Sunday, May 25, 2014

Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (United Provinces of the River Plate)

Starting May 25, 1810, it is called the War of Independence Argentina (known as Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (United Provinces of the River Plate)) through a number of battles and military campaigns that took place in the framework of the Spanish American wars of independence in several countries in South America.

There are three main military fronts: the eastern front or the coast (Paraguay, the Banda Oriental, the Mesopotamia Argentina and the naval battles in the Rio de la Plata and its tributaries;) the northern front (upper Peru and the Municipality of Salta del Tucumán;) and the front of the Andes (Chile, Peru and Ecuador.)

There were also conflicts at sea.  Corsairs, sometimes called ‘pirates,’ would harass Spanish merchant ships wherever they found them.  From 1815 and 1816 corsair action caused great damage to the trade Spanish.

The war lasted fifteen years and ended in victory for the separatists, who managed to consolidate the independence of Argentina and collaborated in other South American countries.

On July 9, 1816, the independence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata was declared (which included modern-day Argentina, Uruguay and part of Bolivia) in a meeting of congress in Tucumán. Independence was put into effect in 1817, when General San Martín's troops won definitive victory over the Spanish army.

Viceroyalties continued to exist in Paraguay and in Upper Peru, causing constant confrontations between royalists (loyalists to the Spanish King) and revolutionaries.

OK, so where does Hawaiʻi fit into this story?

One Argentine corsair was Hipólito (Hypolite) Bouchard (1783–1843,) born in St. Tropéz, France, who by 1811 was sailing for the revolutionaries of the La Plata River region of Argentina. He was granted Argentine citizenship in 1813.

In 1817, Bouchard took his vessel, La Argentina, on a two-year trip, the first circumnavigation of the globe by a ship under the Argentine flag, and which included raids against ships and territories of the Spanish Empire.

One trip took him to Hawaiʻi.

On August 17, 1818, Bouchard arrived on ‘La Argentina’ at Kealakekua Bay.  He found the Argentine corvette ‘Chacabuco’ (‘Santa Rosa’) in the Bay and learned that the crew of the Santa Rosa had mutinied near Chile's coast and headed to Hawaiʻi, where the crew had attempted to sell the vessel to the Hawaiian king.

King Kamehameha bought the ship (for “6000 piculs of sandal-wood and a number of casks of rum.”) Bouchard found things to trade (reportedly Bouchard gave Kamehameha the honorary title of colonel together with his own uniform, hat and saber (nava-org)) and he took charge of the Santa Rosa, which he had to partially rebuild.

During negotiations with King Kamehameha, he also signed and Kamehameha placed his mark on an agreement.

In part, the agreement set to “consign to Senor Don Eduardo Butler, resident of the Sandwich Islands, the offices of agent of my nation with full authority in national matters, political affairs, national commerce and in mailers of the Cabinets”.

It also noted, “… when ships from the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata arrive in that dominion that this gentleman (Butler) have authority, in company with Your Majesty Kamehameha, over all matters pertaining to the Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata … I beg Your Majesty to recognize Senor Don Eduardo as agent of the Government of the United Provinces”.

Reportedly, in the memoirs of Captain José María Piris Montevideo (member of the expedition) Bouchard asserts that Kamehameha signed a Treaty of Commerce, Peace and Friendship with Hipólito Bouchard, which recognized the independence of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata.  (Some suggest this was that document.)

Under this claim, Hawaiʻi was the first country to recognize Argentina as an independent state, followed by Portugal in 1821 and then in 1822, Brazil and the United States of America in 1822.

The ‘Argentina’ (captained by Bouchard) and ‘Santa Rosa’ (captained by Peter Corney) left Hawaiʻi and headed to California.  They first visited California’s Fort Ross, a Russian settlement north of Monterey, to obtain needed supplies.

On November 20, 1818, the watchman of Punta de Pinos, located in a tip of Monterey Bay, sighted the two Argentine ships. The governor was informed; the Spanish prepared the cannons along the coastline, the garrison manned their battle stations, and the women, children, and men unfit to fight were sent to Soledad.  (MilitaryMuseum)

Before dawn, November 24, Bouchard ordered his men to board the boats. They were 200 of them: 130 had rifles and 70 had spears. They landed and the fort resisted ineffectively; after an hour of combat the Argentine flag flew over it.

He moved on; on December 14, 1818 Bouchard brought the La Argentina and the Santa Rosa to within sight of Mission San Juan Capistrano and sent some of his crew ashore with a demand for provisions.

There he requested food and ammunition; a Spanish officer said "he had enough gunpowder and cannonballs for me". Threats annoyed Bouchard; he sent one hundred men to take the town. After a short fight the corsairs took some valuables and burned the Spanish houses.

The Argentines held the city for six days, during which time they stole the cattle and burned the fort, the artillery headquarters, the governor's residence and the Spanish houses. The creole population was unharmed.

On April 3, 1819 Hipollyte de Bouchard's long expedition ended. He went to Valparaíso, in Chile in order to collaborate with José de San Martín's campaign to liberate Perú.

While Bouchard was authorized to seize the Santa Rosa, the reference of the ‘treaty’ and recognition of Argentina as an independent state were made by others. Bouchard does not make that claim and he apparently did not have the authority to do so, anyway.

In Argentina, Bouchard is honored as a patriot and several places are named after him (among these a major avenue in Buenos Aires.)  In addition, in recognition of the reported ‘treaty’ and recognition of Argentina as an independent state by the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, there is a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina named Hawai (a bit misspelled, but the point was made.)

(Lots of information here from Alexander (Hawaiian Historical Society) and Military Museum; the inspiration for it came from Catherine Black.  A special thanks to the Hawaiʻi State Archives for allowing me to see and photograph the agreement between Bouchard and Kamehameha.)

The image shows the September 11, 1818 agreement signed by Bouchard and acknowledged with a mark by Kamehameha.  In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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