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Peru-Bolivian Confederation

The PeruBolivian Confederation (or Confederacy) was a short-lived confederated state that existed in South America between the years 1836 and 1839. Its first and only head of state, titled Supreme Protector, was the Bolivian president, Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz.

The Confederation was a loose union between the states of Peru and Bolivia. The Confederation fell apart after being defeated by a combined Chilean and Peruvian force in what is now known as the War of the Confederation.


During colonial times, the territory comprising the Audiencia de Charcas, also known as Alto Peru, now Bolivia, was an integral territory of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru from its creation. In 1776 it was administratively severed and became a province of the newly created Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. Still, for geographical and historical reasons, it always remained closer to Lima than to its administrative capital, Buenos Aires, in present-day Argentina. The PeruBolivian Confederation was the only effective attempt to unite them.

This territory achieved independence in 1826. At this point in time a union with Peru was widely supported. Nonetheless Simon Bolivar, who had liberated the territory and destroyed the last remnants of the Spanish army, did not approve of the union, and urged the creation of a separate and independent state. Thus the new Republic of Bolivia (named in his honor) was born, with Bolivar as its first president. Political unrest and turmoil forced Bolivar to return to Colombia very soon thereafter, leaving Antonio Jose de Sucre in charge. Nevertheless, the plan for reuniting Peru and Bolivia didn't fade away.

Chaos in Bolivia

Marshal Sucre was elected president of Bolivia in 1826, but political pressure from Peru and internal turmoil made it impossible for him to organize the new state. The very next year, an armed uprising in Chuquisaca was quickly used by Peru as an excuse to invade Bolivia. General Agustin Gamarra marched with an army of nearly 5,000 Peruvian soldiers. He had two clear orders: force the Colombian army to withdraw and promote the creation of a new constitution for that country.

The Peruvian Army entered La Paz, Bolivia on May 28, 1828. Under these circumstances, Sucre was forced to resign in September, leaving the country forever. Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz was elected president of Bolivia in 1829 to replace him, a position that he would hold for the next ten years. Both Gamarra and Santa Cruz agreed that the separation of Peru and Bolivia was a mistake that should be corrected. Their plan for a federation, or at least a confederation, was accepted by the legislative branches of both countries, but they personally disagreed on other issues. Gamarra was in favor of a Peruvian-led Union, while Santa Cruz wanted to give more political power to Bolivia.

War with Gran Colombia

Bolivar did not agree with either Gamarra or Santa Cruz, since the Gran Colombia was already his own project of federation to unite most of the former Spanish colonies. Furious about the news in Bolivia, he resolved to declare war against Peru on June 3, 1828. Marshal Sucre was appointed commander of the Colombian army but was soon afterwards murdered. After Bolivar's death in 1830, the Colombian troops withdrew, and the war came to an end.

During the war, and with the Peruvian army holding off the Colombian offensive, Gamarra deposed Peruvian President Jose de la Mar and proclaimed himself the new head of state, titled president. A parliament was assembled, and with a majority of the members in favor of his government, he was able to legalize his position. His rule was difficult, since armed revolts all around the country challenged his authority.

Anarchy in Peru

A new parliament was formed in 1833, but this time it was hostile towards Gamarra. Since his term as president was already over and there was no time to call for elections, it was resolved to turn the presidency over to General Luis Orbegoso. Gamarra did not recognize the new government, and prepared himself to challenge Orbegoso. However, popular opinion and most of the army rallied against him, and he was frustrated in his effort to seize power again.

Bolivian Aid

General Orbegoso also had to deal with General Felipe Salaverry, who rebelled and overthrew him in 1835. Orbegoso, however, did not lose the support of southern Peru and called in to his help the president of Bolivia. It was the opportunity that Marshal Santa Cruz, himself a former president of Peru, was waiting for. The Bolivian army promptly proceeded to invade Peru.

With Bolivian help, General Orbegoso quickly regained his leadership throughout the country and had Salaverry executed. As a reward for the support he had received from Santa Cruz, he agreed to the formation of the new PeruBolivian Confederation. Santa Cruz assumed the supreme protectorship of the confederation and Orbegoso maintained only the presidency of the newly created Nor-Peruvian state.

Birth of the Confederation

Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz promoted an ambitious project to reunite these two territories on the basis of a confederacy. The PeruBolivian Confederation was a plan that attempted to reunite the Alto Peru and Bajo Peru into a single political and economic entity. This integration was based not only on historical, cultural and ethnic reasons, but also on sound economic motives. The union was trying to restore the ancient commercial routes and promote a policy of open markets.

In Peru, he began by having an assembly proclaim on March 17, 1836 the Republic of South Peru, followed on August 11, 1836 by a similar proclamation of the Republic of North Peru. In each case he became the new state's supreme protector (see protector (title) for similar titles), a president with full powers.

After the preceding period of intense political unrest, the PeruBolivian Confederation was proclaimed on October 28, 1836. Marshal Santa Cruz became its supreme protector, as well as supreme protector of each of the Peruvian states and president of the Bolivian Republic. The new confederation was thus composed of three states: North-Peru, South-Peru and Bolivia, and its capital was the city of Tacna, in southern Peru. The creation of this new nation was very well received in the south of Peru, since this area was able to benefit fully from the lifting of the previous commercial restrictions, but was bitterly resented by the elite of Lima and the north of Peru, which had traditionally benefitted from a close commercial relationship with Chile.

Structure of the Confederation

In each of the Confederation states there was, from 1837 until the dissolution, a provisional president under Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz, who was styled the supreme protector and was also president of Bolivia.


