García Moreno Refuses to Be Silent and Is Exiled for Denouncing His Country’s Rape

June 5, 2014

José María Urbina Viteri, President of Ecuador.

José María Urbina Viteri, President of Ecuador.

From that moment Ecuador was treated as a conquered country. Thefts, pillage, sacrilege, murders, became the order of the day. The “Tauras,” a guard of mamelukes whom Urbina called his “canons,” armed with daggers, went up and down the country, attacking inoffensive men, insulting women, and assassinating all who would not be robbed without a struggle. Urbina in the meanwhile gave himself up to every sort of excess, exhausted the public treasury, and then exacted fabulous sums from private individuals. The smallest opposition or even remonstrance was met by imprisonment, exile, or death—one man alone there was who could not remain silent and coldly watch the destruction of his country. In a poem entitled an “Ode to Fabius,” he exposed with merciless severity the whole public and private life of Urbina. “No vice, no crime, is unknown to him,” he exclaimed. “Treason, perjury, swindling, brigandage, savage cruelty, perfidy, nothing is wanting. His ignoble life is written bit by bit in the penal code.”

Painting by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez

Painting by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez

After describing the effect of his rule on his miserable countrymen, he concludes with the words: “I know well the fate which is reserved for me. The chalice of suffering must be drunk to the dregs—the ball of the villain will pierce my heart. But if my country, delivered from the horrible tyranny which crushes her to the earth, be once more allowed to breathe freely, joyfully I will go to my grave.”

It is difficult to imagine the effect of this satire on the inflammable nations of Ecuador. Often (as we  have seen) had García Moreno made use of his powerful pen to expose vice and incite to virtue. But this time it was with the solemnity of a great judge pronouncing sentence on an infamous criminal. Urbina was furious, but so great was the effect of the pamphlet that he did not dare at once provoke an insurrection by the exile or death of the patriot. A month later García Moreno started a weekly paper called La Nación (The Nation), the first number of which appeared on March 8, 1853. “It is time,” he declared, “to tear down the veil and to show the people that under this Radical Government, the constitution is a lure, the sovereignty of the people a chimera, and all legal guarantees ridiculous fictions. You talk of progress and civilization. Where is the social progress when misery devours the whole population and revolutionary cunning alone enriches the few? What kind of civilization is that which tramples underfoot all moral law, and extinguishes the light of Divine Revelation?

Urbina felt at once that La Nación would become a powerful weapon against his Government. He consequently informed García Moreno that if he ventured to publish a second number of his paper he and his accomplices would be exiled, which meant, to be sent among the savages of Napo or shot on the way by the Tauras. The Commandant of Quito was ordered to convey this ukase to García Moreno. He replied: “Tell your master that among the numberless reasons for continuing this paper will be added now the determination not to dishonor myself by yielding to his menaces.”

Garcia Moreno

The whole town was in a ferment on this subject. On the appointed day appeared the second number of the Nación more aggressive than the first. As its life was to be short, it was necessary to speak out plainly. In an article entitled “The Political Views of the Cabinet,” every act of this nefarious Government was criticized and exposed, from the ruin of the people and the exhaustion of the Treasury down to the brutal expulsion of the Jesuits and the Reign of Terror which everywhere prevailed. García Moreno had no illusions as to the results to himself of this proceeding. With the devotion worthy of an ancient Roman, he sacrificed his life and his happiness for the love of his country. He was only thirty-two years of age, he had just married a young and beautiful wife, to whom he was devotedly attached, and who was worthy of him in every way: the most brilliant future seemed to open itself before him. Yet he published the paper without a moment’s hesitation and patiently awaited the consequence. The Nación appeared on March 15, 1853. Two hours later Urbina signed the order for the arrest of García Moreno. The President’s irritation was at its height, but the people were equally excited. Warned by a friend of the order given to the police, García Moreno took leave of his wife, left his house with the two friends who, like himself, were condemned to exile, and went into the public square of the city, so as to force the police to arrest them publicly in the face of the whole population. This was done accordingly, and the three prisoners, who offered no resistance, mounted their horses and left Quito with their guards. By the deathlike silence, which followed the scene, by the indignation depicted on every face, and the tears which fell from all eyes, Urbina realized how much he was feared, but also how much he was detested. The hearts of all the people followed the great exile and simply waited for his return as their liberator.

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Rev. Fr. Augustine Berthe, C.Ss.R., Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador, (1821-1875), trans. Lady Herbert (London: Burns and Oates, 1889), 46-9.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 391

 

 

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