Stories of South America - E. C. Brooks

San Martin Meets Bolivar

The meeting of Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar was arranged to take place in the town of Guayaquil, situated on the Gulf of Guayaquil. Here, lying under a tropical sun but within sight of snow-capped mountains, the two master minds of the continent held the most portentous conference in South American history.

It was fitting that such a meeting should take place on historic soil. It was on the shores of the Gulf of Guayaquil that Francisco Pizarro first landed and planned his conquest of Peru. It was near here that the mother of Atahualpa, the Cleopatra of South America, won the love of the Inca of the Peruvians. Over this territory Gonzales Pizarro ruled as governor under his famous brother.

This is the land of volcanoes and earthquakes. Twenty volcanoes surround the valley in which Quito is located. Would the conference in this historic spot, in this land of violent eruptions, result in a political earthquake that would cause a great national upheaval? No one knew, for the two foremost men in South America had never met. Temperamentally they were wholly unlike. Would they be able to agree or would there be war between them?

[Illustration] from Stories of South America by E. C. Brooks


The little town of Guayaquil made ready to receive the two distinguished visitors. The calm Pacific lay peacefully at their feet, though Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, mighty craters, rumbled ominously to the east.

Finally the time approached, July 26, 1822, when the two generals were to meet. Bolivar, who had his headquarters at Quito, was the first to enter the town. He entered on July 25, the day before the conference. Triumphal arches had been constructed in his honor, with his name inscribed on them. When he came in sight of the harbor, the gun-boats hauled down the flag of Guayaquil and hoisted that of Colombia.

"What, so soon!" the Liberator exclaimed, thinking they were turning the province over to him and to Colombia.

But this was only a compliment to him. As soon as the salutes were fired, the flag of Colombia was lowered and the flag of Guayaquil was again raised. As the latter flag went up, a great shout arose from the multitude: "Long live the independence of Guayaquil!"

Bolivar was chagrined, for he was determined to annex the province to Colombia. He could not control his feelings even in the presence of the officials of Guayaquil, who were much excited. After the entry of the great general, they quietly disappeared, fearing that they would be compelled to sign away the independence of their province.

The reception of Bolivar was suddenly interrupted, for in the harbor a vessel was just dropping anchor. Immediately the news spread through the community that San Martin had arrived. Bolivar, on receiving the information, sent at once two aides to offer him hospitality and welcome him "on Colombian soil."

The entry of this modest, unassuming soldier was quite in contrast to that of the Liberator from the north. San Martin hated pomp and ceremony. But Bolivar, notwithstanding his great qualities, could not exist without public demonstrations. His spirit needed them.

San Martin remained aboard his vessel until the next day, July 26. At the time appointed for Bolivar to receive him, long files of soldiers lined the way and great crowds of people filled the streets and shouted for joy.

Bolivar, dressed in full uniform and surrounded by his staff, had made great preparations for the interview. The meeting was just inside the entrance of the building. The two generals embraced each other and, turning, entered the salon together, arm in arm. The officers of Bolivar's staff were presented to San Martin. Then the authorities of the city came to make him welcome. A group of ladies presented a formal address, after which a beautiful girl placed on his head a laurel wreath of pure gold. The hero of the South was always embarrassed at such ovations and, it is said, now blushed like a child. Taking off the wreath, he replied, very modestly, that he would keep it because of the patriotic sentiments that had inspired the gift.

Then the citizens departed, and the patriot leaders were left alone together. A historian of South America describes the interview in the following words:

"The two representatives of the revolution being left alone, walked up and down the salon together, but what they said to each other could not be heard by those in the ante-room. Bolivar appeared to be agitated. San Martin was calm and self-possessed. They shut the door and talked together for more than an hour and a half. San Martin then retired, impenetrable and grave as a sphinx. Bolivar accompanied him to the foot of the staircase, and they took a friendly leave of each other."

The next day, July 27, San Martin sent his baggage on board his vessel, but that afternoon he attended a banquet given in his honor. At five o'clock the two generals sat down together at the banquet table. Bolivar, standing, proposed the following toast: "To the two greatest men of South America General San Martin and myself!"

