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Manuel Belgrano

Portrait of Manuel Belgrano by Francois Casimir Carbonnier, made during Belgrano's diplomatic mission at London.

Committee member of the Primera Junta
In office
May 25, 1810 – September 26, 1810
Serving with Manuel Alberti, Miguel de Azcuénaga, Juan José Castelli, Domingo Matheu and Juan Larrea

perpetual secretary of the Commerce Consulate of Buenos Aires
In office
June 2, 1794 – April, 1810

Born June 3, 1770(1770-06-03)
Buenos Aires, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
Died June 20, 1820 (aged 50)
Buenos Aires, United Provinces of South America
Nationality  Argentina
Political party Carlotism, Patriot
Domestic partner María Josefa Ezcurra
Alma mater University of Valladolid
Profession Lawyer
Religion Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance United Provinces of South America
Years of service 1810-1819
Commands Paraguay campaign, Army of the North, Regiment of Patricios
Battles/wars Tacuarí, Tucumán, Salta, Ayohuma

Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano, usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano (3 June 1770 – 20 June 1820) was an Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, and military leader. He took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and created the Flag of Argentina. He is regarded as one of the main Libertadores of the country.

Belgrano, born in Buenos Aires, the fourth child of the Italian businessman Domingo Belgrano y Peri and Josefa Casero, was a notable member of the criollo population of Buenos Aires, and came into contact with the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment when studying at the University of Spain, by the time the French Revolution took place at the neighbour country. Upon his return to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata he tried to promote some of the new political and economic ideals, but found severe resistance from local peninsulares. This lead him to work towards getting higher autonomy from the metropole. At first he promoted the aspirations of Carlota Joaquina to became the regent ruler of the Viceroyalty during the imprisonment of Ferdinand VII during the Peninsular War, but without success. He promoted later the May Revolution, which removed the viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros from power, and was elected as member of the Primera Junta that took power after him.

He led the ill-fated Paraguay campaign and was defeated by Bernardo Velazco at the battles of Campichuelo and Paraguarí, but the conflict started the events that would lead to the independence of Paraguay in 1811. He moved next to the city of Rosario to fortify it against a possible attack, and created the flag of Argentina while being there. The First Triumvirate did not approve it, but because of slow communications Belgrano learned so many weeks later, while reinforcing the Army of the North at Jujuy. Being at a strategic disadvantage against the Royalist armies, Belgrano ordered the Jujuy Exodus, moving the whole city to San Miguel de Tucumán. The counter-offensive of the battle of Tucumán proved a key victory, followed by the complete defeat of Pío Tristán at the battle of Salta. By then, the Asamblea del Año XIII approved the use of the flag, but only as a war flag. However, deeper incursions in the north would be followed by the defeats at Vilcapugio and Ayohuma, which made the Second Triumvirate replace him with José de San Martín.

Belgrano made a diplomatic mission to Europe with Bernardino Rivadavia, seeking support for the government. He returned in time to take part in the Congress of Tucumán, that would sign the Argentine Declaration of Independence. There he promoted the Inca plan to create a constitutional monarchy ruled by an Inca. This proposal had the support of San Martín, Güemes and many provinces, but was rejected by Buenos Aires. The Congress approved as well the use of the flag as a national flag. After this, Belgrano took once more command of the Army of the North, but limited to protect Tucuman from Royalist attacks while San Martín prepared an alternative attack with the Crossing of the Andes. He moved south when Buenos Aires was at war with José Gervasio Artigas and Estanislao López, and died of dropsy on 20 June 1820. His last words were Ay, Patria mía (in Spanish, "Alas, motherland of mine").




Birth and studies

Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano was born in Buenos Aires on June 3, 1770, at his father's house. This was near the Santo Domingo convent. He was baptized at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral the following day. By being born in America he was considered a criollo. His father Domenico was Italian, his Italian last name was Peri, which he translated to the Spanish form Pérez, but later changed it to Belgrano as being a name that denoted good wheat production. He was a European merchant authorized by the King of Spain to move to America, and with contacts among at Spain, Río de Janeiro and Britain. He was one of the promoters of the creation of the Consulate, that his son Manuel would lead years later. Belgrano's mother was María Josefa González Islas y Casero, born in the city of Santiago del Estero.

