History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter VI

History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter VI

«Cabildo Abierto».

The rumours of the downfall of the «Consejo de Regencia» in Seville, in the hands of Napoleón Bonaparte, precipitated the events. On 25 May 1810, the «Junta of Buenos Aires» was established. After summoning a «Cabildo Abierto» (Open Congress) and without consulting the rest of the Provinces, the Buenosaireans overthrew the Viceroy of the River Plate, Don Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros (1756-1829), who ran away to the city of Cordoba where his predecessor, Don Santiago de Liniers, the «Vanquisher of the English», was living. Both Cisneros and Liniers understood that they were facing a bunch of revolutionary doctrinnaires and not, as the «Junta of Buenos Aires» claimed, real patriots and defenders of the Spanish Crown.

This «cabal of revolutionaries» (in the words of Dr. Francia of Paraguay) was in fact formed by individuals with different positions and perspective on how the issues should be dealt with in the River Plate. But they all had something in common: they wanted to subjugate the rest of the provinces under the iron rule of Revolutionary Buenos Aires.

On one hand, the more «conservative» members of the «Junta de Buenos Aires» represented by the Bishop of Buenos Aires Don Benito Lué y Riega (1753-1812) affirmed that the «Junta» had no authority to act without the permission of the Metropoli in Spain and the Viceroy of the River Plate (that is, Cisneros) should be recognized as the sole authority until the situation was resolved. However, the vast majority of the priests were in favour of the «Revolutionary» position. [1]

But on the other hand, the «liberal doctrinnaires» (the overwhelming majority in the «Junta») led by Juan José Castelli (1764-1812), Hipólito Vieytes (1762-1815), Antonio Luis Berruti (1772-1841), Domingo French (1774-1825) and Mariano Moreno (1778-1811) pushed hard for the establishment of a new Sovereign Government in the «Cabildo Abierto» of Buenos Aires. Cornelio Saavedra (1759-1829) and Manuel Belgrano (1770-1820) both had «middle of the road» positions concerning the situation (but in the end, Belgrano would follow suit the «liberal doctrinnaire» line). Years later, Saavedra would accuse many of his fellow «Próceres de Mayo», most especially Castelli, Vieytes, Berruti and Moreno, of being «very favourable to (leave Buenos Aires) under British Domination». [2]

¡That was the spirit of the «Libertadores» of the Americas! And that was mentioned by a «moderate» individual like Don Cornelio Saavedra, whom at least had the ethical considerations and enough of a conscience to leave it written down in his memoirs.

The Sect of Doctrinnaires, using the disguise of the «Mask of Ferdinand VII» in order to attract the crowds in their favour (the majority of the people were loyalists to the Spanish Crown, especially in the interior provinces), claimed that they were also faithful to the Hispanic Monarch Don Fernando VII and that they were fighting for the preservation of his kingdom. This was, of course, nothing but deceitful lies propagated with support of Britain. [3]

When the Revolution became radicalized, the Viceroy Cisneros escaped to Spain. But in Córdoba, the General and Count Don Santiago de Liniers was preparing a resistance to the liberal and masonic cabal. He was hopeful to gain the support of the Paraguayans, whom he admired for their excellency in military endeavors and was also admired by them. In fact, a letter rescued by García Mellid is clear evidence of this: «Your Excellency (Liniers) have noticed, way better than myself, that Paraguayans are the finest horsemen and swimmers in the world and that they can cross a mighty river with the greatest ease. The most torrentous rivers that can stop a victorious army in Europe, they would be nothing but small creek for Paraguayans. The marches, surprises and retreats done with soldiers like them, while asking from them nothing else but using the blades and the muskets with precision and liveliness, could shatter the plans of a great General of the enemy». [4]

And indeed, the Paraguayans were the last hope for Liniers. A very malicious Argentine, Vicente F. López, writes about this:

