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Ecuador-Colombia War - 1863

The Battle of Cuaspud was fought on 06 December 1863 between the military forces of Ecuador and Colombia in a short war prompted by border and ideological disputes.

As a matter of fact the federal government had almost ceased to exercise the greatly reduced functions which nominally remained to it. The executive had only the shadow of a control over the provinces, its revenues sank to well-nigh nothing, its army was reduced to eight hundred men. The very name of the country was changed from the "Republic of New Granada" to the "Granadine Confederation," and the organisation of powerful and independent federal departments was begun.

In 1857 three candidates had presented themselves Ospina, representing the clerical conservatives; Murillo, the advanced liberals; and Mosquera, the moderates. Suffrage had been made universal, and under the conditions necessarily prevailing among a population almost entirely illiterate and used for centuries to monarchical and military government, a satisfactory election was impossible. On the face of the returns Ospina received a plurality.

With Mosquera at the head of affairs, under the title of "Supreme Director," a congress was summoned whose members were called, not deputies, representatives, or delegates, but "plenipotentiaries" of the sovereign states. This congress adopted a new constitution, New Granada's sixth since 1830. The triumphant liberals expelled the Jesuits, abolished ecclesiastical entails, extinguished the monastic orders, confiscated Church property, decreed the absolute separation of Church and State, imprisoned the archbishop, and secularised the schools. Suffrage was made nominally universal, and the death penalty abolished. The name of the country was changed to the "United States of Colombia," and it became little more than a league of nine federal states for the purpose of defence against foreign attack.

The triumvirs of Quito on July 8, 1861, called a National Assembly, which elected Dr. Gabriel Garcia Moreno as president, while Flores received the important title of Governor of Guayaquil. Moreno, a well-educated man, who united very fine qualities to the defects inherent in his country and people, had been proscribed in his youth. He employed the years of his exile in London and Paris in studying the institutions and administrative organization of the old world, hoping to be able some day to take back to his country the fruits of his observations and labors. He belonged to one of the oldest Spanish families, and the Conservative party, appreciating his superior intelligence, set all their hopes on him.

General Tomas Cipriano de Mosquera sought the reconstruction of Gran Colombia, a project that he proposed to Gabriel Garca Moreno, president of Ecuador. But Moreno turned him down because the plan was based on very different institutions to those of Ecuador. Indeed, the ideological differences of the two heads of state was clear: Garcia Moreno was a fervent Catholic who sought reform of the Ecuadorian clergy with the help of a concordat with the Holy See, while Mosquera was a persecutor of the Church in Colombia.

On August 15, 1863, Mosquera asked the Ecuadorians to overthrow the established government, and to join with him to federalize the three nations which previously had formed the Republic of Colombia. In this sense he proposed, on September 29, a treaty that Moreno refused to sign. Mosquera, advancing toward the frontier, declared in a proclamation that he desired to liberate "our brother Democrats of Ecuador from the theocratic yoke of Professor Moreno." The President of Ecuador was authorized by the Chambers, who supported him with patriotic enthusiasm, to declare that the country was in danger. In consequence of the interference of Mosquera, president of New Granada, who was endeavoring to bring about the reconstruction of the Colombian republic, Ecuador declared war against him, 20 November 1863.

General Juan Jose Flores, a native of Venzuela, for a long time had been the military chief of the country and one of Bolivar's best officers. He was a thorough gentleman, as distinguished in society as in the field. But he soon found himself unable to cope with the strange mercenary troops which the new constitution had been foolish enough to naturalize. They were nothing but bands of brigands, ravaging the whole country, which speedily became bankrupt. Agriculture and commerce were ruined, and famine stared every one in the face.

On November 22 the aged General-in-Chief of the army Flores, at the head of 6000 men, invaded the territory of New Granada, explaining this blundering strategy by the necessity of carrying the war into the enemy's country rather than give up to invasion one of the richest provinces of Ecuador. On 06 December 1863 [30 December 1863 ??] he found himself in front of the army of Mosquera, in Cuaspud. Before the battle Mosquera said: "They are 6000 men, but I have 4000 soldiers." The rout of the Ecuadorian army was lamentable; it lost 1500 in killed, wounded, and missing, and and all its artillery.

The danger of his position, however, was very great. He had been compelled to leave his best troops at Guayaquil to guard against the attack of Urbina, who, with the connivance of Peru, had organized an invasion from the port of Payta. The greater part of the men he had with him were undisciplined and had never been under fire. But what was still more serious was that his spies were sold to Mosquera, and deceived him in every particular. The result was a defeat at Cuaspud, which was aggravated by the treachery of some of the officers of Flores' army.

The Ecuadorian army, under Flores, was completely routed, with the loss of all its baggage, and 2,000 prisoners; these, however, Mosquera released on their promise not to serve again in that war, and signing a petition in favor of the Colombian republic.

The republic seemed lost and thought of throwing itself into the hands of Peru; but Mosquera showed himself generous. Called away by other duties, he contented himself with imposing a treaty of peace on the vanquished, which was signed December 30, 1863, at the farm of Pensaqui. This compact was limited to placing the relations of the two countries in their previous state; Mosquera abandoned the use of force to convert Ecuador into an integral part of the United States of Colombia.

Mosquera, a wretched man, was the hero without heart or bowels of mercy, who had just driven into exile his own brother, the venerable Bishop of Bogota, and of whom Pius IX. had said: "Mosquera is walking with rapid steps towards the Hell open to receive him," and whom he ended by excommunicating in a famous Encyclical in which he enumerated all the criminal and sacrilegious acts of which he had been guilty, and which he concluded with the words: "Let him tremble while he remembers these words of our Lord: 'Terrible will be the judgment of those who abuse their power.'"

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Page last modified: 10-03-2016 20:01:40 ZULU