Francia, José Gaspar Rodríguez de

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Francia, José Gaspar Rodríguez de

 

Born Jan. 6, 1766, in Asunción; died there Sept. 20, 1840. Paraguayan state figure.

The son of a middle-level official and landowner, Francia graduated from the University of Córdoba in 1785 and became a lawyer in 1789. He was elected an alcalde in 1808 and procurator-general in 1809. During the war for independence from Spain he belonged to the revolutionary junta, and in 1813 and 1814 he was one of the two consuls who ruled the country. During the national revolutionary dictatorship which lasted from 1814 to 1840, he was the supreme ruler; in 1816 he was named dictator for life.

Francia subscribed to the ideas of the French Enlightenment. Resorting to revolutionary terror in his struggle with the feudal aristocracy and the Catholic church, he closed religious schools and monasteries and confiscated the property of the Catholic Church and some of the property of the leading Spanish feudal lords and merchants. Francia encouraged the development of national production and education, and he secured freedom of navigation in the La Plata basin. Fear of invasion by neighboring states that threatened Paraguay’s independence caused him to pursue an isolationist policy.

Francia ruled despotically, although he courted the lower classes. On the whole his policies furthered the creation of an independent state and the development of capitalism in Paraguay.

REFERENCE

Chaves, J. C. El supremo Dictator: Biografia de José Gaspar de Francia. Buenos Aires, 1958.