Treaty of Montevideo (1828)

In the Treaty of Montevideo, signed on 27 August 1828, after British mediation, Brazil and Argentina recognized the independence of Uruguay.

Called the Preliminary Peace Convention as a result of the meetings held by representatives from the Empire of Brazil and the United Provinces of Río de la Plata — the predecessor state for Argentina — between 11 and 27 August 1828 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This convention, or treaty, accorded independence to Uruguay in respect to Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay's independence would be definitively sealed on 4 October of the same year when, in Montevideo, the signing nations ratified the treaty.


By 1828 the Cisplatine War had been fought to a stalemate with Argentina’s fleet destroyed, its land forces unable to capture any major cities,[1] and Brazil suffering a temporary lack of manpower for a full-scale land offensive against Argentine forces. The severe economic consequences imposed by the Brazilian blockade of Buenos Aires[2] allied with increasing public pressure in Brazil to end the war and motivated interest for a peaceful solution.

In this context, on 20 February, 1828 Brazil and Argentina decided to begin peace talks with mediation by Great Britain, who also had an interest in a peaceful resolution of the war due to the severe trade impediments the blockade of Buenos Aires had brought to the Plata region.

Lord John Ponsonby was chosen as mediator for the talks and was immediately faced with Argentina’s unwillingness to allow Brazil to retain its sovereignty over Uruguay and by Brazil’s demands to keep its sovereignty over the Missões Orientales, to free navigation in the Plata River and refusal to allow Argentina to annex any area of the Cisplatine Province.

With these considerations in mind, Posonby made a proposal for an independent Uruguay to placate both Brazil and Argentina in order to reestablish peace on La Plata, and conceded to the Brazilian demands regarding its sovereignty over the Missões Orientales and the right to freely navigate in the Plata River.

Although faced with initial Argentine opposition, the diplomat managed to convince Argentina that it was no longer viable to spend money on a war for the Eastern Province and managed to strike a deal on August 27, 1828.

British Interests

The British Empire's true interests are made clear in a letter that Lord Ponsonby sent to London:

The interests and the security of British commerce will be greatly promoted in a state in which the governors cultivate a friendship with England. The Eastern Strip contains the key to La Plata and to South America; we must perpetuate a geographical division of states that benefits England. For a long time the easterners will not have a port and will not have the opportunity to impede English trade.

From that scopus, the British believed that Uruguayan independence would consolidate English commerce and contain both Brazil and Argentina.

Form of Declaration of Independence

The first and second articles of the treaty declare the independence of the Eastern Province from the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves or its immediate successor, the Empire of Brazil, and from the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata.

Character of Independence: Definitive or Temporary

The tenth article of the convention established that if five years after the approval of the constitution the interior tranquility and security was perturbed by a civil war, they (the signers) would give the legal government the necessary assistance to maintain and sustain itself. After that time all protection would cease and the province would be considered to be in a state of perfect and absolute independence. The right to intervene in assistance of the "legal government" was established by the contracting parties without need of express request on the part of the new state.

Control of the Constitution

The seventh article establishes that the Representatives will be occupied with forming the political constitution of the province and before being judged (approved), the constitution would be examined by commissioners of the contracting governments for the sole purpose of seeing if it contained any articles in opposition to the security of their respective states.

Free Navigation

One additional article guaranteed to the two nations (Argentina and Brazil) free navigation of the Río de la Plata and of all others that feed into it, for the period of fifteen years.

Other Grave Defects

The defects contained in the Preliminary Peace Convention would compromise the future of the new state: it did not fix the territorial limits and its submitted the constitution to the contracting governments' examination.

But some of the more dramatic consequences of this treaty were immediately suffered by Argentina. In effect, the Preliminary Peace Convention was signed by Manuel José García, an ambassador sent by Bernardino Rivadavia to Río de Janeiro at the beginning of 1828, in which moment the situation was as follows: The Brazilian troops had been defeated by the Argentines (the eastern troops voluntarily integrated with the First National Argentine Army) in almost every encounter. As a result, the entire Eastern Strip (Banda Oriental) and the Eastern Missions (Misiones Orientales) were liberated. However, British pressure on Argentina was intense (warships from the United Kingdom were capturing as "pirates" Argentine ships) and the Argentine treasury seemed exhausted. In this way, unexpectedly for the Argentine combatants —and for the entire Argentine nation— Manuel José García signed a paradoxical treaty: Argentina accepted Brazilian occupation of the Eastern Province (including Martín García Island) and the Eastern Missions. Moreover, Argentina compromised to pay indemnities to Brazil. The knowledge of such a capitulation made the Argentine people rebel and consequently Bernardino Rivadavia abandoned the government, and the National government was dissolved. Buenos Aires Province Governor Manuel Dorrego then resumed negotiations: the intent was to annul the convention with Brazil in its entirety, but Ponsonby's pressure was absolute —as noted— and independence was declared on behalf of the East Province (the rest remaining in Brazil's power) with the name Eastern State of Uruguay.

The Argentine military chiefs forcibly divided between themselves. Those born in the Eastern Strip came to be the first Uruguayan military chiefs, who rapidly entered into bloody conflict: Juan Antonio Lavalleja against Fructuoso Rivera, or Manuel Oribe against F. Rivera. A great many of the military chiefs who remained Argentine and who had directly fought the Brazilians, quickly and erroneously considered that the responsibility for the ignominious surrender lay with Manuel Dorrego. Consequently, in 1829 Juan Lavalle, returned to Buenos Aires with the troops that had participated in the war, overthrew and executed Dorrego in Navarro, Buenos Aires Province. This act signified the resumption of a bloody fratricidal war that involved all of Argentina (Unitarians against Federalists) as well as the Uruguayan Civil War (Guerra Grande) in the new state of Uruguay, involving Colorados against Blancos.


Uruguayan historians have two main visions about the treaty and the birth of Uruguay as an independent nation. The first group considers that an idea of Uruguayan nationhood existed before the treaty, and cites the rivalry of Montevideo with Buenos Aires, the weak links that united the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, and the strong rejection of José Gervasio Artigas of the centralism of Buenos Aires. This vision is held by Francisco Bauzá, Juan Zorrilla de San Martín, Pablo Blanco Acevedo, Mario Falcao Espalter and Juan Pivel Devoto. The second group considers instead that the Uruguayans still wanted to be part of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, pointing that Artigas was against centralism but never held actual separatist ideas. They attribute the Uruguayan independence to foreign factors, mainly the British influence. This vision is held by Eduardo Acevedo Vásquez, Ariosto González, Eugenio Petit Muñoz, Washington Reyes Abadie, Alberto Methol Ferré and Oscar Bruschera.[3]

See also


  1. SCHEINA, Robert L. Latin Amercica's Wars: the age of the caudillo, 1791-1899, Brassey's, 2003.
  3. Nahum, p. 29


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