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Catholic Republicanism:
The Creation of the Spanish American Republics during Revolution

The crisis of the Spanish Catholic monarchy paved the way for the creation of more than twenty republics in Latin America between 1810 and 1825. This paper analyzes early nineteenth-century Spanish American republican experiences, which have been generally neglected in the historiography, as constitutive parts of Atlantic republicanism. It focuses on the theologico-political considerations of the res publica from the seventeenth century onwards, the articulation of a patriotic discourse in the American colonies of Spain during the eighteenth century, and how Spanish-American revolutionaries used republican languages based on Roman references, natural rights, and Catholicism to create new political legitimacy.


Spanish America, republicanism, historiography, conceptual history, colonialism

Since 2010 Latin American governments have been commemorating the bicentennial of the revolutions of independence that gave birth to the continent's republics. The creation of republics during early nineteenth-century Spanish American revolutions, a more complex process than is suggested by patriotic celebration, however, has not attracted wider attention in Atlantic republicanism historiography. Over the last fifty years, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, and J. G. A. Pocock have helped shape republicanism as a historical, political, and philosophical field of study.1 Quentin Skinner and Philip Pettit have promoted the Cambridge School of republicanism and its contextualist approach to political ideas.2 A republican paradigm has been [End Page 105] used to study political experiences and languages from the Italian Renaissance to the American Revolution.3 Broadly speaking, this paradigm is articulated in pre-humanist and humanist political thinking about the republic and its finitude, and in the Renaissance revival of ancient civic virtues.4 Republicanism is thus generally understood as a political (and secular) language of civic virtue, as opposed to the eschatological language of Christian redemption.5 From this perspective, the republic is seen as a free government inconsistent with monarchy, and the republican theory of political liberty places non-domination or non-dependence at the center.6

Although this republican tradition has been described as Atlantic, its comprehension of the Atlantic turns out to be geographically restricted. With the exception of the Caribbean, where, recently, the republicanism of the Haitian revolution has drawn the attention of scholars,7 studies of modern republican experiences in Latin America and Africa are still rare. Because these cases are not commonly taken into consideration, the early nineteenth century is frequently left out of "the age of the republican revolution."8 This is problematic not only because the Spanish American revolutions that arose from a monarchical culture and society are excluded from this process, but also because these revolutions represent the largest republican experience in the Atlantic world: from 1810 to 1825, more than twenty republics were created from Buenos Aires and Santiago to California and Texas. If Spanish America was ruled by a monarchy for three centuries, how did republicanism spread across the continent in fewer than twenty years of revolution? My aim here is to address this question. [End Page 106]


In 1961, in his Tradición política e ideología revolucionaria de Mayo, Tulio Halperin Donghi urged scholars to consider the Spanish monarchy's theological-political ideas concerning the creation of the community and political power during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when exploring how the revolutionaries in Rio de la Plata (and extensively in Spanish America) reconfigured those ideas to build up a new legitimacy centered in the republic.9 Along with that of José Antonio Maravall,10 the work of Halperin Donghi can be seen as a landmark in Hispanic intellectual history for its assessment of the importance of analyzing the uses and resignifications of traditional ideas in the construction of revolutionary political languages, such as the republican one in Spanish America in the early nineteenth century.11

In the past three decades, David Brading, Anthony Pagden, Pablo Fernández Albaladejo, Xavier Gil Pujol, Javier Fernández Sebastián, José María Iñurritegui Rodríguez, François-Xavier Guerra, Annabel Brett, Annick Lempérière, Elías Palti, Jorge Myers, Luis Castro Leiva, Clément Thibaud, Manuel Herrero Sánchez, Rafael Rojas, José Antonio Aguilar Rivera, Alfredo Ávila, and George Lomné, among others, have all made important contributions to the study of Hispanic republicanism during the Spanish monarchy from the sixteenth century on, as well as during early nineteenth-century Spanish American revolutions.12 [End Page 107]

The renewal of Atlantic History in the Anglo-Saxon world, in which Bailyn and John Elliot played an important role—and in the Iberian world, where Tulio Halperin Donghi's Reforma y disolución de los imperios ibéricos 1750–1850 contributed to rethinking an Iberian Atlantic—have helped make Spanish America part of the Atlantic, and a key player in its revolutionary processes.13 In recent years, José María Portillo Valdés, Jeremy Adelman, and Gabriel Paquette have also shown the importance of the Atlantic imperial dynamics among Iberian metropoles and colonies for the analysis of revolutions, and for the study of the circulation of ideas, goods, and people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.14

The Atlantic perspective reveals a more complex scenario for the study [End Page 108] of republicanism during modern revolutions.15 Atlantic republicanism is increasingly presented as a plurality of republican experiences that go beyond any model of republicanism avant la lettre—from the American and French revolutions to the revolutions and independence of Haiti (1791–1804), Latin America (1810–1825), and Africa (Liberia, Senegal, the Boer republics), along with other ephemeral or short-lived attempts to create republics (sister republics in Italy, Holland, and Switzerland, 1795–1799; Pernambuco, 1817; Florida, 1817; Texas, 1836–1846, etc.).


The Spanish monarchy constituted a Catholic republic that amalgamated many other republics (kingdoms, principalities, cities, colonies). From the sixteenth century on, territorial dynamics of incorporation and disincorpration through war changed the flexible contours of the monarchy, and new political communities were created, such as the republic of the United Provinces in the Netherlands.16 From this perspective, the early nineteenth-century revolutionary Spanish American republics could be seen as the last move to create political communities from within the body of the Spanish monarchy.

