The preparations for the constituent congress which assembled in Buenos Aires in 1824 to bring a national government to the chaotic Río de la Plata provinces were largely the work of the porteño minister Bernardino Rivadavia. This study presents a detailed account of the year-long labor of one of Rivadavia’s agents sent to the interior provinces to facilitate the process of national union so ardently desired by the Buenos Aires authorities. The timing of the appointment in 1823 of Dr. Diego Estanislao Zavaleta to conduct negotiations with the governor of Córdoba and with other interior provincial leaders was occasioned by the desire of the Buenos Aires minister to seek peace and a recognition of independence from the commissioners sent to the Río de la Plata by the Spanish government, then dominated by liberal elements. Moreover, the occupation of the Banda Oriental by the Brazilians and the pressing need to obtain a British loan further impelled Rivadavia to seek national unity at this time.
After a year of negotiations with Governor Bustos of Córdoba and with the leaders of San Luis, Mendoza, San Juan, and other interior provinces, Zavaleta’s success was more apparent than real. He was able to get provincial approval of the plan of the Buenos Aires leaders to seek peace and the recognition of independence from the Spanish government—a plan that was frustrated by the fall of the liberals from power in Spain that same year. He also obtained the assent of the provinces he visited to their participation in an early meeting of a national congress. Yet, after the completion of his mission, the Buenos Aires envoy’s opinion of his own accomplishments was indeed prophetic. He wrote that the national congress was to convene before sufficient preparations for its success had been made in the provinces.
Based upon well known collections of printed documents and on unpublished documents from Argentine national and provincial archives, the author has written a careful study of this phase of Rivadavia’s attempt to build a central authority in the Río de la Plata provinces. Given the political and economic forces leading to disunity in that area at that time, Zavaleta’s mission was indeed a near futile exercise in porteño diplomacy.