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he had no means of preventing, declared exempt from duty most of the merchandise coming from Spain, and imposed an export tax of 3 to 15 per cent on the products of the colonies sent to Spain, and collected on their arrival in that country. This measure was followed by considerable commercial activity in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, where the exportation of leather, salted meats, and wool had already reached some importance.
In 1806, an English fleet, under Commodore Popham, appeared before Montevideo, but, finding the place prepared for attack, proceeded to Buenos Aires, which was captured without much resistance on the 27th of June. The whole English force consisted of 5 vessels and only 1,500 men, and the slight resistance offered by the viceroy has been imputed to cowardice. The indignation excited by the surrender made it easy for Capt. Santiago de Liniers to collect a body of about 3,000 men for the recapture of the place. He attacked the English in Buenos Aires, who were under the command of Gen. Beresford, and after a fierce struggle, forced them to surrender on August 12, 1806. The news of the capture of Buenos Aires by Popham having reached England, it was determined to complete the conquest of the country, and a fleet with a force of 5,300 men was dispatched under Rear Admiral Sterling for the Plata. On their arrival, however, affairs were completely changed by the recapture of the city. Sterling made no attempt to carry out the object of the expedition.
Another fleet was sent out by the British Government with 11,180 men under Gen. Whitelocke, and in the meanwhile, Popham, who had remained in the river threatening the eastern shore, attempted to capture Montevideo, but was repulsed and retired to Maldonado. In January, 1807, a reënforcement having arrived, a second attack was made on Montevideo with 4,600 men, and on the night of February 2, after a vigorous assault by land and by sea, the city was taken by the English forces. Soon after this, the combined
English forces in the river, under command of Gen. Whitelocke, made an attack on Buenos Aires, but were disastrously defeated, and, withdrawing from Montevideo, abandoned the Rio de la Plata.
Having successfully defended their soil from invasion, the people of the country had learned their own strength and were prepared to take their government into their own hands. On the 25th of May, 1810, the people of Buenos Aires, repudiating the authority of the Viceroy, chose a council to which they intrusted the conduct of public affairs; and this step was the beginning of the struggle that was to end with the extinction of Spanish dominion in South America.
A revolutionary party arose in Uruguay, at whose head was José G. Artigas. He left for Buenos Aires for the
organizing a movement for the liberation of the Banda Oriental, and in April, 1811, appeared in that region with an armed force, to which rallied many of the inhabitants. On the 26th of April, Artigas routed a Spanish force of 600 men in San José, and on the 28th of the following month, gained a great victory over the Spanish army at Las Piedras. After varying fortunes and a succession of victories and defeats, the Uruguayans succeeded in expelling the Spaniards from their country, and a confederation of the provinces of the Uruguay was formed under Artigas, who was styled the Protector.
The country was not, however, long to enjoy its hard-earned independence. The Portuguese had never renounced their claim to the country up to the Plata, and at the invitation of certain malcontents, a force was sent from Brazil to overthrow Artigas. After a canipaign of hard fighting it succeeded in capturing Montevideo. Maldonado was taken by a Portuguese fleet, but the country, for the greater part, still remained true to Artigas.
The Portuguese held possession of the places they had taken, and when, in 1822, Brazil became independent of Portugal and the Empire was proclaimed by Dom Pedro I, Uruguay was formed into the Cisplatine province of Brazil. Artigas continued the struggle against the invaders and revolting chiefs in his own party until, overcome by the superior force of his adversaries, he was forced to take refuge in Paraguay, where he remained until his death in 1850. The liberator of Uruguay and fervent patriot never returned to his native country.
