Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros

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Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros : biography

1758 – 1829

Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros de la Torre (1756–1829) was a Spanish naval officer born in Cartagena. He took part in the Battle of Cape St Vincent and the Battle of Trafalgar, and in the Spanish resistance against Napoleon’s invasion in 1808. He was later appointed Viceroy of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, replacing Santiago de Liniers. He disestablished the government Junta of Javier de Elío and quelled the Chuquisaca Revolution and the La Paz revolution. An open cabildo deposed him as viceroy during the May Revolution, but he attempted to be the president of the new government junta, thus retaining power. The popular unrest in Buenos Aires did not allow that, so he resigned. He was banished back to Spain shortly after that, and died in 1829.


Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros was born on January 6, 1756, which is the religious feast of Epiphany day, Hence he was named Baltasar after one of the Biblical Magi.National…, p. 130 Son of Francisco Hidalgo de Cisneros y Ceijas, lieutenant of the Spanish Royal Navy, and Manuela de la Torre y Galindo de Espinosa. He commenced his naval career in 1770 and went to the coasts of Africa and Peru and took part in the military campaign at Algiers. He was involved in the capture of an enemy ship in the English Channel, and was promoted to ship’s lieutenant. In 1795 he was promoted to commander of the San Pablo, part of the Spanish fleet under José de Córdoba y Ramos. Spain at that time was engaged in the Anglo-Spanish War. The fleet engaged a smaller British fleet, but was defeated in the Battle of Cape St Vincent.

In 1803 he was in charge of the arsenal of Cartegena, his city of birth. In 1805 he was the captain of the largest Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad during the battle of Trafalgar, a major British victory over the combined Spanish and French fleets. The ship, whilst engaged in battle, lost a mast which fell over Cisneros’ head. This caused concussion, which left him partially deaf for the rest of his life. After that Cisneros was nicknamed "El sordo" ().National…, p. 131 His ship, regarded as one of the most powerful of its time, was captured by HMS Neptune but sank the following day. Cisneros was taken prisoner and received medical care. Whilst under capture he was awarded battle honours and on returning to Spain he was promoted to Lieutenant General.

Work as viceroy

He arrived in Montevideo on June 1809. Manuel Belgrano proposed Liniers to resist his removal and to reject the appointment of Cisneros, on the grounds that Liniers had been confirmed as Viceroy by the authority of a Spanish king, while Cisneros would lack such legitimacy.Belgrano, p. 65 Nevertheless, Liniers accepted to give up his government to Cisneros without resistance. Noticing that Liniers was not the rebel governor that the Junta thought, he authorized him to stay in the Viceroyalty. Javier de Elío accepted as well the authority of the new Viceroy and dissolved the Junta of Montevideo, becoming once again the Governor of the city.

Cisneros tried to take a conciliating policy with the many conflicting political groups. He kept the criollo militias, and granted their commanders to achieve veteran status, which so far was only allowed to peninsular military. He rearmed back the Spanish militias that were disbanded after the coup against Liniers. He also pardoned the responsibles;Pigna, p. 224

Álzaga was not freed, but his sentence was changed to house arrest. However, the attempts to please the criollos found resistance from the Junta, which did not approve the request to promote Cornelio Saavedra to colonel rank. 

He tried to stay in good relations with the British and the landowners by removing the laws that forbid free trade, but retailers forced Cisneros to restore such laws. Mariano Moreno, a criollo lawyer, wrote a document to request Cisneros the reopening of free trade, entitled "The Representation of the Landowners". It is considered the most comprehensive economic report of the time.Luna, …Mariano Moreno, p. 66