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May Revolution

The May Revolution (Spanish: Revolución de Mayo) was a week-long series of events that took place from May 18 to 25, 1810, in Buenos Aires, capital of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish colony that included roughly the territories of present-day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The result was the removal of Viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros and the establishment of a local government, the Primera Junta (First Junta), on May 25. These events are commemorated in Argentina as "May Week" (Spanish: Semana de Mayo).

The May Revolution was a direct reaction to Spain's Peninsular War of the previous two years. In 1808, King Ferdinand VII of Spain abdicated in favor of Napoleon, who granted the throne to his brother, Joseph Bonaparte. A Supreme Central Junta led resistance to Joseph's government and the French occupation of Spain, but eventually suffered a series of reversals that resulted in the Spanish loss of the northern half of the country. On February 1, 1810, French troops took Seville and gained control of most of Andalusia. The Supreme Junta retreated to Cadiz and dissolved itself, and the Council of Regency of Spain and the Indies replaced it. News of these events arrived in Buenos Aires on May 18, when British ships brought newspapers from Spain and the rest of Europe.

Viceroy Cisneros tried to conceal the news to maintain the political status quo, but a group of criollo lawyers and military officials organized an open cabildo (an extraordinary meeting of notables of the city) on May 22 to decide the future of the Viceroyalty. Delegates denied recognition to the Council of Regency in Spain and established a junta to govern in place of Cisneros, since the government that appointed him Viceroy no longer existed. To maintain a sense of continuity, Cisneros was initially appointed president of the Junta. However, this caused much popular unrest, so Cisneros resigned under pressure on May 25. The newly formed government, the Primera Junta, included only representatives from Buenos Aires and invited other cities of the Viceroyalty to send delegates to join them. This resulted in the outbreak of war between the regions that accepted the outcome of the events at Buenos Aires and those that did not.

The May Revolution began the Argentine War of Independence, although no formal declaration of independence was issued at the time and the Primera Junta continued to govern in the name of the deposed king, Ferdinand VII. As similar events occurred in many other cities of Spanish South America when news of the dissolution of the Spanish Supreme Central Junta arrived, the May Revolution is also considered one of the early events of the Spanish American wars of independence. Historians today debate whether the revolutionaries were truly loyal to the Spanish crown or whether the declaration of fidelity to the king was a necessary ruse to conceal the true objective—to achieve independence—from a population that was not yet ready to accept such a radical change. A formal declaration of independence was finally issued at the Congress of Tucumán on July 9, 1816.


International causes
The United States Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776 led criollos (Spanish peoples born in the Americas) to believe that revolution and independence from Spain could be realistic aims.[1][2] Between 1775 and 1783, the American patriots of the Thirteen Colonies waged the American Revolutionary War against both the local loyalists and the Kingdom of Great Britain. The fact that Spain aided the colonies in their struggle against Britain weakened the idea that it would be a crime to end one's allegiance to the parent state.[3]

The ideals of the French Revolution of 1789 spreaded across Europe and the Americas as well.[4] With the overthrow and execution of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, that revolution brought centuries of monarchy to an end; it also removed the privileges of the nobility. The French Revolution boosted liberal ideals in the political and economic fields. Liberal ideas spread through the Atlantic Revolutions across most of the Western world, and expanded to new and varied ideas thanks to the national variations of the Age of Enlightenment. The concept of the divine right of kings was questioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, by the oft-quoted statement that "all men are created equal" in the United States Declaration of Independence and even by the Spanish church.[1]

However, the spread of such ideas was forbidden in the Spanish territories, as was the sale of related books or their unauthorized possession.[5] Spain instituted those bans when they declared war on France after the execution of Louis XVI and retained them after the peace treaty of 1796.[1] News of the events of 1789 and copies of the publications of the French Revolution spread around Spain despite efforts to keep them at bay.[5] Many enlightened criollos came into contact with liberal authors and their works during their university studies, either in Europe or at the University of Chuquisaca (modern Sucre, Bolivia).[6] Books from the United States found their way into the Spanish colonies through Caracas, owing to the proximity of Venezuela to the United States and the West Indies.[7]

The Industrial Revolution started in Britain, with the use of plateways, canals and steam power. This led to dramatic increases in the productive capabilities of Britain,[8] and created a need for new markets to sell its products.[9] The Napoleonic Wars, in which Britain was at war with France, made this a difficult task, after Napoleon imposed the Continental System, which forbade his allies and conquests to trade with Britain. Thus Britain needed to be able to trade with the Spanish colonies, but could not do so because the colonies were restricted to trade only with their parent state.[10] To achieve their economic objectives, Britain initially launched the British invasions of the Río de la Plata to conquer key cities in Spanish America.[11] When that failed, they chose to promote the Spanish-American aspirations of emancipation from Spain.[10][12]

