Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
October 1997 No. 24
In its article on Argentina the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations states,
"During the colonial period, there was little interest in Argentina."
Maybe in the grand schemes of that era relatively little interest was given
to the region that would become Latin America's second largest nation. But
the nations of Europe weren't ignoring Argentina entirely. Spain obviously
had firsthand involvement. Portugal coveted the area. There was at least
one Frenchman residing in Buenos Aires. And two courts-martial related to
Argentina occupied London courts.
Even Haiti had its effect on events. When it overthrew its rulers in 1804,
following the example of the United States, France became the second European
nation to lose a New World colony. Ordinarily Portugal and Spain would have
been concerned over their own colonies, but they had other worries as an
ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the Iberian Peninsula in 1807 and
1808. England would now be concentrating on driving the Corsican out of
the Peninsula. Some of their officers had just been practicing their own
brand of point-of-a-gun diplomacy on the other side of the Atlantic in 1806
and 1807. And there's also that one Frenchman!
Beresford, Popham, Whitelocke and Liniers are not exactly household names
today, even in the lands of their birth. No Wellingtons, Nelsons or Napoleons
here. Buenos Aires does not stir the militant blood of the Napoleonic armchair
strategist as does Trafalgar, Austerlitz, Moscow or Waterloo.
Actually France was not concerning itself overly much with Argentina. But
one of its inhabitants was interested - Jacques de Liniers. Often referred
to as Santiago de Liniers y Bremond, he was in the right place at the right
time (in Argentine eyes at least) in 1806 and 1807. Liniers was born to
a French naval officer in Niort, France, on July 25, 1753. At the age of
twelve he joined the declining Order of Malta as a page to the grand master,
and entered the Spanish army as an officer in 1774. After serving as an
officer in Moroccan campaigns he came to Argentina in 1776 as part of Pedro
de Cevallos' campaign to drive the Portuguese out of Nova Colonia do Sacramento,
across the Plata estuary from Buenos Aires. At the same time a viceregal
capital was established at the settlement to keep the Portuguese in check.
It's doubtful that Liniers expected, as he sailed away at the end of
that expedition, that he himself would one day become viceroy. After further
campaigns elsewhere he returned to Buenos Aires in 1788, settled down and
married the daughter of a prominent Spanish-born merchant. (A suburb of
the city would later be named for this French emigre).
The next member of our cast is Home Riggs Popham son of a Stephen Popham,
British consul to Morocco. Born in 1762, Home Popham was the twenty-first
child in the family. As such he could not count on much of a patrimony but
was able to enter the Royal Navy in 1778, serving under Admiral George Rodney
until the end of the war in North America. A lieutenant by 1783, he began
doing survey work on the African coast. In 1787, without a command, he began
a series of mercantile adventures, sailing at different times for himself,
the Imperial Ostend Company, and the East India Company. While with the
latter he was accused of carrying contraband and his ship was seized. He
carried his battle to the English courts, eventually gaining compensation
of 25,000 pounds (on a loss of 70,000). Meanwhile he'd gone back into his
country's service, as a superintendent of Inland Navigations in Flanders
for the Duke of York. Serving a member of the Royal family helped his career
and he was named a commodore in 1794 and a post captain in 1795. In 1803
his code of signals was adopted by the Royal Navy. After further adventures,
military and political, in Egypt, India, the offices of the Admiralty, and
the halls of Parliament, Popham found himself in 1806 serving with Sir David
Baird off South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.
Our second "son of Albion" John Whitelocke, entered the army in
1778, serving in the Caribbean at Jamaica and San Domingo. His service seems
to have been rather uneventful otherwise, the highlight being his appointment
in 1805 as lieutenant general and as inspector-general of recruiting.
The final actor in Britain's little two-act playlet was William Carr Beresford.
Six years Popham's junior, Beresford was born an illegitimate son of the
first marquess of Waterford. He entered the British army in 1785 and was
shipped off to Nova Scotia, where he lost the sight of an eye in a shooting
accident. Undaunted, he distinguished himself at Toulon in 1793. In 1795
he was given command of the Connaught Rangers (88th Regiment). Also serving
with Baird, but in Egypt, he made a successful march across the Sahara from
Kossier, and remained in North Africa until the British evacuation in 1803.
At the other end of the continent he remained with Baird during the capture
In 1806, with Napoleon planning his invasion of Iberia and with Spain and
Portugal more concerned with events at home than in their American colonies,
some of the British military became restless. Africa was relatively quiet
for the time being. As was Europe.
With absolutely no authorization from the Admiralty back in London, Popham
set sail across the South Atlantic. His flagship appeared in the mouth of
the La Plata River in June. On the 17th Beresford and his force of several
regiments were landed, marched on Buenos Aires, and captured the fortress.
The British half-expected to be met with open arms by rebellious colonials.
It was not to be. The colonists could see through this army of liberation
ploy and had no intention of just switching masters. They deposed the ineffectual
Spanish viceroy, who had fled anyway, substituting Santiago Liniers as acting
viceroy, placing him at the head of the local forces. After several months
of British occupation Liniers lead the counterattack, with his separate
regiments of blacks, Spaniards and European emigres (criollos). The British
situation rapidly disintegrated and the troops were trapped inside the city
walls. Some of them took refuge in the Church of Santo Domingo and were
captured there. (The regimental colors were later put on display in the
church.) Beresford himself capitulated on the 12th of August and was thrown
into prison. It wasn't until December that he was able to escape and make
his way back to England. Popham was recalled and sailed for home.
