique méridionale.[4] 1822: The American Atlas by Carey & Lea. 1825: South America by Fisher.

Initial revolutionary governments[edit]

Ever since the revolution, there were serious conflicts among diverging views regarding the political organization of the provinces. While some advocated a strong and executive central government with little accountability to the regional interests, a position at first favored by the "enlightened" revolutionary and independentist elements, others sought to integrate representatives from the provinces in a larger deliberative assembly. As the later position gained the upper hand, the Primera Junta grew to incorporate delegates from the provinces in 1811. However, as it became evident that such an arrangement was not effective enough to lead the war efforts, a triumvirate assumed the executive powers while the assembly retained some controlling functions.

Assembly of the year XIII[edit]

United Provinces represented at the 1813 Congress.

Supreme Directorship[edit]

Declaration of independence[edit]

Liga Federal[edit]

The Liga Federal (1815–1820), or Liga de los Pueblos Libres (League of the Free Peoples), was an alliance of provinces in what is now Argentina and Uruguay, organised under democratic federalist ideals strongly advocated by its leader, José Gervasio Artigas.

The government of the United Provinces of South America felt threatened by the growing appeal of the Liga Federal, so they did nothing to repel the incoming Portuguese invasion of Misiones Orientales and the Banda Oriental, the stronghold of Artigas. Brazilian General Carlos Frederico Lecor, thanks to their numerical and material superiority, defeated Artigas and his army and occupied Montevideo on January 20, 1817, but the struggle continued for three long years in the countryside. Infuriated by the passivity of Buenos Aires, Artigas declared war on Buenos Aires while he was losing to the Portuguese.

On February 1, 1820, Federal League governors Francisco Ramírez of Entre Ríos and Estanislao López of Santa Fe, defeated a Supreme Directorship diminished army, ending the centralized government of the United Provinces, and established a federal agreement with Buenos Aires Province. Similarly, the Federal League effectively came to an end when its constituent provinces rejoined the United Provinces.

Artigas, defeated by the Portuguese, had retreated to Entre Ríos. From there, he denounced the Treaty of Pilar and entered into conflict with his former ally governor Ramírez, who crushed the remnants of Artigas' army. The former Protector of the Free Peoples exiled in Paraguay until his death. The Eastern Province was annexed by Portugal to its Brazilian dependences in 1821.

Anarchy of the year XX[edit]

First presidency[edit]

War with Brazil and Independence of Uruguay[edit]

Resumption of the Civil War[edit]

Break up of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata[edit]

The result of the wars was the independence of the provinces. Several new nations appeared:


Five provinces would go on to become Bolivia:


The Eastern Province (Provincia Oriental) became independent as Uruguay, partly retaining its old name in its official name: the Eastern Republic of Uruguay.


Misiones Orientales was de jure recognized as Brazilian, following the outcome of the Cisplatine War.


Following a long civil war, the following provinces joined to become the Argentine Republic:

Falkland Islands[edit]

In the late 1820s, the United Provinces attempted to gain control over the Falkland Islands through the establishment of commercial interests in the islands.

In 1820, Colonel David Jewett while resting and repairing storm damage performed an act of possession of the islands stating he was acting on behalf of the Government of Buenos Aires. He made no mention of this in his report and it only became knowledge in Buenos Aires a year later as a foreign news story. Three years later, in 1823, the United Provinces of the River Plate granted fishing and feral livestock rights to Jorge Pacheco. In 1824, a short first expedition to the islands in association with Luis Vernet took place but failed shortly after landing due to supply problems and the harsh conditions. Pacheco disillusioned abandoned the enterprise leaving Vernet to proceed on his own.

In 1826, Vernet was aware of conflicting British claims to the islands and sought permission from the British consulate before departure. The departure to the islands was delayed by the Brazilian blockade and the expedition again failed to establish a permanent settlement. In 1828, the United Provinces government granted Vernet all of East Falkland including all its resources, and exempted him from taxation if a colony could be established within three years. he also asked the United Provinces for naval assets to protect his colony but they were unable to provide them.

The colony was eventually destroyed by conflict with the United States in the Lexington raid of 1832. Later that year Major Esteban Mestivier was commissioned by the Buenos Aires government to set up a penal colony. He arrived at his destination on 15 November 1832.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Constitution: "Art. 35.- Las denominaciones adoptadas sucesivamente desde 1810 hasta el presente, a saber: Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata; República Argentina, Confederación Argentina, serán en adelante nombres oficiales indistintamente para la designación del Gobierno y territorio de las provincias, empleándose las palabras "Nación Argentina" en la formación y sanción de las leyes."
    ("Article 35. The denominations successively adopted from 1810 to the present – United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and Argentine Republic, Argentine Confederation – shall henceforth be interchangeable official names to describe the Government and territory of the provinces. The phrase "Argentine Nation" is used for the formulation and the enactment of laws.")
  2. ^ Ternavasio, p. 12
  3. ^ Ternavasio, p. 14
  4. ^ Catalogue entry


Coordinates: 34°40′00″S 58°24′00″W / 34.6667°S 58.4000°W / -34.6667; -58.4000