Simón Bolivar

Gentlemen :

Happy is the citizen wile under the protection of the army of his command has convoked National Sovereignty to exercise its absolute will! I, therefore, count myself among those most favored by Divine Providence since I have had the honor to gather the Representatives of the People of Venezuela in this August Congress, the source of legitimate authority, depository of sovereign will and the arbiter of the Destiny of the Nation.

In transferring to the Representatives of the People the Supreme Power with which I have been entrusted, I fulfill the wishes of my own heart, those of my fellow citizens and those of our future generations which expect everything from your wisdom, uprightness and prudence.

In discharging this sweet duty, I free myself from the overburdening of immense authority and the unlimited responsibility weighing upon my weak shoulders! Only a compelling necessity coupled with the commanding will of the People could have made me assume the tremendous and dangerous charge of Dictator Supreme Chief of the Republic. But I can breathe easier now in handing back to you that authority, which I have succeeded in maintaining with so much risk, difficulty and hardships amid the most awful tribulations that could ever afflict any social political body.

The epoch in the life of the Republic over which I have presided has not been a mere political storm ; it has been neither a bloody war, nor yet one of popular anarchy. It has been indeed, the development of all disorganizing elements; it has been the flooding of an infernal torrent which has overwhelmed the land of Venezuela.

 A man, aye, such a man as I am, what check could he offer to the march of such devastation? In the midst of this sea of woes I have simply been a mere plaything of the revolutionary storm, which tossed me about like a frail straw. I could do neither good nor harm. Irresistible forces leave directed the trend of our events. To attribute this to me would not be fair, it would be assuming an importance which I do not merit. Do you desire to know who are the authors of past events and the present order of things? Consult then the Annals of Spain, of America, of Venezuela; examine the Laws of the Indies, the rule of the old executives; the influence of religion and of foreign domination; observe the first acts of the Republican Government, the ferocity of our enemies and our national temperament. Do not ask me, what are the effects of such mishaps, ever to be lamented. I can scarcely be accounted for but as a mere instrument of the great forces which have been at work in Venezuela.

However, my life, my conduct, all my acts, both public and private, are subject to censure by the people. Representatives! You are to judge them. I submit the history of my tenure of office to your impartial decision; I shall not add one thing more to excuse it; I have already said all that could be my apology. If I deserve your approval, I have attained the sublime title of a good citizen, to me preferable to that of Liberator, given me by Venezuela, that of Pacificator, which Cundinamarca accorded me, and all the titles that the whole world could bestow upon me.

 

Legislators! I deposit in your hands the supreme command of Venezuela. Yours is now the august duty of devoting yourselves to achieving the happiness of the Republic; you hold in your hands the scales of our destinies, the measure of our glory; your hands will seal the decrees insuring our Liberty. At this moment the Supreme Chief of the Republic is nothing but a plain citizen, and such he wishes to remain until death. I will serve, however, in the career of a soldier while there are enemies in Venezuela. The country has a multitude of most worthy sons capable of guiding her; talents, virtues, experience, and all that is required to direct free men, arc the patrimony of man, of those who are representing the people here; and outside of this Sovereign Rudy, there are citizens, who at all times have shown their courage in facing danger, prudence in avoiding it, and the art, in short, to govern themselves and of governing others. These illustrious men undoubtedly merit the vote of Congress, and they will be entrusted with the Government that I have just resigned so cordially and sincerely and forever.

The continuation of authority in the same person has frequently proved the undoing of democratic governments. Repeated elections are essential to the system of popular government, because there is nothing so dangerous as to suffer Power to be vested for a long time in one citizen. The people become accustomed to obeying him, and he becomes accustomed to commanding, hence the origin of usurpation and tyranny. A proper zeal is the guarantee of republican liberty, and our citizens must very justly fear that the same Magistrate who has governed them for a long time, may continue to rule them forever.

And, now that by this act of adherence to the Liberty of Venezuela, I can aspire to the glory of being counted among her most faithful lovers, permit me, Sirs, to state with the frankness of a true republican, my respectful opinion regarding the scope of this Project of a Constitution, which I take the liberty to submit, as a token of the sincerity and candor of my sentiments. As this is a question involving the welfare of all, I venture to believe that I have the right to be heard by the Representatives of the People. Well I know that in your wisdom you have no need of counsel; I am also aware that my project may perhaps appear to you erroneous and impracticable. But, Sirs, receive with benevolence this work which is a tribute of my sincere submission to Congress rather than the outcome of a presumptuous levity. On the other hand, your functions being the creation of a body politic, and, one might say, the creation of an entire community surrounded by all the difKculties offered by a situation — a most peculiar and difTicult one — the voice of a citizen may perhaps point out a hidden or unknown danger.

By casting a glance over the past, we shall see what, is the basic element of the Republic of Venezuela. America, on becoming separated from the Spanish monarchy, found itself like the Roman Empire, when that enormous mass fell to pieces in the midst of the ancient world. Each dismembered portion formed then an independent nation in accordance with its situation or its interests, the difference being that those members established anew their former associations. We do not even preserve the vestiges of what once we we’ve; we are not Europeans, we are not Indians, but an intermediate species between the aborigines and the Spaniards — Americans by birth and Europeans in right, we are placed in the dilemma of disputing with the natives our titles of possession and maintaining ourselves in the country where we were born, against the opposition of the invaders. Thus, ours is a most extraordinary and complicated case.

Moreover, our part has always been a purely passive one; our political existence has always been null, and we find ourselves in greater difficulties in attaining our liberty than we ever had when we lived on a plane lower than servitude, because we had been robbed not only of liberty but also of active and domestic tyranny. Allow me to explain this paradox.

In an absolute regime, authorized power does not admit any limits. The will of the despot is the supreme law, arbitrarily executed by the subordinates who participate in the organized oppression according to the measure of the authority they enjoy.