Manuel Belgrano as a student at the University of Salamanca.

He made his first studies at the San Carlos school, where he learned latin, philosophy, logic, physics, metaphysics and literature. Domingo had a success as merchant that allowed him to send his two sons Francisco and Manuel to study in Europe. He expected them to study commerce, but Manuel decided to study as lawyer instead. Belgrano developed such a high success and prestige that pope Pius VI allowed him to study all kinds of forbidden literature, even books deemed as heretic, with the only exception of obscene books.[1] This way he came into contact with authors like Montesquieu, Rousseau and Filangieri, which were forbidden in Spain.

Belgrano studied near the intellectual elite of Spain, and by that time there were heated discussions about the ongoing French Revolution. Critics to the divine right of kings, the principles of equality and freedom and the universal scope of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were constant topics of debate. Among these people it was thought that Spain should be remade under similar principles, and critics of such ideas were rejected as tyrants or proponents of outdated ideas.[1] However, the Spanish Enlightenment was slightly different from the French one, as it still respected religion and monarchy. Thus, despite the new influences received, Belgrano remained a strong catholic and monarchist.

Belgrano studied as well living languages, political economy and public rights. The authors that most influenced him were Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Adam Smith and François Quesnay.[1] His main topics of interest in the works of such authors were those referred to the public good and popular prosperity.[1] He developed the idea that the principles of physiocracy and those stated by Adam Smith could be complemented and applied in the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. During his time in Europe he became president of the forensic practice and political economy Academy of Salamanca, as well as member of the Santa Bárbara Academy of the same genre.

Work in the Consulate

A short time before his return to Buenos Aires, Belgrano was elected as perpetual secretary of the Commerce Consulate of Buenos Aires, a new born local institution which dealt with commercial and industrial issues in the name of the crown. He would stay in this office up to 1810. Here he would deal with commercial disputes and promote agriculture, industry and commerce. Not having enough freedom to make big changes in the economic system, he made big efforts in improving education. Being influenced by Campomanes, he believed that the true wealth of countries was in their formation, and that the best way to promote industrialisation was through education.[2]

Juan José Castelli shared with his cousin Belgrano the work in the Consulate and in journalism.

Belgrano maintained frequent discussions with the vocals of the Consulate, who were all merchants with strong interests involved in the monopolic commerce with Cadiz. He made many proposals, influenced by free trade ideas. By this time, Belgrano thought that "The merchant must have freedom to buy where he can be better accommodated, and it's natural that he does where he is supplied with the cheapest gender to be able to earn the best profit".[3] Those proposals were rejected by the vocals. However, he could manage to get some success, such as creating the Nautical school, the Commerce school or the Geometry and Drawing Academy. He created the Commerce School to influence future merchants into working towards the best interests of the nation,[4] and the nautical and drawig ones to provide the youth with prestigious and lucrative works.[4] Those last ones worked under the same institution, next to the Consulate, so that Belgrano could easily supervise their development. Those schools worked for three years and were closed by a ruling of Manuel Godoy, from the Spanish monarchy, who considered it an unnecessary luxury for a colony. Belgrano opined that the promotion of education "could not but disgust those whose interest was based in the ignorance and dejection of their naturals".

He helped to create the first newspaper of the city, the Telégrafo Mercantil, directed by Francisco Cabello y Mesa. Here he worked with Manuel José de Lavardén, and edited nearly two hundred issues. The newspaper was closed in 1802 because of conflicts with the authorities of the viceroyalty, who did not like the soft critics made in it or the jokes and parodies. He also worked in the Semanario de Agricultura, Comercio e Industria, directed by Hipólito Vieytes. He used this newspaper to explain his economic ideas: manufacturing and exporting finished goods, import raw materials to manufacture, don't import raw materials that could be produced or extracted locally or luxury products, import only vital products, and own a merchant navy. The newspaper was specialized on "Philosophy of History, Geography and Statistics". Many of the revolutionary principles were concocted by these readings.[5]

Belgrano had syntomps of syphilis, which he had caught during his time in Europe.[6] This sickness forced him to take long leaves from his work in the Consulate, and to suggest his cousin Juan José Castelli, with similar ideas, as a possible replacement.[6] The rejection of the vocals delayed the approal of Castelli up to 1796.