«From that moment onwards, Liniers became the Head of the Reactionnaries… He prepared himself to gather troops in order to march against the Capital (Buenos Aires). Trusting that he would repeat the feat he achieved against the Englishmen three years ago, he dispatched orders to Paraguay, hoping for the reinforcements of General (Governor) Velasco coming downwards to join him and also sent orders to the small fleet in Montevideo under the command of the intrepid Commander Romarate to start a blockade in the Paraná River… So it became indispensable (for the revolutionary sectarians in Buenos Aires) to work with anticipation and to launch the first strikes against Córdoba and Paraguay, that were the two main centers of action with which the enemy (Liniers) counted on… The Commissar of the Junta, Dr. Vieytes, had secret orders to excecute Gen. Liniers because of his prestige and popularity, that was feared (by the porteños)… The fear that drove this cruel decision had solid grounds: Liniers was a General with the highest esteem in the country, the sole General as such in the whole region. The Revolution couldn’t have any other similar man, with such a similar reputation as Liniers’, at that moment. He was a Victorious Caudillo of the masses, military genius from the River Plate to Perú. He was considered to be brave, expert, daunting, active and incapable to falter his absolute allegiance to the Spanish Crown. The revolutionaries saw in Liniers the greatest danger to their cause…». [5]

The same author tells us that after Liniers was captured on 12 August 1810 in Cordoba, his life was spared because of the pleads done by the population in the city. This enraged Mariano Moreno and the other radical members of the «Junta» and on 16 August 1810, they ordered his perentory execution on the very same date in which, years ago, Liniers obtained his decisive triumph during the British Invasions of the River Plate (1806-1807). Juan José Castelli, Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Domingo French and some 50 soldiers (some English spies amongst them) took Don Santiago de Liniers to a place known as «Mount of the Papagayos» (for others, «Monte de los Paraguayos») and on 26 August 1810, after receiving the last rites (he was a devout Roman Catholic), the «Vanquisher of the English» was executed…

This was the «patriotism» of the Porteños! This is how all their lies crumbled in the face of everyone! The «Mask of Ferdinand VII» was nothing but a grimace and a foul joke! If there was any doubt, let it be cleared by Mariano Moreno himself:

«All the respectable sanctuary was given to the criminal of Cordoba (Liniers) in order to reduce the torment of his execrable felonies… But there will be no other religious gesture of mercy… The punishment among us will be a necessary consequence of any felony and the sacred character of the delinquent will do nothing else but to increase the spectacle of the punishment». [6]

The arrogant Moreno, who did nothing but bending the knee to the English! This is why the «Porteños» are so maligned!

In Paraguay, terrible news were arriving at that time. Since 25 May 1810 the «Junta Porteña» was sending orders to the rest of the provinces, commanding them to submit to the absolutist rule of Buenos Aires. On June 21st, the «porteñista» Colonel José de Espínola arrived with more commands from the Revolutionary Cabal. He was recieved by Governor Don Bernardo de Velasco (1752-1823) who after knowing about the revolutionary disposition of Espínola, tried to capture him but he escaped and informed all of this in Buenos Aires. Velasco summoned the «Cabildo of Asunción» and on 17 July 1810, a General Congress was called for the 24th of the same month.

On 24 July 1810, the "Cabildo of Asunción", under the lead of Governor Don Bernardo de Velasco, was assembled. They resolved to keep friendship with Buenos Aires but they refused to recognize any superiority of the "Porteños' City" towards Asunción. This is considered the "starting point" of the Independence of Paraguay. [Image: "Independence of Paraguay", painting by Guillermo da Ré. Wikimedia Commons].
On 24 July 1810, the «Cabildo of Asunción», under the lead of Governor Don Bernardo de Velasco, was assembled. They resolved to keep friendship with Buenos Aires but they refused to recognize any superiority of the «Porteños’ City» towards Asunción. This is considered the «starting point» of the Independence of Paraguay. [Image: «Independence of Paraguay», painting by Guillermo da Ré. Wikimedia Commons].

