Cornelio Saavedra - Biography - The May Revolution

The May Revolution

The chance expected by Saavedra came in May 1810, when two British ships came with news of the peninsular war. The previous January Seville was invaded, the Junta of Seville ceased working, and some members took refuge at Cadiz and Leon, the last undefeated Spanish provinces. The complete Spanish defeat seemed imminent. The viceroy tried to conceal the information by seizing all newspapers, but some of them were leaked into the possession of the revolutionaries. Colonel Viamonte called Saavedra and informed him of the news, requesting once again his military support. Saavedra agreed that it was a good context to proceed, and gave his famous answer: "Gentlemen: now I say it is not only time, but we must not waste a single hour."

Cisneros called Saavedra and Martín Rodríguez, and requested their military support in the case of a popular rebellion. They refused to give such support, and Saavedra argued that Cisneros should resign because the Junta of Seville that had appointed him did not exist anymore. As a result, Cisneros gave in to the request of Juan José Castelli: to celebrate an open cabildo, an extraordinary meeting of the noteworthy peoples of the city, and discuss the situation. The next day an armed mob, led by Antonio Beruti and Domingo French, occupied the Plaza to demand the making of the open cabildo, doubting that Cisneros would actually allow it. Saavedra addressed the crowd and assured them that the Regiment of Patricians supported their claims.

The open cabildo was held on May 22. The people discussed if Cisneros should stay in power and, in the case he was removed from office, which type of government should be established. Saavedra stayed silent for the most part, awaiting his turn to speak. The most important speakers were Bishop Benito Lue y Riega, Juan José Castelli, Ruiz Huidobro, Manuel Genaro Villota, Juan José Paso and Juan Nepomuceno de Sola, among others. Saavedra was the last one to speak, and suggested that the political control should be delegated to the Cabildo until the formation of a governing Junta, in the manner and form that the Cabildo deemed appropriate. In his speech, he pointed out the phrase: "(...) "And there be no doubt that it is the people that confers the authority or command." This statement was in line with the Retroversion of the sovereignty to the people, a political concept formulated by Castelli, stating that in the absence of the rightful governor the sovereignty returned to the peoples, who had then the power to give it to someone else. Castelli aligned his position with Saavedra's, becoming the common position which was eventually passed with 87 votes.

However, the Cabildo appointed a Junta headed by Cisneros, who would stay in power, even if under a new office. Saavedra was appointed to this Junta, as well as Castelli and two peninsulars. They made the oath of office, but the Junta was received with strong popular unrest, as it was perceived as going contrary to the result of the open cabildo. By the night, Saavedra and Castelli resigned, convincing Cisneros to do the same.

The Cabildo rejected Cisneros' resignation, and ordered the military to control the crowd and enforce the resolution of the previous day. The commanders pointed out that if they did so, their soldiers would mutiny. As the demonstration overran some sections of the cabildo, Cisneros' resignation was finally accepted. The members of the new Junta were the result of a document with hundreds of signatures, drafted among the people in the plaza. Cornelio Saavedra was the president of this Junta. He rejected this at first, fearing that he may be suspected of promoting the revolution for personal interest, but finally accepted at Cisneros' request. As the Junta was established on May 25, the other cities were invited to send deputies to a constituent assembly to discuss the type of government; on May 27, they were invited to send deputies to join the Junta. Both invitations were contradictory, but the consequences would take place some months later.

The precise authorship of the aforementioned document is unclear, and so is the origin of the composition of the Junta. Saavedra said in his memoirs that it was "the people", without being more precise. As he protested being appointed president, he could not be part of the negotiations (Manuel Belgrano and Mariano Moreno, other members, are reported to have been appointed without their consent as well). It could not have been the Regiments of Patricians either: the Junta was not a military junta (only two of nine members were military), and the Regiment would not have appointed Moreno, whose rivalry with Saavedra was known. A common accepted theory considers it to be a balance between Carlotists and Alzaguists.

The presidency of the Junta was the result of the high influence of the militias in general and Saavedra in particular in the local politics. From that time on, he spent most of his time at the fort of Buenos Aires, managing the government with Moreno, Belgrano and Castelli. It is likely that he left his business for this.

Read more about this topic:  Cornelio Saavedra, Biography

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