Independence of Chile: Background, Causes, Stages, Consequences

The Independence of Chile It was a process that began on September 18, 1810 with the appointment of the First National Government Junta, and culminated on February 12, 1818 with the swearing in and proclamation of Independence. Chile became independent from the Spanish kingdom through the Act of Independence, dated in Concepción on January 1, 1818.

It was signed by O'Higgins a month later, but the ceremony was held on the 12th of that month in Talca and then in Santiago, on the first anniversary of the battle of Chacabuco. In the battles of Chacabuco (February 12, 1817) and Maipú (April 5, 1818), also won by the patriots, the emancipation of Chile from Spain was sealed.

Independence of Chile Proclamation of the Independence of Chile on February 12, 1818.

However, the independence of the country was not recognized by Spain until April 24, 1844. The movement of emancipation of the Kingdom of Chile began on September 18, 1810 with the town hall held in Santiago. On that day, the First National Government Junta was appointed to replace the General Captaincy.

The provisional governor, Mateo de Toro Zambrano, resigned the position. In substitution of the Government of Chile (Captaincy General) the formation of the National Government Board, dependent on the Central Supreme Board of Spain, was proposed. The charge was also chaired by Mateo de Toro Zambrano.

In principle, the purpose of the Government Junta of Chile and of all the American colonies was to defend the rights of the deposed Spanish King Fernando VII. However, the Chilean and continental independence movement began to take shape there.

The most outstanding figures of the independence process in Chile were Bernardo O'Higgins, José Miguel Carrera, Manuel Rodríguez and José de San Martín. They are considered the founding fathers of the Chilean nation.


  • 1 Background
    • 1.1 Foreign influence
  • 2 Causes
  • 3 Stages
    • 3.1 The Old Homeland (1810 - 1814)
    • 3.2 Spanish Reconquista (1814 - 1817)
    • 3.3 New Homeland (1817 - 1823)
  • 4 Political, social and economic consequences
    • 4.1 Policies
    • 4.2 Social
    • 4.3 Economics
  • 5 Important characters
    • 5.1 Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (1778 - 1842)
    • 5.2 José de San Martín y Matorras (1778 - 1850)
    • 5.3 Mateo de Toro y Zambrano (1727 - 1811)
    • 5.4 José Miguel Carrera (1785 - 1821)
    • 5.5 Manuel Rodríguez (1785 - 1818)
    • 5.6 Mariano Osorio (1777 - 1819)
    • 5.7 Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont (1765 - 1819)
  • 6 References


A series of events preceded and triggered the process of emancipation of Chile and the rest of the American colonies. The influence of the ideas of enlightenment and liberalism undoubtedly fertilized the fertile soil of independence.

Spain at that time accused a great erosion of its monarchy with a backward economy and a society rather with obscurantist traits. Meanwhile, other European countries were advancing, such was the case of England, France and Germany.

This situation contrasted with the fashionable ideas of the Enlightenment, which promoted modernity, freedom and reason over religion and the despotic governments of the time.

The new Creole ruling class of the colonial society of the late eighteenth century grew precisely at the height of these ideas. However, in the first two decades of the nineteenth century in America the monarchical regime itself was not questioned, but rather the way of governing and the privileges of the peninsular Spaniards.

Foreign influence

In the American colonies it was proposed to make corrections to the decadent colonial society and to reform the system of feudal and semi-feudal production.

During this time the influence of the Independence of the United States in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789 also helped to feed the libertarian thought.

The liberal political ideas were dosed during the independence process of Chile. There was the dangerous precedent of the independence of Haiti in 1804, where mestizos and black slaves rose up and murdered the white landlords. So the concept of popular sovereignty did not excite the Creole whites.

Another antecedent of Chilean independence was the economic situation of the American colonies after the Bourbon reforms.

The liberalization of trade completely modified the monopolies; This generated conflicts of interest between Creole white merchants and Spanish Spaniards.


The following are among the main causes that led to the independence process in Chile:

- The abdication of King Ferdinand VII and his son Carlos to the Spanish throne, forced by Napoleon Bonaparte. Spain was occupied in 1808 by the French troops, who took advantage of the situation of political, economic and military weakness that the Spanish kingdom had to conquer it.

- The privileges of Spaniards Spaniards in the administrative positions of government and commerce, disfavouring the Creoles children of Spaniards born in America, who felt the same rights. This was accentuated after the deposition of the king, which caused more discomfort.

