Bolívar in Despair, 1812

[Ponder Bolívar's state of mind in these two letters. He had many extreme ups and downs in his life, leading me to conclude that he suffered from bipolar disorder. See Slatta and de Grummond, p. 148]


Caracas [capital of Venezuela]
July 12, 1812. My General:
  • Having exhausted all my physical and moral strength, where shall I find courage to take up my pen and write you now that the strong-hold of Puerto Cabello has fallen out of my hands? Because of this action, my spirit is crushed much more than that of the province. The latter has the hope of seeing the rebirth of its salvation and liberty from the remnants still left us, for it is evident that those people are the most devoted to the country's cause and the most op-posed to Spanish tyranny. Notwithstanding the cowardice with which the inhabitants of that city acted in the end, I am certain that they have not ceased to entertain these same sentiments. They thought our cause was lost because our army was nowhere near them. The enemy has gained very little from the rifles we had there, since most of them were cast into the thickets by the soldiers who carried them, while the remainder were quite unserviceable. In short, I believe the enemy will get scarcely two hundred in all.
  • I trust that you will be kind enough to tell me what is to become of the officers who have come with me; they are extremely fine men, and in my opinion there are none better in Venezuela. The loss of Colonel [Diego] Jalón is an irreparable one; he is worth an entire army. [One of the patriot's best young officers, killed in a massive earthquake that struck Venezuela.]
  • General, my spirits are so depressed that I do not feel that I have the courage to command a single soldier. My vanity forced me to believe that my desire to succeed and my burning zeal for my country would serve to replace the talents which I lacked as a commander. I therefore beg you, either place me under the orders of an officer of the lowest rank, or grant me several days to compose myself and to recover the confidence that I lost in losing Puerto Cabello. To this should be added the state of my physical health, for, after thirteen sleepless nights and extreme distress, I find myself almost in a state of [mental] collapse. I shall commence at once the detailed report of the operations of the troops which I commanded and the misfortunes which destroyed the city of Puerto Cabello, in order to justify your selection of me and to dear my honor in the opinion of the public. I did my duty, General, and had but a single soldier stayed, I would have fought the enemy; but they abandoned me through no fault of mine. I did everything in my power to hold them and oblige them to save their country; but (ah!), alas, the country has been lost at my hands.


    [A close friend and benefactor of Bolivar, who secured his release from the Spanish following the surrender of Francisco Miranda to Spanish forces.]
    Curacao [small island just off Venezuela's north coast]
    September 10, 1812
    My dear friend and Master:
  • I managed to arrive here a week ago after endless trials and tribulations, bad sailing, worse shipping, and a miserable reception. I say a miserable reception because no sooner had I arrived than my luggage was confiscated for two very strange reasons: first, because my baggage and effects were in the same house as those of Miranda; and second, because the vessel, El Celozo, had contracted debts in Puerto Cabello, which I must now defray, inasmuch as I was commandant of that city when they were contracted. This is the exact truth. In consequence, I find myself entirely without the means to maintain my life, which I am now beginning to regard with the greatest disgust and even horror.
  • Although my situation is as miserable as I describe it, some friends remain who treat me with sincerity and consideration; and yet, I believe that, if it comes to lending me money or rendering me a similar service, I fear, I repeat, that I will derive no benefits from them but will lose their friendship instead. For there are no other friends like you in this world, and, when Providence does bestow them, it is but to remove them again, as has happened to me. . . .
    Simón Bolívar