The Sextant Christopher Newport University’s On-Line History Journal

Vol. 9, Fall/Winter 2012-13

To the people of Latin America, the period of the United States' fight for independence from 1776 to 1783 led to an important period of realization. The people rejoiced as the nearby colonies grew closer and closer to freeing themselves from the bondage of an overseas power. Spain, out of fear, immediately began erecting tighter restrictions on its colonies in an attempt to suppress the possibility of insurrection moving its way south. After tightening its grasp over its own colonies, Spain ironically began fighting for the English colonies freedom because of a pre-existing alliance made with France who joined the colonists' cause. The French alliance with the United States in 1778 drew in Spain and devastated its reputation with its own colonies, which wondered why independence was acceptable to their neighbors but not for them.[1]

Because of the rising tensions between the people and their increasingly tyrannical royal government, Spanish Americans began looking for ways out of Spain’s grasp to establish their own freedom. Initially charmed by the philosophies of the founding fathers during the Revolutionary War, a majority of Spain’s subjects in Spanish America saw the United States as allies in their quest for liberty in 1783. For its part, the United States had no initial interest in getting involved with new wars so soon after their country had finally won its own freedom. Over time however, men like Francisco de Miranda called attention to Spanish American troubles through personal interaction with North American leaders like Alexander Hamilton and drew him in with the prospects of land and power. The political and military leaders of Spanish America, however, feared such radical changes from their familiar hierarchy. The original disinterest of the United States left them especially wary of accepting their help when it suddenly appeared in the 1820s. Many military leaders like Simon Bolivar suspected that the United States' interest only rose because they saw something that they wanted from Spanish America.

 The weak friendship between North and South America broke most noticeably because of expectations Spanish Americans had on the United States’ support. Most of Spain’s colonists assumed that the United States would help without taking into consideration extensive problems that went into rebuilding a nation after war. The military leaders of South America, on the other hand, had no intention of allowing their northern neighbors to extend their influence over Spanish subjects beyond trading military supplies and food. Many revolutionary leaders feared that their power would be taken away if the United States had the chance to establish itself as protector of Latin America.

The inability of either side to figure out its role in their relationship caused a great deal of confusion when it came to communication between the two continents. By 1811, the United States realized the leaders of Spanish America had begun to shut them out from any role in the independence movement despite the early interest expressed by the lower classes. In reaction against this they forced their relationship upon Spanish America and directly caused a rift between the two peoples that to this day continues to be problematic. The early assumptions made by Spanish Americans and Francisco de Miranda on the United States’ support in war as well as the lies spread across both sides caused an equal distrust amongst the people. In addition, leaders like Simon Bolivar and John Quincy Adams refused to accept their losses in power over each other causing them to go to extremes to get what they wanted which led the United States to use their Monroe Doctrine as a means to blockade outside assistance. Because these issues piled up on each other and could not be resolved, the friendship between North and South America vanished in the mid-1800s.

Locally aware of events around them, the subjects of Spain had been keeping an eye on their northern neighbors in the late 1700s. They had easy access to news from newspapers as well as some collections of publications from everywhere overseas on the subject. To ordinary citizens of Spanish America, the Revolutionary War attracted many who could not deny its charm and idealistic portrayal. The allure of the life as a Colonial American drew many into declaring, "I am not a Spaniard; I am an American."[2] Historian John Lynch argues that the common people began to feel a stronger connection to the British colonies and its cause than they did to their own relations to Spain because of the media’s glamorous portrayal of events. As they began associating themselves with their neighbors more and more, many began to form small coalitions to fight against any injustice they felt went beyond their governments’ power. Though these forces could not achieve much it represented the very real desire of the people early on for significant change in their lives.[3]

Though some Spanish Americans tried to start their own movement for independence their effort failed because the majority of Spain’s colonial subjects feared giving up their stable lives. One man, Francisco de Miranda, became the first person to draw significant attention to the slow rising call for independence abroad and began the early stages of fighting under his own command. Miranda, the son of a mulatto father, felt disgraced in Spanish America from birth and constantly longed for a society which accepted him. Filled with feelings of hatred for his judgmental homeland, he left in 1772 to study in Spain and quickly became familiar with the classics and great philosophers of the past. Because of his lack of education in Spanish America, Miranda fully embraced life abroad as his own rebirth and felt as though his life finally reached a positive turning point.[4]

Despite focusing his attention to studying, Miranda's time in Spain also introduced him to the feelings most Spanish citizens held towards their fledgling colonies. Similar to the way England viewed Virginia in the early years of colonization, Spain saw Spanish America's people as the riffraff of society, a place where the criminals and poor went away to work. Disturbed to find that Spain disliked its colonies so much despite the goods they received through the people's labor, Miranda grew increasingly insubordinate in his studies. In an attempt to get away from his frustrations, Miranda took up traveling Spain's countryside only to still be reminded of Spain's disdain for its colonies. Unable to get away from the constant reminders of his homeland, Miranda signed up for duty in the Spanish army hoping to be sent far away. In 1780, the army sent his unit to the Caribbean as part of Spain's support for the struggling English colonies in its Revolutionary War.[5] Miranda's first glimpse into the world of the struggling English colonies would mesmerize him for the rest of his life. Miranda’s life abroad, however, separated himself from the feelings of his fellow subjects; he never witnessed the discussions occurring in colonial bars and never read the newspaper publications on the war to understand what the people thought of events. This disinterest of Spanish American affairs Because of his own obsession with foreign cultures would later haunt Miranda’s goals and hurt his chances of becoming the future liberator.

