Don Simon Bolivar Don Benito Juarez Don Jose Marti Don Jose de San Martin Don Bernardo O'Higgins

Don Bernardo O'Higgins (1778-1842)

Bernardo O'Higgins

The leader of Chile's first independent government and a brilliant soldier, Don Bernardo O'Higgins led the Chilean patriots in their battle for independence. A reformer and an idealist, he was the first national leader in the Americas to abolish black slavery.

Don Bernardo O'Higgins was born on Aug. 20, 1778, in Chillan, Chile. His father was Spain's governor for Chile and viceroy for Peru. In 1790, O'Higgins went to Peru to study, staying until he was 16, when his father sent him to Europe. In Spain, Don Bernardo O'Higgins met Don Jose de San Martin, later the liberator of Argentina.

In 1802, he returned to Chile to manage property left him by his father. He joined the militia and rose to the rank of Colonel. When Chile rebelled against Spain's in 1810, he offered his services and eventually help drive the Spaniards out of Chile. When a new Spanish force invaded Chile, he was made commander of the revolutionary army but was defeated at the battle of Rancagua in 1814.

Don Bernardo O'Higgins, with the other Chilean patriots, fled to Argentina. In 1817, under Don Bernardo O'Higgins, these men came back to win Chacabuco and Maipo, the battles that secured Chilean independence. Chile's provisional government asked him to rule the country as supreme director. During his rule, which lasted for six years, he instituted a number of reforms and also helped Don Jose de San Martin build forces to fight Spain in Peru.

Don Bernardo O'Higgins' liberal policies did not suit the Chilean aristocrats. As a result, in 1823 he was forced to resign. Peru offered him asylum, and he went there to spend the rest of his life as an exile, way from his heart--the country he had worked so hard to free. Don Bernardo O'Higgins died several years later on Oct. 24, 1842.

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