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The Ideology of the American Revolutions in Comparative Perspective

Joshua Simon Yale University

In the fifty years comprised by the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth, movements from Boston to Buenos Aires criticized, fought, and ultimately overthrew all but a few insular remnants of the European empires that had ruled the New World for more than three centuries, creating independent states to govern in their stead. While these American Revolutions emerged from distinctive contexts and produced divergent results, they also present striking and under-studied similarities, particularly in their intellectual dimensions. Yet when scholars venture beyond the borders of a single-country study, they tend to place the American Revolutions in problematic categories bourgeois revolutions, democratic revolutions, national-liberation movements or treat them as moments in a period described as a trans-Atlantic or even global age of revolution. In this paper I propose an alternative interpretation, meant to highlight a feature that simultaneously unites the American Revolutions and distinguishes them from both contemporary European anti-monarchical movements and later Asian and African anticolonial movements, taking as a point of departure the fact that the American Revolutions were Creole Revolutions, formed and led by the American-born descendents of European colonists. This perspective, I show, opens the way to new insights and better understanding of the distinctive contradictions in the ideology of the American Revolutions. Comparing Revolutions The cases we most often choose for comparison with the American Revolutions reveal much about how we understand the fundamental issues at stake in the movements that brought an end to European domination of the New World. At present, two interpretations predominate, and both tend to produce comparisons between American and

non-American revolutions rather than comparisons amongst the American Revolutions. The first describes the American Revolutions as expressions of an incipient nationalism a sense of colonial identity and a related political program which formed over the course of centuries and had crystallized in the final decades of imperial rule.1 Americans came to think of themselves as Peruvians or Virginians rather than as Spaniards or Britons, and then sought independence for these administrative subunits in order to bring sovereignty into alignment with their new national identities. The incipient nationalism thesis has long governed scholarship on American independence; the clearest evidence of its influence is a literature that even today remains for the most part organized according to national boundaries. There are thousands of studies devoted to the independence of Chile, or Mexico, for example, and most surveys that promise more general coverage are in fact comprised of separate chapters dedicated to individual countries experiences.2 In the literature on the independence of the United States, a related commitment to the notion of American exceptionalism produces the same scholarly balkanization.3 A more interesting version of the incipient nationalism thesis can be found in studies that compare the independence of the Americas with twentieth century anti-colonial movements in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Like these later uprisings of imperial peripheries, the American Revolutions threw off foreign rule, rectifying the original injustice of European conquest and creating a model of national liberation which subsequent freedom fighters would follow. The Creole protagonists of the American Revolutions are pioneers of nationalist political thinking, and their declarations of independence early works in what would become a genre unto itself.4 These studies advance upon their isolationist forbearers, but they suffer from the same weakness. The incipient nationalism thesis, in either guise, rests on a patently teleological assumption: that even before the wars of independence began, national sentiments or colonial identities existed in the Americas
For the term incipient nationalism and the best-known contemporary exposition of this thesis, see: John Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions, 1808-1826, 2nd Edition (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1973), 2437. See also the essays assembled in: Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden, eds., Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). 2 For a recent example, see: Patricia Galeana, ed., Historia Comparada de las Amricas: Sus Procesos Independentistas (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 2010). 3 For a critique, see: Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996). 4 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Revised Edition (London: Verso, 1991), 47-65; and David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007).

which corresponded to states that would only emerge in the course of the nineteenth century. Only by accepting this premise could one conclude that the emergence of these states was the meaning of the American Revolutions. But it has proven difficult to document, and in recent decades, as a result, historians of Spanish America have rejected the incipient nationalism thesis,5 as well as related attempts to draw comparisons between American independence and later struggles for national liberation.6 In the United States, of course, belief in American exceptionalism has proven more durable, and the tendency to study the U.S. experience in isolation persists unabated. The other major interpretation of the American Revolutions places the independence movements in an age of revolution a wave of anti-monarchical agitation that crested with the French Revolution.7 Unlike the incipient nationalism thesis, this view can actually draw upon substantial documentary support. John Adams, of Massachusetts, for example, famously remarked that The last twenty-five years of the last century, and the first fifteen years of this, may be called the age of revolutions and constitutions, referring to his own countrys independence movement, two revolutions in Holland, and the tremblemens de terre [sic.] in France.8 Notably, Adams dismissed early instances of revolutionary agitation in South America as artificial, but with time Spanish Americans would also project themselves into the age of revolutions, often praising the French Revolutions principles of popular sovereignty and the rights of man even as they disparaged its anarchy and atheism.9

See: Jaime E. Rodrguez O. The Independence of Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Toms Prez Vejo, Elega Criolla: Una Reinterpretacin de las Guerras de Independencia Hispano Americanas (Mexico City: Tusquets, 2010). 6 See: Claudio Lomnitz Nationalism as a Practical System: Benedict Andersons Theory of Nationalism from the Vantage Point of Spanish America in Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 3-34; Eric Van Young, The Limits of Atlantic-World Nationalism in a Revolutionary Age: Imagined Communities and Lived Communities in Mexico, 1810-1821 in Esherick, Kayali, and Van Young, eds. Empire to Nation, 35-67; and the essays collected in Sara Castro-Klarn and John Charles Chasteen, eds., Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). 7 Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 (London: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1962). 8 John Adams to James Lloyd, Quincy, 30 March 1815 in Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States 10 Vols. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856), X, 149. For Americans view of the French Revolution, and vice-versa, see: Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 303-373. 9 See: Franois-Xavier Guerra, Revolucin Francesa y Revoluciones Hispnicas: Una Relacin Compleja in Modernidad e Independencias: Ensayos Sobre Las Revoluciones Hispnicas Revised and Expanded Edition (Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro, 2009), 35-77.

Prominent European observers drew the same comparisons, initiating a long history for the age of revolutions thesis in political philosophy.10 More recently, the notion that fundamentally similar matters were at stake in the French and American revolutions has figured in comparative-historical sociology and political history, where the American and French Revolutions are classified as bourgeois or democratic revolutions.11 Later, intellectual historians brought a new level of refinement to the age of revolutions thesis, carefully tracing out lines of ideational influence from the Glorious Revolution in England to the independence movement in British North America and from the crisis of the Spanish monarchy and the succeeding Liberal Revolution of 1808-10 to Spanish America.12 Most recently, a surge of interest in Atlantic and Global history has scholars describing the Seismic waves [that] traveled through the Atlantic world after 1775, linking uprisings on either side.13 Thus, through several waves of historiographic revision, expansions and contractions of comparative frameworks, and rediscoveries of neglected conceptual lineages, a scholarly inclination to compare the American Revolutions to one or another European revolution, rather than to other revolutions in the Americas has persisted. The problem with this approach is not teleology but de-emphasis: in stressing the analogy of contentious events in England, France, or Spain with the independence of the Americas, the age of revolutions thesis tends to play down the importance of a feature that the American Revolutions share but which contemporary European ones do not, namely,
Classic comparisons appear in Edmund Burkes 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France, Jeremy Benthams 1793 Emancipate Your Colonies!, Alexis de Tocquevilles 1835 Democracy in America, and Hannah Arendts 1963 On Revolution. 11 Barrington Moore, Jr., The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966); and R.R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolutions: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800 2 Vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959 and 1964). For more contemporary comments on this comparison in a sociological vein, see also: Jaime E. Rodrguez O., Two Revolutions: France 1789 and Mexico 1810 The Americas, Vol. 47, No. 2 (October, 1990), 161-176 and Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1992), 3-8. 12 For the British-American connection see, especially: Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Enlarged Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); and Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972). For the Spanish-American connection see: Guerra, Modernidad y Independencias; Rodrguez, Independence of Spanish America; and Roberto Brea, El Primer Liberalismo Espaol y los Procesos de Emancipacin de Amrica, 1808-1824: Una Revisin Historiogrfica del Liberalismo Hispnico (Mexico City: El Colegio de Mxico, 2006). 13 Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 158. See also: Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996); John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); and the essays collected in David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds., The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c. 1760-1840 (Houndsmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).

