All students of the political history of Colombia in the second half of the nineteenth century must grapple with the dissension that occurred among leaders of the Liberal party of that country in the 1870s. As a result of the intra-party discord, the Liberals finally lost control of the federal government, which they had dominated since 1861, and the regime known as the “Regeneration” came into existence in 1885-1886. Although the members of the two wings into which the party was divided are usually designated correctly as “Radicals” and “Independents,” all too often the issues that set them apart are imprecisely described. The Radicals are usually depicted as overzealous reformers who sought to convert Colombia into a utopian republic overnight and were, in particular, committed to policies of extreme anti-clericalism, federalism, and laissez-faire. The Independents, on the other hand, are described as moderates who realized that the Radical program was inappropriate for a country like Colombia and served only to retard its political and economic progress. According to the standard account, the Radicals, their quixotic projects having failed, were driven from power by the Independent Liberals under the leadership of Rafael Núñez, who first occupied the presidency in 1880. Subsequently Núñez formed a coalition of Independents and Conservatives which became the nucleus of a new National party that governed the republic during the Regeneration under the centralist and authoritarian constitution promulgated in 1886.

While this depiction of nineteenth-century Colombian politics is partially accurate, it fails to indicate shadows and nuances that significantly alter the final portrait. This essay represents an attempt to clarify the origins and nature of the differences among Colombian Liberals in the decade 1875-1885.

Colombia can be said to have possessed a two-party system by 1863.1 Each party—Liberal and Conservative—had a readily identifiable set of leaders, a fairly consistent and well-defined ideology, and a cluster of shared memories and traditions. Leadership of both parties was largely in the hands of the upper classes, but members of nonelite groups, particularly those who were politically articulate and had grievances or unsatisfied aspirations, such as the artisans of Bogotá and the Negroes of the Cauca Valley, were more likely to be found in the Liberal camp than the Conservative one.

The ideological difference between the two parties lay primarily in the Conservative belief in the infallibility and universality of the moral precepts of Christ as transmitted by the Roman Catholic Church and in the insistence of Conservatives that only their party could speak for Catholicism in Colombia. The Conservatives’ interpretation of Catholicism led them to accept republican forms and institutions, but they placed greater emphasis than did the Liberals on order, authority, and the necessity of restricting the rights of the individual in order to protect society as a whole. There was comparatively little disagreement on general economic policy between the two parties,2 though Liberals tended to display greater interest in the problems of development than did Conservatives.

During the period under consideration, Liberals endorsed federalism as the most nearly perfect form of political organization, though frequently disagreeing on the degree of autonomy which should be accorded to the nine states in the Colombian Union.3 The Conservatives ordinarily favored more highly centralized government; however, they were willing at times to accept federalism if only because this system might afford them the opportunity of winning control of one or more states when Liberals dominated the federal government. Nor did the centralism favored by Conservatives include complete extinction of sectional self-government. Colombia’s racial and economic diversity, together with the difficulty of communication, had bred strong regional loyalties—as well as local political machines—that resisted domination or elimination by any centralizing national government. Thus the constitution of 1886, which was basically a Conservative document, restored centralism but allocated limited powers to sectional and municipal governments, and the boundaries of the states, henceforth to be known as departments, were left unchanged. In 1888-1890 the administration made an attempt to break up the departments into smaller units on the grounds that such action was needed to extirpate completely the still powerful roots of federalism, but the proposal aroused such intense opposition, especially in Antioquia and Cauca, that it had to be abandoned.4

The polarization of Colombian politics began in the late 1820s and was intensified during the following decade, especially as a result of a confused and unsuccessful Liberal revolution (1839-1842), in which the participants had but a single common aim-regional autonomy.5 In 1849 the Liberal party won control of the executive branch of the government when José Hilario López defeated two Conservative candidates to be elected president in a closely fought contest.6 To Liberals, López’ four-year term was a watershed in the nation’s history, for they felt that the reforms put into effect by his administration marked a definitive break with colonial traditions and institutions that had survived under the republic.7 Under López’ reform-minded Conservative predecessor, Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, tariffs had been lowered, and an end to the state tobacco monopoly had been decreed. Starting in 1850, the Liberals, led by Secretary of Finance Manuel Murillo Toro, abolished slavery, authorized division of the communal lands (resguardos) of the Indians, enacted a program of fiscal decentralization designed to increase provincial autonomy, and in other ways sought to remove barriers which were believed to be hindering the social and economic development of the republic. Mean-while, the country was kept in an uproar not only by the socialistic declamations of Liberal youths inspired by the French Revolution of 1848, but also by a crime wave in Bogotá and by numerous outbreaks of class conflict and violence in the Cauca Valley of western Colombia.8

By 1852, older, more moderate members of the party, including López himself, were expressing disapproval of the more extravagant proposals advanced by the followers of Murillo. These extremist Liberals came to be known as Gólgotas, after an invocation of the Martyr of Golgotha by one of the Liberal firebrands. They in turn called their adversaries Draconianos, partly because of the reluctance of the latter to do away with capital punishment. During the brief tenure of López’ successor, José María Obando, conflict between Gólgotas and Draconianos continued, culminating in the coup d’etat of April 17, 1854, when Obando refused dictatorial powers offered to him by General José María Melo, who thereupon assumed them himself.9 Although a coalition of Gólgotas and Conservatives was successful in ousting Melo by the end of the year, the Liberals lost control of the government for the remainder of the decade.

In 1856 the Liberals, having settled their former differences, were able to present a single candidate, Manuel Murillo, in the presidential election of that year. The Conservative nominee was Mariano Ospina Rodríguez, while ex-President Mosquera, who had been talking since 1849 about the need for an electoral alliance of moderate progressives like himself, ran as the candidate of a National party composed mainly of dissident Conservatives.10 Ospina won the election, but was faced in 1860 by a revolution led by Mosquera, who now broke definitively with the Conservatives and won the support of most Liberal leaders.11 The success of the revolution meant the restoration of Liberal rule, but many Liberals, especially the Gólgotas, who were now known as Radicals, doubted the ex-President’s commitment to constitutionalism and were critical of his intemperate anti-clericalism. On the other hand, many surviving Draconianos were now devoted followers of Mosquera.

The discord between Radicals and Mosqueristas emerged during the constitutional convention of 1863 in Ríonegro (Antioquia) that drafted a federal constitution severely limiting the powers of the executive and of the central government.12 The two factions of the party were still at odds when Mosquera took office in 1866 to begin a two-year term as President. A series of conflicts between the President and Congress, which was dominated by Radicals and Conservatives, led to Mosqueras closure of the legislature on April 29, 1867. Reacting to what they considered the imposition of a dictatorship, the Radicals effortlessly deposed the President on May 23, winning by their action the plaudits of many Conservatives as well.13

From 1867 to 1875 the federal government remained in the hands of Liberals formerly identified with Radicalism, and the party leadership was able to maintain a satisfactory level of cohesion. Nevertheless, disaffection was by no means absent from Liberal ranks during this period and was to burst forth during the presidential election of 1875, in many ways the most significant political contest to take place in nineteenth-century Colombia. In that election Rafael Núñez unsuccessfully challenged Aquileo Parra, choice of incumbent President Santiago Pérez, whom he had served as secretary of finance and development. At this time the followers of Núñez were not yet known as Independents, ordinarily being called Nuñistas after their standard-bearer. Parra’s supporters were called Parristas, not Radicals, though their enemies usually referred to them as the “oligarchs.” Although this label was pinned indiscriminately on all Parristas, it was directed chiefly at Manuel Murillo, Santiago Pérez, and the men most closely associated with them, such as Parra, Pérez’ younger brother Felipe, Nicolás Esguerra, and Felipe Zapata.