The beginning of Spanish American revolutions is associated with the organization of autonomous assemblies (juntas) in the main cities of the continent after the crisis of the Spanish monarchy in 1808, when Napoleon invaded Spain and forced his ally, the Spanish king, to abdicate. Suddenly, all of the monarchy's European territories, as well as the American ones, had a new king: Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The "absence" of King Ferdinand VII, captive in Bayonne, provoked a crisis of legitimacy that was conceptualized as a "political orphanage": with the father gone, each of his sons (the cities) considered himself equally authorized to govern. On the Iberian Peninsula, provincial government councils (juntas) started the Spanish revolution of independence when they assumed sovereignty on behalf of King Ferdinand VII against Napoleon and Joseph Bonaparte, considered a usurper of the throne.17 It was [End Page 109] not conceived as a transfer of sovereignty from the king to the cities, but as sovereignty from below that was federalized through the Spanish territory and culminated in the organization of a Central Council (Junta Central) established first in Madrid and later in Seville.18 Although this assembly acted in the name of the king, it also represented the Spanish nation (which included the Iberian and American territories, albeit unequally represented).

On the other side of the Atlantic, the crisis of legitimacy provoked similar responses. All the Spanish American cities had recognized the Spanish Central Assembly as the legitimate representation of the king, but when it collapsed in 1810 in the face of French invasion, many cities refused to confer legal status to the new institutions that replaced it: the Regency Council, in charge of the government, and the Cortes, a new legislative assembly that was assimilated to the traditional provincial Cortes but represented the Spanish nation, considered as equal to the Spanish monarchy. In 1812, the Cortes enacted a constitution in Cadiz founded on the nation's sovereignty. It was a global constitution, meant for territories on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the Pacific. It was also the second proclaimed in the Spanish world, after that of Cundinamarca, Nueva Granada, in April 1811.19 Throughout the continent, the municipal councils (cabildos or ayuntamientos) of the main Spanish American cities organized juntas, following the Spanish example of 1808.20 These were, however, not recognized in Spain. Rejection was at the root of revolution in Spanish America, and of the creation of new republics throughout the continent.

If the first act in the creation of republics at the beginning of the nineteenth century was the organization of juntas on behalf of the king and in the name of religion and the laws of monarchy, an exploration of the correlation between these essential elements of politics in the Hispanic world is of paramount importance. This relationship was articulated by one concept: the republic. [End Page 110]


Until the first half of the seventeenth century, the Spanish monarchy was a conglomerate of the different kingdoms of the Spanish Crown, with Castile at the center. These included the Netherlands, Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the colonies in America and Asia.21 Spanish theologians and jurists conceived this conglomerate of communities unified in a body politic that belonged to a divine order whose laws organized the actions of men. They had an organic approach to politics: the human body was the metaphor for the "mystical or political (body) of the republic." As Ernst Kantorowicz has shown, the corpus reipublicae mysticum could mean the entire Christian community, and any corporation which differed from the tangible body of the individual.22

In the confessional vision of politics of the Spanish monarchy, religion was a constitutive element of the republic, based on the ideal of the res publica christiana and a communitas perfecta. The Jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneyra wrote, in the context of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, that religion was the navigation map of the "ship of the republic."23 In the seventeenth century, the Spanish ambassador and jurist Diego de Saavedra Fajardo stated that the laws were the columns of the republic; as the platform for those columns, religion was thus "the soul of republics."24

The religious content of republican discourse did not imply that Spanish theologians and jurists were not aware of the republic's dangers and limitations. On the contrary, between 1570 and 1650 the thinking on how to preserve the monarchy as a political body or republic shaped the "true Reason of State," which was subordinated to religion.25 Those accused of [End Page 111] worshipping the city of men over the city of God were associated to the "false Reason of State," and were called the "Machiavellians" or the "atheists' politicians."26 Saavedra Fajardo himself considered that "a moment's mistake" could make "a republic cry" for centuries.27 In his book on the political maxims of Aristotle, Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, and Machiavelli, Eugenio de Narbona affirmed: "Republics have an end and they are blown away (like all natural things) by the torrent of time and change."28 To establish a strict division between political and eschatological languages on the community, its constitution, organization, and ends, limit the scope to explore the theological-political approaches on the republic in the Spanish monarchy.

For Narbona the republic could exist without a king.29 As the Spanish theologians and jurists (like the Scholastics) repeatedly stated, the republic creates the king but the king does not create the republic. Therefore, the king was limited not only by nature but also by the republic, whose unity he was obliged to maintain. Using a Ciceronian-Christian rhetoric, theologians such as Fernando Vázquez de Menchaca, Francisco Suárez, and Juan de Mariana, and jurists such as Juan Costa and Saavedra Fajardo, theorized the power of the king as a result of the transfer of the people's power.30 For these authors, the king was limited by a plurality of laws (divine, natural, and human) that distinguished obedience from domination, liberty from slavery, the king from a tyrant. In this sense, the king was not considered a legislator on whom the republic depended (as in Bodin's theory of sovereignty) but a distributor of justice for the sake of the republic, in an order where the only one who could hold an absolute and perpetual power was God himself.31 [End Page 112]


The Spanish world could be considered as a monarchy comprised of urban republics.32 As defined in Sebastián Covarrubias's 1611 dictionary, a republic was also synonymous with a free city, and a republican was "the man who seeks the common good."33 This sense of the term republic was frequently used in cities' and provinces' rebellions against the abuse of power by Habsburg royal officials and in defense of the rights, freedoms, and privileges granted to them by the king, as in the rebellion of the Commoners in Castile (1520–1522), the Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), Catalonia and Portugal in 1640, and Naples in 1647. The actors in these rebellions articulated republican rhetoric with references to ancient Rome, the virtue and patriotism of the citizen, and the city whose laws and liberty had to be defended. Each of these local communities was governed by the city councils that represented the political body of the city and were charged with "the government of the republic."34

