Society of Equality

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Society of Equality

The Society of Equality was a radical political organization formed in Chile on 14 April 18 50 by Santiago Arcos (1818–1874), Francisco Bilbao (1823–1865), and others. Originally intended as an organization for educating artisans (and for making them aware of their political rights), the Sociedad quickly became associated with the growing opposition to the presidential candidacy of Manuel Montt (1809–1880). It had a membership of several hundred, including many artisans, though it cannot be regarded as a genuinely spontaneous artisan movement. Its meetings sometimes attracted more than a thousand participants. Enrolling members were asked to accept the three principles of "popular sovereignty," "the sovereignty of reason," and "love and universal fraternity." Escuelas populares (people's schools) organized by the Sociedad held classes in Spanish, English, music, mathematics, history, and drafting.

Highly unusual in the quiet Santiago of the period, the marches and processions of the igualitarios dismayed the authorities. On 19 August 1850 the Sociedad's premises were assaulted by a group probably hired by the police. In November 1850 the imposition of a state of siege brought the dissolution of the Sociedad, without popular protest. Politically, the effect of the Sociedad's agitation caused the ruling Conservative Party to accept the controversial candidacy of Montt, the consequence of which was two civil wars (1851, 1859). Many of the ideas of the Society of Equality continued in the Radical Party, which formed in 1863. The Radical Party remained active through the twentieth century, but gradually lost popularity. In 1994 it merged with another party to form the Social Democrat Radical Party.

See alsoArcos, Santiago; Bilbao Barquín, Francisco.


Collier, Simon. Chile: The Making of a Republic, 1830–1865: Politics and Ideas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Gazmuri, Cristián. El "48" Chileno: Igualitarios, reformistas, radicales, masones y bomberos (1992).

                                            Simon Collier

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Society of Equality