- After the sudden death of Governor Luis Muñoz de Guzmán, in February 1818 a vacuum of power was created in the kingdom of Chile. Muñoz de Guzmán enjoyed popularity and authority and there was no one to replace him, because King Ferdinand XVII did not have time to replace him with another.

- After the interim regency of Juan Rodríguez Ballesteros, the position of governor of Chile was claimed and occupied by the military commander Francisco Antonio García Carrasco, for being the highest ranking military officer. This official was corrupt and incompetent. Their rudeness altered the local elites, which increased the restlessness and uncertainty.

- The governor García Carrasco was involved in a great scandal in October 1808. He was accused of stealing a load of contraband clothing from an English whaling ship and the murder of the captain and part of the crew during the assault. After this episode he could not continue governing and had to take refuge in his hacienda.

- At that time it was decided that the healthiest was to leave the administration of property and the government of Chile in the hands of a Government Provisional Governing Board (that was the official name of the National Government Board).


Almost the entire process of independence of Chile developed during a long war waged between royalist monarchists and patriotic supporters of independence.

This period was divided into three stages: the Old Homeland (1810-1814), the Reconquest or Monarchical Restoration (1814-1817) and the New Homeland (1817-1823).

The Old Homeland (1810 - 1814)

This period comprises two historical milestones fundamentally:

The First Governing Board (1810)

Its initial purpose was not to proclaim the independence of Chile but to preserve the rights of Fernando VII. However, in practice it meant the first step towards the emancipation of this Spanish colony, because it was integrated by Creole whites. They were the most prominent neighbors of Santiago with their own interests and desires for autonomy.

The Board had three major tasks and achievements:

- Convene the First National Congress.

- Determining freedom of commerce.

- The formation of armed bodies.

First National Congress (1811)

During its legislative functions, this congress achieved:

- Grant the people the right to organize and elect their authorities.

- To sanction the Law of freedom of the womb, so that all the children of slaves born in the Chilean territory and any other person who lived in it were free.

Government of José Miguel Carrera

- During this period that began in 1812, the Cabrera government introduced profound political reforms to pave the way for Independence.

- The Constitutional Regulation of 1812 was issued, which will be the first Chilean Constitution. In this it was established that the Executive power should be integrated by a triumvirate or board of three members, while the Legislative power was formed by the Senate of seven members. This was one of the greatest wishes of the Chilean white Creoles.

- By decree, Catholic convents were forced to found primary schools for boys and girls.

- The first national flag was created, consisting of three horizontal stripes with blue, white and yellow colors.

- The freedom of the press was decreed, which was later changed by prior censorship.

- The Carrera government respected the sovereignty of Fernando VII. However, it was expressly stipulated that the king must abide by the Chilean Constitution. It was also made clear that"no decree, order or order"issued by a different authority outside the territory of Chile would be respected or have any effect.

Spanish Reconquista (1814 - 1817)

This period began with the battle of Rancagua, also called the Disaster of Rancagua of 1814, and ended with the patriot victory in the battle of Chacabuco in 1817.

After the patriotic defeat in the Battle of Rancagua, a new stage in the life of Chile began, characterized by an increasing resistance to the colonial order. The return to power of the absolutist monarch Fernando VII in Spain (in 1813), increased the desire for emancipation.

The Spanish monarchy tried to retake power and that same year sent troops to Chile to confront the patriot army. After several combats, the Spanish realists defeated the Creole army.

During this period the government of Chile was under the power of the Spanish governors appointed by the king: first Mariano Osorio (1814 - 1815) and then Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont (1815 - 1817).

This stage meant a setback for the Chilean independence cause, since the colonial institutions were restored. Likewise, the liberties newly established in the Constitution were suppressed.

Many patriotic leaders were persecuted and fled into exile, others were exiled to the island of Juan Fernández. Meanwhile, in Chile the local clandestine resistance was maintained by Manuel Rodríguez; this facilitated the contact between the Chilean and Argentine patriots.

In Mendoza, where some Chilean patriots went into exile, they received support from the then governor of Cuyo and independence hero, José de San Martín.

From there he organized an army commanded by San Martin himself and Bernardo O'Higgins: it was the Liberation Army of the Andes, which crossed the Cordillera to confront the royalists.

New Homeland (1817 - 1823)

This period of Chilean independence history began on February 12, 1817 with the victory of the Army of the Andes in the battle of Chacabuco. It ended with the resignation of Bernardo O'Higgins in 1823.

The Liberation Army was able to cross the Andes mountain range and defeat the royalist forces at the Battle of Chacabuco, on the outskirts of the city of Santiago. The harsh military coup received by the Spanish military redoubt marked the beginning of the New Homeland and independence, which became official exactly one year later.

