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Honorable Lives

Honorable Lives: Lawyers, Family, and Politics in Colombia, 1780–1850

Victor M. Uribe-Uran
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    Honorable Lives
    Book Description:

    The first work in English to discuss the social and political history of lawyers in a Latin American country,Honorable Livespresents a portrait of lawyers in late colonial and early modern Colombia. Uribe-Uran focuses on the social origins, education, and careers of those qualified to practice law before the highest colonial courts-Audiencias-and the republican courts after the 1820s. In the course of his study, Uribe-Uran answers many questions about this elite group of professionals. What were the social origins and families of lawyers? Their relation to the state? Their participation in political movements and parties, revolutions, civil wars, and other political processes? Their ideas, education, and training? By exploring the lives of lawyers, Uribe-Uran is also able to present a general history of Latin America while examining the key social and political changes and continuities from 1780 to 1850-particularly the elites and state managers.Honorable Livesfeatures three genealogical charts detailing bureaucratic networks established by families of lawyers in different historical periods. The text also contains an abundant series of statistical tables and charts, and concise biographical information on approximately 150 Latin American lawyers. This book will appeal to Latin Americanists, students of law, and anyone interested in the lives and histories of lawyers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7732-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Tables and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The typical elite families of colonial and early postcolonial Latin America were large clans whose members strengthened the family’s potential by entering diverse economic and political activities (the legal profession, the clergy, the bureaucracy, the military, landownership, mining, and eventually trade) and establishing marriage alliances with members of similar elite families. The characteristics and survival strategies of these groups have been demonstrated in a growing body of literature on gender roles and family life, and the economic, political, and social significance of elite trades and occupations. Much has been learned about the families and activities of landowners, miners, merchants, and...

  3. Chapter 1 State Service and Status-Honor
    (pp. 9-19)

    The centrality of the state and its symbiotic relation with groups of civil society has been well documented for both the colonial¹ and the postcolonial eras.² Apart from general syntheses, however, until recently the specific manner in which state-society relations evolved throughout the entire period spanning the late colonial era, independence, and the next two or three decades has been less clearly shown.³ We know little about the ways certain occupational groups and families, whose livelihood and prestige had depended upon service within the colonial state, continued to relate to both the state and other social groups during the crisis...

  4. Chapter 2 The Lawyers and the Late Colonial State
    (pp. 20-31)

    Along with the priesthood and the military, law became one of the main careers for New Granada’s colonial elites, as well as a steppingstone to more coveted bureaucratic positions. Although most lawyers belonged to the upper economic segments of society, not all had equal chances to climb the bureaucratic ladder, and many had to content themselves with middle-level positions, nonbureaucratic legal practice, or other pursuits. Nevertheless, local law graduates were eager to attempt the somewhat hazardous and uncertain bureaucratic path that traditionally symbolized a stable career, a family investment, and an opportunity to acquire steady income and wealth. More important,...

  5. Chapter 3 Family Networks and Colonial Stability
    (pp. 32-44)

    In their quest for both office and higher honor, some lawyers came to build true family-bureaucratic networks during the eighteenth century. These networks would be challenged by some of the administrative reforms of the late colonial period, the true magnitude and success of which, as well as their impact on subsequent political events in Spanish American societies, are still much debated among historians.¹ This chapter’s findings tend to corroborate the historiographical views that the reforms gave way to accommodation and continuity. It shows that the family-bureaucratic networks built by some of New Granada’s late colonial lawyers proved resistant to the...

  6. Chapter 4 Independence: A “Revolution from Above”
    (pp. 45-59)

    A full account of the causes of New Granada’s independence movement goes beyond the scope of this book. It is nonetheless appropriate to draw some inferences concerning the nature of lawyers’ decisive role in achieving independence. The presence of lawyers and other members of the upper segments of colonial society in the revolutionary juntas supremas, or cogovernmental committees, organized in New Granada during the 1810s, particularly the one in Bogotá, was a prime indicator that the early movement for independence was an elite revolution intended to expand creole control over the government to its maximum. Lawyers were traditionally unwilling to...

  7. Chapter 5 Kill All the Lawyers!
    (pp. 60-70)

    This chapter discusses the social and institutional mechanisms that allowed lawyers and other elite individuals to activate and command the early independence movement. Special reference will be made to the elite’s capacity for collective action through notable family networks, connections with intellectual peers, former classmates, or fellow bureaucrats throughout the territory, as well as the elite’s influence in the local city councils, orcabildos. However excluded they may have been from some upper-level offices, creoles had always been intimately involved with local government. Lawyers traditionally used these local councils as catapults for their bureaucratic careers. When a major political crisis...