The use of the term “oligarchs” to designate the Parristas reflected one of the principal charges hurled at them by the Nuñistas: that they wished to monopolize political power in Colombia. Ex-President Mosquera expressed the views of many Nuñistas when he wrote early in 1875 that he found it “intolerable that a circle should want to dominate the nation from Bogotá, centralizing power and corrupting the electoral system.”14 As this statement suggests, it was the oligarchs’ manipulation of the electoral process that provoked the angriest outcries from the Nuñistas.

Under the constitution of 1863, the President of the Union was elected by the votes of the nine states; that is, an election was held in each state every two years, and the winner in each contest received the vote of that state, a majority of five votes being needed for election. In practice, this meant that it was the disposition of the chief executives of the states, who were also called presidents, and their local agents that determined the outcome of national presidential elections and that presidential aspirants and their backers had to assure themselves of the support of at least five of the state governments. It was the contention of the Nuñistas in 1875 that the oligarchs had used their positions in the federal government to interfere shamelessly in the affairs of the states in order to ensure the establishment or preservation of regimes friendly to their interests, even to the extent of using the Colombian Guard, or national army, for this purpose.18 Only two years before, when Julián Trujillo had run against Santiago Pérez for the presidency with considerable Conservative support, the incumbent, Manuel Murillo, had been accused of overthrowing the government of Panamá and of acting to nullify a Trujillo victory in Boyacá in order to win these states for Pérez. Now the Trujillistas supported Núñez almost to a man.

Besides his desire to end the hegemony of the oligarchs, ex-President Mosquera had at least one other reason for working on behalf of Núñez; the advisability of electing a President who was a costeño, or native of one of the Atlantic Coast states of Bolívar, Magdalena, and Panamá.16 This feeling was shared by many Liberal politicians from that region who resented the fact that costeños seemed to be excluded from serious consideration for the presidency and who believed that the coastal states had been systematically neglected and discriminated against by the federal government.17 One of the earliest manifestations of support for Núñez came from a Liberal convention held in Barranquilla (Bolívar) in January, 1875, for the purpose of selecting a presidential candidate from the Coast; the delegates, all of them costeños, unanimously chose Núñez as their standard-bearer.18

Rafael Núñez, who had also been mentioned as a presidential possibility in 1873, was in many ways ideally suited to become the candidate of the costeños and of other dissatisfied Liberals.19 Born in Cartagena, the capital of Bolívar, in 1825, he had begun his political career in Panamá, where he had married the sister-in-law of a prominent Liberal leader, and quickly had made his mark in Bogotá. Although Núñez had been identified with the Gólgota-Radicals as a young man, he also had served in the cabinet under Obando in 1853 and under Mosquera in 1862. Since 1863 he had lived in the United States and Europe and was therefore free of any direct responsibility for the acts of recent administrations. At the same time his frequent contributions to the Liberal press in Colombia had kept him in the public eye and had given further evidence of his impressive intellectual gifts.

Núñez’ opponent, Aquileo Parra, who also had been born in 1825, was a native of Santander.20 He described his family as being good but of modest financial status. Forced to drop out of school at an early age, he had embarked upon a series of commercial and agricultural ventures that eventually made him a man of considerable means. He had simultaneously—though reluctantly, according to his own account-begun to take part in state and national politics and had been a delegate to the Ríonegro convention. His close political ties with Murillo and with Santiago Pérez now led to his being branded the “official” or “palace” candidate.

In endorsing Parra in 1875, the Diario de Cundinamarca, the leading Bogotá spokesman for the Liberal administrations of the early 1870’s, laid special stress on the fact that Parra had overcome poverty and adversity to attain his present eminence.21 The writer of the editorial—presumably Florentino Vezga, like Parra a native of Santander—also observed that Parra had been born in a region where there never had been slaves, where all men treated each other as equals, and where no form of labor was considered dishonorable. This statement, which was no doubt meant as a slur against Núñez’ place of birth, reflected the contemporary belief that in Santander, where the population was largely white and mestizo and where there had been few slaves at the time of abolition, society was more egalitarian than in most other parts of Colombia and that inhabitants of the region were characterized by an industriousness matched only by that of the antioqueños. In 1881 Núñez was to recall “the hateful designations of a personal character relative to the race and industrial habits” of the costeños that had been made during the 1875 campaign.22 Whether the oligarchs did in fact give themselves “airs of superiority,” as Núñez charged, remains a matter for speculation, but costeños already smarting from the neglect of the federal government would have been quick to detect such an attitude if it did exist and become even more embittered. One of Núñez’ biographers has suggested that Santiago Pérez did harbor a special antipathy for costeños.23

It also has been asserted that the oligarchs regarded Núñez himself with an irrational dislike that accounted for their unflagging opposition to his political ambitions in the 1870s and 1880s.24 On this point there is no conclusive evidence. Parra relates in his memoirs that neither he nor Murillo felt particularly hostile toward Núñez.25 And despite the acrimony of the presidential election, Núñez was able to write to Parra in 1877, praising the latter’s conduct in office and stating that the two shared identical ideas and sentiments.26 Whatever his feelings toward Parra may have been, Núñez evidently thought little of Murillo, whom he described in 1876 as “corruption incarnate.”27

Although the Núñistas refrained from attacking Parra personally in 1875, they mounted a strong offensive against the project with which he was most closely associated—the Northern Railroad, which was to have linked Bogotá with the lower Magdalena River by way of Boyacá and Santander. Parra in fact had accepted the post of secretary of finance and development in Murillo’s cabinet in 1872 primarily to devote himself to the Northern Railroad, which Murillo called “the greatest and most important enterprise for our country and above all for the state of Santander.”28

Plans for the construction of this railroad took shape in 1872 shortly after Murillo’s inauguration for his second presidential term, an occasion which he used to stress the importance of the telegraph, the railroad, and other means of communication in stimulating the economic and intellectual development of a people and in creating the solidarity of interests and sympathies that he felt were needed to perfect the federal system in Colombia.29 A few weeks later Murillo unveiled to Congress the project that he had in mind—an inter-oceanic highway, consisting of both roads and railroad lines and financed at least in part by the federal government.30 Murillo thought that two portions of this great highway could be undertaken at once: a railroad linking the Pacific port of Buenaventura with Cali and the Cauca River, for which a preliminary contract had already been approved, and the Northern Railroad.

