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


On the 18th of January, 1823, I hauled down my flag, hoisted in the Montezuma schooner--the only vessel which the suspicious jealousy of the Chilian ministers had left me--and sailed for Rio de Janiero in the chartered brig, Colonel Allen, though my brother's steamer, the Rising Star--or rather the Chilian Government's steamer, upon which he had a lien for money advanced for its completion and equipment--was lying idle at Valparaiso. Could I have taken this vessel with me to Brazil, on the refusal of Chili to repay the sums which my brother had advanced on the guarantee of its London envoy Alvarez--the Brazilian Government would have eagerly availed itself of an advantage to which the Chilian ministry was insensible: though recently by the exertions of Admiral Simpson, and the more enlightened views of the present Government, Chili is now beginning to appreciate the advantage of a steam marine, which, at the period of her liberation, she so perversely rejected by refusing to honour the comparatively trifling pecuniary engagements of her minister in London. The probable reason why the Chilian Government refused to acknowledge these obligations was--that the war being now ended by the annihilation of the Spanish naval power in the Pacific through the instrumentality of sailing ships alone, there was no necessity for a steam ship of war--the narrow-minded policy of the ministers who have figured in these pages never conceiving that to maintain maritime preponderance is scarcely less difficult than to achieve it. Hence, to get rid of the paltry sum of L13,000 due--and still due--to my brother for his advances on the ship, she was rejected; the consequence was, that after my departure, the independence of Chili was again placed in jeopardy, whilst Peru was only saved from a Spanish reconquest by the intervention of the Colombian liberator, Bolivar.

Shortly after my departure, the partisans of General Freire, and the enemies of General O'Higgins, having entered into a combination--the former marched on Valparaiso, where the people ardently espoused his cause; so that abandoned by his evil genius, San Martin, and equally so by others who had caused his downfall, the Supreme Director found himself a prisoner in the hands of the very man who had most conduced to his overthrow, viz., Zenteno, in whose charge he was placed on pretence of being made accountable for the expenditure of those who now held him in durance!

The end of this was, a five months' examination of O'Higgins, which resulted in his being permitted to leave the country; General Freire having, meanwhile, been elected to the Supreme Directorate, in the midst of internal dissensions in Chili, and disasters in Peru, where the Spaniards, under Cantarac--emboldened by the pusillanimity of the Protector in permitting them to relieve Callao unmolested, and elated with their decisive victory over a division of his army, as narrated in a previous chapter--had availed themselves of the treasure carried away from Callao in reorganising their forces, which now threatened Lima, and would no doubt have recovered Peru, had not Bolivar, foreseeing the result, sent a division of his army, under General Sucre, to the assistance of the beleaguered city.

In the midst of these embarrassments, the New Government of Chili despatched the following letter to Rio de Janeiro, for the purpose of inducing me to return, and reorganise the navy, the officers and men of which had, as I learned, shortly subsequent to my departure been turned adrift, without any reward whatever for their extraordinary privations and exertions in the cause of independence.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Santiago de Chili, April 11, 1823.

Most Excellent Sir,

The Representatives of the people of Chili, legally assembled, having elected Don Ramon Freire as Supreme Director of the State, this event has happily terminated the internal movements which agitated the country. The new Government, on entering on its delicate functions, has been impressed with the want of your Excellency to give preponderance to this maritime state, by the imposing aptitude of your Excellency's measures and extraordinary renown, so highly prized by the Chilenos, and dreaded by their enemies.

The loss of the Allied army in Moquegua, where it has been beaten by General Cantarac, has occasioned such an effect on the result of the war, that possibly the capital of Peru may fall into the hands of the enemy in consequence of the ascendancy thus acquired.

In consequence of this event, Chili must give a new impulse to her maritime affairs, especially as an expedition is about to sail from Cadiz, composed of two ships of the line, to restore the Spanish authority in Peru.

Your Excellency, on leaving Chili, promised not to abandon the cause of independence; and Chili--which has ever admired in your Excellency one of its most illustrious protectors--must not therefore be deprived of your services in a time of danger, and your great work thus be left incomplete. These considerations his Excellency desires me to lay before you in the name of the nation, and in his own name, to request that you will return to this State, at least during the period of danger. His Excellency trusts in your generosity and zeal for the cause of humanity, that you will return as speedily as circumstances require, without taking into account fatigue or sacrifices in supporting the cause which you have advocated since its commencement.

Be pleased to accept the expression of my high consideration.


