José María Campo Serrano

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José María Campo
José María Campo Serrano.jpg
President of Colombia
In office
7 August 1886 – 5 January 1887
Preceded by Office created*
Succeeded by Eliseo Payán
President of the United States of Colombia
In office
1 April 1884 – 1 April 1886
Preceded by Rafael Núñez Moledo
Succeeded by Office abolished*
19th President of the Sovereign State of Antioquia
In office
12 March 1885 – 21 September 1885
Preceded by Luciano Restrepo Escobar
Succeeded by Marceliano Vélez Barreneche
17th President of the Sovereign State of Magdalena
In office
Preceded by Luis Antonio Robles Suárez
Succeeded by M.S. Ramón
12th President of the Sovereign State of Magdalena
In office
Preceded by Manuel Abello
Succeeded by José Ignacio Diaz Granados
Governor of Panama
In office
January 1900 – June 1900
Preceded by Facundo Mutis Durán
Succeeded by Alejandro Orillac
Personal details
Born (1832-09-08)8 September 1832
Santa Marta, Magdalena, Republic of New Granada
Died 24 February 1915(1915-02-24) (aged 82)
Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia
Nationality Colombian
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Rosa Riascos García
Alma mater Seminario Conciliar de Santa Marta
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

José María Campo Serrano (8 September 1832 – 6 January 1915) was a Colombian lawyer, general, and statesman, who became President of Colombia after the resignation of the President and the dismissal of the Vice President. He sanctioned the Constitution of 1886 that created the Republic of Colombia proceeding the United States of Colombia. A Samarian Costeño, he became president of the Sovereign State of Magdalena, and Antioquia, Governor of Panama, and held various Ministries during his career as a politician.

Early life and education[edit]

José María Campo was born on September 8, 1832 in Santa Marta, Magdalena in what was then the Republic of New Granada. He was the first child of Andrés del Campo and María Josefa Serrano. He completed his studies in the Seminario Conciliar de Santa Marta, and later attended the Colegio Provincial Santander, where he studied Law and Philosophy.[1]

He was married to Rosa Riascos García.[2]

Political career[edit]


Campo started his political life in his home state of Magdalena. There he served various positions at different levels of government, he was a member of the legislative assembly of Magdalena, Prosecutor General, and member of the Chamber of Representatives and Senate of Colombia for Magdalena.[3] He also served twice as President of the Sovereign State of Magdalena, first between 1871–1874, and from 1879–1884.[4][5]

His administrations were focused mainly on the construction and expansion of railways to foment commerce and industry in the region and connect the country with the port, part of this goal was accomplished in 1881 when contracts were made to start the construction of a railroad to connect Santa Marta with El Banco.[6]


During the Colombian Civil War of 1885 José María Campo served as Civil and Military Chief of the Sovereign State of Antioquia between March 14, and September 21 of 1885.[7]

His administration's goal was to contain the civil insurgency and discourage political opposition. One way Campo did this was by redistricting some of electoral districts that favored the radical rebels, like the districts of La Unión[8] and Pabón.[9]

As in Magdalena, Campo was interested in the fomentation of railways, something he accomplished on August 18, 1885 when negotiations with the private sector were made to improve and expand the railways of Antioquia.[10] General Campo left the Presidency of Antioquia to represent the Constituent Assembly in Bogotá.


General Campo became an active member in the administrations of various presidents as a member of their Council of Ministers. The first post he had in these was in 1882 during the presidency of Francisco Javier Zaldúa, where he was Minister of Public Instruction in charge of national education, a post he got again on April 1, 1884, when Ezequiel Hurtado also made Campo his Minister of Public Instruction.[11]

In the administration of Rafael Núñez, he worked in two ministries, the Ministry of War, in which he had to confront the Civil War of 1885, and the Ministry of Finance, which he left to go to Antioquia.

His last ministerial post was as Minister of Government during the presidency of Miguel Antonio Caro.

José María Campo Serrano
Minister of War
In office
April 1, 1884 – March 12, 1885
President Ezequiel Hurtado
Rafael Núñez
Preceded by Juan Mateus
Succeeded by Leopoldo Cuervo
Minister of Public Instruction
In office
April 1, 1884 – August 11, 1884
President Ezequiel Hurtado
In office
April 1, 1882 – December 21, 1882
President Francisco Javier Zaldúa
Ministry of Finance
President Rafael Núñez
Minister of Government
President Miguel Antonio Caro

Presidency 1886–1887[edit]

On December 9, 1885 the Constituent Assembly elected Rafael Núñez as president, Eliseo Payán as vice president, and José María Campo as designate.[12] J.M. Campo came to power in a very unusual way; on March 30, 1886, president Núñez presented his resignation to Congress due to his poor health condition caused by dysentery. The Vice President, as the next in line of succession, had many enemies in congress, and on May 4, Congress revoked Eliseo Payán of his position as vice president.[13]

On April 1, 1886,[14] with no vice president and the president resigning, the Presidential-Designate José María Campo as the next in line to assume the executive power was sworn in as Acting President of the United States of Colombia.[15]


The Train of the Savanna, a project of President Campo.
The National Pantheon, located in the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Of the short presidency of Campo some of the policies of importance that were made were more of a local impact than of large national impact policy. Some of the projects of his administration were the contracts for the installation and construction of public lighting and potable water services to Bogotá.[16] He also continued advocating for rail transportation and railways, and in 1887 the Train of the Savanna started operating connecting Bogotá with the near cities of Facatativá and Zipaquirá, and it continues in service today.

