Gabriel Garcia Moreno--Regenerator of Ecuador - Mrs. Maxwell Scott

The Hero's Death

As the year 1874 drew to its close, the question of the next Presidential Election filled men's thoughts. There was no doubt that Moreno would obtain a great majority of votes from his devoted people, and this exasperated the Radical party. They chose for their candidate Borrero, a liberal Catholic, and made use of every sort of trick to ensure his success.

Moreno, who had for so long desired to retire into private life, viewed these devices with indifference, having resolved only to consent to nomination should such be the absolute will of the country, and he forbade all efforts in his own favor. The people, however, were so determined upon re-electing him that Borrero withdrew his candidature before the election. The voting took place in May and in perfect quiet, the 23,000 electors spontaneously giving their votes for the man they called the "Savior of their Country." Defeated once more, his enemies determined to take his life, and this time, alas, they were to realize their wicked project.

For the next three or four months Moreno lived literally in the shadow of death, and it required a man of his heroic faith and courage to go on with his daily duties unmoved by the constant warnings of his impending assassination.

The Freemasons had long sought his ruin. This great Catholic ruler was, they knew, their bitterest opponent in their war against the Church and Society; and in 1873, after his public consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart, he was condemned to die by the Grand Council of the Order. "I am warned from Germany," he writes, "that the Lodges of that country have given orders to those of America to move heaven and earth to overthrow the Government of Ecuador. But if God protects and overshadows us by his mercy, what have we to fear?" A flood of newspaper articles appeared in Europe and America calumniating the President, and preparing public opinion for his downfall. The Peruvian papers even announced his death as an accomplished fact in October, 1873.

The elections of 1874 brought another crop of sinister rumors and threats, and the plans for his death became more active. The rumors of assassination, indeed, were so insistent that many persons felt obliged to warn the President of his danger, and to beg him to take necessary precautions. But it was impossible to alarm him, or to make him take care.

To a Religious who had been charged to give him notice of a grave communication he only replied, "I am grateful to you for your charitable warning, although it tells me nothing that is new to me. I am perfectly aware that certain men desire my death, but these bad desires engendered by hatred are only prejudicial to those who form them. Tell the persons from whom you have these particulars that I fear God, but God alone. I willingly pardon my enemies, and would do them good if I knew them or if I had the chance." To a friend who wished to point out to him a Freemason's agent who was said to desire his death, he replied, "I pay no heed to these wretched denunciations, and I look with profound contempt on the plans of these wretches. I should have gone mad long ago if I had attached the smallest importance to their intrigues."

Above all, he would not permit any weak pleading on his behalf or that of his Ministry. To the Editor of the Nacional who, in his efforts for the President's cause, had one day published a sort of prophetic vision, describing him as a new Abel about to be murdered by a new Cain, Moreno said, "This tone displeases me. It is not the language of a Government that does good, fearing nothing, whatever it may be . . . God will be our Shield against the darts of the enemy. If we fall, well, there is nothing more desirable nor more glorious for a Catholic—our reward will be eternal."

Meanwhile his enemies' projects were maturing. There were nightly meetings at the house of the Peruvian Minister which caused great anxiety to the President's friends, and it seems incredible to us that strict measures were not taken to verify these suspicions or to arrest the persons implicated. About this time a Prelate who was passing through Quito warned him again, "It is known publicly that the Freemasons have condemned you and that their agents are preparing their daggers: do then take some precautions to save your life." "And what precautions can you suggest to me?" asked Moreno. "Surround yourself with an escort." "And who will save me from the escort?" he returned, "for after all it might be suborned. I prefer to confide myself to God 's care. Nisi Dominus custodieret civitatem frustra vigilat qui custodit eam."

It was under these circumstances of dread and expectation that the President wrote what proved to be his last letter to Pius IX: a letter which in part clearly foreshadows his coming fate. "I implore your blessing, Very Holy Father," he writes, "as I have been, without any merit on my part, reelected to govern this Catholic Republic for another six years. The new period only begins on August 30th, at which date I must take the Constitutional Oath. It will only then become my duty to acquaint your Holiness officially with the fact, but I wish to do so now, so as to obtain from Heaven the strength and light of which I, more than anyone, have need, to remain forever the devoted son of our Redeemer and the loyal and obedient servant of his infallible Vicar. At this moment, when the Lodges of the neighboring countries, excited by Germany, pour forth against me all sorts of atrocious insults and horrible calumnies, and endeavor secretly to find means to murder me, I have more than ever need of divine assistance, so as to live and die for the defense of our holy Religion and of this dear Republic, which God calls me again to govern. What greater happiness could befall me. Very Holy Father, than to see myself hated and calumniated for love of our Divine Redeemer? But what greater privilege still, if your blessing were to obtain for me the grace of shedding my blood for Him, who, being God, desired to shed His on the Cross for us."

On July 26th, the feast of St. Anne, her Patroness, Madame Moreno received, among her congratulatory letters, a card recommending her to watch over her husband, as the designs against him were on the eve of execution. Several of his friends also took this opportunity of once more urging prudence. "Well," replied Moreno, cheerfully, "what does a traveler desire but the end of his journey—or a sailor but to sight the shores of his own country; I will not have myself guarded. My fate is in the hands of God, Who will take me from the world when and in the manner he wishes."

On August 4th Moreno wrote to Don Juan Aguirre, who, from their college days, had been his constant friend. They had met some months previously, and on this occasion Moreno's calm had for once forsaken him, for he seemed convinced that it was their last meeting. After a long and intimate talk he embraced his friend, exclaiming, "I feel we shall not see each other again, this is our last farewell." Then turning away to hide his tears, he called out again, "We shall not meet again." Now recalling these sad presentiments, he wrote to Don Juan, "I am about to be murdered. I am happy to die for the Faith. We shall see each other again in Heaven."