British Invasions

Belgrano was designated as captain of the urban militias in 1797 by viceroy Pedro de Melo. Belgrano worked by then in the consulate, and had no interest in the pursuit of a military career.[7] Viceroy Sobremonte requested him later to create a militia to counter a possible British attack, but he didn't take interest in it. This leads to his first intervention in a military conflict, when the British William Carr Beresford arrived with 1.600 men and took Buenos Aires, starting the British invasions of the Río de la Plata. Belgrano moved to the fortress as soon as he heard the warning, and gathered many men to try a resistance. But without knowledge on the field, his men marched in disorder and Belgrano was ordered to disband after a single British cannon shot.[7]

After taking the city, all Spanish authorities were requested to pledge allegiance to the British crown. The whole consulate submitted to this request, except Belgrano, who said that "we want the old master or no one". He escaped from Buenos Aires and seek asylum at the chapel of Mercedes, in the Banda Oriental.[7]

The British army was defeated by an army under the direction of Santiago de Liniers, and the Spanish authority was restored. However, it was expected that the British would return, and the whole city started to prepare against the possibility. Belgrano returned to Buenos Aires after the reconquest, and put himself under the command of Liniers. He was designed as sergeant of the Patricians Regiment, under the command of Cornelio Saavedra, and he started to study military strategy.[8] After some conflicts with other officials he resigned as sergeant and served again under the command of Liniers. During the battle he served as field assistance of a division commanded by Balviani. After the successful resistance Belgrano resumed his work in the Consulate and left again his military studies.


Manuel Belgrano was the main proponent of the Carlotist political movement in the Rio de la Plata. It was a response to recent developments in Europe, where Spain was at war with France and, through the abdications of Bayonne, the Spanish king Ferdinand VII was deposed and imprisoned, and the french Joseph Bonaparte was designated king of Spain by the French victors. This led to a partial power vacuum in the viceroyalty, as the legitimacy of the new king was rejected by all parties. The purpose of the carlotist movement was to replace the authority of the deposed king with that of Carlota Joaquina, sister of Ferdinand, living in Rio de Janeiro by then. The project was supported as a mean to achieve more autonomy, and perhaps independence.[9] Belgrano kept a fluent mail talking with Carlota, and convinced many independentists to join him in the project, such as Castelli, Vieytes, Nicolás Rodríguez Peña or Juan José Paso. The support of Cornelio Saavedra for Carlota is disputed.

The project, however, found strong resistance. Being married with a prince of Portugal, many people though that carlotism was a trick to conceal Portuguese expansionism. Carlota herself had different political ideas than those of her supporters: Belgrano and the other people mentioned shared the ideas of enlightenment, but Carlota aspired to keep the full power of an absolutist monarchy.[9] By 1810, the project was forgotten.

A new viceroy, Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, replaced Liniers. Belgrano convinced him to edit a new newspaper, the "Correo de Comercio". This allowed him to make gatherings with other revolutionary leaders, with the excuse of discussing the newspaper development.[10] He also supported the opening of the port to foreign trade, ruled by Cisneros but under strong rejection from Spanish merchants. Some people suggest that the "Representación de los Hacendados", commonly attributed to Mariano Moreno, was actually Belgrano's work.

He resigned from his work in the Consulate in April 1810 and moved to the countryside. However, a short time later he received a letter from his friends, requesting him to return to Buenos Aires and join the revolutionary movements.

The May Revolution

The Peninsular War between Spain and France wasn't developing favorably for Spain, and by May 1810 a ship arrived with the news of the fall of Seville and the disband of the Junta of Seville. Without either a recognized Spanish king or the Junta that designated Cisneros, many people thought that the viceroy had no longer any authority.

Viceroy Cisneros tried to conceal the news by gathering all the newspapers bringed in the ship, but Belgrano and Castelli managed to get one. Failing to keep the news secret, Cisneros tells the European developments to the public. Belgrano and the members of the carlotist party, despite having given up their original idea, plotted to remove the viceroy and replace him with a Junta, and by advise of Cornelio Saavedra they waited for the mentioned news to take action.[11]

The Open Cabildo on May 22, 1810, by Pedro Subercaseaux.

Cisneros called the military leaders and requested them support, but they denied it. Afterwards, they requested an Open Cabildo, which Cisneros accepted to celebrate. A massive demonstration the following day ensured that Cisneros would keep his word. The open cabildo was celebrated on May 23, with a final result of removing Cisneros and creating a Junta instead. However, the Junta created after it retained Cisneros as president, which was rejected by the people. A great state of turmoil ended when this Junta was disbanded on May 25 and replaced by the Primera Junta. Belgrano was included in this one, among many other local politicians.

In his authobiography he declared that he did not have any previous knowledge of being included in it, and that his designation took him by surprise. Nevertheless, he accepted the role. As a member of the Junta he was part of the political line of Mariano Moreno, expecting to use the government to make big changes in the social order. One of his first rulings was the making of a Maths Academy, located in the building of the Consulate and with the purpose of instructing the military. Belgrano was designed protector of it. He also supported the vanish of Cisneros and the members of the Audience, and the execution of Liniers and other counter-revolutionaries defeated in Córdoba. Some historians suggest that he would have promoted the creation of the Operations plan, a secret document written by Moreno and designated to set harsh ways for the Junta to achieve its goals, while others consider the whole document a literary forgery done by royalists to discredit the Junta; and a few others suspect that the whole of it or some paragraphs may have been written by Belgrano or Vieytes instead of Moreno.

Belgrano's mandate in the Junta was rather brief, and three months later he was appointed General. Shortly after his assignment, Belgrano led an ill-fated military campaign to Paraguay, still held by Spanish loyalists..

The expedition to Paraguay

Manuel Belgrano, oil painting by Antonio Contucci.

Three months after the creation of the Primera Junta, Manuel Belgrano is appointed Chief Commander of an army destined to gather support at Corrientes, Santa Fe, Paraguay and the Banda Oriental. Few days later his goal is made more specific: he must aim for Paraguay. The Junta had been informed that the party of supporters of the Revolution is strong, and a small army would suffice to take control. Trusting such information, Belgrano is destined to Paraguay with two possible goals, get acknowledgment for the Junta in Paraguay or promote a new government that would stay in friendly terms with Buenos Aires. Belgrano ignored by then that on July 24 the governor Bernardo Velazco had pledged allegiance to the Regency Counsel of Spain.

Belgrano headed to the north with nearly two hundred men, expecting to gather more people by the end of the Paraná river. Soldiers from the Blandengues regiments of San Nicolás and Santa Fe joined them in route, and later the Junta sended reinforcements of other two hundred soldiers. The army was welcomed by most of the population found in their way, receiving donations and new recruits in each one. Finally, the army gathered was composed of nearly 950 men, among infantry and cavalry, divided in four divisions with one piece of artillery each.

By the end of October the army stopped at Curuzú Cuatiá, where Belgrano solved an old border conflict between Corrientes and Yapeyu. He set the territories that would belong to Curuzu Cuatiá and Mandisoví, and organized their urban layout around the chapel and the school. By November the army arrived the coast of Paraná near the Apipé island, and there Belgrano took measures to benefit the natives that were living in missions. With his authority as vowel of the Junta he gave them full civil and political rights, granted lands, authorized commerce with he United Provinces, and lift the inhability to take public or religious office. However, the Junta later requested him to seek authorization for such changes in the future.

Map detailing the movements of the Paraguay campaign.

