Venezuela (first republic)

Venezuela (first republic)

Infobox Former Country
conventional_long_name = First Republic of Venezuela
native_name =Primera República de Venezuela
common_name = Venezuela
continent=South America
region = Andes
country = Venezuela
status = Unrecognized State
era= South American Independence Wars
year_start = 1811
year_end = 1812
event_start =War of Independence
date_start = July 5
date_end = July 25
event_end = Capitulation
p1 = Captaincy General of Venezuela
flag_p1 = Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg
s1 = Captaincy General of Venezuela
flag_s1 = Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg

image_map_caption = The First Republic of Venezuela
common_languages = Spanish
capital = Caracas
government_type = Republic
title_leader = "President"
leader1 = Francisco de Miranda
The First Republic of Venezuela ("Primera República de Venezuela" in Spanish) is the term used by historians to refer to the first period of the Venezuelan War of Independence from Spain from April 19, 1810 to July 25, 1812, even though it was not a term used at the time. The period begins with the overthrow of the Spanish authorities and the establishment of a junta in Caracas and ends with the surrender of the republican forces to the Spanish Captain Domingo de Monteverde. The period includes the declaration of independence by a congress of the Venezuelan provinces in 1811. In doing so, Venezuela is notable for being the first Spanish-American colony to declare its independence.



It was European events that set the stage for Venezuela’s declaration of independence. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe not only weakened Spain's imperial power, but also put Britain unofficially on the side of the independence movement. In May 1808, Napoleon asked for and received the abdication of Ferdinand VII and the confirmation of his father Charles IV's abdication a few months earlier. Napoleon then made his brother Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain. That marked the beginning of Spain’s own War of Independence from French hegemony and partial occupation, before the Spanish American wars of independence even began. The focal point of the Spanish political resistance was the Supreme Central Junta, which formed itself to govern in the name of Ferdinand, and which managed to get the loyalty of the many provincial and municipal juntas that had formed throughout Spain in the wake of the French invasion. Likewise, in Venezuela during 1809 and 1810 there were various attempts at establishing a junta, which took the form of both legal, public requests to the Captain General and secret plots to depose the authorities. [McKingley, 150-154.] The first major defeat that Napoleonic France suffered was at the Battle of Bailén, in Andalusia. (At this battle Pablo Morillo, future commander of the army that invaded New Granada and Venezuela; Emeterio Ureña, an anti-independence officer in Venezuela; and Jose de San Martin, the future Liberator of Argentina and Chile, fought side-by-side against the French General Pierre Dupont.) Despite this victory, the situation soon reversed it self and the French advanced into southern Spain and the Spanish government had to retreat to the island redout of Cádiz. In Cádiz, the Supreme Central Junta dissolved itself and set up a five-person Regency to handle the affairs of state until the Cortes Generales could be convened.


On April 18, 1810, agents of the Spanish Regency arrived in the city of Caracas. After considerable political tumult, the local nobility announced an extraordinary open hearing of the "cabildo" (the municipal council), set for the morning of April 19, Maundy Thursday. On that day, an expanded municipal government of Caracas took power in the name of Ferdinand VII, calling itself The Supreme Junta to Preserve the Rights of Ferdinand VII ("La Suprema Junta Conservadora de los Derechos de Fernando VII") and consequently deposed Captain General Vicente Emparán and other colonial officials.

This initiated a process that would lead to a declaration of independence from Spain. Soon after April 19, many other Venezuelan provinces also established juntas, most of which recognized the Caracas one (though a few recognized both the Regency in Spain and the Junta in Caracas). Still other regions never established juntas, but rather kept their established authorities and continued to recognize the government in Spain. This situation consequently led to a civil war between Venezuelans whom were in favor of the new autonomous juntas and those still loyal to the Spanish Crown. The Carcas Junta called for the convention of a congress of the Venzuelan provinces which began meeting the following March, at which time the Junta dissolved itself. The Congress set up a triumvirate to handle the executive functions of the union.

