The politics of the Argentine constitutional founding

CastaƱeira, Mariano , Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs , University of Virginia
Reisky de Dubnic, Vladimir, Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
Marks, Gary W., University of Virginia

The Spanish King was captured by Napoleon in 1808 when the institutional foundations of Spain had been weakened by the influence of the enlightenment and liberal-constitutionalism. This situation allowed these ideas to surface and clash in their quest for political power. The Spanish American Provinces making use of Suarez' and other well established theories of government, "resumed" their rights to self government. This process led to independence.

Three very distinct political currents sought to capture the destinies of the new American Republics. First there was the traditional Spanish group headed by Saavedra, then came the Revolutionary group inspired in Rousseau and the Enlightenment who followed Moreno, and lastly there was the Reformist liberal-constitutionalist group who found its inspiration in the British Political System.

The ascendence of the reformist and revolutionary currents eclipsed Scholasticism, Spanish institutional traditions and the Church, but clashed with the popular customs that were associated with the very elements they sought to change. T

he theological and transcendental origins of civil society were attacked by the secular approach of the revolutionary and reformist ideas. The ethical man, ultimately bound by divine law, was challenged by a new man bound by positive law and a more secular understanding of the nature of civil society. Economic progress and political expediency slowly supplanted the old spirit of the Spanish Conquest.

British international expansion aided Spanish American independence and reinforced the reformist trend. Consequently, the attack on Spanish political tradition resulted in painful civil wars. Unitarists and Federalists, representing reform and tradition respectively, clashed as an example of two systems engaged in a worldwide struggle.

The Spanish tradition faded as the Federalist camp was finally "reformed" and brought to the Constitutional Convention where a synthesis of both traditions was experimented. The new liberal-constitutional system of 1853 found its inspiration in British and other foreign political systems and ideas, attempting to establish a new code of ethics so divorced from Spanish traditions that rendered the new political arrangement ineffective. The constitution of 1853 did not bring about the promised stability and progress but rather perpetuated the clash between reform and tradition.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Constitutional history -- Argentina, Argentina -- Politics and government -- 1817-1860
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