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Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese Domination
Chapter XII


The event alluded to in the last chapter was the arrival of an express from the Brazilian Charge d'Affaires at Buenos Ayres, with a request from the Imperial Court at Rio de Janeiro, to the effect that, as by my exertions the Spaniards had now been driven from the Pacific, I would accept the command of the Brazilian navy, for the purpose of expelling the Portuguese, who still maintained their hold upon the greater portion of that side of the South American Continent. As acquiescence in this offer would relieve me from the embarrassing situation in which I was placed in Chili, I began seriously to consider the expediency of accepting it.

At this juncture Freire commenced his march towards the capital, at the same time sending Captain Casey to Valparaiso with an armed merchantman, to ascertain the effect of his last letter to me. Without coming to an anchor, Captain Casey sent a boat on board the O'Higgins to ascertain my sentiments, but meeting with a refusal to acquiesce in the revolution, he again sailed. The ministers, however, judging me by themselves, and suspecting that I was about to become a party to General Freire's designs, began to withdraw the ships from my command, on the pretence of repairs or converting them into store-ships, several being thus taken from the squadron. I was also ordered to place the O'Higgins and Valdivia under the charge of the Commandant of Marine, to be repaired, and to make a store-ship of the Lautaro, and being thus deprived of the slightest authority over them, I was now considered as a sort of state prisoner; but in pursuing this course, the little schooner Montezuma, which I had rescued from Peru, had been overlooked, and on board of her I hoisted my flag.

The Galvarino was now sent to sea without my permission, and without an Englishman in her. The Lautaro, the pretended store-ship, was also being got ready for sea, when I addressed the following note to Captain Worcester, who commanded her:--


Having received directions from the Supreme Government to cause the Lautaro to be placed as a store-ship, under the command of the Governor, and observing that the said order is in process of violation by the preparations making for sea; you are hereby required and directed to hoist my flag, and obey all such orders as you shall receive from me on the service of the State.

Given under my hand this 8th day of January, 1823, on board the Montezuma.


Tired of this heartless ingratitude, and disgusted with the suspicion that I was about to join General Freire with the squadron--an idea which could only have arisen from the expectation that I should thus resent the injuries inflicted on me--I resolved to accept the invitation from His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, leaving all which the Chilian Government owed me to the honour of a juster and more enlightened administration. Accordingly I addressed to the Supreme Director the following letter:--

Valparaiso, Jan. 8, 1822.

Most Excellent Sir,

The difficulties which I have experienced in accomplishing the naval enterprizes successfully achieved during the period of my command as Admiral of Chili, have not been effected without responsibility such as I would scarcely again undertake, not because I would hesitate to make any personal sacrifice in a cause of so much interest, but because even these favourable results have led to the total alienation of the sympathies of meritorious officers, --whose co-operation was indispensable,--in consequence of the conduct of the Government.

That which has made most impression on their minds has been, not the privations they have suffered, nor the withholding of their pay and other dues, but the absence of any public acknowledgment by the Government of the honours and distinctions promised for their fidelity and constancy to Chili; especially at a time when no temptation was withheld that could induce them to abandon the cause of Chili for the service of the Protector of Peru; even since that time, though there was no want of means or knowledge of facts on the part of the Chilian Government, it has submitted itself to the influence of the agents of an individual whose power having ceased in Peru, has been again resumed in Chili.

The effect of this on me is so keenly sensible that I cannot trust myself in words to express my personal feelings. Desiring, as I do, to extenuate rather than accuse, nothing shall enter into a narrative of these circumstances which is not capable of undeniable proof.

Whatever I have recommended or asked for the good of the naval service has been scouted or denied, though acquiescence would have placed Chili in the first rank of maritime States in this quarter of the globe. My requisitions and suggestions were founded on the practice of the first naval service in the world--that of England; they have, however, met with no consideration, as though their object had been directed to my own personal benefit.

