Britain and the Paraguayan Dictatorship, c. 1820–1840

Abstract: Post-revolutionary Spanish America barely features in existing scholarship on nineteenth-century British political and social thought. But the region was widely discussed, and raised distinctive issues about republican government, the effects of colonial rule, and the operation of absolute power. This article examines how the British debated the autarchic dictatorship erected in newly independent Paraguay. Their attempts to make sense of this spectacular experiment in government, and its architect Dr Francia, helped to crystallize public attitudes towards the condition of Spanish America in the 1820s and 1830s. Francia's broader significance, however, was as a token in wider debates about the proper limits of republican and constitutional principles, and about the merits of arbitrary directive rule in less developed polities. For his admirers, he cast light on how other comparable regimes had gone wrong.