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date: 28 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) is known as “the Liberator” of South America from Spanish colonial rule. “The Jamaican Letter” (1815) is one of his earliest and most important political essays on the course of South American independence. It was written during his self-imposed exile in Jamaica (then a British colony) after a major military defeat in Venezuela. Historians are uncertain to whom the letter was addressed, but they speculate that the recipient was the English governor of the island. The letter affirms Bolívar’s unfailing dedication to the cause of independence and the ideals of liberty and freedom. But Bolívar also reveals his anti-liberal, authoritarian leanings. Believing that the masses lacked the experience and “virtue” for a democracy, Bolívar advocated an oligarchic government with power concentrated in the hands of a strong, paternal executive and a hereditary legislature.

Simón Bolívar, “Reply of a South American to a Gentleman of this Island [Jamaica],” in Selected Writings of Bolívar,Vol. 1 (1810–1822), ed. Harold Bierck; compiled by Vincente Lecuna; transl. Lewis Bertrand. New York: Colonial Press (1951): 103–22.

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