In 1808, Napoleon Bonapartes brother, Joseph, displaced the Bourbon Charles IV as king of Spain. In response, the Buenos Aires cabildo (city council) on May 25, 1810 pledged its allegiance to the deposed King, and disregarding the Viceroy, declared its own administrative oversight of the region. Similar calls for political autonomy took place throughout the Viceroyalty The region thus took its first steps towards independence.
The Buenos Aires cabildos decision to take control of the Viceroyaltys regional administrative duties led to conflict between the provinces and Buenos Aires for most of the 19th century. The newly formed interior provinces viewed this act as exchanging one domineering government for another, leading several to revolt. Further, the Buenos Aires cabildo enacted numerous liberal polices, including a trade policy that further opened the region to foreign commerce. The influx of cheap foreign goods drastically undercut domestic industries, particularly in the interior.
Despite the conflicts among the provinces the region attempted to organize a national government. National congresses were established in 1813 and again in 1816. But these newly named United Provinces of the Río de la Plata ended in failure. With the dissolution of the 1816 national congress, Buenos Aires surrendered its aspirations to lead the young country.
Despite the regions futile efforts to form a national government during the first decades of the nineteenth century, the heroic efforts of several individuals guaranteed the eventual success of the independence movement. Dean Gregorio Funes, the rector of the University of Córdoba, rose to national prominence as a leader of the movement. He articulated the rationale for independence through newspaper articles and speeches (as in the 1814 speech in Córdoba, shown here.) General José de San Martín liberated Chile and Peru from royalist forces between 1817 and 1821. His military campaigns were magnificently conceived, crossing the Andes to surprise the royalist forces in Chile and sailing to Peru in an attempt to the topple the last remaining Viceroy in Lima. The two San Martín letters shown here are from these campaigns.
Orden de esta Junta Superior. Buenos Aires: n.p. , February 10, 1811.
Gregorio Funes. (1749-1829) Oración patriótica, que por el feliz aniversario de la regeneración política de la América meridional / dixo el Doctor Don Gregorio Funes Dean de la iglesia Catedral de Córdoba del Tucumán, en la de Buenos-Ayres, el día 25 de Mayo de 1814. Imprint Buenos-Ayres: Impresa de Niños Exiósitos, [n.d.].
José de San Martín. Correspondence April 13, 1820.
Correspondence January 28, 1821.
Biblioteca Americana o miscelánea de literatura, artes y ciencias. London: Una Sociedad de Americanos, 1823.
El Repertorio Americano. Imprint Londres: Bossagne, Barthés i Lowell, 1826-1827.
Narcisse Edmond Joseph Desmadryl. Galería nacional: o, colección de biografías i retratos de hombres célebres de Chile. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Chilena, 1854.