The mutiny of Aranjuez in 1808 led King Charles IV of Spain to abdicate in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII.[13] Charles IV requested that Napoleon restore him to the throne; instead, Napoleon crowned his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as the new Spanish King.[13][14] These events are known as the Abdications of Bayonne. Joseph's coronation was met with severe resistance in Spain, which started the Peninsular War, and the Supreme Central Junta took power in the name of the absent king.[15] Until then, Spain had been a staunch ally of France against Britain, but at this point Spain allied itself with Britain against France instead.[9] France eventually invaded Sevilla, and a Council of Regency based in Cadiz replaced the disbanded Supreme Central Junta.[16]

National causes
Spain forbade its American colonies to trade with other nations or foreign colonies, and imposed itself as the only buyer and vendor for their international trade.[17] This situation damaged the viceroyalty, as Spain's economy was not powerful enough to produce the huge supply of goods that the numerous colonies would need, which caused economic shortages and recession.[18][17] The Spanish trade routes favored the ports of Mexico and Lima, to the detriment of Buenos Aires.[19] As a result, Buenos Aires smuggled those products that could not be obtained legitimately.[20] Most local authorities allowed this smuggling as a lesser evil, even though it was illegal, and it occasionally equalled in volume the legal commerce with Spain.[21] Two antagonistic factions emerged: the landowners wanted free trade so they could sell their products abroad, while the merchants, who benefited from the high prices of smuggled imports, opposed free trade because prices would come down.[22]

The Spanish monarchy appointed their own candidates to most of the political offices in the viceroyalty, usually favoring Spaniards from Europe.[23] In most cases, the appointees had little knowledge of or interest in local issues. Consequently, there was a growing rivalry between criollos (people born in America) and peninsulars (those born in Spain). Most criollos thought that peninsulars had undeserved advantages and received preferential treatment in politics and society.[17] The lower clergy had a similar sentiment about the higher echelons of the religious hierarchy.[21] Events developed at a slower pace than in the United States independence movement.[24] This was in part because the clergy controlled the entire educational system in Spanish America, which led the population to hold the same conservative ideas and follow the same customs as in Spain.[24]

Buenos Aires and Montevideo successfully resisted two British invasions.[12] In 1806, a small British army led by William Carr Beresford seized Buenos Aires for a brief time; a Montevidean army led by Santiago de Liniers liberated the city.[25] The following year, a bigger army seized Montevideo, but was overwhelmed by the forces of Buenos Aires; the invaders capitulated[25] and returned Montevideo to the viceroyalty. There was no aid from Spain during either invasion.[17][26] Liniers organized criollo militias during the preparations for the second invasion, in spite of the prohibition against them.[27][28] The Patricios Regiment, led by Cornelio Saavedra, was the biggest criollo army. These events gave criollos military power and political influence that they did not have before and, since the victory was achieved without any help from Spain, it boosted criollo confidence in their independent capabilities.[17][29]

The Portuguese royal family left Europe and settled in colonial Brazil in 1808, after their escape from the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal.[30] Carlota Joaquina, sister of Ferdinand VII, was the wife of the Portuguese prince regent, but had her own political projects.[31] As she avoided the later capture of the Spanish royal family, she attempted to take charge of the Viceroyalty as regent.[32] This political project, known as Carlotism, sought to prevent a French invasion of the Americas.[33] A small secret society of criollos, composed of politicians such as Manuel Belgrano and Juan José Castelli, and military such as Antonio Beruti and Hipólito Vieytes, supported this project.[34][35] They considered it an opportunity to get a local government instead of a European one, or a step towards a potential declaration of independence.[36][37] The project was resisted by Viceroy Liniers, most peninsulars, and some criollos, including Mariano Moreno, Juan José Paso and Cornelio Saavedra.[37][34] They suspected that it concealed Portuguese expansionist ambitions over the region.[34] The supporters of Carlota Joaquina intended her to head a constitutional monarchy, whereas she wanted to govern an absolute monarchy; these conflicting goals undermined the project and caused it to fail.[34][35] Britain, which had a strong influence in the politics of the Portuguese Empire, opposed the project as well: they did not want Spain split into several kingdoms, and considered Carlota Joaquina unable to prevent this.[38]