Until now I have never eaten the bread of idleness. I cannot reconcile to my mind a state of inactivity which might even now impose upon the Chilian Republic an annual pension for past services; especially as an Admiral of Peru is actually in command of a portion of the Chilian squadron, whilst other vessels are sent to sea without the orders under which they act being communicated to me, and are despatched by the Supreme Government through the instrumentality of the Governor of Valparaiso (Zenteno.) I mention these circumstances incidentally as having confirmed me in the resolution to withdraw myself from Chili for a time; asking nothing for myself during my absence; whilst as regards the sums owing to me, I forbear to press for their payment till the Government shall be more freed from its difficulties. I have complied with all that my public duty demanded, and if I have not been able to accomplish more, the deficiency has arisen from circumstances beyond my control--at any rate, having the world still before me, I hope to prove that it is not owing to me.

I have received proposals from Mexico, from Brazil, and from an European state, but have not as yet accepted any of these offers. Nevertheless, the active habits of my life do not permit me to refuse my services to those labouring under oppression, as Chili was before the annihilation of the Spanish naval force in the Pacific. In this I am prepared to justify whatever course I may pursue. In thus taking leave of Chili, I do so with sentiments of deep regret that I have not been suffered to be more useful to the cause of liberty, and that I am compelled to separate myself from individuals with whom I hoped to have lived for a long period, "without violating such sentiments of honour as, were they broken, would render me odious to myself and despicable in their eyes."

Until this day I have abstained from pressing upon your Excellency's attention my reply to the infamous accusations presented against me by the agents of San Martin--knowing that your Excellency had more urgent objects to attend to. Nevertheless, I now beg your Excellency's consideration of this matter, in order that--as has been the case in Peru--these falsehoods may be rendered manifest--as well as the despicable character of that man who falsely arrogated to himself the attributes of a General and a Legislator, though destitute of courage or legislative knowledge--the substitution for which was duplicity and cunning.

(Signed) COCHRANE.

Foiled in getting one of the ships of the squadron, wherein to escape from the impending storm, San Martin remained in Santiago till the beginning of January, 1823, when finding matters in Chili becoming dangerous to his safety, he crossed the Cordillera to Mendoza, and from thence went to Europe to avoid reprobation in retirement.

Throughout this narrative I have been careful that San Martin's proceedings should be shown from his own acts and letters, there not being in this volume one which has not been published in the gazettes of Chili and Peru, or of which the originals are not now in my possession. Of the latter, I could communicate San Martin's letters to me by dozens, and had I so far trespassed on the patience of the reader, his acts would have appeared in a yet more invidious light. What have been given are strictly relative to public transactions, and belong to the people of Chili as part of their national history, which, rather than any defence of my own conduct--which was never brought in question by the Chilian Government--is my chief reason for now making them public.

There may be, however, some who think that I have mistaken General San Martin's prudence in not approaching Lima when every advantage was before him--for a worse quality, which until my letter to the Supreme Director O'Higgins, just quoted, I had never publicly attributed to him, though, in the estimation of every officer of the army and squadron, richly deserving it. It will be in the recollection of the reader, that instead of marching on Lima, he wasted nearly two months at Haura, and that from the pestilential character of the climate, a fearful amount of sickness amongst the troops was the consequence. I will here give a letter to me from his Aide-de-camp Paroissien, who was subsequently employed by San Martin to promulgate his infamous accusations against me, when he had no longer any hope of securing my co-operation; premising that in my ardour to get the army at once to Lima, and unsuspicious at that time of San Martin's secret designs, I had laid Paroissien a wager that by a given day we should be in the Peruvian capital; the Aide-de-camp being a better judge of his chief than I was, accepted the wager, and as a matter of course, won it.

Haura, 10 April, 1821

My dear Lord,

With what pleasure would I lose twenty bets like that which I have unfortunately won of you, if you could but tell me that I should be the loser. Nay more, I will lay you the same wager now, that in another three weeks we shall not get to the little room over the great entrance of the Palaccio. I have received this afternoon a fine fat turtle; and egad, if I thought I should lose, I would fatten him up all the more--but, alas! I fear we shall have to calipee and calipash it in Haura; however, the bustle that has lately prevailed seems to indicate some movement; and those of us who are well, are ready to march at an hour's notice--but of course you are infinitely better acquainted with these things than I am. Still, I think that were we more active and enterprising, a great deal might he done, particularly with our cavalry--whose swords for want of use are getting rusty. If we do not make a push now, God knows when we shall do so.