Out of all the leading men in the United States’ young history, the idea of George Washington impressed Miranda the most. The way in which people welcomed Washington into a room culminated into the essence of what Miranda wanted for his own future; "He made his entrance at noon… Children, men, and women expressed such contentment as if the Redeemer had entered Jerusalem!"[6] In public, Washington had everything that Miranda envisioned himself as to the people of Spanish America, "…the achievements and deeds of so many individuals in America reflect upon the independence and concentrate in Washington!"[7] Upon more intimate interaction with Washington, the man, during his visit to the United States disappointed Miranda who saw no brilliance in the way Washington spoke. Miranda grew more disappointed when he found out that Washington lacked the education he expected for such a renowned leader. Miranda fell for the idealistic view of the United States like many Spanish colonial subjects and could not associate his idea and reality of Washington together causing a great deal of resentment towards the United States because of his disappointed expectations.

Samuel Adams, another well known figure in the United States, left a great impression upon Miranda as read from his diary. The two men met several times during Miranda’s stay in Massachusetts in 1784. Miranda enjoyed questioning Adams on the government system of the United States. Though Miranda did not transcribe the conversation, one can deduce from Miranda’s journal that whatever Adams said in defense against his questions on democracy convinced him enough to write of Adams as, "a man of talents and extensive accomplishments in legislation."[8]

The last of Miranda’s most notable encounters during his time in the United States revolves around his friendship with Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, one of the first in the United States to openly support the idea of Spanish American independence, wrote to Miranda frequently on ideas for a South American revolution. Hamilton, pushed by his own interests, took it upon himself to assume the interest of the entire United States and frequently spoke on behalf of the nation who had no idea of the type of conversations occurring between the two. Hamilton constantly encouraged Miranda to continue with his plans for initiating the movement for independence and gave him the expectation that the United States government would happily support the cause.[9] These promises made unofficially by a man held in great esteem by most of the major leaders of the United States gave Miranda a false sense of security upon continuing his push for independence and would later increase his resentment when found out to be lies.

Alexander Hamilton and Francisco de Miranda thought in terms of their own success and came from similar backgrounds. Like Miranda, Hamilton lived a live of poverty and from a young age he began searching for ways to rise above his parents rank. Because of his training under George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Hamilton sought out his fame in the military and constantly tried to rise in rank throughout his life. In 1798, during Washington’s first term as President, Hamilton’s supporters began suggesting Hamilton to be placed as second in command of the military. After months of deliberation Vice President John Adams agreed to the assignment, with the strong urging of Washington, but even before his position had been secured Hamilton began making assurances to Miranda that he would personally be able to help out at any time. Hamilton assumed that with this new power he would be able to get his own army to command which was not the case.[10] Hamilton’s eagerness to support the movement for his own rise in military power caused a great amount of backlash by not only Miranda but of Spanish Americans when they realized the promises they had been told for months had turned out to be lies. These lies marked the beginning of the break between North and South America as the trust of the Spanish Americans began to shift toward other nations.

Before Hamilton’s deception, the opportunities in North America that Miranda had experienced convinced him that revolution had to be in the near future for his homeland. Miranda saw the distance between Spain and its colonies as another justification to himself why independence would be easy to accomplish. The uneasiness in which a country must rule its colonies hundreds of miles away, as seen from the English colonies, already contributed significantly to the tension created between Spanish America and Spain. During Miranda’s time outside of the Spanish colonies, the people began to feel as though Spain treated them with indifference but still no majority of power would speak out against their overseas rulers. Rich Spanish Americans would not question the authority of their government because they did not want their positions to be stripped from their grasp and the poor did not have the power or ability to question the government.[11]

While the people of Spanish America were growing increasingly frustrated with Spain, Miranda had been submerging himself in the culture and atmosphere of the United States, and in his dreams he allowed himself to dilute reality with his own hopes. The effects of meeting with some of America’s leading figures no doubt contributed to the growing enthusiasm which Miranda had cultivated in his travels. Soon after leaving the United States, Miranda attempted to get dismissed of his services for the Spanish army but despite his pleas, King Charles III would not allow his discharge. Miranda, displeased with these results, grew increasingly vocal about his interest in Spanish American independence until he returned to traveling across the United States and Europe.[12]

