HomeSpecialBolívar and the Moral Power | Luis Britto Garcia

Bolívar and the Moral Power | Luis Britto Garcia

Ideas and education

There is no new politics without new education. Independence results from an idea, the emancipatory movement will only triumph and take hold by transforming old ways of thinking. Every time the imperious travails of the War of Independence allow it, Bolívar takes care to consolidate a Republican Education. To do this, it sometimes supports projects of innovative educators, such as Joseph Lancaster or Simón Rodríguez; In a decree of June 21, 1820, it attributes to the Republic the competence to direct all educational, secular or religious establishments; reform in 1827 the Regulations of the University of Caracas to modernize the pensum and facilitate access to studies. It even arrives, in the Angostura speech of 1817, to found in Education one of the Powers of the State, the Moral Power, in its basic concept of the New Republic.

A hereditary Senate

Curiously, Education, which in some way would promote "fictitious equality", is invoked as an argument that would legitimize the establishment of a hereditary Senate, whose members would be elected the first time, and that "as part of the people, participate in their interests, of his feelings and of his spirit ", for which" it should not be presumed that a hereditary Senate detaches itself from popular interests, nor forgets its legislative interests. " Bolívar invokes in payment of this controversial institution, that they would be subjected to a demanding education for their functions: “They would learn the arts, sciences and letters, which adorn the spirit of a public man; from their childhood they would know to what career Providence destined them, and from a very tender age they would raise their souls to the dignity that awaits them ”. In short, "they would come from the bosom of an enlightened education" (Bolívar 2007, 84).

Morale and lights       

The education of the people must be the fundamental task of this legislative body: “Popular education must be the first-born care of the paternal love of Congress. Morals and lights are the poles of a republic; morals and lights are our first needs ”.

Moral police

But other dispositions constitute to the Camera of the Morals in police of the ideas. According to article 5, “moral and political works, newspapers and any other writings are subject to censorship, which will not be until after their publication. Politics does not concern him except in its relations with morality. His judgment will fall on the appreciation or contempt that the works deserve, and will extend to declaring whether the author is a good citizen, worthy of morality or enemy of it, and as such, worthy or unworthy of belonging to a virtuous Republic ”. This disturbing competence is expanded in article 6, according to which  "Its jurisdiction embraces not only what is written about morality or concerning it, but also what is spoken, recited or sung in public, always to censor it and punish it with moral penalties, never to prevent it "(Bolívar 2009, 152) . Subsequent censorship does not prevent the disclosure of the contents but, according to article 10, it can afflict its authors with a disqualification from public functions.

Law and morals

Thus the enlightened enthusiasm, which links education and republican virtue, confusingly dissolves the boundaries between ethics and positive law. A legal norm is dictated by the legitimate sovereign authority to impose or punish certain conducts under the threat of a coercive sanction applied by the organs of public power. An ethical or moral norm is accepted internally by the individual and reproves certain behaviors, feelings or ideas of the latter under the threat of an internal sanction or disapproval on the part of the same subject. The confusion between the two orders has always led to sensitive excesses. The Areopagus would monitor, not only violations of positive laws, but only objectionable behavior on the moral plane, such as ingratitude, selfishness, leisure, negligence, weak patriotism, everything that "violates public respect" and in general customs. But the Moral Chamber would act as a qualifying or disqualifying body for the exercise of public functions.

Two centuries later

Two centuries away, some of the proposals for the Constitution of Angostura can be contrasted with reality. The presidency for life was discarded, but royal policy later imposed in practice despots for life not subject to constitutions or laws. Likewise, the hereditary senate was rejected, but many heroes constituted a factual power that would later be called the Oligarchic Republic, whose representatives and descendants were perpetuated in the use of economic and political power. The 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela establishes the Moral Power as a State Power, but as an institution that monitors objective unlawful conduct and not moral subjectivities.

Moral Power lives

Let us not fool ourselves by taking the Liberator's proposal as a foolish utopia. Moral Power exists, but not only as a recent branch of constituted power, but as an informal force of constituent power, of social opinion that legitimizes or delegitimizes. It assists ethical authorities as an invincible force, and disqualifies those who will fall victims of their own corruption and discredit, unassisted from the popular support that is the life of democracy. Nor is it an invulnerable power. You may be the victim of misrepresentations, deception, false media, deliberate slander. Its vitality is demonstrated by the fact that it can decay and regenerate, but never completely die out. Education and example are the ways to vitalize it. The Liberator's proposal is a desperate attempt to unite Ethics and Politics, disciplines not always coincident and declared divorced since the time of Machiavelli. Revolutionary education and praxis may be the only means of concerting them.