* * * * *

The General appears desirous of striking a blow against Baldez. It may be right---and I dare say it is; but I should rather we had a touch against the Capital. Thank God we are about to do something. Yours very truly,


The reader will have gathered from the narrative, that San Martin struck no blow anywhere, even hesitating to enter Lima when no blow was required to be struck. His Aide-de-camp's view of the matter can hardly be mistaken.

It is not a little remarkable, that in a letter addressed to the Supreme Director, before sailing on the liberating expedition to Peru, I should have, from the first, correctly estimated San Martin's character in persisting not to make any military movement without an unnecessary force to ensure his personal safety, though our recent victory at Valdivia with a force of 350 men only, could not have given him any very great idea of the difficulties to be encountered. As this letter was omitted in its place, I will here transcribe it.

May 4, 1820.

Most excellent Sir,

Finding that all the measures proposed in the expedition to Peru are made public--that all that is decided on to-day is contradicted to-morrow--that no system is followed, either in regard to naval or state matters, which can promote your interest--that mischievous delays of all kinds are opposed to the success of an enterprise, which your Excellency is desirous of promoting --that the expedition of 2,000 men (abundantly sufficient), was not to be delayed on any pretence, but that it has been delayed in order to increase it to 4,000--and that even now it is kept back, in order to ascertain the position and force of the enemy at Callao, of which we know just as much now as we should when the Montezuma may return, some forty days hence, after an investigation to no purpose--in short, finding that everything stipulated and agreed upon has been deviated from. I am desirous to give up the command of the squadron to whoever may enjoy the confidence of your Excellency; which act will, I hope, add to your tranquillity, by relieving you from my opinions in regard to what ought to be done, but has not been done--and to that which could be effected, but has not even been attempted.

I have abstained from sending the Montezuma on a meaningless voyage of forty days to Callao, till I receive your Excellency's definitive commands--considering that the despatch of that vessel is not only useless, but a pretext for delay, and is calculated to frustrate all that your Excellency has in contemplation. Would that you could yourself note the palpable treachery which prevents anything of importance being collected for the expedition--I say palpable treason--as not a single article necessary has yet been procured.

Can your Excellency believe, that only one vessel is in the hands of the contractor; and even she is not prepared for sea? Will you believe that the only provisions that the contractor's agent has in hand is twenty-one days' rations of bread, and six days' of salt meat, whilst to my query whether he had any charqui ready, his reply was, "There is plenty in the country." Will your Excellence believe that there are only 120 water casks ready for 4,000 troops and the crews of the squadron?

Your Excellency may be assured that only your interest and that of the State could induce me to utter these opinions; but, in order to convince you that I have no wish to abandon the service, if my continuance in it can be of any use--my only wish being to avoid becoming the butt of disasters after their occurrence--I now offer to give up the command of the squadron, and to accept in lieu thereof, the command of the four armed prizes taken by the O'Higgins in the last cruise, and with 1,000 troops selected by myself, to accomplish all that is expected from the 4,000 troops and the squadron; the former being a manageable force, capable of defeating all the defensive measures of the enemy--whilst the latter, solely under military command, will not only be unmanageable for desultory operations, but, from its unhandiness, will paralyse naval movements.

Lastly, I must repeat to your Excellency that the inviolable secresy of determinations and the rapidity of operations under present circumstances, are the only security for the prosperity of the Chilian Government and the hoped-for liberty of Peru. If those are to be set at nought, I hereby again place at your Excellency's disposal the commission with which I have been honoured, in order that you may be convinced of my having no other object than to serve your Excellency in every way compatible with honour.

I have the honour, &c.


To his Excellency the Supreme Director, &c. &c.

To return to my, now in reality, approaching departure from Chili. The request to be permitted to retire for a time from the service, was promptly complied with, and no doubt gladly so, from the belief of the Government that I might otherwise ally myself with General Freire, though, that I had no such intention, the annexed reply to his communications--made shortly after I had left Chili, and when he had succeeded in overthrowing the Government of General O'Higgins--will shew.

Bahia, June 21, 1823.

