Pedro Juan Caballero (politician)
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Pedro Juan Caballero (1786–1821) was a leading figure of Paraguayan independence. He was born in Tobatí a town located in a region called Department Cordillera, Paraguay. Even though he was 6 years younger than Fulgencio Yegros and 20 than Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia he played a significant role in the Revolution of Independence that occurred in the early morning hours of May 15, 1811. He was involved in the conspiracy of 1820 and committed suicide in his cell on July 13, 1821. The Paraguayan city of Pedro Juan Caballero is named after him.
He participated in the battles of Tacuarí and Paraguari against Belgrano. On January 19, 1811, a battle was waged in Paraguari which became a triumph for Paraguay due to the Paraguayan leaders’ performance, forcing Belgrano to retreat his men southward.
On March 9, 1811, on the banks of River Tacuarí, while Belgrano awaited reinforcements from Buenos Aires, another battle was waged (the Battle of Tacuati). Belgrano called for capitulation, which was granted by the head of the Paraguayan Army.
On the night of May 14, under the command of Captain Pedro Juan Caballero, patriots from Asuncion went to the quarters located by the square, after curfew, where the second lieutenant Mauricio Jose Troche was on duty, in charge of a contingent of 34 men from Curuguaty, and as a supporter of the revolution handed them the guard.
The quarters became the center of the revolution; political prisoners were released, weapons prepared, security measures taken and emissaries sent out of town to bring Fulgencio Yegros and Manuel Atanasio Cabañas to Asuncion.
The cathedral bells resonated and throughout the city ran the cry: ¡ tumult in the square! Several people close to Governor Bernardo de Velasco tried to get into the quarters, but without success.
At midnight, Vicente Ignacio Iturbe came to the residence of Governor Velasco, carrying a note whereby Pedro Juan Caballero and his subordinates stated their demands, which could be summarized as follows: • "The delivery of the square, all weapons and the Cabildo’s keys." • "The Governor Velasco continue in government, but associated with two representatives appointed by the officers at the quarters."
Ultimatum to the Governor Bernardo de Velasco
As Governor Bernardo de Velasco did not accept the conditions imposed by the revolutionaries, the troops came to the square and settled eight cannons in front of the house of government; Vicente Ignacio Iturbe was the bearer of a new ultimatum, setting a short deadline for response. The Governor Velasco was against any bloodshed, and came to the door to say: "If this is because of authority, I deliver the command stick." Upon Governor Velasco’s decision was known, the people felt great joy. A flag was raised and 21 cannonballs were fired.
The triumphant revolution
The congress meeting of June 17 appointed Caballero as member of the First Governing Board (Primera Junta Superior Gubernativa), composed of the following authorities: Fulgencio Yegros as President and Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, Pedro Juan Caballero, Francisco Javier Bogarín, and Fernando de la Mora as members. Moreover, the assembly of October 1813 appointed him as President, and although he was the favorite to be named Consul of Paraguay the position was finally granted to Dr. Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia and Fulgencio Yegros.
He was, as well as Juan Gamarra, one of the most tenacious opponents to Dr. Francia, who put pressure on Yegros to achieve the removal of Caballero from political activities.
The Paraguayan State
In the early hours of May 15, 1811, the Paraguayan state was born, when Bernardo de Velasco handed over the power to Pedro Juan Caballero, who received it on behalf of the people. The group of patriots who prepared the revolutionary movement, upon receiving the news about the fact that Governor Velasco was aware of the conspiracy and expected help from the Portuguese troops; decided to change the coup’s date, sooner than initially scheduled, following the advice of Francia, and not to wait for the arrival of the troops of Fulgencio Yegros.
The Treaty of October 12, 1811
On October 12, 1811, a treaty was signed, which established that Buenos Aires recognized the independence of Paraguay and committed both provinces to mutual assistance in case of war.
Achievements under his Administration The Board, which was formed by Fulgencio Yegros, Pedro Caballero and Juan Fernando de la Mora, started several economic and cultural reforms, such as:
- In January, 1812, the Military Academy was founded.
- The Mathematics professorship and the Patriotic Literary Society, an organization that he conducted since then, were introduced to public education.
- The Seminar was reopened and books were bought from Buenos Aires to start a Public Library.
- The old Real Colegio Seminario de San Carlos, took charge of teacher payment, meaning the beginning of free and mandatory education.
- Elementary schools were organized, the Board issued instructions for teachers, prohibiting corporal punishment.
- In the economic field, agriculture, commerce, navigation and the settlement of Chaco were promoted.
- From the juridical point of view: they ordered that all appeals were heard before the Board and not before the Court of Buenos Aires anymore, requesting this institution to forward all civil and criminal cases of Paraguay to the Board. The Triumvirate of Buenos Aires agreed to such demand.
The Easter of 1820
Conspiracy against the dictator was planned to be carried out on the last days of the Holy Week of 1820. Francia knew about it on Tuesday (through the declarations of two slaves that dennounced his master was fabricating gunpowder and the confession of a conspirator to his priest) of said week and the arrests started. Actually all the heroes of Independence fell in prison, even those who had voluntarily renounced to any political activity, such as Fulgencio Yegros. Dr. Francia was relentless. Some of the prisoners (64 in ten days) were executed by shooting, and a period of persecution and repression began, called by some people "The Terror". Historically, this is the start of "the Franciato", the period of Francia's no opposition dictatorship. Pedro Juan Caballero was captured at that moment, and committed suicide in his cell on July 13, 1821.
- Diario La Nación: “Enciclopedia Histórica del Paraguay”
- Nueva Historia del Paraguay, Editorial Hispana Paraguay S.R.L.
- Chavez, Julio Cesar: “El Supremo Dictador”
- Archivo Nacional de Asuncion, SC, Vol. 975, N.3, cited in: Editorial Tiempo de Historia: "Francia, Vol. II" doc: 1143
- Williams, John Hoyt: " 'Conspiracy of 1820', and the Destruction of Paraguayan Aristocracy"
- Williams, John H. (1979). The Rise and Fall of the Paraguayan Republic, 1800–1870. pp. 27–53.
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