that they were anti-imperial rebellions led by colonists that understood themselves and their rebellions as such. Gordon Woods magisterial intellectual history of the United States early republican period insists at several points that the British North American Revolution was no simple colonial rebellion against English imperialism, each time emphasizing the relatively greater importance of republican ideals in the founders motivations.14 Jaime Rodrguez goes even further, protesting that Spanish America was not a colony of Spain, nor Spain itself an Empire, and that consequently the Spanish American revolutions are better understood as a civil war, a conflict over the future of the Spanish monarchy, than an anti-colonial or anti-imperial conflict.15 Neither claim is wrong; indeed, both offer an important insight. The American Revolutions did not seek to end British or Spanish rule because it was foreign. The spokesmen of these movements initially demanded nothing more than to be recognized as Britons and Spaniards, and to have the rights they bore as Britons and Spaniards respected by metropolitan governments. They did not even seek independence until repeated demands for reforms of the institutions of European rule had been refused a problematic fact for the incipient nationalism thesis. But, in correcting this misperception both Wood and Rodrguez go too far, obscuring the fundamentally imperial context of the conflicts: American colonists fought to protect rights threatened by policies that, by their lights, unjustly distinguished between Britons or Spaniards born on the British Isles or the Iberian Peninsula and those born in the Americas, favoring the former by marginalizing the latter. This center-periphery dynamic critically distinguishes the American Revolutions from other signal events in the age of revolution, though it does not create an analogy with later national liberation movements. A European colonists demand for recognition in the metropole is different from the struggle of an indigenous population seeking to throw off foreign rule. The problems inherent in both major interpretations of the American Revolutions call for a new interpretation, and different set of comparisons; the most apt comparative framework would be limited to the Americas themselves, and within the Americas, to those revolutions formed and led by Creoles, the European-descended,

Wood Creation of the American Republic, 91; 128 (The American Revolution was not simply a war for independence, for freedom from colonial bondage); and 395 (The American Revolution represented much more than a colonial rebellion). 15 Rodrguez, Independence of Spanish America, xii; 107-168.

American-born settler-elite of the colonies.16 The concept of the Creole Revolution, which I develop below, provides a better account of the meaning of American independence, and an explanation of its protagonists political thought. The importance of the American Revolutions Creole leadership has not gone unnoticed. A closely-related concept settler colonialism has often been employed to describe New World societies after the conquest, and a recent, important work has placed settlerism, that is, settlers characteristic political ideas, at the heart of the British North American independence movement.17 However, the study of settler colonialism has been largely confined to the former British Empire, producing stimulating comparisons of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but too often implicitly or explicitly excluding Latin America. Thus, I prefer the Spanish term Creole, which has been used to describe the settler-colonist leadership of Spanish American independence,18 though it has almost no standing in the United States. I am aware of only one work Benedict Andersons Imagined Communities that has collectively described the American Revolutions as Creole Revolutions.19 Andersons great insight was to connect the idiosyncrasies of the Creoles social position to the idiosyncrasies of their political thinking. Though some of his conclusions have been criticized,20 and with justice, here I build on his insight, using the concept of the Creole Revolution to understand the ideology of American independence. Ideology and the American Creoles It is worth clarifying exactly what is intended by the term ideology, which even in the limited realm of scholarly writing is used quite diversely.21 Throughout this work, I
I should note that the term Creole here departs from current English usage, where it denotes the nonindigenous population and culture of the Caribbean and French Louisiana. The sense I intend is that of the Spanish criollo, which describes persons of Spanish descent born in the Americas, distinguishing them from both peninsulares, or Spaniards born on the Iberian peninsula, and from Americans of either African or indigenous descent. Thus, the Haitian Revolution was not a Creole Revolution, in this sense, and it will not feature in this discussion. Nor will I consider Brazilian or Canadian independence, although both processes were dominated by Creoles, because neither was revolutionary. 17 Aziz Rana, The Two Faces of American Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010). See also: Louis Hartz, The Founding of New Societies: Studies in the History of the United States, Latin America, South Africa, Canada, and Australia (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1964); and James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo World, 1783-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 18 See, especially, the work of the Venezuelan historian Germn Carrera Damas: Venezuela: Proyecto Nacional y Poder Social (Barcelona: Editorial Crtica, 1986); and De la Dificultad de ser Criollo (Caracas: Grijalbo, 1993). 19 In the fourth chapter, titled Creole Pioneers, 47-65. 20 See cites above, note 6. 21 See: Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction Updated Edition (London: Verso, 2007) for a useful discussion of the history of the term.

employ the term to convey a particular understanding of the relation between social reality and political thought. In 1845, Karl Marx famously asserted that morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and its corresponding forms of consciousness reflect the material activity and the material intercourse of men, by which he meant that individuals ideas reflect their place in the process of economic production. From this premise, Marx derived a method for understanding the history of political thought: all struggles within the State, the struggle between democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, the struggle for the franchise, etc., etc., are merely the illusory forms in which the real struggles of the different classes are fought out among one another.22 By describing the political thought of the American Revolutions as an ideology, then, I mean to suggest that it must be understood as the product of a class struggle, whose participants seek to advance the interests of [their own] particular party or class when they engage in theoretical argument and institutional design.23 Three qualifications are necessary, however, to apply this concept of ideology to the American Revolutions, and more specifically to the political thought of their Creole protagonists. First, and most fundamentally, in order to develop a workable conception of class struggle relevant to the American Revolutions, we must replace the traditional Marxian schema of classes determined by their relations to the means of production with a more expansive understanding, in which other axes of domination produce conflicts and ideological disagreement.24 Here I focus on the social divisions caused by the political institutions of European imperialism in the Americas, which divided Creoles, on the one hand, from fellow Europeans born in Europe, and on the other hand, from fellow

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845. Available at german-ideology, accessed July 12, 2011. 23 Richard Ashcraft Political Theory and the Problem of Ideology The Journal of Politics, Vol. 42, No. 3 (August, 1980), 692. For additional considerations of the concept of ideology, as it applies to the study of the history of political thought, see Ellen Meiksins Wood and Neal Wood, Socrates and Democracy: A Reply to Gregory Vlastos Political Theory Vol. 14, No. 1 (February, 1986), 55-82; and Michael Freeden, Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach (Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1996). 24 I would not wish to deny a potential objection, with a solid basis in Marxist analyses of imperialism, that the axes of domination I will here describe as relevant to the American Revolutions themselves reflect the conflict of classes determined by their relation to the means of production. Rather, I have simply found it necessary to set this question of determination in the last instance aside. I concede that this shift from a focus on relations of exploitation to a more general notion of domination may entail the loss of some theoretical power, for example, to claim that class-interests are objective. See: Frank Parkin, Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979) and Erik Olin Wright, The Shadow of Exploitation in Weber's Class Analysis American Sociological Review, Vol. 67, No. 6 (December, 2002), 832-853.

