Liberal Revolution Of Ecuador: Causes, Development And Consequences

The liberal revolution of Ecuador was an armed uprising whose climax occurred on June 5, 1895 in the city of Guayaquil. The insurrection was carried out by the liberal sectors to overthrow the conservative government. The leader of the revolution was Eloy Alfaro, who became president of the country after the government defeat.

Ecuador had had governments of a conservative tendency for several decades, supported by the oligarchy and by the populations of the Sierra. For their part, the Liberals had their main area of ​​influence on the coast, with great support from the Guayaquil banking system and from the area’s agro-exporters.

Eloy Alfaro – Source: See page for author [Public domain]

Already in the 80s of the 19th century, the liberals had launched an offensive to overthrow the dictatorial government of Ignacio de Veintimilla, although they did not achieve their objective. However, they decided to continue the fight.

Finally, already in the 90s, the supporters of Eloy Alfaro were gaining ground in what had become an authentic civil war. The Guayaquil uprising was the step prior to Alfaro’s entry into Quito and the establishment of a government that brought liberal ideas to the country.

Article index

  • one

    Background

    • 1.1

      The Montoneras

    • 1.2

      Supreme Chief of Manabí and Esmeraldas

    • 1.3

      Progressism and “La Argolla”

    • 1.4

      Siege of Guayaquil

    • 1.5

      The Sale of the Flag

  • two

    Causes

    • 2.1

      Ideological differences between the coast and the mountains

    • 2.2

      Veintemilla and Marginalization of Alfaro

    • 23

      Liberal Decalogue

  • 3

    Developing

    • 3.1

      Chapulos Revolution

    • 3.2

      Assemblies and Civic Boards

    • 3.3

      Revolutionary outbreak

    • 3.4

      Site to Guayaquil

    • 3.5

      5th June

    • 3.6

      Peace Commissions

  • 4

    Consequences

    • 4.1

      Liberal governments

    • 4.2

      1st. constituent Assembly

    • 4.3

      Most important measures

    • 4.4

      Limitations of the Revolution

  • 5

    References

Background

Before Eloy Alfaro’s liberals came to power, Ecuador had already had some experience of governments of this ideology. Thus, in July 1851, José Maria Urbina overthrew the government of the time and undertook a series of reforms, such as the manumission of the slaves.

Later, several conservative governments followed one another and, in 1876, the coup d’état took place that brought General Ignacio de Veintemilla to power.

The Montoneras

According to experts, the montoneras were the greatest exponent of social mobilization during the 19th century in Ecuador. Its beginnings date back to 1825, on the coast, when the first actions of popular resistance took place against the repression of the government of the time.

The participants in the montoneras were mainly peasants and small businessmen. From the Garcian era, these movements acquired a clearly liberal character and were often led by local landowners.

Among the strengths of these movements were their great mobility and knowledge of the area, which made it difficult for government forces to fight them. In addition, they used to have great social support.

Eloy Alfaro took advantage of those advantages. From the Garcian era, he began to gain prestige within the liberal camp, first in his province and, later, throughout the coast, including Guayaquil. By 1882, he had gathered enough support to launch a military campaign against Veintimilla from Esmeraldas, although this attempt ended in failure.

Supreme Chief of Manabí and Esmeraldas

Despite defeat in that first campaign, the Liberals continued their offensive. In 1883, Alfaro was appointed Supreme Chief of Manabí and Esmeraldas, a position from which he continued to lead the fight against the government.

Eventually, the rebels managed to topple Veintimilla, although the political result was not what they expected. Thus, some members of the government, both conservatives and liberals, joined forces to establish what was known as the “Progressive Period.”

With this strategy, the oligarchy managed to maintain its influence. The period lasted eleven more years, during which the presidencies of José María Plácido Caamaño, Antonio Flores Jijón and Luis Cordero Crespo followed.

Progressism and “La Argolla”

The leaders of the progressive period succeeded in getting a good part of the country’s political class to position themselves in their favor. However, the decisions remained in the hands of some of the great families that owned Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil, gathered in an alliance that received the name of “La Argolla.”

This caused the powerful families that had been left out of that alliance, whether conservative or liberal, to fight against their power. The strongly repressive and corrupt character of the new regime also contributed to this.

Siege of Guayaquil

Meanwhile, Eloy Alfaro had not stopped his fight. At the head of his men, he was the first to encircle Guayaquil and, on July 9, 1883, he managed to take the city. The following year, the 1884 Convention was convened, in which he resigned from the leadership of Manabí.

Alfaro went into exile, although he returned to face the Caamano government again, putting himself at the head of the montoneros. Despite his growing popularity, some accused him of declaring war on the newly appointed president for no concrete reason.

