Congress of Angostura
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The Congress of Angostura was summoned by Simón Bolívar and took place in Angostura (today Ciudad Bolívar) during the wars of Independence of Colombia and Venezuela. It met from February 15, 1819, to July 31, 1821, when the Congress of Cúcuta began its sessions.
It consisted of twenty-six delegates, representing Venezuela and New Granada (today Colombia). Important parts of the countries were still under Spanish rule, so elections only took place in the areas of southern Venezuela and Margarita Island controlled by the patriot forces. The delegates from New Granada were chosen from among the exiles fighting alongside the Venezuelan patriots. At its first meeting on February 19, 1819, Bolivar gave his famous Address at Angostura, but not all of the proposals contained in it were accepted (most notably the suggestions of a highly exalted ceremonial president-for-life who would govern through powerful ministers accountable to parliament and a hereditary senate, both modeled on the British example, and a "fourth" branch of government, the "moral" one, loosely modeled on the Classical Areopagus).
The Congress of Angostura is considered Venezuela's second legislative congress, the first being the one that met in 1811. Its culminating piece of legislation was the Venezuelan Constitution of 1819, officially adopted on August 15, but quickly made obsolete by the creation of the Republic of Colombia on December 17, 1819. This new nation joined Venezuela, New Granada and Quito (today Ecuador). In order to differentiate it from the present Republic of Colombia, historians have traditionally called the nation Gran Colombia. A constitution for the new nation was created at the Congress of Cúcuta in August 1821.
The congress established three large departments for the new country: Venezuela (corresponding to the modern country of Venezuela), Cundinamarca (what today is Colombia, Panama and some parts of Central America) and Quito (today Ecuador). Simon Bolívar was elected president, Francisco Antonio Zea vicepresident, Juan Germán Roscio vicepresident of Venezuela and Francisco de Paula Santander vicepresident of Cundinamarca.
Fundamental Law establishing Gran Colombia
On December 17, 1819, the Fundamental Law of Colombia (Ley Fundamental de Colombia, in Spanish) was enacted by the congressmen in the city of Angostura (nowadays Ciudad Bolívar). It consisted on fourteen articles in which the Republic of Gran Colombia established its political structure.
"The Sovereign Congress of Venezuela, to which authority the people of the Republic of the New Granada have voluntarily stood by.
- "That united in a single Republic, the provinces of Venezuela and the New Granada have all proportions and ways to elevate themselves to a higher grade of power and prosperity.
- "That constituted in separate republics, for more stronger the ties that these have united them, so far from taking advantages of so many advantages, they would hardly consolidate and make respect their sovereignty.
- "That these truths, highly penetrated by superior talented men and of an enlightened patriotism, had moved the governments of both republics to convene in a reunion that the vicissitudes of wars decreed and decree the following fundamental Law of the Republic of Colombia:
"ARTICLE 1. The Republics of Venezuela and New Granada are from this day on united in a single one under the glorious title of Republic of Colombia.
"ARTICLE 2. Their territory will be the one that the Former General Capitancies of Venezuela and the Viceroyalty of New Granada covering a total area of 115 thousand square leagues, which in better circumstances will be defined precisely.
"ARTICLE 3. Debts acquired by both republics will be recognized in solidum by this law as a National debt of Colombia to which payment will be attached all goods and properties of the nation, and the most productive branches of the public rent will also be destined to pay these.
"ARTICLE 4. The Executive Power of the Republic will be vested on the President and in case of his defect a Vice President and his replacement will be appointed interimly by the acting Congress.
"ARTICLE 5. The Republic of Colombia will be divided into three great departments, Venezuela, Quito and Cundinamarca, that will contain the Provinces of New Granada which name will be suppressed from now on. The capitals of these departments will be the cities of Caracas, Quito and Bogotá, this last one without the name addition of Santa Fe.
"ARTICLE 6. Each department will have a superior administration and a chief, appointed, for now by this congress, with the title of Vice President.
"ARTICLE 7. A new city which will be named after El Libertador Simon Bolivar will be the capital of the Republic of Colombia. Its plan and situation will be determined by the First General Congress under the principle of proportioning it with the necessities of the three departments, and the greatness of these large country is destined by nature.
"ARTICLE 8. The General Congress of Colombia will meet on January 1, 1821, in Villa del Rosario de Cúcuta which is central to the country and will facilitate the reunion. Its convocation will be done by the President on January 1, 1820, in accordance with a previously regulated memos that will be formulated by a Special Commission and under the approval of the current Congress.
"ARTICLE 9. The constitution of the Republic of Colombia will be formulated by its General Congress, which will be presented as a draft project, and its laws will later be tested in execution.
"ARTICLE 10. The Arms and the Colombian flag will be decreed by the General Congress and will use the Arms and Flag of Venezuela because it is more known.
"ARTICLE 11. The current Congress will go on recess on January 15, 1820, due to new elections for the General Congress of Colombia.
"ARTICLE 12. A commission of six members and a President will temporarily replace Congress and with special attributions that will be determined by a decree.
ARTICLE 13. The Republic of Colombia will be solemnly proclaimed in towns and armies, with parties and public demonstrations, which will be verified in this capital on the 25th day of this present December in celebration of the birthday of the World's saviour, that under his sponsoring we have achieved this wished reunion and in which the state hasa regenerated.
"ARTICLE 14. The anniversary of this political regeneration will be celebrated perpetually with a national feast in which there will be awarded, just like in Olympia, the virtuous and the enlightened.
"The present fundamental law of the Republic of Colombia is solemnly proclaimed only in towns and armies, registered in all public registries and saved in every municipal cabildos and corporations, ecclesiastic or secular.
"Given in the sovereign Palace of the Congress of Venezuela in the City of Santo Tomás de Angostura, ten days before the month of December, in the lords' year of eighteen nineteen. Ninth of the Independence.
"The President of Congress, Francisco Antonio Zea; Juan Germán Roscio; Manuel Sedeño; Juan Martínez; José España; Luis Tomás Peraza; Antonio M. Briceño; Eusebio Afanador; Francisco Conde; Diego Bautista Urbaneja; Juan Vicente Cardozo; Ignacio Muñoz; Ramón García Cádiz. The Deputy Secretary, Diego de Vallenilla.
"Palace of the Sovereign Congress of Venezuela in Angostura, December 17, 1819-9th [year of independence].
"The sovereign Congress decrees that this fundamental law of the Republic of Colombia must be informed to the Executive Supreme Power by means of a delegation for its approval and then published and accomplished.
"The President of Congress, Francisco Antonio Zea. The deputy secretary, Diego de Vallenilla. Palace of the Sovereign Congress of Venezuela in Angostura, December 17, 1819-9th. Print it, Publish it, execute and Authorize with the Seal of the State.
"For his Excellency the President of the Republic, the Minister of Interior and Justice,
"Diego B. Urbaneja."
- Archivo del Libertador, Caracas. Tomo 27, fol. 1 / Estante C, Cuerpo 1, tramo VI.
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