Liniers government
After the British invasion of 1806, Santiago de Liniers successfully reconquered Buenos Aires.[39] The population did not allow Rafael de Sobremonte to continue as Viceroy.[39] He had escaped to Cordoba with the public treasury while the battle was still in progress.[40] A law enacted in 1778 required to move the treasury to a safe place in the case of foreign attack, but Sobremonte was still seen as a coward by the population.[41] The Royal Audiencia of Buenos Aires did not allow his return to Buenos Aires and elected Liniers, acclaimed as a popular hero, as an interim Viceroy.[39] This was an unprecedented action, the first time that a Spanish viceroy was deposed by local government institutions, and not by the King of Spain himself.[41] But King Charles IV ratified the appointment later.[42] Liniers armed all the population of Buenos Aires, including criollos and slaves, and defeated a second British invasion attempt in 1807.[27]

The Liniers administration was popular among criollos, but not among peninsulars such as the merchant Martín de Álzaga and the Governor of Montevideo, Francisco Javier de Elío.[43] They requested the Spanish authorities to appoint a new viceroy.[44] In the wake of the outbreak of the Peninsular War, de Elío created a Junta in Montevideo, which would scrutinise all the orders from Buenos Aires and reserve the right to ignore them, but did not openly deny the authority of the Viceroy or declare Montevideo independent.[34]

Martín de Álzaga began a mutiny to remove Liniers.[45] On January 1, 1809, an open cabildo (an extraordinary meeting of vecinos, prominent people of the city) chaired by Álzaga demanded the resignation of Liniers and the appointment of a local junta.[46] The Spanish militia and a group of people summoned by the meeting gathered to support the rebellion.[47] A small number of criollos, notably Mariano Moreno, supported the mutiny,[45] but most of them did not.[48] They felt that Álzaga wanted to remove the Viceroy to avoid his political authority while keeping the social differences between criollos and peninsulars unchanged.[48] The riot was quickly routed when criollo militias led by Cornelio Saavedra surrounded the plaza and dispersed the insurgents.[49] As a result of the failed mutiny, the rebel militias were disarmed.[50][51] This included all peninsular militias, and the power of the criollos increased as a result.[50] The leaders of the plot, with the exception of Moreno, were exiled to Carmen de Patagones.[52] Javier de Elío freed them and gave them political asylum at Montevideo.[53]

Cisneros government
The Supreme Central Junta replaced Liniers with the naval officer Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, a veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar, to end the political turmoil in the Río de la Plata.[54] He arrived in Montevideo in June 1809 for the handover.[55] Manuel Belgrano proposed that Liniers should resist on the grounds that he had been confirmed as Viceroy by a King of Spain, whereas Cisneros lacked such legitimacy.[56] The criollo militias shared Belgrano's proposal,[56] but Liniers handed over the government to Cisneros without resistance.[57] Javier de Elío accepted the authority of the new Viceroy, and dissolved the Junta of Montevideo.[58] Cisneros rearmed the disbanded peninsular militias, and pardoned those responsible for the mutiny.[59] Álzaga was not freed, but his sentence was commuted to house arrest.[60]

There was concern about events in Spain and about the legitimacy of local governors in Upper Peru as well.[61] On May 25, 1809, the Chuquisaca Revolution deposed Ramón García de León y Pizarro as Governor of Chuquisaca and replaced him with Juan Antonio Alvarez de Arenales.[61] On July 16, the La Paz revolution, led by Colonel Pedro Domingo Murillo, deposed the Governor of La Paz and elected a new junta.[61] A swift reaction from the Spanish authorities defeated those rebellions.[61] An army of 1,000 men sent from Buenos Aires found no resistance at Chuquisaca, took control of the city and overthrew the Junta.[61] Murillo tried to defend La Paz, but his 800 men were completely outnumbered by the more than 5,000 men sent from Lima.[61] He was beheaded later, along with other leaders, and their heads were exhibited as a deterrent.[62] These measures contrasted sharply with the pardon that Martín de Álzaga and others had received after a short time in prison, and the resentment of criollos against the peninsulars deepened.[63] Juan José Castelli was present at the deliberations of the University of Saint Francis Xavier, where Bernardo Monteagudo developed the Syllogism of Chuquisaca, a legal explanation to justify self-governance. This influenced his ideas during the "May Week".[64]