On August 5th the President and his Council discussed the question of the danger overhanging him, and which occupied everyone's thoughts; but Moreno was persuaded that no precautions could avail against an inveterate enemy, who was prepared to strike at any moment and from any quarter. "The enemies of God and the Church may kill me," he said; "God does not die."

In the evening, wishing to complete the speech which he was preparing for Congress, he told his Aide-de-camp to admit no one. A priest, however, insisted on being taken to the President, saying that his business would brook no delay, and again reiterated the warnings of his grave and immediate danger from the Freemasons. "I have received many similar messages," replied Moreno, "and after mature consideration I am convinced that the only precaution I can take is to keep myself prepared to appear before God"; and he continued his work as if nothing had occurred, but it was observed that he passed part of the night in prayer.

Next morning, August 6th, the Feast of the Transfiguration and the First Friday of the month, the President went, as was his custom, to the Church of St. Dominic, about six o'clock. Here he heard Mass, and with many others received Holy Communion. It was his Viaticum, and probably he felt it to be so, for he knew that death might come at any moment. He prolonged his Thanksgiving till nearly eight o'clock, and then returned home.

Meanwhile the assassins had actually followed him to the square outside the church, and probably only the crowd, or some other accidental circumstance, prevented them from consummating their crime as he left the church.

After talking for some time with his family, and completing his speech, the President set out for Government House about one o'clock, accompanied by his Aide-de-camp, taking the message he had prepared with him. On his road he stopped to visit his wife's brother, Don Ignatius Salazar, whose house stood close to the Plaza Mayor. Don Ignatius, who was much attached to him, observed sadly: "You should not go out, for you must be aware that your enemies watch every step." "Nothing will happen but what God permits," was the reply. "I am entirely in His hands."

As it was a very hot day, Moreno took a cooling drink, which threw him into a perspiration and caused him to button up his coat—a seemingly trivial action, but which had very fatal results.

The conspirators were in a cafe watching the President's movements, and they now came out and hid between the pillars of the colonnade. Before going to the Palace Moreno entered the Cathedral, where there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and he remained for a long time absorbed in prayer, till one of the conspirators, Rayo, growing impatient of delay, sent a messenger to say that he was wanted on pressing business. Moreno rose at once, and had already made a few steps towards the Palace, when Rayo drew a large cutlass, and inflicted a terrible wound on his shoulder. "Vile assassin," cried the President, trying in vain to get his revolver from beneath his buttoned-up coat, as Rayo wounded him again on the head, and the rest fired at him with their revolvers.

A young man tried to seize and disarm Rayo, but was himself wounded, and had to let go. Pierced with bullets, and with his head bleeding, Moreno still endeavored to defend himself, when Rayo, with a double blow of the cutlass, severed his left arm and cut off his right hand. A second discharge of shot threw the heroic victim to the bottom of the steps, where he lay motionless. The wretched Rayo again assailed him, crying out: "Die, destroyer of liberty!" "God never dies" murmured the Hero. They were his last words.

All this had been the work of a moment. The noise brought people to the spot, and the wretches fled. Moreno was carried into the Cathedral and laid at the feet of Our Lady of Pity, and from thence taken to the priest's house adjoining, where a surgeon tried to dress his wounds, but it was in vain, death was clearly at hand. A priest asked him if he pardoned his enemies. An expressive look showed his forgiveness, and the last Absolution was given, followed by Extreme Unction, which was administered amidst the sobs and tears of those around him. In about a quarter of an hour from the time of the attack Moreno expired, and his great soul went to its reward.

An official examination showed that he had received seven or eight mortal wounds. On his breast was found a relic of the True Cross, the Scapular of the Passion, and that of the Sacred Heart, and round his neck he wore his Rosary. In his pocket was found a little memorandum in pencil, written that very day. "My Savior Jesus Christ, give me greater love for Thee, and profound humility, and teach me what I should do this day for Thy greater glory and service." The whole country was plunged into sorrow and mourning by this terrible crime, and from all the American States, from Pius IX, and from the Catholic States of Europe, came messages of sorrow and of sympathy for the bereaved people. The Pope publicly eulogized his faithful son, calling him "a victim to his Faith and Christian Charity"; and when, some years later, his successor, Leo XIII, was presented with Moreno's last speech, still stained with his blood, he, in his turn, said: "We shall religiously preserve it as a touching remembrance of a man who was the champion of the Catholic Faith, and to whom may be justly applied the words made use of by the Church to celebrate the memory of the holy martyrs St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Stanislaus of Poland, Pro Ecclesia gladiis impiorum occubuit."

Garcia Moreno


The President's body, dressed in his uniform, lay in state for three days in the Cathedral. Crowds of men, women, and children came to pray and weep beside him, exclaiming: "We have lost our father; he has shed his blood for us." At the great funeral service the Dean of the Cathedral, Don Vincent Cuesta, addressing the dead hero, spoke these touching words:

"Your eyes do not see our tears; your ears cannot hear the lamentations of your people; your noble heart no longer beats in your breast; but your soul understands us. Ah, from that happy region to which your heroic virtue has brought you, look down in pity on your children. Do not abandon your country to anarchy and ruin. Ask God to raise up a man worthy to succeed you, one who will carry on your great work, and will know how to say with you, Adveniat regnum tuum."

We may hope that these prayers were heard, for Ecuador, after some slight lapses under Masonic governments, keeps her place as a strong Catholic country—the Republic of the Sacred Heart.