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Background of the First Government Junta

Since the XVI century, Chilean territory was a colony of the Spanish crown. The authorities came from Spain and the political participation of criollos (people born in Chile) was limited.

Back in those days, the ideas and principles that inspired the French Revolution (1789) had already reached our country.

The country was also aware of the events that enabled the independence of the English colonies in North America (1776).

When the French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte advanced through the Iberian peninsula, taking control of the Spanish kingdom and taking king Ferdinand VII prisoner (1808), it wasn’t long before Chile formed a government junta.

Once Bonaparte invaded Spain, the throne was taken over by Joseph Bonaparte, his brother. The Spanish people did not recognize the new authority and organized themselves by forming government juntas that answer to a major junta, in Sevilla.

In the Hispanic American colonies, the news of the absence of the monarch caused uncertainty and seemed like a scenario fit for constituting local governments that would rule until Ferdinand VII returned to the throne.

The Open Cabildo of September 18th, 1810

In September of 1810, the people of Santiago petitioned governor Mateo Toro y Zambrano to call an open cabildo (council) in order to make decisions concerning the events that had happened to the Spanish king.

The public meeting was set for the 18th, at 9 am, in the Tribunal of the Consulate.

The most hotheaded Spaniards were not summoned and it was decided that the militia was to set up in the neighboring streets to prevent manifestations from the opposition.

In front of nearly 400 people that attended the cabildo, Jose Miguel Infante, who was the head clerk of the Cabildo of Santiago, asked for the conformation of a government junta. He said: “If it has been declared that the people of America are part of the monarchy, if it has been acknowledged that they have the same rights and privileges than the people of the peninsula, and they have declared temporary juntas, shouldn’t we do the same?”

After the speech, the participants of the cabildo responded: “We want a Junta!”

Afterwards, Mateo Toro y Zambrano resigned to his position as governor and the open cabildo decided to form a government junta that would take command of the governorate in the absence of king Ferdinand VII.

Their functions began that very September 18th of 1810. Mateo Toro Zambrano was named president and Jose Antonio Martinez de Aldunate was named vice-president (he was the bishop of Santiago). 

The First Government Junta had five members: Fernando Marquez de la Plata, Juan Martinez de Rozas, Ignacio de la Carrera, Juan Enrique Rosales and Francisco Javier Reyna.

There were two secretaries: Gaspar Marin and Gregario Argomedo.

This organization stayed in power until July 4th, 1811, date in which the Congress began their sessions.

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