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THE AUTHORS to GENERAL MILLER.
General Alvear takes Monte Video—Otorguez—Contradictory
understanding in regard to the Capitulation-Decree about Artigas-Honours conferred on Artigas-Buenos Ayres and Artigas-Alvear's Prosperous State of Affairs-Attempts of Buenos Ayres to coerce the Provinces—The Abuse of her Power.
London, 1842. The way having been paved, by the brilliant action of Admiral Brown, for the occupation of Monte Video, and the fortress being thenceforward so straitened by sea and land as to leave no alternative to the besieged between starvation and surrender, on the 20th of June, 1814, the governor, Don Gaspar Vigodet, surrendered this place, by capitulation, to the Buenos Ayres general. What the terms were of this capitulation was not clearly known, but it was generally believed that they were honourable to the Spanish commander and garrison. They were never, however, published,
CAPTURE OF MONTE VIDEO.
the account of the whole affair being transmitted verbally to the Supreme Director of Buenos Ayres, by one of Alvear's confidential officers, Colonel French.
Certain it is, that when the Buenos Ayres forces took possession of the citadel and forts, the Spanish troops were still there, and, it was generally understood, were to march out with all the honours of war. But on the 23rd of June, three days after the capitulation, General Alvear believing, or affecting to believe, that there was some sinister view in the Spanish governor Vigodet's withholding the ratification, declared the place to have surrendered at discretion : 150 of his officers, and upwards of 700 men, were shut up, as prisoners, in the “House of the Negros," and the large bakehouse of Perez, established without the walls.* They were thence shipped off, as prisoners of war, to Buenos Ayres. How far this conduct was justifiable, we possess not the means of pronouncing. Alvear may, or he may not, have had good grounds upon which to act as he did.
* See Alvear's dispatch to the Supreme Director, dated 30th June, 1814.
Having intercepted a letter to the officer in command of the Spanish troops from Colonel Otorguez, inviting them to join his army, Alvear determined to attack this opponent, whom he calls a “caudillo,” or unlicensed chief. Otorguez begged leave to decline the rank assigned him, styled himself leader of the Orientales, and required of Alvear that Monte Video should be given up to its legitimate masters.
Alvear routed this so-called rebel near Las Piedras, a town not far from Monte Video; and henceforward the whole Banda Oriental and Entre Rios were at the feet of the magisterial Buenos Ayres.
Ambition now began to peep forth. Having reaped both his own laurels and those of the men who, in the brunt of the action had preceded him, Alvear prepared for greater things in a different field.
Certainly under him Monte Video was taken, the Banda Oriental pacified, and, more extraordinary than either achievement, a truce was concluded with Artigas, and in consequence of it the following decree issued by the Supreme Director of Buenos Ayres :
HONOURS CONFERRED ON ARTIGAS.
“ Buenos Ayres, August 17, 1814. “ As it appears, from the correspondence intercepted at Monte Video, that Don José Artigas has taken no part in the coalition proposed by some of the officers of the Banda Oriental with the (Spanish) chiefs of the fortress; and in reference to his conduct subesquently to his proscription, as well as to the treaty entered into with him by Don Carlos de Alvear, I have resolved, with the advice of my council of state, to declare him a faithful servant of his country, to reinstate him in all the privileges connected with the rank, honours, and prerogatives of colonel of militia, and to confer upon him, moreover, the authority, style, and title of General-Commandant of the Oriental territory of Monte Video. Neither, in any of these appointments, shall any former decrees of the Government be held as detracting from his merit, nor as circumscribing or condemning his peculiar opinions.
“ Let this decree be circulated, by my secretary of state, among all the provinces, and published in the ministerial gazette.
(Signed) “Gervasio Ant. De Posadas."
BUENOS AYRES AND ARTIGAS.
Yet Artigas was the man for whose head, a few months before, a premium of six thousand dollars had been offered; who had been covered with every obloquy which language could supply; and who, though the hardiest and most enterprising officer of the whole revolutionary corps d'armée, had been sneered at by the youngsters of the new military school, and by grave senators pronounced a nuisance, only to be exterminated by proscription.
What was the secret of their now altered tone, which condescended, after all, to grant Artigas limited powers, to which present expediency made him subscribe, but at which he laughed in his sleeve, while he harboured in his restless and ambitious soul, projects of a much higher character?
As regards Artigas the answer is, that he saw in Otorguez, a formidable rival to his own aspirations of becoming supreme chief of the Banda Oriental; that the Buenos Ayres forces were too formidable, just then, for resistance; and that by appearing willingly to co-operate with them, he might thwart and frighten his adversary Otorguez. The latter also aspired at supreme command; and such a pretension, on his part, was as smoke in the eyes of Artigas the Colonel of Blandenguez.