October 28th, 2014
Colombia polymath Francisco Jose de Caldas was shot on this date in 1816 during the Spanish commander Pablo Morillo‘s decimation of rebellious intelligentsia in separatist New Granada.
While Europe was mired in the Napoleonic Wars, those United Provinces of New Granada — roughly modern Colombia, which remembers its short-lived New Granada predecessor as la Patria Boba, the Foolish Fatherland — had asserted their independence. As we have detailed previously, it was Morillo who arrived from the mother country to disabuse them of this dream. Morillo did it with such a flair for the merciless that he earned the nickname El Pacificador.
Morillo conquered Bogota by May 1816 and for the rest of the year put large numbers of the pro-breakaway intelligentsia to political trials in an apparent attempt to cripple any future independence movements. (It didn’t work; during this very period, future liberator Simon Bolivar was making his first landings in Venezuela.)
A history by Jose Manuel Restrepo, a political figure of New Granada who was fortunate enough to escape the crackdown, lamented the fate of the men with whom he had once dreamed the dream.
for the space of six months, scarcely a week passed without the execution, in Santa Fe or the provinces, of three, four, or more individuals, shot as traitors. Thus perished the persons of the greatest wisdom, the most virtuous and wealthy, in New-Granada. The object which Morillo had in view, was to extinguish intelligence, remove men of influence, and destroy property, so that, in future, there should be none capable of originating or directing another revolution. New-Granada has deplored, and will for a long time deplore, among other illustrious victims, the loss of Doctors Camilo Torres, Joaquin Camacho, Jose Gregorio and Frutos Gutierrez, Crisanto Valenzuela, Miguel Pombo, Jorge Lozano, Francisco Antonio Ulloa, and Manuel Torices; and of military men, general Custodio Rovira, Libario Mejia, and the engineer Francisco Jose de Caldas. The murder of this celebrated mathematician and philosopher, was a piece of wanton cruelty on the part of Morillo. The exact sciences lost much by his premature death; and the geography of New-Granda especially, retrograded beyond measure, by the loss of the precious works which he had nearly perfected.
The spirit of these dark days is summarized by a reply Morillo supposedly made to petitions for him to spare the wise Caldas: “Spain does not need wise people.”
Present-day Colombia memorializes Francisco Jose de Caldas in the name of a department and numerous public monuments. (He also used to be on the 20-peso note when such a thing existed. Colombia’s smallest paper bill today is 1,000 pesos.)
Statue of Caldas on Bogota’s Plaza de Caldas. (cc) image from Mauromed.
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Tags: 1810s, 1816, bogota, francisco jose de caldas, october 28, pablo morillo
October 5th, 2011
On this date in 1816, Spain hanged the leaders of a breakaway former New World possession in a vain effort to maintain control of what is now Colombia.
The United Provinces of New Granada was la Patria Boba, the “foolish fatherland” of Colombia: a welter of rival provinces and municipalities which capitalized on the mother country’s fall to Napoleon to declare independence and immediately commence fratricidal civil war.
The United Provinces had leave of several years for this foolishness before the Peninsular War ended with the restoration of Ferdinand VII, who promptly dispatched a massive expedition under the notorious command of Pablo Morillo to bring these disobedient satellites to heel … and to hemp.
The gentlemen whose death-day we commemorate today were the ones at the seat of government when the music stopped playing. Those positions, and even the forms of government itself, had been regularly reshuffled in the Patria Boba as federalist and anti-federalist, republican and royalist, threw their respective weights (and armies) around.
Morillo, who is still infamous in Colombia for his cruelty, had the most weight of all.
As Morillo’s reconquista invaded the Provinces, Camilo Torres (English Wikipedia page | the much more detailed Spanish) resigned the presidency. Torres is best-remembered now as the author of the Memorial de Agravios (Spanish link; it translates as “Memorial of Grievances” or, more Office Space-ishly, “Memorandum of Grievances”).
This incendiary document prophetically insisted that
the union between America and Spain [rest on] the just and competent representation of its people, without any difference among its subjects that they do not have because of their laws, their customs, their origins, and their rights. Equality! The sacred right of equality. Justice is founded upon that principle and upon granting every one that which is his.