Americans of African or indigenous descent.25 These institutions can helpfully be divided into three constitutions mostly unwritten arrangements of political power that organized and divided authority (1) within the metropole, (2) within the colonies, and (3) between the metropole and the colonies.26 The overlapping jurisdictions of these three constitutions allotted different places to nobility and commoners within metropolitan societies, to European, African, Indigenous, and mixed-race communities within colonial societies, and to the European- and American-born within the empires generally. Consequently, the occupants of each social position developed divergent and sometimes conflictual interests in the preservation, modification, or destruction of one or more of these three constitutions. The ideology of Creole Revolution reflects the attempts by occupants of one such social position Europeans born in the Americas to realize their own, distinctive interests. This leads us to a second necessary qualification. Marx, for the most part, depicted class-relations in polarized, binary terms: master and slave, lord and serf, bourgeois and proletarian. In his conception, any given individual belongs to one, and only one such class, and class struggle and ideological conflict result from or reflect the opposed interests of individuals within each class.27 Applying this framework, modified according to the terms above, to the imperial societies that form the subject of this study would yield a polarized binary colonizer and colonized, say incapable of accommodating the middling position of the American Creoles, who constituted simultaneously a colonial community and an upper class,28 and thus fail to fit neatly into either category. Over the more than three hundred-year-long course of European rule in the Americas, the specific institutions governing the internal socio-racial hierarchy of the colonies took on a range of forms, from the neo-feudal institutions of encomienda and

I should note that the use of the term Creole here departs from current English usage, where it denotes the non-indigenous population and culture of the Caribbean and French Louisiana. The sense I intend is that of the Spanish criollo, which describes persons of Spanish descent born in the Americas, distinguishing them from both peninsulares, or Spaniards born on the Iberian peninsula, and from Americans of either African or indigenous descent. One important implication of this definition is that the Haitian Revolution, led by free and enslaved people of color, was not a Creole Revolution, in this sense, and will not feature in this dissertation. 26 Jack P. Greene, Peripheries and Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Polities of the British Empire and the United State, 1607-1788 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 67-8. 27 I say for the most part because at times, Marxs conception of classes particularly the petite bourgeoisie appears to depart from this more general tendency. See: Eagleton, Ideology, 101. 28 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Revised Edition (London: Verso, 1991), 58.

repartimiento, to chattel slavery, indentured servitude, and debt peonage. Spanish settlers in the Americas were exempted from paying tributes imposed upon indigenous communities, organized as repblicas de indios, a form of indirect rule. Meanwhile, in the British colonies, race stood alongside wealth and male gender as a qualification for posts in municipal and regional administrative offices, membership in trade associations, and admission to schools and universities. In both metropoles colonies, a concept of nobility based fundamentally on the notion of purity of blood arose in contrast to one which reserved the title and status of nobles to an inevitably small number of families whose members had in the economic system and in society very clearly defined functions.29 Thus, to return to our three constitutions, it can be said that in general, the colonial constitutions established Creole domination of indigenous, African, and mixed-race Americans. At the same time, the constitutions governing relations between the imperial metropoles and their colonies placed all Americans, Creoles included, in an ambiguous position with respect to Europeans. The English and Spanish empires were, constitutionally, composite monarchies assemblages of territories united by a common sovereign in the person of the king.30 This implied a fundamental equality between the residents of territories in the New World and the Old between, for example Valencianos and Novohispanos and a significant autonomy to the colonies with respect to their internal affairs, even while the metropole exercised traditional sovereign prerogatives with respect to external affairs. However, this distinction between internal and external affairs was the site of nearcontinuous contestation in both the English and Spanish Americas, virtually from the moment the empires were established.31 Inhabitants of the colonies conceded their monarchs right to direct the empires foreign policy and to regulate their industry and trade,
Tulio Halpern-Donghi, Politics, Economics, and Society in Argentina in the Revolutionary Period Trans. By Richard Southern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 42. For a useful comparative discussion of race in the American empires, see Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World, passim and particularly 57-87, 153-83. Frank Tannenbaums classic Slave and Citizen (New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 1946) is still insightful on the different conceptions of race and slavery in the British and Spanish Americas. On the lasting legacies of the encomienda, see: James Lockhart, Encomienda and Hacienda: The Evolution of the Great Estate in the Spanish Indies. The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 49, No. 3 (August, 1969), 411-429. For a recent study of racial domination in British North American colonialism, and the independent United States, see: Rana, Two Faces of American Freedom. 30 John H. Elliott, A Europe of Composite Monarchies Past and Present, No. 137, (Nov., 1992), 48-71. 31 See: Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949) for an account of an early conflict spurred by the New Laws of 1542 and John L. Phelan, The People and the King: The Comunero Revolution in Colombia, 1781 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978) for a late one. For British North America, see Greene, Center and Periphery; and Alison L. LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).

