1859-1862 Colombian Civil War

In 1810 an insurrection against the government of Spain began. In 1819 New Granada and Venezuela were united, Ecuador joining the union two years later. The country thus formed was called the Republic of Colombia. The efforts of Spain to retain these colonies ceased in 1824. During the early years of independence Latin America has little history worth remembering in detail. A brilliant South American has summed up these years as follows: "The political comedy is repeated periodically: a revolution, a dictator; a program of national restoration, followed by another revolution, another dictator, etc." Anarchy led to dictatorships, and these in turn provoked revolutions.

Six years later, in 1830, the Colombian union was dissolved, Venezuela and Ecuador having withdrawn ; and the republic of New Granada was established in 1831, its territory corresponding to that of the present republic of Colombia. A constitution was formulated in 1832 and General Santander became the first president. At the conclusion of the administration of Santander, in 1836, an absolute obligarchy was established in which the clergy were given large influence. In 1841 the Jesuits were restored and the Liberal clauses of the constitution were disregarded. For the first twenty years of Colombian independence the Conservative party was in power, and during this period the work of organization was performed.

New Granada was at first divided into five departments, namely : Boyacá, Cauca, Cundinamarca, the Isthmus, and Magdalena. Lack of coherence caused a civil war in 1840. In 1840 the provinces of Panama and Veraguas seceded from New Granada, but so brief and futile was the separation that history simply records the departure and return. Panamá and Veragua unsuccessfully sought independence in 1841.

Following the period of conservative control came a liberal government. From 1849 to 1857 the Liberal party controlled the government. A new constitution was formed in 1853, in which the liberty of the press, and suffrage, as well as the separation of the church and state, were guaranteed. Following the adoption of this constitution the Jesuits were expelled, slavery abolished, and other reforms accomplished. In 1853 the right was granted to the departments to elect their governors by popular vote, and the powers of the provincial legislative bodies were increased. New political divisions were organized soon afterward - Panamá, etc. These claimed, and taught the older departments to claim, the privileges of semi-independent states. In 1857 Panama, availing herself of a new provision of the Central Constitution, assumed such quasi-independence as was consistent with a Federal connection with the Central Government-precisely and no whit more. Even that quasi-independence under a Federal relationship lasted only four years.

A civil war, beginning in 1859, resulted in a triumph for the liberal (States' Rights) party. Under the constitution of 1863 the name Colombia was reverted to, the official title being United States of Colombia. Nine sovereign states were formed, each authorized to maintain its own military forces without restriction, and to nullify the federal laws. Insurrections made steady progress impossible until a reasonable degree of federal control was asserted.

A new constitution was adopted in 1886. By this the states were reduced to departments, with governors appointed by the president of the republic, and legislative assemblies elected by the people. The president's term of office was extended from two to six years. Colombia passed from the extreme of a loose federation to that of a centralized republic. Subsequent revolutions have shown the desire of the Liberals to return to the old irresponsibility.

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