Chilean Declaration of Independence

Last updated

Chilean Declaration of Independence document preserved at the National Congress of Chile, Valparaiso Proclamacion de la independencia-congreso01.jpg
Chilean Declaration of Independence document preserved at the National Congress of Chile, Valparaíso

The Chilean Declaration of Independence is a document declaring the independence of Chile from the Spanish Empire. It was drafted in January 1818 and approved by Supreme Director Bernardo O'Higgins on 12 February 1818 at Talca, despite being dated in Concepción on 1 January 1818. [1] [2] The ceremony of independence was performed on 12 February 1818, the first anniversary of the Battle of Chacabuco.

A declaration of independence or declaration of statehood is an assertion by a defined territory that it is independent and constitutes a state. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state. In 2010, the UN's International Court of Justice ruled in an advisory opinion in Kosovo that "International law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence", though the state from which the territory wishes to secede may regard the declaration as rebellion, which may lead to a war of independence or a constitutional settlement to resolve the crisis.

Chile republic in South America

Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

Spanish Empire world empire from the 16th to the 19th century

The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and as the Catholic Monarchy, was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World and the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies". It also included territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. The Spanish Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Portuguese Empire. It was the world's most powerful empire during the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, reaching its maximum extension in the 18th century. The Spanish Empire was the first empire to be called "the empire on which the sun never sets".


The original document, displaying manuscript comments by O'Higgins, was damaged at the Palace of the Real Audiencia of Santiago. [3] In 1832, under President José Joaquín Prieto, a new copy was sent to Peru to be signed by O'Higgins, and later by his former ministers, Miguel Zañartu, Hipólito Villegas and José Ignacio Zenteno, who were still living in Chile. [1] This copy was kept at the Palacio de La Moneda until the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, when it was destroyed during the fighting. [4]

Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago national monument of Chile

The Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago is a building located in the north central village of the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. The building dates back to 1808 and houses, since 1982, the National History Museum of Chile.

José Joaquín Prieto Militar, Chilean politician and President

José Joaquín Prieto Vial was a Chilean military and political figure. He was twice President of Chile between 1831 and 1841. José Joaquín Prieto was of Spanish and Basque descent.

Peru republic in South America

Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.

Historical background

¿Jura usted defender la patria hasta derramar la última gota de sangre, para conservarla ilesa hasta depositarla en manos del señor don Fernando VII, nuestro soberano, o de su legítimo sucesor; conservar y guardar nuestra religión y leyes; hacer justicia y reconocer al supremo Consejero de Regencia como representante de la majestad Real?
Do you swear to defend the fatherland to the last drop of your blood, to keep it unharmed in the hands of Fernando VII, our lord, or his rightful heir; to uphold and protect our religion and our laws; to maintain justice and recognize the supreme Counselor of the Regency as the representative of His Royal Majesty?

Ferdinand VII of Spain King of Spain

Ferdinand VII was twice King of Spain: in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death. He was known to his supporters as the Desired and to his detractors as the Felon King. After being overthrown by Napoleon in 1808 he linked his monarchy to counter-revolution and reactionary policies that produced a deep rift in Spain between his forces on the right and liberals on the left. Back in power in 1814, he reestablished the absolutist monarchy and rejected the liberal constitution of 1812. A revolt in 1820 led by Rafael de Riego forced him to restore the constitution thus beginning the Liberal Triennium: a three year period of liberal rule. In 1823 the Congress of Verona authorized a successful French intervention restoring him to absolute power for the second time. He suppressed the liberal press from 1814 to 1833 and jailed many of its editors and writers. Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into civil war on his death.

First National Junta Oath, 18 September 1810

By 1817, the Chilean War of Independence had entered its final phase, and there was little doubt that its final goal, national independence, would be realized. Even though Chile had been operating independently from Spain for several years, no formal declaration of independence had yet been produced.