It is almost unnecessary to state that my engagements with Brazil, and the fact that when the invitation to resume the command of the Chilian navy was received, I was blockading the Portuguese fleet in Bahia--rendered it impossible to comply with the request. That a state whose ministers had, by the greatest injustice, compelled me to quit it--should, in so short a period, have thus earnestly entreated me to return and free it from impending disaster, is not more a proof of the peril in which the Government was placed, than of its thorough satisfaction with my conduct as its admiral, and of its anxiety for my renewed assistance.

In reply to the request, I addressed the following letter to the minister:--

Most Excellent Sir,

I have just been honoured with your letter of April 11th, announcing the elevation of Mareschal Don Ramon Freire to the high dignity of Director of the State of Chili, by acclamation of the people--a choice at which I cordially rejoice, as it has placed in power a patriot and a friend. My sentiments with respect to His Excellency have long been well known to the late Supreme Director, as well as to his Ministers, and I would to God that they had availed themselves of Gen. Freire's able and disinterested services in the expedition to Peru--in which case the affairs of South America would have now worn a different aspect; but the Buenos Ayrean faction, being actuated by ambitious motives and more sordid views, interfered, and rendered abortive those plans which, under Gen. Freire's management, would have brought the war to a speedy and successful termination.

On my quitting Chili, there was no looking to the past without regret, nor to the future without despair, for I had learned by experience what were the views and motives which guided the councils of the State. Believe me, that nothing but a thorough conviction that it was impracticable to render the good people of Chili any further service under existing circumstances, or to live in tranquillity under such a system, could have induced me to remove myself from a country which I had vainly hoped would have afforded me that tranquil asylum which, after the anxieties I had suffered, I felt needful to my repose. My inclinations, too, were decidedly in favor of a residence in Chili, from a feeling of the congeniality which subsisted between my own habits and the manners and customs of the people, those few only excepted who were corrupted by contiguity with the Court, or debased in their minds and practices by that species of Spanish Colonial education which inculcates duplicity as the chief qualification of statesmen in all their dealings, both with individuals and the public.

I now speak more particularly of the persons late in power-- excepting, however, the late Supreme Director--who I believe to have been the dupe of their deceit; and I do assure you that nothing would afford me greater pleasure, for the sake of the ingenuous Chilian people, than to find that with a change of Ministers, a change of measures has also taken place, and that the errors of your predecessors, and their consequent fate, shall operate as an effectual caution against a course so destructive.

Point out to me one engagement that has been honourably fulfilled--one military enterprise of which the professed object has not been perverted--or one solemn pledge that has not been forfeited; but my opinions on this want of faith, at various periods of the contest, when everything was fresh in my recollection, are recorded in my correspondence with the Minister of Marine, and more particularly in my private letters to His Excellency, the late Supreme Director, whom I unavailingly warned of all that has happened. My letter also to San Martin, in answer to his accusations--a copy of which was officially transmitted to your predecessor in office--contains a brief abstract of the errors and follies committed in Peru; as my public letters and those documents are, of course, in your possession, I shall abstain from trespassing on your attention with a repetition of facts with which you are acquainted.

Look to my representations on the necessities of the navy, and see how they were relieved! Look to my memorial, proposing to establish a nursery for seamen by encouraging the coasting trade, and compare its principles with the code of Rodriguez, which annihilated both. You will see in this, as in all other cases, that whatever I recommended in regard to the promotion of the good of the marine, was set at naught, or opposed by measures directly the reverse. Look to the orders which I received, and see whether I had more liberty of action than a schoolboy in the execution of his task. Look back into the records of the Minister of Marine's office, and you will find that, while the squadron was nearly reduced to a state of starvation, provisions were actually shipped at Valparaiso, apparently for the navy, but were consigned to Don Luiz de Cruz, and disposed of in such a way as to reflect eternal reproach and disgrace. You may probably find also, the copy of an order, the original of which is in my possession, (not rubricated by the Supreme Director) to permit a vessel laden with corn to enter the blockaded port of Callao at the period of its greatest distress, and which did enter in my absence, and was sold for an enormous amount; whilst funds could not be found to send even 500 troops on an eight days' voyage from Chili to secure Upper Peru, when the greater part of the country was actually in our possession, and when the minds of the people, afterwards alienated by the base conduct of San Martin, were universally in our favour.