Miranda had a difficult time pushing his plans through to free Spanish American colonies though several promising pursuits entered his grasp. All hopes, however, ended as quickly as they began. These attempts to seek the help of other nations had constant support from Hamilton, before his lies were uncovered, who wrote to Miranda, in 1798, suggesting; “a fleet of Great Britain, an army of the United States, a Government for the liberated territory agreeable to both the Cooperators.”[13] This sentiment scared Miranda because in his personal plans Spanish American liberty included a monarchial government which he knew the United States would not support. However, Miranda knew that as long as leaders from the North thought about supporting a revolution based upon freedom from a tyrannical country, then people like Hamilton would always play a supportive role. As the lies between the two Americas built up, Miranda essentially hoped that by the time the United States realized his true intentions the war would already be over and they would no longer need their northern neighbors support.[14]

Even though Miranda insisted on keeping the United States within the loop of conversation, he also knew that keeping them at a distance would also ensure his immediate plans would not get taken over by a strong military force from the United States. Hamilton, though a good friend of Miranda’s, and other leaders of the United States would therefore be kept at a distance politically because Miranda sensed their over eagerness to help as a warning against his own power. Miranda knew Hamilton likely wanted as much control over the Spanish colonies as he could gather and his growing distrust of Hamilton, along with the growing desire to protect his own power, pushed Miranda into looking for other sources of support.

Miranda began to court French and English interest in supporting a revolution in Spanish America as the United States occupied itself with setting up trade alliances with Spain in the early 1800s. In the middle of 1805, an increasing number of North American leaders like Thomas Jefferson had grown more aware of the land prospects in the Spanish American territories. Jefferson wrote to his friend James Madison several times on the land prospects through possible trade deals with Spain. Focusing particularly around the borders of Louisiana, Jefferson and his colleagues hoped to increase their own nation’s borders. His possible negotiations took a back seat later that year when tensions began to rise across the ocean between France, Spain, and England. The United States found itself in the uncomfortable position of trying to figure out the best way to stay out of European conflict while at the same time getting what they desired for their own profit. After months of deliberating in 1805 at his home Monticello, Jefferson made his thoughts clear on the idea of treaty proposals;

I have no idea of committing ourselves immediately or independently of our further will to the war. The treaty should be provisional only, to come into force on the event of our being engages in war with either France or SpainEngland should stipulate not to take peace without our obtaining the objects for which we go to war to wit, the acknowledgment by Spain of the rightful boundaries of Louisiana[15]

Some citizens of the United States shared the same opinion of Jefferson during this time and feared making a promise to any side of support Because of their own lack of strength despite the draw of possibly expanding their own nation. The rising tension and brewing war between France and Spain served as a constant threat not only to their estranged relationship with England, but to the entire unity of the United States.[16] Securing an alliance with England first assured the United States that war would not escalate too quickly. More than anything at this point in 1805, the United States hoped to stay out of conflict as much as possible which meant that beyond securing its own borders, the United States did not want to encourage any power to attack them.

Miranda’s pursuit to gain Spanish American independence completely depended on his needs. He never made any attempt to correspond with the people of the colonies to get their opinion on his plans towards establishing independence. It is clear that Miranda did not care for anyone else’s opinion other than his own when it came to making decisions. In one instance, the Duke of Wellington had to give Miranda the news of England’s decision to back out of plans to support a movement to free the colonies and wrote, “I think I never had a more difficult business… I thought it best to walk out in the streets with him to tell him there, to prevent his bursting out. But even there he was so loud and angry.”[17] Being unable to control his anger reflected how his own dream had been denied and, unfortunately for Miranda, the people of Spanish America would refuse his plans as well. They were not ready to break free from Spain yet no matter how hard Miranda pushed them.

One of the main reasons Miranda’s plans backfired based itself in the fact that a majority of his life had been spent outside of Spanish America. Miranda dedicated all of his time towards working out its independence that he always assumed that his reception upon his return to Spanish America in 1806, after decades apart, would be an easy integration. Miranda, however, had forgotten how life ran in the Spanish colonies. Miranda's plan for independence did not take into account the rich families who feared giving up their way of life. To these people, they were being forced to give up everything they knew based on the hopes and ideas of one man. In truth, the majority of Spanish colonists, rich or poor, did not trust Miranda because he was considered an outsider. His affiliation with the United States and European powers did not reflect the people’s wants. The people wanted a leader from their own towns, who knew their troubles personally. Miranda asked for colonists to give up too much of their established lives in a very little amount of time and his plan to rally up an enormous rebellion backfired.[18] In fact, Because of some of his extreme demands, people even began to rally their own troops to get rid of Miranda and his small army he had of supporters from England and the United States. Miranda relied too heavily on the ideas of revolution and could not get at the heart of the matter, to what mattered to the people he was forcing into war. He did not consider the fact that to many, he had been the foreign invader taking over their cities.[19]

In 1806, when the United States heard the news of Miranda’s plan backfiring, many political leaders grew upset to find out that some of their citizens had joined in on Miranda’s quest. The United States throughout Miranda’s campaign had been in the midst of rebuilding itself from the aftermath of war and had only recently begun strengthening its unity as a nation. This small force Miranda built up directly cut into the neutral stance the United States had promised to its allies overseas. Caught in a political whirlwind of problems, the government also had to figure out how to free its citizens from imprisonment that resulted from Miranda’s poorly planned rebellion.[20]

Previously, in 1793, James Madison wrote of revolution as a necessity that belonged to any group of people. Revolution to Madison based itself in the rights of any human being from any form of government at any time.[21] This sentiment since the dawn of revolution has been a part of the North American psyche and caused a great debate for and against involvement in the Spanish American movement. Despite forces pulling towards helping, the ultimate timing for Spanish American independence did not suit the United States' position and interests. The United States simply could not help its neighbors before it helped itself. To the people of South America, however, it seemed that their neighbors had turned their back against them and caused great distress.