Chilean War of Independence conflict

The Chilean War of Independence was a war between pro-independence Chilean criollos seeking political and economic independence from Spain and royalist criollos supporting continued allegiance to the Captaincy General of Chile and membership of the Spanish Empire.

One of the first official documents to address the issue of independence was the Provisional Constitutional Regulations of 1812, introduced by José Miguel Carrera on 27 October 1812. Article V of this document states that "No decree, ruling or order, issued by any authority or courts outside the territory of Chile, will have any effect; anyone who tries to give them force will be punished as criminals of the State", while also recognizing the authority of Fernando VII in Article III.

José Miguel Carrera Chilean general

José Miguel Carrera Verdugo was a Chilean general, member of the prominent Carrera family, and considered one of the founders of independent Chile. Carrera was the most important leader of the Chilean War of Independence during the period of the Patria Vieja. After the Spanish Reconquista ("Reconquest"), he continued campaigning from exile. His opposition to the leaders of independent Argentina and Chile San Martin and O'Higgins respectively made him to live in exile in Montevideo. From Montevideo Carrera traveled to Argentina where he joined the struggle against the unitarians. Carreras' small army was eventually left isolated in the Province of Buenos Aires from the other federalist forces. In this difficult situation Carrera decided to cross to native-controlled lands all the way to Chile to once for all overthrow Chilean Supreme Director O'Higgins. His passage to Chile, which was his ultimate goal, was opposed by Argentine politicians and he engaged together with indigenous tribes, among the Ranquels, in a campaign against the southern provinces of Argentina. After the downfall of Carreras' ally, the Republic of Entre Ríos, and several victories against the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata Carrera's men were finally defeated by numerically superior forces near Mendoza. Carrera was then betrayed by one of his Argentine helpers, leading to his capture and execution in that city. José Miguel Carrera was of Basque descent.

At the beginning of Patria Nueva, a period that began with the victory at the Battle of Chacabuco, Chile had a government with its own authorities which controlled much of the territory of Chile, had a flag, a coat-of-arms and its own currency, all of which indicated that Chile had become an independent state. Thus, there was no pressing need to make an explicit declaration of independence, as the United States of America had done in 1776, Venezuela in 1811, Colombia in 1813, and Argentina in 1816. [1]

Battle of Chacabuco battle of the Spanish American wars of independence

The Battle of Chacabuco, fought during the Chilean War of Independence, occurred on February 12, 1817. The Army of the Andes of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata led by General Captain José de San Martín defeated the Spanish force led by Rafael Maroto. It was a defeat for the Captaincy General of Chile, the royalist government established after the division of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Flag of Chile flag

The flag of Chile consists of two equal horizontal bands of white and red, with a blue square the same height as the white band in the canton, which bears a white five-pointed star in the center. It was adopted on 18 October 1817. The Chilean flag is also known in Spanish as La Estrella Solitaria.

Coat of arms of Chile coat of arms

The coat of arms of Chile dates from 1834 and was designed by the English artist Charles Wood Taylor (1792-1856). It is made up by a figurative background divided in two equal parts: the top one is blue and the bottom, red. A five pointed white star is in the centre of the shield. This background is supported in one side by a condor, the most significant bird of prey from the Andes, and in the other, by a huemul, a mammal endemic to Chile. Both animals wear golden naval crowns symbolising the heroic deeds of the Chilean Navy in the Pacific Ocean.

The President of Chile, Bernardo O'Higgins, bore in mind the problems experienced by the previous era, and convinced the members of his assembly that declaring independence would be difficult and problematic at this time, as the country was still warring against the Spanish Royalists and because the establishment of internal order was indispensable towards the goal of independence. [1] Therefore, it was decided that a plebiscite would be held instead.

On 13 November 1817, the Superior Governmental Junta, in the absence of O'Higgins, who was overseeing military operations in the southern part of Chile, issued a decree declaring that a referendum was to be set up to run for fifteen days. The referendum would be held in each of the four administrative quarters of Santiago, and would run for fifteen days, during which residents would sign their views in favor or against the Declaration of Independence. Cities and towns were advised to follow the same procedure.

