The Spanish government was gradually losing the war against rebels seeking independence from its oppressive rule. This greatly affected the stability of the ruling class in Argentine. Even though the viceroy, Pedro Cisneros tried hard to hide it, the movement of people and the news that spread with them made this an uphill task. Jose Vicente Canete wrote an article on the effects of military defeat and how best the viceroys could survive such a scenario mainly by reorganizing Spanish America and dividing up the centers of power. This would mean that the Creole elite would not enjoy the power that they were used to. Cohesion was increasingly not possible as the divide between them and the Spanish commoners grew. The viceroy would have to yield to the military force that would win they battle for supremacy.
The resistance to the French was steadily declining and those that had supported the resistance were confined to the barracks. On the 21st about a thousand protestors gathered in the square. The Viceroy and Cabildo also gathered a group of their own from the citizens including upper class citizens. Troops sent from Colonel Saavedra kept order.
The meeting however was not seen to provide the intended results. This was because the group was small and did not exactly represent the masses. Voting and debate took place in a manner that was not conclusive. The main result of the meeting were that the viceroy became head of the junta with two of the juntas’ members being the supporters of change while the other two wanted the status quo to prevail. The cabildo officially handed over power to the junta on the 24th and by the 25th there was a request for a successor to Cisneros. This request led to another meeting that formed a broader junta with eight members. The military were tasked with handing over power to the junta even those who opposed it.
The creation of this junta made a political class that was in many ways the same as the existing creole elite but different in the fact that it brought change to the politics of the time. The revolution then began from a personal level with an oath taken by every head of the family and later to the elite and every member of the society. This gradual coercion was because they did not have any way of forcing people on their side as was with the military. The method of showing commitment changed from oath taking to giving monetary donations to the cause. These donations were given under pretense of payment for protection from the army. It was viewed as a more forceful measure of showing commitment as opposed to the previous system.
The new government now saw that it could not use power in the way that had been prevalent. They tried hard to connect with the masses while still having ultimate control over the people. The church was brought in as an intermediary and helped in controlling and disciplining the people. Supervision of the people was increased under the auspice that greater political vigilance was needed, a law was even passed that gave the government the right to confiscate property of abandoners of the city.
Thus the government’s strategies were balances between strict authoritarian rules that gave the people very little freedoms but at the same time making the masses feel that they were a part of the governing class. The use of the church and other institutions such as taking of oaths were all ways of making the people acquire a sense of belonging and oneness with their rulers.
Masses were mobilized and used as a strong weapon against the status quo on the beginning but later on, these masses were the same weapon that was used against the same people. The military was also used as a way to force not only the people but in some instances those who were considered part of the ruling class into towing the line of those that they viewed to be inn their best interests.
Gabriela Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo (eds.), Halperin, Tulio “The Revolution” (2002) in The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics, USA: Duke University Press, , pp. 47-65.