San Martin immediately proposed the following toast in reply:

"To the speedy conclusion of the war! to the reorganization of the different republics of the continent, and to the health of the Liberator of Colombia!"

After the banquet Bolivar and San Martin passed out into the ballroom. The Liberator of the North gave himself up with juvenile delight to the pleasures of the waltz. But San Martin looked on coldly, evidently thinking of the future of South America. At one o'clock in the morning, calling his aide, he exclaimed, "Let us go. I cannot stand this riot."

Taking leave of Bolivar, who was enjoying himself to the fullest, San Martin hastened back to his vessel, and an hour later he sailed out of Guayaquil harbor, never to see that country or Bolivar again

No one really knows all that went on at that memorable interview. San Martin believed that South America would prosper better under independent monarchies or republics. Bolivar dreamed of one great empire under one man, and that man himself. San Martin wished above everything else to bring the war to an end. He offered to serve under Bolivar. The latter declined. Then San Martin saw that Bolivar would not make common cause with him that one or the other must give way. He had for months been waiting for a time when he might surrender the command to one who would lead the patriot forces to final victory. He now felt that the hour had come, and that Bolivar, notwithstanding his great vanity, was the man.

On arriving at Lima, San Martin wrote Bolivar that he was leaving for Chile, in order that the latter might enter Peru in triumph. He sent him a fowling-piece, a brace of pistols, and a war horse to carry him on his campaign, and added, "Receive, general, this remembrance from the first of your admirers, with the expression of my sincere desire that you may have the glory of finishing the war for the independence of South America."

It is evident from the letters that San Martin wrote and from his talk that he believed Simon Bolivar able to bring the conflict to a close, and that time alone would decide which was in the right as to the form of political organization that South America would take.

Later, on September 20, 1822, San Martin resigned as dictator of Peru. He gave his reason to O'Higgins. "I am tired of hearing them call me tyrant, that I wish to make myself king or emperor. On the other hand, my health is broken. The climate is killing me. My youth was sacrificed to the service of Spain, my manhood to my country. I think I have the right to dispose of my age."

It was comparatively easy to fight for and win independence, but exceedingly hard for people who had never governed themselves to perfect a stable government. Here was the great difficulty. The South Americans were too emotional. Their prejudices and passions drove them frequently into civil war, and it was this that San Martin especially wished to avoid.

The people of Peru, however, heaped great honors on him and urged him to remain. Congress voted him generalissimo of the land and naval forces with a pension of 12,000 dollars a year: He accepted the pension but declined the office.

"I have kept the promise," he said, "that I made to Peru. But if, someday, her liberty is in, danger, I shall glory in joining as a citizen in her defense."

He quietly announced his determination to leave the country. Many years later a letter of his was published which shows how he regarded the situation at that time. "There is not room in Peru for both Bolivar and myself. He will shrink from nothing to come to Peru. It may not be in my power to avoid a conflict if I am here. Let him come so that America may triumph. It shall not be San Martin who will give a day of delight to the enemy."

Few leaders have risen higher in patriotism than San Martin. He stands out in the world a worthy companion in the realms of the immortals with George Washington. The people of Peru, Chile, and Argentina reproached him for retiring from the army. But he uttered no word of complaint or defense. His letter to Governor O'Higgins giving his reasons was not published until many years afterward.

Simon Bolivar carried out his purpose and annexed Ecuador to Colombia; it remained a part of the confederation until 1831, when it withdrew and proclaimed itself the republic of Ecuador. Bolivar, as soon as possible, made preparations to march into Peru and take possession of Lima. The royalists had been very active. But on his approach they gave way, and he entered the City of the Kings in triumph.

