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BESIDE Bolívar : The Edecán Demarquet


One of the thorny questions regarding Bolívar is his assumption of dictatorial powers. Peru granted him these early on:

Then, in response to an appeal from San Martin, the patriot leader in Peru, he left the direction of the government to the vice-president, Santander, and marched upon Lima, which was evacuated by the royalists at the approach of the Colombian army. He made a triumphal entry into the Peruvian capital on 1 Sept., 1823, and on 10 Feb., 1824, the congress of Lima made him dictator of Peru and authorized him to employ all the resources of the country. He tendered his resignation as president of Colombia, but was continued in that office by the vote of a large majority of the congress. The intrigues of the opposing factions in Peru forced Bolívar to retire to Truxillo, whereupon Lima was reoccupied by the Spaniards under Canterac. By June, Bolívar had organized another army, which routed the advance guard of the royalist force, and, pushing forward, defeated Canterac on the plains of Junin, 6 Aug., 1824. After this decisive victory Bolívar returned to Lima to reorganize the government, while Sucre pursued the Spaniards on their retreat through upper Peru, and shattered their forces in the final victory of Ayachuco on 9 Dec., 1824. The Spaniards were reduced to the single post of Callao, in Peru, from which they could not be dislodged until more than a year later. On 10 Feb., 1825, Bolívar convoked a constituent congress and resigned the dictatorship of Peru; but that body, on account of the unsettled state of the country, decided to invest him with dictatorial powers for a year longer. Congress voted him a grant of a million dollars, which was declined.

Other countries were more hesitant:

A convention of the provinces of upper Peru was held at Chuquisaca, in August, 1825, which detached that territory from the government of Buenos Ayres and constituted it a separate state, called, in honor of the liberator, Bolivia. Bolívar was declared perpetual protector of the new republic, and was requested to prepare for it a constitution. He returned to Lima after visiting upper Peru, and thence sent a project of a constitution for Bolivia, which was presented to the congress of that state on 25 May, 1826, accompanied by an address in which he defined the forms of government that he conceived to be most expedient for the newly established republics. The Bolivian code, copied in some of its features from the code Napoléon, contained a provision for vesting the executive authority in a president for life, without responsibility to the legislature, and with power to nominate his successor. This proposal excited the apprehensions of a section of the republicans in Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, New Granada, and even in Buenos Ayres and Chili. The tendencies that Bolívar had manifested in the direction of political consolidation caused the alarm to spread beyond the confines of the territory affected by the new code, and he was suspected of a design to weld the South American republics into an empire and to introduce the Bolivian code and make himself perpetual dictator. Peru, as well as Bolivia, adopted the new code; but from this time the population of the republics were divided into angry factions on questions raised by that instrument, and a long and bitter struggle ensued between the centralists, or Bolívar ists, and the federalists, the military rivals of Bolívar uniting with the latter party.

James Grant Wilson, John Fiske,
Appleton's cyclopædia of American biography, Volume 1

General Florès, not without his own ambitions, was only one of those who encouraged this tendency:

But of all the officers involved in the work of tyrannizing these countries, none was as enthusiastic as General Juan José Florès, who no doubt was already approaching the dominant idea of his life, which was to make Ecuador a fief for himself and his descendants. When he acknowledged reception of the Bolivian Constitution from Bolívar , in June 26 1826, he said:
"If Demarquet has said that I like Your Excellency and nothing more, he has not said much. I admire and idolize and love Your Excellency like no one else: I say no more, because it is already the fashion in free governments to call those who sing praises servile."
And later in July 7 of the same year:
"I take the liberty of including a letter with Demarquet, because in it I tell Your Excellency what I was obliged to omit in this one, and naturally I am afraid to digress, being naturally reserved. I have thought to send to Your Excellency Colonel Payares; but I repeat that I tremble and shudder to think that we do not always take into account Your Excellency's will; I have here the fatal knot which cannot be untied. Your Excellency has the regard of this Department, and has also that of the brave men under my command here in Pasto; they assure me, and I swear it, that they will not lack mettle like the troops of Mexico, and will support Your Excellency until death.”
The allusion to Mexico is the key to the reticence which shows in Florès' language, and shows clearly that it was what he reserved to write to Demarquet to be shown to the Liberator. I will remind the reader that in 1822, Iturbide proclaimed himself Emperor of Mexico, and that his troops could nor resist the impulse of the republican reaction."