They are intrusted with civil, political, military and religious functions; but in the last analysis, the Satraps of Persia are Persians, the Pashas of the Great Master are Turks, the Sultans of Tartary are Tartars. China does not send for her Mandarins to the land of Genghis khan, her conqueror. America, on the contrary, received all from Spain, which had really deprived her of true enjoyment and exercise of active tyranny, by not permitting us to share in our own domestic affairs and interior administration. This deprivation had made it impossible for us to become acquainted with the course of public affairs; neither did we enjoy that personal consideration which the glamour of power inspires in the eyes of the multitude, so important in the great revolutions. I will say, in short, we wei'e kept in estrangement, absent from the universe and all that relates to the science of government.

The people of America having been held under the triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny and vice, have not been in a position to acquire either knowledge, power or virtue. Disciples of such pernicious masters, tlie lessons we have received and the examples we have studied, are most destructive. We have been governed more by deception than by force, and we have been degraded more by vice than by superstition.

Slavery is the offspring of Darkness; an ignorant people is a blind tool, turned to its own destruction; ambition and intrigue exploit the credulity and inexperience of men foreign to all political, economical or civil knowledge; mere illusions are accepted as reality, license is taken for liberty, treachery for patriotism, revenge for justice. Even as a sturdy blind man who, relying on the feeling of his own strength, walks along with the assurance of the most wideawake man and, striking against all kinds of obstacles, can not steady his steps.

A perverted people, should it attain its liberty, is bound to lose this very soon, because it would be useless to try to impress upon such people that happiness lies in the practice of righteousness; that the reign of law is more powerful than the I'eign of tyrants, who are more inflexible, and all ought to submit to the wholesome severity of the law; that good morals, and not force, are the pillars of the law and that the exercise of justice is the exercise of liberty. Thus, Legislators, your task is the more laborious because you are to deal with men misled by the illusions of error, and by civil incentives. Liberty, says Rousseau, is a succulent food, but difhcult to digest. Our feeble fellow-citizens will have to strengthen their mind much before they will be ready to assimilate such wholesome nourishment. Their limbs made numb by their fetters, their eyesight weakened in the darkness of their dungeons and their forces wasted away through their foul servitude, will the be capable of inarching with a firm step towards the august temple of Liberty? Will they be capable of coming close to it, and admiring the liglit it sheds, and of breathing freely its pure air? Consider well your decision. Legislators. Do not forget that you are about to lay the foundations of a new people, which may some day rise to the heights that Nature has marked out for it, provided you make those foundations proportionate to the lofty place which that people is to fill. If your selection be not made under the guidance of the Guardian Angel of Venezuela, who must inspire you with wisdom to choose the nature and form of government that you axe to adopt for the welfare of the people; if you should fail in this, I warn you, the end of our venture would be slavery.

The annals of past ages display before you thousands of governments. Recall to mind the nations which have shone most highly on the earth and you will be grieved to see that almost the entire world has been, and still is, a victim of bad government. You will find many systems of governing men, but all are calculated to oppress them, and if the habit of seeing the human race, led by shepherds of peoples, did not dull the horror of such a revolting sight, we would be astonished to see our social species grazing on the surface of the globe, even as lowly herds destined to feed their cruel drivers.

Nature, in truth, endows us at birth with the instinctive desire for liberty; but whether because of negligence, or because of an inclination inherent in humanity, it remains still under the bonds imposed on it.

And as we see it in such a state of debasement we seem to have reason o be persuaded that the majority of men hold as a truth the humiliating principle that it is harder to maintain the balance of liberty than to endure the weight of tyranny. Would to God that this principle, contrary to the morals of Nature, were false! Would to God that this principle were not sanctioned by the indolence of man as regards his most sacred rights!

Many ancient and modern nations have cast off oppression; but those which have been able to enjoy a few precious moments of liberty are most rare, as they soon relapsed into their old political vices; because it is the people more often than the government, that bring on tyranny. The habit of suffering domination makes them insensible to the charms of honor and national prosperity, and leads them to look with indolence upon the bliss of living in the midst of liberty, under the protection of laws framed by their own free will. The history of the world proclaims this awful truth!

Only democracy, in my opinion, is susceptible of absolute freedom. But where is there a democratic government that has united at the same time power, prosperity and permanence? Have we not seen, on the contrary, aristocracy, monarchy rearing great and powerful empires for centuries and centuries? What government is there older than that of China? What republic has exceeded in duration that of Sparta, that of Venice? The Roman Empire, did it not conquer the world? Does not France count fourteen centuries of monarchy? Who is greater than England? These nations, however, have been, or still are, aristocracies and monarchies.

Notwithstanding such bitter reflections, I am filled with unbounded joy because of the great strides made by our republic since entering upon its noble career. Loving that which is most useful, animated by what is most just and aspiring to what is most perfect, Venezuela in separating from the Spanish Nation has recovered her independence, her freedom, her equality, her national sovereignty. In becoming a democratic republic, she proscribed monarchy, distinctions, nobility, franchises and privileges; she declared the rights of man, the liberty of action, of thought, of speech, of writing. These preeminently liberal acts will never be sufficiently admired for the sincerity by which they are inspired. The first Congress of Venezuela has impressed upon the annals of our legislation with indelible characters the majesty of the people, so fittingly expressed in the consummation of the social act best calculated to develop the happiness of a Nation.

I need to gather all my strength in order to feel with all the rever- ence of which I am capable, the supreme goodness embodied in this immortal Code of our rights and our laws! But how can I venture to say it! Shall I dare profane by my censure the sacred tablets of our laws? There are sentiments that no lover of liberty can hold within his breast; they overflow stirred by their own violence, and notwith- standing the efforts of the one harboring such sentiments, an irresistible force will disclose them. I am convinced that the Government of Venezuela must be changed, and while many illustrious citizens will feel as I do, not all possess the necessary boldness to stand publicly for the adoption of new principles. This consideration compels me to take the initiative in a matter of the gravest concern, although there is great audacity in my pretending to give advice to the Counselors of the People.