Sir, that which I suffered from anxiety of mind whilst in the Chilian service, I will never again endure for any consideration. To organise new crews--to navigate ships destitute of sails, cordage, provisions, and stores--to secure them in port without anchors and cables, except so far as I could supply these essentials by accidental means, were difficulties sufficiently harassing; but to live amongst officers and men--discontented and mutinous on account of arrears of pay and other numerous privations--to be compelled to incur the responsibility of seizing by force from Peru, funds for their payment, in order to prevent worse consequences to Chili--and then to be exposed to the reproach of one party for such seizure, and the suspicions of another that the sums were not duly applied, though the pay-books and vouchers for every material item were delivered to the Accountant-General--are all circumstances so disagreeable and so disgusting that until I have certain proof that the present Ministers are disposed to act in another manner, I cannot possibly consent to renew my services, where, under such circumstances, they would be wholly unavailing to the true interests of the people. Intrigue and faction might again place me in the predicament in which I found myself previous to my departure from Valparaiso, viz., a cypher and a public burthen; for the ships of war might again be placed in the hands of a Governor Zenteno, for the purpose of exposing me to popular odium, as a person receiving a large salary from the state, for which--without a vessel under my command--no adequate services could be rendered. That this was the intention of the late ministers in withdrawing the ships from my command, on the false pretence of repairing them, there can be no doubt; for whilst every honorary reward was withheld from me, they refused to accept the remission which I offered of 4,000 dollars from my annual pay-- treating me at the same time with every neglect and indignity.

Such proceedings, I am aware, are far distant from the contemplation of the excellent person who now presides over the affairs of Chili, as in my conscience I believe that they were no less distant from the mind and heart of the late Supreme Director, who, being placed in that elevated situation, was unfortunately exposed to the errors that arise from listening to the reports of interested individuals who ever surround the powerful, making a gain by concealing the truth and propagating falsehood.

It is a fact--as is well known to all my friends--that I had determined to quit Chili, previous to my receiving any proposition from the Government of Brazil. By that Government I have been hitherto treated with the utmost confidence and candour, and the orders they have given me are in everything the reverse of those narrow and restricted instructions with which I was hampered by the Senate, the Ministers of Chili, and San Martin, under whose orders they had placed me. The Government of Brazil, having in view the termination of the war, gave orders to that effect, without any of those miserable restrictions which are calculated to retard, if not finally to defeat, their object. The consequence is, that the war in Brazil is already successfully terminated--though we have had to contend with a much superior force--by the evacuation of Bahia-- the flight of the Portuguese fleet--the capture of great part of their transports and troops--and the surrender of Maranham--all in fewer months than the Chilian Government have employed years without having even yet accomplished their object, nay, with no other result than that of removing the independence of Peru, and their own peace and security to a greater distance.

I must now call your attention, although I have already addressed a letter on the subject to the Minister of Finance, to a breach of faith on the part of the late Government of Chili in respect to the contract between Senor Alvarez, their Envoy in England, and my brother, the Honourable William Erskine Cochrane, for the completion, outfit, and navigation to Chili of the steamer Rising Star, by which my brother has been involved in expenses to a very great amount. Whether the inconvenience he is sustaining from the perfidy of the late Ministers is in the course of removal by the good faith of their successors I have yet to learn, but if not, I must respectfully state to you on behalf of my brother that I demand payment of the amount due to him under the contract above-mentioned.

I also respectfully suggest, that it is your duty to examine the accounts of Mr. Price, and cause him to pay over the bonus of 40,000 dollars which was granted by the Government on account of the Rising Star, which bonus Mr. Price prematurely obtained in advance nearly three years ago, although it did not become due till the arrival of the ship. This sum, which is part of the remuneration due to my brother on account of the said ship, Mr. Price, or the house of which he is a member, refuses to deliver up, under the pretence that its detention is necessary to their own security, in the event of the Chilian Government requiring it to be restored. This is a most extraordinary way of justifying the detention of another's property, and I trust, Sir, that you will immediately take the necessary steps to cause both that sum, and all other sums due to my brother for the Rising Star--the particulars of which you may receive from Mr. Barnard--to be paid without further delay. To that end, and in order to prevent the risk and serious expense attending the remittance of money to so great a distance, I beg to suggest that the best mode of payment will be by an order on your agents in London.

I am much less solicitous on the subject of the debt due to myself, but after repeatedly requesting the Accountant-General, Correa de Saa, during the last six months of my residence in Chili, to investigate and determine on my accounts, without his proceeding therein in any effectual way, I was astonished to receive from him a communication calling upon me to appoint an agent to explain certain particulars, which I had considered as explicitly set forth in the documents delivered. This delay and these obstacles, I cannot consider in any other light than as mere pretexts to avoid the payment of the balance due to me for my services, and for the expenditure of monies that were my own, inasmuch as I might, with perfect justice--instead of employing them for the maintenance of the Chilian navy--have applied them to the liquidation of the debt due to myself, and have left the service, as the Government did, to shift for itself. Besides, Sir, let me call to your recollection that not a real of these monies came out of the pocket of any Chileno, but that the whole were captured or collected by me from sources never before rendered available to supply the necessities of a destitute squadron.

I call upon you, Sir, as the Minister of Marine, to see justice done on the above subjects, and if in my accounts or demands you find anything false or fraudulent, let it be printed in the Gazette, and give me the privilege of reply.

I trust you will excuse my entering into the present detail, and do me the justice to feel that no part of it is irrelevant to the subject of your letter. Indeed, if I were not desirous of troubling you as briefly as possible, I could assign numerous other reasons for desiring to have demonstration of a change of ministerial conduct in the management of affairs in Chili, before again exposing myself to difficulties of so painful a nature, and re-occupying a situation which I have found to be harassing, thankless, and unprofitable.

When the puertos non habilitados (unlicensed ports) shall be thrown open to the national commerce--when those obstacles shall be removed which now render the transport by sea more expensive than carriage by land--when the coasting trade, that nursery for native seamen, shall be encouraged instead of prohibited, it will be time enough to think of re-establishing the marine, for, with regard to foreign seamen, such is the disgust they entertain for a service in which they have been so neglected and deceived, that I am confident that the ships of Chili will never again be effectively supplied with men of that description. Indeed, there was not an individual amongst the foreign seamen under my command during the latter period of my services in Chili whose fidelity was not shaken to such a degree as to be undeserving of confidence on any occasion of danger or emergency. Could the late Ministers even expect the natives to serve them faithfully without pay and without food?-- but His Excellency the present Director can solve this question in a similar case with regard to the army.

It will be well if the foreign seamen have sufficient forbearance to refrain from revenging--by acts of hostility to the state--the deception and breach of promise which they experienced from San Martin, and that destitute condition to which they were reduced, especially during the last six months of my stay at Valparaiso, by similar frauds on the part of Rodriguez, who, I believe, as Minister of Finance, has been actuated by the hope of compelling the men to abandon their country without remuneration for their services, when they appeared to him and to other short-sighted individuals to be no longer useful.

The Chilian expedition to the Intermedios, and the mean methods by which it was proposed to obtain Chiloe without my intervention, excited in my mind at the time no other feeling than pity and contempt, mixed with regret that the sacrifices of so good a people should be rendered unavailing by the imbecility of their rulers. The failure of both these wretched attempts I predicted. From the men now in power I hope better things, and it will gratify me extremely to observe that you succeed in establishing just laws--a free constitution--and a representative body to direct civil affairs. In fine, that you succeed in all you undertake for the public good; and when I see you entered on the right path, my most zealous cooperation--if required--shall not be withheld.

I cannot conclude without expressing my high sense of the honour which His Excellency the present Director conferred upon me, by desiring my continuance in the command of the navy. To him I return my heartfelt thanks, and to you also for the polite manner in which you communicated his obliging wishes.

(Signed) COCHRANE.

To His Excellency Don Mariano Egana,

Minister of Foreign Affairs, &c.

I will quote one more letter, subsequently addressed by me to the Supreme Director, General Freire, in whose administration I felt a sincere interest, knowing him to be a truly honest man, having only at heart the good of his country; but from his rough training in the camp, without the administrative ability to contend with the intrigues by which he was surrounded.

Rio de Janeiro, Dec. 14, 1823.

My respected and esteemed friend,

It would afford me great satisfaction to learn that everything you contemplated for the advancement and happiness of your country, has succeeded to the extent of your wishes and endeavours, but here we live at so great a distance, and the communication by letter is so scanty, that we have no certain knowledge with respect to your proceedings. I dare not venture to offer you my congratulations, being well aware that the re-union of the Congress would present difficulties which might possibly be insuperable, fearing also that you may have been subjected to much uneasiness by the diversity of views entertained by the members, and their deficiency in those habits, and that general information in affairs of Government, so necessary in the deliberations of a Legislative Assembly.

Here we have had our Cortes, but their meeting has produced nothing beneficial to the State. There existed indeed amongst them so great a discordance of opinion, and the temper of those who found their crude notions opposed was so violent, that the Emperor--finding it impracticable to act with them--determined to dissolve them, which he did on the 12th of last month, and issued his commands for the meeting of a new Cortes, but I much doubt whether the people in the various provinces can find others competent to the task. Everything here is quiet, and I have no doubt will remain so in the neighbourhood of the capital, but I have some fear as to the disposition of the northern provinces. I shall regret much should anything occur which will disturb the public tranquillity, now that all the provinces are entirely free and independent of European authority.