The decree was sent alongside the referendum form to the authorities of the regional governments and bore the signatures of several Junta members: Luis de la Cruz, Francisco Antonio Pérez, José Manuel Astorga, and the Minister of the Interior Miguel Zañartu. [5] On 15 November, Zañartu sent a brief to the same recipients instructing them to publish the form "as soon as possible". [5]

The result of the referendum was favorable to O'Higgins. The new order had the support of the majority of citizens who participated in the referendum, though many who did not agree did not participate because they feared their votes would bring persecution towards them. [1] However, in Concepción, the plebiscite was not complete, and was only held in a few locations, as reported by O'Higgins on 23 December 1817 from his camp opposite Talcahuano: "[...] habían empezado a remitir algunos partidos las suscripciones [...] pero las ocurrencias ulteriores en la provincia y la medida últimamente adoptada de hacer emigrar de ella a todos sus habitantes, no permiten esta operación". [6]

During the month of December, after checking the results, the government began preparations to make a solemn declaration of independence. This coincided with news about the upcoming arrival of a new Royalist expedition under the command of Spanish Brigadier Mariano Osorio, aimed at reconquering Chile.

Since the plebiscite had decided in favor of a declaration of independence, it was decided that a formal act would be drawn up which concisely and clearly represented the will of the Chilean people. The process would mimic that of other countries which had already declared their independence. A manifesto was also to be published which would outline the rationale and reasons for the declaration. The person in charge of this work would be Miguel Zañartu, and secondly Bernardo Vera y Pintado. [1]

Morrillo de Perales in Talcahuano Morillo Perales.JPG
Morrillo de Perales in Talcahuano

At the end of 1817, O'Higgins was present at the siege of Talcahuano against the Spanish forces. When the uncertain military situation forced O'Higgins' forces to lift the siege, they retreated to Morrillos de Perales (now known as the "U" hill). This was a position which the patriots had chosen and which dominated one of the gates of Talcahuano. On 1 January 1818, a message of independence asserting that Chile was a "free and sovereign country, not a rebel province" was drafted, written on a drum according to folklore. The message was addressed to Colonel José Ordóñez, the Spanish controller of the port of Talcahuano and former mayor of Concepción. This document is considered the first declaration of independence of Chile. [7] [8]

Pledge of independence

The formal ceremony and pledge of independence was set for the first anniversary of the Battle of Chacabuco: 12 February 1818.

Proclamacion y jura de la Independencia de Chile, by Pedro Subercaseaux Errazuriz (1945) JuraIndependencia.jpg
Proclamación y jura de la Independencia de Chile, by Pedro Subercaseaux Errázuriz (1945)

On 9 February, Luis de la Cruz published the program of the ceremonies and celebration to be held in Santiago. These activities commenced on 11 February in the afternoon with the firing of cannons from Cerro Santa Lucía. At nine o'clock on 12 February, all the authorities and people of the Palacio Directorial de Santiago mounted a stage in front of the Plaza de Armas in Santiago.

The ceremony was opened by José Gregorio Argomedo, prosecutor of the Chilean Court of Appeals, who gave a speech representing the government, after which the minister Miguel Zañartu read the Act of Independence

de la Cruz then requested the oath from José Ignacio Cienfuegos, administrator of the Santiago Diocese, who had earlier added the phrasing "Y así juro porque creo en mi conciencia que ésta es la voluntad del Eterno" ("And so I swear on my conscience that this is the will of the Eternal"). Following this, Cruz heard the oath from José de San Martín, the General in Chief of the Chilean Army. Minister Zañartu also took the oath along with several other authorities and public officials. Finally, the Mayor of Santiago, Francisco de Borja Fontecilla, swore the oath to the people. [9]