with the understanding that both prerogatives would be exercised in the interest of the common good. But they protested measures that appeared to deny them the rights of subjects or which sacrificed colonial interests to those of the metropole.32 These conflicts placed Creoles in a delicate position: their dependency upon imperial authority for defense against both domestic and foreign threats forced them to endure a degree of subordination vis--vis their metropolitan counterparts. All too often they saw choice vacancies in the ecclesiastical, military, and administrative hierarchies of the colonies filled by new arrivals from the imperial center, and felt that their lack of proximity to the crown produced more malign than benign neglect. Over the course of the eighteenth century, a variety of factors converged to heighten Creoles unease. The Spanish Crown, worn by a new family since the turn of the century, embarked upon a program of centralization known as the Bourbon Reforms.33 In an effort to increase the contributions of the colonies to the royal treasury, the Bourbons reorganized administrative oversight of agriculture, industry, trade, and tax collection, creating new territorial divisions and installing an additional layer of bureaucracy in their overseas possessions. A policy of excluding Americans from posts in the audiencias, a sort of supreme judicial and administrative court with broad territorial competence, was adopted, decreasing Creoles local autonomy.34 In general, the Bourbons rejected the Habsburg concept of federated kingdoms, insisting instead upon a united and centralized Spain ruling over its overseas possessions.35 The British, too, were seized by a reformist impulse: following their triumphant, but expensive, engagement with France and Spain in the Seven Years War, an overseas ministry under George Grenville sought to impose a greater share of the empires
The British and Spanish empires are often presented, including by their direct observers, as diametricallyopposed forms of rule, the former a model of decentralization and the latter of absolutism. There is, naturally, a portion of truth in this stereotype, but it is based on the distortions of the Black Legend, and, as we will see in due course, by ideologists of Spanish American independence, who sought to present their experience disadvantageously by comparison with the British one, for a variety of purposes. In fact, both British and Spanish rule in the Americas was mediated by significant local authority, with officials of both empires forced to rely upon Americans compliance in carrying out the Crowns policies. For the British-American case, see: Greene, Center and Periphery, 7-54; for Spanish America, see: Franois-Xavier Guerra, La Modernidad Absolutista in Modernidad e Independencias: Ensayos Sobre Las Revoluciones Hispnicas Revised and Expanded Edition (Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro, 2009), 78-112. For comparisons, see: Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World, passim. 33 See: John Lynch, Bourbon Spain, 1700-1808 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Press, 1989); and Jaime E. Rodrguez O. The Independence of Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 19-35. 34 Mark A. Burkholder and D. S. Chandler, From Impotence to Authority: The Spanish Crown and the American Audiencias, 1687-1808 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977). 35Rodrguez, Independence of Spanish America, 19; emphasis in the original.


expenses on colonial defense on Americans, adopting a number of measures calculated to restrict [the colonies] scope for economic and political activity: increased customs controls and enforcement by the Royal Navy, limitations on settlement west of the Appalachians, declarations clarifying the prerogatives of the colonial assemblies, and the permanent stationing of some 7,500 troops in the colonies.36 These modifications to the imperial constitutions coincided with a series of pseudoscientific publications that cast the Americas in a distinctly negative light. The French naturalist Georges-Louis Le Clerc, Comte de Buffon claimed, in a work published at midcentury, that there were fewer animals species in the New World than the Old, and that these were smaller, weaker, and less sexually potent than their Old World counterparts. He attributed this difference to the presence of moist and poisonous vapors and the generally lower temperature of the Americas, providing a climatic explanation of American underdevelopment that was well received by Europeans confident of their global superiority and recently impressed by Montesquieus observations on the connection between climate and political institutions. Buffons ideas were pursued further by Cornelius de Pauw, a Dutch naturalist who advanced the field mainly by extending Buffons observations to the human population of the New World, who he claimed were also smaller, weaker, more hairless and less sexually vivacious than Europeans. While remaining focused on humidity as a root cause, de Pauw described the New World as degenerate rather than underdeveloped, noting that even European species achieve a smaller size and adopt a more passive demeanor when transplanted across the Atlantic. This set the stage for Raynal and his fellow encylopdiste Denis Diderot to draw out the political implications of Buffon and de Pauws climatic theories, bringing them back, in a way, to where they began with Montesquieu by arguing that wetness-driven degeneration could explain some of the famous crimes committed by European settlers in the New World, as well as the tendency of its peoples to be governed by despotic governments.37

Jack P. Greene, The Seven Years War and the American Revolution: The Causal Relationship Reconsidered in Peter Marshall and Glyn Williams, eds., The British Atlantic Empire Before the American Revolution (London: Frank Cass & Co., 1980). 37 For Buffon, De Pauw, and Raynal, see: Antonello Gerbi, The Dispute of the New World: The History of a Polemic, 1750-1900 [1955] Trans. Jeremy Moyle (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973); and Jorge CanizaresEsguerra, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistomologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth Century Atlantic World (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2001). For Diderot, see: Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 72-121.


Of course, Europeans had long described indigenous Americans as backward and uncivilized, employing these observations to justify the conquest, with its forced religious conversions, violent territorial acquisitions, slavery, and other forms of exclusion and domination.38 Creoles, in particular, relied upon this image of the savage to justify their expropriation of Indian lands and labor. However, the pseudo-science of climate and geography that de Pauw, in particular, had used to reframe this familiar theme presented clear and problematic implications for Creoles: if the American climate, rather than race or culture, was responsible for the Native Americans civilizational deficits, if, indeed, European species degenerated upon exposure to the New Worlds temperature and vapors, then Creoles, too, could be described as inferior, and subjected to the treatment Europeans accorded their inferiors. Predictably, the Creole response to the threat implied by the new naturalism was furious, their cause championed by luminaries including the New Spaniard Francisco Javier Clavigero, the Chilean Giovanni Ignazio Molina, the Quiteo Juan de Velasco, the Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin, and the Virginian Thomas Jefferson.39 As they churned out reams of criticism of Buffon, de Pauw, and Raynal, these Creole intellectuals increasingly perceived threats, not only to their equality with European-born Britons and Spaniards, but their to their superiority vis--vis non-white Americans. By the end of the eighteenth century, they were fully conscious of the dilemmatic quality of their status as a colonial upper class. To return to our point of departure, then, it is clear that the polarized binaries of the traditional Marxian conception of class require modification in order to describe the class structure of the American empires, and in particular, to comprehend the social position of the American Creoles. Simultaneously dominant as Europeans within American colonies, and dominated as Americans within European empires, Creoles occupied what the sociologist Erik Olin Wright has termed a contradictory class location:40 neither colonizer nor colonized, but exactly both. This position is contradictory precisely in the sense that
Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, 74-9; Anthony Pagden, Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 13-36 and Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain, and France, c. 1500-c.1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 63-102; Brett Bowden, Empire of Civilization: Evolution of an Imperial Idea (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). 39 Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, 194-233; 240-68; 289-324; Pagden, Spanish Imperialism, 91-116. 40 See: Erik Olin Wright, Class, Crisis and the State (London: Verso, 1978); Classes (London: Verso, 1985); and the essays assembled in Erik Olin Wright, ed., The Debate on Classes (London: Verso, 1989). Wright originally developed the concept of the contradictory class location as an empirical classification for the middle class: managers, professionals, and other wage-earners or small capital-owners who are so numerous in capitalist societies but which are not obviously either bourgeois or proletarian.