The more I admire the excellence of the Federal Constitution of Venezuela, the more 1 am persuaded of the impossibility of its application in our State. And, in my opinion, it is a wonder that its model in North America may endure so successfully, and is not upset in the presence of the first trouble or danger. Notwithstanding the fact that that people is a unique model of political virtues and moral education; notwithstanding that it has been cradled in liberty, that it has been reared in freedom and lives on pure liberty, I will say more, although in many respects that people is unique in the history of humanity, it is a prodigy, I repeat, that a system so weak and complicated as the federal system should have served to govern that people in circumstances as difficult and delicate as those which have existed. But, whatever the case may be, as regards the American Nation, I must say that nothing is further from my mind than to try to assimilate the conditions and character of two nations as different as the Anglo-American and the Spanish-American. Would it not be extremely difficult to apply to Spain the Code of political, civil and religious liberty of England? It would be even more difficult to adapt to Venezuela the laws of North America. Does not the Spirit of Laws state that they must be suited to the people for whom they are made; that it is a great coincidence when the laws of one nation suit another; that laws must bear relation to the physical features of a country, its climate, its soil, its situation, extension and manner of living of the people; that they must have reference to the degree of liberty that their constitution may be able to provide for the religion of the inhabitants, their inclinations, wealth, number, trade, customs and manners? Such is the Code that we should consult, not that of Washington!

The Venezuelan Constitution, notwithstanding the fact that the bases on which it rests have been taken from the most perfect constitution of its kind, — should we consider correctness of principles and the beneficent effect of its administration — differed essentially from the American Constitution in a cardinal point, and the most important without doubt. The Congress of Venezuela, like the American Congress, shares in some of the duties of the Executive Power. We, moreover, subdivide this power, having vested it in a collective body subject to the objection of making the life of the government a periodical one. suspending and dissolving it whenever their members separate. Our triumvirate lacks, one may say, unity, continuity and individual responsibility, is deprived of action at a given moment, of continued life, of real uniformity, and immediate responsibility, and a government that does not possess everything that constitutes its moral force, must be called incapable.

Although the faculties of the President of the United States are limited by excessive restrictions, he alone exercises by himself all the functions of government that the Constitution vests in him, and there is no doubting that his administration must be more uniform, constant and truly his own than that of a power divided among several persons, which can be but a hideous composite. The judiciary power of Venezuela is similar to the American, indefinite in its duration, temporary and not for life, and enjoying all the independence appertaining to it.

The first Congi-css in its federal Constitution took into consideration the spirit of the Provinces rather than the solid idea of creating a republic indivisible and centralized. Our legislators in this instance yielded to the inconsiderate request of those provincials captivated by the dazzling appearance of the happiness of the American people, believing that the blessings they enjoy are solely due to the form of government and not to the character and habits of the citizens. In effect, the example given by the United States, because of their rare prosperity, was too enticing not to be followed. Who could resist the glorious attraction of the full and absolute enjoyment of sovereignty, independence, liberty? Who could resist the admiration inspired by an intelligent government which binds at the same time private and public rights, and forms by common consent the supreme law of individual choice? Who could resist the rule of a beneficent government that with an able, active and powerful hand directs always and everywhere all its activities towards social perfection, which is the sole end of human institutions?

But, no matter how flattering might appear and might be the effect of this splendid federal system, it was not feasible that Venezuelans could enjoy it of a sudden just after having cast off their fetters. We were not prepared for so much good; good as well as evil produces death when it is sudden and excessive. Our moral constitution had not attained yet the necessary consistency to reap the benefits of a government entirely representative and so exalted that it might be adopted to a republic of saintly men.

Representatives of the People! You have been called to confirm or suppress whatever you may deem worthy of being preserved, amended or rejected in oiu" social compact. To your lot falls the correction of the work of our first legislators; I would fain say that it behooves you to cover a portion of the beauties found in our political code, because not every heart is so made as to love all beauties, nor can all eyes stand the heavenly light of perfection. The book of the Apostles, the doctrines of Jesus, the divine writings sent us by Providence to better man- kind, so sublime, so holy, is a rain of fire in Constantinople, and Asia entire would be a fierj' conflagration should such a book of peace be suddenly imposed as a code of religion, law and customs. Permit me to call the attention of Congress to a matter which may be of vital importance. We must bear in mind that our population is not the people of Europe, not of North America, that it is rather a composite of Africa and America, which is an offspring of Europe. Spain herself ceases to be European on account of her African blood, her institutions and her temperament. It is impossible to point out with preciseness to what human family we belong. The greater portion of the natives has been annihilated, the European has mixed with the native American and the African, and this has mixed again with the Indian and the European. All having been born of the same mother, our parents, of different origin and blood, are foreigners, and all differ visibly in color of skin. This dissimilarity is a hindrance of the greatest importance.

The citizens of Venezuela all enjoy by the Constitution, — the interpreter of what Nature intended, — a perfect political equality. Even though this equality had not been a dogma in Athens, France and in America, we need to make it such, to correct the difference that apparently seems to exist. My opinion is. Legislators that the fundamental principal of our system depends immediately and exclusively on equality being established and exercised in Venezuela. That men are all born with equal rights to the benefits of society, has been sanctioned by the majority of the learned; but it has also been sanctioned that not all men are equally capable of attaining every distinction; while all should practice virtue not all do practice it; all should be courageous and all are not courageous; all should possess talents and all do not possess them. Hence the real distinction existing among individuals of the most liberally established society. If the principle of political equality is generally acknowledged, that of physical or moral inequality is also recognized.

Nature has made men unequal as regards genius, temperament, strength and characteristics. The laws correct that difference by giving man a place in society so that education, industry, service, virtue may give him a fictitious equality, properly called political and social equality. It is an eminently beneficent inspiration that of reuniting all classes in a State, where diversity multiples in proportion to the propagation of the species. By this single step, cruel discord has been torn out by the roots. How much jealousy, rivalry and hatred has been thus avoided!

