Meneses, Juan Francisco
MENESES, JUAN FRANCISCO
Chilean priest, politician, and educator; b. Santiago, 1785; d. there, 1860. He studied at San Felipe University and received the licentiate in canon and civil law in 1804. His strong character and unyielding defense of the royal prerogative won him office as attorney general and secretary to the last two Spanish governors. During the independence movement his attitude toward the patriots Ovalle and Rojas (1810) earned him the hostility of the Creoles. His loyalty to Spain during the independence movement brought him to power during the short period of the Spanish reconquest (1814–17). The victory of José San Martín at Chacabuco (1817) forced him to emigrate to Peru. His wife's early death so affected this fervent Catholic that he decided to embrace the religious life; he studied theology at Cuzco. In 1821 he was allowed to return to Chile, where he swore allegiance to the republican regime. After his ordination in 1822, his career was as brilliant in the Church as in politics. A preacher of great force and logic, he was pastor and vicar of Los Andes (1823) and dean of the cathedral. He was elected to Congress as deputy at large in 1823, and was successively reelected by Aconcagua. As a senator from 1830 to 1849, he was noted for his tireless work on commissions. He was one of the signers of the constitution in 1833. He held the ministries of interior, of foreign affairs, and of the treasury. Despite the liberal opposition that always remembered his royalist past, he held the high office of rector of the National Institute. The historian Amunátegui Solar has noted his contributions to pedagogy. He reformed the teaching of Latin, introduced scientific programs of study, reestablished the Forensic Academy, and maintained a very strict academic discipline. He became dean of the faculty of theology when the University of Chile was founded in 1842.
Bibliography: d. amunÁtegui solar, El Instituto Nacional (Santiago de Chile 1891). l. f. prieto del rÍo, Diccionario biográfico del clero secular de Chile (Santiago de Chile 1922).
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