My respected Friend,

It would give me great pleasure to learn that the change which has been effected in the Government of Chili proves alike conducive to your happiness and to the interests of the State. For my own part--like yourself--I suffered so long and so much, that I could not bear the neglect and double dealing of those in power any longer, but adopted other means of freeing myself from an unpleasant situation.

Not being under those imperious obligations which, as a native Chileno, rendered it incumbent on you to rescue your country from the mischiefs with which it was assailed by the scandalous measures of some of those who were unhappily in the confidence of the late Supreme Director, I could not accept your offers. My heart was with you in the measures you adopted for their removal; and my hand was only restrained by a conviction that my interference, as a foreigner, in the internal affairs of the State, would not only have been improper in itself, but would have tended to shake that confidence in my undeviating rectitude which it was my ambition that the people of Chili should ever justly entertain. Indeed, before I was favoured with your communications, I had resolved to leave the country, at least for a time, and return to England, but accident so ordered it that at the very moment I was preparing to execute this intention, I received an offer from the Emperor of Brazil to command his navy, and conditionally accepted it.

Brazil has one great advantage over other South American States, it is free from all question as to the authority of its Chief, who has nothing to fear from the rivalry to which those elevated to power are so frequently subject. I pray God that this may not be your case. The command of the army will enable you to accomplish great things without jealousy, but the possession of the Supreme power of the State will hardly fail to excite the envy of the selfish and ambitious to a degree that may operate to the destruction of your expectations of doing good, and to the injury of the cause in which you have embarked.

Permit me to add my opinion, that whoever may possess the Supreme authority in Chili--until after the present generation, educated as it has been under the Spanish colonial yoke, shall have passed away, will have to contend with so much error, and so many prejudices, as to be disappointed in his utmost endeavours to pursue steadily the course best calculated to promote the freedom and happiness of the people. I admire the middle and lower classes of Chili, but I have ever found the Senate, the Ministers, and the Convention, actuated by the narrowest policy, which led them to adopt the worst measures. It is my earnest wish that you may find better men to co-operate with you; if so, you may be fortunate, and may succeed in what you have most at heart--the promotion of your country's good.

Believe me that I am--with gratitude for the disinterested and generous manner in which you have always acted towards me-- your unshaken and faithful friend,


To His Excellency Don Ramon Freire,

Supreme Director of Chili, &c.

This letter has never before seen the light, and I here make it public, in order to show that the Government of General O'Higgins had nothing to fear, even from its ingratitude to me; my only desire being to escape from it, even at the cost of leaving behind the whole amount due to my services, none of which was conceded.

Previous to my departure, I addressed the following letter to the squadron:--

To the Captains and Officers generally of the Chilian Navy,


As I am now about to take my leave of you, at least for a time, I cannot refrain from expressing my satisfaction at the cheerful manner in which the service has been carried on, the unanimity which has prevailed, and the zeal which, on all trying occasions, you have shown. These have compensated me for the difficulties with which I have had to contend, and which I am confident have been such as never before presented themselves in any service. Your patience and perseverance under privations of all kinds were such as Chili had no right to expect, and such as no other country would have demanded, even from its own native subjects. In all maritime states the strictest attention is paid to the necessities of officers and men--regularity of pay and adequate reward for services are deemed necessary as excitements to perseverance, and the achievement of effective and heroic exploits--but your exertions and achievements have been made independently of any such inducements.

Gentlemen, by our united exertions, the naval power of the enemy of these seas, though superior to our own, has been annihilated, and the commerce of the Pacific is everywhere carried on in security under the protection of the independent flag of Chili. To me it is highly gratifying to reflect, that these services have not been sullied by any act of illegality or impropriety on your part; and that, while you have asserted the rights of Chili, and maintained and confirmed her independence, you have so conducted yourselves, as uniformly to preserve the strictest harmony and good fellowship with the officers of the ships of war of all neutral states. The services you have rendered to Chili will, however, be better appreciated at a future period, when the passions which now actuate individuals shall have ceased to influence those in power, and when your honourable motives shall no longer be felt as a reproach by those whose selfishness has withheld the reward of your fidelity, and whose jealousy has denied you even the official expression of public approbation.