One of the Decrees made by Campo as President of Colombia was in regards to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the house where the Libertador Simón Bolívar died. The house was of private property and the owners had offered to sell it to the government, but for an outrageous amount of money. In an executive order in 1886, Campo seized the property and placed it under the administration of the Department of Magdalena to administer it.[17]

Although he was allowed, Campo did not choose to live in the Palacio de San Carlos, the then Presidential Palace, opting to continue living at his normal residence.[18]

Constitution of 1886[edit]

The Constituent Assembly that was called in session in 1885 by Rafael Núñez to draft a new constitution passed its final resolution on August 4, 1886. The next day, President Campo and his Council of Ministers sanctioned the constitution, making it official and changing the name of the country to Republic of Colombia, and in so, Campo become its first president.


The 1st President of the newly established Republic of Colombia, stepped down on January 6, 1887 ceding the power to Eliseo Payán, who in the absence of Núñez became acting president.


José María Campo was once again called into politics and war to go to Panama, where the Liberal rebels were fighting the Conservative government, as Panama was one of the stages of the Thousand Days War. Because of his political and military credentials he was named Governor of the Department of Panama, replacing the then governor, Facundo Mutis Durán, in January 1900.[19]

Campo came in strong, he brought reinforcements to the region from different parts of the country, as by now the war was concentrating its efforts on Panama and the Caribbean Region. He used the strategic impact of railways to mobilize troops and clear adjacent areas.[20]

The war however was getting more complicated, and General Campo had to leave to Barranquilla to buy weapons and bring reinforcements passing on the governorship to Alejandro Orillac as acting governor. Although General Campo’s leave cause an intensification of the rebel forces, the war came to an end in 1902, cementing the way for the separation of Panama from Colombia.

Death and legacy[edit]

José María Campo died in his home in Santa Marta on February 24, 1915 at the age of 82.

He is considered by many as the most influential Samarian in history. His most enduring legacy by far was the Constitution of 1886, which was the country's fundamental law for almost 105 years, until it was replaced by the Constitution of 1991.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ibarra Monroy, Mario (2007-09-08). "El samario más importante en la historia nacional" (in Spanish). EL INFORMADOR. Archived from the original on 2013-01-22. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  2. ^ Revista Credencial Historia (1996). "Colombia, Primeras Damas" (in Spanish) (80 ed.). Bogotá: Luís Ángel Arango Library. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  3. ^ Enciclopedia Microsoft Encarta Online 2007. "José María Campo Serrano" (in Spanish). Microsoft Corporation. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  4. ^ Pereira, Ricardo S. (1883). "État de Magdalena". Les Etats-Unis de Colombie : précis d'histoire et de géographie, physique, politique et commerciale: contenant un grand nombre de renseignments utiles aux voyageurs et aux négociants, de courtes notices biographiques des personnages célèbres de la Colombie (in French). Paris: C. Marpon et E. Flammarion. p. 204–205. OCLC 751427. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  5. ^ "Colombian States 1855–1886 (and Panama 1508–1903)". Colombia. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  6. ^ "Una trayectoria que benefició a dos regiones" (in Spanish). EL INFORMADOR. 2007-09-08. Retrieved 2007-10-27. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Colombian States 1855-86". Rulers of Colombia. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  8. ^ Municipio de La Unión, Antioquia. "Reseña Historica La Unión" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-27. [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Municipio de Gómez Plata , Antioquia (2006-10-04). "Conozca a Gómez Plata" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  10. ^ Latorre, Gabriel (1924). Francisco Javier Cisneros y el Ferrocarril de Antioquia ; reseña historica. (PDF) (in Spanish). Medellín: Tip. Helios. p. 25. OCLC 3263897. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  11. ^ Ibáñez, Pedro María (1913). Cronicas de Bogotá (in Spanish). Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  12. ^ Pombo, Manuel Antonio; Guerra, José Joaquín (1982). "República de Colombia". Constituciones de Colombia (in Spanish). Bogotá: Imprenta de Echeverria Hermanos. p. 361. OCLC 19748967. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  13. ^ Cordovez Moure, José María (1959). "Años 1886-1888". Reminiscencias de Santafé y Bogota (in Spanish). Caracas: Organización Continental de los Festivales del Libro. pp. 2475–2476. ISBN 958-97334-9-2. OCLC 678890. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  14. ^ Monsalve Martiínez, Manuel (1954). Colombia, posesiones presidenciales [1810-1954] (in Spanish). Bogotá: Editorial Iqueima. p. 26. OCLC 3956382. 
  15. ^ "General José María Campo Serrano" (in Spanish). Fuerza Aérea Colombiana. 2006-09-24. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  16. ^ Ocampo López, Javier (2004-12-06). "José María Campo Serrano". Gran Enciclopedia de Colombia del Círculo de Lectores (in Spanish). Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  17. ^ HOY Diario del Magdalena. "La Quinta de san Pedro Alejandrino" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on August 4, 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  18. ^ Posada, Eduardo (1906). "10". Narraciones: Capitulos para una historia de Bogota (in Spanish). Libreria Americana. p. 199. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  19. ^ Robinson, Tracy (1907). Panama: A Personal Record of Forty-six Years, 1861–1907. New York: Star and herald Co. OCLC 1592953. 
  20. ^ Juan B., Sosa; Arce, Enrique J. (1911). Compendio de historia de Panamá (PDF) (in Spanish). Panamá: Morales & Rodríguez. OCLC 2531740. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Núñez
President of United States of Colombia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New created
President of Colombia
Succeeded by
Eliseo Payán