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Unitario, an Argentine follower of centralist government during the early independence period. From the outset of independence, patriotic creoles split between federalist and centralist factions—the latter known as unitarists. The original centralist Constitution of 1819 failed to win the support of the littoral provinces, led by the caudillos of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, whose combined forces invaded and occupied Buenos Aires in 1820, leaving the local populace terrified. Unitarists evolved out of the initial centralist factions, and sought to rebuild the country after the anarchy of 1820 and the loss of territory (Paraguay, Bolivia, and the Banda Oriental effectively split permanently from the United Provinces of the Río De La Plata). Their leader was Bernardino Rivadavia, a mulatto follower of the doctrines of the English utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. Rivadavia returned from a diplomatic mission in 1821, and became minister of government and foreign affairs for the Buenos Aires governor, Martín Rodríguez. He immediately set about reforming the administration, culminating in the gathering of a constitutional convention in 1824. A draft of a centralizing constitution was presented in January 1825, and was approved a year later. In its wake, Rivadavia was elected the first president of the Republic. His legislation included land reform, the establishment of the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires, the revamping of the fiscal machinery (and abolition of the hated Spanish tithes and consumer taxes), and securing diplomatic recognition. It was also an era of flourishing culture, with the proliferation of newspapers, theaters, and, perhaps most important, the creation of the University of Buenos Aires in 1821.

Buenos Aires, however, had clearly centralist ambitions, and some of these reforms were unpalatable to other provinces. The constitution was rejected by the provinces, an action stripping Rivadavia and his followers of claims to legitimacy. He was forced to resign on 7 July 1827, and left the region for good. Rivadavia was replaced as governor of the Province of Buenos Aires by Manuel Dorrego, a leader more attuned to the federalist cause. But the unitarists did not abandon their claims and, led by General Juan Lavalle, sought to retake Buenos Aires by force of arms. They executed Dorrego on 3 December 1828 and renewed the civil war. Order finally came with Juan Manuel de Rosas's seizure of power (1829–1852). Rosas relied on a hybrid administration combining policies of the unitarists and federalists.

See alsoArgentina: The Nineteenth Century; Rivadavia, Bernardino.


Sergio Bagú, El plan económico del grupo rivadaviano (1811–1827) (1966).

David Bushnell, Reform and Reaction in the Platine Provinces, 1810–1852 (1983), esp. pp. 20-30.

Additional Bibliography

Sabsay, Fernando L. Rosas: El federalismo argentino. Buenos Aires: Ciudad Argentina, 1999.

Tau Anzoátegui, Víctor. Formación del estado federal argentino, 1820–1852: El gobierno de Buenos Aires y los asuntos nacionales. Buenos Aires: Editorial Perrot, 1996.

                                            Jeremy Adelman