The political condition of Uruguay was not yet settled. In April, 1825, a band of thirty-three Uruguayan refugees left Buenos Aires and entered Uruguay with the hope of provoking a revolt against its rulers. Many of the inhabitants joined them and soon they were able to successfully engage a Brazilian force at San Salvador. "The movement gaining strength, the insurgents proceeded to elect a constituent assembly, which met at Florida August 23, and issued a declaration of independence. The revolution gained strength. On September 24, the Brazilian cavalry was cut to pieces at Rincon, and on October 12, again defeated at Sarandí. The Brazilians were reduced to the garrisons of Montevideo and Colonia. The 'Argentine Government intervened, declaring that the latter province belonged to Buenos Aires, and the Brazilians declared war on that Republic, and sent a fleet which blockaded Buenos Aires. Admiral Brown, who commanded the Argentine flotilla, was repulsed in an attack on the Brazilian fleet on the oth of February, 1826, and sustained heavy losses in an attempt on Colonia shortly after. On the 30th of July, the Brazilian Admiral Lobo gained an important victory over Brown, but an expedition sent by the former into the Uruguay River was annihilated by the latter early in February, 1827.
The Brazilian general, the Marquis of Barbacena, lost the battle of Ituzaingo on the 20th of February, and the bad conduct of the campaign by the Brazilian officers rendered the war unpopular in the Empire, and on the 27th of August, 1828, by a convention concluded by the mediation of England, both Brazil and the
Argentine renounced their claims to Uruguay, and created the Oriental Republic of the Uruguay. A constituent assembly was held, and on the 18th of July, 1830, it proclaimed the autonomy of the nation. The independence of the Republic was guaranteed by Brazil and the Argentine; but the long period of intestine strife could not end at once, and the struggle for ascendency between the “Colorados” and the “ Blancos” kept the country turmoil and stained it with bloodshed in the strife of ambitious military and political chiefs.
In the Argentine country, a similar condition prevailed under the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who espoused the cause of Gen. Oribe in Uruguay, joined forces with him, and reduced the government of that country to the city of Montevideo, to which Oribe laid seige in 1842. The English and French made an ineffectual effort to overthrow Rosas, but it was not until 1852 that a Brazilian force under the Duke of Caxias, in the battle of Monte Caseros, put an end to the power of the ambitious chief, who, fleeing the country, took refuge in England.
A period of comparative quiet and peace continued up to 1862, when Flores, an ex-President of the Republic, invaded the country and began a civil war, supported, as chief of the “Colorado ”
party, by Brazil. A Brazilian force joined with the army of Flores, captured Paysandú and laid siege to Montevideo, which was at same time blockaded by an imperial fleet. The allied forces entered the capital February 25, 1865, and Flores was established provisional ruler of the country. The Republic of Uruguay now became allied with Brazil in the war declared by the latter country against Francisco Solano Lopez, Dictator of Paraguay. In this war, which lasted until March, 1870, the Uruguayan forces numbered about 2,000 men, and Gen. Flores distinguished himself by the complete victory gained by him over a division of the Paraguayans at Yatay on the 17th of August, 1865.
In 1866, Vidal was elected President of the Republic, and in
February, 1868, Gen. Flores was assassinated during an insurrection at Montevideo, and ex-President Berro, who, though not one of the assassins, was arrested in the street with arms in his hands, was executed along with others who had taken part in this insurrection of the Blancos. In the same year, Gen. Lorenzo Battle assumed the Presidency, and in 1870, another revolution broke out, whose issue was not decided until 1873, when, by the triumph of the Colorados, José Ellauré was elevated to the Presidency. He was, however, subsequently deposed by his own party, and in 1875, Pedro Varela was chosen, who continued in office until March of the following year, when he was forced to resign and was succeeded by Gen. Latorre, who proclaimed a dictatorship.
Since that time, the country has enjoyed comparative quiet. The political agitations have lost much of their bitterness, and the people seem less inclined to sacrifice themselves and their welfare to the ambitions of military leaders. The Republic appears to have entered upon the path of constitutional progress and the régime of law and order. The presidents of later years have exhibited wisdom in government under difficult circumstances and a patriotic ambition to advance their country's welfare rather than their personal interests, and as the nation emerges from the cloud which a great financial storm had gathered over it, it can look to a future bright with prosperity and find in its promise the courage that is equal to the demands of modern civilization, and the energy that shall not falter in the work of building up a great republic on the banks of the Uruguay.