Having done our duty towards justice, towards humanity, let us do it now to politics, to society, by smoothing over the difficulties presented by a system so simple and natural, but so weak that the slightest obstacle will upset and ruin it. The diversity of origin requires to be handled with infinite firmness, with infinite delicate tact in order to deal with an heterogeneous society whose complicated mechanism will become disjointed, divided, will dissolve at the slightest alteration. The most perfect system of government is that which produces tlie greatest sum of happiness possible, the greatest sum of social security and political stability. Through the laws enacted by the first Congress we have the right to expect that happiness be the lot of Venezuela, and through your laws we must hope that security and stability will perpetuate such happiness. It is for you to solve the problem. But how, after having broken all the chains of our former oppression, could we accomplish the marvelous task of preventing the remnants of our fetters from being turned into liberticidal weapons? The relics of Spanish domination will last a long time before we succeed in annihilating them; contagion of despotism has vitiated our atmosphere, and neither the fire of war nor yet the remedy of our wholesome laws has succeeded in purifying the air we breathe. Our hands are now free, while our hearts still suffer the ills of servitude. Man in losing his liberty, — Homer has said, — loses one-half of his manhood.

A republican government has been, is and must be that of Venezuela, based on the sovereignty of the people, the division of power, civil liberty, proscription of slavery, abolition of monarchy and privileges. We need equality to recast, so to speak, in a single mass the classes of men, political beliefs and public customs. Now, casting our eye over the vast field to be surveyed, let us fix our attention on the dangers to be avoided. Let History be our guide in this undertaking.

Athens is the first to give us the most brilliant example of an absolute democracy, and at the same time Athens will offer the most melancholy example of the extreme weakness of such a system of government. The wisest among the legislators of Greece did not see his republic last ten years, and suffered the humiliation of having to acknowledge the inadequacy of absolute democracy to govern any form of society, even the most cultured, moderate and restrained, because it only shines with flashes of liberty. We must acknowledge, therefore, that Solon has undeceived the world and shown how difficult it is to govern men with mere laws.

The republic of Sparta, which appeared to be a chimerical invention, did produce mock real results than the skillful work of Solon. Glory, virtues, morals, and therefore national happiness, were the result of Lycurgus' legislation. Although two kings to one State are two devouring monsters, Sparta had very little to complain of its double throne, while Athens confidently expected the most splendid future with an absolute sovereignty, free election of officials, frequently changed, and laws that were gentle, wise and politic. Pisistratus, a usurper and a tyrant, did more good to Athens than her laws, and Pericles, although a usurper also, was the most useful citizen. The republic of Thebes did not live longer than Pelopides and Epaminondas, because at times men and not principles constitute a government. No matter how great the wisdom contained in codes, systems and statutes, they are a dead letter having but little influence in society; virtuous men, patriotic men, learned men make the republic.

The Roman constitution has given the greatest power and fortune to any one people in the world. It did not provide for an exact division of powers. The Consuls, the Senate, the people now were legislators, now executive oflBcials, now judges; all participated in all the functions.

The Executive, consisting of two Consuls, had the same difficulty as that of Sparta. Notwithstanding this shortcoming, the republic did not suffer the disastrous results, which all prevision might have thought unavoidable, of an Executive consisting of two officials having the same authority with the powers of a monarch. A government, the only inclination of which was conquest, did not seem destined to cement the happiness of the nation. A monstrous government, purely warlike, raised Rome to the highest state of virtue and glory and made of the earth a Roman domain as if to show man how far political virtue may lead, and how unimportant institutions may be.

And passing now from ancient to modern times, we find England and France attracting attention of all nations, and teaching them eloquent lessons of all sorts in the matter of government. The revolution of these two great peoples, like a brilliant meteor, has flooded the world with such a profusion of political light that now all thinking men have learned what are the rights of men, what are their duties, what constitutes the excellency of a government and what its vices. All know how to appreciate the intrinsic value of the speculative theories of modern philosophers and lawmakers. In fine, that star, in its luminous career, has even inflamed the heart of the apathetic Spaniards, who have also entered the political whirlwind, have made ephemeral attempts at liberty, have acknowledged their incapacity to live under the gentle rule of law, and have gone back to their immemorial dungeons and the stake.

This is the proper time. Legislators, to repeat what the eloquent Volley says in the dedication of his Ruins of Palmyra: "To the rising peoples of the Spanish Indies, to the generous men who lead them to liberty. May the errors and misfortunes of the Old World teach wisdom and happiness to the New World." Let us not lose, then, the benefit of the lessons drawn from experience, and may the schools of Greece, Rome, France, England and America instruct us in the difficult science of creating and maintaining the nations under proper laws, just, legiti- mate and above all useful. We must never forget that the superiority of a government does not consist in its theories, or in its form, or in its mechanism, but in its being appropriate to the nature and character of the nation for which it has been instituted.

Rome and Great Britain are the two nations which have excelled most among ancient and modern peoples. Both were born to rule and to be free, but both were constituted not with dazzling forms of liberty, but built on solid foundations. Hence, I recommend you, Representatives, to study the British Constitution, which is the one that seems destined to do the most possible good to the peoples that adopt it. But no matter how perfect it may be, I am very far from suggesting a servile imitation. When I speak of the British Government, I only refer to whatever it has of the republican system; and truly, could we call a monarchy a system, that recognizes popular sovereignty, the division and balance of power, civil liberty and the liberty of conscience, the freedom of the press and everything which is sublime in politics? Could there be any more liberty in any republic whatsoever? And, could any more be said of social order? I recommend such constitution as the most worthy of being taken as a model by all who yearn for the enjoyment of the rights of men, and all political happiness compatible with our frail nature.