Gentlemen, the best approbation is that of your own hearts--of that, none can deprive you. However, if it be any satisfaction to you to receive my assurance that your conduct has, on all occasions, merited my warmest applause, I can say with perfect truth that I have great pleasure in rendering you that assurance, and in conveying to you my heartfelt thanks for your uniform cordial and efficient co-operation in the cause in which we have been engaged.

Towards the brave seamen under my command I entertain similar sentiments, which you will oblige me by communicating to them in terms most gratifying to their feelings.

In taking my leave of you and them, I have only to add, that if I have not been able to evince my gratitude so fully as I ought, it has not been owing to any deficiency of zeal, but to circumstances over which I had no control.

I remain, Gentlemen,

Your grateful and faithful friend and servant,


Jan. 18th, 1823.

On my acceptance of the Brazilian command becoming known, several highly meritorious officers begged to accompany me--giving up, like myself, all present hope of adequate payment for their services. Knowing that in Brazil--as had been the case in Chili--it would be necessary to organize a navy, I gladly complied with the requisition; so that neither then, nor afterwards, did they receive from Chili any recompense for their unparalleled bravery and perseverance in the cause of independence.

To the people of Chili--amongst whom, disgusted with the treatment I had received at home, I had once hoped to spend the remainder of my days in the bosom of my family--I issued the following address:--

Chilenos--My fellow Countrymen!

The common enemy of America has fallen in Chili. Your tricoloured flag waves on the Pacific, secured by your sacrifices. Some internal commotions agitate Chili. It is not my business to investigate their causes, to accelerate or retard their effects; I can only wish that the result may be favourable to the national interest.

Chilenos. You have expelled from your country the enemies of your independence, do not sully the glorious act by encouraging discord and promoting anarchy--that greatest of all evils. Consult the dignity to which your heroism has raised you, and if you must take any step to secure your national liberty--judge for yourselves--act with prudence--and be guided by reason and justice.

It is now four years since the sacred cause of your independence called me to Chili. I assisted you to gain it. I have seen it accomplished. It only remains to preserve it. I leave you for a time, in order not to involve myself in matters foreign to my duties, and for other reasons, concerning which I now remain silent, that I may not encourage party spirit.

Chilenos. You know that independence is purchased at the point of the bayonet. Know also, that liberty is founded on good faith, and on the laws of honour, and that those who infringe upon these, are your only enemies, amongst whom you will never find


Quintero, Jan. 4th, 1823.

On the same day I issued another address to the English and other merchants at Valparaiso who at the outset had given me every confidence and assistance, but--notwithstanding the protection imparted by the squadron to their legitimate commerce, the minds of some had become alienated because I would not permit illegitimate trading at which the corrupt ministers not only connived, but for their own individual profit, encouraged,--by granting licences to supply the enemy, even to contraband of war. In the subjoined, allusion is made to this matter--

To the Merchants of Valparaiso.


I cannot quit this country without expressing to you the heartfelt satisfaction which I experience on account of the extension which has been given to your commerce, by laying open to all the trade of these vast provinces, to which Spain formerly asserted an exclusive right. The squadron which maintained the monopoly has disappeared from the face of the ocean, and the flag of Independent South America waves everywhere triumphant, protecting that intercourse between nations which is the source of riches, power, and happiness.

If, for the furtherance of this great object, some restraints were imposed, they were no other than those sanctioned by the practice of all civilized states: and though they may have affected the immediate interests of a few who were desirous to avail themselves of accidental circumstances presented during the contest, it is a gratification to know that such interests were only postponed for the general good. Should there, however, be any who conceive themselves aggrieved by my conduct. I have to request them to make known their complaints, in order that I may have an opportunity of particular reply.

I trust that you will do me the justice to believe that I have not determined to withdraw myself from these seas, whilst anything remained within my means to accomplish for your benefit and security.

I have the honour to be, gentlemen,

Your faithful humble servant,


Quintero, Chili, Jan. 4, 1823.

Though I remained in Chili a fortnight after the date of this letter, not a complaint of any kind was forwarded from the merchants; indeed, considering the protection which the squadron had afforded to their existing commerce, and the facilities which it had given for extending it, I had no reason to suppose that any complaint would be made.