Within five years, in 1811, the United States finally gave in to make its first move towards protecting its interests in Spanish America. France grew in power under Napoleon Bonaparte and its recent attack on the Iberian Peninsula made many North American leaders nervous for their growing claim on Florida that the Spanish crown still owned. Congress, ever ready to protect its prospects, wrote the No Transfer Doctrine, an early form of the Monroe Doctrine, as a secret pre-emptive strike against possible interferences with its land claims. In an introductory letter to the Doctrine, President James Madison wrote; “I recommend to their consideration, also, the expediency of authorizing the Executive to take temporary possession of any part or parts of the said territory.”[22] Madison’s statement sums up the very short Doctrine’s message issued by Congress. If any nation attempted to control or enter land that the United States deemed as their property, it then happened to be the United States' right to defend its property by any means necessary. Congress kept this Doctrine in secret until 1818 after Spain officially handed over its territories to the United States.[23] Essentially, this served as a strong warning against coming break between North and South American relations. The people of the United States had laid their claim to what they wanted and nothing would get in their way of attaining it.

The first push for independence by Miranda had ended in failure, but under a second attempt led by Simon Bolivar the Spanish American colonies prepared for freedom. Bolivar’s life began in 1783, but spent his youth being passed from family to family after the sudden death of both of his parents. Like Miranda, Bolivar joined the Spanish army as soon as he could to make a name for himself. After a marriage which ended soon after it began by the death of his young wife, Bolivar found solace in traveling abroad through Europe. By 1807, after a very brief stop in the United States, Bolivar returned to his homeland of Venezuela and began initiating meetings with Spanish Americans on the prospects of independence.[24] The main difference between Miranda and Bolivar’s plans for independence focused on the scope in which Bolivar intended his revolution to begin.

Bolivar’s first impact as a leader had more influence because his nationality distinguished himself far more than Miranda to the people. His ideas could be taken more seriously because he lived the majority of his life in his homeland but also because he seemed to genuinely care about the future of his homeland rather than use it as a prop for his own glory. In 1810, Bolivar made his first move against Spain with the support of Venezuela to seek out the aid of British naval power. In his letter to the Marquess of Wellesley, Bolivar declared the colony’s intent, “far from desiring to sever the ties that have bound her to the mother country, Venezuela has sought only to place herself in a position to obviate the dangers that threaten her.”[25] By requesting the support of the British, the tides already turned against Spanish control of the colonies. Bolivar took the opportunity to turn to another country for help, making Spain look like an inadequate leader, and in doing so he kick started the progression towards independence.

To Bolivar, the military man, independence could not be found through government treaties but only in fighting and his rise to power began with Miranda’s fall. The two worked together in Venezuela for a small amount of time in 1812. Bolivar grew tired of Miranda’s passiveness in leading campaigns and even turned Miranda in to the Spanish army after he began compromising with the Spanish armies for peace. Bolivar saw Spanish Americans as, “peoples who are ignorant of the value of their rights”[26] and felt it his duty to enlighten them.

While Miranda looked to the United States as his preferred inspiration of government, Bolivar looked beyond North America to England’s government for his inspiration. Bolivar also knew he had to establish a well-ordered hierarchy to repress the chaos that would emerge from the totally new government he had in store. Though Bolivar praised the ideals of democracy, he taught and pushed for a strong central government that had total control over everything.  Bolivar grew up as a military man and believed it to be the best form of government control for Spanish America.[27]

By the time Bolivar could establish himself as a legitimate leader for rebellion against Spain’s government in the colonies, the people had begun to grow increasingly weary of the limitations that the crown placed upon them. Spanish visitors to the colonies wrote reports to the King worrying over the discontent that brewed among the middle class colonists. Because of these reports, stricter lines of government controlled any possibility of rebellion. Spanish Americans however saw these growing restrictions as more hostile acts against them by their repressive government.[28] Bolivar’s timing to push for independence hit at the right moment in 1810. The people of Venezuela were ready to fight for their freedom, but only needed a leader to unite them together and show them the way.