Our fundamental laws would not be altered in the least should we adopt a legislative power similar to the British Parliament. We have divided, as Americans did, national representation into two Chambers, the Representatives and the Senate. The first is very wisely constituted, enjoys all the functions appertaining to it, and is not susceptible of a radical reform, because it is the Constitution which gave it origin, form and such faculties as the will of the people deemed necessary to be legally and properly represented. If the Senate, instead of being elective were hereditary, it would be, in my opinion, the foundation, the binding tie, the very soul of our republic. This body would arrest tlie lightning of government in our political storms, and would break the popular waves. Attached to the government, because of its natural interest of self-preservation, it will always oppose the invasions attempted by the people against the jurisdiction and the authority of its rulers. We must confess it: the generality of men fail to recognize what their real interests are and constantly endeavor to asail them in the hands of their trustees; and the individual struggles against the masses, and the masses against the authorities. It is necessary, therefore, that a neutral body should exist in every government, always siding with the aggrieved party to disann the offender. This neutral body, to be such, must not owe its origin to the election of the government, nor to the election of the people, so as to enjoy a full measure of freedom, neither fearing nor expecting anything from either of these two sources of authoi'ity. The hereditary Senate, as a part of the people, shares in its interests, in its sentiments, in its spirit. For this reason it is not to be presumed that a hereditary Senate would disregard the popular interests or forget its legislative duties. The Roman Senators and the Lords of London have been the staunchest columns on which the structure of political and civil liberty has been erected. These Senators would be elected by Congress the first time. The succession to the Senate should engage the first attention of the government, which would educate them in a college specially devoted to instructing these tutors, future legislators of the country. They should learn the arts, sciences and letters, the accomplishments of the mind of public men; from childhood they should know the career to which Providence has destined them, and from a tender age they should temper their soul to the dignity awaiting them.

The creation of a hereditary Senate would be in nowise a violation of political equality; 1 do not pretend to establish a nobility because, as a famous republican has said, it would be to destroy at the same time equality and liberty. It is a calling for which candidates must be pre- pared; it is an office requiring much knowledge and the proper means to become learned in it. Everything must not be left to chance and fortune in the elections; the people are more easily deceived than Nature perfected by art, and although it is true that these Senators would not spi-ing from the womb of Perfection, it is also true that they would spring from the womb of a learned education. On the other hand, the liberators of Venezuela are entitled to hold, always, a high rank in the republic which owes its existence to them ! I believe that posterity would grieve to see the effacement of the illustrious names of their first benefactors. I say, moreover, that it is a matter of public interest, ol" the gratitude of Venezuela, of national honor, to preserve with glory to the end of posterity a race of men of virtues, prudence and valor, who mastering all obstacles have founded the republic at the cost of the most heroic sacrifices. And if the people of Venezuela do not applaud the elevation of their benefactors, they are unworthy of being a free people, and never will be free.

A hereditary Senate, I repeat, will be the fundamental support of the Legislative Power and, therefore, the basis of the entire government. It will equally serve to counterbalance both the government and the people; it will be an intermediate power that would blunt the shafts those two eternal rivals direct against each other. In all conflicts, the calm reasoning of a third party becomes the means of reconciliation; thus, the Senate of Venezuela will be the keystone of this structure so delicate and so liable to violent shocks; it would be the rainbow which calms the storms and maintains harmony between the members and the head of this political body.

Nothing whatever could corrupt a legislative body vested with the highest honors, self-dependent, having nothing to fear from the people, and nothing to expect from the government; having no other object than the repression of all elements of evil, and the fostering of all elements of good, and having the greatest interest in the existence of a society, in the good or bad results of which it must participate. It has been very justly said that the Upper House of England is invaluable to the nation because it is a bulwark to liberty, and I may add, that the Senate of Venezuela would be not only a bulwark to liberty but a sup- port to make the republic everlasting.

The British Executive Power is clothed with all the sovereign authority devolving upon it, but it is also surrounded by a triple line of dikes, barriers and stockades. It is the Chief of the Government, but its Ministers and subordinates rely more on the laws than on its authority, because they are personally responsible, and not even the orders coming from the Royal Authorities could exempt them from such responsibility. It is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy; it makes peace and declares war, but it is Parliament that generally votes the sums to be paid to the military forces. If the courts and judges are dependent on it, the laws originate in Parliament which approves them. In order to neutralize this authority, the person of the King is inviolable and sacred, and while leaving the head free, the hands are bound. The Sovereign of England has three formidable rivals: his Cabinet, responsible to the people and Parliament; the Senate which defends the interests of the people as representatives of the nobility of which it consists, and the House of Commons, acting as the organ and mouthpiece of the British people. Moreover, as the judges are responsible for the proper application of the laws, they never deviate from them and the administrators of the Exchequer, being liable to prosecution not only for their own transgressions, but also for those of the government itself, guard most carefully against any malversation of the public moneys. No matter how the nature of the Executive Power of England is examined nothing can be found to lead to the belief that it is not the most perfect model, whether for a kingdom, an aristocracy, or a democracy. Let us apply to Venezuela this sort of Executive Power in the person of a President appointed by the people or their representatives, and we would have taken a great step toward national happiness.

Whoever be the citizen discharging these functions he will be supported by the Constitution; being authorized to do good, he cannot do harm, because whenever he is acting under the law, his Ministers will cooperate with him. If, on the other hand, he attempts to violate the law, his own Ministers would leave him isolated in the midst of the Republic, and may even impeach him before the Senate. The Ministers being responsible for any transgressions committed, they are the true governing powers, because they have to pay for their own misdeeds.

Of no little advantage in the system is the obligation resting on the officials near the Executive Power to take great interest and a most active part in the deliberations of the government and to look on this department as if it were their own. It may happen that the President is not a man of great talents or great virtues, but notwithstanding the lack of these essential qualifications the President may perform his duties in a satisfactory manner, as in such cases the Ministry, doing all, bears the burden of the State.