At the end of 1884, after his defeat in Jaramijó, he had to go into exile again, this time to Panama. It was at that time that he earned his nickname of Old Fighter or General of Defeats, since he was always capable of resuming the fight, despite setbacks.

The Sale of the Flag

In the same 1894, a political scandal gave strength to the Liberals. It was about “the Sale of the Flag”, which affected the government of Luis Cordero and former President Caamaño, then Governor of Guayas.

At that time, China and Japan were at war. The Ecuadorian government allowed Chile to use the Ecuadorian flag to sell a war cruiser. The Chileans had declared themselves neutral, so, according to international law, they could not sell weapons to any contender.

The Ecuadorian people felt very offended by the maneuver, which was considered a humiliation to the honor of the country. In addition, this episode was added to other unclear agreements carried out by “La Argolla”.

The liberals called for the formation of assemblies and civic boards in various cities to judge what the government had done. In some parts of the country, such as the Province of Los Ríos, the montoneras reappeared. By 1895, the revolt was unstoppable.

Causes

The main cause of the revolution was the intention of the liberal factions to end the period of conservative governments.

Ideological differences between the coast and the mountains

One of the characteristics of Ecuador at that time was the ideological division between the Sierra and the coast. In the inter-Andean region, the Sierra, conservatives predominated, with a strong influence from the Catholic Church.

For its part, on the coast the situation was the opposite. During the colonial period it had had less economic importance and large estates had not been established, as if it were the case in the Sierra. It was from the eighteenth century when the trade in cocoa and other products allowed the economic development of the area.

The rivalry between the two areas of the country continued after independence, in 1830. After that date, three poles of economic and political power were consolidated, Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, competing with each other.

While the merchants of Guayaquil were in favor of free trade and political openness, the landowners of the Sierra preferred protectionism.

Veintemilla and Marginalization of Alfaro

The government of General Veintemilla was another cause that intensified the struggle between liberal conservatives. At the end of his term, everyone feared that he would declare himself a dictator, prompting a reaction from opponents.

Despite the triumph of the latter, Alfaro and the liberalism of the coast were marginalized in the formation of the new government. This was even more repressive than the previous one, so the rebellions continued.

Liberal Decalogue

The Ecuadorian liberals not only wanted to overthrow the conservative governments, but also to carry out their political program. This consisted of ten points and was published at the time.

In the field of relations with the Church, the Liberals wanted to issue a dead-hand decree, eliminate some convents and monasteries, abolish the concordat, and expel foreign clergymen. Likewise, they had the intention of secularizing society, promoting secular and compulsory education.

Other aspects of his program were the creation of a strong and well-paid army, the construction of the railroad to the Pacific, and decreeing the freedom of the Indians.

Developing

Alfaro’s military and political campaign began in the Andes with the support of the montoneras. The base of his followers were small and medium landowners, peasants, day laborers and the urban lower strata. Likewise, he received support from the indigenous people of the Sierra and from liberal intellectuals.

Chapulos Revolution

In November 1884, new rebellions broke out against the government headed by Caamaño. In the Province of Los Ríos the so-called Revolution of the Chapulos began, a moment that Alfaro took advantage of to return from Panama.

However, the revolutionary movements ended in defeat, so the liberals had to retreat for several years.

Assemblies and Civic Boards

The opportunity for the Liberals came with the Flag Sale scandal. The anger of the population made them go to the call of the liberals to create Civic Boards in much of the country.

The first was organized in Guayaquil, on December 9, 1894, with a great attendance success. Four days later, a large demonstration took place in Quito. The police violently disbanded it and the government declared a state of emergency.

Despite the government reaction, the revolution was unstoppable. In a very short time, the rebellions spread, from Milagro to Esmeralda, passing through El Oro and most of the towns on the coast.

Revolutionary outbreak

Alfaro had called to take up arms against the government and the response was immediate. On February 13, in Milagro, a montonera attacked the coastal railway and used it to reach the interior of the country. On the 17th of the same month, the montoneras had multiplied throughout the Guayas and in Manabí.

For their part, the Conservatives also showed discontent. On the 20th, an insurrection took place in the Ibarra garrison, proclaiming Camilo Ponce Ortiz Supreme Chief.

The government, with fewer and fewer options, tried to force the inhabitants of the coastal towns to join your troops, which only caused the peasants to flee and join the montoneras.

In the central and northern highlands, small detachments of insurgents were formed to attack government forces. On April 9, they took Guaranda and, the next day, an insurrection broke out in Quito.

At the same time, the revolution was gaining ground throughout the coast, with pronouncements in numerous towns and victories by the montoneras against government forces.