José Camacho Carrizoba, “Hombres y Partidos”, El Repertorio Colombiano

Another leader in this project was Antonio Leocadio Guzman:

D. Antonio Leocadio Guzman, told Bolívar from Panama, in September 13, 1826, giving him an account of his actions:
"The zealous enthusiasms of senor Carreno, of all the soldiers and clergy and many citizens, brought them to the desire to name Your Excellency Dictator of the Republic...'
On the same date he said to General José Gabriel Perez, private secretary of Bolívar :
"I think it very likely that all the North will name His Excellency Dictator..."
"....Cartagena offers me very favorable dispositions for harmony and peace; it seems to be for the policy of Bogota. Tomorrow I will go there, and I hope, besides everything, to do much. Since they have spoken against the federation, against the convention and against all that of Venezuela, I do not see for them any other route but that of Dictatorship, without contradicting themselves."

Etc. Carrizoba lists other statements by Guzman and others which make it clear how fervently they wanted Bolívar to declare a dictatorship.

The question of Bolívar 's own true ambitions has been much debated:

About this period, Buchet Martigny gives us this comment:
"... The most important personalities in the Republic tired of so much civic dissension and political hesitation had thought to seek a shield in constitutional monarchy. Bolívar himself, whether he really wanted to wear the crown, or wanted only that it be offered to him to have the glory of refusing it and thus confounding his detractors, had initially applauded this project "(p. 16).
This idea of monarchy for America was constantly remarked on by several travelers, officials, diplomats of the European powers
at the time. We know of one of the most important missions undertaken in Colombia by Charles Bresson, messenger "on a special mission” under the reign of Charles X, king of France in 1828-1830. the "monarchical temptation” of Florès, Jorge Villalba clearly recalls how our first President wrote to general [sic] Demarquet, then in Lima, in July 1826, so that he would present to the Liberator the monarchical project, assuring him of: "... the massive support from the southern leaders, especially yours, determined and steadfast until death ". Continuing, he adds: "The Liberator's response was immediate and daunting: I read with some surprise what you have written to Demarquet. Since then I say to you frankly and in friendship that I do not approve of your desire. No and no! ".

A. Dario Lara, Historica Conmemoracion

Not everyone however has taken Bolívar 's refusals at face value:

Bolívar , young, at the age of twenty, witnessing the coronation of Napoleon I, exclaimed with indignation: "Until now I venerated this great captain because I thought him sincerely republican, but today I detest him and I see him as a usurper." Tempora mutantur et nos cun illis, we add. [“Times change, and we with them”]

Whatever the truth, Demarquet seems to have actively promoted this outcome, even as he left the Liberator a certain “deniability”:

Upon his return to Columbia, the people's pronouncements began, aroused by the civil and military authorities. The Liberator was proclaimed as Dictator conceding to him full power to operate with discretion as he wished. In Guayaquil, General Mosquera incited a popular assembly on August 28, 1826, after the arrival of Colonel Demarquet in this city. [Moncayo notes: "There is no doubt that this Colonel was sent by General Bolívar to prepare the meeting in question."] Before the meeting he laid out the motives of the meeting and the risks facing the country.
Moncayo, El Ecuador de 1825 a 1875
Larrazabal said: "Guzman and Col. Demarquet appeared in late August in Guayaquil, and they and General Valdés. Paz del Castillo and many others spoke to Mosquera about naming Bolívar Dictator; Mosquera and Dr. Espantoso opposed this, but those ideas won and the record was written in the sense of the dictatorship .... Bolívar expressed great displeasure in knowing that he had been proclaimed Dictator. (Vol. II, p. 362).

Groot said: “Later Guzman, General and Colonel Salón and Colonel Demarquet came to Guayaquil, and promoted the idea of the dictatorship." (Volume III, p. 408).

Guzman received this mission for Bolívar ,... historians agree in asserting that that step was unlikely for the Liberator: Guzman acted on his own, believing that the way of flattery was the shortest to realize his plans of personal aggrandizement . Did it matter to him that the rule of republican laws in Colombia was replaced by dictatorship?
Manuel Briceño Los ilustres: páginas para la historia de Venezuela
Later Guzman, General Salom and Colonel Demarquet came to Guayaquil... and fomented support for the dictatorship. This word was ominous, but once it would have served to make good or remedy evils in Cartagena, Antioquia and Cundinamarca. It was not necessary for the Liberals of Bogota, at whose head were Dr. Vincent Azuerq and Dr. Francisco Soto, who began to write against the Liberator, attributing the disorders in Colombia to ambitious views.
José Manuel Groot, Historia eclesiástica y civil de Nueva Granada: Volume 5
On September 7, 1826 [Demarquet] writes to the Liberator from Quito and says that the people want his return as soon as possible, as there are many evils in the department waiting to be remedied: a public finance on the point of perishing and state officials without salary, among others. By that date Bolívar was already on his way, having sailed Callao (Peru) on 3 September and would arrive at Guayaquil on the 12th of that month.