It took a little less than a year for Bolivar to make his formal move for independence in Caracas. On July 4, 1811, Bolivar began his attack on the way Spain controlled Spanish American government. Similar to the United States’ dislike of England’s control over their government and policies, Bolivar and his supporters grew tired of the power Spain took to control the colonies. After 300 years of growing oppression, Bolivar and his supporters had enough and declared; “Let us fearlessly lay the cornerstone of South American liberty; if we hesitate we are lost.”[29] Bolivar pushed for an immediate reaction and received a barrage of support. Later that November in 1811, in a letter to Jose de Sata y Bussy, the Spanish Secretary of War, Bolivar noted that official Spanish messengers immediately sought him out after his speech seeking peaceful reconciliation. At the same time Spain tried to calm Bolivar and his supporters down, however, news from the nearby town of Valencia announced that government leaders continued their tight control over its subjects. In response, Bolivar led a small army to the city initially as a show of force that ended with unexpected fighting. Under Bolivar’s command, however, Valencia got rid of its Spanish rulers and made a strong first impression that shook Spain's initial confidence that this rebellion could be pacified.[30]

Bolivar, in his youth, had been quite taken with the political ideals of the United States but after he traveled overseas in 1804 to see first hand the similarities between cultured England and the fledgling United States his dislike and dislike of the United States began to grow.[31] For the colonies own political position, the product that had been created from the American Revolution served as something that Bolivar carried solely as a symbol of possibilities whenever he spoke to the people of Spanish America. Bolivar loved the idea of the United States’ success, especially the fact that it had been colonies overcoming a powerful nation to secure its freedom to create a new world.[32] Because the Americas situations sat so close together, Bolivar believed and hoped that Spain would release the colonies from its stronghold as discontent in Spanish America grew increasingly violent before war broke out. His increasing use of the American Revolution and its ideals in searching for freedom highlighted his speech in Caracas; "When we consider this aspect of our future destiny we can at once conclude that the emancipation of America must bring about… a revolution far more amazing than that ushered in by its discovery."[33] To Bolivar, the independence that he wanted meant the same thing which the United States went to war for. He wanted his South America to be able to stand on its own two feet, united as one people, and support itself with its own strength to contribute significantly to world trade and commerce.

Bolivar loved the idea of the United States far more than he wished it to become part of Spanish American life. Though he aligned his homeland’s fate with their northern neighbors in speeches, he did not believe in democracy, the essential component of American Revolution, and many other aspects of American life that caused tension between himself and the United States during, and after, the Spanish American wars for independence. In 1818, just four years after he had boldly declared Spanish American destiny the same as the United States', Bolivar wrote a letter to Baptis Irvine, a United States citizen visiting Venezuela, about the conduct of American government. With the war for independence well under way and before the Monroe Doctrine spelled out North American intentions, the United States originally took a hard line of neutrality under James Monroe's presidency but Bolivar could not understand why the United States refused to trade with the Spanish American colonies as they struggled for freedom from Spain. As a neutral nation, the United States could freely trade with whomever they chose but Bolivar took these actions as a sign of direct interference with his people's struggle for independence.[34]

Understanding the United States’ position to not trade with the Spanish colonies puts Bolivar’s objections into perspective. Since the Presidency of George Washington, the United States had been wary of joining forces in war with any side simply because its own power, so newly discovered, had not yet been found. Thomas Jefferson, in his second inaugural address in 1805 continued to remind the people, “We have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations, and especially of those with which we have the most important relations. What have done them justice on all occasions… cherished mutual interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms.”[35] The United States' intent did not focus on hurting their neighbors but based its decisions on their love for Washington and self preservation which had worked successfully up to this point. It soon became clear to the people of the United States, however, that change had to come soon before any more mistakes allowed tensions to escalate even further.

In his attack against the United States in writing to Baptis Irvine, Bolivar seemed either unable or unwilling to understand the political tension which surrounded the colonies at the time. The unwillingness of the United States to support their neighbor continued to be a growing pain to Bolivar especially as he saw Spain freely trading with the United States. "The Spaniards have everything they needed," Bolivar wrote, "or there were other sources they could turn to… we lacked the means and connections to negotiate with other powers."[36] Bolivar could not allow himself to overcome this issue when it came to later relations with the United States. His trust in Spanish America's neighbor had been permanently damaged and the break between North and South America continued to grow.

Throughout Bolivar’s career in the public eye he attended more to the needs of the people rather than his own political glory which proved to be a much more successful campaign than those attempted before. After making his opinion known on the matter of independence at Caracas, he allowed the people to come to him, asking for assistance or protection from oppressive governments upheld by Spain to push his hope of revolution towards success. Bolivar's plan of action proved to be successful and with the trust of the people behind him, they embraced him as the “Liberator” of Spanish America and one of the major leaders of revolution.

