Adolfo Ballivian Coll was constitutional president of Bolivia between 1873 and 1874.
Born in La Paz, Adolfo Ballivian was the son of former Bolivian President and war hero Jose Ballivian. Widely traveled, he was a member of the armed forces, orator, composer, writer, and congressman. Having joined the army at the age of 16, he combatted under the command of his father against insurgent forces. Nonetheless, he was forced to flee Bolivia and lived abroad since 1847, when his father was toppled from power and exiled, first to Chile and then to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While traveling in Valparaiso, Chile, he met and married Carmen Grimwood Allende, of Quillota, Chile. Following his father's unexpected death in Brazil in 1855, Ballivian Coll returned to his native land. At first he attempted to rejoin the army and rose to the rank of Liutenant Colonel. Discouraged from continuing a military career , he was persuaded to run for Congress instead. There he first shone as a brilliant orator and gifted defender of constitutionalism and the rule of law. He also became a part-time journalist.
Adolfo Ballivian chose to absent himself again when in 1872 the president, General Agustin Morales, began to quarrel with the legislative and the media and hinted that he (Morales) may arrogate to himself supreme dictatorial powers. Ballivian was still in Europe when Congress and the Constitutionalist forces invoked his name as their official candidate in the 1873 elections, called hastily upon the assassination of President Morales. To his surprise, he was elected President overwhelmingly in what were possibly the cleanest elections up to that point in Bolivian history. Returning to Bolivia, he was sworn-in and presented with the presidential sash by his predecessor, Tomas Frias Ametller, on May 9, 1873. At that point Ballivian became the youngest Bolivian President to date, having followed precisely the oldest (Frias).
The young chief executive benefited from a short "honeymoon" period and then faced the customary obdurate, obstructionist opposition of factionalist politicians. It did not help that his short term in office coincided with a global fall in the price of silver, hitherto Bolivia's most important export alongside tin. It was in this context that Congress denied Ballivian's urgent request to buy new warships from Europe in order to re-equip the fledgeling, almost non-existent Bolivian Navy, in view of mounting challenges to Bolivian sovereignty in the Pacific by Chile. This congressional denial would be rued by Bolivians in subsequent years, when war finally erupted. Still, Ballivian managed to rule in a rational and enlightened manner, above all adhering to democratic precepts, evincing a strict respect for the rule of law, and allowing full personal freedoms and the operation of an unfettered press.
Tragically, President Adolfo Ballivian was stricken with stomach cancer within months of coming to power, and died at the age of 33 on February 14, 1874. He was constitutionally succeeded by Dr. Tomas Frias, the same man who had transferred power to him only 9 months earlier.
Grimwood, the paternal surname of Adolfo Ballivian's wife, and maternal surname of their children, is often misspelled Greenwood in genealogical resources such as FamilySearch.org
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