Spanish American Wars of Independence - Independence Consolidated, 1820–1824

Independence Consolidated, 1820–1824

Further information: Trienio Liberal

To counter the advances the pro-independence forces had made in South America, Spain prepared a second, large, expeditionary force in 1819. This force, however, never left Spain. Instead, it became the means by which liberals were finally able to reinstate a constitutional regime. On January 1, 1820, Rafael Riego, commander of the Asturias Battalion, headed a rebellion among the troops, demanding the return of the 1812 Constitution. His troops marched through the cities of Andalusia with the hope of extending the uprising to the civilian population, but locals were mostly indifferent. An uprising, however, did occur in Galicia in northern Spain, and from there it quickly spread throughout the country. On March 7, the royal palace in Madrid was surrounded by soldiers under the command of General Francisco Ballesteros, and three days later, on March 10, the besieged Ferdinand VII, now a virtual prisoner, agreed to restore the Constitution.

Riego's Revolt had two significant effects on the war in the Americas. Militarily, the large numbers of reinforcements, which were especially needed to retake New Granada and defend the Viceroyalty of Peru, would never arrive. Furthermore, as the royalists' situation became more desperate in region after region, the army experienced wholesale defections of units to the patriot side. Politically, the reinstitution of a liberal regime changed the terms under which the Spanish government sought to engage the insurgents. The new government naively assumed that the insurgents were fighting for Spanish liberalism and that the Spanish Constitution could still be the basis of reconciliation between the two sides. The government implemented the Constitution and held elections in the overseas provinces, just as in Spain. It also ordered military commanders to begin armistice negotiations with the insurgents with the promise that they could participate in the restored representative government.

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