With the arrival of the Bourbon dynasty (1700), however, a distinction was drawn between the concepts of monarchy and republic through the dichotomy between order and disorder. The 1737 edition of the Diccionario de la Real Academia proposed a new definition of republic: it was the "government of the many, different from the monarchy."35 This definition was taken up in a later dictionary, to which the definition of the republic as a "popular government" was added. According to this conception, a republican was a man who had passion for popular government, or a man born in a republic like that of the Dutch.36 Closely associated with the Dutch revolution, the republic as a popular form of government was likened to anarchy, disorder, and division. [End Page 113]

For the Enlightenment officials of King Charles III, Spanish America became a laboratory for the implementation of political, economic, religious, and military reforms in order to integrate and defend the territory in a context of imperial struggles, and to modernize public administration and commerce through utilitarian policies.37 Many cities (organized in repúblicas de españoles and repúblicas de indios in the New World) reacted with riots against what were described as the policies of an arbitrary government (mal gobierno). Rather than precursors of the revolutions of independence, these revolts (Quito, 1765; New Spain, 1767–68; Commoners in Nueva Granada, 1781; the Indian rebellion led by Tupac Amaru II and Tupac-Katari in Peru, 1781–82) followed a traditional model: they were communal insurrections to legitimize the defense of the common good of their republics against despotism that revealed a crisis in colonial political culture.38

Throughout the eighteenth century, a new patriotic discourse arose based on the concept of patria and its association with America. Formally a part of the Castilian Crown since 1519, the continent nevertheless began to be considered a political community in itself by American Spaniards, although it did not have any legal status as such. In 1729, the Mexican lawyer Juan Antonio de Ahumada affirmed that, deprived of offices in their republic, the American Spaniards were not "citizens" but "foreigners in their own patrias."39 Quoting Cicero, he explained that the foundations of the res publica had been turned upside down and that the regime was heading toward tyranny.40 In 1771, the members of the ayuntamiento of Mexico radicalized Ahumada's arguments: they asked the king to exclude foreigners from public offices. They explained that the European Spaniards were citizens in America. However, by nature they were foreigners because their patria was Spain, not New Spain.41 [End Page 114]

In his Letter to American Spaniards (written in 1791 and published in 1799 by Francisco Miranda), the Peruvian Jesuit Juan Pablo de Viscardo—who was expelled back to Europe with the rest of the Company in 1767—compared America and Spain using the dichotomy between liberty and despotism: "The New World is our patria, its history is ours," he asserted. He identified the patria with a people "different from the European Spaniards," who for three centuries had brought only "ingratitude, injustice, slavery and desolation" to America.42 Viscardo wove different republican references—though excluding the French revolution—into a single discourse that put forth a history of liberty through law against Spanish despotism. He also echoed Thomas Paine's arguments in Common Sense, saying that America and Europe could not be ruled together and were separate by nature.43

By the end of the eighteenth century, however, most Americans diverged from Viscardo's vision, seeking to reform the monarchical order rather than overthrow it. Creole patriotism has been thoroughly analyzed by David Brading, Anthony Pagden, and Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, as one element of Spanish American revolutionary republicanism.44 It is difficult to distinguish a coherent Spanish American political discourse on the patria, or a clearly defined Spanish American identity. Rather than Creoles, American Spaniards considered themselves to be Spaniards born in America and, for this reason, vassals with different rights from European Spaniards. Therefore, Spanish American patriotism revealed less a desire for independence than a will to transform the monarchy in accordance with local demands.45 [End Page 115]


The aesthetic references to the Roman republic that had colored the language of the Catholic monarchy for centuries acquired a political dimension in Spanish America during the eighteenth century, first through the readings of the works of the Enlightenment philosophers, and later in the context of the American and the French revolutions. It could be argued that from the late eighteenth century on, the American and French revolutions effectively spread republicanism throughout the Atlantic world. However, if republicanism is considered less a single model, paradigm, or tradition than a plurality of indeterminate political experiences of the republic, then the argument that an Atlantic republican wave would have served as fodder for the Spanish American revolutions would be inconsistent. It is one thing to recognize that Spanish American revolutionaries used American and French revolutionary references to create their republics. It is another thing to assert that the Spanish American republics were an aftershock of those revolutions.

Creole revolutionaries admired the American republic. In Nueva Granada, Miguel de Pombo tried in 1811 to organize a federal republic based on the example of the United States: "In its political transformation, South America wants to imitate North America." For this lawyer, the American government was not only American: because of its perfection, it was also universal—a divine republic like that of the Jews in the Hebrew Bible, which had spread the "seed of liberty," first to France, then to South America.46 Other Creole revolutionaries regarded the American republic with suspicion. Neo-Grenadine Antonio Nariño (who in 1793 published a clandestine Spanish translation of the 1789 Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen for which he was condemned by the Inquisition and imprisoned for almost ten years) discussed Pombo's statements arguing that it was "insane" to compare the United States with Spanish America. For Nariño, in Spanish America only a central republic could secure the revolution.47 More than a decade later, the American republic and its federal form of government (an ambiguous term in Spanish America because the concept [End Page 116] "federation" was also used as a synonym for confederation) were still mistrusted. In 1829 Simon Bolivar stated: "I think that it would be a better option for [Spanish] America to adopt the Quran than the government of United States, even though it is the best in the world."48

The French revolution also inspired both admiration and suspicion in Spanish America. At the end of the eighteenth century, the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen could be seen as a document consistent with the principles of the natural rights theory. Based on their readings of republican references from Italian civic economists such as Gaetano Filangieri, Antonio Genovesi, and Ferdinando Galiani, the Spanish American enlightened elite produced a republican discourse based in natural liberty and Catholicism (like that of Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos and later Francisco Martínez Marina in Spain).49 A classic and aesthetic notion of the republic coexisted with a modern and radical definition of the republic identified with the French revolution. This second notion was a negative version of republicanism associated with specific events: the Terror, the decapitation of the royal family, the Haitian revolution, and the Napoleonic invasion of Spain.


