History of the revolutions of America, France, and Latin America.
REVOLUTION OF AMERICA, FRANCE AND LATIN AMERICA
VALERIE L. HARVEY
PROF. DANIEL FRENCH
NOVEMBER 2, 2009
America, France, and Latin America all began to get dissolutioned by colonial rule from Great Britain and Spain and Portugal. They all eventually began to revolt for their independence. The common theme to revolution in the Americas, France, and Latin America appeared to be to gain their own independence, slavery, or women’s rights. In North America, the colonists asserted their independence from Great Britain and founded a new republic, France abolished the French monarchy and reorganized French society, and Latin America sought independence from Spanish/Portuguese colonial rule—and in Saint Domingue, revolution also led to the abolition of slavery and independence from Spanish rule.
America sought independence on July 4th, 1776, with the Continental Congress adopting “The Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America”. It asserted “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In France, there were serious fiscal problems that led to revolution. In the 1780s, about half of the French’s royal government’s revenue was used to pay off war debts—the French support in the war of American independence, and the other quarter to the French armed forces. In Latin America, Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela peasants were led to revolution by a parish priest, Miguel De Hidalgo (1753-1811), who rallied indigenous people and metizos against colonial rule.
The French National Assembly articulated the principles under the influence of the American revolution with “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen”. ‘It proclaimed the equality of all men, declared that sovereignty resided in the people, and asserted individuals rights to liberty, property, and security’. Between 1789 and 1791, the National Assembly, taking “liberty, equality, and fraternity” as its goals, abolished the old social order. It altered the role of the church in French society by seizing church lands, abolishing the first estate, defining the clergy as civilians and requiring clergy to take an oath of loyalty to the state.
The Central American Federation formed in 1838 where the independent states of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica split from the Mexican empire. The most prominent figure in the South American revolution was Simon Bolivar (1783-1830). His goal was to bring the Spanish colonies of South America into confederation like the Americas. During the 1820s, the independent states of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador (along with Peru and Bolivia) formed the republic, Gran Colombia. Eventually, the confederation disintergrated and a bitter Bolivar deemed that South America was “ungovernable”. Shortly after, Bolivar died of tuberculosis while enroute to self-imposed exile in Europe.
Brazil achieved independence as a monarchy rather than a republic, even though the creole elites (people born in the Americas who are of Spanish and Portuguese descent) dominated Brazilian society. They granted military authority to strongmen, or cuadillos, permitted the continuation of slavery, the wealth and authority to the Roman Catholic Church instead of to the repressed lower orders.
Women’s and slaves rights were another reason to revolution. A freed slave by the name Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797) and a prominent English philanthropist, William Wilberforce rallied to abolish slavery in the Americas. British pressure banned the commerce of slaves with other nations eventually following suit. The United States followed in 1808, France in 1814, The Netherlands in 1817, and Spain in 1845. Slave trade died slowly—illegal trade of African slaves continued. The last documented ship to carry slaves across the Atlantic Ocean arrived in Cuba in 1867.
The abolition of slavery was a bigger issue than ending the slave trade. Slave owners had property rights to their slaves. The planters and merchants resisted the efforts to alter the system that provided them the abundance of supplies and inexpensive labor. However, the end of the slave trade doomed the institution of slavery in the Americas. In Haiti, it came with a revolution. In most of South America, slavery ended with the independence from Spanish rule. In Mexico in 1829, slavery ended mainly to stop residents of the United States from coming into Mexico with their slaves to plant cotton. In 1833, the British empire offered 20 million pounds of sterling as compensation to slave owners to abolish slavery—soon France followed suit in 1848, the United States in 1865, Cuba in 1886, and Brazil in 1888.
While abolition brought legal freedom to African/African-American slaves, it did not bring political freedom. In most lands except Haiti, African-American peoples had little influence in society. Property requirements, literacy test, poll taxes, and campaigns of intimidation all effectively prevented African-Americans from voting. And emancipation also did not bring social and economic improvements to former slaves and their descendants. Creole elites also owned most of the property in the Americas and kept blacks in subordination by forcing them to accept low-paying work. While a few African-Americans owned small plots land, they still couldn’t challenge the economic and political power of creole elites.
Women’s rights also brought revolution to the Americas and France. Women found that they suffered the same legal disabilities as slaves. They had little access to education, they could not enter into professional occupations that required advanced education, and they were legally deprived the right to vote.
During the 18th century, advocates of women’s rights became active in Britain, France and North America. A British writer by the name of Mary Wollstoncraft (1759-1797) published an influential essay, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, ‘that argued that women possessed all rights that John Locke granted to men—the right of women to have an education, would make them better mothers and wives, and would also enable them to contribute to society by preparing them professional occupations and a participation in political life’. The French revolution also brought the following rights to women: free public education, wives were allowed a share of family property, it legalized divorced; but it still didn’t bring women the right to vote or have major roles in public affairs. Revolution also only brought the United States and Latin Americas legal equality and political rights to white adult males only and still allowed them to retain patriarchal authority over their wives and family. Social reformers, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), helped organized a conference of feminists at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. It passed twelve resolutions demanding lawmakers to grant women rights equivalent to men: the right to vote, attend public school, enter into professional occupations, and participate in public affairs.
The revolutionary wars in America, France, and Latin America all brought independence from colonial rule from Great Britain, Spain and Portugal. While it did bring independence, slaves and women still had no rights as to voting, education, professional occupations, and participation in public affairs. Other movements, or revolutions, resulted in order to gain slaves and women the rights equal to adult white males.
Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Jerry Bentley & Herb Ziegler. Pp. 781-805.