In fact, Demarquet's letter goes beyond what Barrio paraphrases:

Sir, I remember having said it a thousand times to Y. E. that Colombia's children, among them those of the South, profess to Y. E. unbridled love but now I can assure you E. that, if possible, it has grown with the practical knowledge of the absence that Y. E. makes them and the benefits which must result from his August presence. I may add that it has reached the point of delirium: everybody calls unanimously to Y. E. their Father, their Liberator and Redeemer, and agrees that the country is lost if Y. E. delays his beneficial coming.
I came to this capital on the 5th, and the 6th I found myself surrounded by all the inhabitants of this populous city. Having announced the immediate arrival of Y. E. in Colombia, the universal joy surpassed all that can be expressed.
O'Leary XII

(Note that Ecuador at that point was part of “Great” Colombia.)

Demarquet was not one to philosophize or explore his own political ideas, but it seems likely that his support for dictatorship was probably a combination of personal loyalty and a sense - shared by many - that the only way out of the chaos of the time was the rule of a strong individual. This idea may have been instilled in him from childhood; he grew up in a time when Napoleon was being welcomed as a savior from the disorders of the Revolution. Like many of Napoleon's soldiers, too, he may have felt personal loyalty to him, loyalty which outweighed any democratic ideal. Transferring such sentiments to Bolívar would have been as natural as it was unconscious.

Even in Bolívar's own ranks, however, the idea did not go unchallenged. General Santander was one of those who most actively opposed this project (whether for democratic or more personal motives). At the start of November, he wrote Bolívar :

Bogotá, November 5, 1826.
Consider the following which I permit myself to suggest. First, severely reprimanding Demarquet and Guzman, who were supposed to promote the acts of Quito, Guayaquil, Panama and Cartagena, and in coming from Peru, took as their commission to promote them. So, you see that this is a bit irregular and very offensive to your high character and eminent reputation. It seems that that of Demarquet has been disavowed by your prudence in restoring constitutional order: but nonetheless that of Guzman is lacking, which is most needed.
John Gillies (M. D.), Lorenzo María Lleras,Juan Manuel Rudas,
República de Colombia ó noticia de sus límites, extensión, montañas, ríos ...

A month later:

In December 1826, returning to Venezuela (where Gen. José Antonio Paez and Admiral José Padilla had destroyed the remnants of Spanish power on the northern coast), [Bolívar ] was re-elected to the presidency, though manifesting great reluctance to retain an office the powers of which were wholly inadequate to the task of holding together in a permanent union three states such as Venezuela, New Granada and Ecuador.
The Encyclopedia Americana, 1918

Presumably this is the news that prompted Demarquet to do something rare in his correspondence - positively gush:

Quito, December 20, 1826
Most ex.., Liberator of Colombia and Peru.
My much venerated General:
What joy has the important news, brought in yesterday's mail, brought me! The triumph which Y. E. ended up obtaining is better and a thousand times more glorious than that of Carabobo. Fortune is already all for Y. E., and your enemies are condemned to die... of shame!!! They cannot lift their heads.
I do not have words, my respected General, to show Y. E. what I feel. Everything in me is admiration, jubilation and pleasure such as my heart has never felt; and these people are mad with such joy, as Y.E. cannot imagine. Besides the sure confidence that we have in the success of Y. E.'s plans, nonetheless it is correct to confess that no one has seen what happened when we saw The Tricolor Flag..., until yesterday arrived the rainbow of the hopes of all the good friends of Y. E.'s cause, which is that of all America.
All my family and I desire that Y. E., continue as happy in your health as in your desires, during the rest of your delayed voyage; and that the return be quick and for this country, and I beg Y. E. to deign to believe in the profound respect and love I profess for Y. E.
I am your obedient and loyal Aide-de-Camp, devoted servant,
C. E. Demarquet

Demarquet's enthusiasm was premature however. Without veering into Bolívar 's full history, the more he obtained, or seemed to be obtaining power, the more people – including some of his own followers – distrusted and opposed him. This was very much a matter of winning a battle but ultimately – in part because of such victories themselves – losing the war.

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