This essay argues that Great Britain provided the strongest and most relevant contemporary model for the Spanish American independence leaders. Over the course of two eventful decades, 1808 to 1826, over 70 patriot leaders made the long and difficult journey to London to seek political recognition, arms, recruits, and financial backing for their emancipation movements. Countless others remained at home in Spanish America but allied themselves with Britain through their commercial ventures, their ideological affiliation, or their enthusiastic emulation of British institutions, inventions, and practices such as the Lancasterian system of monitorial education, trial by jury, freedom of the press laws, steam engines, and mining technology.

This generation of independence leaders carried on a purposeful correspondence with famous British figures such as abolitionist William Wilberforce, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, utilitarian philosophers Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, scientist Humphrey Davy, and vaccination proponent Edward Jenner. Their conscious choice to draw closer to Great Britain, rather than Napoleonic France or the early republican United States, reveals much about the kind of cultural model the Spanish American independence leaders admired and their vision of the countries they wanted to create.

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