On 13 February, a Te Deum was sung at the Santiago Cathedral, and, the next day, the cathedral celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving. After this, Tomás Guido gave a speech congratulating the Chilean people on behalf of the Buenos Aires government. The public celebration of independence in Santiago lasted until 16 February. The declaration itself was widely distributed to the populace. Another document, which covered the motives behind the revolution and declaration of independence, written by Bernardo Vera, was also distributed to the public to a lesser extent. [9]

In Talca, on 12 February, O'Higgins presided over the swearing-in of the Independent Southern Army, and the subsequent ceremony with ceremonial gunfire, a Mass, Te Deum and public festivities. During these few days, the declaration of independence was made in many other cities and towns of Chile, with as many festivities as could be had. In La Serena, independence was declared on 27 February and the festivities lasted until 1 March [10] and in Copiapó the ceremony took place between March 27 and 28.

On 15 June 1820, Valdivia was sworn into the new nation, after Thomas Cochrane led a successful attempt to capture Valdivia from the royalists. Later, on 22 January 1826, the pledge of independence would be made in San Carlos, Chiloé, after the Spanish signed the Treaty of Tantauco, which gave the Chiloé Archipelago to Chile.

See also


  1. Bernardo O’Higgins erroneously appears in this recreation, as he was actually in Talca on that day.

Related Research Articles

Bernardo OHiggins Chilean independence leader

Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme was a Chilean independence leader who freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. He was a wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile (1817–1823), he is considered one of Chile's founding fathers, as he was the first holder of this title to head a fully independent Chilean state.

Argentine War of Independence 1810-1825 armed conflict in South America

The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1810 to 1818 by Argentine patriotic forces under Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli and José de San Martín against royalist forces loyal to the Spanish crown. On July 9, 1816, an assembly met in San Miguel de Tucumán, declared full independence with provisions for a national constitution.

Francisco Marcó del Pont Royal Governor of Chile

Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont Ángel Díaz y Méndez was a Spanish soldier and the last Governor of Chile. He was one of the main figures of the Chilean independence process, being the final Spaniard to rule as Royal Governor of Chile from 1815 to 1817, when he was deposed and captured by the patriot forces after the Battle of Chacabuco.

Juan Gregorio de las Heras Argentine general

Grand Marshal Juan Gregorio de Las Heras was an Argentine soldier who took part in the Spanish American wars of independence and was also a governor of the province of Buenos Aires.

Juan Mackenna Chilean military officer

Brigadier Juan Mackenna was an Irish-born, Chilean military officer and hero of the Chilean War of Independence. He is considered to have been the creator of the Corps of Military Engineers of the Chilean Army.

Luis Carrera Chilean military officer

Colonel Luis Florentino Juan Manuel Silvestre de los Dolores de la Carrera y Verdugo was a Chilean military officer who fought in the Chilean War of Independence. Together with his brothers José Miguel and Juan José, they were some of most important leaders of Chilean struggle for independence during the period of the Patria Vieja. The Carrera family is of Basque origin.

Fernando Baquedano Chilean politician and general

General Fernando Baquedano Rodríguez was a Chilean military and political figure who served in the Chilean War of Independence and the War of the Confederation. Fernando Baquedano was of Basque descent, his ascendants came from Abarzuza.

Vicente San Bruno Spanish military officer

Vicente San Bruno Rovira was a Spanish military officer, infamous for his cruelty during the Chilean War of Independence.

Antonio de Guill y Gonzaga was a Spanish colonial administrator who served as Royal Governor of Panama and Royal Governor of Chile.

Patria Nueva

Patria Nueva was a period in the history of Chile that began with the victory of Ejército de los Andes in the Battle of Chacabuco on 12 February 1817 and ended with the resignation of Bernardo O'Higgins as Supreme Director in 1823.

Chilean brigantine <i>Águila</i> (1796)

Águila was the first naval vessel of the Chilean Navy. She was later renamed Pueyrredón.

