Santa Elena de Uairen, November 5th, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- The original “Letter from Jamaica,” written by independence leader Simon Bolivar in 1815, has been discovered in Ecuador, announced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday.
The letter, titled “Response of a South American to a Gentleman of the Island,” analyzed the failures of the Second Republic and sought to attract European minds to the cause of South Americans struggling for independence from the Spanish Empire. Addressing an English Jamaican resident Henry Cullen, Bolivar seemed to be subtly warning that England should not to interfere against the cause of continental liberation.
The only text previously available had been a draft version from 1833 in English, preserved in the National Archive of Colombia, in Bogota.
The original copy was found by a historian in Ecuador’s public archives, and its authenticity has been confirmed by a Venezuelan commission, led by former government minister Pedro Calzadilla.
“It is a manuscript from the time in the handwriting of Pedro Briceño Mendez, who was the Liberator’s secretary in 1815,” affirmed Calzadilla during yesterday’s announcement.
The document includes a paragraph that was never translated to the English version, an omission which President Maduro believes to be of ideological significance.
“We need to appeal to [Ecuadorean] President Rafael Correa,” said Maduro. “2015 will be the bicentennial of this highly important and foundational document of our America,” he added, outlining government plans for the document to be exhibited during the UNASUR summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador, this December.
Often referred to as “The Liberator,” Bolivar lived from 1783 to 1830 and played both a military and visionary role in the independence of the territories that now make up present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, and his namesake; Bolivia.
Late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez held Bolivar in particular esteem, applying his writings to the present context by emphasizing Latin American unity as the key to resisting imperial, or modern-day neoliberal oppression. The resulting “Bolivarian Revolution” was rooted in the same ideals that moved Bolivar, namely interstate solidarity, equality and freedom.
The creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) as an alternative to the US Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was launched within this ideological framework.
Even before Chavez, but especially since, Bolivar is celebrated in his birth country through film, art, music and national holidays. His tutor, Simon Rodriguez, is equally revered in Venezuelan society as the man who introduced themes of social justice into the young Bolivar’s studies, sensitizing him to the plight of his countrymen beyond the walls of the wealthy Bolivar family compound. The hugely successful literacy campaign on Chavez’s early years was named in Rodriguez’s honor.
The following is a copy of the 1833 English copy preserved in Colombian archives, as the additional paragraph discovered in the original document has yet to be released.
Kingston, Jamaica, September 6, 1815
My Dear Sir:
With what a feeling of gratitude I read that passage in your letter in which you say to me: “I hope that the success which then followed Spanish arms may now turn in favor of their adversaries, the badly oppressed people of South America.” I take this hope as a prediction, if it is justice that determines man’s contests. Success will crown our efforts, because the destiny of America has been irrevocably decided; the tie that bound her to Spain has been severed. Only a concept maintained that tie and kept the parts of that immense monarchy together. That which formerly bound them now divides them. The hatred that the Peninsula has inspired in us is greater than the ocean between us. It would be easier to have the two continents meet than to reconcile the spirits of the two countries. The habit of obedience; a community of interest, of understanding, of religion; mutual goodwill; a tender regard for the birthplace and good name of our forefathers; in short, all that gave rise to our hopes, came to us from Spain. As a result there was born principle of affinity that seemed eternal, notwithstanding the misbehavior of our rulers which weakened that sympathy, or, rather, that bond enforced by the domination of their rule. At present the contrary attitude persists: we are threatened with the fear of death, dishonor, and every harm; there is nothing we have not suffered at the hands of that unnatural stepmother-Spain. The veil has been torn asunder. We have already seen the light, and it is not our desire to be thrust back into darkness…
The role of the inhabitants of the American hemisphere has for centuries been purely passive. Politically they were nonexistent. We are still in a position lower than slavery, and therefore it is more difficult for us to rise to the enjoyment of freedom…States are slaves because of either the nature or the misuse of their constitutions; a people is therefore enslaved when the government, by its nature or its vices, infringes on and usurps the rights of the citizen or subject. Applying these principles, we find that America was denied not only its freedom but even an active and effective tyranny. Let me explain. Under absolutism there are no recognized limits to the exercise of governmental powers. The will of the great sultan, khan, bey, and other despotic rulers is the supreme law, carried out more or less arbitrarily by the lesser pashas, khans, and satraps of Turkey and Persia, who have an organized system of oppression in which inferiors participate according to the authority vested in them. To them is entrusted the administration of civil, military, political, religious, and tax matters. But, after all is said and done, the rulers of Isfahan are Persians; the viziers of the Grand Turk are Turks; and the sultans of Tartary are Tartars.