From that point the army moves to Candelaria, which is used as stronghold for the attack to Paraguay. The terrain of the zone gave a clear advantage to Velazco against Belgrano: the Paraná River, nearly 1000 m. wide, was an effective natural barrier, and once it was crossed Belgrano would have to move across a long distance across a land without supplies. Swamps, hills, rivers and lakes also forced the army to march slowly, which would make a retreat very difficult. The Parana was crossed with several boats on December 19, and a task force of 54 paraguayan soldiers was forced to flee during the battle of Campichuelo. Belgrano saw Velazco's army from the Mbaé hill, and despite being greatly outnumbered he attacked anyway, trusting in the moral strength of his soldiers. When the battle of Paraguarí started they had briefly an upper hand, but eventually Velazco made his numeric superiority prevail. Even with 10 deaths and 120 soldiers took prisoners Belgrano wanted to keep on the fight, but his officials convinced him to retreat.

The army leaves to Tacuarí, being closely watched by the combined armies of Yegros and Cabañas. Those two armies had nearly three thousand soldiers, while Belgrano was kept with barely four hundred. They were attacked from many sides during the battle of Tacuarí, in March 9. Greatly outnumbered and losing an unequal fight, Belgrano is theatened to surrender, but refuses to do so. He reorganizes the remaining 235 men and orders his secretary to burn all his documents and personal papers, to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Belgrano arranges the troops and artillery to fire for many minutes, making the paraguayan soldiers disperse. When it stopped, he requested an armistice, telling Cabañas that he had arrived to Paraguay to aid and not to conquer, but considering the open hostility found, he would leave the province. Cabañas accepted, on the grounds that the province was left within a day.

The campaign to Paraguay was a complete defeat for the Primera Junta, but it wasn't a complete political failure: after it, Paraguay started to consider independentism and by May 14 they declared independence from Spain. However, for doing so they also break up with Buenos Aires: they maintained good relations, but were no longer part of the same political entity.

Creation of the Flag of Argentina

The National Flag Memorial is located in the place where Belgrano raised the Flag of Argentina for the first time.

After the defeat in Tacuarí, the government of Buenos Aires sended him to the Banda Oriental, to fight the royalists in the zone, but afterwards they changed the orders, requesting him to return to the city and be judged by the defeats. However, no charges were formulated against him. By then, the Junta Grande was gone and replaced by the first triumvirate, who requested him to fortify Rosario against possible royalist attacks from the Banda Oriental. He created two batteries, "Independencia" ("Independence") and "Libertad" ("Freedom"). Without requesting authorization from the government he created a new flag, of light blue and white colours. The colours were chosen because of being the colours of the House of Bourbon, and the revolutionaries still regarded the imprisoned Ferdinand VII as their rightful king. On that same day he was designated for replacing Pueyrredon in the Army of the North, so he traveled to Yatasto to replace him. He found desmoralized officials, nearly 1.500 soldiers and the forth part of them hospitalized, minimal artillery and no money. Some of the officials were Manuel Dorrego, Gregorio Aráoz de Lamadrid, Cornelio Zelaya, José María Paz, Diego Balcarce and Eustaquio Díaz Vélez. The cities were much more hostile to the Army than those that Belgrano encountered in his way to Paraguay. Salta was menaced by Goyeneche and Belgrano had orders to take command and retreat without fighting, but he decided to disobey them. He prepared a base at Campo Santo, in Salta, where he improved the hospital and created a military tribunal. He later moved to Jujuy, even when knowing that he didn't had the resources to launch an attack to the Upper Perú.

Blessing of the Flag of Argentina at Jujuy.

The First Triumvirate did not approve the use of the flag created in Rosario, but Belgrano ignored that until later. Not knowing about such rejection, he made the flag be blessed by the priest Juan Ignacio de Gorriti at Salta, at the second anniversary of the May Revolution. When he knew about it, he promised to keep and unmade the Flag, and in case of being asked, he would tell that he was keeping it for a great victory.