The initial steps, both financial and organizational, for the construction of the Northern Railroad were taken during the Murillo and Pérez administrations, and negotiations were begun to obtain a twentymillion peso loan in Europe. However, for a variety of reasons the project aroused great opposition from many Liberals. Some who approved of the railroad in principle objected to the specific route chosen in 1873 on the advice of William Ridley, an engineer in the employ of an English firm. Ridley had recommended that the line be built to a point on the Carare River near its confluence with the Magdalena.31 Other critics of the railroad used a combination of arguments: that the extent of federal participation in the enterprise violated the rights of the states and the canons of sound Liberal economic thought; that the construction of such a railroad was beyond the financial capacity of the nation; and that the railroad, even if it could be built, would benefit only three states (Cundinamarca, Boyacá, and Santander) while consuming virtually all of the revenue of the federal government.32

All of these objections were aired repeatedly during the 1875 campaign, and one contributor to a newspaper in Palmira (Cauca) went so far as to say that their attitude toward the Northern Railroad represented the only difference between the supporters of Parra and those of Núñez.33 The position of Núñez himself is somewhat unclear; in his memoirs Parra referred to him as a supporter of the railroad, but in a letter to Parra on February 2, 1874, Núñez indicated that his support was not unqualified since he warned that no “irrational” sacrifices should be made to build the railroad and asserted the necessity of showing beforehand that the railroad could be made to pay its way in the first few years of operation.34

The leading Parristas of 1875 tended to be Liberals who were closely identified with policies of recent administrations such as that represented by the Northern Railroad.35 Of thirteen individuals who served in the cabinet between 1870 and 1874 and whose preference in 1875 could be ascertained, only four supported Núñez while nine, including Parra himself, were Parristas. If the Parristas are studied on the basis of regional origins, no clear-cut national pattern emerges, but it does become apparent that Parra had the support of the great majority of Liberal politicians from his home state of Santander, which had been and continued to be the bastion of Radicalism; on the other hand, very few Parristas came from the coastal states or from Cauca, ex-President Mosquera’s bailiwick.

In 1875 Núñez had the backing not only of Mosquera himself, but also of his followers. While data on the preferences of all the leading Mosqueristas with respect to the 1875 contest is not available, there can be no doubt that the Liberals most closely associated with him in the 1860s—Julián Trujillo, José María Rojas Garrido, Froilán Largacha, Andrés Cerón, to name but a few—were Nuñistas in 1875. The only prominent Liberal identified as a Mosquerista in the 1860s who is known to have supported Parra in 1875 was Ramón Gómez, nicknamed el Sapo, or “the Toad,” who was boss of the most notorious political machine in nineteenth-century Colombia.36 Indeed, Carlos Holguín, chief architect of the Independent-Conservative alliance of the 1880s, would write in 1893 that Mosquerismo had been the soul of the Independent movement.37

It would be misleading, however, to suggest that the Nuñista ranks in 1875 were made up exclusively or even mainly of Mosqueristas. The challenge to the oligarchs in 1875 was serious precisely because Núñez had the support of Liberals who had been closely associated with them in the past, such as Salvador Camacho Roldan and Pablo Arosemena, or who had acted as intermediaries in the old Radical-Mosquerista struggles, such as Santos Acosta and Eustorgio Salgar.

Liberals were induced to support Núñez in 1875 for a variety of motives. The desire to dislodge the oligarchs no doubt accounted for the support given by those who felt that they were being unjustly excluded from positions of influence in the federal government. Among these were individuals tainted by Mosquerismo as well as the costeños who believed that their interests and those of their region were being slighted. To some extent these two groups overlapped since Mosquera had a strong personal following in the Coastal states that can be traced at least as far back as the presidential election of 1856, when he had carried the state of Panamá and four of the six provinces that later made up the states of Magdalena and Bolívar.38 Some Nuñistas may have genuinely hoped for an end to “palace” candidates and to the fraud and violence that had marred recent elections. Others, such as Camacho Roldán, had strongly opposed the Northern Railroad. Finally, according to Parra, a few Nuñistas were motivated by personal grievances against him.39

There is no evidence that the Nuñistas as a group were distressed by the extreme federalism of the Constitution of 1863 or that they were concerned with the problem of strengthening the federal government at the expense of the states. In fact, one of the chief Nuñista charges against the oligarchs was that they had consistently violated the sovereignty of the states by unconstitutionally interfering in their internal affairs.

This is not to imply that neither Nuñistas nor Parristas had reservations about the constitution; it is simply to state that constitutional reform to strengthen the federal government was not a subject of debate among Liberals in 1875. The desirability of increasing federal powers had been asserted by Liberals of all factions almost from the moment the constitution was promulgated; that so little was done may be attributed to the difficulty of reconciling the conflicting political interests of the era and to the fact that amendment of the constitution was virtually impossible since the approval of all nine states as represented in the Senate was required.40

Nor did the Nuñistas of 1875 accuse their opponents of an unrealistic adherence to laissez-faire principles. As the paragraphs on the Northern Railroad may have suggested, by the early 1870s many one-time Gólgotas had modified their youthful commitment to laissezfaire. Murillo, for example, had shed his earlier conviction that economic development should come entirely from the efforts of the individual and that the state should confine itself to giving security to the citizenry; instead, he had come to the conclusion that the government should be the prime mover of progressive enterprises of concern to the entire community.41 Aquileo Parra held somewhat similar views. The extent to which the government should intervene in the economy, he believed, depended on the intellectual advancement and technical knowledge of the citizenry and, above all, on the development of their spirit of cooperation. For a country like Colombia, government support of education and of certain economic activities was essential; in the United States or England, private enterprise would fill the void left by the state.42

To attack the oligarchs as a group for excessive devotion to laissez-faire, then, would not have been an effective strategy for the Nuñistas since such a charge could have been easily refuted by the statements and actions of the oligarchs themselves. Nor did the Nuñistas indicate a desire to carry state interventionism beyond the point favored by the oligarchs. If anything, articles in the Nuñista press were more likely to assail the oligarchs for violating traditional Liberal principles, both in the political and economic spheres. As one Nuñista editorial put it, “Liberal policy in recent years has been openly reactionary, going directly against the spirit and letter of our federal constitution.”43

During the campaign of 1875 the question of Church-State relations played a comparatively minor role in the debate between supporters of the two Liberal candidates. This probably stemmed at least in part from the fact that both Liberal factions included within their ranks individuals of divergent views on the subject. Núñez himself made various statements which were interpreted as indicating a desire for greater harmony between Church and State and provoked the criticism of anticlerical Parristas. Some of his supporters were convinced that the clergy constituted a subversive element within Colombia, but felt that excessive State control over the Church was contrary to Liberal principle and in any case self-defeating; this was the position of Salvador Camacho Roldán, who wrote in 1878 that “what we seek in this country is not the repression of the Catholic idea but the complete emancipation of human thought, and this requires freedom for Catholics and for non-Catholics, for those who believe and for those who do not.”44 However, other Nuñistas believed that stringent State control over the clergy was necessary to prevent their conspiring against Liberal institutions. Among these was Mosquera, who had been responsible for the most strongly anti-clerical measures enacted in nineteenth-century Colombia—the nationalization of Church property, the suppression of religious communities, and the assertion of the executive’s right of “tuition,” or protection, over the Church—and had continued to express alarm over what he called “neo-Catholic fanaticism,” especially in Cauca.45

Another prominent Nuñista, Camilo A. Echeverri, viewed Núñez as a man who would respect the religious beliefs of the masses, but would end the “adulterous union” of Church and State that characterized the Pérez administration, which he felt was a “subject” of the Catholic spiritual power.46 That such a statement could be made seriously was a reflection of the fact that the Pérez government, like the other Radical-oligarch administrations of the 1860s and early 1870s, had been comparatively moderate in Church matters. During his first term in the presidency (1864-1866) Murillo had been consistently conciliatory toward the Church and had revoked sentences of banishment under which the Archbishop of Bogotá and the Bishop of Antioquia had been expelled from their sees by Mosquera.47 Anti-clericalism had again flared after Mosquera took office in 1866; with his deposition by the Radicals the following year, a relaxation of tension had occurred.48 Prior to 1875 neither Parra nor Santiago Pérez had ever been associated with extreme anti-clericalism, and the latter was, according to contemporary accounts, a practicing Catholic.49

To be sure, hostility between the Liberal party and the Church never subsided entirely, even during periods of comparative tranquility, and the Radicals, as Liberals, hoped to see a reduction in the spiritual and temporal influence of the clergy over the Colombian people. In addition, all Liberals were likely to be particularly hostile to the clergy when they felt that the latter were allowing the Conservatives to exploit religious issues for political purposes. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to label the Radicals as being consistently anticlerical in contrast to the more moderate Nuñistas. In 1875 the former had a better record of relative moderation on the Church-State question than did most of the Nuñistas.

