History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter IX

History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter IX

A Moment of Decisions.

Paraguay, the Primum inter Pares among the Provinces of the River Plate. Asunción, the Mother of Cities, Craddle and Support of the Spanish Conquista. Hispanic-Guaranís, the most noble and ancient servants of the King of Spain in the region.

They were facing a momentous event in history: the Spanish Empire was usurped by Napoleón. The «Junta of Cadiz» refused to acknowledge the new Bonaparte King but in the meantime, they started a liberal-doctrinnaire revolution that ended in the proclamation of «La Pepa» in 19 March 1812, under the guidance of freemasons in the masonic lodge of the «Knights of Cadiz», that was the «master» of the other lodges «Lautaro» and «Knights of America», all of them created under the thumb and rule of the United Grand Lodge of England. [1] And the «Porteños» were trying to impose their absolutism over the rest of the Provinces, with no authority whatsoever to do so.

And now, at the highest tension, a new incident clouded the sights: Doña Carlota Joaquina de Borbón, the Queen Consort of Portugal and sister of Ferdinand VII had very strong claims for the possesion of the Spanish Empire. The very same Gen. Manuel Belgrano, in a more reflective and very liberal tone, explains the movement:

«Without doing for ourselves any work towards Independence, God himself presented for us the events of 1808 in Spain and Bayonne. In fact, the ideals of liberty and independence in the Americas were lit up and the Americans started to talk about their rights for the first time. Then happened that, without seeing myself any movement attempting to constitute us, but on the contrary, men that were paying an unfair obedience to individuals who had no right to rule over us, I tried to find the auspices of the Infanta Carlota and to form a party in her behalf against the despots that were conjuring up for not losing their position and more importantly, to preserve America under the rule of Spain even though Napoleón was in command». [2]

The intention (to find a monarch for keeping the Viceroyalty together) was real and maybe, it was the only good thing that ever came from the Junta of Buenos Aires, but the danger of becoming a Protectorate of Portugal (a very well known British proxy) rather than keeping the Sovereignty of the Spanish Crown was also a hazardous reality. In different meetings and discussions, the Porteños argued the «Charlottist» i.e. «Carlotista» Option and many royalists and loyals to the Bourbon Kings were proselytes of the «Carlotismo» as a minor solution to the insurrection. So, it was a complicated position where the liberal sect of doctrinnaires in Buenos Aires shared common ground with the Loyalists, though for absolutely different reasons: the revolutionaries saw this movement as the «first step» towards full independence while the Royalist Party have found in Doña Carlota some means for the total restoration of the Spanish Order in the River Plate Basin.

Atilio García Mellid, one of the main pillars of this series, wrote:

«From the earliest moment, there were many currents spotted in the midst of the assembly regarding the institutional organization for the country, as well as the possibility of decreeing total independence of the ancient Spanish Dominions (…). The monarchist party (led by Gen. Belgrano alongside other distinguished figures such as San Martín, Sarratea, Alvear, Posadas, Pueyrredón, Monteagudo) had at the same time, different shades concerning the procedence of the monarch. It is well known that Gen. Belgrano proposed the restablishment of the Incan Dynasty, with the capital city in Cuzco. The Presbyter Dr. Don Pedro Ignacio de Castro Barros, natural from La Rioja, voted in favour of the establishment of the monarchical regime, claiming that it was «the regime given by the Lord to His old people, and also instituted by Jesuschrist in His Church». But another priest, Fray Justo Santa María de Oro, chosen as Representative for San Juan thanks to the influence of Gen. San Martín, was the one who won with his eloquent speech and energy, pushing hard against the monarchical plan and demanding the adoption of the modern republican system. This criterion was vigorously supported by the Representative of Buenos Aires, Don Tomás de Anchorena». [3]

The «Incan Dynasty» was just a political gameplay of Belgrano to gather popular support from the amerindians, but this was never taken seriously because, contrary to popular believe, the aboriginal Spanish-Americans were among the fiercest loyalists to the Spanish Crown (who were benevolent rulers, in general, towards them) and in fact, they verily disliked the pompous and arrogant Buenosaireans (the hated «criollos», mainly porteñistas, who thought themselves as superiors towards the amerindians). The «Carlotist Movement» on the other hand, had a lot of unexpected support.

In Asunción, Gen. Don Bernardo de Velasco (the last Governor appointed by the Spanish King Don Carlos IV, and de facto, Viceroy of the River Plate, despite the claims of his ally, Governor Don Francisco de Elío in Montevideo, that were based on the tenuous legitimacy of the Junta of Cadiz) was pulling the strings in favour of the Carlotist Movement. Many messengers were coming and going, closing the links striving to secure the position of the Hispanic-Portuguese alliance on behalf of Doña Carlota Joaquina de Borbón. In fact, Governors Velasco and Elío were already drafting a counter-revolutionary plan. But Montevideo, facing the increasing pressure coming from Buenos Aires, was unable to send any military support to Asunción. Velasco was alone and his last hope was to arrange an alliance with the Portuguese.