Three months later royalist general Pío Tristán advanced in the north, with more than three thousand men, prepared to invade the United Provinces. Once again outnumbered by bigger armies, Belgrano made the city of Jujuy prepare a giant exodus: the complete population of the city would have to retreat with the army and don't leave behind anything that may be valuable for the royalists (such as animals, crops or housing). By September, a proper formation of columns provided them with a victory against a royalist task force of 500 en during the battle of Las Piedras. The First Triumvirate commanded Belgrano to retreat to Cordoba without fighting, but he thought that doing so would make the loss of the North provinces. Thus, instead of continue to that city, he was convinced by the people of San Miguel de Tucumán to make a stand there. His forces had increased by then to nearly 1.800 soldiers, still much less than the 3.000 at Tristan's command. Even so, he obtained a victory in the Battle of Tucumán. By that time, the First Triumvirate was replaced by the Second Trumvirate, which provided a greater support for Belgrano. The Second Triumvirate called the Assembly of Year XIII soon after taking power, which was meant to declare independence and enact a national constitution, but failed to do so because of political disputes between the members. It did not took measures regarding the national flag, but allowed Belgrano to use the blue and white flag as the flag of the Army of the North.

Portrait of the Battle of Salta, by Arístides Papi.

After the defeat in Tucumán Tristán garrisons with 2.500 men at the city of Salta. Belgrano, with reinforcements from the government, intended to gather 4.000 men and march to the Upper Peru, up to the limit of the Viceroyalty of Lima. The Battle of Salta, the first battle with the new approved banner, was a decisive victory, ending with the capitulation of Pío Tristán and all of his army.

These victories ensured Argentine authority in the northwest and stopped Royalist advance into central territory. Although there were a number of colonialist 'invasions' from Upper Peru until 1821, Belgrano's campaign is widely considered the decisive one.

Campaign to the Upper Peru

By June 1813 Belgrano set a base in Potosí with an army of 2.500 men, to prepare the attack to the Upper Peru. Goyeneche moved to Oruro and resigned, being replaced by Joaquín de la Pezuela. Belgrano administrated the zone and tried to revert the bad image left by the previous campaign by Juan José Castelli. Belgrano made good relations with the natives as well. Belgrano's plan was to attack the royalists from the front and the sides, with the aid of the armies of Cárdenas and Zelaya. Both armies were near 3.500 men. However, the royalists got an important advantage by defeating Cárdenas and getting his papers, which gave them insight into the patriotic plans. Belgrano was taken by surprise at Vilcapugio, on 1 October, and initially gained the upper hand against the royalist troops, that started to flee. However, when Pezuela saw that the patriotic armies did not follow, he reorganized his forces, returned to the battle, and won. There were barely 400 survivors. Belgrano said: "Soldiers: we have lost the battle after so much fighting. Victory has betrayed us by going to the enemy files during our triumph. It does not matter! The flag of the nation still swings in our hands!". After gathering his army at Macha, where he received reinforcements from Cochabamba, Belgrano was ready for another engagement with Pezuela, whose troops were not in a better situation. On 14 November, however, Belgrano was vanquished again by the royalists at Ayohuma, and was forced to withdraw the remains of his army towards Potosí and from there to Jujuy.

Meeting of Belgrano and José de San Martín at the Posta de Yatasto.

The Second Triumvirate reacts by sending José de San Martín to take the command of the Army of the North, with Belgrano as his second in command. San Martín would reinforce the battle-weary Army of the North with his own soldiers. Urged by Belgrano's illness, San Martín fled to his meeting as quickly as possible and they met at the Posta de Yatasto, in Salta. Belgrano gave San Martin full freedom to implement changes, and took the command of the Regiment 1º. The Second Triumvirate, and later the Supreme Director Gervasio Posadas, requested Belgrano to return to Buenos Aires and be judged for the defeats at Vilcapugio and Ayohuma, but San Martín refused to send him because of his delicate health state. San Martín finally accepts to send Belgrano to Córdoba by March 1814. He temporarily settled in Luján to wait for the ending of the trial, and during this time he wrote his authobiography. Soon afterwards, all charges against Belgrano were dismissed, as no defined accusation was formulated against him. The new government, with a better concept of Belgrano, sends him in a diplomatic mission to Europe, to negotiate support for the independence of the United Provinces.

The Declaration of Independence

Portrait of Belgrano, made during his time in Britain.