All the revolutionary juntas in Spanish America recognized Ferdinand VII at first, as did the junta of Caracas when it declared independence from Spanish institutions in 1810. He was a king that could not govern. Invoking his sovereignty meant in fact that it needed to be represented. The Primera Junta, established by the city of Buenos Aires in the name of Ferdinand VII, proclaimed representation of the entire territory of the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty and justified its right in the city's preeminence. Although, in [End Page 117] name, it was not a political rupture, this allowed the junta to forge a revolution while at the same time voicing its fidelity to the king. In one of its documents, the Primera Junta rejected the "ignominious character of revolutionary and insurgent" endorsed by the cities opposed to Buenos Aires, but later declared that "every change of government is a revolution."50

With the revolution came war. It was not a war between Americans and Spaniards but a war between locals who supported the Spanish institutions of the Iberian Peninsula and those who supported the new revolutionary governments in America. American Spaniards who defended the revolutionary governments began thinking of themselves simply as Americans fighting against Spaniards, who would come to personify the "old tyranny." In Nueva Granada, as a governmental assembly was established in Santa Fe de Bogotá in 1810, Nariño asserted: "We are no longer colonists, but we cannot pronounce the word freedom without becoming insurgents. … Note that there is a dictionary for European Spain, and another for American Spain: in the first, the words 'freedom,' 'independence,' represent virtue; in the second, insurgency and crime; in the first, 'conquest' is the worst attack of Bonaparte; in the second, 'conquest' is the glory of Ferdinand and Isabella." He concluded, "The whole of America has vowed to be free, and it will be."51

The institution of new authorities demanded extraordinary efforts from the revolutionaries of 1810 who re-created the republic. These men were the intellectuals of the new order they hoped to build. In South America they were members of an enlightened elite of Creole lawyers, military officers, and priests who during the monarchy had belonged to the most important political bodies of the Viceroyalties.52 They constituted small groups of closely associated men from the main cities. Most of them wrote in newspapers born of the revolutions, the pages of which contained Latin epigraphs from Cicero, Virgil, Sallust, and Tacitus, and presented the opinion of the governments as public opinion.

Recognition of the king's legitimacy would not last long. Mariano Moreno, lawyer, first secretary of the Primera Junta, and founder of the newspaper the Gaceta de Buenos Aires, argued that the pact between the colonies and their king was illegitimate because it was based "on force and [End Page 118] domination and not on convention, which is what constitutes a people." If the pact was illegitimate, there could be no "legitimate obligation" to the king, and no legitimate laws.53 Therefore, the bond with the king was not political but based solely on love. Moreno also published the first book during the Rio de la Plata revolution (although it never circulated formally), a translation of Rousseau's Social Contract. In the prologue, he characterized Rousseau as "a heart entrenched in republican liberty"54 (a description from the French abbot Antoine Sabatier de Castres),55 and explained that he eliminated chapter 8, book 4, which spoke of civil religion, arguing that Rousseau "unfortunately ranted and raved … in these matters."56

The revolution had created a new legality, rejected the pact with the king, and distinguished between the old laws associated with slavery and the new laws of the revolution, which upheld liberty. Initially it was the liberty to preserve the Spanish monarchy's free American territory for the king. Later, it was liberty as the opposite of domination: liberty as the right of a people that had been neglected during three hundred years of despotism. A new republican discourse was forged out of the dichotomy between revolution, which was synonymous with liberty, and the Old Regime, which was associated with domination.

More than the readings of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Paine, it was war that made the revolutionaries republican.57 The Rio de la Plata (along with Paraguay) would be the only Spanish American territory that would remain free of royalist domination from 1810 on: with the return of Ferdinand VII to Spain in 1814 and the absolutist restoration in Europe, formalized with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, revolutionaries were defeated in Peru, Nueva Granada, and New Spain. [End Page 119]


The creation of the republic included new forms of representation of the people. This is when the republican references, always present in the language of the Catholic monarchy, acquired new meanings: the republic, the patria¸ the people, and liberty through law had been associated with substantial legitimacy that went beyond the king. By merely enunciating these words, the men of 1810 gave voice to a self-instituted community in their territories. Nevertheless, the problem was that of giving substance to an abstract entity (the people, the republic, the patria) that the revolutionaries claimed as self-evident but whose existence, in practice, was defied by their own attempts and struggles to govern and represent it. "Whatever the origin of our association is, it is certain that we form a political body," wrote Gregorio Funes when he sought to legitimize new authority through the existence of a political body which he called a "republic."58

Revolutionaries articulated a republican discourse that held public liberty through law, virtue, and the patria, above individual interests identified with selfishness, "the perpetual enemy of public good."59 Their republicanism allowed them to speak of a unanimous will that did not exist in the territories they aimed to govern. "In all the newspapers I publish, I plan to use no other language than that of a true republican," stated the radical revolutionary Bernardo de Monteagudo in 1811 in Buenos Aires.60 Patriotism no longer referred to Spain and the struggle against Napoleon, but to the Republic and to the virtues of the citizen-soldier of the revolution.

