Peru’s sesquicentennial has been a time to print. Now the prologue to the tomes dealing with the lawyers of the emancipation has appeared as a separate study. This is fortunate as the prólogo represents a major monographic achievement.
Professor Temple summarizes the extant historiography, analyzes the current state of the documentation, justifying the Colección’s selections. She takes up many historical figures to show their origins and academic preparation. This gallery is not devoid of tedium but it serves the purpose of unraveling identities and unveiling individual data. Aiming to rescue them from obscurity, the author deals summarily with Vidaurre while presenting at length the Curates Uribe and Urbina. She thus renews her argument that the Peruvian patriot contribution had been continuous and considerable in the years before 1821.
The book’s real value is prosopographic. Though her informants often lack incisiveness, owing to the banal rhetoric of academic functions, Ella Dunbar Temple has culled an impressive variety of sources to paint a convincingly cohesive group portrait. The lawyers were largely Creoles, often provincials. Most descended from small officials, merchants, and farmers, with an occasional mestizo or legitimized son. Many were ecclesiastics and quite a few had attended Cuzco’s seminary of San Antonio Abad. They were imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment, giving them a Creolist-Indianist tendency. They moved close to the Mercurio Peruano, to which some contributed, and supported the Liberals of the Cortes of Cádiz. In the insurgent conspiracies and risings they were more prominent as courtroom defenders than as defendants. But they rallied to San Martín, filled the first Constituyente, and a number of them joined the patriot armies. After victory many continued in politics, earning plaudits and profits.