[it] partakes of both sides of inherently contradictory interests.41 Because the relationship between colonizer and colonized is antagonistic, with colonizers interested in maintaining and advancing their dominion over the colonized, and the colonized seeking to mitigate or escape the domination of the colonizer, Creoles, who share the interests of two opposed classes, have, as a result, contradictory interests. This brings us to a final distinction. For Marx, political thought, indeed, thought in general, whether legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic was determined by class conflict, and being determined, could not reflect back and affect the outcome of class conflict outcome or its legacies. Revolutions, moments in which dominated classes overcome dominant classes, result from a secular, sub-ideological progress: advances in technology or the articulation of markets.42 Thus, Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life.43 In this study I do, in fact, judge the Creole Revolutions by reference to their legal, political, and philosophical dimensions their ideological forms in Marxs terms. This departure reflects a different notion of the place of ideology in revolutions: rather than conceiving of political ideas as mere epiphenomena, illusory reflections of deeper forces which obey a separate, internal logic, here I treat ideology as both a product of class struggle and a potentially important cause of changes to class structures.44 I argue that the characteristic ideas of Creole revolutionaries were strongly influenced by their class position within the structures of European imperialism, but that these ideas also strongly influenced a restructuring of institutions after independence. It is precisely in this sense that the Creole Revolutions were revolutionary: although they did not obviously result from progress in the forces of production, nor result in radical revisions to the relations of production in the New World, they did produce new forms of political consciousness and an institutional legacy that has persisted to this day.45
Wright, Classes, 43-44. See: G.A. Cohen, Karl Marxs Theory of History: A Defense Expanded Edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 134-74. 43 From the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859. Available at http://www, accessed July 12, 2011. 44 See: William H. Sewell, Jr., A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency and Transformation American Journal of Sociology Vol. 98, No. 1 (July, 1992); and Rogers M. Smith, Political Jurisprudence: The New Institutionalism and the Future of Public Law American Political Science Review, Vol. 82, No. 1 (March, 1988), 89-108. 45 Bruce Ackerman, We The People, Volume 1: Foundations (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1991), 203-4.
41 42


If we adopt the foregoing analysis of the American Creoles social position, and the modified Marxian understanding of the relation between social positions and ideology, what expectations should we have regarding the ideology of Creole Revolution? Perhaps obviously, we might expect that it will be contradictory, advancing mutually exclusive projects, and defending them by reference to opposed presuppositions or ideals. Creole political thinkers will likely endorse contrary allegiances and aims, seeking recognition and equality as Europeans, or an alliance with non-Creole Americans to oppose European rule entirely, or both.46 The factors that determine which of these options a particular Creole political thinker favors may be quite particular, reflecting local political and economic conditions or divergent philosophical influences, but may have important and long-lasting consequences for political development. Finally, we should expect to observe convergences amongst Creole political thinkers on ideas that advance their classs particular interests, reconciling the internal antagonism of colonizer and colonized. Below, I describe these points of ideological convergence collectively as anti-imperial imperialism, a paradoxical doctrine present in Creole revolutionary writings throughout the hemisphere. Empire and Nation, Nationalism and Anti-Imperialism Despite their basic disagreements, the two dominant understandings of the American independence movements described above share an important premise, according to which the concepts of empire and nation stand in a relation of conceptual opposition. For proponents of the incipient nationalism thesis, the American independence movements were nationalist in inspiration, and therefore anti-imperial in their aims. Proponents of the age of revolution thesis deny that the movements were nationalist in inspiration, and then deemphasize anti-imperialism in their aims, sometimes even denying that European rule in the Americas was ever imperial to begin with. This conceptual pairing of empire and nation is very common across a variety of fields concerned with colonialism and post-colonialism, and has enjoyed a long history, thanks to an undeniable logical appeal.47

Wright, The Debate on Classes, 30. See: Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Tokyo: Zed Books, 1986); Istvan Hont The Permanent Crisis of a Divided Mankind: Nation-State and Nationalism in Historical Perspective in Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), especially page 450; and the essays collected in: Joseph W. Esherick, Hasan Kayali, and Eric Van Young, eds., Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).
46 47


According to Benedict Andersons well-known definition, the nation is an imagined political community imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. Here, inherently limited aptly conveys the essential pluralism of nationalist political thinking: No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation. Rather, nations have boundaries, beyond which lie other nations, whose members are irrevocably outsiders.48 By contrast, imperialist political thinking rejects essential pluralism, asserting a cosmic centrality for a preferred set of religious beliefs or political institutions. Outside the provisional boundaries of empires lie individuals and groups as-yet-unassimilated, understood as much the worse for their present exclusion. The imperial imaginary attaches no irrevocable quality to individuals, whether members or non-members, and as a result, it is imbued with an impulse largely foreign to nationalism, the impulse towards conversion.49 Far from inherently limited, empires bind together groups of peoples in an extended system, seeking a kind of political, and cultural, unity out of a diversity of different states widely separated in space.50 Internally, the bond between the individual members of a nation, regardless of the actual inequality that may prevail amongst them, is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship,51 while empires are strongly hierarchical systems of rule distinguishing between an ethnic and/or geographic core and a subordinated periphery.52 Given these contrasts, it makes some sense to think of empire and nation as standing in a relation of conceptual opposition, and to identify nationalist political thought with anti-imperialism or anti-imperial movements with nationalism. This logically plausible identity breaks down, though, when it is applied to the Creole Revolutions. The American independence movements were anti-imperial: the entities which they sought first to reform and then to destroy were empires, and it was precisely the imperial features of those entities that aroused American opposition. However, American opposition was not nationalist in inspiration: the protagonists of the independence movements did not claim legitimacy for their cause by reference to the justice of national self-determination, and the term nation cannot describe the political entities that Americans
Anderson, Imagined Communities, 6-7; emphasis added. Ibid., 13-15. 50 Anthony Pagden, Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain, and France, c. 1500-c.1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 12-16. 51 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7. 52 Esherick, Kayali, and Van Young, Empire to Nation, 6-7.
48 49


hoped would emerge once they threw off the yoke of European rule. Indeed, empire better describes the expansive, internally heterogeneous polities that revolutionaries envisioned, and was often the term they employed. Thus, the American independence movements were, paradoxically, both anti-imperial and imperial, an ideological contradiction reflecting the contradictory class location of their Creole protagonists. This anti-imperial imperialism appears more concretely in three particular problems of Creole Revolutionary political thought: (1) the justification offered for rebellion against European rule in the Americas; (2) the institutions proposed in constitutions meant to govern newly-independent American states; and (3) the programs of territorial expansion and internal colonization envisioned at the moment of independence. The Rights of Creole Americans Throughout the Americas, the years leading up to declarations of independence were characterized by profound reflection on basic questions in political theory: the origins and purposes of government, the reciprocal obligations of sovereign and subject, and most importantly, the conditions under which individuals could legitimately dissolve the political entities to which they belonged. There is substantial variation between the strategies individual Creole political thinkers pursued and, often, much ambiguity within the strategy of any individual Creole. Invocations of natural law and the Rights of Man had obvious appeal as revolutionary slogans, but carried implications for the internal reform of colonial societies that few Creoles would wish to endorse.53 The same spectre haunted scattered attempts to present independence as the rectification of the originally unjust European conquest.54 Thus, Creoles ultimately converged on much narrower grounds for revolt: metropolitan intransigence and disregard for their rights as Britons or Spaniards and as descendents of the conquerors of the New World. Notably, to return once more to our three constitutions, for both British and Spanish American Creoles, the most proximate impetus to rebellion was not a modification of either the colonial constitutions or the constitution of the empire as a whole, but of the
For the paradox of establishing the most expansive liberty for white Americans while preserving the most totalizing constraint on non-white Americans, see: Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975); and Rana, Two Faces of American Freedom. 54 Pagden, Spanish Imperialism, 91-132; Luis Villoro, El Proceso Ideolgico de la Revolucin de Independencia [1953] (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Econmica, 2010), 132-72. We will explore this issue in greater depth through the Mexican political thinker Lucas Alamn, in Chapter Four.