On November 25, 1809, Cisneros created the Political Surveillance Court to persecute afrancesados and independentists.[65] However, he rejected economist José María Romero's proposal to banish a number of people considered dangerous to the Spanish regime, such as Saavedra, Paso, Vieytes, Castelli and Moreno, among others.[66] Romero warned Cisneros against spreading news that might be considered subversive. Criollos felt that soon any pretext would be enough to lead to the outbreak of revolution. In April 1810, Cornelio Saavedra uttered his famous quote to his friends: "it's not time yet, let the figs ripen and then we'll eat them".[67] He meant that he would not support rushed actions against the Viceroy, but would do so at a strategically favorable moment, such as when Napoleon's forces gained a decisive advantage in their war against Spain.[68]

May Week

The May Week was the period of time in Buenos Aires which began with the confirmation of the fall of the Supreme Central Junta and ended with the dismissal of Cisneros and the establishment of the Primera Junta.[69]

On May 14, 1810, the British war schooner HMS Mistletoe arrived at Buenos Aires from Gibraltar with European newspapers that reported the dissolution of the Supreme Central Junta the previous January.[70] The city of Seville had been invaded by French armies, which were already dominating most of the Iberian Peninsula.[16] The newspapers reported that some of the former members of the Junta had taken refuge on the Isla de León in Cadiz.[71] This was confirmed in Buenos Aires on May 17, when the British frigate HMS John Paris arrived in Montevideo; the most recent newspapers reported that members of the Supreme Central Junta had been dismissed.[71] The Council of Regency of Cadiz was not seen as a successor of the Spanish resistance but as an attempt to restore absolutism in Spain.[72] The Supreme Central Junta was seen as sympathetic to the new ideas.[73] South American patriots feared both a complete French victory in the peninsula and an absolutist restoration.[72] Cisneros monitored the British warships and seized their newspapers, to conceal the news, but a newspaper came into the hands of Belgrano and Castelli.[74] They spread the news among other patriots and challenged the legitimacy of the Viceroy, who had been appointed by the fallen junta.[74] When Cornelio Saavedra, head of the regiment of Patricians, was informed of this news, he decided that it was finally the ideal time to take action against Cisneros.[75] Martín Rodríguez proposed to overthrow the Viceroy by force, but Castelli and Saavedra rejected this idea and proposed the convening of an open cabildo.[76]

Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19
Although Viceroy Cisneros attempted to conceal the news of the Spanish defeat, the rumor had already spread throughout Buenos Aires.[77] Most of the population was uneasy; there was high activity at the barracks and in the Plaza, and most shops were closed.[78] The "Café de Catalanes" and the "Fonda de las Naciones", frequent criollo meeting places, became venues for political discussions and radical proclamations; Francisco José Planes shouted that Cisneros should be hanged in the Plaza as retribution for the execution of the leaders of the ill-fated La Paz revolution.[78] People who sympathized with the absolutist government were harassed, but the fights were of little consequence, because nobody was allowed to take muskets or swords out of the barracks.[79]

The Viceroy, trying to calm the criollos, gave his own version of events in a proclamation.[78] He asked for allegiance to King Ferdinand VII, but popular unrest continued to intensify. He was aware of the news, but only said that the situation on the Iberian Peninsula was delicate; he did not confirm the fall of the Junta.[71] His proposal was to make a government body that would rule on behalf of Ferdinand VII, together with Viceroy of Peru José Fernando de Abascal y Sousa, Governor of Potosí Francisco de Paula Sanz and President of the Royal Audiencia of Charcas Vicente Nieto.[78]

Not fooled by the Viceroy's communiqué, some criollos met at the houses of Nicolás Rodríguez Peña and Martín Rodríguez.[80] During these secret meetings, they appointed a representative commission composed of Juan José Castelli and Martín Rodríguez to request that Cisneros convene an open cabildo to decide the future of the Viceroyalty.[81]

During the night of May 19, there were further discussions at Rodríguez Peña's house.[78] Saavedra, called by Viamonte, joined the meeting,[78] which involved military and civilian leaders.[82] They arranged that Belgrano and Saavedra would meet with Juan José de Lezica, a senior alcalde (municipal magistrate), while Castelli would meet with the procurator Julián de Leiva, to ask for their support.[78] They asked the Viceroy to allow an open cabildo, and said that if it was not freely granted the people and the criollo troops would march to the Plaza, force the Viceroy to resign by any means necessary, and replace him with a patriot government.[78] Saavedra commented to Lezica that he was suspected of betrayal because of his constant requests for cautious and measured steps.[82] This comment was designed to pressure Lezica into speeding up the legal system to allow the people to express themselves, or otherwise risk a major rebellion.[82] Lezica asked for patience and time to persuade the Viceroy, and leave a massive demonstration as a last resort.[83] He argued that if the Viceroy was deposed in that way, it would constitute a rebellion, which would turn the revolutionaries into outlaws.[83] Manuel Belgrano gave the following Monday as the deadline to confirm the open cabildo before taking direct action.[84] Leiva would later act as a mediator, being both a confidante of Cisneros and a trusted negotiator for the more moderate revolutionaries.[85]