However excessive the authority of the Executive Power of England may appear to be, it might not be excessive in the Republic of Venezuela. Here, Congress has bound the hands and even the head of the officials.

This deliberative body has assumed a portion of the Executive functions, against the maxim of Montesquieu, that a representative body must not take any active resolution; it must make the laws and see whether the laws made are properly executed. Nothing is more contrary to harmony between powers than having them mix; nothing I more dangerous to the people than a weak Executive, and if in a Kingdom it has been deemed necessary to grant the Executive so many faculties, in a republic these faculties are much more indispensable.

Let us direct our attention to this difference, and we will find that the balance of power must be distributed in two ways. In republics the Executive must be the stronger, because everything conspires against it, while in monarchies the stronger must be the Legislative Power, because everything conspires in favor of the monarch. The veneration of peoples for Royalty is a fascination which has powerful influence in increasing the superstitious respect paid to its authority. The splendor of the throne, of the crown, of the purple, the formidable support of nobility, the immense wealth that whole generations accumulate under the same dynasty, the fraternal protection that kings mutually receive, are very considerable advantages in favor of royal authority, making it almost unlimited. These very advantages are, therefore, those which must confirm the necessity of granting a republican Executive a greater authority than that possessed by a constitutional prince.

A republican Executive is a man isolated in the midst of a com- munity, to restrain the impulse of the people towards license, the inclination of judges and administrators towards the abuse of the law.

He is responsible to the Legislative body, the Senate and the people; he is one single man resisting the combined attack of the opinions, the interests and the passions of the social state, which, as Carnot has said, does nothing but continually struggle between the desire to dominate and that of getting away from domination. He is, in short, an athlete pitted against a multitude of athletes.

The only means to correct this weakness would be a well-supported, well-proportioned force against the resistance which the Legislative Power, the Judiciary and the People necessarily oppose to the Executive in a republic. If all the means that a just distribution of authority grants the Executive are not placed within its reach, it will necessarily become null or will misuse its own powers. I mean that it will be the death of the government, whose heirs are anarchy, usurpation and tyranny. It is sought to restrain executive authority with restrictions and obstacles; nothing is more just, but it must be borne in mind that the ties, the preservation of which is desired, must be strengthened, but not tightened.

Let us strengthen, then, the entire system of government, and see to it that the balance be established so that it will not break, and that its own sensitiveness be not a cause of decadence. As there is no form of government weaker than democracy, its structure must be built with great solidity, and its institutions carefully studied to insure stability.

If it be not so, we must be sure that a trial government, and not a per- manent system, is being established ; we must reckon with an ungovernable, tumultuous and anarchical society, not with a social establishment where happiness, peace and justice hold sway.

Let us not be presumptuous, Legislators, let us be moderate in our pretentions. It is not likely that we should attain that which humanity has not succeeded in attaining, what the greatest and wisest nations never attained. Indefinite liberty, absolute democracy are the rocks upon which all republican hopes have been wrecked. Cast your eye over the ancient republics, the modern republics, the rising republics; almost all have tried to establish themselves as absolute democracies. and almost all have failed in their just aspirations. They arc praiseworthy, undoubtedly, who wish for legitimate institutions and social perfection! But, who has told men that they possess already all the wisdom, that they practice all the virtues uncompromisingly demanded by the union of power and justice. Only angels, not mere men, can exist free, peaceful, happy, while exercising all the sovereign power.

The people of Venezuela already enjoy the rights they can legitimately and easily enjoy. Let us moderate, now, the pressure of excessive pretentions, which the form of a government not suited to their needs might perhaps excite. Let us abandon the federal forms not suited to us; let us abandon the triumvirate of the Executive Power and center it in one President; let us grant him sufficient authority to enable him to struggle against the obstacles anent our recent condition, the state of war we are in, and the kind of foreign and domestic enemies against whom we will have to battle for a long time. Let the Legislative Power relinquish the functions belonging to the Executive and acquire, notwithstanding, a new consistency, a new influence in the balance of authority. Let Uie courts be strengthened by the stability and independence of the judges, the creation of juries, and civil and criminal codes not dictated by antiquity, nor by conquering kings, but by the voice of Nature, by the cry of Justice and by the genius of Wisdom.

My desire is that all parts of government and administration should require that degree of vigor that can only preserve the equilibrium, not among the members of the government itself, but among the different fractions of which our society consists. It would be of no importance that the springs of a political system become loose because of weakness, if this condition should not mean a general dissolution of the social body and the ruin of its members. The cries of humanity on the battlefields or in the mobs clamor to Heaven against the inconsiderate and blind legislators who have thought that experiments with chimerical institutions can be made with impunity. All the peoples in the world have tried to attain liberty, some by the force of arms, others by framing laws, passing successively from anarchy to despotism or from despotism to anarchy. There are very few who have been contented with moderate pretensions by constituting themselves in a manner more in keeping with their means, their minds and their circumstances. We do not attempt the impossible, lest by soaring above the region of liberty we might descend to the region of tyranny. From absolute liberty we always descend to absolute power, and the mean between these two extremes is supreme social liberty. Abstract theories produce the pernicious idea of unlimited freedom. Let us work to the end that the public force be confined within the bounds that reason and interest demand; that national will be restrained to the limit marked out by a just power; that a civil and criminal legislation, analogous to our present constitution, have an absolute control over judicial power.

Then that equilibrium will exist and there will be no classes to hinder the onward march of the State, and there will be no complications trammeling up society instead of binding it together.

In order to form a stable government the basis is required of a national spirit, the object of which is a uniform tendency toward two capital joints : to moderate the popular will, and to limit public authority. The terms which theoretically fix these two points are of difficult determination, but it can be well imagined that the rule which must govern is reciprocal restriction, in order to have the least friction possible between that will and legitimate authority. This science is unconsciously acquired through practice and study. Progress of education broadens the progress of practice, while uprightness of mind widens the progress of enlightenment.