As the elections of 1875 took place, the Nuñistas became convinced that their worst charges about the oligarchs were all too well-founded.50 The former accused President Pérez, probably with justification, of toppling the governments of Panamá and Magdalena in order to win those states for Parra and of using similarly underhanded tactics in Cundinamarca. For their part the Parristas held that the Nuñistas were preparing to launch a revolution should their candidate be defeated, and President Pérez dismissed the secretary of war, Ramón Santo Domingo Vila, and the commander of the Colombian Guard, Solón Wilches, both of whom were Nuñistas, when they refused to sign a statement pledging the Guard to neutrality in the election.

Since neither Núñez nor Parra won the five state votes needed for election, the contest had to be decided by Congress. After three weeks of uncertainty and intrigue, the balloting took place on February 21, 1876, and resulted in a victory for Parra, who received fortyeight votes; Núñez received eighteen, as did Conservative Bartolomé Calvo, who was the choice of the delegations from the Conservative-controlled states of Antioquia and Tolima.51 Parra tried to follow a conciliatory course as President, but the election had engendered such bitter feelings within the Liberal party that the Conservatives rose in revolt in 1876 in the expectation that the Nuñistas would refuse to support the government. Although Conservative hopes in this respect proved unfounded and most of the Nuñistas actively aided the government in its successful attempt to crush the revolution, the fissure within the Liberal party was not permanently healed since the Nuñista grievances of 1875 remained unsatisfied. Indeed, the party’s division was deepened by several new sources of controversy which arose in the wake of the Liberal victory over the Conservatives. At the same time the failure of the Conservative attempt to regain power by force of arms convinced the leaders of that party that their best chance for future success lay in an alliance with one of the two Liberal factions.

As a result of these circumstances, the years 1878-1885 saw a steady decline in Radical fortunes until in the latter year they rose in armed revolt against the government of Núñez, then serving his second term in the presidency. Núñez thereupon turned to the Conservatives for military assistance in quelling the insurrection. It must be emphasized, however, that by 1885 the Liberal division had been largely healed and the Radical wing of the party included many one-time Nuñistas who had become disenchanted with the leadership of Núñez.

The most inflammatory of the issues which emerged after the Conservative defeat in 1877 was related to the ever-recurring religious question, itself an important factor in bringing about the revolution. Since 1870 relations between Church and State had become increasingly strained in many parts of the country as a result of the federal government’s assumption of an expanded role in primary education and the establishment of several normal schools headed by Protestant professors imported from Germany.52 Provision was made for religious instruction in the primary schools, and some prelates, notably Archbishop Vicente Arbeláez of Bogotá, proved willing to accept the secular schools provided they were not used for the dissemination of anti-Catholic doctrine.53 In Cauca, however, there was virulent clerical opposition to the Liberal educational program, and Bishop Carlos Bermúdez of Popayán forbade parents to send their children to public elementary schools.54 Fanatic Liberals in that state, meanwhile, claimed that the furor was part of a Conservative conspiracy to regain political power. On March 15, 1876, César Conto, president of the state, informed Parra that the Conservatives had joined the clergy in an attempt to make federal education laws unenforceable in Cauca and warned that if the federal government did not take action to make itself obeyed, the entire nation would find itself in the hands of the Papal Curia.55

In Cauca, where the Conservative revolution began in July, 1876, the conflict resembled a Catholic crusade as well as a struggle for political ends. Indeed, the religious character of the revolt in Cauca and other sections of the country persuaded at least two prominent Nuñistas to support the Parra government.56 After the conclusion of the war, Congress, which was by then composed exclusively of Liberals (Nuñistas as well as Parristas), resolved to end clerical interference in political matters once and for all by passing several severely restrictive pieces of legislation. Law 35 of 1877 was designed to prevent clerical opposition to laws of the federal and state governments and to acts of public authority.57 By Law 37 of the same year four prelates accused of fomenting the revolution—the Bishops of Pasto, Popayán, Medellín, and Antioquia—were banished from Colombia for ten years and were forbidden ever again to exercise their ecclesiastical functions within the national borders.58 In addition, anti-clericalism was revived on the state level, especially in Cauca, where President Conto had anticipated the federal government by ordering on February 4,1877, the expulsion of the Bishops of Pasto and Popayán from that state.59

Another source of controversy was the collection of forced loans from Conservatives during the recent revolution to raise funds to support the government’s military effort. The usual procedure was to demand a fixed sum from a Conservative; if he was unable or unwilling to pay the required amount in cash—and in some cases, even if he was-his property would be seized and frequently auctioned off at a fraction of its value to a deserving Liberal. Such practices were, of course, a standard by-product of civil war in nineteenth-century Colombia, but contemporaries appeared to feel that the depredations of 1876-1877, particularly where real estate was involved, exceeded anything that had occurred in the past. Núñez later commented that during the revolution “the abuses committed with respect to real estate reached such alarming proportions that it could be perceived that the country was rapidly approaching the state of barbarism where this matter was concerned.”60 The situation was especially bad in Cauca, where forced loans continued to be collected even after the federal government had ordered their suspension.61 Many persons also were shocked by the looting of Cali on December 24, 1876, by Liberal troops who, according to one account, were restrained by their superiors only when they began to attack the property of Liberals.62

Division within the party reappeared during the administration of Julián Trujillo, a Nudista in 1875, who had added luster to his military reputation during the recent revolution. Although he had been elected as a unity candidate, dissension began almost immediately after he took office on April 1, 1878. It was during his two-year term that his supporters and those of Núñez, who served briefly as secretary of finance and development, became known as Independents while their Liberal adversaries revived the Radical label for themselves, probably to suggest a parallel between contemporary conditions and the struggle against Mosquera in 1866-1867.

Núñez gave the Independent movement a sonorous if conveniently vague slogan in a speech delivered on the occasion of Trujillo’s inauguration when he warned that catastrophe threatened Colombia unless a “fundamental administrative regeneration” were undertaken.63 Shortly afterwards Trujillo gave the Independents a program in a series of messages to Congress. On April 27, 1878, he asked for changes in the ecclesiastical laws, including the extension of amnesty to the exiled bishops and the repeal of certain provisions of Law 35 of 1877.64 Congress, where the Radicals had a majority, politely but firmly turned down the President’s request, declaring that it would be inopportune to legislate on religious matters at that time.65 In 1880, however, the Independent-controlled Congress revoked the sentence of exile against the bishops, and Law 35 was repealed two years later.

