Bernardo O'Higgins

Bernardo O'Higgins

Infobox_President | name=Bernardo O'Higgins

order=2nd Supreme Director of Chile
term_start=February 16, 1817
term_end=January 28, 1823
predecessor=José Miguel Carrera
successor=Ramón Freire
birth_date=birth date|1778|8|20|mf=y
birth_place=Chillán, Chile
death_date=death date and age|1842|10|24|1778|8|20|mf=y
death_place=Lima, Peru

Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (August 20, 1778 – October 24, 1842), South American independence leader, was one of the commanders – together with José de San Martín – of the military forces that freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile (1817–23), O'Higgins was the first holder of this title to head a fully independent Chilean state.

Early life

As noted in his certificate of baptism, he was the illegitimate son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, Marquis of Osorno, a Spanish officer born in County Sligo in Ireland, who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru. His mother was Isabel Riquelme y Meza, a prominent lady of a noble family in Chillán. O'Higgins spent his early years with his mother's family in Central-south Chile. He had a distant relationship with his father, who supported him financially and was concerned with his education, but the two never met in person. Spanish government officials in America were forbidden to marry locals. [Crow, John A.; The Epic of Latin America (Fourth Edition); University of California Press, 1992; Page 166. Here he discusses that Viceroys and their subordinates could not contract marriage.]

As Ambrosio O'Higgins became Viceroy of Peru, at fifteen Bernardo was sent to a Catholic school in London to complete his studies. [CathEncy|wstitle=Ambrose Bernard O'Higgins] There, Bernardo became acquainted with American-independentist ideas: he knew Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda and joined the Masonic Logia Lautaro.

Role in the Chilean Independence and Government

In 1810, he joined the nationalist rebels fighting for independence from Spain. In 1814, his Chilean rebels were defeated by the Spanish and retreated into the Andes. In 1817, O'Higgins went back on the offensive with the aid of Argentine General José de San Martín. On February 12, 1817, he led a cavalry charge that won the Battle of Chacabuco. He became the first leader of independent Chile, and was granted dictatorial powers as Supreme Director on February 16, 1817. On February 12, 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic.

His six-year rule saw the founding of the Military Academy and the approval of the new (and current) Chilean flag. However, his more radical and liberal reforms, (such as the establishment of democracy and abolition of nobility titles) were resisted by the powerful conservative large-land owners. During his government, he founded the cities of La Unión and Vicuña. From his later exile in Peru, he promoted the Chilean expansion southward, concluding in the foundation of Punta Arenas in 1845. Also, his government was involved in the killing of enemy independentist leaders José Miguel Carrera, his brothers Juan José and Luis in Argentina, and Carreras' friend and guerrilla leader Manuel Rodríguez. He was deposed by a conservative coup on January 28, 1823.

During his government, he also assisted José de San Martín to organize the Expedition and an Army and Navy to support the Independence of Peru. He also organized the Chilean Army and the first Chilean Navy, under the command of Lord Cochrane and Manuel Blanco Encalada.

Death and legacy

After his deposition, O'Higgins spent the rest of his life in exile, and died in Lima, Peru in 1842.

After his death, his remains were repatriated to Chile in 1869; moved in 1979 from the Military School to a place of honor in the Altar de la Patria's mausoleum in front of the Palacio de La Moneda government palace; and then back again temporarily to the Military School, in 2004, for a year, during transformation of the "Altar de la Patria" into the new Plaza de la Ciudadanía (Citizens' Square). The Chilean village of Villa O'Higgins was named in his honor. The main thoroughfare of the Chilean capital, Santiago, is Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins.

There is a bust of O'Higgins in Richmond, south-west London in O'Higgins Square, named after him. Each year the borough's Mayor is joined by members of the Chilean Embassy for a ceremony and a wreath is placed. A blue plaque was erected in his honor at Clarence House in Richmond, where he lived while studying in London. There is also a plaque in his honor in Merrion Square in Dublin and in the Garavogue River Walkway in Sligo, Ireland, and a sculpture near Central Railway Station in Plaza Iberoamericana, near 58 Chalmers St Sydney, Australia.

A plaque has also been erected in Cadiz, Spain, in the Plaza de Candalaria, where he resided for four years.

Chile's Highest award for a foreign citizen is named in Honour of O'Higgins.

He never married but by María del Rosário Puga Vidaurre, wife of José María Soto Aguilar, he had a natural son Pedro Demetrio O'Higgins Puga (Concepción, June 29, 1818 – Lima, December, 1868). His descendants live in Peru.

Additional information

ee also

*History of Chile
*José Miguel Carrera
*Simón Bolívar
*José de San Martín
*Benito Juárez
*José Martí
*Francisco de Miranda
*ΦΙΑ (Phi Iota Alpha), a United States university fraternity that takes Bernardo O'Higgins as one of its "five pillars".
*UNMSM List of famous alumni of UNMSM.
*Irish military diaspora
*Irish regiments


External links

* [ Web Blog of Respetable Lodge Bernardo O'Higgins # 392 - Of Free and Acepted Masones of the Argentina, Argentine Freemasonery]
* Sepúlveda, Alfredo: " [ Bernardo O'Higgins: The Rebel Son of a Viceroy] "
* [ Bernardo O'Higgins website]

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