|The Growth of the British Empire|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book V of the Story of the World Series. Treats the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. Ages 13-18 |
HOW SPAIN LOST SOUTH AMERICA
"So grew and gathered through the silent years
The madness of a people, wrong by wrong."
 THE storms of war had passed away and Europe was at peace. But, like the waves after a great storm, the influences
that had worked for freedom, continued to work. For two centuries, this sixth part of the world, had been
governed by Spaniards and Portuguese: for two centuries, she had borne the oppression of despotic viceroys sent
from Spain, whose cruelties defy description. It was small wonder then that, with the spirit of revolution in
the air, the people of South America should rise and fight to free themselves from Spain.
Brazil belonged to Portugal, and the hatred of the people towards the Portuguese, not being so bitter, the
country worked out its freedom by more peaceful means. The Spanish colonies rose after the deposition of their
king by Napoleon.
 It is impossible to follow the many battles that took place during the next twelve years: let us rather tell
the story of two heroes, whose names stand out clearly against the horizon of South American history, as the
liberators of their country—Bolivar and San Martin.
The earliest plans for the revolution, that was to free South America from the yoke of Spain, were laid by a
secret society in London, founded by Miranda. England herself took no part; but Bolivar and San Martin both
caught the enthusiasm of the master, and swore to do all in their power to carry out Miranda's ideas. Both men
sailed for South America.
San Martin landed at Buenos Ayres in the year 1812—an unknown man. He at once roused the people of
Argentina, a country ten times the size of Great Britain and Ireland, called from the great silver
river—La Plata, which flowed through it. It is one of the richest territories in the world to-day, and
largely populated by European emigrants. San Martin, who had served in Spanish armies for twenty years, soon
fired the enthusiasm of the people. An army was raised, which soon became famous under his leadership. It was
not long before the arms of Spain were torn down, to be replaced by the blue and white colours of the
revolutionists, the cruel tortures of the Spanish Inquisition were abolished, and the last links with the
mother country broken. Early in the year
 1816—the year after Waterloo—Argentina declared her independence.
The spirit of revolution had meanwhile spread to the neighbouring province of Chili, a strip of country between
the high Andes and the Pacific Ocean, so called from the Peruvian word for snow. But the Spaniards were strong
in Peru, and marching south, they defeated the Chilians, under the leadership of the famous Irishman O'Higgins.
He now looked to San Martin for help. But the mighty range of the Andes, rising between the two provinces, was
considered quite impassable. Nevertheless San Martin determined to march to the aid of Chili. And the march of
the army of the Andes is one of the most brilliant feats ever recorded in the world's military history. It is a
feat that ranks with Hannibal's famous passage over the snowy Alps and Napoleon's march to Marengo.
Having set themselves free, this army of patriots was ready to face the colossal task, of helping their
brothers across the Andes to free themselves. Everything was prepared at Mendoza, at the western feet of the
mountains. Here an arsenal was established, where cannon, shot, and shell were cast, church bells were melted
down, and forges blazed by day and night. The patriotic women of Mendoza made blue cloth for the uniforms, and
early in January 1817, all was ready for the start. There was high holiday in the town; the
 streets were decked with flags, and the army marched forth to receive its flag, embroidered by the women of the
"Soldiers!" cried San Martin, waving the flag above his head, "this is the first independent flag, which has
been blessed in America. Swear to sustain it and to die in defence of it—as I swear I do."
"We swear!" rose from four thousand throats.
Off started the army under the guidance of San Martin and O'Higgins. It would take too long to tell of the
bitter days and nights, endured by these brave soldiers of Argentina, as they struggled over the snow-clad
passes. Ridge after ridge rose before them, terrible with ice and snow, treacherous with chasms and precipices.
Mules, horses, and men dropped dead in the icy winds, that swept down from the lofty summits. But their noble
efforts were crowned with success. Three weeks from the start, the army of the Andes descended on the plains of
Chili, surprised and defeated the Spanish army, and marched triumphantly into Santiago, the capital. Chilian
independence was won, and O'Higgins was made the first governor of the new republic.
Much had been done. Spanish rule had been checked, but not yet broken. Its grip was still on Peru, and her
people were crying aloud for freedom, like their neighbours. The way to Peru from Chili lay by sea, and the
 lay off Callao, the port of Lima. It was at this moment, that the famous British sailor Lord Cochrane came upon
the scene. One November day in 1818, he landed at Valparaiso, the port of Chili, ready to place his services at
the disposal of the revolutionists.
Though broken on land, the Spanish shore was not conquered. Peru still lay in the hands of the oppressor, and
the Spanish fleet in its harbours was ready to sail south to attack the Chilians, when Lord Cochrane, trained
in the school of Nelson, appeared on the scene. He was given command of the Chilian fleet, and soon swept the
Spaniards from the sea.
Having thus made Chili mistress of her own waters, it was possible to begin the liberation of Peru.
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