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Born Aug. 20, 1776, in Chilián; died Oct. 24, 1842, in Lima. One of the leaders of the War of Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies of 1810–26. Chilean political and military leader. Son of A. O’Higgins, captain general of Chile (1788–96) and viceroy of Peru (1796–1801).
O’Higgins was educated in Peru, Spain, and Great Britain. Returning to Chile in 1802, he joined the movement to liberate the country from the Spanish colonial yoke. He was a governor of the city of Chilián, a deputy to the National Congress in 1811, and a member of the governing junta from 1811 to 1814. During the years 1813–14 he served as commander in chief of the patriot troops. In October 1814 he joined the liberation army of José de San Martín. Together, they defeated the Spaniards at Chacabuco in February 1817. O’Higgins then served as supreme director of Chile from 1817 to 1823.
O’Higgins signed Chile’s Declaration of Independence (January 1818), abolished colonial taxes, founded state elementary schools, and promulgated other reforms. Opposition from reactionary conservative circles among the landowning oligarchy and high levels of the church compelled O’Higgins to retire in 1823. He emigrated to Peru, where he died in poverty.