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In the “Cartagena Manifesto” and the “Jamaica Letter,” Simon Bolivar provides insight into the struggle for South American independence and the reasons why emerging states struggled to remain lasting republics.
Bolivar begins with his opinion that the First Republic of Venezuela was weak because of its government’s system of tolerance. This, Bolivar believed, brought about a weakness that caused unnecessary rebellion and conflict. For example, the city of Coro was able to fortify itself and become an enemy of the state because the junta gave Coro the opportunity and the time to turn itself into a formidable force. Moreover, Europeans were always attempting to subvert and overthrow the government. However, when their conspiracies were discovered, they were always acquitted by the courts. Thus, being humane and tolerant only served to undermine the strength and legitimacy of Venezuela’s government.
Also, because Venezuela was federalist state, it was unable to provide a well-trained and effective military. Instead, the military was replaced by numerous poorly trained militias. Due to the existence of so many militias, salaries required to pay staff officers exhausted the Venezuelan treasury. Furthermore, with the creation of militias, farmers were forced to leave their land. This caused unnecessary contempt for the government. The conception of Venezuela as a federal republic only served to effectively cause tension and divide the country.
The idea of self-government that federalism embodies was a significant factor that led to the downfall of the First Republic of Venezuela. The internal factions it created worked against Venezuelan liberty and led to anarchy. Therefore, Venezuelan’s were unable to unite in order remove the “yoke of tyranny”.
Venezuela’s impending downfall was further advanced by an earthquake in 1812. Bolivar contends that if Venezuela had had a strong centralized government, the government’s response might have been quicker and more effective, and perhaps Venezuela’s downfall could have been avoided. Unfortunately, Venezuela was too weakened by the earthquake to maintain its freedom from Spain.
In discussing Spanish America as a whole, bolivar believed that nations needed centralized governments. Centralized governments were necessary because the people did not have any concept of government and would, therefore, be unable to effectively form strong federal governments. Their inability was due to the colonial rule that left them in a state of infancy in regards to public affairs. According to Bolivar, they were simply been unprepared to be have been freed from their mother country. Moreover, any effort on their part would be undermined by the underlying weakness of federalism. Bolivar believed that federalism overly exaggerated the sovereignty of the individual, thus weakening the authority of the government and causing its collapse. In his opinion, Venezuela’s downfall was a prime example of how flawed federalist system really was.
In order for emerging Spanish American nations to become strong and lasting powers, the concept of federalism needed to end, and centralized government was necessary to replace it. This was necessary because, according to Bolivar, even though the federal system was most perfect “and suitable for guaranteeing human happiness in society [it] is, notwithstanding, the form most inimical to the interests of…emerging states)
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