Jose de San Martin

(Jose Francisco de San Martin Matorras)

San Martin

Jose San Martin, along with Simon Bolivar are the fathers of South American Independence. In the early 19th century, Bolivar rose as the hero of the independence movement in Venezuela and Columbia, while San Martin was recognized as the champion of the patriotic forces in Argentina and Chile. The two men, however, were unlike in temperament as well as political outlook. When they disagreed regarding the liberation of Peru, therefore, San Martin resigned his command. He could not support Boliver because of their political differences, but he was too great a patriot to lead his armies into a civil war, rather than a war of liberation.

San Martin was born to an aristocratic family in Argentina, but was sent to Spain to complete his education. In 1808 he enrolled in the Spanish army to fight Napoleon, and distinguished himself in several battles. During this period, Argentina declared its independence from Spain, and San Martin became interested in the cause. He requested to be relieved of his command and returned to South America in 1812.

Within a year of his return to Argentina, San Martin led his first campaign against the Royalists. In spite of initial success he determined that the Royalist strongholds in Lower Peru (now Bolivia) could not be taken by assault because of their mountainous surroundings. Peru could only be taken from the south so he set about planning a military expedition to cross the Andes and liberate Peru's southern neighbor. In 1817 San Martin crossed the Andes with 4000 men. They were met by Royalist forces over whom they achieved a complete victory. In 1818 Chile declared its independence, and San Martin's army swept into Peru. At first, however, he sought to use diplomatic means rather than force to achieve his ends, but after much dithering began to prepare for a military solution.

Unfortunately, during this time, all was not well in Argentina. In 1820 the 'Federalist' and 'Unitarian' factions broke into civil war. Alarmed by these developments, San Martin resigned his command, but his resignation was not accepted. During this period San Martin began building up a navy and as part of his plan to liberate Peru and protect patriot ports. In 1921 he finally moved to occupy Lima and called a parliament into session to decide on a manner of government. San Martin, however, did not favor a republic, but promoted, instead, the idea of a constitutional monarchy. This was, in fact, the form of governmet that was desired by most of the people, because they feared (with good reason), that "democracy" in Latin America would tend to promote civil wars.

In 1822 San Martin and Bolivar famously met face to face in Guayaquil to discuss the liberation of Peru. After this meeting, San Martin resigned his command. It is not unlikely, however, that he had resolved on this course of action before hand. He was discouraged by the civil war that had broken out in Argentine and frustrated at the unwillingness of the Peruvians to solve their political problems by diplomatic means. He likely believed that Bolivar had the stomache for a fight that he now lacked. He had attempted to resign his commission on previous occasions and been refused. Now at least he had the opportunity of turning the fate of South America over to a true patriot.

After their meeting, San Martin returned briefly to Argentina. When he realized he could not, in good conscience, take either side in the ongoing civil war he went into self-imposed exile in France where he remained the rest of his life.

Key events during the life of Jose de San Martin:

Born to an aristocratic family in Argentina.
Traveled to Madrid Spain for his education.
Enrolled in the Spanish army to fight Napoleon.
May Revolution: much of Argentina declares its independence from Spain.
Returns to Argentina to fight for Independence.
Led his first engagement against the Royalists at the Battle of San Lorenzo.
Began organizing a substantial army to oppose the Royalists in Peru.
Difficulty of the terrain, convinces San Martin to attack Peru by way of Chili.
Crossed the Andes into Chile to meet with his Chilean ally, Bernardo O'Higgins.
Led the Patriots to victory at the Battle of Chacabuco.
Secured Independence for Chile by a decisive victory at the Battle of Maipu.
Gained control of Lima, capital of Peru.
Met with Bolivar regarding the future of Peru. Resigned his command as a result.
Left South America to avoid further strife and civil war.
Died in France

Book Links
Don Jose de San Martin  by  Anna Schoellkopf

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
San Martin  in  Stories of South America  by  E. C. Brooks
San Martin Meets Bolivar  in  Stories of South America  by  E. C. Brooks
San Martin and the South  in  South America  by  Hezekiah Butterworth
Hannibal of the Andes  in  Historical Tales: Spanish American  by  Charles Morris
Don Jose de San Martin  in  Don Jose de San Martin  by  Anna Schoellkopf
How Spain Lost South America  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

San Martin
 in Stories of South America

Mausoleum of San Martin, in Buenos Ayres
 in South America

General San Martin
 in Don Jose de San Martin

The passage through the Andes
 in Don Jose de San Martin

San Martin
 in Don Jose de San Martin

Mercedes San Martin de Balcarca
 in Don Jose de San Martin

The Tomb of San Martin
 in Don Jose de San Martin

Short Biography
Simon Bolivar Crossed Andes to attack Spanish outposts in Columbia, then met San Martin in Peru.
Bernardo O'Higgins Military commander who together with San Martin freed Chile from Spanish rule. First 'Supreme Director' of Chile.
Jose Rondeau Supreme director of the Buenos Aires General assembly. Driven from power by the Federalists.
Juan Manuel de Rosas Federalist dictator of Argentina from 1829 to 1852.
Ferdinand VII Bourbon king, restored to the throne of France after the Napoleonic Wars, refused to work with liberal constitution.