February 12th 1818: Chilean Declaration of Independence
On this day in 1818, Chile officially issued its Declaration of Independence from Spanish rule, following the initial declaration of September 1810. Desire for independence had been on the rise in Chile for a number of years, fueled by international independence movements, disaffection with the corrupt Spanish-appointed governor, and the political turmoil following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the capture of the Spanish king. Following Argentina’s declaration of independence in May 1810, the governor arrested patriots including the Chilean Bernardo de Vera Pintado, prompting outrage in Chile. Citizens demanded a say in their future, and 300 leading Chileans gathered for a meeting. Many of the attendees were Spaniards living in Chile, and disagreements over the question of independence divided the meeting. It was finally resolved that Chile, like Argentina, would establish an independent government, but remain nominally loyal to the exiled King Fernando VII. Count Mateo de Toro y Zambrano was named President, and the new junta set about establishing a national Congress and military. However, royalists vociferously opposed the declaration - which put Chile resolutely on the path to total independence - and the next decade saw bloody warfare between those who advocated full independence, and those who wanted to remain within the Spanish Empire. In 1814, Spanish troops reconquered Chile, but the oppressive rule of Spanish loyalists reinvigorated the independence movement. The tide turned in favour of the patriots, who retook Chile in 1818, when they defeated the last large Spanish force in the Battle of Maipú, and issued a formal declaration of independence on February 12th. The wars came to a close with the expulsion of royalists in 1821, and the surrender of the last Spanish troops in 1826. Chilean independence was therefore secured, though not formally recognised by Spain until 1844.