French Revolution and Latin American Independence

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Topic: History
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Introduction

Many countries were colonized in the early years. Before a country got its independence, there was a struggle that it had to undergo. Colonizers mistreated the local people and made them work for their benefit. In Latin American, the Spanish were the colonizers. They treated the locals as inferior and made them work as slaves and laborers in their own country. France was also colonized by the Britons; they operated a monarch and had a powerful Roman Catholic Church which they used to control the French people1.

In 1789, the struggle for independence in France was started, and other European countries followed suit. After a successful ten years struggle, they got their independence. French struggle was seen as the igniter of Americans to start their struggle. The things that they wanted to be done were similar2. This paper looks into how the French revolution encouraged Latin America to fight for their independence. To get background information, it will discuss French and Latin American Independently.

French Revolution

The period between 1789 and1799 was a period of unrest in Europe and France. This was a period when Europe was an absolute monarch, but groups started their campaigns to have a liberalized democratic country. Though it started in France, the wave affected entire Europe. The evolution was as a result of economic factors where people felt that the system was depressing them. There were widespread hunger and famine, diseases, and increasing food crises.

The second factor was financial stability of France, which was weakened by the system to a near bankruptcy; this was aggravated by French participation in the American revolutionary war. At the time of the start, there was a debt of two billion lives, Louis XV fought numerous wars that saw the economy perform that poorly3.

High unemployment led to more resources being allocated to feeding the society at the expense of development projects. The Roman Catholic was the largest landowner and demanded tithe (land taxes) from farm or land produces; this worsened the economic situation of the country.

The monarch government, on the other hand, increased its tax rates and imposed restrictions on internal trade. All these were at the expense of local citizens who were struggling to make a living. Other factors that played apart were the concentration of population which had learned youth who felt oppressed compared to their peers in the Netherlands and Great Britain.

They felt that they needed their freedom and better treatment; they opposed the church domination and advocated against the monarch government. They felt that they needed to be treated equally and given the respect that they felt they deserved. Women were not left behind as they tried to seek recognition of their rights and equal treatment like men4.

Latin American independence

In Latin America, the Spanish and Portuguese had a great influence and political control in the countries; they used oppression, slavery, and racism as tools of their colonization. It was in the 19th century when American born population started to advance towards independence. They started to advocate for their recognition and fought against government control and oppression. The revolution towards Latin American evolution started in 1806- 1825 (Latin American Revolution)5.

This was a time where the locals started to demand recognition and respects for their rights. As the case was in all colonized countries, it did not happen overnight but involved a series of preparation; it was elevated by social, economic, ethnic ad political drives.

Enlightenment of the general population was one of the tools that were used to ensure that people understood their rights and demanded them. In this case, they questioned the governments of the day as they demanded individual rights recognition, notion that the authority of a country is with the people and not the king as the case was in the past; people needed their rights to own property, be recognized and respected6. Properties were owned by a few, and individual property rights were not recognized by the system.

The land was communally owned but only benefited the colonizers. Latin Americans were oppressed by this move and were willing to change this. Equality and rights of individuals needed to be respected. The enlightened talked in great depth about the kind of rights that the people ought to have. This increased the tension in the country.

The Spanish were seen as evaders. With the above drive in mind and successful independence struggle in other parts of the globe, Latin America started its struggle for independence. One of the past successful struggles that motivated Latin Americans was French Revolution7.

French Revolution and its influence on Latin America on their way to independence

In the fight for independence, The French Revolution was earlier than the Latin American revolution. It was able to free its people from oppression by the government and the Roman Catholics Church. Latin America observed that the same factors that resulted in the French Movement were similar to those it was going through and thus got the momentum to turn things around with an example to follow8.

America, before the revolution, had different races and depending with the race that an individual was in, it came with rights, privileges, and limitations. It followed that there was no equality in any form. There were superior people and the inferior. People felt that they belonged to the same country, and thus there was no need to recognize tribes differently. This was one of the factors that marked the commencement of Latin Americans9.

In these days, Spanish born had the upper hand and rose to power more easily than the locals; the chain of oppression was seen to run from generation to another. The wealthy creoles were able to rise to power too, but they were always second from Spanish. When comparing this with the old France, they realize that in France, the case was no different where the local people were mistreated and found inferior to colonizers. They were able to fight for their rights and got them. Latin Americans wanted to follow suit10.

Recognizing the great oppression that local people were undergoing through, there was increased tension in the country. The tension increased, even more, when the Spanish government wanted to centralize its operations a move that was repelled by local people. The amount of tension was similar to the one that was experienced in the French revolution when the church and the government increased land ownership and internal customs duty taxes, respectively.