In the meantime Spain was planning to regain her colonies in South America. The European wars were over, and the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia entered into the famous Holy Alliance. They prepared to assist Spain in reconquering her provinces. This gave great encouragement to the royalists in South America. So active was the Holy Alliance that President Monroe of the United States took a hand and, on December 2, 1823, promulgated the famous Monroe Doctrine, which ended the interference of European powers in the two American continents: Spain could not be assisted without drawing the United States into the war. This doctrine made it possible for the colonies to fight their battles with Spain and insured the independence of the South American countries. The Monroe Doctrine has rendered it very undesirable for European nations to make war on South American republics.

There were many factions, however, in Peru. Ambitious leaders thought more of their own personal fortunes and political positions than they did of independence. Therefore, Simon Bolivar was compelled to withdraw from Lima. This gave the royalists their opportunity, and while the jealous patriotic leaders were quarreling they captured Lima. The government was again in great confusion. San Martin was gone, and Simon Bolivar had been forced to leave. The success of the royalists, however, was only temporary. Bolivar suddenly reappeared and defeated them at Junin. Finally, at the battle of Ayacucho his army, under the command of his lieutenant, Sucre, crushed the Spaniards completely. This great success thrilled the people, who for the moment forgot their quarreling and elected Bolivar dictator of Peru. It seemed that his plan of a federated South America would succeed by his becoming dictator of each province in turn.

In the meantime Bolivar had driven the Spaniards from the territory just across the Andes which had been a part of the viceroyalty of the de la Plata River. This new territory was organized into a separate government in 1825 and was named Bolivia in honor of the Liberator. The government of this new republic elected Bolivar perpetual protector.

The Spanish power was at last broken. But Bolivar's hardest task now faced him, namely, to administer wisely and satisfactorily the affairs of the liberated province. Neither his organization of the government nor his administration gave satisfaction.

While he was in Bolivia, the republic of Peru fell into confusion; and while he was in Peru, Colombia called him back home to save it from civil war. No sooner had he reached Bogota than he learned that civil war had broken out in Venezuela. These outbreaks were evidences that the several republics could not be united under one government. Besides, Bolivar was accused of seeking to have himself made perpetual dictator of a confederation of all the republics, and this caused jealousy and unrest.

Bolivar called a council of the republics to meet at Panama in June, 1826. At this international congress, he intimated that the time had come for all American republics, both in North and South America, to form a league for the protection of the peace and liberties of the western world.

The international congress was a failure. It encouraged Bolivar's enemies to push the charge that he was seeking greater power for himself. Nevertheless, he continued to labor in the interest of freedom, until his death on December 17, 1830. At that time he was temporarily in exile, waiting for the passions of the people to subside.

Bolivar had spent his fortune in the interest of liberty. For a considerable period he had unlimited control over the revenues of three countries—Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. But he died without a cent of public money in his possession. He won the independence of these states and called forth a new spirit on the continent of South America. He purified the administration of justice, encouraged the arts and sciences, fostered national interests, and induced foreign countries to recognize the independence of the republics of South America.

In 1842 his remains were carried to Caracas, where a monument was erected to his memory. A statue of him was put up in Bogota and one in Lima, and in 1884 the United States honored him by accepting a statue of him, which was erected in Central Park, New York.

San Martin lived many years in Europe in retirement, accompanied by his daughter. Being in feeble health, he spent his time in reading and watching with interest the trend of affairs in South America. He, too, was penniless in his last days and was supported largely by devoted friends. On August 17, 1850, he died. Chile and Argentina erected statues to him. Peru decreed a monument to his memory, and Argentina brought his sacred ashes back to his native country, where his tomb may be seen today, in the metropolitan cathedral of Buenos Aires.

Bolivar's attempts to form a federation of all South American countries failed. San Martin was the true prophet, for he saw that the different republics could not be united under one government. Bolivar's dream, however, of a union of the two Americas has become partly true within recent years. The Pan-American Union, with headquarters in Washington, D. C., and the Pan-American congress uniting both North and South America, in which representatives of the republics of the western hemisphere meet and discuss matters of common interest to both continents and to all republics of the western hemisphere, are now a reality. And as the republic of the United States of America and the republics of South America become better acquainted, the bond of friendship is steadily strengthening.