Nation Building and Economic
Transformation in the Americas, 1800–1890
I0. Independence in Latin America, 1800–1830
A0. Roots of Revolution, to 1810
10. Wealthy colonial residents of Latin America were frustrated by the political and
economic power of colonial officials and angered by high taxes and imperial
monopolies. They were inspired by the Enlightenment thinkers and by the
examples of the American and French Revolutions.
20. The Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil, where King John VI maintained his
court for over a decade.
30. Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal and Spain in 1807 and 1808 led dissenters in
Venezuela, Mexico, and Bolivia to overthrow Spanish colonial officials in 1808–
1809. The Spanish authorities quickly reasserted control, but a new round of
revolutions began in 1810.
B0. Spanish South America, 1810–1825
10. A creole-led revolutionary junta declared independence in Venezuela in 1811.
Spanish authorities were able to rally free blacks and slaves to defend the
Spanish Empire because the junta’s leaders were interested primarily in pursuing
the interests of creole landholders.
20. Simón Bolívar emerged as the leader of the Venezuelan revolutionaries. Bolívar
used the force of his personality in order to attract new allies (including slaves
and free blacks) to his cause and to command the loyalty of his troops.
30. Bolívar defeated the Spanish armies in 1824 and tried to forge Venezuela,
Colombia, and Ecuador into a single nation. This project was a failure, as were
Bolívar’s other attempts to create a confederation of the former Spanish colonies.
40. Buenos Aires was another important center of revolutionary activity in Spanish
50. In 1816, after Ferdinand regained the Spanish throne, local junta leaders declared
independence as the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata.
60. The new government was weak and the region quickly descended into political
C0. Mexico, 1810–1823
10. In 1810, Mexico was Spain’s richest and most populous colony, but the
Amerindian population of central Mexico had suffered from dislocation due to
mining and commercial enterprises and from a cycle of crop failures and
20. On September 16, 1810 a parish priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged the
people to rise up against the Spanish authorities. The resulting violent rebellion
took place under the leadership of Hidalgo and then, after Hidalgo’s capture and
execution, under José María Morelos. Loyalist forces defeated the insurrection
and executed Morelos in 1815. 30. In 1821, news of a military revolt in Spain inspired Colonel Agustín de Iturbide
to declare Mexico’s independence with himself as emperor. In early 1823 the
army overthrew Iturbide and Mexico became a republic.
D0. Brazil, to 1831
10. King John VI of Portugal ruled his kingdom from Brazil until 1821, when unrest
in Spain and Portugal led him to return to Lisbon. King John’s son Pedro
remained in Brazil, where he ruled as regent until 1822, when he declared Brazil
to be an independent constitutional monarchy with himself as king.
20. Pedro’s liberal policies (including opposition to slavery) alienated the political
slave-holding elite, and he incurred heavy losses of men and money as he
attempted to control Uruguay by military force. Street demonstrations and
violence led Pedro I to abdicate in favor of his son, Pedro II, who reigned until
republicans overthrew him in 1889.
II0. The Problem of Order, 1825–1890
A0. Constitutional Experiments
10. Leaders in both the United States and in Latin America espoused
constitutionalism. In the United States, the colonists’ prior experience with
representative government contributed to the success of constitutionalism; in
Latin America, inexperience with popular politics contributed to the failure of
20. In Canada, Britain responded to demands for political reform by establishing
responsible government in each of the provinces in the 1840s. In 1867 the
provincial governments of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia
entered into a confederation to form the Dominion of Canada with a central
government in Ottawa.
30. In Latin America, lack of experience with elected legislatures and municipal
governments led the drafters of constitutions to experiment with untested and
impractical political institutions. Latin American nations also found it difficult to
define the political role of the church and to subordinate the army and its
prestigious leaders to civilian government.
B0. Personalist Leaders
10. Successful military leaders in both the United States and Latin America were
able to use their military reputations as the foundations of political power. Latin
America’s slow development of stable political institutions made personalist
politics much more influential than it was in the United States.
20. The first constitutions of nearly all the American republics excluded large
numbers of poor citizens from full political participation. This led to the rise of
populist leaders who articulated the desires of the excluded poor and who at
times used populist politics to undermine constitutional order and move toward
dictatorship. Andrew Jackson in the United States and José Antonio Páez in
Venezuela are two examples of populist politicians who challenged the
constitutional limits of their authority.
30. Páez declared Venezuela’s independence from Bolívar’s Gran Colombia in 1829
and ruled as president or dictator for the next eighteen years. Jackson, born in
humble circumstances, was a successful general who, as president, increased the
powers of the presidency at the expense of the Congress and the Supreme Court.
40. Personalist leaders like Páez and Jackson dominated national politics by
identifying with the common people, but in practice, they promoted the interests
of powerful property owners. Personalist leaders were common in both the
United States and Latin America, but in Latin America, the weaker constitutional
tradition, less protection of property rights, lower literacy levels, and less developed communications systems allowed personalist leaders to become
C0. The Threat of Regionalism
10. After independence the relatively weak central governments of the new nations
were often not able to prevent regional elites from leading secessionist
20. In Spanish America, all of the postindependence efforts to create large multistate
federations failed. Central America split off from Mexico in 1823 and then broke
up into five separate nations; Gran Colombia broke up into Venezuela,
Colombia, and Ecuador; and Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia declared their
independence from Argentina.
30. Regionalism threatened the United States when the issue of slavery divided the
nation, leading to the establishment of the Confederacy and the U.S. Civil War.
40. The Confederacy failed because of poor timing; the new states of the Western
Hemisphere were most vulnerable during the first decades after independence.
The Confederacy’s attempt to secede from the United States came when the
national government was well-established and strengthened by experience,
economic growth, and population growth.
D0. Foreign Interventions and Regional Wars
10. During the nineteenth century wars between Western Hemisphere nations and
invasions from the European powers often determined national borders, access to
natural resources, and control of markets. By the end of the nineteenth century,
the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile had successfully waged wars
against their neighbors and established themselves as regional powers.
20. European military intervention included the British attack on the United States in
the War of 1812, the United States’ war with Spain in 1898–1899, French and
English naval blockades of Argentina, an English naval blockade of Brazil, and
Spanish and French invasions of Mexico. When the French invaded Mexico in
1862 they ousted President Benito Juárez and established Maximilian Habsburg
as emperor. Juárez drove the French out in 1867; Maximilian was captured and
30. The United States defeated Mexico and forced the Mexican government to give
up Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado in 1848.
40. Chile defeated the combined forces of Peru and Bolivia in two wars (1836–1839
and 1879–1881). Chile gained nitrate mines and forced Bolivia to give up its
only outlet to the sea.
50. Argentina and Brazil fought over control of Uruguay in the 1820s, but finally
recognized Uruguayan independence. Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay then