1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/San Martin, José de
SAN MARTIN, JOSÉ DE (1778–1850), south American soldier and statesman, was born at Yapeyú on the Uruguay river on the 25th of February 1778. His father was a captain in the Spanish army, and young San Martin was taken to Madrid and educated for a military career. He served in the Moorish wars and in the great struggle against Napoleon, and his distinguished conduct at the battle of Baylen brought him the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1812 he offered his services to the government of Buenos Aires in the struggle for the independence of Argentina. He was appointed early in 1814 to the command of the revolutionary army operating against the royalists on the borders of Upper Peru. But he soon resigned his command, realizing that for the permanent success of the revolutionary cause it was necessary first to oust the Spaniards from Chile and then to organize an expedition thence against the stronghold of Spanish power on Peru. With this end in view he secured his appointment to the governorship of the province of Cuyo, bordering on the Chilean Andes, and established himself at Mendoza, where he prepared for the invasion of Chile. Assisted by Bernardo O'Higgins, he rallied the Chilean patriots who had fled across the mountains after their defeat at Rancagua; he enlisted the sympathies of the Argentine government, and after two years succeeded in raising a well-trained army of Chileans and Argentines and in collecting the material resources necessary for a crossing of the Andes. In January 1817 he set out on his enterprise. By the swiftness of his movements and by a clever feint he evaded opposition, and he led his army, of about 3000 infantry and 1000 cavalry, together with artillery and large baggage trains, through a barren and difficult region, and over passes 13,000 ft. above sea-level. The victory of Chacabuco (Feb. 12, 1817) over the royalist army led to the re-establishment of a nationalist government at Santiago under Bernardo O'Higgins, as San Martin himself wished to prepare for the invasion of Peru; but in 1818 he took command of the Chilean forces against a fresh royalist army, and by his victory at the river Maipo in April finally secured the independence of Chile. This left him free to organize the expedition against Peru, and assisted by O'Higgins and the Argentine government, he procured the necessary fleet and the army. He set out in August 1820, landed his forces for a short time at Pisco, where he tried to enter into negotiations with the Viceroy of Lima, and then transported his army with the help of the fleet to a point on the coast a little way north of Lima. Here he spent several months of inaction, hoping that the demonstration of force and the influence of popular feeling would lead to a peaceful withdrawal of the Spaniards. In July 1821 the Spaniards evacuated Lima, San Martin entered the city, proclaimed the independence of Peru and assumed the reins of government with the title of Protector. His position, however, was far from secure. The royalist party, never having been decisively crushed, organized risings in the interior, and San Martin was embarrassed by the jealousy which his authority roused among the patriots, and by the rivalry of Bolivar, who had arrived with an army on the northern frontier of Peru. San Martin resigned his authority on the 20th of September 1822 and left the country. He spent a short time in Chile and in Argentina, but his many enemies had embittered popular feeling against him, and constant attempts were made to involve him in political intrigues. Unable to live a peaceful private life, he was compelled to exile himself in Europe, where he lived, often in great poverty, till his death at Boulogne on the 17th of August 1850.
San Martin did more than any man for the cause of independence in the Argentine, Chile and Peru. He was not only an able soldier; in the clearness with which he realized that the independence of each state could only be secured by the co-operation of all, and in the perseverance with which he carried his views into execution he showed himself a far-seeing and honest statesman.
See W. Pilling, Emancipation of South America (London, 1893), a translation of B. Mitre’s life of San Martin; P. B. Figueroa, Diccionario biografico de Chile (Santiago, 1888) and J. B. Suarez, Rasgos biograficos de hombres notables de Chile (Valparaiso, 1886), both giving sketches of prominent characters in Chilean history. See also works on the period mentioned under Chile: Bibliography.