How different is our situation! We have been harassed by a conduct which has not only deprived us of our rights but has kept us in a sort of permanent infancy with regard to public affairs. If we could at least have managed our domestic affairs and our internal administration, we could have acquainted ourselves with the processes and mechanics of public affairs. We should also have enjoyed a personal consideration, thereby commanding a certain unconscious respect from the people, which is so necessary to preserve amidst revolutions. That is why I say we have even been deprived of an active tyranny, since we have not been permitted to exercise its functions.
Americans today, and perhaps to a greater extent than ever before, who live within the Spanish system occupy a position in society no better than that of serfs destined for labor, or at best they have no more status than that of mere consumers. Yet even this status is surrounded with galling restrictions, such as being forbidden to grow European crops, or to store products which are royal monopolies, or to establish factories of a type the Peninsula itself does not possess. To this add the exclusive trading privileges, even in articles of prime necessity, and the barriers between American provinces, designed to prevent all exchange of trade, traffic, and understanding. In short, do you wish to know what our future held?–simply the cultivation of the fields of indigo, grain, coffee, sugar cane, cacao, and cotton; cattle raising on the broad plains; hunting wild game in the jungles; digging in the earth to mine its gold–but even these limitations could never satisfy the greed of Spain.
So negative was our existence that I can find nothing comparable in any other civilized society, examine as I may the entire history of time and the politics of all nations. Is it not an outrage and a violation of human rights to expect a land so splendidly endowed, so vast, rich, and populous, to remain merely passive?
As I have just explained, we were cut off and, as it were, removed from the world in relation to the science of government and administration of the state. We were never viceroys or governors, save in the rarest of instances; seldom archbishops and bishops; diplomats never; as military men, only subordinates; as nobles, without royal privileges. In brief, we were neither magistrates nor financiers and seldom merchants–all in flagrant contradiction to our institutions.
It is harder, Montesquieu has written, to release a nation from servitude than to enslave a free nation. This truth is proven by the annals of all times, which reveal that most free nations have been put under the yoke, but very few enslaved nations have recovered their liberty. Despite the convictions of history, South Americans have made efforts to obtain liberal, even perfect, institutions, doubtless out of that instinct to aspire to the greatest possible happiness, which, common to all men, is bound to follow in civil societies founded on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality. But are we capable of maintaining in proper balance the difficult charge of a republic? Is it conceivable that a newly emancipated people can soar to the heights of liberty, and, unlike Icarus, neither have its wings melt nor fall into an abyss? Such a marvel is inconceivable and without precedent. There is no reasonable probability to bolster our hopes.
More than anyone, I desire to see America fashioned into the greatest nation in the world, greatest not so much by virtue of her area and wealth as by her freedom and glory. Although I seek perfection for the government of my country, I cannot persuade myself that the New World can, at the moment, be organized as a great republic. Since it is impossible, I dare not desire it; yet much less do I desire to have all America a monarchy because this plan is not only impracticable but also impossible. Wrongs now existing could not be righted, and our emancipation would be fruitless. The American states need the care of paternal governments to heal the sores and wounds of despotism and war. . .
From the foregoing, we can draw these conclusions: The American provinces are fighting for their freedom, and they will ultimately succeed. Some provinces as a matter of course will form federal and some central republics; the larger areas will inevitably establish monarchies, some of which will fare so badly that they will disintegrate in either present or future revolutions. To consolidate a great monarchy will be no easy task, but it will be utterly impossible to consolidate a great republic.
When success is not assured, when the state is weak, and when results are distantly seen, all men hesitate; opinion is divided, passions rage, and the enemy fans these passions in order to win an easy victory because of them. As soon as we are strong and under the guidance of a liberal nation which will lend us her protection, we will achieve accord in cultivating the virtues and talents that lead to glory. Then will we march majestically toward that great prosperity for which South America is destined.