The move was so strong that the wealthy local creoles decided to back the revolution to independence. The tension was at the pick in 1810. Creoles Unrest was increased when in 1807; Portugal and Spain were invaded by Napoleon11. Napoleon won the battle and placed his brother as the king.

This was the best timing for the Latin American revolution. Revolutionaries wanted to take land and power that was vested in the church, and this had created increased unrest amongst the people12. They felt that if the church did not release power and land, there would be an increased control.

This was the same as in the French revolution, where the church also had measures that harmed the local people. Increased poverty is another factor that made Latin Americans seek their rights and independence. At the time, taxes were high to the point that food stuff were not affordable. Increased poverty and malnutrition were the order of the day.

This was a similar case like the way it was in Europe before the revolution, and thus the Latin Americans had the total belief that they could win the same battle that their peer won, French people had won. This ignited the struggle to independence. Like in France, there were several enlightened people in Latin America who had gotten a chance to go to schools abroad.

After comparing their lives with their peers from Britain and the Netherlands, they felt oppressed. They started the struggle with the mind that their peers from France who were equally challenged had fought a successful war.

The struggle took different styles with some countries being peaceful in the process and other using violence. Countries like Brazil had no fights while Peru and Mexico had a big share of the fight. During the time, there were many brave soldiers who were recognized as soldiers and remained in the record for the role they played during this challenging time. They include Bolivar, Hidalgo, San Martin, and Artigas. The struggle did not come easily, but the Americans had to wait for fifteen years before they could get their independence.

The French revolution is credited as the one that ignited the move to seek independence in Latin America. It was not thought that there could be a success, but when success was found, the other countries felt that they also could get independence. From the objectives that the Latin Americans had when starting the war commenced, it is clear that it was motivated by what had taken place in France since they were the same objectives.

They seemed to ask for the same recognition and rights from their colonizers. Great men like Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin were also inspired by what was taking place in France13. They believed that even Americans could deliver themselves from slavery, oppression, and racism that they underwent in the hands of Spanish. This can be seen in the speeches that these people made in the public fora.

They were speeches to inspire people; that if they fought strongly for their independence, it was likely to come. They quoted France and Europe in general. This conditioned the people to the need for struggle. Several Latin Americans were slaves, they were oppressed from their countries of origin and had the drive that if anything could be done to derive them from slavery, and they were willing to14.

In France and Europe, there was a minority white tribe, the creoles, even though they were given some rights, they were oppressed. They had the advantage that they were exposed to the locals, and when the local Americans started their struggle for independence, this group also joined hand with them. The reason for their acceptance is on the struggle that they had undergone in France during the French Revolution. They came to the locals and inspired them since some of their own had been successful in the struggle.

On the other hand, they had been in some power posts though not in the high office, so they learned politics for the enlightened England and politics liberalities from France. They came with this power of money and knowledge to fuel the struggle. At times, they were seeking for cultural independence but in turn supported the local people in their struggle15.

After independence was attained, it came with a new wave of problems that needed to be addressed. There was a need to create a new form of government and administrative structures needed to be reformed. In the struggle to make it work, they were motivated by the progress that France had made after its revolution. It had been able to restructure institutions that solved problems that were experienced earlier.

The church was attacked for being conservative and suffocating; this was similar to the move that French Revolution had made that repelled from Roman Catholic Church teaching which advocated for huge taxes in the form of tithes to those people who owned the land. In France, the church was a strong institute that the government used to ensure it controlled the local people. It was the major owner of the land, and any cultivation of the land resulted in taxes on the farmer.

The Latin Americans had precedence to follow since they were aware that the French people tried and were successful. At the time new denominations like the Protestants emerged, they integrated well in the community and the control of churches was reduced. Another problem that faced the Americans is how to write a constitution that recognized and protected the rights of the people.

To develop such laws, they required experts in the field and hence got some from France and Europe. To them, the success of Europe during the French revolution was like hope renewed; it had proved that the impossible is possible with consistency and hard work16.

The revolution resulted in a free nation but came with other problems that needed the attention of the nascent government. It came at the time when there was massive unemployment in the county. The government had to make structures that could accommodate the unemployed. The economies were less developed since a lot of focus had been on feeding the people at the expense of national development.

In Latin America, tributes were eliminated and Indians given citizenship; this was a move that the young government came to regret since the major income of the country came from the eliminated tributes, they were thus restored. Indians and tributes were given full rights to own properties in the country.

This was a new move to the Indians, and thus with the scrapping of Communism, they did not accumulate many resources as the new wave required. Political disorders followed, but at least the country had gotten a hard fought for independence17.

During the French Revolution, there was a big number of deaths. Despite this, the Latin Americans appreciated that independence came at a cost, and thus, they needed to fight and probably lose their lives. The greatest number of deaths was recorded in Peru and Mexico18.

Conclusion

Many countries were colonized in the early years. Before a country got its independence, there was a struggle that it had to undergo. The French Revolution took place from 1789–1799, during which local French people fought for their independence. After their successful fight, other countries were motivated and followed the same steps. Latin American Revolution was in the 19th century; 1806- 1825. It was a period of unrest in the country.

The revolution pushers were the local people seeking recognition in the government, equality, recognition of their rights, property rights, and need for political will. Revolutionaries wanted to take land and power that was vested in the church, and this had created increased unrest amongst the people.

They felt that if the church did not release power and land, there would be an increased control. This was the same as in the French revolution, where the church also had measures that harmed the local people. The struggle for independence was long and bloody; in Latin America, there was a great influence from the success gotten by the French revolution. It acted as a driving force.

Bibliography

Arthur Whitaker. The United States and the Independence of Latin America. (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1941).

Bradford Burns. The Poverty of Progress: Latin America in the Nineteenth Century. (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980.)

Burkholder, Mark A. & Lyman L. Johnson. Colonial Latin America. 4th Ed. (Oxford Oxford University Press, 2001).

Censer, Jack; Lynn Hunt. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001).

Clayton, Lawrence A. & Michael L. Conniff. A History of Modern Latin America. (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999)

Cole, Alistair; Peter Campbell. French electoral systems and elections since 1789. (New York, Gower, 1989).

Dalton, Susan. “Gender and the Shifting Ground of Revolutionary Politics: The Case of Madame Roland” Canadian Journal of History (Toronto Oxford University Press 2001).

David Bushnell and Neill Macaulay. The Emergence of Latin America in the Nineteenth Century (2nd edition). (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994).

Doyle, William. The Oxford history of the French Revolution (3rd ed.). (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1990).

John Charles Chasteen. Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008).

John Stewart. A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution. (New York: Macmillan, 1951).

Keen, Benjamin. Latin American Civilization. (New York, Westview Press. 2000)

Leopoldo, Zea. The Latin-American Mind. (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).

Leslie Bethell. From Independence to 1870. The Cambridge History of Latin America, Vol. 3. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Matthew Brown. Adventuring through Spanish Colonies: Simón Bolívar, Foreign Mercenaries and the Birth of New Nations. (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2006).

Michael P. Costeloe. Response to Revolution: Imperial Spain and the Spanish American Revolutions, 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Richard Graham. Independence in Latin America: A Comparative Approach (2nd edition). (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1994).

Timothy Tackett. When the King Took Flight (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

Footnotes

1 John Charles Chasteen. Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-517881-4)

2 Censer, Jack; Lynn Hunt (2001). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

3 Cole, Alistair; Peter Campbell (1989). French electoral systems and elections since 1789. (New York, Gower, 1989).

4 Dalton, Susan. “Gender and the Shifting Ground of Revolutionary Politics: The Case of Madame Roland” Canadian Journal of History, 2001

5 David Bushnell and Neill Macaulay. The Emergence of Latin America in the Nineteenth Century (2nd edition).(Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-508402-0)

6 Michael P. Costeloe. Response to Revolution: Imperial Spain and the Spanish American Revolutions, 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-521-32083-2) 810-1840.

7, Bradford Burns. The Poverty of Progress: Latin America in the Nineteenth Century. (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980.)

8 John Stewart. A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution. (New York: Macmillan, 1951)p. 86

9 Richard Graham. Independence in Latin America: A Comparative Approach (2nd edition). (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1994)

10 Timothy Tackett. When the King Took Flight (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003)

11 Arthur Whitaker. The United States and the Independence of Latin America (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1941), 1800-1830.

12 Matthew Brown. Adventuring through Spanish Colonies: Simón Bolívar, Foreign Mercenaries, and the Birth of New Nations. (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2006)

13 Doyle, William. The Oxford history of the French Revolution (3rd ed.). (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990)

14 Leslie Bethell. From Independence to 1870. The Cambridge History of Latin America, Vol. 3. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987)

15 Clayton, Lawrence A. & Michael L. Conniff. A History of Modern Latin America. (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999)

16 Burkholder, Mark A. & Lyman L. Johnson. Colonial Latin America. 4th Ed. (Oxford Oxford University Press, 2001), 34-43.

17 Keen, Benjamin. Latin American Civilization. (New York, Westview Press. 2000), 45

18 Leopoldo Zea. The Latin-American Mind. (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 12-67.