In another message Trujillo expressed a desire for an end to the collection of forced loans and requested authorization to return auctioned real estate to the original owners with reasonable compensation to purchasers and payment to the national treasury of the loan the nonpayment of which had resulted in the auction.66 The following September Trujillo issued a decree permanently ending the collection of forced loans. A law providing for the return of property that had been auctioned as a loan or contribution during and after the revolution of 1876-1877 was passed in 1882.66a

A third part of the Independent program of 1878 dealt with the federal government’s role in promoting internal improvements. In a message to Congress on April 25, Trujillo stressed the need for such improvements and expressed the hope that a “moderate” foreign loan might be obtained to finance the construction of railroads.67 He made it clear, however, that all states would share equally in the benefits to be derived from such a loan and indicated that henceforth the federal government would play a more limited role in the development of transportation. This new policy meant in effect the abandonment of the favorite project of Parra and the Radicals, the Northern Railroad; in the future, emphasis would be placed on more modest but perhaps more realistic enterprises designed to provide short, direct links between major towns and between the interior and the Magdalena.

The Independent program was expanded in 1880 when Núñez succeeded Trujillo in the presidency, having been elected with the support of the Independents and a sizable portion of the Conservative party. In his inaugural address on April 8, Núñez called for establishment of a protective tariff to stimulate domestic industry and for the creation of a National Bank to serve as a spur to economic growth.68 Duties on imports, which had been assessed on the basis of gross weight since 1861, had been rising during the 1870s, but there was now considerable Radical opposition to the adoption of a frankly protectionist policy, primarily for two reasons: the belief that Colombia was destined to remain an exporter of agricultural products, at least in the foreseeable future, and the undesirability of granting preferential treatment to a few Bogotá artisans at the expense of the consumer.69 The Radicals directed even heavier fire at the proposed National Bank which they declared would be monopolistic and would drive private banks out of business.70 Despite the objections of the Radicals, bills creating a protective tariff and a National Bank were passed by Congress in 1880.

It was the hope of Núñez that the National Bank would help lift the Colombian economy from the depressed state into which it had fallen in the late 1870s after a period of comparative prosperity earlier in the decade. To some extent a reflection of unfavorable conditions in other parts of the world, the Colombian depression, which can be blamed in part for the political agitation of the period, was largely the result of the low prices which the nation’s exchange-earning exports, especially cinchona bark, were commanding in European markets.71 Although the National Bank, which went into operation on January 1, 1881, as a completely official institution issuing notes redeemable in silver, did not destroy the private banks as the Radicals had predicted, it did not produce an economic upturn.72 Shortly after Núñez took office for the second time on August 11, 1884, he reported to Congress that the federal treasury was running a monthly deficit of at least 100,000 pesos and that the nation was in the midst of “the most serious industrial and monetary crisis” it had ever known.73

Despite the vigor of their blasts at the Bank and the tariff, it is likely that the Radicals were moved at least as much by political considerations as by devotion to the Liberal doctrine of the 1850s, since they themselves had not hesitated to adulterate it in the past. The Liberals retained a vague commitment to free trade during the rest of the century, but this issue never occupied a prominent place in their subsequent demands for reform, which dealt primarily with political matters.74 To be sure, the National Bank did remain a major target for Liberal criticism, but this was mainly because after 1885 the Bank’s notes were no longer convertible and were declared by the government to be the only legal tender in Colombia. Subsequently, Liberals and many Conservatives regularly inveighed against the shady financial manipulations of the Bank and, after its liquidation in 1894, against the government’s increasing emissions of paper money75

In his inaugural address in 1884, Núñez called himself an “irrevocable member of Colombian liberalism and pledged to reconstitute the party’s scattered forces.76 Despite the Presidents avowal of his devotion to liberalism, however, by 1884 he had lost the support of most of the top-ranking Liberals who had backed him in the 1870s, and the Independent party had been reduced to a shadow of its former self.

Some of the defections can be ascribed to the thwarted political ambitions of Independent leaders in various states. In addition, Liberal importers and businessmen connected with the Banco de Bogotá and other private banks could be expected to be critical of the legislation of 1880 and hope for a reversal of policy with an end of Independent rule.77 But the most important factor in the disenchantment of many erstwhile Nuñistas was probably their fear that the Independents would allow the federal government to fall into the hands of the Conservatives. By 1879 the leading Conservative party chiefs, particularly Carlos Holguín and Antonio B. Cuervo, had concluded that revolution had to be discarded as a method of regaining political power and that the most feasible route to this end would be through cooperation with the Independents.78 Although this policy encountered resistance from individual Conservatives who mistrusted Núñez, the party gave him significant support in the presidential election of 1879 and officially endorsed his candidacy in 1883.79 The Independents, of course, had to balance their animosity toward the Radicals against the hazards of cooperation with the Conservatives. In 1876 Núñez himself had indicated that he was undecided as to the proper course. “Should we lean toward the oligarchs out of fear of the Conservatives?”, he asked one of his supporters. “Or should we unite as much as possible with the latter even though we may later be dominated by the theocratic element?”80 To most Independents, if not to Núñez, the latter alternative was unacceptable.

The disintegration of the Independent movement was signalled as early as July 20, 1880, when two former chief executives, Santos Acosta and Eustorgio Salgar, both of whom had been Nuñistas in 1875, joined Radical ex-Presidents Santiago Pérez and Aquileo Parra in a committee formed to direct the activities of Liberals willing to recognize their authority.81 An even more impressive set of defections took place the following year when the Radicals were able to capture the presidential candidate selected by Núñez and the Independents, Francisco Javier Zaldúa, and proclaim him as their own choice.82 This attempt at “Liberal union” had the support of such prominent Independents as Julián Trujillo and Salvador Camacho Roldán, though not that of Núñez himself. In a manifesto to Independents on April 30, 1881, Trujillo and Camacho Roldán warned of the dangers inherent in Conservative support for one of the Liberal factions and pointed out that the original reasons for the party’s split had disappeared: both of the presidential aspirants of 1875 had served as chief executive; respect for religious beliefs was now the order of the day; and public funds were being spent on internal improvements of the second rank that would pave the way for the great enterprise that would one day link the states of the interior, this last statement being a reference to the new railroad policy then in effect.83

By the time Núñez began his second term, therefore, the ranks of the Independents had been greatly thinned, with many of the leading members of the movement having rejoined the Radicals. When the revolution of 1885 broke out, Núñez, who had long been in favor of constitutional reform, took advantage of the opportunity to bury the Ríonegro constitution. He called instead for the writing of a drastically different charter, which, as promulgated in 1886, greatly expanded the powers of the chief executive, ended federalism, and gave preferential treatment to the Catholic Church.84 Although nine of the eighteen men who attended the constitutional convention were Independents, only a few had been nationally known Liberals, and the chief author of the new constitution, Miguel Antonio Caro, was of Conservative background. Consequently, it is inaccurate to state that the Constitution of 1886 and the regime which it established were the creations of both Independent Liberals and Conservatives.