O'Higgins received the appointment of supreme director of Chile. His government devoted itself entirely to consolidating the nascent republic from the military and political point of view. Thus, on February 12, 1818 in the city of Talca, O'Higgins proclaimed the independence of Chile.

In response to this act, the viceroy of Peru sent troops to Chile led by the Spanish commander Mariano Osorio. The confrontation took place in the battle of Cancha Rayada, where the patriot army was defeated.

Then, on April 5, 1818, the decisive battle was fought. In the battle of Maipú again the Spanish army and the patriotic forces commanded by San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins faced each other. In Maipú the independence of Chile was finally consolidated and the city of Santiago was not under Spanish threat again.

From this victory, O'Higgins was dedicated to extending education throughout the country with the creation of schools and the founding of cities.

The mail and diligence service between Santiago and Valparaíso and the War Academy was created, among other works. However, independence did not pacify the country.

Political, social and economic consequences


The Chilean oligarchy that did not sympathize with O'Higgins began to oppose him, especially after 1822, since at that time the Spaniards did not represent a danger.

It was worth nothing that O'Higgins tried to give more political power to the oligarchy through a new Constitution. Then, the Chilean hero had to resign in 1823 and go into exile.

The internal political division between the oligarchs and the patriot army marked the following years until 1830. There were some thirty successive governments and different systems of government were tried, but the rivalries between the different factions conformed by federalists and centralizers, authoritarian and liberal, did not they allowed it.

In 1829 the authoritarians, supported by a part of the army, managed to take power and install a governing junta. Then, José Tomás de Ovalle was appointed as provisional president, although the real power was held by Diego Portales. It was a dictatorial government.


Although Chile obtained its independence from Spain, in practice nothing changed. The colonial structures in the social, political and economic were maintained.

The Chilean aristocracy remained in power and the workers in the countryside became poorer. This led to an increase in crime and homelessness.


Political chaos was joined by the country's economic crisis, as a result of poor harvests and financial disorder, thus increasing anarchy.

Poverty and hunger grew, and large livestock and agricultural farms were destroyed.

Important characters

Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (1778 - 1842)

Independence of Chile: Background, Causes, Stages, Consequences

Along with San Martin, O'Higgins was the liberator of Chile, where he held various administrative and military positions. He belonged to the Chilean aristocracy, because his father was Ambrosio O'Higgins -governor of Chile and viceroy of Peru- and his mother was Isabel Riquelme Meza.

He became a soldier after participating in the events of 1810 and continuing to fight in the cause of Independence. Between 1817 and 1823 he was the supreme director of Chile. After his resignation he went into exile in Peru, where he died in 1842.

José de San Martín y Matorras (1778 - 1850)

He was one of the liberators of Chile and Peru together with Bernardo O'Higgins and Bolívar. He was the son of Spaniards and served as a soldier. He fought alongside the Spaniards in Europe, but in 1812 he returned to Buenos Aires to serve the independence cause.

San Martin organized from Mendoza the Army of the Andes, which achieved the independence of Chile in 1818 when it emerged victorious at the Battle of Maipú.

Mateo de Toro y Zambrano (1727 - 1811)

He was a Chilean military and political criollo who in 1810 assumed the interim position of president-governor and captain general of Chile, after Francisco Antonio García Carrasco resigned.

Then, on September 18 of that year, he assumed the presidency of the first National Board of Government of Chile, despite being a supporter of the Spanish Crown.

José Miguel Carrera (1785 - 1821)

Political and military Chilean who held the presidency of the Provisional Board of Government of Chile during the period of the Old Homeland. After dissolving the National Congress, he assumed dictatorial power. He made profound reforms that prepared the path of Independence.

Manuel Rodríguez (1785 - 1818)

Lawyer, politician and Chilean military, whose participation in the emancipation process during the period of the Reconquest was key.

This Chilean patriot was in charge of organizing clandestine resistance against the Spanish in Chile. After the disaster of Cancha Rayada, he was appointed interim supreme director in Santiago for a brief period.

Mariano Osorio (1777 - 1819)

Brigadier and Spanish governor of Chile between 1814 and 1816. He commanded the royalist armies in the battles of Rancagua and Cancha Rayada (March 19, 1818), won by the Spaniards. It was a fundamental piece of the Crown during the period of the Reconquest.

Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont (1765 - 1819)

Military and Spanish governor of Chile between 1815 and 1817.


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