Q: How does the Haitian Constitution reconcile its ideals of liberty and freedom with the formation of an Empire led by a singular monarch?
The Haitian constitution unsurprisingly emphasizes freedom and individual liberty, but interestingly creates a system of monarchy accordant with the norm of the time period rather than a republican government akin to the United States or revolutionary France. However, it does take measures to avoid a tyrannical system of government. Some of these measures include a system of elective monarchy, through which the issues inherent in hereditary monarchies and the potential resulting tyranny can be avoided. The constitution also states clearly that the children of the Emperor will be treated the same as any other citizen and can’t be placed into high military or political ranks without achieving that honor of their own merit, showing that the writers were very conscious of nepotism, possibly in part due to Napoleon’s habit of putting his relatives on conquered thrones. However, the emperor’s children and wife do have the favor of being given a ‘stipend’, so there are some issues of wealth inequality. Another article provides that the Emperor will not be allowed to surround himself with a group such as an Honor Guard, and that he will not be allowed to undertake wars of conquest or infringe on the rights of foreign people or countries, thus avoiding colonial entanglements or unjust wars. All together, the constitution is pretty decent about keeping the individual freedoms of the people provided for and avoiding hereditary monarchy or nepotism, but it does have a lot of issues in terms of making the Emperor all-powerful and wealthy.
My research will focus on the independence movements in the viceroyalties of New Granada and Peru leading up to, during and following the Napoleonic Wars and the invasion of Spain in Europe. I want to mostly focus on the movements led by Simon Bolivar that resulted in the creation of Gran Colombia, and examine what caused his independence movements to be so successful, at least in their goal of separating these regions from the authority of the Spanish crown. I plan to examine the cultural background of the area that would soon become Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, explore the revolutionary sentiment that arose there, and discuss Bolivar’s role and motivation in leading those goals of independence to fruition.
‘Memoirs of Simon Bolivar, President Liberator of the Republic of Colombia’ by H.L.V. Ducoudray Holstein.
LYNCH, JOHN. Simón Bolívar (Simon Bolivar): A Life. Yale University Press, 2006. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npnhh.
Simon, Joshua. “SIMÓN BOLÍVAR’S REPUBLICAN IMPERIALISM: ANOTHER IDEOLOGY OF AMERICAN REVOLUTION.” History of Political Thought 33, no. 2 (2012): 280-304. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26225770.
Roberts, W. Adolphe. “Great Men of the Caribbean 2. Simón Bolívar.” Caribbean Quarterly 1, no. 3 (1949): 4-8. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40652462.
Bushnell, David. “The Gran Colombian Experiment (1819–1830).” In The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself, 50-73. University of California Press, 1993. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt4cgf7g.6.
My first idea for a research question is: how did new national identities emerge from the Spanish colonial viceroyalties of Latin America prior to and during the Napoleonic Wars, and what motivated the large-scale uprisings against and distancing from Spanish rule? I’m interested to learn more about how nations and national identities sprung up in central and south America, driving thousands of people to revolt against colonial rule and create independent countries in a relatively short span of time. I also want to know more about the leadup to the revolutionary movements and how the local identity already in place in various regions may have contributed to the explosion of nationalist and independence-minded thought around this time – specifically, were there already large segments of the population that were pushing for freedom and self-government, and how did those segments become prominent enough to topple colonial rule in nearly all of Latin America?
This semester, I want to learn more in general about Latin America and the history of its colonial past – I have never really taken a history class that covered this area of the world and its past in depth, despite having taken quite a few in the past. I feel that it’s an extremely important area of history that is not nearly discussed enough, especially concerning the culture of the Native American societies present in Latin America prior to the arrival of Europeans. I’ve always been both fascinated and horrified by the sheer scale of the epidemics that wracked the Americas during this period of time. The truly unprecedented events that occurred are only made more interesting for me by the continuously emerging evidence of larger and larger population sizes and developed civilizations. I’m deeply interested in learning more about these societies, and how they dealt with the events brought on by European contact.
Another, far removed area of Latin American history I’m very interested in learning more about is the era of the revolutions and independence movements in the emerging nations of the region during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. I feel that this time period is criminally underrepresented in comparison to its sheer importance to the history of Latin America, especially in American education. When compared to the likes of the American or French Revolutions, I feel that these events are almost completely ignored by the majority of popular history. I certainly haven’t learned much about them, and I’m hoping that this class will do a lot to advance my knowledge of the subject. This is also why I chose a book about Mexico City during the revolutions for my report.