The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | E-books | Latin America | Bolívar on Pan-Americanism

19: Bolívar on Pan-Americanism

<< 18: A Pilgrimage to Ayacucho || 20: For Attempts to Assassinate Bolívar >>

While Bolívar was engaged in the liberation of Perú, one of his favorite projects was the organization of a Pan-American Congress to meet at Panamá. It was his purpose to form a confederation of American States for mutual protection and for the determination of the rights of each nation. Accordingly, he addressed a communication to the governments of the American republics, including the United States of America, inviting them to send their representatives to Panamá.

The first Congress met there in February 1826, and as a result of this the Pan-American Union was born sixty-four years later. Commenting on this event, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote:

On the 14th of April, 1890, without ostentation or fanfare, an International American Conference unanimously adopted a resolution that, among other things, said: 'An association to be called the International Union of American Republics shall be formed by the countries represented at this conference.'

This ideal originated in the mind of Simón Bolívar; fortunately, history has preserved for us the sketch of the thought that he had written down early in 182,6, expressing his purpose and views: that peace should prevail in the Americas, and the hope that this example of the Americas might some day bring peace to the entire world.

His thought was expressed in this brilliant phrase: 'The New World will consist of independent nations tied each to each by a common law determining their external relations and offering them, through a permanent general congress, the means of preservation.' The result of his foresight was, as you know, the meeting in that same year of the Congress of Panamá.

At the Congress of Panamá, the nations of America proclaimed the ideal of a cooperative peace; a peace among free and equal nations in spontaneous agreement to settle any differences that might arise by peaceful means only, and resolved to cooperate with each other for the benefit of all. Until that time, no group of nations had ever been asked to renounce the splendors of conquest, or to seek its true greatness by means of peaceful cooperation. But this was precisely what was in the minds of the American nations. The ideal of Bolívar was not realized in the Congress of Panamá,-but it continued to be a hope and an inspiration ...

Of the thoughts of the Liberator mentioned by Roosevelt, setting forth his ideas for the Panamá Congress, we quote here an excerpt from the Memorandum which Bolívar prepared at that time:

The relations of the political societies would benefit by a Code of Law that would govern their universal behavior. The New World would be constituted of independent nations, united by a common law that would direct their individual external relations and, through a general and permanent Congress, afford a continuity of policy. Internal order would be preserved intact among the various states and within each one of them. None would be considered inferior to the others. None would be stronger ... A perfect balance would be established in this new political order ... The armies of all would assist the state endangered by an external enemy or internal subversive factions ... The barriers of origin, race and color would disappear. In the continuing progress of the centuries, it is possible that there may come to be only one government uniting the entire world--a federation.

On July 22, 1956, one hundred and thirty years after the meeting of the first Pan-American Congress, the Presidents of the American Republics, including our own President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, met in Panamá and signed a declaration, the text of which we copy below:

We, the Presidents of the American Republics, commemorating in the historic city of Panamá the assembly of the plenipotentiaries of the American states of 1826, convoked by the Liberator Simón Bolívar, which constituted the first collective manifestation of Pan-Americanism, and recognizing the continuing validity of the ideals which inspired the precursors of continental solidarity, subscribe to the following declarations:

1. The destiny of America is to create a civilization that will give tangible meaning to the concept of human liberty, to the principle that the state is the servant of man and not his master; to the faith that man will reach even greater heights in his spiritual and material development and to the proposition that all nations can live together in peace and dignity.

2. The full realization of the destiny of America is inseparable from the economic and social development of its peoples and therefore makes necessary the intensification of national and inter-American cooperative efforts to seek the solution of economic problems and to raise the standards of living of the continent.

3. The accomplishments of the Organization of American States and assurance of peace among the member states and of security for the continent, demonstrate how much can be achieved in the various fields of international endeavor through a loyal cooperation among sovereign nations, and move us to strengthen the inter-American organizations and their activities.

4. In a world in which the dignity of the individual, his fundamental rights and the spiritual values of mankind are seriously threatened by totalitarian forces, alien to the tradition of our peoples and their institutions, America holds steadfastly to its historic mission to be a bulwark of human liberty and national independence.

5. An America united, strong and benevolent, will not only promote the well-being of the continent but contribute toward achieving for the whole world the benefits of a peace based on justice and freedom, in which all peoples, without distinction as to race or creed, can work with dignity and with confidence in the future.

Referring to the Panamá Congress of 1826, Edouard Herriot, former Premier of France, said:

In order to determine whether Bolívar remained faithful to his intellectual origins and the mission which history has conferred upon him, let us follow him beyond the achievement by the colonies of their independence, to the Congress of 1826 convened by him in Panamá. Note the scope of his ambition. The Liberator wanted that Assembly to sign `A treaty to which posterity would subscribe with the respect due to the original sources of Public Law.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, Simón Bolívar had anticipated and called for a league of nations; what is more, he had designated the study of a universal statute of a political and moral nature as one of the essential concerns of American statesmanship.

Bolívar likewise anticipated recourse to arbitration; in fact, this was the procedure he had in mind for the peaceful solution of conflicts, when in 1825 he sent delegates from Gran Colombia to invite the American states to a great Assembly `that would serve as a Council in cases of serious disputes, as a means of contact in times of common danger, as a faithful interpreter of international treaties in cases of doubt, and as a conciliator of all differences that might arise ...'

Thus we have here confirmed the stature of Bolívar as a statesman. In addition to his military genius he possessed the wisdom to envision a means by which his victories might be sublimated into an enduring peace. It remains to be seen to what degree posterity will realize his goal.

<< 18: A Pilgrimage to Ayacucho || 20: For Attempts to Assassinate Bolívar >>