by Elmer E. Rogers 33 degree


The minds of liberty-conscious souls of North and South America turned to the beautiful little city, Bolivar, Missouri, on July 5, 1948. There the imposing 7-foot bronze figure of Simon Bolivar, South America's Liberator and a Mason, standing on a marble base 11 feet high, the gift of Venezuela, was unveiled. There the life, the character and achievements of the George Washington of six countries of South America were fittingly commemorated in the speeches of President Harry S. Truman, President Romulo Gall egos of Venezuela, and the Governor of Missouri, Philip M. Donnelly, and by the presence of Sr. Gonzalo Carnevali, Venezuelan Ambassador, other notables and thousands of plain American citizens. "Bolivar's life presents one of history's most colorful personal canvases of adventure and tragedy, glory and defeat," said Wallace Thompson.

We here present but a brief sketch of his life's picture, and express the hope that our readers may not only seek to learn of the 200 battles he fought as he moved his troops over an untracked wilderness under an equatorial sun, and in the severe weather atop the Andes, of the nations he freed from the yoke of Spanish oppression, but that they will study his life's work and his writings to learn of his motives, his ideals of liberty in all its phases, his achievements, and his concepts of statecraft. For th e six republics - Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia - and the foundation laid for Pan American relations for the Western Hemisphere are monuments to his military skill and statesman-like vision.

Born to the nobility and to wealth in Caracas, July 24, 1783, Simon Bolivar forsook the luxurious life of material things and the social position for the nobility of the spirit, and he died in abject poverty.

The Liberator's father was Juan Vincente Bolivar y Ponte, and his mother was Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco. Both of his parents were of noble families and both died before he was fifteen years of age.

After acquiring a liberal education at home, largely from private tutors, Simon was sent to Europe at the age of seventeen under the guidance of his favorite tutor, Simon Rodriguez, a noted philosopher who was received among the scholars of Europe as such and who was suspected of "radical leanings" as he was in sympathy with the teachings of the great French philosophers of the 18th century which were held in abhorrence by the overly nice people of Spain, France, Italy and the ruling class of his native lan d - the exploiting class.

With an income of $20,000 a year - a large income for that period - and the husband, at the age of eighteen, of a rich wornan who had attained her sixteenth year, social attentions were showered on young Bolivar by the courts of Europe, the great and the near great, much of which he regarded with superciliousness. His wife died of yellow fever in less than a year after her marriage, and Bolivar a few years later returned to Europe to study conditions there. While in Madrid, he was presented to His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen, with a condescension which his keen sense of such relations perceived as empty social etiquette extended to a rich, young Colonia of noble blood. As was due one of his social standing, Bolivar was received in audience by the Pope. But one age-old custom at the Holy See, always exp ected of visitors at such audiences, is that of kissing the Pope's foot. This Bolivar refused to do, "looking the other way." Asked by the Spanish Ambassador, who had taken him to the Vatican, why he had not conformed to the custom, he curtly replied that his respect for the high office of the Pontiff should not be measured by an act of servility.

Like Thomas Jefferson, who had visited Europe, Bolivar saw much and reflected much on the causes of the despair, squalor and degradation of the masses in Rome and the larger cities of France, Italy and Spain, where Romanism so largely prevailed. Having observed the same conditions in his own country, he, a few mornings after his audience with the Pope, climbed to the top of Mount Aventin with his faithful Rodriguez. There, while meditating amidst the ruins caused by the defiance of the power of aristocracy by the people, Bolivar suddenly saw a great light and, throwing his hands heavenward, is said to have taken a vow to devote his life to freeing his own land from the oppressive power of Spain. Bolivar had spent much time in Paris and there became a Mason in the York Rite and received the Scottish Rite Degrees as far as the 30th Degree.

Returning to Venezuela by the way of the United States of America, where he visited many celebrities in the eastern cities, he returned to Caracas at the end of 1809, at the age of twenty-six. He soon offered his services to the junta of which he was a member and which, on April 19, 1810, had revolted against the crown of Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain, in favor of Ferdinand VII, son of Charles IV, who had been deposed by the French Government, and they forced the Viceroy to abdicate. Thus Venezuela was th e first Colony of Spain to declare its independence, an event which took place July 5, 1811.

