|United Provinces of South America|
|Preceded by||Viceroy of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata|
|Succeeded by||Junta Grande|
|Leadership and Structure|
|Fort of Buenos Aires|
The Primera Junta or First Assembly is the name given by history to the first government that appeared in Argentina after the May Revolution. The junta operated out of El Fuerte (Spanish: the fort, modern Casa Rosada), which had been used since 1776 as a residence by the viceroys. Once the junta, which initially only had representatives from Buenos Aires, was expanded with the addition of deputies from the other cities of the former Río de la Plata, it became popularly known as the Junta Grande.
This Junta—officially named the Junta Provisional Gubernativa de las Provincias del Río de la Plata a nombre del Señor Don Fernando VII (Provisional Governing Junta of the Provinces of Río de la Plata in the Name of Señor Don Ferdinand VII)—allegedly meant to govern in the name of the King of Spain, while he was imprisoned by Napoleon Bonaparte. Juntas were a form of transitional or emergency government, which attempted to maintain Spanish sovereignty, that emerged during the Napoleonic invasion in Spanish cities that had not succumbed to the French. The most important for Spanish America was the Junta of Seville, which claimed sovereignty over the overseas possessions, given the fact that the province of Seville historically had enjoyed exclusive rights to the American trade. Its claims had been rejected by Spanish Americans, and its authority was quickly superseded by a Supreme Central Junta of Spain, which included American representation.
When the Supreme Central Junta abolished itself in 1810, the politically active inhabitants of Buenos Aires saw no better moment than this to establish a local government. They had been influenced by the recent democratic and republican philosophical wave and were also concerned about the commercial monopoly exerted by the Spanish crown, which was suffocating the local economy. Historically Buenos Aires province had partially mitigated this problem through contraband. Local politicians, such as former council member and legal advisor to the viceroy, Juan José Castelli, who wanted a change towards self-government and free commerce, cited traditional Spanish political theory and argued that the King being imprisoned, sovereignty had returned to the people. The people were to assume the government until the King returned, just like the subjects in Spain had done two years earlier with the establishment of juntas. The Viceroy and his supporters countered that the colonies belonged to Spain and did not just have a political relationship with only the King. Therefore they should follow any governmental body established in Spain as the legal authority, namely the Supreme Central Junta of Spain and its successor, the Council of Regency.
The meeting of a Buenos Aires cabildo abierto (an extraordinary meeting of the municipal council with assistance of over 200 notables from government, the church, guilds and other corporations) during May 22, 1810, came under strong pressure from the militias and a crowd that formed in front of the cabildo hall on the Plaza Mayor (today the Plaza de Mayo), up to May 25. The crowd favoured the stance of the local politicians, and the cabildo ended up creating the Primera Junta, the first form of local government in the territory that would later become Argentina. Spain would never recover its dominion over that territory. From the very beginning of the new government, two factions manifested their differences, a more radical one, whose visible leader was the Junta's Secretary, Mariano Moreno, and the conservative wing that supported the Junta's President, Cornelio Saavedra.
In general the principles of the May Revolution were popular sovereignty, principle of representativeness and federalization, division of powers and duration of the mandates, and publication of the government's actions
Despite the replacement of Cisneros, the Real Audience and the Cabildo remained with authorities from before the revolution, who opposed the Junta since its first day. The Audience refused at first to swear allegiance to the Junta, and when they did prosecutor Caspe made so with clear gestures of contempt. Caspe would be later ambushed near his home, in retaliaton for this. The Cabildo imposed a time limit on the Junta: if the General Congress was not formed in 6 months, the Cabildo would reasumme government. The Junta answered the same day, rejecting such requirements. The Audience would request then that the Junta submitted to the Regency Counsel, but the Junta refused, on the grounds that neither Cisneros did so and the Audience did not request him to. The Audience itself would swear allegiance to the Counsel shortly after, and they were all vanished in response. Toguether with the ex-viceroy Cisneros, they were forced to take the ship "Dart" that left them at the Canarian Islands; the exceptions were Márquez del Plata, who was at the Banda Oriental at the time, and the octogenarian Lucas Muñoz Cubero.
From the early steps of the Primera Junta there was an important rivalry between Saavedra and Moreno. According to Ignacio Núñez, Morenists accused Saavedra of plotting to restore the tyranny of the viceroys in his office, while saavedrists accused Moreno of usurping government roles that were not intended for his own one. Matheu would also point in his memories that the vocals were somewhat upset with a perceived enjoyment of Saavedra in receiving honours and distinctions, that they had chosen to avoid.
The Junta was received with mixed reactions from the other cities of the viceroyalty. Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Misiones, Corrientes and Mendoza supported the change, others did not. The Upper Peru, greatly benefited from the system of mita to exploit the mines in Potosi, would support the absolutist system for a long time. Javier De Elío in Montevideo denied recognition to the Junta. Paraguay was town between supporters of either side, but royalists prevailed. However, the most immediate danger to the Junta came from Cordoba, where Santiago de Liniers came out of his retiremen and started to organize an army to lead a counter-revolution against Buenos Aires. The Junta designed Ortiz de Ocampo to stand against those counter-revolutionaries and bring the leaders prisoners to Buenos Aires. A later ruling would request instead to execute them, but after defeating Liniers Ortiz de Ocampo would decide to ignore the later and follow the first ruling. The Junta would remove Ocampo from his duty because of his disobedience, and replace him with Juan José Castelli. Castelli would order the execution of the counter-revolutionaries by August, 26, with the exception of the priest Orellana. By this time, Mariano Moreno was populary regarded as the leader of the revolution, whose resolution allowed the radical changes to the absolutist system managed so far.
Militia authorities, fearing the loss of power by Saavedra, pressured the Junta to control Moreno. Moreno, on the other hand, succeeded getting the approval of decrees that limited Saavedra and others. By December 1810 tension reached its peak. Saavedra got the support of deputies sent by the provices from the interior of country but which had not yet been allowed to join the Junta. With this backing Saavedra gave Moreno his most serious political setback: he forced Moreno to present his resignation on December 18. With this resignation, the integration of the deputies from the other provinces to the Junta became possible.
Created on May 25, 1810, the Primera Junta was thus transformed on December 18 of the same year into the new Junta Grande by the introduction of representatives from other provinces of Río de la Plata.