In an effort to destroy the old partisan labels, supporters of the Regeneration formed a new political organization, the National party, composed of Independents and Conservatives, but it soon became evident that the Independents would be overshadowed by their new associates. Several Independents who had played important roles in the events of 1885-1886 were discarded in the next few years, among them Vice President Eliseo Payán, who was stripped of his title in 1887 for dallying with his former Liberal comrades.85 By mid-1888 the preponderance of the Conservative party had been assured: Conservatives held five of the seven ministries and headed six of the nine-departments.86 At the end of that year Núñez tried to assure Luis Carlos Rico, an Independent from Boyacá, that Carlos Holguín, then serving as chief executive in Núñez’ absence, would save the Independents from “complete eclipse,” but Rico hoped that Núñez himself would infuse the Independents with “new life” through his correspondence.87 Eventually the Independents became part of the Nationalist or National wing of the Conservative party.

In the meantime, former Independents continued to return to the Liberal party. In 1891 a newly formed Liberal Center, composed of Parra, Camacho Roldán, and Luis A. Robles, in a set of directives to be circulated confidentially in the departments, recommended that the party press avoid the revival of old quarrels that might discourage former adversaries who wanted to rejoin the party. “We especially urge,” the statement continued, “that our press omit the terms Radical and Independent. We ought to recognize only Liberals.”88 These words indicate not only that the re-entry of Independents into Liberal ranks was continuing, but also that they may have occasionally received a less than cordial welcome from those who blamed them for the party’s present plight. However, if it was in the Liberal interest to minimize past divisions, the Conservatives stood to gain as much by attempting to perpetuate the Radical-Independent split. Among the Liberals these terms soon became extinct, but the pro-administration press continued to refer to its non-Conservative opponents as Radicals well into the decade of the 1890s.

Impermanent though it was, the Liberal split of the 1870s had led to a Conservative restoration and to the destruction of the institutions set up at Ríonegro. But other factors, which cannot be discussed here, also contributed to the Liberal debacle, among them the lack of effective Radical leadership; state and local issues that influenced the course of national affairs; and the changing views and inclinations of Rafael Núñez. All of these, together with the events sketched on the preceding pages, must be considered by the historian who seeks an understanding of the decade 1878-1885 in Colombian history.


Cf. the criteria for two-party systems set forth in Avery Leiserson, Parties and Politics: An Institutional and Behavioral Approach (New York, 1958), p. 167, and Leslie Lipson, The Democratic Civilization (New York, 1964), p. 315. After the disintegration of Gran Colombia in 1830, the area that became the Republic of Colombia was known by various names: New Granada, to 1858; Granadine Confederation, to 1861; the United States of Colombia, to 1886; and finally, the Republic of Colombia. For the sake of clarity, the name of Colombia will be used throughout this article. Unless otherwise indicated, the place of publication for all works cited hereafter is Bogotá.


Cf. Frank Safford, “Commerce and Enterprise in Central Colombia, 1821-1870” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1965), pp. 8-9; Luis Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección en Colombia, 1810-1830 (Medellin, 1955). pp. 246-247; David Bushnell, “Two Stages in Colombian Tariff Policy: The Radical Era and the Return to Protection (1861-1885),” Inter-American Economic Affairs, IX:4 (Spring 1956), 19.


The nine “sovereign” states were Antioquia, Bolívar, Boyacá, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Panamá, Santander, and Tolima. For federalism before 1858, see Robert L. Gilmore, “Federalism in Colombia, 1810-1858” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1949).


Centralism under the Constitution of 1886 is discussed in William Marion Gibson, The Constitutions of Colombia (Durham, N.C., 1948), pp. 306-310. The course of the administration proposal to divide the departments can be traced in the press, especially La Nación, October 26 and November 16, 1888, December 17, 1889, April 15 and July 20, 1890; El Telegrama, November 6 and December 13, 1889; La Tarde (Medellin), June 4, July 5, and December 23, 1889.


There are no specialized studies of the early history of the Liberal party, but numerous memoirs and secondary works are of use for the period from the 1820s to the 1840s. Among the former, see Joaquín Posada Gutiérrez, Memorias histórico-políticas, 4 vols. (d ed., 1929) and José María Samper, Historia de un alma, 2 vols. (2d ed., 1946-1948); among the latter, see José Manuel Restrepo, Historia de la Nueva Granada, 2 vols. (1952-1963); Rufino J. and Angel Cuervo, Vida de Rufino Cuervo y noticias de su época, 2 vols. (Paris, 1892); Horacio Rodríguez Plata, fosé María Obando, íntimo (Archivo-epistolario-comentarios) (1958).


For a recent account of this controversial election, see Joseph Leon Helguera, “The First Mosquera Administration in New Granada, 1845-1849” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1958), pp. 240-267, 290-301.


A discussion of Liberal ideology during the López administration appears in Gilmore, “Federalism,” pp. 185-206.


The institution used by young Liberals for the expression of their views was the Escuela Republicana, a political, literary, and oratorical society founded on September 25, 1850, anniversary of the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Bolívar in 1828. See Samper, Alma, I, 254-256, and Salvador Camacho Roldán, Memorias (1923), pp. 195-196. For the disorders in Cauca, see [Ramón Mercado], Memorias sobre los acontecimientos del sur de la Nueva Granada durante la administración del 7 marzo de 1849 (1853); [Avelino Escobar?], Reseña histórica de los principales acontecimientos de la ciudad de Cali, desde el año de 1848 hasta el de 1855 inclusive (1856); Gustavo Arboleda, Historia contemporánea de Colombia (Popayán, 1919), III, 151-157. Conditions in Bogotá are described in Venancio Ortiz, Historia de la revolución del 17 de abril de 1854 (1855).


For the events leading up to the Melo coup, see the work cited above by Ortiz and Carlos Lozano y Lozano, “El golpe de cuartel del 17 de abril de 1854,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades, XXXI: 361-362 (Nov.-Dec. 1944), 1074-1102. On Melo, see also J. Leon Helguera, “El ‘paquete chileno’ del general Melo,” Archivos, 1:2 (July-Dec. 1967), 415-432.


For Mosquera’s aims in 1849, see J. Leon Helguera and Robert H. Davis (eds.), Archivo epistolar del General Mosquera: Correspondencia con el General Ramón Espina, 1835-1866 (1966), pp. 209-212, and Luis Augusto Cuervo (ed.), Epistolario del Doctor Rufino Cuervo (1922), III, 248-249. The election of 1856 is discussed in Arboleda (Cali, 1933), IV, 426-430, 435-436.


The revolution of 1860-1862 is described from different points of view in Felipe Pérez, Anales de la revolución, según sus propios documentos (1862) and Angel Cuervo, Cómo se evapora un ejército (2d ed., 1953).


For proceedings of the constitutional convention, see Anales de la Convención (Ríonegro), February 12, 1863, to June 30, 1863, as well as two accounts by delegates: Camacho Roldan, Memorias, pp. 271 ff., and Aquileo Parra, Memorias (1912), pp. 276 ff. A secondary account containing many documents is Ramón Correa, La convención de Ríonegro (1937).


For the deposition of Mosquera, see Pablo E. Cárdenas Acosta, “La restauración constitucional de 1867,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades, XLIV: 510-518 (Apr.-Dec. 1957), 165-205, 393-439, 573-618. Mosquera was brought to trial for his misdeeds and sent into exile. The charges against him, as well as his defense, are contained in Causa contra el Presidente de los Estados Unidos de Colombia, Ciudadano Jeneral Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera i otros altos funcionarios federales (1867). Mosquera returned to Colombia in 1871 and became president of Cauca that same year.