On March 8, 1822, President James Monroe formally accepted and recognized the Spanish American’s break from Spanish control. Responding to the news, John Quincy Adams wrote a letter to Richard C. Anderson, head of the Department of State, in the following May on his views of the new nations. In his letter, Quincy Adams describes the main difference in Spanish American independence to North American freedom dealt with Spain's own reliance on France.  Spain, up to this point of its colonies' independence, continued to hold on to vain hopes of returning to its glory days as the supreme power of the world. Because they were unable to make significant progress with the colonies in terms of cutting down their rebellion, their subjects continued to grow tired of its seemingly purposeless control. Because of these sour relations, Quincy Adams hoped that the United States would soon become important allies to the newly recognized independent nations to serve as a good mentor.[37]

When the United States took the steps to formally recognize the growing independent Spanish colonies, Bolivar and his generals knew it meant that North American parties would begin working their ways towards integrating their beliefs and agendas into Spanish America. On a positive note, however, it did set in stone the validity of the independence movement and reminded Spain that their hold on the colonies had ended.[38] The government that the Spanish Americans began to process in the early years of independence, however, worried some leaders of the United States. John Adams, John Quincy Adams’ father, did not believe democracy to be the best type of government for their neighbors to follow. Because of their growing distance from democracy, some leaders feared beginning an alliance with Spanish America. Many North Americans saw Bolivar as a fake George Washington, trying to act noble but hiding a personal agenda for political glory, and feared contaminating their own government with a society that could not stand on its own.[39]

It is important to remember that the Spanish American independence movement had one crucial difference from the United States revolution that made it impossible for people like Quincy Adams to completely relate to. Instead of several colonies joining together into one nation, the Spanish American colonies fought for their rights as independent nations despite Bolivar's wishful attempts to make it a united movement. This distinction naturally made its friendship with the United States strained. North Americans could not see the ability of government to truly function well without recruiting the same methods used in 1776 and following the guidelines of their path to freedom.[40] Because of these strong differences, the United States feared that their neighbor’s government would be too weak to hold off outside influences. John Quincy Adams, before his Presidency, wrote in 1823 a document entitled Cuba: “An Apple Severed by the Tempest From Its Native Tree.” which would later inspire the Monroe Doctrine’s policies. Quincy Adams knew the Spanish Crown lost power quickly in the colonies and wondered when the day of independence would completely break their southern neighbors bonds. Quincy Adams’ hope, if done correctly and swiftly, included the United States being able to annex Cuba easily before other nations like France or England could make their move.[41]

Cuba, John Quincy Adams argues, had grown too dependent on its relations to Spain and he felt that upon its separation the entire colony will dissolve not knowing what to do with itself. The duty of the United States, then, included protecting its neighbors from devastation and giving them a home under its own government if necessary. To the United States, Cuba, above all else, offered them prime advantage of the seas and seemed essential for their own protection. Wrote Quincy Adams;

Its commanding position with reference to the Gulf of Mexico and the West India seas; the character of its population; its situation midway between our southern coast and the island of San Domingo; its safe and capacious harbor of the Havana, fronting a long line of our shores destitute of the same advantage; the nature of its productions and of its wants, furnishing the supplies and needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable and mutually beneficial; give it an importance in the sum of our national interests, with which that of no other foreign territory can be compared and little inferior to that which binds the different members of this Union together.[42]

Under these circumstances detailed by Quincy Adams, the United States could not give up their chance to control Cuba because of the immense positives that would come from its control. To the people in the United States who warned against expansion beyond the sea, John Quincy Adams argued that because Cuba would be defenseless after its separation from Spain it would know the only logical choice to save itself would be to join with the United States. Ultimately, the United States began to expect Cuba to either join willingly with them or Cuba would destroy itself and the United States would make sure no one would be able to enjoy its benefits.[43]

Despite the people’s hesitance to take in Spanish American politics, the leaders of the United States saw their potential expansion of power as a more convincing reason to get involved. Soon after Brazil had become fully independent, England wanted to join forces with the United States to block other nations, particularly Russia and France, from entering into any kind of contact with Spanish America. From this interaction with England came the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, written initially by James Monroe and later adapted by John Quincy Adams. Through his studies and training in foreign policy, Quincy Adams grew afraid that England would take advantage of their side of the deal and try to force their political power over the struggling Spanish Americans. This unfounded fear drove the leaders of North America to stake their claim forcefully to South America. The Monroe Doctrine, when issued by the United States, attempted to section off the Americas from outside influences completely and caused the final break in relations between the Americas.

In his address to the Senate and House of Representatives, Monroe explains their position moderately. Monroe defended the nation's actions by reiterating how they had kept out of the business of other nations across the Atlantic throughout wars and various other conflicts. Monroe and his supporters felt this enough reason to backup their argument telling foreign countries to keep away from the Americas. “It is only in our rights are invaded,” Monroe states, “or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparations for our defense.”[44] Monroe and Quincy Adams argued that North and South American governments were the same, though obvious differences noted by Quincy Adam's own father proved this to be false, and the governments across the Atlantic could not understand their way of life.

Because of these radical differences that they saw between other countries and the Americas, Monroe declared; “we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”[45] Monroe and Quincy Adams used the excuse of liberty and the search for independence as a reason that the United States had to be the only companion to the Spanish American people. The United States government believed that their inherent understanding of the struggle that came with fighting for independence, as well as their obvious closeness in geography, made it impossible for any other country to be able to identify with the situation in their eyes. In short, the United States suddenly became willing to fight to defend its stake in South America against any power who tried to come into contact with them because they feared their own influence over South America would diminish.