By 1814 the Spanish King Ferdinand VII had returned to the throne and started the absolutist Restauration, which created grave consequences for the governments in the Americas. Belgrano and Bernardino Rivadavia were sent to Europe to seek support for the United Provinces, both at Spain and Britain. They seek to promote the crowning of Francisco de Paula, son of Charles IV of Spain, as regent of the United Provinces, but in the end he refused to act against the interests of the King of Spain of the time. The diplomatic mission failed, but Belgrano learned during it the changes of thought that took place in Europe after his previous stay. By then, with the influence of the French Revolution, there was great consensus for making republican governments, but after the government of Napoleon I monarchies were preferred again, but in the form of Constitutional monarchies, regulated by a Constitution, just as the one in England. He also noticed that the European powers approved the South American revolutions, but such approval started to be compromised when they started to fall into anarchy.

When they returned to Buenos Aires, the government was worried by the defeats of Rondeau at Sipe Sipe and the political stir generated by the caudillos José Gervasio Artigas and Estanislao López. Alvarez Thomas designated Belgrano for the army at Rosario, but shortly afterwards Thomas resigned, with Pueyrredón being the new Supreme Director. With the signature of the Santo Tomé pact, the aforementioned army was retired from Rosario. Belgrano was then sended back to take command of the Army of the North, with strong support of San Martín. "In the case of designating who must replace Rondeau, I am decided for Belgrano; he is the most methodical man of all whom I know in America; he is full of integrity and natural talent. He may not have the military knowledge of a Moreau or a Bonaparte as far as the army is concerned, but I think he is the best we have in South America".

Belgrano joined the Congress of Tucuman at July 6, 1816, to explain the results of his diplomatic mission in Europe. He thought that enacting a local monarchy would help to prevent anarchy, which wouldn't end simply with the independence from Spain, and that such a declaration of independence would be more easily accepted by the European powers if it created a monarchic system. For this end he formulated the Inca Plan: a monarchy ruled by a noble of the Inca civilization. He thought that this would generate support from the indigenous populations as well, and repair the actions taken against the Inca by the Spanish colonization. This proposal was supported by San Martín, Güemes, the deputies from the Upper Peru and other provinces; but found a strong rejection from Buenos Aires, that wouldn't accept Cuzco to become the capital city. On July 9 the Congress finally signs the Declaration of Independence from Spain. The flag created by Belgrano, which was being used even without a law regulating so, was also accepted as the National flag. The Inca Plan was still under discussion, but the Congress delayed it due to several states of emergency at many provinces.

In August he took one more the command of the Army of the North, but with very limited people and resources. He is ordered to avoid trying to advance against the Royalists in the north, and stay in a defensive state at Tucumán. With Güemes in Salta, his task was to prevent the Royalists from moving to the south. The Supreme Director Pueyrredón was supporting instead the alternative plan designed by José de San Martín: create the Army of the andes at Cuyo and, after making the Crossing of the Andes, defeat the Royalists in Chile, get control of the Chilean navy, and attack the Royalist stronghold of Lima with it.

Last years

In 1819 Buenos Aires was at war with Artigas and López, and requested San Martín and Belgrano to return with their armies to take part in the conflict. San Martín refused to do so, but Belgrano accepted. However, before his arrival the governors Estanislao López and Viamonte signed a truce for eight days, starting negotiations for peace. Even with his health in a very bad state, he refused to resign, considering that the Army needed him. He moved to the frontier between Santa Fe and Córdoba, from where he would be able to move to either the litoral or the north if needed. His health continued getting worse, and he was given an unlimited licence from work by the Supreme Director. He handed command to Fernández de la Cruz and moved to Tucumán, where he met his dauther Manuela Mónica, just one year old. He returned to Buenos Aires, to his parent house. On 20 June 1820, at the age of 50, he died of dropsy. Due to his poverty, he payed to his doctor with his clock, one of the few possessions he still had. The only newspaper of the time to notice Belgrano's death was "El Despertador Teofilantrópico". Before dying, Belgrano said "Ay, Patria mía" (in Spanish, "oh, my motherland").


Belgrano's monument in Plaza de Mayo Square, Buenos Aires.

Today, however, Belgrano is considered one of the greatest heroes in Argentina's History. A monument complex (Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, National Flag Memorial) was built in 1957 in honor of the flag, in Rosario. The Flag Memorial and the park that surround it are the seat of national celebrations every Flag Day, on 20 June, the anniversary of Belgrano's death.