Sunday, May 20
Lezica informed Cisneros of the request for an open cabildo and the Viceroy consulted Leiva, who spoke in favor of it.[80] The Viceroy summoned military commanders to come to the fort at 7 pm,[86] to demand military support.[87] There were rumors that it could be a trap to capture them and take control of the barracks.[86] To prevent this, they took command of the grenadiers that guarded the Fort and seized the keys of all entrances while meeting with the Viceroy.[86] Colonel Cornelio Saavedra, head of the Regiment of Patricios, responded on behalf of all the criollo regiments.[87] He compared the current international situation with that prevailing at the time of the mutiny of Álzaga over a year earlier, pointed out that Spain was now almost entirely under Napoleonic control and that the undefeated Spanish provinces were very small in comparison with the Americas.[87] He rejected the claim of sovereignty of Cadiz over the Americas, and concluded that the local armies wanted to look after themselves, rather than following the fate of Spain.[87] Finally, he pointed out that the Supreme Central Junta that appointed Cisneros as Viceroy no longer existed, so he rejected Cisneros' legitimacy as Viceroy and denied him the protection of the troops under his command.[87]

Castelli and Martín Rodríguez moved to the Fort for an interview with Cisneros.[76] Juan Florencio Terrada, commander of the Infantry Grenadiers, joined them, because their barracks were located under Cisneros' window, and his presence would not allow the Viceroy to request military aid to take Castelli and Martín Rodríguez prisoners.[88] The guards let them pass unannounced, and they found Cisneros playing cards with Brigadier Quintana, prosecutor Caspe and aide Coicolea.[76] Castelli and Rodríguez demanded once again the convening of an open cabildo, and Cisneros reacted angrily, considering their request an outrage.[76] Rodríguez interrupted him and forced him to give a definitive answer.[76] After a short private discussion with Caspe, Cisneros reluctantly gave his consent.[89]

That night, many of the revolutionaries attended to a theatre production on the theme of tyranny, called Rome Saved.[83] The lead actor was Morante, playing Cicero.[83] The police chief requested Morante to feign illness and not appear, so that the play could be replaced with Misanthropy and Repentance by the German novelist and playwright August von Kotzebue.[83] Rumors of police censorship spread quickly; Morante ignored the request and performed the play as planned.[83] In the fourth act, Morante made a patriotic speech, about the Gaul threat to Rome (the Gauls are ancestors of the French people) and the need for strong leadership to resist the danger.[90] This scene lifted the revolutionaries' spirits and led to frenzied applause.[90] Juan José Paso stood up and cried out for the freedom of Buenos Aires, and a small fight ensued.[90]

After the play, the revolutionaries returned to Peña's house.[91] They learned the result of the meeting with Cisneros, but were unsure as to whether Cisneros intended to keep his word.[91] They organized a demonstration for the following day to ensure that the open cabildo would be held as decided.[91]

Monday, May 21
At 3 pm, the Cabildo began its routine work, but was interrupted by 600 armed men named "Infernal Legion", who occupied the Plaza de la Victoria and loudly demanded the convening of an open cabildo and the resignation of Viceroy Cisneros.[92] They carried a portrait of Ferdinand VII and the lapels of their jackets bore a white ribbon that symbolized criollo-Spanish unity.[93] Domingo French, the mail carrier of the city, and Antonio Beruti, an employee of the treasury, led the rioters.[94] It was rumored that Cisneros had been killed, and that Saavedra would take control of the government.[95] Saavedra was at the barracks at that moment, concerned about the demonstration.[95] He thought the violence should be stopped and that radical measures such as the assassination of Cisneros should be prevented, but he also thought that the troops would mutiny if the demonstrations were suppressed.[95] The people in the Plaza did not believe that Cisneros would allow the open cabildo the next day.[96] Leiva left the Cabildo and Belgrano, representing the crowd, requested a definitive commitment.[96] Leiva explained that everything would go ahead as planned, but the Cabildo needed time to prepare.[96] He asked Belgrano to help the Cabildo with the work, as his intervention would be seen by the crowd as a guarantee that their demands would not be ignored.[96] The crowd left the main hall but stayed in the Plaza.[96] Belgrano protested about the guest list, which consisted of the wealthiest citizens, and thought that if the poor people were left outside there would be further unrest.[97] The members of the Cabildo tried to convince him to give his support, but he left.[98]