Shortly after the juntas were set up, Venezuelan emigré Francisco de Miranda had returned to his homeland taking advantage of the rapidly changing political climate. He had been a "persona non grata" since his failed attempt at liberating Venezuela in 1806. Miranda was elected to the Congress and began agitating for independence, gathered around him a group of similarly-minded individuals, who formed an association, modeled on the Jacobin Club, to pressure the Congress. Independence was formally declared on July 5, 1811. [In Spanish: [ Venezuelan Declaration of Independence] , Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes] The Congress established a Confederation called the United States of Venezuela in a Constitution it approved on December 21, 1811. It created a strong bicameral legislature and, as also happened in neighboring New Granada, the Congress kept the weak executive consisting of a triumvirate. [In Spanish: [ Federal Constitution of 1811] Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes. The Constitution uses "la Confederación" and "los Estados Unidos de Venezuela" interchangeably.] This government was not in force for long, since the provinces (referred to as states in the Constitution) did not fully implement it. [Parra-Pérez, "Primera República", Vol. 2, 108-109.] The provinces also wrote their own constitutions, a right which the Congress recognized.

Civil War

Though the Congress declared independence, the provinces of Maracaibo and Guayana and the district of Coro remained loyal to the Supreme Central Junta of Spain and the Cádiz Cortes that followed it. The new Confederation claimed the right to govern the territory of the former Captiancy General, and the region plunged into full civil war by 1810 with fighting breaking out between royalist and republican areas. A military expedition from Caracas to bring Coro back under its control, was defeated in November. The Caracas Junta, which continued to govern Caracas Province, did not have much power in the newly declared Confederation, and had a hard time getting supplies and reinforcements from the other confederated provinces. The Confederation was led by "criollos", but was not able to appeal to the lower classes, despite attempts to do so, because of a declining economic situation. Cut off from Spain, Venezuela lost the market for its main export cocoa. As a result Venezuela experienced severe losses of specie, using it to purchas much needed supplies from its new trading partners, such as the British and the Americans, which could not take the full output of agricultural products as payment. The federal government resorted to printing paper money to pay its debts with Venezuelans, but the paper money rapidly lost value, turning many against the government.

In 1812 the Confederation began suffering serious military reverses, and the government granted Miranda command of the army and leadership of the Confederation. A powerful earthquake, which hit Venezuela on March 26, 1812, also a Maundy Thursday, and caused damage mostly in republican areas, also helped turn the population against the Republic. Since, the Caracas Junta had been established on a Maundy Thursday, the earthquake fell on its second anniversary in the liturgical calendar. This was interpreted by many as a sign from Providence, and many, including those in the Republican army, began to secretly plot against the Republic or outright defect. Other provinces refused to send reinforcements to Caracas Province. Worse still, whole provinces began to switch sides. On July 4 an uprising brought Barcelona over to the royalist side. Neighboring Cumaná, now cut off from the Republican center, refused to recognize Miranda's dictatorial powers and his appointment of a commandant general. By the middle of the month many of the outlying areas of Cumaná Province had also defected to the royalists.

Spanish Frigate Captain-turned-General Domingo de Monteverde led the Spanish forces into Republican territory, and a divided, embattled Republic quickly fell. On July 25, 1812, Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda capitulated to Monteverde in a treaty in which the former republican areas would recognize the Spanish Cortes, bringing an end to the period of the First Republic.

Taking advantage of these circumstances a Spanish marine frigate captain, Domingo Monteverde, operating out of Coro, was able to turn a small force under his command into a large army, as people joined him on his advance towards Valencia, leaving Miranda in charge of only a small area of central Venezuela. [Parra-Pérez, Caracciolo. "Primera República", Vol. 2, 357-365.] In these dire circumstances the government appointed Miranda generalissimo, with broad political powers. By mid-July Monteverde had taken Valencia, and Miranda thought the situation was hopeless. He started negotiations with Monteverde and finalized an armistice on July 25,1812. Monteverde's forces entered Caracas on August 1, bringing an end to the first period of Venezuelan independence.

See also

*Captaincy General of Venezuela
*Venezuelan Declaration of Independence
*Second Republic of Venezuela
*Gran Colombia



In English:
*Lynch, John. "The Spanish American Revolutions, 1808-1821", 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986. ISBN 0-393-09411-1
*McKingley, P. Michael. "Pre-Revolutionary Caracas: Politics, Economy, and Society, 1777-1811". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. ISBN 0521304504
*Rodríguez O., Jaime E. "The Independence of Spanish America". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-521-62673-0
*Stoan, Stephen K. "Pablo Morillo and Venezuela, 1815-1820". Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1959.

In Spanish:
*Fundación Polar. "Primera República", "Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela", Vol. 3. Caracas: Fundacíon Polar, 1997. ISBN 9806397371
*Parra-Pérez, Caracciolo. "Historia de la Primera República de Venezuela". Caracas: Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de la Historia,1959.

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