The above addresses were printed by a lithographic press in my house at Quintero, this being the first introduced into the Pacific States. I had sent for this press from England, together with other social improvements, and a number of agricultural implements, hoping thereby, though at my own expense, to give an impetus to industry in Chili. All this was, however, frustrated, and the mortification was not a little enhanced by the circumstance that, whilst turning printer for the nonce, there lay opposite my house at Quintero one of our best prizes, the Aguila, a wreck, tenanted only by shell-fish--she having gone ashore whilst waiting the decision of the Chilian Government, previous to being sold for the benefit of her captors!

As the Chilian Government refused to permit my refutation of San Martin's charges against me in a way as public as they had been promulgated, I addressed the following note to the Peruvian congress, together with a copy of the refutation:--

To His Excellency the President of the Congress of Peru.


I have the honour to transmit through you to the Sovereign Congress a copy of a letter addressed by me to Don Jose de San Martin, translations of which I have forwarded to Europe and to North America, to be issued to the world through the press. Mankind will then cease to accuse the Peruvians of ingratitude, and will do longer wonder that an Imperial Crown was withheld from the Protector as the reward of labours in the cause of liberty, but will applaud your resolution to select from amongst yourselves the most enlightened of your citizens--men capable of securing the independence and promoting the prosperity of the State on principles of national freedom under the rule of law.

Be pleased to solicit in my name that the Sovereign Congress may deign to deposit in their archives that letter and the charges against me thereto annexed, which were preferred by Don Jose de San Martin to the Chilian Government relative to my conduct in Peru, in order that a record may remain whereby to judge of facts when the actors shall have passed from this scene. Then the even hand of time shall poise the scale of justice, apportioning to all the due measure of approbation or reproach.

That the acts of the Sovereign Congress and of the Executive Government of Peru may be such as shall call forth the admiration and secure the affections of its people, is the prayer of

Your Excellency's obedient humble Servant,


Valparaiso, Dec. 12, 1822.

One word more with regard to these accusations of San Martin. It was not till all his offers to me to abandon my allegiance to Chili, and to join him in his defection had proved unavailing, that he sought to revenge himself by such charges, well knowing that Zenteno and his party in the Chilian ministry would second any chance of injuring me in public estimation from their unabating personal enmity to me, arising from my constant opposition to their selfish measures for private advantage. Into these matters I have no inclination to enter, though possessing abundant materials for disclosing a career of state dishonesty without parallel in the history of Governments.

Up to the time of my last refusal of San Martin's offers, made through Monteagudo, everything was "couleur de rose"--with all kinds of declarations that "my lot should be equal to his own"--though, thank God, my lot has been of a far different nature. It was within a week of my last refusal that his charges against me were trumped up. I will select one more from his numerous letters now in my possession, to show that nothing but revenge at being disappointed in my co-operation to ensure his personal aggrandisement, could have influenced him to perpetrate such an act of meanness.

Lima, 20 Aug., 1821.

My esteemed friend,

Your appreciated letter, received yesterday, has convinced me that the frankness of your sentiments is only equalled by the regard you entertain for the public cause--especially as to matters under my charge. I cannot view the counsel and opinions you offer, otherwise than as proof of the zeal you entertain for my interests. Aware of the estimation in which you hold glorious acts, I cannot do otherwise than sympathize with you, as you desire that I shall augment those I have acquired. Without entertaining a doubt that I shall contribute effectually in the field still open to us--more particularly to you, I wish that the enterprises in which you evince so much zeal, did not require so great temerity to carry them out, and such enthusiasm to bring them to a successful result. Believe me, my Lord, that nothing will make me swerve from the determination that the lot of Lord Cochrane shall be that of Gen. San Martin.

I hope that in your correspondence with Sir Thos. Hardy, all difficulties will be smoothed in a manner satisfactory to both. I understand that he is desirous to accord to our flag all that justice demands and the policy of England will permit. On these points I confide in your prudence.

Never doubt, my Lord, of the sincere friendship with which I am your affectionate


It is so utterly incredible that a man entertaining such opinions of me should believe in the charges he afterwards made against me, with regard to acts occurring long previous to this period, even to accusing me of "endangering the safety of the squadron from the first moment of our quitting Valparaiso," that I will not weary the reader's patience in commenting further upon them.

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