Belgrano's departure enraged the crowd, as he did not explain what had happened, and the people feared a betrayal.[98] Demands for Cisneros' immediate resignation replaced those for an open cabildo.[98] The people finally settled down and dispersed when Saavedra intervened to say that the claims of the Infernal Legion were supported by the military.[99]

The invitations were distributed among 450 leading citizens and officials in the capital.[85] The Cabildo compiled the guest list, and tried to guarantee the result inviting people that would be likely to support the Viceroy.[100] The revolutionaries countered this move with a similar one, so that most people would be against Cisneros instead.[101] The printer Agustín Donado, supporting the revolutionaries, printed nearly 600 instead of just the 450 requested, and distributed the surplus among the criollos.[101] During the night, Castelli, Rodríguez, French and Beruti visited all the barracks to harangue the troops and prepare them for the following day.[102]

Tuesday, May 22
According to official records, only about 251 out of the 450 officially invited guests attended the open cabildo.[103] French and Beruti, in command of 600 men armed with knives, shotguns and rifles, controlled access to the square to ensure that the open cabildo had a majority of criollos.[102] All noteworthy religious and civilian people were present, as well as militia commanders and many prominent residents.[104] The only notable absence was that of Martín de Álzaga, still under house arrest.[105]

A merchant called José Ignacio Rezábal attended the open cabildo but explained his concerns in a letter to the priest Julián S. de Agüero and said that these doubts were shared by other people close to him.[106] He feared that, no matter which party prevailed in the open cabildo, it would take revenge against the other, the Mutiny of Álzaga being a recent precedent.[106] He felt that the open cabildo would lack legitimacy if too many criollos were allowed to take part in it as a result of the aforementioned manipulation of the guest list.[106]

The meeting lasted from morning to midnight, including the reading of the proclamation, the debate and the vote.[107] There was no secret ballot; votes were heard one at a time and recorded in the minutes.[108] The main themes of the debate were the legitimacy of the government and the authority of the Viceroy.[102] The principle of retroversion of the sovereignty to the people stated that, in the absence of the legitimate monarch, power returned to the people; they were entitled to form a new government.[109] This principle was commonplace in Spanish scholasticism and rationalist philosophy, but had never been applied in case law.[109] Its validity divided the assembly into two main groups: one group rejected it and argued that the situation should remain unchanged, this group supported Cisneros as Viceroy; the other group supported change, and considered that they should establish a junta, like the ones established in Spain to replace the Viceroy.[110] There was also a third position, taking the middle ground.[111] The promoters of change did not recognize the authority of the Council of Regency, and argued that the colonies in America were not consulted in its formation.[109] The debate tangentially discussed the rivalry between criollos and peninsulars; the Viceroy supporters felt that the will of peninsulars should prevail over that of criollos.[112]

One of the speakers for the first position was the bishop of Buenos Aires, Benito Lue y Riega, leader of the local church, who said:

Not only is there no reason to get rid of the Viceroy, but even if no part of Spain remained unsubdued, the Spaniards in America ought to take it back and resume command over it. America should only be ruled by the natives when there is no longer a Spaniard there. If even a single member of the Central Junta of Seville were to land on our shores, we should receive him as the Sovereign.[113]

Juan José Castelli was the main speaker for the revolutionaries.[114] He based his speech on two key ideas: the government's lapsed legitimacy—he stated that the Supreme Central Junta was dissolved and had no rights to designate a Regency—and the principle of retroversion of sovereignty.[109] He spoke after Riega, and replied that the American people should assume control of their government until Ferdinand VII could return to the throne.

Nobody could call the whole nation a criminal, nor the individuals that have aired their political views. If the right of conquest belongs by right to the conquering country, it would be fair for Spain to quit resisting the French and submit to them, by the same principles for which it is expected that the Americans submit themselves to the peoples of Pontevedra. The reason and the rule must be equal for everybody. Here there are no conquerors or conquered; here there are only Spaniards. The Spaniards of Spain have lost their land. The Spaniards of America are trying to save theirs. Let the ones from Spain deal with themselves as they can; do not worry, we American Spaniards know what we want and where we go. So I suggest we vote: that we replace the Viceroy with a new authority that will be subject to the parent state if it is saved from the French, and independent if Spain is finally subjugated.[115]

Pascual Ruiz Huidobro stated that, since the authority that appointed Cisneros had expired, Cisneros should no longer have a place in the government.[114] Huidobro felt that the Cabildo should be in government, as it was the representative of the people.[114] Melchor Fernández, Juan León Ferragut and Joaquín Grigera supported his vote, among others.[114]