In 1819, in his "Message to the Congress of Angostura," before delegates from Nueva Granada and Venezuela, Bolivar stated: "Love of country, laws, and magistrates ought to be the ruling passion in the breast of every republican."61 Spanish American republicans incorporated Roman institutions, legal categories, and terminology (Triumvirs, Dictators, Protectors, Decurion, Censors, etc.) and redefined them through their readings of Enlightenment philosophers to shape a republican horizon for the revolution.

In a context in which sovereignty was dispersed, the republic was [End Page 120] formed from the religious horizon of the monarchical order shattered by crisis.62 The first task of government, argued Dean Gregorio Funes (who was part in 1811 of the revolutionary government in the Rio de la Plata), had to be "religion and public worship."63 The republic became a form of unity: "a well-ordered republic is like a musical instrument whose melody results from the inequality of strings and the diversity of sounds," insisted the newspaper El Censor, equating the republic to the body politic, whose life "consists of the fact that all its members work to preserve the whole."64

Rather than pitting republican vocabulary against language grounded in Christian rights and virtues, the revolution produced a republican language and a "patriotic religion"65 based on natural rights and Catholicism. In his 1813 project to reform the University of Cordoba's curriculum, Funes proposed studying rhetoric, to follow the examples of the "republican governments" of Athens and Rome. The aim was to promote "the art of speech" and "the same language of liberty." He also advocated studying Roman philosophy and jurisprudence.66 At the same time, Funes recommended learning the method of the "scholastic Catholic schools," which, unlike the "new philosophy" of the Enlightenment, was "a safe field in which to march without uncertainty."67 Another form of religious republicanism in the Spanish American revolutions was—as in the Dutch, English, American, and French revolutions—political Hebraism, a shared discourse based on readings of the Hebrew Bible and post-biblical Jewish texts as a source of political argument.68 The exile from Egypt, the Maccabean wars, and the criticism of monarchy in 1 Samuel 8 allowed the Spanish American republicans to compare themselves with the Israelites, the chosen People.69 [End Page 121]


The use of republican rhetoric had a specific goal: identifying the revolution with law, liberty, virtue, and the republic by creating for these words new meanings, incompatible with the Spanish monarchy. Republican values coexisted with a radical indeterminacy about what the republic was, how to govern it, how it could be represented, and who its citizens were. The proclaimed republic coexisted with a persistent idea of the need for direction and instruction of the people: the virtuous citizens could, at the same time, be the "blind plebs, admirers of all that is ancient."70

Patriotism could also be based on money and slaves, and used to support the army. Republican revolutionaries alternated between measures to free slaves and regulations for limited forms of citizenship for Africans and their descendants, as in the American and the French revolutions.71 Although slavery was condemned because it was contrary to natural law, the main arguments of Spanish American republicans in its defense were similar to those advanced in the rest of the Atlantic world: property rights as criteria for individual autonomy and the incapacity of Black slaves to exercise their liberty.

Not only did Spanish American republican citizenship during revolution recognize slavery (it would not be effectively abolished until the second half of nineteenth century), it also made the creation of a new form of dependent political liberty possible. The freedman (liberto) represented this ambiguity. He was a free person whose liberty depended on a master or on the State. As in Ancient Rome, the freedman was a liberated slave or a free son of a slave.72

The distinction between personal and public liberty (the first was opposed to the servitude of the slave, the second to political domination) [End Page 122] explains why, from Ancient Rome to modern states, many republics recognized and maintained slavery. In this sense, Spanish American republicanism upheld a republican tradition of political liberty that was not contradictory to the existence of slaves. In fact, the concepts of "free" and "slave" work as historiographical categories but they do not reveal the complexity of the political, legal, and social experiences of individuals during the creation of the new republics in the Atlantic revolutions.73 With slaves, freedmen, free people of color, indigenous people, and castas, Spanish American republicanism shows that there are far more degrees of freedom and of slavery than is suggested by the dichotomy between liberty and domination.74

On one hand, Spanish American republics were constitutive parts of a revolutionary Atlantic world. On the other hand, this context alone does not explain the creation of these republics. After three centuries of monarchy, the republic expanded through Spanish American revolutions because it constituted an indeterminate political form, open to experimentation and, at the same time, based on the conviction that a political community of Catholics existed. With the American and the French revolutions, Spanish America represented thus a third republican laboratory in the Atlantic revolutions. [End Page 123]

Gabriel Entin
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Centro de Historia Intelectual, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes


I would like to thank Erika Pani and Edward Blumenthal for their readings and critical comments on this text. This work was supported by Programa de Cooperación Bilateral nivel I-CONICET-CONACYT (Proyecto no. 207486, Las nuevas orientaciones en la historia política-intelectual. Balances y perspectivas: Argentina-México).

1. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967); Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, 1969); J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975).

2. Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics. Renaissance Virtues, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

3. Dario Castiglione, "Republicanism and its Legacy," European Journal of Political Theory 4, no. 4 (2005): 453–65.

4. Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner, and Maurizio Viroli, eds., Machiavelli and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

5. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment; for a Cambridge School approach to Christian republicanism in Italy, Maurizio Viroli, Come se Dio ci fosse. Religione e libertà nella storia d'Italia (Torino: Einaudi, 2009).

6. Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

7. Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); David Patrick Geggus, ed., The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001); Ashli White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010); Alejandro E. Gómez Pernía, Le spectre de la révolution noire: L'impact de la révolution haı¨tienne dans le monde atlantique, 1790–1886 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013).

8. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 95.

9. Tulio Halperin Donghi, Tradición política española e ideología revolucionaria de Mayo (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1961).

10. José Antonio Maravall, La philosophie politique espagnole au XVIIe siècle dans ses rapports avec l'esprit de la Contre-Réforme (Paris: Vrin, 1955).

11. See in this symposium, Elías Palti, "Beyond the 'History of Ideas': The Issue of the 'Ideological Origins of the Revolutions of Independence' Revisited."

12. David A. Brading, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots and the Liberal State 1492–1866 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Anthony Pagden, Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination: Studies in European and Spanish-American Social and Political Theory, 1513–1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Pablo Fernández Albaladejo, Materia de España: Cultura política e identidad en la España moderna (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2007); Xavier Gil Pujol, "Republican Politics in Early Modern Spain: The Castilian and Catalano-Aragonese Traditions," in Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, ed. Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 1: 263–88; Javier Fernández Sebastián, "República," in Diccionario político y social del mundo iberoamericano: La era de las revoluciones, 1750–1850, ed. Javier Fernández Sebastián (Madrid: Fundación Carolina, 2009), 1253–1380; José María Iñurritegui Rodríguez, La gracia y la república: El lenguaje político de la teología católica y El Príncipe Cristiano de Ribadeneyra (Madrid: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, 1998); François-Xavier Guerra, "La identidad republicana en la época de la Independencia," in Museo, memoria y nación: Misión de los museos nacionales para los ciudadanos del future, ed. Gonzálo Sánchez Gómez and María Emma Wills Obregón (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2000), 255–83; Annabel S. Brett, Liberty, Right and Nature: Individual Rights in Later Scholastic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Annick Lempérière Entre Dieu et le roi, la République: Mexico, XVIe–XIXe siècles (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2004); Palti, El tiempo de la política: El siglo XIX reconsiderado (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2007); Jorge Myers, Orden y virtud: El discurso republicano en el régimen rosista (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 1995); Luis Castro Leiva, Obras de Luis Castro Leiva, vol. II: Lenguajes republicanos, ed. Carole Leal Curiel (Caracas: Fundación Empresas Polar, 2009); Clément Thibaud, Libérer le nouveau monde: La fondation des premières républiques hispaniques; Colombie et Venezuela (1780–1820) (Rennes: Les Perséides, 2017); Manuel Herrero Sánchez, ed., Repúblicas y republicanismo en la Europa moderna (siglos XVI–XVIII) (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2017); Rafael Rojas, Las repúblicas de aire: Utopía y desencanto en la revolución de Hispanoamérica (Mexico City: Taurus, 2009); José Antonio Aguilar Rivera and Rafael Rojas, coords., El republicanismo en Hispanoamérica: Ensayos de historia intelectual y política (Mexico City: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, 2002); Alfredo Ávila, Para la libertad: Los republicanos en tiempos del imperio, 1821–1823 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2004); Georges Lomné, "De la República y otras repúblicas: La regeneración de un concepto," in Fernández Sebastián, Diccionario político y social, 1253–69.

13. Bernard Baylin, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005); J. H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492–1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); Halperin Donghi, Reforma y disolución de los imperios ibéricos 1750–1850 (Madrid: Alianza, 1985).

14. José María Portillo Valdés, Crisis Atlántica: Autonomía e independencia en la crisis de la monarquía hispánica, (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2006); Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006); Gabriel Paquette, Imperial Portugal in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions: The Luso-Brazilian World, c. 1770–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). See also, Thibaud et al., L'Atlantique révolutionnaire: Une perspective ibéro-américaine (Rennes: Les Perséides, 2013).

15. Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009).

16. E. H. Kossman and Albert F. Mellink, eds., Texts Concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands (London: Cambridge University Press, 1974); Van Gelderen, The Dutch Revolt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

17. Guerra, Modernidad e Independencias: Ensayos sobre las revoluciones hispánicas (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica / Mapfre, 1993). See also Antonio Annino, Silencios y disputas en la historia de Hispanoamérica (Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia / Taurus, 2014).

18. Leal Curiel, "De los muchos, uno: El federalismo en el espacio iberoamericano," in Fernández Sebastián, Diccionario político y social, 425–50.

19. Portillo Valdés, "Los rumbos imprevistos de Cádiz," in Cádiz a debate: Actualidad, contexto y legado, ed. Roberto Breña (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2014), 27–47; Carlos Garriga and Marta Lorente, Cádiz, 1812: La construcción jurisdiccional (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 2007).

20. Alfredo Ávila and Pedro Pérez Herrero, comp., Las experiencias de 1808 en Iberoamé-rica (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2008).

21. Fernández Albaladejo, Fragmentos de monarquía: Trabajos de historia política (Madrid: Alianza, 1992). For other interpretations on the Spanish monarchy, Pedro Cardim et al., Polycentric Monarchies: How Did Early Modern Spain and Portugal Achieve and Maintain a Global Hegemony? (Sussex: Sussex Academic Press, 2014).

22. Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957).

23. Pedro de Ribadeneyra, Tratado de la religión y virtudes que debe tener el príncipe christiano para governar y conservar sus estados: Contra lo que Nicolás Machiavelo y los políticos deste tiempo enseñan (Madrid, 1595).

24. Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, Idea de un Príncipe político-cristiano representada en cien empresas [1642], in Obras Completas, (Madrid: Aguilar, 1946), Empresa XXIV, 285.