First Chilean Navy Squadron

The First Chilean Navy Squadron was the heterogeneous naval force that terminated temporarily Spanish colonial rule on the south-west coast of South America, and protagonized the most important naval actions of Chile in the Latin American wars of independence. The Chilean revolutionary government organized the squadron in order to carry the war to the Viceroyalty of Perú, then the center of Spanish power in South America, and thus secure the independence of Chile and Argentina.

Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna Chilean politician

Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna was a Chilean writer, journalist, historian and politician. Vicuña Mackenna was of Irish and Basque descent.

Legion of Merit of Chile

The Legion of Merit of Chile, frequently abbreviated to the Legion of Merit or the Legion, was a Chilean multi-class order of merit established on 1 June 1817 by Bernardo O'Higgins to recognise distinguished personal merit contributing to the independence of Chile or to the nation. Membership of the Legion conferred a variety of privileges in Chile and its members were entitled to wear insignia according to the class conferred. The Legion of Merit of Chile was abolished in 1825.

Manuel Olaguer Feliú Spanish Field Marshal and Captain General of Galicia

Manuel Olaguer Feliú, was a military engineer who became Field Marshal and Captain General of Galicia. Participated in the colonial wars in the Captaincy General of Chile and the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Luis de la Cruz Chilean politician and general

Luis De la Cruz y Goyeneche was a Chilean politician and military, son of Pablo De la Cruz and Antonia de Goyeneche y Lope de Lara. His father was born in Tabernas (Spain) in 1714 and was a military who came to Chile in 1740.

Ambrosio OHiggins, 1st Marquess of Osorno Irish-Spanish colonial administrator

Ambrosio Bernardo O'Higgins, 1st Marquess of Osorno born Ambrose Bernard O'Higgins, was a Spanish colonial administrator and a member of the O'Higgins family. He served the Spanish Empire as captain general of Chile (1788–1796) and viceroy of Peru (1796–1801). Chilean independence leader Bernardo O'Higgins was his son.

The following lists events that happened during 1817 in Chile.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Barros Arana, Diego (1890). "Arribo y desembarco de la expedición española: proclamación y jura de la indepedencia de Chile (Diciembre de 1817—Febrero de 1818)". Historia General de Chile[General History of Chile] (in Spanish). Volume XII. Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes.
  2. Encina, Francisco (1984). "La expedición de Osorio. Proclamación de la Independencia de Chile" [The expedition of Osorio. Proclamation of the Independence of Chile]. Historia de Chile desde la Prehistoria hasta 1891[History of Chile from Prehistory to 1891] (in Spanish). Volume XIV. Santiago: Editorial Ercilla.
  3. Fernández Ruiz, Roberto (17 September 2006). "¿Dónde se firmó el Acta de la Independencia?" [Where was the Act of Independence signed?]. El Sur (in Spanish). Concepción. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  4. "Destacados del año 1973" (in Spanish). Medios Digitales Copesa. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  5. 1 2 Correa Bello, Sergio (1991). "Historia del Plebiscito 1817-1818" [History of the Plebiscite 1817-1818]. IX Jornadas de Historia de Chile[Ninth Conference on the History of Chile] (in Spanish). La Serena: University of La Serena.
  6. "Acta de la Independencia de Chile" (in Spanish). Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  7. "Historia de Talcahuano" (in Spanish). I. Municipalidad de Talcahuano. Archived from the original on 16 July 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  8. "Historia de Concepción. Declaración de la Independencia" (in Spanish). Municipalidad de Concepción. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  9. 1 2 Barros Arana, Diego (1890). "Solemnidades y entusiasmo con que se hace la proclamación y jura de la independencia" [Solemnities and enthusiasms with which the proclamation and pledge of independence were made]. Historia General de Chile[General History of Chile] (in Spanish). Volume XII. Santiago, Chile: Imprenta Cervantes.
  10. Concha, Manuel (1871). Crónica de La Serena, desde su fundación hasta nuestros días. 1549-1870[Chronicle of La Serena, from its foundation to the present day. 1549-1870] (in Spanish). La Serena, Chile: Imprenta de La Reforma. p. 120.