Contributed by Hektor R. Fuster

British interest in South America was not as casual as many have assumed.

After the loss of the North American colonies, the English decided to expand into the Spanish Colonies of South America. In 1795, a Scott by the name of Nicholas Vansittart wrote a white paper clearly outlining a way to take South America away from Spain. The British Government initially approved the Vansittart plan but later canceled it, in 1797. A Scottish Major General, Sir Thomas Maitland, a friend of Nicholas Vasinttart, revised the Vansittart plan in the early 1800s. The British Government approved this plan and it subsequently changed its name to the Maitland plan.

Among the more salient points of the Maitland Plan were the following: Two English expeditionary forces, one to land in Venezuela and which was to march south towards Lima, and the other to land in Buenos Aires. After capturing Buenos Aires, this second force together with local recruited soldiers, was to scale the Andes with 7,000 men, liberate Chile, and then conduct an amphibious assault on Lima.

The Maitland plan was put into effect during the Napoleonic War in 1806. England used the fact that Spain was now technically an ally of France as the execuse to start the war. England sent an expeditionary force of 1,600 men to invade Buenos Aires, under General William Carr Beresford; this attempt failed. A year later, an invasion army of 11,000 men arrived in Buenos Aires under the orders of General John Whitelocke. At the same time, a second fleet with 4.000 men captured Montivedeo and used the city as a staging post and communications centre. The fighting in Buenos Aires was to be one of the most heroic pages in all of Latin American history. The people of Buenos Aires single-handedly defeated this huge invasion force in hand-to-hand and street-by-street fighting.

England was surprised by the determination of these pesky colonials. They were forced to change their tactics but not their overall plan. The new tactic was to recruit young army officers, born in South America, to lead an insurrection against Spain and turn the new countries into becoming loyal to the British Crown. The English recruited Francisco Miranda, a Freemason and a Venezuelan who had founded La Gran Reunion Americana, a Masonic Lodge based in London. Miranda had connections all around the world. He acted during the American Revolution and was very well acquainted with fellow Masons: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many of the American founding fathers. He also had connections throughout England and France.

Members of the La Gran Reunion Americana included people like Bernardo O'Higgins, Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, Carlos Maria Alvear, Tomas Guido, and many other South American historical figures. Mariano Moreno, perhaps the guiding light behind the 25th of May revolution, was on his way to London to join them when he died on the high seas.

San Martin, who was born in the now Province of Corrientes, was one of Spains most brilliant and highly decorated young officers. He had become a full Colonel by the age of 30. He was spotted and recruited by James Duff, Count of Fife. When in London, San Martin stayed in the Duff House before departing to Buenos Aires. He arrived in Buenos Aires aboard the English vessel, George Canning, in March 1812 (The Canning House, by the way, is the London institute dedicated to establishing better relations between England and Latin America). The rest of the story is very well known by students of South American history. San Martin scaled the Andes and liberated Chile together with Bernardo OHiggins. He later captured Lima, after an amphibious landing. Bolivar and his first Lieutenant General Sucre completed the liberation of South America after marching south, having started in Venezuela. In other words, the Maitland Plan was executed to the letter.

After these escapades, San Martin moved to the town of Bolougne Sur Mer, very close to the Belgian border in France. The English offered General San Martin, the father of Argentina, the command of the Belgian army who were then embroiled in fighting to gain their independence from Holland. The reason he moved to this new town from his previous home in Grad Bourg, was because he was considering the English offer. He later changed his mind and turned the offer down. He later died, in self-imposed exile, in France.

We can come to the conclusion that Argentina and all of South America was indeed a British creation. For the rest of the Nineteenth Century there was no need for the British to further their influence in this part of the world. They had already been as successful as they had needed to be. To help reinforce this point is the fact that subsequently a great many British and Imperial subjects took the opportunity of relocating and settling in Argentina and South America. Even today, Argentina has a population of over 500,000 British subjects, the largest such population outside of the British Commonwealth Countries or the United States. Argentina and England remained the best of friends and closest of allies until after WWII. The ties came to an almost complete halt after England joined the Common Market.

Unfortunately, there are almost two generations of British and Argentine citizens who have forgotten, have not studied, or are not aware of how close these two countries once were.

map of South America
South America

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by Stephen Luscombe