Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata

Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata

The Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was the last and most shortlived viceroyalty created by Spain in 1776. (The Spanish name, "Virreinato del Río de la Plata", translates literally to Viceroyalty of the River of Silver, although some sources conventionally call the viceroyalty Viceroyalty of the River Plate; see the [ "Encyclopædia Britannica" entry] .)

Its limits roughly contained the territories of present Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The Captaincy General of Chile was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was mainly created because of security concerns on the increasing interest of other world powers on the area, mainly the Kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Origin and creation

In 1680, Portuguese governor of Rio de Janeiro Manuel Lobo created the Department of Colonia and founded Colonia, a fort located in present Uruguay's coast and the department's capital. The main objective was to secure the Portuguese expansion of Brazil beyond the Treaty of Tordesillas that was rendered meaningless between 1580 and 1640 while Spain controlled Portugal. José de Garro quickly attacked and seized the fort for Spain, but on May 7, 1681 it was handed back to Portugal due to the Provisional Treaty of Lisbon.

On the other hand, the Viceroyalty of Peru required all commerce to be performed through Lima's port, which restrained the Buenos Aires natural port potential economy, a problem that also caused large contraband activities in the region, especially in Asunción, Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Under these conditions, King Charles III of Spain requested former Governor of the Río de la Plata Cevallos to think a way of developing and securing the area, in April 1776.

This meant a way of conquering Colonia and the islands of Santa Catarina from the Portuguese, in the "Banda Oriental" (the "East Bank" of the Río de la Plata, "i.e.", Uruguay), and modernizing the underdeveloped Buenos Aires.

The early viceroyalty

The Portuguese prime minister Marquis of Pombal continued to encourage the occupation of territory which had already been awarded to the Spanish in the Treaty of Paris (1763). King Charles III quickly reacted to the advantageous conditions: France was bound to be an ally as a guarantor of the treaty, and England due to its own colony problems couldn't help being neutral.

Cevallos sent a warning and started aggressions against Santa Catalina, from where the Portuguese had already fled, and it was conquered in less than a month with no casualties. Then Cevallos sailed towards Montevideo and with the aid of Buenos Aires governor Vértiz reclaimed Colonia, also without resistance. Cevallos advanced to Maldonado city, where he stopped his advance towards the Rio Grande do Sul, as he was informed of the Treaty of San Ildefonso which ended hostilities in the area.

In 1766, Spain acquired the French colony on the Falkland Islands, called Port St. Louis, and after assuming effective control in 1767, placed the islands under a governor subordinate to the Buenos Aires colonial administration. The expulsion of the British settlement brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1770, but a peace treaty allowed the British to return from 1771 until 1776 with neither side relinquishing sovereignty.Lewis, Jason and Alison Inglis. [ "A Brief History of the Falkland Islands: Part 2—Fort St. Louis and Port Egmont."] Falklands Islands Information. Accessed 2007-09-08]

Cevallos was then free of other matters and started significant transformations in the area, including free commerce (established on September 6, 1777) with the aid of the Potosí minerals which were meant to be the viceroyalty's main source of revenue. The changes by the Bourbon king in 1778 also helped greatly with the region's development, and between 1792-1796 there was an unprecedented boom.

The viceroyalty's decline

By the nineteenth century Buenos Aires was becoming more self-sufficient, producing about 600,000 cattle a year (of which about one quarter was consumed locally), considerably promoting development of the areaFact|date=September 2008. But wars with Great Britain meant a great setback for the region's economy as maritime communications were practically paralyzed. The Alto Peru region started to show contempt as the expenses of administration and defense of the Río de la Plata estuary were mainly supported by the declining Potosí production. For instance, in the first years of the viceroyalty, around 75% of the expenses were covered with revenues that came from the north. The Alto Plata (mostly present Paraguay) also had problems with the Buenos Aires administration, particularly because of the monopoly of its port on embarcations.

By 1805, Spain had to help France because of their 1795 alliance, and had lost its navy in the Battle of Trafalgar, but the Spanish prime minister had warned the viceroyalty of the likelihood of a British invasion, and that in such an event the city of Buenos Aires would be on its own.

In June 27, 1806 a small British force of around 1,500 men under Col. William Carr Beresford successfully invaded Buenos Aires after a failed attempt to stop him from viceroy Rafael de Sobremonte, who fled to Córdoba. The British forces were thrown back by the "criollos" on December 1806, a militia force under the leadership of Santiago de Liniers. In February 1807, British reinforcements of about 8,000 men under Gen. Sir Samuel Auchmuty captured Montevideo after a fierce fight, and in May Lt. Gen. John Whitelock arrived to take overall command and attacked Buenos Aires on July 5, 1807. After losing more than half his force killed and captured, Whitelock signed a cease-fire and left for Great Britain.

Thus, lack of support from Spain and the confidence-boost of fresh defeat of a world power in skirmishes prompted a movement towards independence at the expense of the viceroyalty. It was also clear that the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was just several unrelated regions bound together in an attempt by the Spanish crown to maintain its power over the regionFact|where they really that unrelated back then?|date=September 2008. As of 1810, Argentina had been self-governed for about a year and Paraguay had already declared its independence, and the viceroyalty was effectively dissolved.

The viceroyalty's dependencies

*Intendency¹ of Buenos Aires: cities of Buenos Aires, Corrientes, Santa Fe, Colonia and Carmen de Patagones.
*Government² of Montevideo: city of Montevideo.
*Government of Misiones: cities of San Ignacio, Yapeyú and Candelaria.
*Intendency of Paraguay: city of Asunción
*Intendency of Córdoba: cities of Rio Cuarto, Córdoba, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, and San Luis
*Intendency of Salta: cities of Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán, Salta, and Jujuy
*Government of Chiquitos
*Intendency of Potosí: cities of Potosí and Oruro.
*Intendency of La Paz: city of La Paz.
*Intendency of Cochabamba: cities of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
*Intendency of Charcas: city of Charcas (modern Sucre).
*Government of Moxos:¹ "Intendencia" in Spanish.:² "Gobernación" in Spanish.

List of viceroys

*Pedro Antonio de Cevallos (1776-1778) (the "Ceballos" spelling is also commonly found)
*Juan José de Vértiz y Salcedo (1778-1784)
*Nicolás del Campo, Marquis of Loreto (1784-1789)
*Nicolás Antonio de Arredondo (1789-1795)
*Pedro Melo de Portugal y Villena (1795-1798)
*Antonio Olaguer Feliú y Heredia (Interim) (1798-1799)
*Gabriel de Avilés y del Fierro, marqués de Avilés (March 14, 1799-May 20, 1801)
*Joaquín del Pino y Rozas (1801-1804)
*José Fernando Abascal y Sousa, Marquess of Concordia (1804) not assumed
*Rafael de Sobremonte, Marquess of Sobremonte (1804-1807)
*Santiago de Liniers y Bremond (1807-1809) (a. k. a. Jacques de Liniers)
*Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros (1809-1810)
*Francisco Javier de Elío (1810-1811)



*Lynch, John. "Spanish Colonial Administration, 1782-1810: The Intendant System in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata". London, University of London, Athlone Press, 1958.

ee also

* List of Governors in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
* May Revolution
* United Provinces of South America
* History of Argentina
* History of Paraguay

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