Site to Guayaquil

In early July, the insurgents had besieged Guayaquil. The military chief in charge of the detachment that defended it decided to resign, yielding his position to a Board made up of the most important personalities of the city.

On July 4, almost everyone in the city took to the streets and confronted the government military. Faced with the impossibility of resisting, the governor of the province presented his resignation.

5th June

The people of Guayaquil gathered on June 5, 1895, after the triumph of their uprising.

That same day, the city decided to ignore the government. The reasons given, according to their representatives, were “that liberal ideas are those that are most in harmony with modern civilization and progress and that they are the ones called to make the Republic happy.”

Likewise, they decided to appoint Eloy Alfaro as Supreme Chief of the Republic and General in Chief of the Army. Almost 16,000 people signed the minutes with these decisions.

On the 18th, Eloy Alfaro arrived in the city. According to the chroniclers, the reception was massive. It was a true celebration, with the participation of members of other political parties apart from the liberal one. On the 19th, he assumed the Supreme Headquarters of the Republic and organized the first liberal government in Guayaquil.

Peace Commissions

Alfaro’s next step was to spread the Guayaquil revolution to the rest of the country. To do this, it sent Peace Commissions to Quito and Cuenca, with the intention of reaching an agreement that would avoid violence and allow the liberal government program to be carried out. However, the conservative oligarchy refused any compromise.

Faced with this, Alfaro organized his troops to undertake, once again, the armed struggle. For its part, the government organized the defense of Quito.

Alfaro’s campaign was very fast, defeating his enemies in Chimbo, Socavón and Gatazo. On September 4, he entered Quito almost unopposed, where he was received by the vast majority of its inhabitants.

Consequences

The Liberal Revolution did not only consist of a change of government. The measures adopted meant that a social, economic and political transformation took place in Ecuador.

Liberal governments

Eloy Alfaro assumed the presidency of the country after the triumph of the revolution. His first mandate ran between 1895-1901, being replaced that year by Leonidas Plaza, his main political rival.

Plaza’s replacement was Lizardo García, although he was only in power for a year, between 1905 and 1906. A coup d’état returned the presidency to Alfaro, who held it until 1911.

1st. constituent Assembly

One of the first measures of Eloy Alfaro as Supreme Head of the Republic was to convene a Constituent Assembly. This began the writing of a new Magna Carta in 1896, being approved the following year.

Among the points included in the Constitution were the elimination of the death penalty, the establishment of freedom of worship and the possibility that every inhabitant of the country was a citizen.

On the other hand, during that first period, the gap between the Coast and the Sierra closed a bit. In this way, the stability of the country increased and even led to the creation of a national identity that encompassed both areas. The construction of the railroad between Guayaquil and Quito was one of the tools to bring the two areas closer together.

Most important measures

The liberal governments that emerged after the revolution undertook a series of structural reforms in Ecuador. To begin with, they legislated the separation between the State and the Church, whose power, especially in the Sierra, had been almost absolute.

On the other hand, public institutions were reorganized, infrastructures were modernized and the role of women in society was promoted.

In other respects, these governments gave marriage, civil registration, and divorce a civil character, eliminating the total control that the Church had over these issues. In addition, they introduced secular and free education.

In the economy, during this period cocoa exports grew, consolidating this business sector on the Coast.

The alfarismo tried to favor business growth. To do this, it issued laws that protected the national industry. In addition, it regulated the wages of workers, in an attempt to end indigenous and peasant servitude.

Limitations of the Revolution

Despite the aforementioned reforms, the liberal governments encountered limitations typical of the time. In this way, they could not carry out a comprehensive agrarian reform, nor complete the industrialization of the country. Similarly, there was not a total democratization of society based on equality.

The foundations of the alfarismo were disappointed by the delay in the implantation of these subjects. This, together with the appearance of a new oligarchic class, put an end to the liberal project. The end point was marked by the murder of Alfaro and other colleagues on January 28, 1912.

References

  1. Avilés Pino, Efrén. Liberal Revolution. Obtained from encyclopediadelecuador.com
  2. Paz y Miño, Juan J. The Ecuadorian Liberal Revolution. Obtained from eltelegrafo.com.ec
  3. Civic Center Ciudad Alfaro. The triumph of the Radical Liberal Revolution. Obtained from Ciudalfaro.gob.ec
  4. Halberstadt, Jason. Eloy Alfaro & The Liberal Revolution. Retrieved from ecuadorexplorer.com
  5. Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. Revolution Of 1895. Retrieved from encyclopedia.com
  6. Revolvy. Liberal Revolution of 1895. Retrieved from revolvy.com
  7. Minster, Christopher. Biography of Eloy Alfaro. Retrieved from thoughtco.com

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