Undaunted, the British tried again, this time sanctioned by the pride-wounded
English government. In February of 1807 another British force of 8,000,
lead by John Whitelocke, landed in Montevideo, Uruguay, with the intention
of regaining possession of Buenos Aires. Whitelocke's attack in July was
turned back by a colonial force, once again led by Santiago Liniers. The
defeated British force left Argentina. The colonists had won two victories,
and without the help of the mother country. A Royal Viceroy had been tossed
out of office by colonials for the first time. Ties weakened further, and
it would only be three more years before they were broken altogether, when
Argentina gained its independence in the May Revolution of 1810. As so often
happens, even today, revolution was immediately followed by civil war and
dictatorship. Peace would not return for many years. Spain's dominion over
Argentina however would never return.
Our four stalwarts continued on to their various ends.
John Whitelocke returned to England to find himself with no friends in high
places and in disgrace over his defeat. An 1808 court martial found him
guilty of all charges but one. He was dismissed from the army and lived
in retirement the rest of his life, which ended on October 23, 1833.
William Carr Beresford obviously had more useful friends (clout, we'd call
it today). He returned to England to be given the governorship of the island
of Madeira. Joining Wellington in the Peninsula, he was soon given the task
of reorganizing the Portuguese Army. The success of his efforts lead to
a knighthood of the Bath from England and a peerage from Portugal. At the
end of the campaign he was made Baron Beresford of Albuera and Cappoquin,
and given a pension of 2,000 pounds a year. In 1828 Wellington, now the
Prime Minister, made Beresford master-general of Ordnance. He died at his
country estate in Kent on January 8, 1854.
Home Riggs Popham also faced a court martial on his return to the mother
country, but was let off with only a censure. The London business community
awarded him a sword of honour for his attempt to open new foreign markets
to England. Made a rear admiral in 1814 and awarded a KCB in 1815, he lived
out the rest of his days in Gloucestershire, where he died on September
The Worldmark Encyclopedia reports that after the second expulsion of the
British, "a junta was elected, which deposed the viceroy." That's
not quite the whole story. Jacques de Liniers remained in Buenos Aires until
1809, when the Spanish government, wary of the loyalty of any French alien,
replaced him as viceroy. He retired to the city of Cordoba, but couldn't
stay retired for long. Anxious to prove his loyalty to the Portuguese crown
he helped organize loyalist opposition to the new rebel junta. Loyalty often
has its price and on August 26, 1810, Santiago de Liniers y Bremond died
before a junta firing squad.
PEARL OF AN URL
The Web wasn't a lot of help on this one. So we'll take a look at an off-subject
site. About the same time as the events in the main article, the exploration
of the American West was picking up momentum. Much of the work was being
done by trappers and traders. An excellent site, full of journals, diaries,
trade good invoives, etc. can be found at the Mountain
Men and the Fur Trade site. You'll also find a gallery of art work,
bibliographic resources, links, and discussion groups.
Checking the Eagles Byte chronology for Argetine history of the 16th and
17th centuries we find:
Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Rio de la Plata and Argentina's Patagonia
region. He names the southern tip of the continent Tierra del Fuego (Land
Argentina comes under Spanish domination.
Pedro de Mendoza founds the city of Buenos Aires, (in today's Parque Lezama,
according to tradition.)
Mendoza begins importing colonists to Santa María del Buen Aire (Buenos
A Spanish expedition enters Argentina from Bolivia, the first to come by
A Spanish exploratory force from Bolivia founds Santiago del Estero.
The town of Mendoza is founded.
Towns founded: San Juan, 1562; Tucuman, 1565
The city of Cordoba is founded by Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera.
Towns founded: Salta, 1582; La Rioja, 1591; Jujuy, 1592;
San Luis, 1598
Bishop Lizarraga of Santiago, Chile, travels from Cordoba to Mendoza.
The National University of Cordoba is founded by the Jesuits.
An image of the Virgin Mary is transported through the Pampas by oxcart.
At a spot where the cart breaks down, the town of Lujan will be founded.
The approximate date Cordoba's church of La Compania is built.
Quilmes Indians from an Inca site in Tucuman Province are forcibly resettled
around the Buenos Aires area that will become the suburb of Quilmes.
Buenos Aires' first church (which will one day become the city's cathedral)
Jesuit priests build a estancia and a chapel at La Candelaria.
Construction begins on the Cathedral of Cordoba.
I don't mean to pick on the Worldmark Encyclopedia. Its history sections
are meant only as background sketches, not substitutes for full-length works.
I could not have written the article without the aid of a newly acquired
Encyclopedia Britannica - the 1911 eleventh edition, that is. More about
that another time perhaps. Other works, both consulted (*) and not, are
- Baxter, Lawrence W., ed. - Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (Gale
Research, 1995) *
- Bethell, Leslie, ed. - Cambridge History of Latin America (Cambridge,
England; New York, 1991) *
- Costa, Ernestina - English Invasion of the River Plate (Kraft, 1937)
- Gurney, W. B., ed. - The Proceedings of a General Court Martial...for
the Trial of Lieut. Gen. Whitelocke (London, 1808)
- Lynch, John - Spanish Colonial Administration, 1782-1810: The Intendent
System in the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata (Athlone Press, 1958)
- McCann, William - Two Thousand Miles Ride Through the Argentine Provinces
(Smith, Elder; London, 1853)
- Parry, J. H. - The Spanish Sea-borne Empire (Hutchinson, 1966)
- Pendle, George - Argentina, 3rd edition (Oxford University Press,
- Pococke, Captain - Journal of a soldier of the 71st or Glasgow Regiment,
&c., Edinburgh, 1819)
- Rock, David - Argentina 1516-1982 (University of California, 1985)
- Tenanbaim, Barbara A., ed. - Encyclopedia of Latin American History
and Culture (Scribners, 1996)*
- White, John W. - Argentina: The Life Story of a Nation (Viking, 1942)
- South American Handbook (Passport Books, 1995)
I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends. Let me know
what you think.