  8. Chapter 6 Changing Generations and Regions in the 1820s
    (pp. 71-85)

    As one examines the social characteristics of New Granada’s postcolonial lawyers, who were among the key state officials administering and shaping the postcolonial state, the generational, regional, and social changes become apparent. Political patterns similar to ones observed in other Spanish American regions also emerge. A largely civilian political scene continued to prevail, even in the midst of frequent military conflicts over control of the state, and political participation on the part of the “middle sectors” appears to have been intense.¹ It also becomes clear that understanding the colonial background is essential to make sense of the true nature of...

  9. Chapter 7 Politics and the “Public Sphere of Civil Society,” 1820s–1830s
    (pp. 86-102)

    Starting in the 1820s, the provincial and upwardly mobile sectors of New Granada’s elite appeared more inclined to liberal ideas than were their aristocratic peers. However, the dominance of the military, and Venezuelan officers in particular, seems to have pushed some of New Granada’s aristocrats to join forces with provincial elites for an antimilitary crusade. This crusade also became a campaign against Gran Colombia, New Granada’s union with Venezuela and Ecuador. Thus, the reciprocal social differences between the heirs of New Granada’s colonial aristocracy and the provincials now competing with them for control of the high state bureaucracy were temporarily...

  10. Chapter 8 Legal Education: The Making of Bureaucrats and Citizens
    (pp. 103-117)

    Legal training and the law were significant ideological tools during the colonial and the postcolonial periods. The historical records leave no doubt that the education of lawyers was a key instrument for state-building, and that the conflicts over its reform reflected diverse visions of state and society on the part of socially antagonistic groups.

    The colonial state, the Catholic Church, and elite groups were all very concerned about the character and mechanics of legal education. The state and Church in particular competed for the regulation and control of the educational process. The Church had more effective control over legal education...

  11. Chapter 9 The War of the Supremos
    (pp. 118-137)

    New Granada’s first nationwide civil war of the postcolonial period was fought during the late 1830s and early 1840s. This war represented the most manifest and radical confrontation between the provincial and aristocratic elites. It further polarized these two groups and laid the foundations for the formal emergence a few years later of two political factions: the Liberal and the Conservative parties. These parties fought several more civil wars and continue to dominate Colombia to this day. This chapter discusses the origins, nature, and outcome of the war. It reiterates the interrelation, noticed by recent scholars, between civil wars and...

  12. Chapter 10 The “Liberal Revolution”: A Friendly Affair
    (pp. 138-154)

    This chapter summarizes the political developments following the War of theSupremosand examines the social transformations of the groups that formed the Conservative and Liberal parties. These parties, still dominant in Colombian politics today, were formally established in 1849. In the late 1840s and through the early 1850s they promoted a “liberal revolution,” the nature of which will be discussed here as well.

    The political power of the provincial(progresista)group identified in previous chapters dwindled as a result of theSupremoscivil war. After the war the government passed a constitutional amendment, drafted by Popayán aristocrat Rafael Mosquera,...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 155-160)

    This study disputes the long-held belief that postcolonial Latin America was exclusively dominated bycaudillos. It also questions the widespread idea that constitutions and elections were meaningless and that postcolonial social mobility was limited. More interesting, it addresses another cherished stereotype: that Latin American societies and cultures have always been state-oriented¹ and, as a result, Latin Americans have unalterably been avid seekers of state patronage and state jobs; or, in nineteenth-century words, they have beenempleomanos. Finally, it challenges two sets of ideas concerning postcolonial political conflicts and affiliations: first, that they followed economic patterns; and second, that they did...

  14. Appendix 1. Background and Trajectory of Some of New Granada’s Colonial Lawyers
    (pp. 163-173)
  15. Appendix 2. Lawyers Who Died Shortly Before or After Independence, or Disappeared from Records
    (pp. 174-175)
  16. Appendix 3. “Transitional” Generation: Lawyers Trained during 1805–1820
    (pp. 176-177)
  17. Appendix 4. Background and Trajectory of the “Aristocratic” Lawyers of the 1820s and 1830s
    (pp. 178-188)
  18. Appendix 5. Background and Trajectory of the “Provincial” Lawyers of the 1820s and Beyond
    (pp. 189-197)
  19. Appendix 6. Key Provincial Lawyers and Law Students Active in Opposition Politics During the Late 1830s, by Region
    (pp. 198-200)
  20. Abbreviations Used in Note Citations
    (pp. 201-202)