Attorney Manuel Genaro Villota, representative of the conservative Spanish, said that the city of Buenos Aires had no right to make unilateral decisions about the legitimacy of the Viceroy or the Council of Regency without the participation of other cities of the Viceroyalty.[114] He argued that such an action would break the unity of the country and establish as many sovereignties as there were cities.[114] His intention was to keep Cisneros in power by delaying any possible action.[109] Juan José Paso accepted his first point, but argued that the situation in Europe and the possibility that Napoleon's forces could conquer the American colonies demanded an urgent resolution.[116] He then expounded the "argument of the elder sister", reasoning that Buenos Aires should take the initiative and make the changes deemed necessary and appropriate, on the express condition that the other cities would be invited to comment as soon as possible.[117] The rhetorical device of the "elder sister", comparable to negotiorum gestio,[118] makes an analogy between the relationship of Buenos Aires and other cities of the viceroyalty with a sibling relationship.[117]

The priest Juan Nepomuceno Solá then proposed that the Cabildo should receive the provisional command, until the formation of a governing junta made up of representatives from all populations of the Viceroyalty.[114] Manuel Alberti, Azcuénaga, Escalada and Argerich (or Aguirre) supported his vote, among others.[114]

Cornelio Saavedra suggested that the Cabildo should receive the provisional command until the formation of a governing junta in the manner and form that the Cabildo would deem as appropriate.[114] He said "...there shall be no doubt that it is the people that create authority or command."[103] At the time of the vote, Castelli's position coincided with that of Saavedra.[119]

Manuel Belgrano stood near a window and, in the event of a problematic development, he would give a signal by waiving a white cloth, upon which the people gathered in the Plaza would force their way into the Cabildo.[120] However, there were no problems at all and this emergency plan was not implemented.[120] The historian Vicente Fidel López revealed that his father, Vicente López y Planes, who was present at the event, saw that Mariano Moreno was worried near the end in spite of the majority achieved.[121] Moreno told Planes that the Cabildo was about to betray them.[119][122]


