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Francisco de Paula Santander (1792-1840) was a Colombian lawyer, General and politician. He was an important figure in the Independence wars with Spain, rising to the rank of General while fighting for Simón Bolívar. Later, he became president of New Granada, and is today remembered for his long and bitter disputes with Bolívar over the governance ofnorthern South America once the Spanish had been driven off.
Santander came from an upper-class Creole family: they got their money from lucrative cacao, sugarcane and coffee plantations. He was a law student in 1810 when the independence movement in South America began taking shape. He was a good student, and had earned a scholarship when his studies were interrupted by the wars ofindependence. The young and idealistic Santander eagerly joined the fight against the Spanish and by 1812 he had risen in rank to Captain.
In 1813, Bolívar promoted him to Major and entrusted him with the defense of the Cúcuta Valley. Defeated by royalist forces, Santander and his men fled to Venezuela to rejoin the rebel offensive. He was promoted to Colonel in 1816 and servedon Bolívar’s staff in the Casanare region: Bolívar promoted him once more, this time to General. He crossed the Andes with Bolivar and played a key role in the decisive Battle of Boyacá which liberated Colombia from the Spanish, and Bolívar rewarded him with a promotion to Division General and, more importantly, supported him for Vice President of Gran Colombia.
De Facto President:
In 1821,Bolívar and Santander were President and Vice-President respectively of the new nation of Gran Colombia. Bolívar, anxious to remove Spanish influence from the rest of South America, took thousands of young soldiers with him and fought battles from Peru to Venezuela, leaving Santander behind in Bogotá. For all intents and purposes, Santander was in charge, and he set about ruling the nation inBolívar’s absence. He encouraged free trade and sent missions abroad, resulting in the recognition of Gran Colombia by the United States (1822) and Great Britain (1825).
Santander and Gran Colombia:
Although he was Vice President of Gran Colombia, Santander found the large republic unwieldy and his first loyalty was always to New Granada (essentially Colombia). He believed that Ecuador and Venezuela wouldeventually split off from Gran Colombia, and he was correct. He soon found himself increasingly at odds with Bolívar, who wanted to unify most or all of South America and seemed inclined to use Colombian troops and funds to do so.
Conflict with Bolívar:
Although they had once been close friends and brothers in arms, Santander and Bolívar increasingly disagreed with one another. Santander wasvery keen on laws: “Arms have given us independence, but laws will give us freedom,” he once said. Bolívar was much more of an autocrat who believed that a firm hand was all that was needed to govern an unruly nation. Often, Santander would work hard on legislation and policy while Bolívar was off campaigning, only to have the President return to Bogotá and repeal and undo everything he had...