Alsina, Valentín (1802–1869)

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Alsina, Valentín (1802–1869)

Valentín Alsina (b. 16 December 1802; d. 6 September 1869), Argentine politician. Alsina was born in Buenos Aires, the son of Juan de Alsina and María Pastora Ruano. He studied at the University of Córdoba, where Gregorio Funes was one of his teachers, and received his law degree in Buenos Aires. From 1824 to 1827 he contributed articles to El Nacional and El Mensajero Argentino and was undersecretary of foreign affairs in the government of Bernardino Rivadavia. Alsina supported General Juan Lavalle's revolution of 1 December 1828, and briefly served in his government. In 1829 he was the director of the public library in Buenos Aires. He was persecuted by Buenos Aires Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas and was kept a prisoner aboard the lighter Sarandí until Colonel Enrique Sinclair, a relative, and Dr. Manuel Vicente Maza, his father-in-law, arranged for his escape to Colonia in 1835. His wife, Antonia Maza, and their small child, Adolfo, fled from Buenos Aires with the help of Sinclair's friend Ricardo Haines, an Englishman. The family was reunited in Montevideo, where Alsina became a member of the Argentine Commission, which had as its aim the overthrow of Rosas. The commission sent his brother, Juan José Alsina, to represent it; he was later replaced by his relative, Governor Pedro Ferré of Corrientes. Unlike many members of the commission, Valentín Alsina never believed that Lavalle and his Ejército Libertador would overthrow Rosas.

In 1843 Alsina participated in the defense of Montevideo, then besieged by Manuel Oribe, by enrolling in the Argentine Legion. His function was to contribute anti-Rosas articles to the local newspapers El Moderador, El Nacional, El Grito Argentino, and especially to El Comercio del Plata. In 1843 he wrote his famous "Notes" to the first edition of Sarmiento's Civilización i barbarie (1845), in which he maintains that terror first appeared in Buenos Aires with Rosas.

In 1852 Alsina was appointed minister of government by Vicente López y Planes, governor of Buenos Aires. As minister he restored to their rightful owners the properties Rosas had confiscated. He represented the extreme wing of the Unitarian Party, opposing national organization and the Acuerdo de San Nicolás because representation in congress would be based on population. Elected governor of Buenos Aires Province 30 October 1852, Alsina made Bartolomé Mitre his minister of the interior, annulled the land grants Rosas had made to the veterans of the Indian campaigns and civil wars, organized an invasion of Entre Ríos, and appointed Hilario Lagos and Cayetano Laprida to the departmental posts of military commandant. When Lagos and Laprida revolted on 1 December 1852, he resigned as governor.

In 1853 Alsina was president of the Court of Justice, and in 1854 he was twice elected senator but did not serve. From 1855 to May 1856 he was minister of government and foreign affairs in the administration of Pastor Obligado. In 1857 he was again elected governor of Buenos Aires Province, approved the return to Buenos Aires of Rivadavia's remains, and evidently became involved in a plot to assassinate the military commander Justo José de Urquiza. The legislature forced Alsina to resign after the provincial forces were defeated by the confederation armies at the battle of Cepeda. Three days later Buenos Aires and the Argentine Confederation signed the Pact of San José de Flores (11 November 1859), which was mediated by Francisco Solano López, whereby Buenos Aires agreed to join the confederation after a provincial convention examined the Constitution of 1853. Alsina participated in that convention.

In 1862, after the battle of Pavón, he was elected a senator of the national Congress that met in Buenos Aires and refused the presidency of the Supreme Court. That year he was entrusted with the task of writing the provincial rural code that became law in 1865. As the temporary president of the senate, he proclaimed the election of Bartolomé Mitre and Marcos Paz as president and vice president in 1862, and of Domingo Sarmiento and of his son Adolfo Alsina as president and vice president in 1867. He died in Buenos Aires.

See alsoArgentina, Movements: Unitarists; Argentine Confederation.


Estanislao S. Zeballos, "Apuntes biográficos del doctor Valentín Alsina," in Revista de derecho, historia y letras 10 (1901): 171-175.

Adolfo Saldías, La evolución republicana (1903).

Ramón J. Cárcano, De Caseros al 11 de septiembre (1851–1852) (1918).

Ysabel F. Rennie, The Argentine Republic (1945), pp. 80, 84, 86-87, 89-90, 103.

Harold F. Peterson, Argentina and the United States, 1810–1960 (1964).

Jacinto R. Yaben, Biografías argentinas y sudamericanas, vol. 1 (1968), pp. 125-129.

Vicente Osvaldo Cutolo, Nuevo diccionario biográfico argentino, 1750–1930, vol. 1 (1969), pp. 104-106.

Joseph F. Cuscinti, ed., Sarmiento and His Argentina (1993).

Tulio Halperín-Donghi et al., eds., Sarmiento: Author of a Nation (1994).

Additional Bibliography

Cernadas de Bulnes, Mabel Nelida. Valentín Alsina: Periodista, jurista y hombre de gobierno. Bahía Blanca: Utopía Ediciones: Universidad Nacional del Sur, Departamento de Humanidades, 1996.

                                  Joseph T. Criscenti