1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lopez, Carlos Antonio

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

LOPEZ, CARLOS ANTONIO (1790–1862), Paraguayan autocrat, was born at Asuncion on the 4th of November 1790, and was educated in the ecclesiastical seminary of that city. He attracted the hostility of the dictator, Francia, and he was forced to keep in hiding for several years. He acquired, however, so unusual a knowledge of law and governmental affairs that, on Francia’s death in 1840, he obtained an almost undisputed control of the Paraguayan state, which he maintained uninterruptedly until his death on the 10th of September 1862. He was successively secretary of the ruling military junta (1840–1841), one of the two consuls (1841–1844), and president with dictatorial powers (1844–1862) by successive elections for ten and three years, and in 1857 again for ten years, with power to nominate his own successor. Though nominally a president acting under a republican constitution, he ruled despotically. His government was in general directed with wise energy towards developing the material resources and strengthening the military power of the country. His jealousy of foreign approach several times involved him in diplomatic disputes with Brazil, England, and the United States, which nearly resulted in war, but each time he extricated himself by skilful evasions.

His eldest son, Francisco Solano Lopez (1826–1870), was born near Asuncion on the 24th of July 1826. When in his nineteenth year he was made commander-in-chief of the Paraguayan army, during the spasmodic hostilities then prevailing with the Argentine Republic. He was sent in 1853 as minister to England, France and Italy, and spent a year and a half in Europe. He purchased large quantities of arms and military supplies, together with several steamers, and organized a project for building a railroad and establishing a French colony in Paraguay. He also formed the acquaintance of Madame Lynch, an Irish adventuress of many talents and popular qualities, who became his mistress, and strongly influenced his later ambitious schemes. Returning to Paraguay, he became in 1855 minister of war, and on his father’s death in 1862 at once assumed the reins of government as vice-president, in accordance with a provision of his father’s will, and called a congress by which he was chosen president for ten years. In 1864, in his self-styled capacity of “protector of the equilibrium of the La Plata,” he demanded that Brazil should abandon her armed interference in a revolutionary struggle then in progress in Uruguay. No attention being paid to his demand, he seized a Brazilian merchant steamer in the harbour of Asuncion, and threw into prison the Brazilian governor of the province of Matto Grosso who was on board. In the following month (December 1864) he despatched a force to invade Matto Grosso, which seized and sacked its capital Cuyabá, and took possession of the province and its diamond mines. Lopez next sought to send an army to the relief of the Uruguayan president Aguirro against the revolutionary aspirant Flores, who was supported by Brazilian troops. The refusal of the Argentine president, Mitre, to allow this force to cross the intervening province of Corrientes, was seized upon by Lopez as an occasion for war with the Argentine Republic. A congress, hastily summoned, and composed of his own nominees, bestowed upon Lopez the title of marshal, with extraordinary war powers, and on April 13, 1865, he declared war, at the same time seizing two Argentine war-vessels in the bay of Corrientes, and on the next day occupied the town of Corrientes, instituted a provisional government of his Argentine partisans, and summarily announced the annexation to Paraguay of the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Rios. Meantime the party of Flores had been successful in Uruguay, and that state on April the 18th united with the Argentine Republic in a declaration of war on Paraguay. On the 1st of May Brazil joined these two states in a secret alliance, which stipulated that they should unitedly prosecute the war “until the existing government of Paraguay should be overthrown,” and “until no arms or elements of war should be left to it.” This agreement was literally carried out. The war which ensued, lasting until the 1st of April 1870, was carried on with great stubbornness and with alternating fortunes, though with a steadily increasing tide of disasters to Lopez (see Paraguay). In 1868, when the allies were pressing him hard, his mind, naturally suspicious and revengeful, led him to conceive that a conspiracy had been formed against his life in his own capital and by his chief adherents. Thereupon several hundred of the chief Paraguayan citizens were seized and executed by his order, including his brothers and brothers-in-law, cabinet ministers, judges, prefects, military officers, bishops and priests, and nine-tenths of the civil officers, together with more than two hundred foreigners, among them several members of the diplomatic legations. Lopez was at last driven with a mere handful of troops to the northern frontier of Paraguay, where, on the 1st of April 1870, he was surprised by a Brazilian force and killed as he was endeavouring to escape by swimming the river Aquidaban.