The one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Revolución de Mayo was the occasion for the publication of new editions of these fundamental studies of the independence period of Argentine history. Both histories were written by men who accept much of the liberal, classical interpretation of this era of Argentine history as exemplified by Bartolomé Mitre in the nineteenth century. Both authors give little encouragement to revisionist Argentine historians who are opposed to this classical interpretation. Both historians view their respective subjects as constructive Argentine patriots whose work was decisive in shaping the course of the history of their epoch. Likewise, both studies reflect the porteño orientation of their authors in their presentation of their chief figures and events.
It was on the eve of his death in 1959 that Ricardo Levene completed this revision of his near classic work that first appeared over forty years ago. Some minor additions and corrections of facts are included in the fourth edition. Likewise volume three contains reprints of the significant documents of the revolutionary era included in the third edition (1949). However, the most important additions to the latest edition have been the presentation of further documentation to substantiate the major thesis of his work—that independence and liberty were the twin objectives of the revolutionary events in 1810. He categorically denies the assertion of some revisionists that independence was not a prime motive of Mariano Mareno and his followers and further affirms Mitre’s position by stating “La máscara de Fernando VII en 1810 fue una simulación política para ganar tiempo y asegurar la marcha de la revolución. . ..”
Further documentation appears in this edition to support Levene’s vigorous denial of the authenticity of the “Plan de operaciones” attributed to the pen of Moreno as his scheme for the course the revolution should take in the Río de la Plata area. In convincing argument he refutes the conclusions of recent studies by Enrique de Gandía and Enrique Guiñazu attributing this Jacobin plan to Moreno’s mind and hand. That perhaps the final word on the authenticity of this plan has not been written is indicated by the acceptance of Moreno as its author by the British historian John Street in his recent study on Artigas and the Emancipation of Uruguay.
To Levene Moreno was not a “roussoniano o racionalista abstracto,” not a “jacobino sangriento,” nor even “el Burke de América del Sur”; but he was “una creación genuinamente Argentina, un genio político propio, y un predestinado que anticipa el advenimiento de nueva patria.”
The second edition of Ricardo Piccirilli’s carefully documented life and times of Bernardino Rivadavia extends the theme of the first edition (1943) by upholding Mitre’s assertion that Rivadavia was “El más grande hombre civil de la tierra de los argentinos.” Indeed a review of this monumental work leads this writer to conclude that he would be hard pressed to dispute Piccirilli’s theme by suggesting any candidate to challenge Mitre’s bold affirmation.
New material included in this edition sheds additional light on Rivadavia’s activities as minister of government and president in the 1820’s in directing foreign relations and in attempting to drive Brazil from the Banda Oriental. Piccirilli also adds an interesting chapter on the political ideas of Rivadavia and José de San Martín in which he attributes the growing enmity of the two men in the mid-1820’s to Rivadavia’s acceptance of republicanism and to San Martín’s lingering allegiance to monarchism.
The portions of this study that relate to the liberal, bourgeoisie, reforms of Rivadavia as minister of state for the Buenos Aires government (1821-1824) reveal this Argentine statesman at his best—an imaginative and creative formulator of policy who understood the necessity of introducing the practical measures needed to implement revolutionary ideals. Piccirilli acknowledges the limitations of Rivadavia’s personal appearance and some traits of his personality as well as the ineffectiveness of some of his many reforms including his controversial land-reform system. Yet he considers the overall contributions of this bold reformer to be worthy of Mitre’s evaluation of him.
All-in-all these two significant works exemplify the high standards of Argentine historical scholarship. Worthy of mention also is the handsome format designed by the publishers of these two multivolume sets.
After having considered the Argentine viewpoint in these two important historical works one is impressed by the complexity of the history of the independence movement in the area of the former viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. At the same time this writer can not fail to reflect on the different viewpoints of the motives and deeds of the participants in this era of history shown by the documents cited, for example, by non-Argentine scholars in their recent studies of the origins of independent Bolivia and Uruguay. To the “patriot” leaders appearing in the studies of Charles Arnade on Bolivia and John Street on Uruguay the motives of the Buenos Aires “patriots” were as suspect as those of the liberals in Spain who fought for liberty for themselves but not for Americans.