With regard to myself, the friendship you have always expressed and entertained towards me, justifies my belief that you will be gratified to learn that everything has succeeded here to the full extent of my expectations, the foreign war being entirely brought to a close within the short space of six months; during which period about seventy vessels have fallen into our hands, including several ships of war, amongst which is a beautiful new frigate of the largest dimensions.

We have gone on here in the happy manner that I fondly anticipated we should have done in Peru, and which would have been the case if the expedition which was intended to be sent to the Puertos Intermedios three years ago under your command, had not been prevented by the intrigues of San Martin, who was jealous of anything being done in which he was not personally engaged, though he had neither the courage nor talent to avail himself of circumstances when appointed to the command of the Peruvian expedition.

I have heard that my reply to San Martin's accusations has been published in Peru, but as it is chiefly a personal defence, it cannot be very interesting to the public, to whom I feel a great inclination to address a letter on the causes of the miscarriage of their military enterprises, and the origin and progress of those intrigues which led to the mismanagement of public affairs, and disappointed the hopes and expectations of the worthy people of Chili, who conducted themselves so long with patient submission to rulers who governed without law, and often without justice.

In my letter to you of the 21st of June last, I mentioned at some length my reasons for leaving Chili, but as that letter may possibly have miscarried, I think it well to repeat here--which I do with great truth--that it would have given me great pleasure to have been at liberty to co-operate with you; but having, long previous to your communications, determined from the ill-treatment I received to quit the country, I considered that it was better in every point of view to conform to that resolution, without mixing myself in its internal affairs, it being my province, as a foreigner, to leave all parties uncontrolled, and in the free exercise of their civil rights. In adhering to this resolution, I sacrificed both my inclination to have acted with you in overthrowing the ministers, and my own personal interests--abandoning nearly all that I had individually hoped to attain; but I had predetermined to do this, rather than endure any longer the base intrigues of those men, and their packed Convention; whose injustice became the more conspicuous after their receiving the stars and distinctions bestowed by San Martin, with the promise of estates and further bounties. Indeed, the reception which even the late Supreme Director influenced by these persons gave to San Martin after his apostacy to Chili, his cowardice, ambition, and tyranny in Peru, formed a sufficient contrast with the conduct pursued towards me, to convince me that my presence in Chili was no longer desired by the Government, and could not, under existing circumstances, be useful to the people.

I hear that O'Higgins has proceeded to Peru. Personally I wish him well, and hope that the lesson he has received will enlighten him, and enable him in future to distinguish between sincere friends and insidious enemies. I fear, however, that his asylum in Peru will not meet his expectations, because his passive acquiescence in the barbarities inflicted by San Martin on the Spaniards to whom he had tendered protection cannot be forgotten; and the Peruvian people are not ignorant that the miseries which they have suffered might have been averted by a little firmness on the part of O'Higgins.

I have no reason to believe that the old intrigue on the part of Puyrredon and San Martin, is again revived by the latter, and that a French frigate which lately sailed hence for Buenos Ayres, has a commission on that subject. Whether these intrigues extend from Mendoza over the Cordilleras, or not, I have no means to ascertain, but I know that the French Charge d'Affaires here has been endeavouring underhand to induce this Government to give up the fortifications of Monte Video to the State of Buenos Ayres, which can only be with the view of extending the influence of France in that quarter.

I fear that I have already trespassed too long on the time of your Excellency, otherwise I might take the liberty to throw out some suggestions which it appears to me ought to be useful, though you may probably have anticipated them. The principal one is the benefit which might be derived from having some accredited agent here; and from the reciprocal and formal acknowledgment of the independence of the respective States. Treatises of commerce and, if possible, alliance and mutual protection against any hostile attempts on the independence of South America should be entered into. This country possesses a squadron of considerable force, in addition to which six new frigates and eight large steam gallies have been ordered to be built in North America, England, and the northern ports of the Empire.

I shall be gratified if you will do me the favour to honour me with the continuance of your friendly correspondence, and believe me to be,

Your respectful and attached friend,

(Signed) COCHRANE and Marenhao.

His Excellency Don Ramon Freire,

Supreme Director of Chili.

P.S. I did not intend to have trespassed on you with anything of a private nature, having written at length to the Accountant-General on the subject of my brother's claim for the steamer "Rising Star," and my own claims for monies disbursed for the maintenance of the Chilian squadron, whilst in pursuit of the Prueba and Venganza; but, on consideration, I think it well to request you to do me the favour to cause justice to be done.

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