General Simón Bolívar 1 (The Liberator)

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios

(1783-1830) Born in Caracas, Venezuela to rich and influential parents.2
At age 18 he went to Europe to continue his studies. In Europe he once again met his tutor Simón Rodríguez, who introduced him to the philosophies of Rousseau, Locke, Voltaire and others. 4

In 1808 Bolivar became involved with the war for independence. The war had numerous defeats and setbacks, and Bolivar was forced to flee the country a number of times. On one of these occasions of self-exile, he was in Jamaica (1815) where he wrote what many feel was his most important piece of correspondence:

. . . . . “La Carta Jamaica”

In his letter he speaks of why the American countries must sever the bonds of Spanish rule:

"the destiny of America has been irrevocably decided... We have already seen the light, and it is not our desire to be thrust back into the dark... Under absolutism there are no recognized limits ... of governmental powers."

"So negative was our existence that I can find nothing comparable in any other civilized society"

He also states his goals for America:

"I desire to see America fashioned into the greatest nation in the world" 2

In Bolivar's document Dreams for Latin America, he writes to the Governor of Venezuela. His document is trying to persuade a revolution for all of Latin America. Bolivar saw what was going on in the United States at this time and used this to his advantage. Bolivar wrote that the tie that formerly bound the United States to Spain is now dividing them. He believes that Latin America can do the same thing as the United States.

Bolivar believed

"it would be easier to have the two continents meet than to reconcile the spirits of the two countries."

Bolivar thought that it was inevitable that the Spanish and Latin America could not come to an agreement because they were too far from one another in their beliefs. Spain kept giving false hope to Latin America by promising understanding, but instead Spain threatened them with death.

Bolivar thought the Latin Americans were in a position lower than slavery, and because of that, it is more difficult for us to rise to the enjoyment of freedom. A Great Republic would be "utterly impossible." 2

Bolivar went on to lead his army against overwhelming odds, and to ultimately free Venezuela, New Granada (Columbia), Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama from the tyranny of Spanish rule. His dream of a united America, however, never came to fruition.


. . . . Success will crown our efforts, because the destiny of America has been irrevocably de­cided; the tie that bound her to Spain has been severed. . . . That which formerly bound them now divides them. The hatred that the Penin­sula1 inspired in us is greater than the ocean be­tween us. It would be easier to have the two continents meet than to reconcile the spirits of the two countries. The habit of obedience; a community of interest, of understanding, of reli­gion; mutual goodwill; a tender regard for the birthplace and good name of our forefathers; in short, all that gave rise to our hopes, came to us from Spain. As a result there was born a princi­ple of affinity that seemed eternal. ... At present the contrary attitude persists: we are threatened with the fear of death, dishonor, and every harm; there is nothing we have not suffered at the hands of that unnatural stepmother — Spain. The veil has been torn asunder. We have already seen the light, and it is not our desire to be thrust back into darkness. . . .
The role of the inhabitants of the American hemisphere has for centuries been purely passive. Politically they were non-existent. We are still in a position lower than slavery, and therefore it is more difficult for us to rise to the enjoyment of freedom. . . . States are slaves because of either the nature or the misuse of their constitutions; a people is therefore enslaved when the govern­ment, by its nature or its vices, infringes on and usurps the rights of the citizen or subject. Ap­plying these principles, we find that America was denied not only its freedom but even an ac­tive and effective tyranny. Under absolutism there are no recognized limits to the exercise of governmental powers. The will of the great sul­tan, khan, bey, and other despotic rulers is the supreme law, carried out more or less arbitrarily by the lesser pashas, khans, and satraps of Turkey and Persia, who have an organized system of op­pression in which inferiors participate according to the authority vested in them. To them is en­trusted the administration of civil, military, po­litical, religious, and tax matters. But, after all is said and done, the rulers of Isfahan are Persians; the viziers of the Grand Turk are Turks; and the sultans of Tartary are Tartars. . . .How different is our situation! We have been harassed by a conduct which has not only de­prived us of our rights but has kept us in a sort of permanent infancy with regard to public af­fairs. If we could at least have managed our do­mestic affairs and our internal administration, we could have acquainted ourselves with the processes and mechanics of public affairs. . . .Americans today, and perhaps to a greater ex­tent than ever before, who live within the Span­ish system occupy a position in society no better than that of serfs destined for labor. . . . Yet even this status is surrounded with galling restric­tions, such as being forbidden to grow European crops, or to store products which are royal mo­nopolies, or to establish factories of a type the Peninsula itself does not possess. To this add the exclusive trading privileges, even in articles of prime necessity, and the barriers between Amer­ican provinces, designed to prevent all exchange of trade, traffic, and understanding. In short, do you wish to know what our future held? — sim­ply the cultivation of the fields of indigo, grain, coffee, sugar cane, cacao, and cotton; cattle rais­ing on the broad plains; hunting wile game in the jungles; digging in the earth to mine its gold — but even these limitations could never satisfy the greed of Spain.So negative was our existence that I can find nothing comparable in any other civilized soci­ety. ... Is it not an outrage and a violation of human rights to expect a land so splendidly en­dowed, so vast, rich, and populous, to remain merely passive? As I have just explained, we were cut off and, as it were, removed from the world in relation to the science of government and administration of the state. We were never viceroys or governors, save in the rarest of instances; seldom archbish­ops and bishops; diplomats never; as military men, only subordinates; as nobles, without royal privileges. In brief, we were neither magistrates nor financiers and seldom merchants — all in flagrant contradiction to our institutions. . . .
It is harder, Montesquieu2 has written, to re­lease a nation from servitude than to enslave a free nation. This truth is proven by the annals of all times, which reveal that most free nations have been put under the yoke, but very few en­slaved nations have recovered their liberty. De­spite the convictions of history, South Americans have made efforts to obtain liberal, even perfect, institutions, doubtless out of that instinct to as­pire to the greatest possible happiness, which, common to all men, is bound to follow in civil societies founded on the principles of justice, lib­erty, and equality. But are we capable of main­taining in proper balance the difficult charge of a republic? Is it conceivable that a newly emanci­pated people can soar to the heights of liberty, and, unlike Icarus, neither have its wings melt nor fall into an abyss? Such a marvel is inconceiv­able and without precedent. There is no reason­able probability to bolster our hopes.
More than anyone, I desire to see America fashioned into the greatest nation in the world, greatest not so much by virtue of her area and wealth as by her freedom and glory. Although I seek perfection for the government of my coun­try, I cannot persuade myself that the New World can, at the moment, be organized as a great republic. Since it is impossible, I dare not desire it; yet much less do I desire to have all America a monarchy because this plan is not only impracticable but also impossible. Wrongs now existing could nor be righted, and our emancipation would be fruitless. The American states need the care of paternal governments to heal the sores and wounds of despotism and war. . . .From the foregoing, we can draw these conclu­sions: The American provinces are fighting for their freedom, and they will ultimately succeed. Some provinces as a matter of course will form federal and some central republics; the larger areas will inevitably establish monarchies, some of which will fare so badly that they will disinte­grate in either present or future revolutions. To consolidate a great monarchy will be no easy task, but it will be utterly impossible to consoli­date a great republic. . . . When success is not assured, when the state is weak, and when results are distantly seen, all men hesitate; opinion is divided, passions rage, and the enemy fans these passions in order to win an easy victory because of them. As soon as we are strong and under the guidance of a liberal nation which will lend us her protection, we will achieve accord in cultivating the virtues and tal­ents that lead to glory. Then will we march ma­jestically toward that great prosperity for which South America is destined. . . ,