The spirit of revolt having been participated in early by General Miranda, a Mason, who had served under George Washington in the War for Independence, Bolivar was sent by the junta to England to call him back from exile to the colors of the Revolutionaries. He returned and headed the revolutionary forces with Bolivar as one of his generals. Defeated by the Spanish forces, Bolivar became a refugee on the Island of Curacao. But, by September, 1812, he was in Cartagena, where he scored a victory against the S panish in New Granada (now Colombia). Then, at the head of some 500 men, he marched over the Andes to Venezuela and, joined by many recruits en route there, he defeated a large Spanish force and, though he entered Caracas triumphantly on August 4, 1813, he was defeated a year later. Returning to New Granada, he won a victory at Bogota. But, failing at Santa Marta, he resigned his commission and went to Jamaica and then to Haiti. From there, with the aid of President Peton, he organized a small force and sailed for Venezuela in March, 1816, where for three years his fortunes of war varied between defeat and victory. Offering to resign at the end of three years, he was prevailed upon to continue the war. This was in 1819. Having reorganized the army, Bolivar for the third time crossed the Cordilleras of the Andes to New Granada. There he joined the forces of General Santander, a Mason and a Republican leader, and, in August, won the pivotal battle of Boyaca. Four months later Venezuela united with New Granada and formed the new Republic of Colombia and, following the victory at Bambona, Ecuador was included as a part of the new republic. With the victory over the Spaniards at Carabobo, June 25, 1821, Spain lost control of this area.

The Spanish power was not yet cleared from that vast region of upper and lower Peru (now Peru and Bolivia) which extended from the boundaries of Chile and Argentina to Ecuador. General Jose de San Martin, a Mason, and General Bernardo O'Higgins, also a Mason, had freed Argentina and Chile of the Spanish power, and the former, now "Protector" of Peru, arrived at Guayaquil on July 26, - 1822, where he conferred with Bolivar. What procedures were decided upon, with respect to Peru, at that conference between t hese two great Spanish Liberators, both of whom were Masons, will probably never be known. San Martin resigned his "Protectorship" of Peru and returned to Argentina. At any rate Bolivar took over and, arriving at Callao, September 1, 1823, he was invested with the title of "Liberator" of Peru. He trained some 4,000 Peruvians and, with the army that had come to Peru with him, he had some 9,000 men. With these he engaged an equal number of Spaniards at Junin in a bloody cavalry battle with sabers, where not a shot was fired, and won a victory which, with the one at Ayacucho on December 9, 1824, under General Antonio Jose de Sucre, forever ended the Colonial power of Spain in the New World.

Having planned these battles with General Sucre, a Mason, Bolivar went to Lima to organize a civic government and to call a constitutional convention. When, on February 8, 1825, he had effected the new government, he resigned the supreme power in Colombia and Peru. Declining a gift of 1,000,000 pesos (about $200,000) from Peru and having attended to some civic matters in upper Peru (Bolivia), Bolivar left General Sucre in charge and headed for Bogota, Colombia, to quiet civil strife which had arisen between his former comrades. Arriving there in November, 1826, he soon went on to Venezuela, calling a constitutional convention en route to meet at Valencia, January, 15, 1827. Though he had not been able to adjust the disaffection, he entered Caracas in triumph. Finally, after fourteen years in supreme command, Bolivar's resignation was accepted by the Congress at his request, in the face of the intrigue and abuse of his enemies who were hungry for power. Returning to Bogota in September, 1828, he called a gener al convention but, despite his appeals, most of his old friends withdrew, leaving no quorum. In September, he escaped assassination in Bogota. Trouble broke out in Peru, which, with the help of Sucre, was quieted in 1829. Trouble resumed in Venezuela and Colombia and, though he was recovering from a critical illness at Guayaquil, he returned to Bogota. His convention having failed of organization, the disaffection between his old followers not having been settled, and being in ill health, he finally again r esigned the supreme power, April 27, 1830, which he had taken temporarily, and left Bogota, feted and honored as he went frorn place to place on his way to Cartagena. There he learned of the murder of his most trusted and efficient General Sucre, on June 4th, the effect of which, together with his advanced state of tuberculosis, caused his death on December 17, 1830, at the age of forty-seven, at a country place a few miles from Santa Marta, Colombia, where he issued his last proclamation.

Intrepid, hopeful, farsighted, indomitable, and profound in his thinking for the welfare of mankind, Bolivar proclaimed, to those who had the vision to see, the following Masonic principles as his life ebbed to the shores beyond:

"All of you must work for the inestimable good of the Union; the people obeying the government in order to avoid anarchy; the ministers praying to heaven for guidance; and the military using its sword in defense of social guaranties. . . . If my death contributes to the end of partisanship and the consolidation of the Union, I shall be lowered in peace into my grave."