Alsina, Adolfo (1829–1877)

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Alsina, Adolfo (1829–1877)

Adolfo Alsina (b. 14 January 1829; d. 29 December 1877), Argentine politician. Alsina was born in Buenos Aires, the only son of Valentín Alsina and Antonia Maza. He received his early education in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1854. After the battle of Caseros, he wrote articles attacking the commander, Justo José de Urquiza, and plotted his assassination. As a member of the Liberal Party, to which his father belonged, he helped defend Buenos Aires when it was besieged by Urquiza. He subsequently fought at the battle of Cepeda, was one of the porteño (Buenos Aires) deputies denied admission to the congress that met in Paraná, and participated in the battle of Pavón.

In 1862 Alsina was elected deputy to the national congress. During an internal party dispute over a proposal to federalize the city of Buenos Aires, he and his followers broke with the Liberal Party to form the Autonomista Party. The party, which consisted of important estancieros, Federal Party intellectuals, José Hernández, and Leandro Alem, had little support outside the province of Buenos Aires. In 1866 Alsina became governor of Buenos Aires, with Nicolás Avellaneda as his minister of government. Among the accomplishments of his administration was the separation of the office of justice of the peace from that of the military commandant.

In 1867, Alsina was Domingo Sarmiento's running mate in the latter's successful bid for the presidency. His relations with Sarmiento were never harmonious, but he did support Sarmiento's decision in 1870 to punish Ricardo López Jordán for the assassination of Urquiza. He again was a candidate for the presidency in 1874, and in the congressional elections of that year he won in Córdoba and La Rioja but not in Buenos Aires, which his partisans controlled, because Sarmiento sent national troops to supervise the elections. Lacking support, Alsina withdrew his candidacy and endorsed the man Sarmiento had selected as his successor, Avellaneda, and his own supporter, Mariano Acosta, for the vice presidency.

President Avellaneda appointed Alsina his minister of war and the navy. Alsina was responsible for the suppression of the Revolution of 1874, a pro-Bartolomé Mitre movement, and for the campaign that built a new frontier line of forts from Carhué to Laguna del Monte and to Trenque Lauquén. He hoped to minimize Indian resistance to the advance by incorporating some tribes into the national guard, but as a precaution he supplied the national army with revolvers and telegraph lines. In 1877 he furthered the policy of "conciliation" by persuading Mitre to stop his partisans from starting a revolution; he was planning another advance of the frontier line when he died in Buenos Aires.

See alsoSarmiento, Domingo Faustino; Argentina, Political Parties: National Autonomist Party.


Jacinto R. Yaben, "Alsina, A.," in Biografías argentinas y sudamericanas, vol. 1 (1938), pp. 118-122.

Ysabel F. Rennie, The Argentine Republic (1945), pp. 111, 115, 120-125, 139.

José Luis Romero, A History of Argentine Political Thought, translated by Thomas F. McGann (1963).

Vicente Osvaldo Cutolo, "Alcina, A." in Nuevo diccionario biográfico argentino, 1750–1930, vol. 1 (1968), pp. 100-101.

Ricardo Levene et al., "Historia de las presidencias: 1862–1898," in Academia Nacional de la Historia, Historia argentina contemporánea, 1862–1930, vol. 1 (1965), sec. 1, pp. 257-263.

Additional Bibliography

Gamboni, Olga Dina. Adolfo Alsina, gobernador de la Provincia de Buenos Aires y conquistador del desierto. La Plata: María Amalia Gamboni, 1994.

Hora, Roy. The Landowners of the Argentine Pampas: A Social and Political History, 1860–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Martínez, Carlos M. Alsina y Alem: porteñismo y milicias. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Culturales Argentinas, 1990.

                                   Joseph T. Criscenti