constitutions of the metropoles. In England, the gradual expansion of Parliamentary sovereignty sparked protests when a legislature in which Americans had no representatives took it upon itself to enact new taxes and other commercial regulations for the colonies.55 In 1774, the Virginian Thomas Jefferson drafted a petition to King George III, requesting that as chief magistrate of the British empire, he intercede on the colonists behalf, negating the many unwarrantable encroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire. Amongst invocations of the rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all, Jefferson reminded the King that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, emphasizing that by choosing to cross the Atlantic, they did not divest themselves or their descendents of their rights as Britons. To the contrary, America was conquered, and her settlements made at the expence of individuals, and not of the British public. [The settlers] own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlements, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. Thus, far from losing rights, settlers had acquired new rights: to land, to the products of their own and their dependents labor, and to participate in their own governance through colonial assemblies. If Parliament were sovereign in the entire empire, instead of being a free people, as we have hitherto supposed, and mean to continue ourselves, we should suddenly be found the slaves not of one but of 160,000 tyrants, the electors of the Britain. Jefferson closes by noting that It is neither our wish, nor our interest, to separate from the British empire, asking only that the King No longer persevere in sacrificing the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desires of another; but deal out to all equal and impartial right.56 Events in the Spanish metropole present a certain analogy: in 1807, with the consent of Carlos IV, French troops crossed into Spain on their way to Portugal, then an ally of England and an important gap in Napoleons continental system. Soon after, a palace coup by the heir apparent, Fernando VII, provided Napoleon with a pretence to imprison both claimants and place his brother, Joseph, on the Spanish throne. Spaniards rose in resistance and, in order to organize their efforts, formed a series of provisional governments composed of representatives from Spains provinces, notably including the Americas. On January 22nd,
See: Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1953). 56 Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774. In Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson 12 Vols. (New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1904), II, 49-89.


1809, the Supreme Central Governing Committee of the Kingdom [Junta Suprema central gubernativa del reyno] invited the kingdoms, provinces, and islands of the Spanish monarchy to send representatives to Sevilla. Thus, like England, Spain shifted away from royal absolutism, toward a representative system in which, unlike England, even the American colonies were to have a voice. However, there was a problem: while the Junta Central asked each Spanish province to send two deputies, they allotted only one deputy apiece to each of the nine American kingdoms and captaincies-general. The result was thirty-six versus nine representatives for peninsular and American populations, of which the most recent estimates had been roughly equal.57 Thus, while Spanish Americans responded to Napoleons invasion with declarations of loyalty to Fernando VII, many refused to recognize the authority of the Junta Central. In 1809 a lawyer from the kingdom of New Granada (present-day Colombia) named Camilo Torres penned one of the most famous American indictments of peninsular Spanish arrogance. He describes the joy Americans felt upon learning of the formation of the Junta Central, which appeared to embody the true fraternal union between European and American Spaniards, upon the basis of justice and equality, and noting that If the government of England had followed a similar plan, maybe it would not today lament the loss of its colonies [whose residents] did not understand how, being vassals of the same sovereign, they could be subject to laws not sanctioned with their approbation. Nonetheless, he felt compelled to add that in the midst of their just pleasure, Neogranadinos had not been able to see without profound pain that, while the provinces of Spain, even the most inconsiderable, have sent two representatives to the Junta Central, the vast, rich, and populous dominions of America are only allowed one. He hastened to remind the members of the Junta Central that The Americas are not composed of foreigners to the Spanish nation, but rather the descendents of those who spilled their blood to acquire these new dominions for the Spanish Crown.58 As for Jefferson, then, for Torres the injustice of Spanish Americas unequal representation stems from an affront to rights he claims as a Creole, rights his Spanish ancestors brought with them across the Atlantic and won in the
Xavier-Guerra, Modernidad e Independencias, 148-88; Rodriguez, Independence of Spanish America, 49-74; Roberto Brea, Relevancia y Contexto del Bienio 1808-1810: El Ciclo Revolucionario Hispnico: Puntos de Referencia e Historiografa Contempornea in Roberto Brea, ed., En el Umbral de los Revoluciones Hispnicos: El Bienio 1808-1810 (Mexico City: El Colegio de Mxico, 2010). 58 Camilo Torres, Memorial de Agravios, 1809 in Jos Luis Romero and Luis Alberto Romero, eds., Pensamiento Poltico de la Emancipacin 2 vols. (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1977), I, 25-42.


process of subjugating the New World. As in the British colonies, Spanish American Creoles originally sought not independence but recognition and equality within the empire. Only after years of metropolitan intransigence would they take the risky step of wresting their societies out from under the protective shadow of Spanish rule. The American independence movements did not originate in a call for national liberation or the end of monarchical government, but a demand for reform of imperial constitutions that privileged European Britons and Spaniards vis--vis their American-born counterparts. These claims of injustice, though at times decorated by appeals to natural law or universal rights, were made on behalf of a colonial elite, and rested on claims of right derived from European descent and the conquest. Thus, anti-imperial imperialism appears first in Creole revolutionaries attempts to justify revolt against Europe; though the American Revolutions were directed against empires, they did not attack the idea of empire in itself but only a form of imperialism that distinguished between Europeans born in Europe and those born in the Americas. Creole Constitutionalism The prospect of governing independent societies was a source of constant concern to the leaders of the American revolutions. Having mobilized large and diverse groups of people to confront their royalist opponents, Creoles were forced to consider how they would reestablish social order after victory. Throughout the hemisphere this problem was considered in terms of constitutional theory: would-be framers asked what institutional arrangements could withstand the blows of two monstrous enemies who both attack at once: tyranny and anarchy.59 The Venezuelan Simn Bolvars characteristic formulation, which appears with remarkable frequency in the writings of Creole constitutional theorists,60 nicely expresses the two-sided nature of the dilemma: how to limit the destabilizing effects of the populaces direct involvement in politics (anarchy) without recurring to the delegitimized methods of the old regimes (tyranny). Anti-imperial imperialism appears again in two preferred institutional solutions: a centralized distribution of authority between general and provincial governments, and a system of separated powers within the general government that would check and balance the legislative branch.
Simn Bolvar, Al Congreso Constituyente de Bolivia, 1826. In El Pensamiento Constitucional Hispanoamericano hasta 1830 (Caracas: Academia Nacional de la Historia, 1961), Vol. I, 172. 60 Gargarella, Fundamentos Legales, 167-9.