25. Gil Pujol, "La razón de estado en la España de la Contrareforma: Usos y razones de la política," in La razón de estado en la España moderna, ed. Salvador Rus Rufino et al. (Valencia: Publicaciones de la Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, 2000), 39–58. See also José A. Fernández-Santamaría, Razón de Estado y política en el pensamiento español del barroco (1595–1640) (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1986), 35–37 and Richard Tuck, Philosophy and Government 1572–1651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

26. Claudio Clemente, El Machiavelismo degollado por la Christiana Sabiduría de España y de Austria (Alcalá: Antonio Vázquez, 1637), 127.

27. Saavedra Fajardo, Idea, Empresa C, 665.

28. Eugenio De Narbona, Doctrina política civil, escrita en aforismos (Madrid: Viuda de Cosme Delgado, 1621), Prologue.

29. Ibid., 17.

30. Iñurritegui Rodríguez, La gracia y la república; Brett, Liberty, Right and Nature.

31. Brett, "Scholastic political thought and the modern concept of the state," in Rethinking the Foundations of Modern Political Thought, ed. Brett et al., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 130–48. On the paradox and aporias that entail the idea of a pact between the political community and a political authority in seventeenth-century Spanish theological-political thinking, see Palti, An Archeology of the Political: Regimes of Power from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), chap. 1. 35–37 and Richard Tuck, Philosophy and Government 1572–1651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

32. Herrero Sánchez, "Introducción: Líneas de análisis y debates conceptuales en torno al estudio de las repúblicas y el republicanismo en la Europa moderna," in Repúblicas y republicanismo en la Europa moderna (siglos XVI–XVIII), ed. Herrero Sánchez (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2017), 22.

33. Sebastián de Covarrubias, Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana o Española [1611] (Barcelona: Alta Fulla, 1987), 906.

34. Castillo De Bovadilla, Política para corregidores [1597], t. 2 (Amberes: Hermanos de Tournes, 1750), 95.

35. Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua castellana, en que se explica el verdadero sentido de las voces, su naturaleza y calidad, con las phrases o modos de hablar, los proverbios o refranes, y otras cosas convenientes al uso de la lengua, vol. 5 (Madrid, 1737): 586.

36. Esteban de Terreros y Pando, Diccionario castellano con las voces de ciencias y artes y sus correspondientes en las tres lenguas francesa, latina e italiana, t. 3 (Madrid, 1788), 351.

37. Paquette, ed., Enlightened Reform in Southern Europe and its Atlantic Colonies, c. 1750–1830 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009).

38. John R. Fisher, Allan J. Kuethe, and Anthony McFarlane, eds., Reform and Insurrection in Bourbon New Granada and Peru (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1990).

39. Juan Antonio de Ahumada, "Representación político-legal" [1729], Documentos selectos del Centro de Estudios de Historia de Mexico, Condumex, 1493–1913 (Chimalistac, Mexico City: Grupo Condumex, 1992), 90, 100.

40. Ibid., 88.

41. "Representación que hizo la Ciudad de México al rey don Carlos III en 1771 sobre que los criollos deben ser preferidos a los europeos en la distribución de empleos y beneficios de estos reinos," in Colección de Documentos para la historia de la Guerra de independencia de México, ed. Juan E. Hernández y Dávalos, Alfredo Ávila, and Virginia Guedea (Mexico: UNAM, 2010), CD-ROM, t. 1, no. 195, 2–4, 11.

42. Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán, Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains par un de leurs compatriotes (Philadelphia, 1799), 2, 33. Despite the imprint, Viscardo's Lettre was most likely printed in London and not in Philadelphia. See Brading, "Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán: Creole patriot and philosophe," in Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán: Letter to the Spanish Americans (Providence, RI: The John Carter Brown Library, 2002). For a historiographical account on the publication of this document, Karen Stolley, "Writing Back to Empire: Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán's 'Letter to the Spanish Americans,'" in Liberty! Égalité! Independencia!: Print Culture, Enlightenment, and Revolution in the Americas, 1776–1838, ed. David S. Shields and Mariselle Meléndez (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2007), 117–31.

43. Viscardo y Guzmán, Lettre.

44. Brading, Orbe Indiano: De la monarquía católica a la república criolla, 1492–1867 (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1991); Pagden, Spanish Imperialism; Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World? Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).

45. Gabriel Entin, "El patriotismo americano en el siglo XVIII: Ambigüedades de un discurso político hispánico," in Las independencias hispanoamericanas: Un objeto de historia, ed. Véronique Hébrard and Geneviève Verdo (Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2013), 19–34; Federica Morelli, "La redefinición de las relaciones imperiales: En torno a la relación reformas dieciochescas/independencia en América," Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, Debates, July 3, 2017, accessed September 21, 2017, DOI:10.4000/nuevomundo.32942.

46. Miguel de Pombo, Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América: Según se propuso por la Convención tenida en Filadelfia el 17 de septiembre de 1787 (Santa Fe de Bogotá: Imprenta Patriótica, 1811).

47. Antonio Nariño, La Bagatela, no. 4, August 4, 1811 and no. 5, August 11, 1811 (Bogotá: Editorial Incunables, 1982).

48. "Letter from Simón Bolívar to General Daniel O'Leary," Guayaquil, 13 September 1829, in Por la libertad de mi patria: Discursos, cartas y decretos, Simón Bolívar (Mexico City: Conaculta, 2015), 537.