Mosquera to César Conto, January 13, 1875, Ms. #113, Biblioteca Luis-Angel Arango, Bogotá. This collection consists of 21 items, most of them letters written to Conto in 1876-1877. The Biblioteca Luis-Angel Arango will henceforth be cited as BL-AA.


For Nuñista editorials expressing this point of view, see El Correo de Colombia, January 20, 1875; La Unión Colombiana, March 24, 1875; El Elector Nacional (Barranquilla), June 26, 1875.


Mosquera to César Conto, December 12, 1874, Ms. #113, BL-AA.


No costeño had ever been elected to the presidency since independence was achieved. For a sampling of costeño dissatisfaction, see La Palestra (Mompox, Bolívar), June 21, 1873, and El Escudo Nacional (Cartagena), May 18, 1875. See also Parra, Memorias, pp. 606-610.


El Progreso (Panamá), January 24, 1875.


Numerous biographies of Núñez have been written, among them José Ramón Vergara, Escrutinio histórico: Rafael Núñez (1939); Joaquín Tamayo, Núñez (1939); Indalecio Liévano Aguirre, Rafael Núñez (3d ed., 1946); Gustavo Otero Muñoz, Un hombre y una época: La vida azarosa de Rafael Núñez (1951).


The best source of information on Parra’s early life is his Memorias, which end in 1876.


Diario de Cundinamarca, January 25, 1875.


La Luz, November 15, 1881, reprinted in Rafael Núñez, La reforma política en Colombia (1944), I, part 1, 81.


Vergara, Escrutinio histórico, p. 176.


Cf. Liévano Aguirre, Rafael Núñez, 113-114, and Tamayo, Núñez,, 78-79. The event that is most frequently cited as evidence of the Radicals’ personal hostility toward Núñez is their defeat of his appointment as Colombian minister to the United States when it was presented to the Senate for confirmation in 1879. See Vergara, Escrutinio histórico, p. 197, and Carlos Holguin, Cartas políticas publicadas en “El Correo Nacional” (1951), pp. 146-147.


Parra, Memorias, pp. 685-686.


Núñez to Parra, January 3, 1877, in Correspondencia de Aquileo Parra, in the possession of Horacio Rodríguez Plata, Bogotá (henceforth to be cited as CdeAP). See also Núñez to Parra, September 6, 1877, ibid.


Núñez to Luis Carlos Rico, May 29, 1876, Ms. #99, BL-AA. This collection consists of 52 items, mainly letters from Núñez to Rico. See also Núñez to Miguel Camacho Roldán, October 3, 1866, and to Rico, December 17, 1878, ibid.


Murillo to Parra, December 13, 1871, and January 22, 1872, CdeAP.


Diario Oficial, April 1, 1872.


Ibid., April 30, 1872. Murillo justified federal sponsorship of such a highway by citing Article 17, clause 6, of the Rionegro constitution, which gave to the federal government jurisdiction over existing and future inter-oceanic routes.


Parra, Memorias, pp. 627-648; El Ferrocarril del Norte (Duitama, Boyacá), 1872-1873, passim.


For Liberal criticism of the railroad, see a series of articles by Salvador Camacho Roldán in the Diario de Cundinamarca in 1874, reprinted in his Escritos varios (1892-1895), III, 31-90; El Telégrafo (Palmira, Cauca), 1875, passim; El Correo de Colombia, February 3, 1875; La Unión Colombiana, March 24, 1875.


El Telégrafo, May 6, 1875.


Parra, Memorias, pp. 685-686; Núñez to Parra, February 2, 1874, CdeAP.


The preferences of Liberal politicians in this or any presidential election in which Liberals competed can best be determined by examination of the dozens of adhesiones, or endorsements of candidates, that appeared in the party press.


The Gómez machine dominated the state of Cundinamarca at different times in the 1860s and early 1870s. See La Opinión, July 6 and July 21, 1863, September 7, 1864, January 25, 1865; El Liberal, June 3 and July 26, 1870; José María Quijano Otero, “Diario de Quijano Otero,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades, XIX (1932), 372-373.


Holguin, Cartas políticas, p. 118.


Arboleda, Historia contemporánea, IV, 435-436.


Parra, Memorias, pp. 663-679.


Only one amendment succeeded in passing these hurdles while the Ríonegro constitution was in effect. Approved in 1876, it provided that presidential elections be held on the same date throughout the country (El Tradicionista, June 9 and July 4, 1876).


These views were expressed in a speech delivered in 1872 (Diario Oficial, April 19, 1872). For Murillo’s ideas in the early 1850’s, see his Memoria del Secretario de Hacienda de la Nueva Granada al Congreso Constitucional de 1850 (1850) and Informe del Secretario de Estado del Despacho de la Nueva Granada a las Cámaras Lejislativas de 1852 (1852). See also El Tiempo, December 6, 1859.


[Aquileo Parra], Memoria del Secretario de Hacienda i Fomento dirijida al Presidente de la República para el Congreso de 1873 (1873), p. 68.


La Unión Colombiana, March 24, 1875.


La Reforma, May 25, 1878, reprinted in Camacho Roldán, Escritos, II, 73.


Mosquera used this expression in a letter to Conto, October 28, 1874, Ms. #113, BL-AA. See also Mosquera to Conto, December 2, 1874, ibid., and an open letter from Mosquera to President Murillo on November 6, 1872, together with Murillo’s reply, in Diario de Cundinamarca, November 30, 1872.


El Correo de Colombia, February 3, 1875.


José Restrepo Posada, Arquidiócesis de Bogotá: Datos biográficos de sus prelados, Tomo II, 1823-1868 (1963), 467-471.


Ibid., pp. 490-512.


Cf. Revista de Colombia, March 22, 1873.


The election of 1875, particularly its episodes of violence and fraud, is described in numerous works, few of which are impartial. See, for example, Eduardo Rodríguez Piñeres, “La gran derrota de Rafael Núñez: La revolución de 1875,” Revista de América (September 1947), 327-346; Gustavo Otero Muñoz, Wilches y su época (Bucaramanga, 1936), 194-195; Aníbal Galindo, Recuerdos históricos: 1840 a 1895 (1900), 194-198; Vergara, Escrutinio histórico, pp. 154ff.


Calvo, like Núñez, was a native of Cartagena. For relations between Núñez and the Conservatives, see Otero Múnoz, Núñez, 58-63. The balloting of February 21, 1876, is described in José María Quijano Wallis, Memorias autobiográficas, histórico-políticas y de carácter social (Grottaferrata, Italy, 1919), pp. 248-258. See also Diario de Cundinamarca, January 29, February 14, February 15, February 26, and March 16-21, 1876; El Tradicionista, February 15, February 18, and February 22, 1876.


For the federal government’s efforts on behalf of primary education and the Conservative-clerical reaction, see Jane Meyer Loy, “Modernization and Educational Reform in Colombia, 1863-1886” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1969); Enrique Cortés, Escritos varios (Paris, 1896), II, 79-185; Ramón Zapata, Dámaso Zapata 0 la reforma educacionista en Colombia (1960).