Diego de Abreu, the Portuguese envoy, arrived to Asunción after being retained by Col. Fulgencio Yegros for three weeks in Itapua. His arrival was celebrated by the Royalists in Paraguay. After many days of conversations with Governor Velasco (who assured the Portuguese emissary that «he was anxious to put himself at the feet of His Most Serene Lady Doña Carlota Joaquina because no one else was recognized as succesor to the Crown and to the Spaniard Dominions»), Abreu went to the Cabildo of Asunción and informed that the prize of the Portuguese military support was the recognition of Carlota Joaquina’s claim to the Spanish Throne. Two days later, these conditions were unanimously accepted… But instead of improving their precarious position, the acceptance of Portuguese military support only precipitated the downfall of the Royalists. [4]

The Carlotist Movement came very close to victory in Paraguay. As explained in the Chapter VIII of this work, the Paraguayan patriots were totally against the Portuguese intervention because of overwhelming historical reasons. When they heard the news about this possibility, everything was accelerated… The moment for decisions finally came.

According to popular tradition, the Paraguayan patriots gathered for an emergency meeting in the House Martínez Sáenz. The main characters of this conspiracy were Cap. Pedro Juan Caballero, Cap. Antonio Tomás Yegros, 2nd Lt. Vicente Ignacio Iturbe, Chap. José Agustín Molas, Lt. Col. Fulgencio Yegros (military leader of the movement who was in Itapúa at the moment), Dr. Fernando de la Mora and many others. Dr. Don José Gaspar de Francia, arguably the most popular civilian and finest intellect of the country in those days (despite keeping a certain distance from the aforementioned conspirators by working mostly from his Manor at Ybyray, in the neighborhood of Trinidad), was in fact the «éminence grise» and mastermind of the movement. [5]

House Martínez Sáenz in downtown Asunción, where the Paraguayan Conspirators met to prepare the strike against the "Carlotist Movement" of Governor Don Bernardo de Velasco. [Image: Wikimedia Commons].
House Martínez Sáenz in downtown Asunción, where the Paraguayan Conspirators met to prepare the strike against the «Carlotist Movement» of Governor Don Bernardo de Velasco. [Image: Wikimedia Commons].

It was May 12, 1811 when the final decision was made. Captain Pedro Juan Caballero proposed immediate action. Dr. Fernando de la Mora wanted a little more patience in order to wait for the arrival of Lt. Col. Fulgencio Yegros from Itapúa. Don José Gaspar de Francia, from Ybyray, remained silent and wisely, he let the people in Asunción to make the call. Probably, this was also part of the plan: the conspirators needed someone with a «clean appearance» to work in their behalf and with popularity for all the sides of the conflict, that’s why Francia wasn’t personally present in the moment of the decision. The idea was to attack on May 13th, but this was posponed due to many reasons: especially because they needed to secure the participation of Mauricio José Troche, Captain of the Gendarmes of Asunción who was commanding the Barracks of La Ribera. Troche only accepted to join the movement that day.

The strike was meant to be on 14th May 1811.


[1] Gandía, Enrique de (1994): «La Independencia de América y las Sociedades Secretas», pages 56-61. Santa Fé, Argentina: Ediciones Sudamérica Santa Fé.- In this work, albeit extremely apologetic towards the freemasons (even trying to claim that the Catholic Church never actually condemned the Masonic Rites, which is as silly as one can get no matter how much «freethinking» one would like to employ to say otherwise: the condemnation of the Catholic Church to all masonic societies or anything similar is authoritative and beyond any possible doubt, with punishment of excommunication even as of today), De Gandía proves without any reasonable doubt that José de San Martín, Manuel Belgrano, Bernardino Rivadavia, Juan Manuel Pueyrredón, Carlos María de Alvear and other «Porteños» were all, in fact, loyal freemasons.

[2] Belgrano, Manuel (1910): «Memorias», page 103. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Museo Histórico Nacional.

[3] García Mellid, Atilio (1957): «Proceso al Liberalismo Argentino», page 91. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Theoría.

[4] White, Richard Alan (1989): «La Primera Revolución Popular en América Latina: Paraguay 1810-1840», pages 45-46. Asunción, Paraguay: Carlos Schauman Editor.

[5] Vittone, Luís (1975): «Dos Siglos de Política Nacional: Siglos XIX y XX», pages 22-23. Asunción, Paraguay: Imprenta Militar de la Dirección de Publicaciones de las Fuerzas Armadas.

Emilio Urdapilleta