49. José Carlos Chiaramonte, La crítica ilustrada de la realidad: Economía y sociedad en el pensamiento argentino e iberoamericano del siglo XVIII (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1982); Morelli, "Tras las huellas perdidas de Filangieri: Nuevas perspectivas sobre la cultura política constitucional en el Atlántico hispánico," Historia Contemporánea, 33 (2006): 431–61; Portillo Valdés, La vida atlántica de Victorián de Villava (Madrid: Mapfre, 2009). See also Julen Viejo Yharrassarry, "Usar bien de las pasiones: Amor propio, pasiones e interés en la Monarquía Hispana de finales del siglo XVIII," Espacio, Tiempo y Forma: Serie IV, Historia Moderna 25 (2012): 255–73.

50. Gaceta de Buenos Aires, no. 19, October 11, 1810, in Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810–1821), t. 1 (Buenos Aires: Junta de Historia y Numismática, 1910).

51. La Bagatela, no. 5, August 11, 1811.

52. Myers, "El letrado patriota: Los hombres de letras hispanoamericanos en la encrucijada del colapso del imperio español en América," in Historia de los intelectuales en América Latina, vol. 1, dir. Carlos Altamirano, ed. Myers (Buenos Aires: Katz, 2008), 121–44.

53. Gaceta de Buenos Aires, no. 2, June 14, 1810 and no. 22, November 1, 1810. Moreno based his argument on Rousseau's formula: "Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers" in Du Contrat Social, book 1, chap. 3, in Œuvres completes: Du Contrat Social; Écrits Politiques, vol. 3 (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1964), 355.

54. Mariano Moreno, "El Editor a los habitantes de esta América" (Buenos Aires: Real Imprenta de Niños Expósitos, 1810), in La Revolución de Mayo a través de los impresos de la época, t. 3, comp. Augusto E. Mallié (Buenos Aires: Comisión Nacional Ejecutiva del 150 aniversario de la Revolución de Mayo, 1965–1967), 323.

55. See Noemí Goldman, Mariano Moreno: De reformista a insurgente (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2016), 187.

56. Moreno, "El Editor," 325–26.

57. Thibaud, Repúblicas en armas: Los ejércitos bolivarianos en las guerras de Independencia de Colombia y Venezuela (Bogotá: Planeta-IFEA, 2003); Alejandro Rabinovich, La société guerrière: Pratiques, discours et valeurs militaires dans le Rio de la Plata (1806–1852) (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013).

58. Gaceta Extraordinaria de Buenos Aires, August 7, 1810, in Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810–1821), t. 1 (Buenos Aires: Junta de Historia y Numismática, 1910).

59. Gaceta Extraordinaria de Buenos Aires, November 20, 1810.

60. Gaceta de Buenos Aires, no. 16, December 27, 1811, in Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810–1821), t. 2 (Buenos Aires: Junta de Historia y Numismática, 1911).

61. Speech of his Excellency General Bolivar at the installation of the Congress of Venezuela in Angostura, on the 15th day of February, 1819, trad. James Hamilton (Angostura: Andrew Roderick, 1819).

62. Entin, "La révolution au Rio de la Plata et le républicanisme des hommes de 1810," Rivista storica 122 (2010): 682–707.

63. Gaceta de Buenos Aires, October 2, 1810, in Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810–1821), t. 1 (Buenos Aires: Junta de Historia y Numismática, 1910).

64. El Censor, no. 6, February 11, 1812 in Biblioteca de Mayo, t. 7 (Buenos Aires: Senado de la Nación, 1960), 5796.

65. Gaceta de Buenos Aires, no. 33, January 24, 1811, in Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810–1821), t. 2 (Buenos Aires: Junta de Historia y Numismática, 1911).

66. Gregorio Funes, Plan de estudios para la Universidad Mayor de Córdoba [1813], in Biblioteca de Mayo, t. 2 (Buenos Aires: Senado de la Nación, 1960), 1555–87.

67. Ibid.

68. Eric Nelson, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

69. Guerra, "'Políticas sacadas de las sagradas escrituras': La referencia a la biblia en el debate político (siglos XVII a XIX)," in Élites intelectuales y modelos colectivos: Mundo Ibérico (siglos XVI–XIX), ed. Mónica Quijada and Jesús Bustamente (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2003), 155–98. See also Roberto Di Stefano, "Lecturas políticas de la Biblia en la revolución rioplatense (1810–1835)," Anuario de Historia de la Iglesia 12 (2003): 201–24; Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, "Son las mujeres las que defienden al rey con espadas y son los liberales los que queman herejes: El Antiguo Testamento y las revoluciones de independencia en la monarquía de España," Revista 20/10 2, (2013): 9–24.

70. Gaceta Extraordinaria de Buenos Aires, December 8, 1810.

71. Josep M. Fradera and Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, eds., Slavery and Antislavery in Spain's Atlantic Empire (New York: Berghahn, 2013). On slavery in the Rio de la Plata revolution, Silvia C. Mallo and Ignacio Telesca, eds., "Negros de la Patria." Los afrodescendientes en las luchas por la independencia en el antiguo virreinato del Río de la Plata (Buenos Aires: SB, 2010) and Alex Borucki, From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Rio de la Plata (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015).

72. Entin and Magdalena Candioti, "Liberté et dependance pendant la révolution du Rio de la Plata: Esclaves et affranchis dans la construction d'une citoyennete politique (1810–1820)," Revue Mouvements des idées et des luttes 3, no. 252 (2015): 71–91.

73. Ibid.; Marixa Lasso, Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia 1795–1831 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007); Silyane Larcher, L'autre citoyen: L'idéal républicain et les Antilles après l'esclavage (Paris: Armand Colin, 2014); James E. Sanders, Contentious Republicans: Popular Politics, Race, and Class in Nineteenth-Century Colombia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).

74. Rebecca Scott, Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005).