Bolivar's main purpose for writing, "The Jamaica Letter," was to show other South Americans how unfairly they were being treated. Bolivar believed they were being treated like surfs. Also, he mentioned how their rights were being infringed upon. Bolivar was convinced that South American countries needed to break free from Spanish rule.

Congress of Cúcuta
Bolivar's views on government were more democratic, rather than to continue the monarchy system. His views and principles were based mainly from the Enlightenment and republicanism. In this document Simon Bolivar is saying that even if the Americas have won their independence, they still aren't a fully liberated society, based on the issues on inequality. He stated that, Politically they were non-existent. "We are still in a position lower than slavery, and therefore it is more difficult for us to rise to the enjoyment of freedom," meaning that compared to the greed and power of Spain, the citizens of the Americas were still fighting for their freedom because they type of government they needed wasn't established yet.

In the lectures by Sepinwall on Monday she stated that after the American, French and Latin American Revolutions, one of their biggest challenges was establishing a working and productive system of government. She stated that this type of change was harder because when a society has become accustomed to one system of government and laws, it takes a lot of time to change all this and make laws that are suitable for everyone. She also stated that after the American Revolution it took two drafts of the Constitution before they got it right, whereas after the French and Latin American Revolutions it took them constant tries before establishing a working government.

In the document Bolivar also states at the end his desire for a great republic and that he believed success for the Americas was possible. Even for our country now, Based on our system of government, our economy and the fact that we are one of the most developed countries in the world, it is safe to say his ideas on government were correct. It was interesting to see how someone of the past could predict such an important part of our future.

Group members: Sam Blumenshine, Melissa Cantrell, Shane Hurley, James Sebring and Maria Tello


1. Photo from:
2. The Human Record, 2009, Wadworth, Cengage Learning (167-170)
4. Encyclopedia Brittanica, "Simon Bolivar", 17th ed, Vol 2, (339-340)
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7. Arismendi Posada, Ignacio; Gobernantes Colombianos, trans. Colombian Presidents; Interprint Editors Ltd.; Italgraf; Segunda Edición; Page 10; Bogotá, Colombia; 1983
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