Later the same year the Monroe Doctrine reached the individual nations of Spanish America and the people warmly welcomed it as a sign of good faith and friendship unaware of its potential problems. Even Bolivar’s initial reading of the document proved to be positive. In the Monroe Doctrine, he saw the United States finally taking the steps he hoped for by making the promise of intervention between nations if they began moving in support of Spain’s claims. As soon as the United States made their support of South America clear, Bolivar and his supporters assumed that England would follow suit immediately but it took two years before any formal recognition reached them. Within this small time frame Bolivar grew increasingly nervous that the singular influence North America had on the people corrupted their government’s ability to function alone though it already had its issues based on their lack of unity. [46]

Because of the stall in England’s support, a slow rising hatred of the Monroe Doctrine caused Bolivar to see the United States’ intentions nothing more than isolating them from any chance of interaction with England. As soon as England had made her intentions known, however, individual nations like Mexico began borrowing money, linking themselves to England through debt. To Bolivar, this seemed to be a better situation than being indebted to North America so he ignored the possible problems that would arise when the debts would turn into England's chance to grab at power. [47] Bolivar became so determined to get away from the United States that he accepted anything that would push them away without realizing that by turning to another country, their position and ability to become self-sufficient would not be any easier than its previous reliance on the United States.

Unlike the United States who had crops and staple products received as luxury items by other nations, Spanish America had no personal products to call its own. Spanish America hardly changed in the early years of its independence and relied heavily upon the goods being traded by the United States and England to survive. Bolivar could see the growing popularity and reliance upon these products and could not change the situation which frustrated his plans for a united country.[48] The main reason why Spanish America could not stand on its own goes back to the initial problem with the independence movement being made for each individual colony instead of uniting together as one nation. Bolivar’s main influence and initial reaction for independence began in Venezuela but other sections of Spanish America, after hearing and seeing its sister colony fighting for freedom from Spain, joined in for its own particular reasons and did not look upon each other for anything more than assistance in their independent struggles.

The inability of Spanish America to unite as one force against Spain can be seen as the leading cause for Bolivar’s dissatisfaction with the United States because they were a constant reminder of his failure to unite the colonies as one. As noted earlier during his youth, Bolivar knew the importance of using the United States as his pinnacle example for achieving freedom. More than likely this mode of thought grew from the influences of Francisco de Miranda, whose life Bolivar knew well after serving in the Spanish Army along with a brief period of working together in the early 1800s. Through his own research and experience, however, Bolivar soon understood the reason why Miranda’s attempts to start a revolution failed and began his quest for other sources of support.

The United States, on the other hand, had their own plans on their minds that conflicted with Bolivar’s. Because of Miranda’s personal interaction with leading members of North American society like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Miranda had initiated the interest in the United States for involvement in the Spanish colonies. Although this interest lay dormant for several years as men like James Madison and John Quincy Adams settled the government rule, the possibilities in Spanish America drew the United States in until they could no longer resist. The leaders of the United States ignored the problems of the struggling colonies, and the growing complaints from men like Bolivar, to tend completely to its own needs.

By the time England formally recognized Spanish American independence Bolivar could not block the United States from interacting with the new nations any longer. While the people happily accepted their reliance upon the United States, Bolivar knew his ultimate plan for a totally self-reliant Spanish America had been defeated and for the rest of his life he held a grudge towards North America for taking advantage of his people’s tough transition. The United States, on the other hand, felt as though Spanish America had been playing games with them since the early years of Miranda's interaction. In the beginning they had been begged to take control to protect the colonies by Miranda but as soon as they offered help the Spanish American’s pulled back their offers and refused them.

Caused by a mutual sense of urgency, the two Americas felt each other's pull and reacted by fighting with whatever power they had without thinking things through. Bolivar and other leaders of Spanish America grew too concerned with protecting their individual governments from outside control that it ignored the bigger picture. The Spanish American nations never realized their potential in joining together because they had grown too concerned with protecting their rights are independent nations. The United States, for its part, allowed its greed to overshadow political courtesy to a people whose situation reflected their own struggle. They grew obsessed with their period of expansion and found excuses to support their unfounded claims to South American territory while the nations welcomed assistance with open arms because of their lack of stability.

Miranda's fascination with the United States and the liberties he took in expressing the need for North American assistance in his campaign for Spanish American independence created a sense of reliance in the colonies of Spanish America. Alexander Hamilton added fuel to the fire by making false promises of assistance to a people who relied on the hope of North American support. When the United States backed out of Hamilton's promises the people lost the respect and admiration they held for North America and rejected Miranda as a false prophet of freedom through association with the United States.