Love of country, love of law, love of the authorities, are the noble passions which must have exclusive sway in a republican soul. The Venezuelans love their country, but do not love their laws, because these were noxious and the source of evil; nor could they love their authorities, because they were unjust, and the new authorities are scarcely known in their new calling. If there is not a holy respect for the country, the laws and the authorities, society becomes a disorder, an abyss; an individual conflict between man and man, and hand to hand.

In order to bring our rising republic out of this chaos, all our moral power will not be sufficient unless we cast the entire mass of the people in one single body, the composition of the government in one single body, legislation in one single body, and national spirit in one single body. Union, Union, Union, must be our motto. Our citizens are of different blood, let us mix it for the sake of union; our constitution has divided the powers, let us bind them together for the sake of union; our laws are sorry relics of all the ancient and modern despotisms; let us demolish such an awful structure. Let it fall, and discarding even its ruins let us create a temple to Justice, and under the auspices of its holy inspiration, let us frame a code of Venezuelan laws. If we wish to consult monuments and models of legislation. Great Britain, France, North America have admirable ones.

Popular education should be the paramount care of the paternal love of Congress. Morals and enlightenment are the poles of a republic; morals and enlightenment are our prime necessities. Let us take from Athens her Aeropaus, and the guardians of customs and laws; let us take from Rome her censors and domestic tribunals, and forming a holy alliance of those useful institutions, let us revive on earth the idea of a people which is not contented with being free and strong, but wants also to be virtuous. Let us take from Sparta her austere institutions, and forming with these three springs a fountain of virtues, let us give our republic a fourth power, having jurisdiction over childhood and the heart of men, public spirit, good customs and republican morals. Let us establish such an Aeropaus to watch over the education of children, over national instruction, that it may purify whatever is corrupt in the republic; denounce ingratitude, selfishness, coldness of love for the country, idleness, negligence of the citizens; pass judgment upon the origin of corruption, and pernicious examples, applying moral penalties to correct breaches of custom, — just as afflictive punishment is applied to atone for a crime and not only whatever is repugnant to customs but that which weakens them as well; not only what may violate the Constitution, but also whatever should infringe on public respect.

The jurisdiction of such court, a truly holy tribunal, should be effective with respect to education and instruction, and advisory only in what refers to penalties and punishment. Its annals or records, however, where its acts and deliberations are kept, the moral principles and the conduct of the citizens, shall be the books of virtue and vice; books that the people will consult for their elections, the executives for their decisions and the judges for their trials. Such an institution, no matter how chimerical it may appear, is infinitely more feasible than others which ancient and modern legislators have established, much less useful to human kind.

Legislators! The project of a Constitution which I most respectfully submit, will show you the spirit in which it was conceived. In suggesting the division of citizens into active and passive, I have tried to promote national prosperity through the two greatest levers of industry: work and knowledge. By stimulating these two great springs of society, the most difficult thing to make men honest and happy is attained. By just and prudent restrictions on primary and electoral assemblies, we place the first bar to popular license, avoiding tumultuous, blind gatherings which at all times have made blunders at elections. These blunders have extended to the executives and the government, because that all important act is the maker of either the liberty or the slavery of a people.

By increasing in the balance of powers the weight of Congress by the increase in the number of legislators, and the nature of the Senate, I have endeavored to give a fixed basis for the first Body of the Nation and to clothe it with a dignity most important to the success of its sovereign functions.

In separating by means of well-defined boundaries the jurisdiction of the executive from legislative jurisdiction, I have not endeavored to divide but to bind with the bonds of that harmony born of independence, such supreme authorities, whose prolonged clash has never failed to frighten one of the two contending parties. When I wish to vest the Executive with a number of duties beyond those formerly devolving upon it, it is not my desire to authorize a despot to tyrannize the Re- public, but to prevent a deliberating despotism from becoming the immediate cause of a cycle of despotic vicissitudes in which anarchy will alternatively be replaced by oligarchy and by monocracy. In asking for the stability of judges, the creation of juries, and the new code, I ask Congress for the guarantee of civil liberty, the most priceless, the most just, the most necessary form of liberty, in a word the only kind of liberty, as without it, the others are void. I have requested the correction of the most lamentable abuses to which our judiciary is subjected, due to its defective origin as coming from that sea of Spanish legislation which, like time, gathers from all ages and men, whether the works of the insane or the works of the sane, whether the production of the wise or the productions of some extravagant mind, whether a monument of genius or a monument of fancy. This judiciary encyclopedia, a monster of ten thousand heads which has been until now the scourge of the Spanish peoples, is the most refined punishment the wrath of Heaven has permitted to descend upon this unfortunate empire.

While pondering over the effective means of regenerating the character and customs which tyranny and war have formed in us, I have dared to invent a Moral Power, drawn from the depths of obscure antiquity and from the now forgotten laws which for a time sustained public virtue among the Greeks and Romans. This may be an ingenuous dream, but not an impossibility, and I flatter myself that you will not altogether disdain a thought that, improved through experience and instruction, may become most efficacious.

Horrified at the separation that has prevailed and must prevail among us because of the subtitle spirit that characterizes the federal government, I have been led to beg of you to adopt centralization and the union of all the States of Venezuela into a Republic, one and indivisible. This measure which in my opinion is urgent, vital, saving is of such nature that without it death will be the fruit of our regeneration.

It is my duty. Legislators, to present before you a detailed and true report of my political, civil and military administration, but this would overtax your valuable attention, and deprive you at this moment of a time as important as pressing. Therefore, the Secretaries of State will report to Congress on their respective departments, submitting at the same time the documents and records which will serve to illustrate and to give an exact idea of the real, positive condition of the Republic.

I would not mention to you the most notable acts of my administration, did they not concern the majority of the Venezuelans. I refer, gentlemen, to the most important resolutions taken in this last period.

