Congress of Angostura: History, Meaning & Definition
Congress of Angostura: Constituent Assembly convened in 1819 by Simón Bolívar.
What was the Congress of Angostura?
The Congress of Angostura is known as the Constituent Assembly convened in 1819 by the Venezuelan liberator, Simón Bolívar. It met in the city of Santo Tomás de Angostura, in what is now Ciudad Bolívar, east of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Congress of Angostura was made up of 30 deputies who belonged to 7 of the former provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela. His objective was to unite Venezuela and New Granada into a single nation, called Colombia.
Characteristics of the Congress of Angostura
Bolívar summoned the Congress of Angostura in 1818, in order to update the Venezuelan Constitution of 1811 and give a political structure to the territories that he had liberated from Spanish domination.
The congressional sessions, which began on February 15, 1819 and ended on January 15, 1820, functioned under the direction of Bolívar and inspired by the republican ideals of Francisco de Miranda, precursor of the Independence of Venezuela.
The congress was unicameral, that is, it had a single chamber, made up of elected representatives from the provinces of Caracas, Barcelona, Barinas, Cumaná, Guayana and Margarita. Later, three deputies from the province of Casanare joined.
Its president was the scientist and journalist from New Granada Francisco Antonio Zea and its secretary, the lawyer and Venezuelan military Diego Bautista Urbaneja.
The congress met in the so-called Casa del Congreso de Angostura or Palacio de Angostura, a two-story colonial house, located in front of the main square, the current Plaza Bolívar.
At the opening of the sessions, Bolívar delivered a famous speech, known as the Angostura speech, in which he considered the congress as a source of legitimate authority, depositary of the sovereign will of the people and arbitrator of the destiny of the nation.
Regarding the new State, the liberator pointed out that the first needs would have to be morality and “lights” (education).
After delivering this speech, Bolívar took the oath of the deputies and placed his baton in the hands of Francisco Antonio Zea. In any case, the congress did not accept this gesture of resignation from Bolívar and unanimously returned him to supreme power.
Resolutions of the Congress of Angostura
The Congress of Angostura made the following decisions:
- It sanctioned, on December 17, 1819, the Fundamental Law of the Republic, which established the union of Venezuela and New Granada, which became the Republic of Colombia. The territory of the new State had to integrate the Viceroyalty of New Granada and the Captaincy General of Venezuela.
- He divided the new republic into three departments: Venezuela (capital, Caracas), Cundinamarca (capital, Bogotá) and Quito (capital, Quito).
- He granted Bolívar the title of “Liberator” and ordered that his portrait should be exhibited in the congress hall, accompanied by the motto: “Bolívar, Liberator of Colombia and Father of the Nation“.
- He proclaimed Bolívar as president of the Republic of Colombia and Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. However, as Bolívar left for New Granada to continue the wars for independence, the presidency was in charge of Santander and the vice-presidency fell to Francisco Antonio Zea.
- It established that the General Congress of Colombia would meet on January 1, 1821 in the city of Villa del Rosario de Cúcuta, to sanction the constitution of the new State.
Importance of the Angostura Congress
The Congress of Angostura created Gran Colombia, made up of the current republics of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama.
The creation of the new State, ratified by the Congress of Cúcuta in 1821, was the attempt to fulfill Bolívar’s great dream: to form a single State that would integrate all the Latin American nations of South America. In any case, this attempt failed, due to the refusal of other nations to join the new State and the dissolution of Gran Colombia, in 1831.
In present-day Venezuela, the Congress of Angostura is considered the second constituent congress to meet in the country. The first was the one that met in Caracas in 1811, where it sanctioned the constitution of the so-called first republic.
In addition, the speech delivered by Bolívar at the opening of the sessions of the Congress of Angostura laid the foundations for the political organization of the States of Greater Colombia, which were about the republican regime, division of powers, suppression of titles of nobility, abolition of slavery and promotion of popular education.