The cruiser ARA General Belgrano, which was sunk during the Falklands War, was named after him. A small town in the province of Córdoba, Argentina, Villa General Belgrano, also bears his name, as well as a lot of other small towns, departments and places, like Avenida Belgrano in the City of Buenos Aires, and part of the avenue that leads to the Flag Memorial in Rosario (Avenida Belgrano). Additionally, there is a northern neighborhood within Buenos Aires city that carries the name Belgrano.

In the museum Casa de la Libertad at Sucre, Bolivia there is an Argentine flag, protected by a glass case and in a deteriorated condition, which they claim to be the original one, raised by Belgrano for first time in 1812. The ensign was one of two abandoned and hidden inside a small church near Macha, after the battle of Ayohuma, during the retreat from Upper Peru in 1813. The other flag was given back to Argentina by the Bolivian authorities in 1896.

In Genoa, Italy, there is a commemorative statue of Belgrano, at the end of the Corso Buenos Aires.


The first book devoted to Manuel Belgrano was Historia de Belgrano y de la Independencia Argentina (in Spanish, "History of Belgrano and of the Independence of Argentina"), a biography of Belgrano written by the historian Bartolomé Mitre. Mitre expanded the book beyond the scope of the biography of Belgrano himself, and wrote instead about the Argentine War of Independence as a whole. The book was critiziced by other contemporary Argentine authors, such as Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield or Juan Bautista Alberdi, with whom Mitre had important discussions. Such debates were acknowledged by Mitre, who made modifications in later editions of the book.


Banknote of 10.000 pesos argentinos.

Belgrano appears in an important number of currencies in the numismatic history of Argentina. He had appeared for the first time in the Peso Ley 18.188, in the banknotes of 1, 5 and 10 pesos. He was later included in the 10.000 pesos banknotes of the pesos argentinos, the highest banknote value in circulation. The Australes had chosen a number of procers that did not include Belgrano, but later the 10.000 pesos argentinos banknotes were allowed to be used as australes. The Peso, modern currency of Argentina, includes Belgrano in the banknotes of 10 pesos. The 1997 and 2002 series only modified small details.


  1. ^ a b c d Luna, Félix (2004). "Una educación ilustrada". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 11. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  2. ^ Luna, Félix (2004). ""El comerciante debe tener libertad..."". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 19. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  3. ^ Luna, Félix (2004). ""El comerciante debe tener libertad..."". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 19. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. "El comerciante debe tener libertad para comprar donde más le acomode, y es natural que lo haga donde se le proporcione el género más barato para poder reportar más utilidad." 
  4. ^ a b Luna, Félix (2004). "La educación prometida". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 23. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  5. ^ Mitre, Bartolomé: Historia de Belgrano. Buenos Aires, 1859, v.1, pp. 202-206.
  6. ^ a b Luna, Félix (2004). "El contrabando, una singular forma de comercio en las colonias". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 21. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  7. ^ a b c Luna, Félix (2004). "Primera experiencia militar". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 29. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  8. ^ Luna, Félix (2004). "Las milicias criollas". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 33. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  9. ^ a b Luna, Félix (2004). "La Infanta Carlota". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 38. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  10. ^ Luna, Félix (2004). "La sociedad patriótica". Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Argentina: Manuel Belgrano. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Planeta. pp. 48. ISBN 950-49-1247-8. 
  11. ^ Saavedra, Cornelio (2009). Memoria autógrafa. Buenos Aires: Editorial del nuevo extremo. pp. 59. ISBN 978-987-609-171-8. "Spanish: A la verdad, quién era en aquel tiempo el que no juzgase que Napoleón triunfaría y realizaría sus planes con la España? Esto era lo que yo esperaba muy en breve, la oportunidad o tiempo que creía conveniente para dar el grito de libertad en estas partes. Esta era la breva que decía era útil esperar que madurase.
    English: At the hour of truth, who was there in that time that did not consider that Napoleon would triumph and make his plans with the Spain? This was what I expected soon, the chance or time I deemed convenient to give the freedom cry in those parts. This was the fig I said it was useful to wait to get rip."

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