Fearing that I may be regarded as an obstacle to establishing the Republic on the true base of its happiness, I personally have cast myself down from the supreme position of leadership to which your generosity had elevated me. — Bolivar (speech Jan. 20, 1830)
Simón José Antonio de la Santísma Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios was born into a very wealthy Creole family on July 24th, 1783. He would later devote all the riches in his family line, consisting of silver, gold, and copper mines, to the cause of the revolution. His parents died before he was 9 years old, and he was moved to Spain as a young lad to be educated by the best minds and introduced to the ideas of the Enlightenment. While in Europe, he witnessed the coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame, which impressed him greatly (understandably so!).
In 1807, Bolivar returned to his homeland Venezuela and threw himself into the fight for independence against Spain. He gathered troops and launched the Kampala Admirable (Admirable Campaign) and thus became El Liberator (the Liberator) in establishing the Venezuelan Second Republic. However, internal violence soon erupted and he fled to Jamaica and Haiti in order to procure foreign support. His famous “Letter from Jamaica” was written during that period, which describes his hope for a republic modeled from his admiration for both the American and French revolutions. In 1828, Bolivar returned to Venezuela and declared himself temporary dictator, convinced that would bring about the leadership and stability needed to create the republic. This was not a popular move though, and the same year he survived an assassination attempt with help from his mistress and fellow revolutionary Manuela Sáenz. He resigned, planning to live out his exile in Europe, and gave this last speech:
Fellow Countrymen! Hear my final plea as I end my political career; in the name of Colombia I ask you, beg you, to remain united, lest you become the assassins of the country and your own executioners.
Fate would have it that Bolivar would actually never leave South America; he died just a few months later of tuberculosis in Colombia.
The Gryphon Editions consultation has placed Simon Bolivar on our list of the 100 Most Influential People because he spearheaded the establishment of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and Colombia as independent nation states. He carried the torch of republican revolution that transformed North America and Europe to his homeland in South America, and because of this, the course of history was truly transformed. The story of this great man will be immortalized once again in our leather-bound biography, part of our 100 Most Influential People Library.