  • 1. a b c Abad de Santillán, p. 387
  • 2. Moses, pp. 36–37
  • 3. Moses, p. 35
  • 4. Abad de Santillán, pp. 385–386
  • 5. a b Abad de Santillán, p. 386
  • 6. Moses, p. 29
  • 7. Moses, p. 34
  • 8. Mantoux, p. 25
  • 9. a b Abad de Santillán, p. 390
  • 10. a b Kaufmann, p.8
  • 11. Abad de Santillán, p. 391–392
  • 12. a b Luna, ...Manuel Belgrano, p. 28
  • 13. a b Fremont-Barnes, p. 29
  • 14. Shumway, p. 19
  • 15. Abad de Santillán, pp. 388–390
  • 16. a b Bethell, p. 101
  • 17. a b c d e Luna, Independencia..., p. 28
  • 18. Bethell, p. 1
  • 19. Shumway, pp. 8–9
  • 20. Shumway, p. 9
  • 21. a b Abad de Santillán, p. 391
  • 22. Shumway, p. 15
  • 23. Shumway, p. 3
  • 24. a b Moses, p. 4
  • 25. a b Shumway, p. 17
  • 26. Luna, ...Cornelio Saavedra, pp. 78–79
  • 27. a b Brown, p. 257
  • 28. Abad de Santillán, p. 376
  • 29. Bethell, p. 94
  • 30. Chasteen, p. 82
  • 31. Chasteen, pp. 82–83
  • 32. Chasteen, pp. 82–84
  • 33. Abad de Santillán, p. 394
  • 34. a b c d e Bethell, p. 95
  • 35. a b Galasso, p. 40
  • 36. Bethell, p. 94–95
  • 37. a b Luna, Independencia..., p. 20
  • 38. Kaufmann, p. 58
  • 39. a b c Luna, ...Manuel Belgrano, p. 33
  • 40. Luna, ...Manuel Belgrano, p. 30
  • 41. a b Luna, Breve..., p. 52
  • 42. Luna, ...Santiago de Liniers, p. 120
  • 43. Luna, ...Santiago de Liniers, p. 128
  • 44. Mitre, p. 240
  • 45. a b Bethell, p. 96
  • 46. Mitre, pp. 264–265
  • 47. Mitre, p. 265
  • 48. a b Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, p. 55
  • 49. Mitre, pp. 265–269
  • 50. a b Mitre, p. 270
  • 51. Mitre, p. 271
  • 52. Scenna, p. 23
  • 53. Mitre, p. 273
  • 54. Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, p. 58
  • 55. Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, pp. 58–59
  • 56. a b Belgrano, p. 65
  • 57. Scenna, pp. 23–24
  • 58. Bethell, p. 95–96
  • 59. Pigna, p. 224
  • 60. Scenna, p. 24
  • 61. a b c d e f Abad de Santillán, p. 398
  • 62. Mitre, p. 286
  • 63. Chasteen, p. 54
  • 64. Siles Salinas, p. 126
  • 65. Pigna, p. 227
  • 66. Scenna, p. 26
  • 67. Luna, ...Cornelio Saavedra, p. 84
  • 68. Luna, ...Cornelio Saavedra, pp. 85–87
  • 69. Gelman, pp. 17–18
  • 70. Galasso, p. 46
  • 71. a b c Abad de Santillán, p. 404
  • 72. a b Galasso, p. 43
  • 73. Galasso, p. 44
  • 74. a b Pigna, p. 228
  • 75. Saavedra, p. 60
  • 76. a b c d e Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, p. 70
  • 77. López, pp. 30–31
  • 78. a b c d e f g h López, p. 31
  • 79. López, p. 39
  • 80. a b Abad de Santillán. p. 406
  • 81. Luna, ...Mariano Moreno, pp. 85–86
  • 82. a b c López, p. 44
  • 83. a b c d e f López, p. 32
  • 84. López, pp. 44–45
  • 85. a b Galasso, p. 49
  • 86. a b c López, p. 45
  • 87. a b c d e Luna, Cornelio Saavedra, pp. 89–91
  • 88. De Titto, p. 331
  • 89. Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, p. 71
  • 90. a b c López, p. 33
  • 91. a b c López, p. 34
  • 92. López, pp. 47–48
  • 93. Galasso, pp. 46–47
  • 94. Galasso, p. 47
  • 95. a b c López, p. 36
  • 96. a b c d e f López, p. 48
  • 97. López, pp. 48–49
  • 98. a b c López, p. 49
  • 99. Pigna, p. 232
  • 100. Luna, ...Manuel Belgrano, p. 52
  • 101. a b Galasso, pp. 49–50
  • 102. a b c Luna, ...Juan José Castelli, p. 75
  • 103. a b Actas capitulares...
  • 104. Luna, ...Cornelio Saavedra, p. 91
  • 105. Scenna, p. 33
  • 106. a b c López, pp. 51–53
  • 107. Mitre, p. 327
  • 108. Galasso, p. 53
  • 109. a b c d e Luna, Independencia..., p. 32
  • 110. Mitre, pp. 315–316
  • 111. a b Luna, Independencia..., p. 34
  • 112. Galasso, p. 54
  • 113. Spanish: No solamente no hay por qué hacer novedad con el virrey, sino que aún cuando no quedase parte alguna de la España que no estuviese sojuzgada, los españoles que se encontrasen en la América deben tomar y reasumir el mando de ellas y que éste sólo podría venir a manos de los hijos del país cuando ya no hubiese un español en él. Aunque hubiese quedado un solo vocal de la Junta Central de Sevilla y arribase a nuestras playas, lo deberíamos recibir como al Soberano. Cited by Pigna, p. 234
  • 114. a b c d e f g h i Abad de Santillán, p. 408
  • 115. Spanish: Nadie ha podido reputar por delincuente a la nación entera, ni a los individuos que han abierto sus opiniones políticas. Si el derecho de conquista pertenece, por origen, al país conquistador, justo sería que la España comenzase por darle la razón al reverendo obispo abandonando la resistencia que hace a los franceses y sometiéndose, por los mismos principios con que se pretende que los americanos se sometan a las aldeas de Pontevedra. La razón y la regla tienen que ser iguales para todos. Aquí no hay conquistados ni conquistadores, aquí no hay sino españoles. Los españoles de España han perdido su tierra. Los españoles de América tratan de salvar la suya. Los de España que se entiendan allá como puedan y que no se preocupen, los americanos sabemos lo que queremos y adónde vamos. Por lo tanto propongo que se vote: que se subrogue otra autoridad a la del virrey que dependerá de la metrópoli si ésta se salva de los franceses, que será independiente si España queda subyugada. cited by Pigna, p. 236
  • 116. Pigna, p. 237
  • 117. a b Luna, Breve..., p. 62
  • 118. López, p. 92
  • 119. a b c d Abad de Santillán, p. 409
  • 120. a b Galasso, p. 52
  • 121. Galasso, p. 67
  • 122. Galasso, pp. 67–68

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