Here, the relative timing of the American revolutions becomes more important. Because of its early date, the British North American Revolution was extremely influential for the later Spanish American revolutions, particularly in the realm of constitutional theory. The United States Constitution of 1789 enjoyed great prestige amongst Spanish American revolutionaries, not only as the first of its kind, but also because constitutional design was believed to be a root cause of the United States growing prosperity. Nonetheless, its impact was not straightforward: Spanish Americans presented quite divergent institutional recommendations as adaptations of the North American model, while others denied its suitability for their societies.61 The U.S. Constitution was most often invoked by federalistas, proponents of decentralized systems in which component provinces or states were recognized as sovereign and a general government exercised only limited authority, while being left dependent for the execution of its policies upon compliance from the states. Ironically, then, the document that replaced the Articles of Confederation was considered an exemplar of the English term confederalism, and its Spanish American champions took up a position similar to that of the United States Antifederalists, who opposed ratification. Their opponents, variously known as unitarios, centralistas, or, maddeningly, antifederalistas, insisted that conditions in Spanish America were fundamentally different from those in North America, that even if federalism had produced good results there, it could not do the same in a new context. Thus, they recommended a system in which the general government exercised sovereign authority in foreign relations and interstate commerce, while the states were limited to administering their own internal affairs; in other words, a system not unlike the one defended by the Federalist party of the United States and embodied in the Constitution of 1789.62 Creole political theorists convergence on this latter position, which I shall refer to generally as centralism in order to avoid further terminological confusion, cannot be explained as imitation, then, since the supposed imitators seem to have misunderstood the original. Rather, centralism was attractive to political theorists across the hemisphere because it promised to consolidate the authority of an enlightened, and Creole, revolutionary directorate over the heterogenous masses that composed the citizenry. As another Virginian,
David Bushnell, Los Usos del Modelo: La Generacion de la Independencia y la Imagen de Norteamerica Revista de Historia de Amrica, No. 82 (Jul. - Dec., 1976), 7-27. 62 David Pantoja Morn, El Supremo Poder Conservador: El Diseo Institucional en las Primeras Constituciones Mexicanas (Mexico City: El Colegio de Mxico, 2005), 13-50.


James Madison, wrote in his famous elucidation of the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, a centralized government would refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.63 As the following chapters demonstrate, even Creoles with markedly different philosophical orientations came together to recommend centralized government for their newly independent societies. Unanimously, they describe centralism as a surer means of assuring governments commitment to the general interest, decrying federalisms tendency to foster the selfish political preferences of the unenlightened majority. The relatively late dates of the Spanish American independence movements facilitated constitutional influences not only from the north, but from across the Atlantic. The French Revolution and its reverberations the Haitian Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, and the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 all figure prominently in early Spanish American constitutional thought. But again, their affects were not straightforward: while many Creoles eagerly read French revolutionaries writings and incorporated their slogans into their own work, they were, generally speaking, appalled by the execution of Louis XVI and the anarchy of the Terror, concerned about Napoleons plans for the Americas, and deeply unsettled by the prospect of slave revolt presented in Haiti.64 In the realm of constitutional theory, these models became important points of departure in discussions of what was perceived to be the characteristic constitutional innovation of revolutionary France: legislative supremacy. The Mexican statesman Lucas Alamn wrote in 1834 that
The constitution which the Constituent Assembly gave France, which was copied in a servile manner by the Cortes of Cdiz, not only did not distinguish properly between the powers, not only did not establish a well-balanced equilibrium amongst them, but in excessively debilitating the Executive, transferred all authority to the Legislature, creating in the place of the absolute power of the monarchy a power as absolute and entirely arbitrary, not even having to contain it the brakes that can in some manner impede arbitrariness of monarchs. France and Spain, by means of

James Madison, Federalist No. 10, 22 November 1787. In Terence Ball, ed., The Federalist, with Letters of Brutus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 40-6. 64 See: Guerra, Revolucin Francesa y Revoluciones Hispnicas; Klooster, Revolutions of the Atlantic World; Carrera Damas, Venezuela, 80.


similar constitutions, did nothing more than pass from the tyranny of one to the infinitely more unbearable tyranny of many.65

Throughout the hemisphere, Creoles sought to connect the unchallenged authority of the legislature in the French revolutionary design with the upheaval that succeeded the French Revolution, and thus to argue that their own societies should adopt constitutions marked by a division of authority between separate branches of government, which could serve as mutual checks upon one another. In this, of course, they converged neatly with their British North American counterparts. In 1787, John Adams addressed French criticisms of the systems of separated powers which had already made their way into the particular constitutions of several states, citing literally hundreds of historical examples wherein mixing the authority of the one, the few, and the many, confusedly in one assembly had produced wide-spread miseries and final slavery of almost all mankind. Adams emphasized, as many other Creoles later would, that the primary threat to social stability in the newly independent Americas was not an overzealous monarch but an unchecked legislature. Because it more directly represents the opinions of the populace, the legislative power is naturally and necessarily sovereign and supreme over the executive; thus, in order to avoid the anarchy which would inevitably result from popular rule, the executive should be made an essential branch of the [Legislative power], even with a negative, that is, a power to veto the legislatures decisions. Otherwise, it will not be able to defend itself, but will be soon invaded, undermined, attacked, or in some way or other totally ruined and annihilated.66 Like centralism, then, the separation of powers serves in Creole constitutional theory, as a means of limiting popular influence on government. Creole constitutional theorists defended their institutional preferences in general terms, as if they were speaking to the ages, and resolving problems that plagued all societies. If we allow ourselves to be taken in by this presumption, it is easy to lose sight of the very specific terms in which the dilemma of establishing order after a revolution presented itself to American Creoles, for even as they invoked the language of the rights of man, of
Lucas Alamn, Examen Imparcial de La Administracin del General Vicepresidente Don Anastasio Bustamante, Con Observaciones Generales sobre el Estado Presente de la Republica y Consecuencias que ste debe Producir, 1834 in Jos Antonio Aguilar Rivera, ed., Examen Imparcial de la Administracin de Bustamante (Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2008), 201. 66 John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787. In Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, IV, 271-VI, 223.


representative government, of popular sovereignty they did notand could notcease to be what they had been in the colonial period: aristocrats, landowners, the leaders of society.67 As a result, their constitutional thought, like the more fundamental political theory employed to defend the revolution, displays a tension between anti-imperial and imperial tendencies. While rejecting the institutions of European imperial rule, Creoles sought to maintain an imperial social and political hierarchy with new institutions centralism and the separation of powers which could limit popular influence in government, and consolidate, thereby, the authority of their own class within independent societies. Creole Conquest If the period of the American revolutions, was, in the world as a whole, an age of revolution, it was also, and not unrelatedly, a period of intense competition amongst global empires. Spain and France aided British North Americans in their war for independence, hoping that by weakening England they would assure or expand their own American holdings. Frances revolution rapidly gave way to an expansionist project, leading to territorial conflict with continental rivals and a battle with Britain for control of global trade. And as Spanish Americans began to grumble about freedom, British ministers explored allegiances they thought might help them secure a new market for their manufactures. Even as successively larger parts of the New World became independent, Britain, Spain, France, Portugal, and Russia contended over vast stretches of North and South America and strategically important islands in the Caribbean.68 Belying their pious exhortations against entangl[ing] our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice,69 the Creole founders of new American states did not hesitate to enter the fray. Rather, they announced their own imperial programs, defending territorial expansion and internal colonization not only as indispensable means of protecting hard-won
Simon Collier, Ideas and Politics of Chilean Independence, 1808-1833 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 6-7. 68 See, for the periods imperial entanglements: Carlos Marichal, Bankruptcy of Empire: Mexican Silver and the Wars Between Spain, Britain, and France, 1760-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006); William W. Kaufmann, British Policy and the Independence of Latin America, 1804-1828 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1951); Karen Racine, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2003), 141-208; David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992). 69 George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796. Available at /washing.asp, accessed July 12, 2011.