*President: General Jose Miguel de Velasco

North Peru

*First President: General Luis Orbegoso He declared secession of the Nor-Peruvian Republic from the Peru-Bolivian Confederation on July 30, 1838 but continued as Provisional President until September 1, 1838.

*Second President: General Jose de la Riva Aguero

South Peru

*First President: General Ramon Herrera Rodado (b. 1799 - d. 1882)

*Second President: Juan Pio de Tristan y Moscoso (b. 1773 - d. 1859)

Conflicts and the international situation

However, the Confederation generated resistance among several groups in both countries, which resented the dilution of national identities, and also among neighbouring countries. An important number of Peruvian politicians opposed to the idea of the Confederation fled to Chile, where they received support, and this led to the War of the Confederation.

The creation of the PeruBolivian Confederation by Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz caused great alarm in the neighbouring countries. The potential power of this confederation aroused the opposition of Argentina and, above all, Chile, due not only to its great territorial expanse but also to the perceived threat that such a rich state signified for the area. Diego Portales, arguably the most important Chilean statesman of the XIX century, who at the time was the power behind president Jose Joaquin Prieto, was very concerned that the new Confederation would break the regional balance of power and even be a threat to Chilean independence, and so became immediately its enemy.

But that was just one of the reasons behind the war. On a deeper level, both countries were in a heated competition for the control of the commercial routes on the Pacific; and for the Chileans specially, whose relations with independent Peru had already been strained by economic problems centering on rivalry between their ports of Callao and Valparaiso. For the north-Peruvians also, the Confederation was viewed as a most serious threat to their economic interests.

The direct conflict between the Confederation and Chile started with a tariff disagreement, and continued when former Chilean president General Ramon Freire managed to obtain a small subsidy from the Confederation government to equip a frigate and try to wrestle power from the Prieto administration. After the failure of the expedition, the Chilean government became openly hostile towards the Confederation.

Raid on Callao and Chilean declaration of war

After the Freire expedition, Portales decided to take the offensive and staged a surprise raid to prevent further interference by the Confederation government in Chilean internal affairs. He ordered a raid on the Confederate fleet that was stationed in the port of Callao. During a silent attack on the night of August 21, 1836, the Chileans managed to capture three confederate ships: the Santa Cruz, Arequipeno and Peruviana.

Instead of immediately going to war, Marshal Santa Cruz tried to negotiate with Chile. The Chilean Congress sent Mariano Egana as plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty based on several points: the payments of the outstanding international debts owed by Peru to Chile, the limitation of the outstanding armies, commercial agreements, indemnization to Chile for the Freire expedition, and the dissolution of the Confederation. Santa Cruz agreed to everything but the dissolution. Chile responded by declaring war on December 28, 1836.

International situation and Argentine declaration of war

The international situation was not favorable to the Chilean interests. Marshal Santa Cruz and the Confederation had been diplomatically recognized by the principal world powers with interests in the region , while the Chilean allies (Argentina and Ecuador) had decided to remain neutral in the conflict.

Nonetheless, the continued interference of Santa Cruz in Argentina's internal affairs moved this country also to declare war, on May 9, 1837. Even though Chile and Argentina were acting against the same perceived threat, both countries went to war separately and were going to act separately during the whole course of it. In 1837 Santa Cruz's forces defeated an Argentine army sent to topple him. To aggravate further the Chilean position, Chilean public opinion was totally opposed to a war they did not understand.

Assassination of Portales

The Chilean government, in order to bolster its standing, immediately imposed martial law, asking for (and obtaining) extraordinary legislative powers from Congress. Early in 1837 a Court Martial Law was approved, and all citizens became subject to court martial for the duration of the war. The opposition to the Prieto administration immediately accused Portales of tyranny, and started a heated press campaign against him personally and the unpopular war in general.

Political and public opposition to the war immediately affected the army, fresh from the purges of the civil war of 1830. On June 4, 1837, Colonel Jose Antonio Vidaurre, commander of the Maipo regiment, captured and imprisoned Portales while he was reviewing troops at the army barracks in Quillota. He immediately proceeded to attack Valparaiso on the mistaken belief that public opinion opposed to the war would support him and topple the government. Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, in charge of the defense of Valparaiso, defeated him right outside the port. Captain Santiago Florin, who was in charge of Portales, had him shot when he heard of the news, on June 6, 1837. Most of the conspirators were subsequently captured and executed. This murder was perceived as having been orchestrated by Marshal Santa Cruz and turned the tide of public opinion. The war became a holy cause and Portales its martyr.

Aftermath and dissolution

Invested with considerable powers, Santa Cruz endeavoured to establish in Peru the same type of authoritarian order he had imposed in Bolivia. He issued a Civil Code, a Penal Code, a Trade Regulation and a Customs Regulation, and reorganized tax collection procedures to allow an increase in state revenues while restraining expenditures.

The first Chilean military expedition against Santa Cruz, led by Vice Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, failed and had to submit to the signature of the Treaty of Paucarpata, on November 17, 1837. The Chilean government then organized a second expedition, which defeated the Supreme Protector at the Battle of Yungay on January 20, 1839 and forced the dissolution of the Confederation. On August 25, 1839 General Agustin Gamarra, after assuming the presidency of Peru, officially declared the dissolution of the Confederation and of the merging of the Nor and Sud-Peruvian Republics into one to be called again Peru, separate from Bolivia.

The Confederate defeat led to the exile of Santa Cruz, first to Guayaquil, in Ecuador, then to Chile, and finally to Europe, where he died.

See also

War of the Confederation

Republic of Great Colombia - Bolivar's Federation

United Provinces of Central America - another federal state on the American continent that underwent a similar fate.

Sources and references


WorldStatesmen- under Peru

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