Atrocious, godless slavery covered with its sable mantle the land of Venezuela and our skies were overcast with storm clouds threatening a deluge of fire. I implored the protection of the God of Humanity, and Redemption scattered the storm. Slavery broke its chains and Venezuela has found herself surrounded by her new children, grateful children who have turned their instruments of captivity into arms of liberty.

Yea, those who were slaves are now free; those who were the enemies of their foster mother are now the defenders of a country. To emphasize the justice, the necessity, the beneficent results of this measure, is superfluous, when you know the history of the Helots, Spartacus and Haiti; when you know that one cannot be free and enslaved at the same time, unless in violation of the laws of nature and the civil and political laws. I leave to your sovereign decision the reform or abrogation of all my statutes and decrees; but I implore of you the confirmation of the absolute freedom of the slaves, as I would beg for my life and the life of the Republic.

To mention the military history of Venezuela would be to remind you of the history of republican heroism among the ancients; it would be to tell you that Venezuela has been inscribed in the great roll of honor of the sacrifices made on the altar of liberty. Nothing could fill the noble breasts of our generous warriors, but the exalted honors paid to the benefactors of humanity.

Not fighting for power, nor yet for fortune, not even for glory but only for liberty, the title of Liberators of the Republic is their most fitting guerdon. I have, therefore, founded a sacred association of these illustrious men; I have created the Order of the Liberators of Venezuela. Legislators, the authority to confirm honors and decorations belongs to you; it is your duty to perform this august act of national gratitude.

Men who have given up all pleasures; all the comforts they enjoyed as the fruits of their virtues and talents; men who have undergone all that is cruel in a horrible war, suffered the most painful privations, and the bitterest torments; men so well deserving of the country', must attract the attention of the government, and in consequence I have directed that they be allowed a compensation out of the national wealth. If I have acquired any merit whatever before the eyes of the people, I ask the representatives of the people to grant my request as the reward of my feeble services. Let Congress direct the distribution of the national property in accordance with the law that in the name of the Republic I have decreed, for the benefit of the military men of Venezuela.

Now that after infinite victories we have succeeded in annihilating the Spanish hosts, the Court of Madrid in desperation has vainly endeavored to impose upon the mind of the magnanimous sovereigns who have just destroyed usurpation and tyranny in Europe, and must be the protectors of the legality and justice of the American cause. Being incapable of attaining our submission by force of arms, Spain has recourse to her insidious policy; being unable to conquer us, she has brought into play her devious artfulness. Ferdinand has humbled himself to the extent of confessing that he needs foreign protection to bring us back to his ignominious yoke, a yoke that there is no power which could impose on us! Venezuela, fully convinced of possessing sufficient strength to repel her oppressors, has made known by the voice of the government her final determination to fight to the death in defense of her political life, not only against Spain, but against all men, if all men had degraded themselves to the extent of espousing the defense of a devouring government whose only incentives are a death dealing sword and the flames of the inquisition. A government that wants not domains, but deserts, not cities but ruins, not vassals but graves. Tile Declaration of the Republic of Venezuela is the most glorious, most heroic, most worthy Act of a free people; it is the one that with the greatest satisfaction I have the honor to offer Congress, being already sanctioned by the unanimous will of the free people of Venezuela.

Since the second epoch of our Republic our army has lacked military elements; it has always lacked arms, it has always lacked ammunitions, has always been poorly equipped. Now the soldiers, defenders of our independence, are not only armed with justice, but also with force. Our troops can cope with the most select of Europe, since there is no inequality in the weapons of destruction. Such great advantages are due to the boundless liberality of some generous foreigners who have heard the groans of humanity, and have seen the Cause of Right yield. But they have not been mere spectators, they have rushed with their generous help and have loaned the Republic everything that was needed for the triumph of its philanthropical principles. These friends of humanity are the guardian angels of America and to them we owe eternal gratitude, and the religious fulfillment of the sacred obligations we have contracted with them. The national, debit. Legislators, is a sacred trust in the faith, the honor and the gratitude of Venezuela.

Let it be respected like the Holy Ark, holding not only the rights of our benefactors, but the glory of our faithfulness. May we perish before we break a pledge which has saved the country and the life of her children.

The merging of New Granada and Venezuela into one Great State, has been the unanimous wish of the peoples and the government of both republics. The fortunes of war have affected this union so earnestly desired by all Colombians; in fact, we are incorporated. These sister countries have already entrusted to you their interests, their rights and their destinies. In contemplating the union of these countries my soul rises to the heights demanded by the colossal perspective of such a wonderful picture. Soaring among the coming ages my imagination rests on the future centuries, and seeing from afar with admiration and amazement the prosperity, the splendor and the life which have come to this vast region, I feel myself carried away, and I see her in the very heart of the universe, stretching along her lengthy shores between two oceans which Nature has separated, but which our country unites through long wide channels. I can see her as the bond, as the center, as the emporium of the human family. I can see her sending to all the corners of the globe the treasure hidden in her mountains of silver and gold; I see her sending broadcast, by means of her divine plants, health and life to the sufferers of the old world; I see her confiding her precious secrets to the learned who do not know how much her store of knowledge is superior to the store of wealth bestowed by Nature upon her; I can see her sitting on the throne of liberty, the scepter of justice in her hand, crowned by glory, showing the old world the majesty of the modern world.

Deign, Legislators, to accept with indulgence the profession of my political faith, the highest wishes of my heart and the fervent prayer which on behalf of the people I dare address you: Deign to grant to Venezuela a government preeminently popular, preeminently just, preeminently moral, which will hold in chains oppression, anarchy and guilt. A government which will allow righteousness, tolerance, peace to reign; a government which will cause equality and liberty to triumph under the protection of inexorable laws.

Gentlemen, commence your duties; I have finished mine.

Simon Bolivar - Congress of Angostura