independence, but also in order to spread the ideals they had announced in their revolutions throughout the hemisphere, and indeed, the world. Part of this Creole assertiveness can be understood as an ideological reaction to the discourses of New World degeneration discussed above; critics responded to European naturalists and geographers by claiming that the Americas flora and fauna were healthier and more abundant than their Old World counterparts, that men born in the Americas were possessed of stronger constitutions, quicker intellects, and surer morals than those born in Europe, having avoided exposure to the latters corrupting influences.70 Revolution and independence added a new dimension to Americans self-confidence. In New York, Alexander Hamilton wrote that
It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.71

Half a world away and nearly half a century later, the Chilean Bernardo OHiggins expressed similar sentiments:
It is evident that the Republics of the New World bear the vanguard of the freedom of the whole world, and that destiny is leading them on to break the chains of the human race; for in the example of America may be found the most encouraging hopes of the philosopher and the patriot. The centuries of oppression have passed; the human spirit yearns for its freedom; and now there shines the dawn of a complete re-ordering of civil society through the irresistible progress of opinion and enlightenment.72

For Creole ideologists, American enlightenment served as a premise that justified challenges not only to European claims in the New World, but also the claims of indigenous Americans and, eventually, the claims of other Creole imperialists. From the first, the Creole Revolutions were expansionist affairs. Small groups of men gathered to declare independence on behalf of populations with whom they consulted only in the most perfunctory fashion. On June 9th, 1816, from the city of Tucumn, the selfdeclared Representatives of the United Provinces of South America, took it upon themselves to enunciate the unanimous and indubitable will of people inhabiting a region

Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, 194-288; David A. Brading, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 71 Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, 27 October 1787. In Ball, ed., The Federalist, 1. 72 Cited in Collier, Chilean Independence, 240.


stretching from the mouth of the Rio de la Plata across the continent into the highest Andean plateaus.73 Their representative pretensions were based on a late-colonial-era administrative reform, which had placed nearly all of present-day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia under the control of a new Viceroyalty seated in Buenos Aires. As the inheritors of this authority, porteo patriots organized campaign after campaign against royalist holdouts throughout the continent, forging an independent state one conquest at a time. To a disturbing extent, then, the new regime followed in the steps of the old one,74 deriding the resistance of their fellow Americans as a product of their lack of patriotism, enlightenment, virtue, or education, and sending armies to instill those qualities at the point of a bayonet. Given the racial heterogeneity that characterized the Americas, it is impossible to disentangle Creole revolutionaries assertions of superior enlightenment, education, or virtue from claims of racial superiority. In many cases, indigenous and African-American communities saw no particular advantage to Creole versus European rule and thus declined to join the patriot cause, resisting attempts at military conscription and even allying themselves with metropolitan forces to oppose independence. The result was brutal conflict, with extraordinary violence on both sides.75 Even after independence was won, the conquest continued, as Creole states sought to consolidate control over territories in the North American west, the Carribbean, and the Andean highlands that their European predecessors had never succeeded in taming. Confiscations of community lands, forced religious conversions, and new forms of labor organization universally succeeded the Creole Revolutions, and defenses of these programs of internal colonization form another important point of ideological convergence amongst their leaders. American Imperialism in Comparative Perspective If the two central arguments of this paper that (1) the American Revolutions were Creole Revolutions, and that (2) the ideology of Creole Revolution is both anti-imperial and

Acta de Independencia de las Provincias Unidas en Sud-America, 9 July 1816 in Romero and Romero, eds., Pensamiento Poltico de la Emancipacin, II, 205. 74 Tulio Halpern-Donghi, Politics, Economics, and Society in Argentina in the Revolutionary Period Trans. Richard Southern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 162. 75 A particularly important example were the pardo and Canary Islander communities of Venezuela, whose resistance to the patriot cause we will explore in more detail in Chapter Three; see: Germn Carrera Damas, Boves: Aspectos Socioeconmicos de la Guerra de Independencia (Caracas: 1972). Cite on slaves/natives in USA Rev?.


imperial are correct, they not only suggest that comparison amongst the American Revolutions will provide new insights on their ideas and institutional legacies, but also that more common comparisons between American and non-American Revolutions could be reformulated. Above, I argued that the incipient nationalism thesis suffered from its dependence on a teleological assumption, which treated the states which eventually emerged after a century of state-formation in the independent Americas as if they were present or incipient in the years leading up to independence and served there as an important organizing construct in the political thought of revolutionary leaders. The same problem, I noted, plagues attempts to forge comparisons between the American Revolutions and anti-colonial movements in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe: while these more recent revolutions, formed and led by indigenous persons, might be appropriately described as struggles for national liberation, the same cannot be said for the Creole Revolutions of the Americas. However, this difference might be more apparent than real. Recent work on decolonization in the former French Empire suggests that demands for independence in Morocco and Algeria, for example, emerged only as the end game of a long process of negotiation regarding the place of colonial peoples within Greater France. If teleological assumptions about incipient nationalism are as problematic in scholarship on twentieth-century antiimperialism as they are in scholarship on the Americas, the concept of Creole Revolution developed here could have more relevance for these cases than I suggested above. If the ineluctably imperial context of the American Revolutions distinguishes them clearly from the contemporary European anti-monarchical movements which form the age of revolutions, perhaps anti-imperial imperialism finds a better analogue in the period of liberal imperialism which succeeded the age of revolutions, and which has been the subject of a few important recent studies.76 Like the British and French ideologists of liberal imperialism, Creole revolutionaries employed ideas of progress, civilization, and enlightenment to defend policies of exclusion, control, and conquest. In this sense, both doctrines present the same tensions: One needs to account for how a set of ideas that professed, at a fundamental level, to include as its political referent a universal constituency nevertheless spawned practices that were either predicated on or directed at the political
For a recent review, see: Jennifer Pitts, Political Theory of Empire and Imperialism, Annual Review of Political Science No. 13 (2010), 211-35.


marginalization of various people.77 Further inquiry into the philosophical and historical connections between the ideology of Creole Revolution and European liberal imperialism might also prove fruitful.

Uday Singh Mehta Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 46.