In the years following, Bolivar and Quincy Adams battled for power over the independent nations. Bolivar refused the United States any power that he could but Quincy Adams had the backing of the government to issue the Monroe Doctrine to overpower Bolivar causing deep resentment as his ultimate plans for Spanish America were blocked from progressing. Facing the distrust of the Spanish American people and Bolivar's dissatisfaction, the United States forced upon all the nations their Monroe Doctrine and kept them from growing at a time when they should have been exploring new relations and expanding their individual powers. North and South Americans were equally foolish when it came to power and their friendship shattered under the pressure to keep what they considered their rights over each other balanced. Essentially, because neither side would let the other have the power they desired the possibility of friendship in 1823 became impossible to attain in a time when power meant everything.




















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Bolivar, Simon. Selected Writings of Bolivar. Vol. 1. Translated by Lewis Bertrand. Edited by Harold A. Bierck Jr. New York: Colonial Press, 1951.

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Miranda, Francisco de. The New Democracy in America; Travels of Francisco de Miranda in the United States, 1783-1784. Translated by Judson P. Wood. Edited by John S. Ezell. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.

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[1]      William Spence Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as Told in the Lives of Their Liberators, (New York: Free Press, 1967), 42.

[2]      John Lynch, Latin American Revolutions 1808-1826: Old and New World Origins, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 267.

[3]      Lynch, Latin American Revolutions 1808-1826: Old and New World Origins, 263-269.

[4]      Karen Racine, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution ( Wilmington : Scholarly Resources Inc., 2003), 6-13.

[5]      Racine, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution, 15-26.

[6]       Francisco de Miranda, The New Democracy in America : Travels of Francisco de Miranda in the United States , 1783-1784, translated by Judson P. Wood, edited by John S. Ezell, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 58.

[7]      Miranda, The New Democracy in America: Travels of Francisco de Miranda in the United States, 1783-1784, 58.

[8]      Miranda, The New Democracy in America : Travels of Francisco de Miranda in the United States , 1783-1784, 163.

[9]      Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 3: 1782-1786, ed. Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-87), 585-586.

[10]    Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 22: July 1798-Match 1799, ed. Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-87), 155-156.

[11]    Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996), 152-154.

[12]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as Told in the Lives of Their Liberators, 50-58.

[13]     Hamilton , The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 22: July 1798-March 1799, 156.

[14]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as Told in the Lives of Their Liberators, 50-58.

[15]    Thomas Jefferson, The Republic of Letters : the Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826, vol. 3, edited by James Morton Smith, (New York: Norton, 1995), 1382.

[16]    Jefferson, The Republic of Letters : the Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826, vol. 3, 1382.

[17]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as Told in the Lives of Their Liberators, 62.

[18]    Langley , The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850, 167-168.

[19]    John Charles Chasteen, Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence, ( Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008), 38.

[20]    Chasteen, Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence , 38.

[21]    James Madison, The Complete Madison, edited by Saul K. Padover, (Norwalk, Conn.: Easton Press, 1988), 48.

[22]    The Congress of the United States , “No Transfer Doctrine,” in Robert H. Holden and Eric Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, ( New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000), 6.

[23]    The Congress of the United States , “No Transfer Doctrine,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 5-6.

[24]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics , 206-210.

[25]    Simon Bolivar, Selected Writings of Bolivar, vol. 1, translated by Lewis Bertrand, edited by Harold A. Bierck Jr., (New York: Colonial Press, 1951), 3.

[26]    Langley , The Americas in the Age of Revolution 1750-1850, 176.

[27]    Lynch, Latin American Revolutions 1808-1826: Old and New World Origins, 375-376.

[28]    Langley , The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850, 162-163.

[29]    Bolivar, Selected Writings of Bolivar, vol. 1, 6.

[30]    Bolivar, Selected Writings of Bolivar, vol. 1, 6-7.

[31]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics , 210.

[32]    Bolivar, Selected Writings of Bolivar, vol. 1, 76-80.

[33]    Bolivar, Selected Writings of Bolivar, vol. 1, 79.

[34]    Simon Bolivar, El Libertador: Writings of Bolivar, translated by Frederick H. Fornoff, ( New York , Oxford University Press, 2003), 156-157.

[35]    Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden, (New York: The Modern Library, 1944), 339.

[36]    Bolivar, El Libertador: Writings of Bolivar, 157.

[37]    John Adams and John Quincy Adams, The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams, edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden, (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946), 345-351.

[38]    Timothy E. Anna, Spain and the Loss of America , (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 267.

[39]    Langley , The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850, 239-240.

[40]    Chasteen, Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence , 3.

[41]    John Quincy Adams, “An Apple Severed by the Tempest From its Native Tree,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 7.

[42]    John Quincy Adams, “An Apple Severed by the Tempest From its Native Tree,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 9.

[43]    John Quincy Adams, “An Apple Severed by the Tempest From its Native Tree,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 9.

[44]    James Monroe, “The Monroe Doctrine,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 12.

[45]    James Monroe, “The Monroe Doctrine,” in Holden and Zolov, eds., Latin America and the United States : A Documentary History, 13.

[46]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics , 300-304.

[47]    Robertson, Rise of the Spanish-American Republics , 300-304.

[48]    Rodriguez O., Jaime E., The Independence of Spanish America , (Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 244-245.