During the famous «Congress of the 24th July 1810 in Paraguay», the rising star of Don José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia started to shine. The Elected Representative, during that Assembly taking place in the College of St. Charles in Asunción, adressed to the crowds with a legendary speech:

«This Assembly should not be wasting time debating whether if the coward father or his sodomite son are the King of Spain. Both of them abdicated twice. Both of them proved to us all their weak spirits and unloyal hearts. But regardless of who is the real King of Spain, none of them is the King of Paraguay anymore… And we are not a Province of Buenos Aires! Paraguay is a Republic. The sole thing we should be debating in this Assembly is how to defend and how to keep our independence against Spain, against Buenos Aires, against Brasil; how to keep the internal order and how to increase the welfare and prosperity of all the inhabitants of Paraguay». [7]

As a matter of fact, the legendary Dr. Francia wasn’t lying nor doing mere demagogy. Spain, as we have seen in past chapters, was under the thumbs of Napoleon and his detested brother «Pepe Botella» (Joseph the Bottle). Charles IV and Ferdinand VII both abdicated with great abjection and meekness towards the French. And Buenos Aires, without any authority nor real legitimacy was trying to impose itself over the rest of the provinces. This was utterly unacceptable by the Paraguayans and the «Congress of 24 July 1810» is considered the starting point for the Independence of Paraguay. But the real ideas of Dr. Francia will unfold only later…

The «Cabildo of Asunción» made a decision: they wanted to remain at peace and friendly terms with the Junta of Buenos Aires, but without recognizing any superiority of Buenos Aires towards Paraguay; and Paraguay will remain in that position until His Majesty the King of Spain gives a final resolution. Of course, this was considered by the «Porteños» as an insult and with imperative tone, they answered: «The Junta of Buenos Aires demands to Your Excellencies to join under the rule of the Capital, to let the people operate freely, to recognize your dependency established by Law, and to allow the presence of a Representative in the Congress (promoted by Buenos Aires). Otherwise, if you remain in your pertinaciousness, Your Excellencies will be responsible towards God and the King of all the evil consecuences…». [8]

A declaration of war! That was the way these words were interpreted in Asunción. And when the assasination of General Don Santiago de Liniers in Cordoba was heard in Paraguay, the entire population was ready to fight against the despised «Porteños». But little did they know that Buenos Aires already sent a well armed expedition under the command of Don Manuel Belgrano to subjugate and to dominate the valiant and indomitable land of the Guaranís.

The long dispute between Asunción and Buenos Aires was to be settled in the battlefield…


[1] Carbia, Rómulo D. (2005). «La Revolución de Mayo y la Iglesia», pages 34-35. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Nueva Hispanidad.

[2] Saavedra, Cornelio (2009): «Memoria Autógrafa». Buenos Aires: Del Medio Extremo Editorial.

[3] Luna, Félix (2004): «Grandes Protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Mariano Moreno», page 25. Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Nación. – This was recognized by the same Cornelio Saavedra in a famous letter to Juan José Viamonte dated on the 27th June 1811 in Buenos Aires, cited by Deleis et. al. (2001): «Cartas que hicieron la historia» page 116. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Aguilar.

[4] «Informe muy Reservado» del Gobernador de Asunción Don Lázaro de Ribera al Virrey Don Santiago de Liniers. Cited by: García Mellid (1963) op.cit. volume I, page 126.

[5] López, Vicente Fidel (1883): «Historia de la República Argentina: Su Origen, Su Revolución y Su Desarrollo Político hasta 1852», volume III, excerpts from pages 191-192, 193-194, 198 and 205-207. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Carlos Casavalle and Imprenta de Mayo.

[6] «Manifiesto de la Junta de Buenos Aires sobre el Fusilamiento de Liniers y sus Cómplices» by Mariano Moreno. La Gaceta de Buenos Aires, N° 19; 11 de Octubre de 1810.

[7] Vittone, Luis (1960): «El Paraguay en la Lucha por su Independencia», pages 13-14. Asunción, Paraguay: Imprenta Militar, Dirección Publicaciones.

[8] García Mellid (1963) op. cit. volume I, page 123.

Emilio Urdapilleta