Archbishop Arbeláez to Jose Telésforo Paúl, Bishop of Panama, June 17, 1876, Ms. #97, BL-AA. This collection consists of 134 letters written from 1875 to 1888 to Bishop Paúl, who became Arbeláez’ successor as Archbishop of Bogotá. See also José Restrepo Posada, Arquidiócesis de Bogotá: Datos biográficos de sus prelados, Tomo III, 1868-1891 (1966), 109-310, passim.


For the conflict over the schools in Cauca, see José María Quijano Wallis, Memorias autobiográficas, pp. 213-219, and Gonzalo Uribe V., Los arzobispos y obispos colombianos desde el tiempo de la colonia hasta nuestros. días (1918), pp. 83-86. See also the reports (April 29 and May 10, 1876) of Dámaso Zapata, sent by Parra to investigate the situation in Cauca, in CdeAP.


Conto to Parra, March 15, 1876, CdeAP.


The two Nuñistas referred to were Solón Wilches of Santander and Pablo Arosemena of Panamá. For the former, see Otero Muñoz, Wilches, pp. 239-243, and for the latter, see Manuel Briceño, La revolución (1876-1877): Recuerdos para la historia (2d ed., 1947), p. 181. See also Quijano Otero, Diario, p. 587.


Diario Oficial, May 12, 1877.


Ibid., May 15, 1877.


Juan Pablo Restrepo, La Iglesia y el Estado en Colombia (London, 1885), pp. 612ff.; Uribe V., Los Arzobispos, pp. 84-91; Conto to Parra, February 20, 1877, CdeAP.


La Luz, August 1, 1882, reprinted in Núñez, La reforma política, I, part 1, 251.


Post-war conditions in Cauca are vividly described by Parra’s correspondents. See, for example, letters to Parra from Julián Trujillo, April 21 and October 23, 1877; from Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, September 7 and 11, 1877; from Modesto Garcés, September 11 and 19, 1877, CdeAP. For forced loans in Cundinamarca, see Briceño, La revolución, pp. 265-269, and Miguel Samper, Escritos político-económicos (1925-1927), II, 401-413; for Antioquia, see J. D. Monsalve, Biografía del Doctor Luis María Restrepo y datos sobre la revolución de Antioquia (1876-1877) (1892), pp. 42-43.


Phanor James Eder, El Fundador Santiago M. Eder (Recuerdos de su vida y anotaciones para la historia económica del Valle del Cauca) (1959), pp. 283-299.


Vergara, Escrutinio histórico, pp. 190-194.


La Reforma, May 8, 1878.


Ibid., May 18, 1878.




Leyes de los Estados Unidos de Colombia expedidas en el año de 1882 (1882), pp. 70-72; Núñez, La reforma política, I, part 1, 249-253.


Diario Oficial, April 29, 1878.


Diario de Cundinamarca, April 9, 1880.


Bushnell, “Two Stages,” pp. 17-18. See also La Defensa, May 27, 1880, and Samper, Escritos, I, 195-291.


The Banco de Bogotá, which began operations in 1871, was Colombia’s first successful bank of issue. In 1881 there were 42 banks in existence, 12 of them in Cundinamarca and 11 in Antioquia (Camacho Roldán, Escritos, II, 338-339). A sample of Radical objections to the National Bank can be found in La Defensa, April 16, 1880, and Diario de Cundinamarca, June 23, 1880. See also Samper, Escritos, III, 11-96.


For economic conditions in Colombia at this time, see Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección, 276; Safford, Commerce and Enterprise,” pp. 282-283, 291-292; Camacho Roldán, Escritos, I, 665-674; Carlos Calderón, La cuestión monetaria en Colombia (Madrid, 1905), pp. 46-55; Robert C. Beyer, “The Colombian Coffee Industry: Origins and Major Trends, 1740-1940” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1947), pp. 114-115, 117.


Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección, p. 278.


Diario Oficial, August 30, 1884.


For Liberal programs in the 1890s, see El Relator, May 16, 1893, and Convención Nacional Eleccionaria del Partido Liberal, 1897 (1897), pp. 25-28.


Colombian monetary policy in the 1890s is discussed in numerous works, among them Samper, Escritos, II, 97-235; Miguel Antonio Caro, Escritos sobre cuestiones económicas (1943), pp. 59-66; F[rancis] Loraine Petre, The Republic of Colombia (London, 1906), pp. 305ff.; L[uis] E[duardo] Nieto Caballero, Le Cours Forcé et Son Histoire en Colombie (Paris, 1911).


Diario Oficial, August 11, 1884.


Cf. Liévano Aguirre, Rafael Núñez, p. 163, and Samper, Escritos, III, 94-95.


For an expression of Holguin and Cuervo’s thoughts on this matter, see their joint address to the Conservative convention of 1879, Ms. #30, BL-AA. This folder and Ms. #31 consist of documents pertaining to Cuervo’s life from 1854 to 1888.


El Deber, May 2, September 16, and October 19, 1879; [Carlos Martínez Silva], “Revista política,” El Repertorio Colombiano, II:12 (June 1879), 474; El Conservador, April 24, 1883.


Núñez to Juan de Dios Restrepo, July 8, 1876, Ms. #99, BL-AA.


La Defensa, July 29, 1880.


Quijano Wallis, Memorias autobiográficas, pp. 412-416; La Unión, May 13, 1881; [Carlos Martínez Silva], “Revista política,” El Repertorio Colombiano, VI:34 (April 1881), 312-315; “Cartas del Doctor Núñez,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades, XXXIV:387-389 (Jan.-Mar. 1947), 26-27.


La Unión, May 13, 1881.


For a statement by Núñez outlining his views on constitutional reform, see La Nación, November 13, 1885. On the drafting of the constitution, see José María Samper, Derecho público interno de Colombia (1886), I, 329ff., and Miguel Antonio Caro, Estudios constitucionales (1951). Núñez was elected to a six-year presidential term in 1886 by the Council of Delegates which drafted the new constitution. He was re-elected in 1892, but died in 1894, being succeeded by Vice President Miguel Antonio Caro. It should be pointed out that from 1886 to 1894 Núñez wielded executive power himself only for about a year in 1887-1888. He spent most of this eight-year period in retirement in Cartagena while presidential alternates or vice presidents acted as chief executive. The extent to which Núñez was able or willing to exert influence on politicians in Bogotá cannot be determined with certainty as yet. According to one of his biographers, during the last four years of his life “the titular President allowed those entrusted with the government full liberty to dispose of the nation’s fate according to their will, limiting himself to giving advice when he was consulted” (Otero Muñoz, Núñez, pp. 384-385).


Otero Muñoz, Núñez, pp. 305 ff.


Ibid., p. 321.


Núñez to Rico, November 22, 1888, and Rico to Núñez, January 7, 1888 (sic; the year was actually 1889), Ms. #99, BL-AA.


Circular from the Liberal Center, May 2, 1891, in the Copiador Parra, which contains copies of the Center’s correspondence, 1891-1892, and is in the possession of the Academia Colombiana de Historia, Bogotá.

Author notes


The author, Assistant Professor of History at Florida State University, Canal Zone, wrote this article while Assistant Professor of History at Indiana State University. Research for this article was made possible by grants from the Doherty Foundation and Indiana State University.