Two centuries after the death of José Moldes, the troublemaking colonel

Two centuries after the death of José Moldes, the troublemaking colonel

The colonel’s conflicts Jose Moldes They were the obligatory comment in the first years of the national government, for his complaints, his fights, his disagreements and, also, for his generous donations to the cause of independence since he belonged to a rich and traditional family from Salta.

His father, Juan Antonio de Moldes y Gonzálezgave his children an excellent education that, in the case of José, not only included access to the Colegio de Monserrat but also traveling to Spain in the company of his friend. Francisco de Gurruchaga, to complete your training. He planned to study law, but changed his mind and, together with Gurruchaga, entered the exclusive King’s Guard Corps. Although his role was to take care of the monarch, he soon began to conspire against him, along with other notable Americans who aspired to make the colonies independent from the metropolis. This is how Pueyrredón, Alvear, Zapiola, Lezica and Moldes himself formed a secret association to free America from the Spanish yoke. And who better than Francisco Miranda, the Venezuelan patriot and adventurer, to inspire this conspiracy? Miranda was a moral support and example to follow for Moldes who did not always lead him on the right path.

A picturesque exchange of honor with a French officer drew the attention of the Spanish monarch to the young Indian and his impetuous actions. Modes was promoted to lieutenant and became the obligatory comment of the Madrid scene… but this same prestige worked against him when the French took Madrid in 1808 and Murat himself was in charge of imprisoning him. The bars and bars were not enough to hold Moldes, who with the help of a friend escaped from prison and headed to Cádiz, a city that had not yet fallen into the clutches of the invaders. From there he traveled to London where he continued with plans to liberate America, conspiring with other Indians in the so-called Lodge of the Rational Knights of Cádiz, a group that prefigured the well-known Laurato Lodge and that Moldes came to preside.


His activity in England included negotiations with Minister Canning and even the need to travel to Sweden to look for troops to help the South American colonies emancipate themselves. As this was nothing more than a fantasy, Moldes decided to return to Buenos Aires where he arrived at the beginning of 1809. As soon as he arrived he contacted other revolutionaries who invited him to travel to the interior to listen to libertarian intentions. While in Córdoba he learned about the May Revolution and a few days later he was in Buenos Aires to put himself at the service of the First Junta. His first assigned task was the inspection of the Royal Treasury of Mendoza, where he separated officials loyal to the crown.

As his military experience was indispensable in those difficult times, he moved to the Banda Oriental where Artigas and Rondeau were trying to lay siege to Montevideo. The First Triumvirate, thanks to the management of Pueyrredón, who had met Moldes in Spain, recognized him as a colonel and attached him to the Northern Army “in consideration of his merit” to organize and impose discipline on the conflictive cadre of officers. who had become politicized to the point of losing the chain of command. In a few weeks, thanks to the harsh treatment, he fell out with the boisterous officers who called him “the tyrant Moldes.” The hostility reached such an extreme that Moldes was forced to resign and go to his home in Salta.

However, the difficult situation in the north forced him to reconsider his departure and appear before Manuel Belgrano with 125 men mounted and equipped with his own money. As an observer he attended the Battle of Tucumán where he had an altercation with Captain Juan Carreto, whom Moldes treated as a “thief.” They were about to fight a duel when Belgrano, who was following the vicissitudes of this battle, which at that moment he considered lost, was forced to separate them.

However, Belgrano recommended Moldes highly in the report of the battle. In reward for his services and the donation of money to continue the campaign, Belgrano appointed him army inspector… but, once again, Moldes encountered resistance from the officers (among them his antipathy towards Baron Holmberg stood out), being forced to resign.

In Buenos Aires he was appointed mayor of the police, a position in which he did not last long when he was elected deputy in the Assembly of the Year XIII. Destined, once again, to the Eastern Band, there he collided with Carlos María de Alvear, a member of the Cádiz Lodge. After several discussions with Alvear over the conduct of the campaign, he returned to Buenos Aires, a city where he opposed Director Posadas’ proposal to send deputies to the Spanish court. For this reason, Moldes was confined to Carmen de Patagones, where he quarreled with the military commander of the place, notifying the authorities of the irregularities observed.

Back in Buenos Aires, he was appointed by his province as a deputy for the Congress of Tucumán. While in that city, his candidacy for Supreme Director arose, creating so much resistance among those present that they favored the election of Martin de Pueyrredón unanimously. Despite the old friendship that had united them since their times in Spain, Moldes launched a serious accusation against the new Supreme Director: When in 1811 the Army of the North was hastily withdrawing from Potosí, a task entrusted to Pueyrredón, half of the enormous treasure that they had to transport to Buenos Aires to secure the funds that would supply the independence campaign was “lost.”

The Director was not far behind and using Antonio Valdeza Cuban who wrote for “El Censor,” denounced Moldes as a Spanish counterrevolutionary, a baseless slander.

However, Moldes, who did not end up making enemies, was also accused by Godoy Cruz, Cuyo’s representative in Congress, of violating the correspondence he maintained with San Martín. Tried for this crime, the deputies decided to disqualify Moldes as a representative of Salta.

Belgrano was also tired of the troublemaker Moldes, who accused the creator of our national emblem of wanting to “crown an Indian.” Fed up with intrigues and the lack of respect from Moldes, he shackled him and sent him to Chile where San Martín imprisoned him in the San José de Valparaíso castle, from where he escaped in March 1819.

In 1820 he returned to Buenos Aires and was granted permission to settle in Córdoba where his sisters lived.

Everyone thought that the colonel had finally relented… but that was not the case and by 1823 he was in Buenos Aires denouncing theft from the public treasury when, unexpectedly, he was found dead on April 18, 1824. Everyone thought it was poisoning, but No one investigated too much and it was soon buried. Exactly two hundred years ago, a passionate defender of the cause of American emancipation, a follower of Miranda’s belligerent spirit, came to his end.

Moldes was a man of grandiloquent manners but with such an unfriendly attitude that he quickly became intolerable to his comrades and fellow citizens. He was one of those conflicting and confrontational figures that grace the pages of our history, with an adventurous life, pompous attitudes and high-sounding accusations that made everyone uncomfortable.

To crown a life of disagreements, Moldes was buried in the Recoleta Cemetery, although his remains have been lost, as has his feat almost forgotten except for these outbursts that I have just evoked.

How do we judge our public men? By their intentions or their results? Because of their adhesions or because of the veracity of their claims? Because of his confrontational attitude or his political astuteness that leads him to make concessions and resignations? There is no single answer to these questions because history is constantly rewritten with the perspective given by the years and new events.

Source: Ambito

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