THE LOVE OF NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE, HOWEVER WAS TOO STRONG TO BE DESTROYED IN THIS WAY. THE SOUTH AMERICANS WERE THE FIRST TO REBEL AGAINST THE REACTIONARY MEASURES OF THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA, GREECE AND BELGIUM AND SPAIN AND A LARGE NUMBER OF OTHER COUNTRIES OF THE EUROPEAN CONTINENT FOLLOWED SUIT AND THE NINETEENTH CENTURY WAS FILLED WITH THE RUMOUR OF MANY WARS OF INDEPENDENCE
IT will serve no good purpose to say ``if only the Congress of Vienna had done such and such a thing instead of taking such and such a course, the history of Europe in the nineteenth century would have been different.'' The Congress of Vienna was a gathering of men who had just passed through a great revolution and through twenty years of terrible and almost continuous warfare. They came together for the purpose of giving Europe that ``peace and stability'' which they thought that the people needed and wanted. They were what we call reactionaries. They sincerely believed in the inability of the mass of the people to rule themselves. They re-arranged the map of Europe in such a way as seemed to promise the greatest possibility of a lasting success. They failed, but not through any premeditated wickedness on their part. They were, for the greater part, men of the old school who remembered the happier days of their quiet youth and ardently wished a return of that blessed period. They failed to recognise the strong hold which many of the revolutionary principles had gained upon the people of the European continent. That was a misfortune but hardly a sin. But one of the things which the French Revolution had taught not only Europe but America as well, was the right of people to their own ``nationality.''
Napoleon, who respected nothing and nobody, was utterly ruthless in his dealing with national and patriotic aspirations. But the early revolutionary generals had proclaimed the new doctrine that ``nationality was not a matter of political frontiers or round skulls and broad noses, but a matter of the heart and soul.'' While they were teaching the French children the greatness of the French nation, they encouraged Spaniards and Hollanders and Italians to do the same thing. Soon these people, who all shared Rousseau's belief in the superior virtues of Original Man, began to dig into their past and found, buried beneath the ruins of the feudal system, the bones of the mighty races of which they supposed themselves the feeble descendants.
The first half of the nineteenth century was the era of the great historical discoveries. Everywhere historians were busy publishing mediaeval charters and early mediaeval chronicles and in every country the result was a new pride in the old fatherland. A great deal of this sentiment was based upon the wrong interpretation of historical facts. But in practical politics, it does not matter what is true, but everything depends upon what the people believe to be true. And in most countries both the kings and their subjects firmly believed in the glory and fame of their ancestors.
The Congress of Vienna was not inclined to be sentimental. Their Excellencies divided the map of Europe according to the best interests of half a dozen dynasties and put ``national aspirations'' upon the Index, or list of forbidden books, together with all other dangerous ``French doctrines.''
But history is no respecter of Congresses. For some reason or other (it may be an historical law, which thus far has escaped the attention of the scholars) ``nations'' seemed to be necessary for the orderly development of human society and the attempt to stem this tide was quite as unsuccessful as the Metternichian effort to prevent people from thinking.
Curiously enough the first trouble began in a very distant part of the world, in South America. The Spanish colonies of that continent had been enjoying a period of relative independence during the many years of the great Napoleonic wars. They had even remained faithful to their king when he was taken prisoner by the French Emperor and they had refused to recognise Joseph Bonaparte, who had in the year 1808 been made King of Spain by order of his brother.
Indeed, the only part of America to get very much upset by the Revolution was the island of Haiti, the Espagnola of Columbus' first trip. Here in the year 1791 the French Convention, in a sudden outburst of love and human brotherhood, had bestowed upon their black brethren all the privileges hitherto enjoyed by their white masters. Just as suddenly they had repented of this step, but the attempt to undo the original promise led to many years of terrible warfare between General Leclerc, the brother-in-law of Napoleon, and Toussaint l'Ouverture, the negro chieftain. In the year 1801, Toussaint was asked to visit Leclerc and discuss terms of peace. He received the solemn promise that he would not be molested. He trusted his white adversaries, was put on board a ship and shortly afterwards died in a French prison. But the negroes gained their independence all the same and founded a Republic. Incidentally they were of great help to the first great South American patriot in his efforts to deliver his native country from the Spanish yoke.
Simon Bolivar, a native of Caracas in Venezuela, born in the year 1783, had been educated in Spain, had visited Paris where he had seen the Revolutionary government at work, had lived for a while in the United States and had returned to his native land where the widespread discontent against Spain, the mother country, was beginning to take a definite form. In the year 1811, Venezuela declared its independence and Bolivar became one of the revolutionary generals. Within two months, the rebels were defeated and Bolivar fled.