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"The Jamaica Letter" by Simon Bolivar

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Julia Yanoff

on 27 September 2012

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Transcript of "The Jamaica Letter" by Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar "The Jamaica Letter" Simon Bolivar wrote this letter from Jamaica, where was exiled after Spanish forces crushed his army in Caracas
He wrote this letter to an English correspondent, believed to be the Duke of Manchester, and the governor of Jamaica at the time. But there are various hypotheses Context of
the Letter Simon Bolivar In this letter, which is his most famous work, Bolivar outlines his philosophical and political ideals for Latin America
This letter, directed towards a British official, is also a plea to Europe
Bolivar "hopes for some powerful, liberal nation to take American under its wing politically for guidance and protection" Very clearly directed towards Britain
"Nobody would have desired more than I to serve my country without the humiliation of having to beg the support of a Foreign Power. But this hope has gone. I come to beg for help. I shall go to London to find it. If necessary I shall go to the ends of the Earth"
When Bolivar does not end up receiving aid from England, he is forced to act alone as a daring military leader. British do not respond, partially due to previous miscalculations, although they were invested in not having Spain reconquer Purpose of the Letter Political Agenda Bolivar's ideal situation involves one unified Pan-American state, however, he realizes this is impractical and can not exist
it is impossible because of the different compositions of each country, culturally, demographically, etc.
Recognizes the impossibility of maintaining such a geographically large state, and uses examples of smaller states with more successful governments
He never really lets go of this idea, and it dictates his procedure in liberating colonies of South America Bolivar borrowed heavily from the philosophies of Montesquieu, Rosseau, and others
Both Bolivar and Montesquieu believed that any political system could threaten the tyranny of a dictator or the tyranny of the mob
Bolivar was divided between this disdain for elite tyranny and oppression from the experience of Spanish colonial rule, as well as bad experiences with mob mentality and popular rule
He also believed that the Latin American people were not capable of ruling themselves because of their inexperience, but that they must be given the right to choose their own representatives.
According to Montesquieu, the best government "is that which best agrees with the humor of the people in whose favor it is established" Political Agenda continued Bolivar's Political Decision Bolivar is influenced by the governmental systems of other countries
Even less, however is he inclined to support monarchies or dictatorships, which are in "clear opposition to the interests of their citizens" And so he is conflicted by this decision, and is inclined to support a representative republic with a strong executive for life
He then goes on to discuss specific predictions of government systems for specific countries, such as Chile and Peru, based on their characteristics "Until our compatriots acquire the political skills and virtues that distinguish our brothers to the north, entirely popular systems, far from being favorable to us, will, I greatly fear, lead to our ruin" Bolivar uses his language to create national pride, and to evoke a sense of nationalism for Latin American states that have not developed the sentiment naturally
One source mentions that Bolivar's language changes drastically in the Jamaica Letter from previous writing, because he writes more like a man of the people and with an "eloquent, defiant, and in some passages a despairing defense of continental independence..."
Also uses dramatic and descriptive language, with vivid imagery and metaphores, to personify the enemy, and incite optimism in the revolution. Language
"That wicked stepmother is the source of all our suffering" In reference to Spain
"The chains have been broken, we've been liberated, and now our enemies want to make us slaves"
"The hatred we feel for the Peninsula is greater than the sea separating us from it; it would be easier to bring the two continents together than to reconcile the spirits and minds of the two countries" Critical Questions for Discussion Why is Mexico deemed the Metropolis?
For emerging nations in precarious situations, is tyranny more practical than democracy?
Do other European countries have a responsibility to intervene and help Latin American countries against Spain?
What could be the benefits of one unified Latin American state? Could that ever function practically?
Is Bolivar hypocritical for becoming a dictator of "Gran Colombia"? Is that inconsistent with his ideology?
Should Columbus be celebrated by Latin Americans? Is it contradictory to call a new state Columbia after him? In the Stacks!
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