-Memorial de Agravios, as translated in The Independence of Spanish America, by Jaime Rodriguez
Stuff like this was liable to get you on Morillo’s enemies list political office or no; cowing — or killing — seditious intellectuals was part of his whole project.
Torres, his predecessor and vice president (same guy) Manuel Rodriguez, and several other ministers of state were nabbed together trying to make an escape to sea.
Morillo had them subjected to a snap trial, and Torres and Rodriguez were executed this date along with Pedro Felipe Valencia (Spanish link) and Jose Maria Davila; simultaneous property confiscation left the men’s survivors penniless. (Later, Simon Bolivar would personally support the widow Torres.)
Once hemp got through with the necks this day, old-fashioned blades did their redundant work: Torres’s head was hewed off and mounted in Bogota for public viewing.
It’s noteworthy that the author of this sort of nasty warning to the public would later sign his name opposite his New World antagonist Simon Bolivar in a Treaty of Armistice and Regularization of War (more Spanish) undertaking to stop murdering prisoners and non-combatants and fight only “as do civilized peoples” — one of the seminal documents in the development of human rights and the law of war.
Spanish speakers may appreciate this timeline site on the life and times of Camilo Torres.
* Torres, that Colombian Tom Paine, took some overt inspiration from the recent American Revolution, arguing that “to exclude the Americas from such representation … would forever alienate their desires for such a union.” After all,
If the English government had taken such an important step, perhaps today it would not rue the separation of its colonies. But a feeling of pride and a spirit of vanity and superiority led to the loss of those rich possessions.
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Tags: 1810s, 1816, camilo torres, colonialism, manuel rodriguez, memorial de agravios, nationalism, october 5, pablo morillo, racism
July 6th, 2010
On this date in 1816, Jorge Tadeo Lozano was executed by firing squad in a Bogota temporarily reconquered for the Spanish crown.
Scientist, journalist, essayist and man-about-town Lozano (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) sprang from the stock of New World Spanish nobility.
He studied literature, philosophy, medicine, chemistry, mathematics, mineralogy, botany; he served in the Spanish military and traveled in Europe; he returned to his native New Granada, where he became drawn into the liberal ferment with a celebration of the emerging bourgeoisie obviously contextualized by his scientific education.
Money, like the blood of a body, gives life and shares with each and every one proportionally the movement and robustness that it needs to freely comply with the action that it must complete as a member of society … This inistrumental motive of wealth can not be hushed, if it is to produce an effect … in the manner of electric flow [it] passes through bodies, leaving them with a glowing heat, also enlivens the arms and hands through which it passes… (Studies in the History of Latin American Economic Thought)
As a member of the constituent assembly, he helped draft an 1811 constitution that acknowledged the authority of the Spanish crown, but not of its viceroy, creating (so its signers thought) a new commonwealth state. Lozano thereupon became the first President of Cundinamarca, essentially the forerunner to the present-day Colombian presidency.
Since Lozano turned out to be a better botanist than executive, he resigned the office after a few months.
Only after Europe had sorted out the Napoleonic wars did the Spanish free up the resources for a brutal reconquista of their errant provinces. But when it came, under a general with the macho nickname El Pacificador, it had intellectuals just like Lozano right in its sights.
Even though he’d been back at lower-profile scribbling since his stint at the top, Jorge Tadeo was just the sort of guy Pablo Morillo targeted for demonstrative executions over the second half of 1816.
Thus perished the persons of the greatest wisdom, the most virtuous and wealthy, in New-Granada. The object which Morillo had in view, was to extinguish intelligence, remove men of influence, and destroy property, so that, in future, there should be none capable of originating or directing another revolution. (Source)
Thus perished Lozano this date, along with another intellectual, Miguel Pombo (Spanish link) among a whole train of patriotic martyrs over the months of Morillo’s rule.
The policy of killing these men to deprive New Granada of revolutionary potential was, however, an abject failure: just three years after these men were shot as traitors to that distant European line, Simon Bolivar detached Colombia from Spain at the Battle of Boyaca.
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Tags: 1810s, 1816, battle of boyaca, bogota, ferdinand vii, jorge tadeo lozano, july 6, miguel pombo, pablo morillo, simon bolivar