Photo: Panorama retrieved
Juan Germán Roscio’s involvement in Venezuela’s independence is essential, but most Venezuelans ignore why. Born in San Francisco de Tiznados (Guarico) on May 27th, 1763, his father was a Milanese, Cristóbal Roscio, and his mother a mestiza, Paula María Nieves. He didn’t belong to that social stratum that could access university education due to “blood purity” and yet, thanks to the daughter of the Count of San Javier, he went to the university and graduated as a lawyer.
Along with Francisco Isnardy, Roscio wrote the Declaration of Independence signed on July 5th, 1811, birthing the Republic of Venezuela. Later, he was appointed by the Constituent Congress to write the basic principles of the National Constitution, a task he undertook with Francisco Javier Ustáriz and Gabriel de Ponte, until the first Constitution was approved on December 21st, 1811. It remained valid until the fall of the First Republic, in 1812.
Juan Germán Roscio’s involvement in Venezuela’s independence is essential, but most Venezuelans ignore why.
He was imprisoned by Domingo Monteverde’s forces and sent along with other eight patriots to the Cadiz prison, then transferred to the Ceuta prison in North Africa, in 1813. He was finally released in 1815, with the help of British liberal Thomas Richards.
In the Ceuta prison, he wrote his “El triunfo de la libertad sobre el despotismo,” the most comprehensive and profound intellectual effort that any Venezuelan made about the Christian justification for independence. Perhaps there’s no best scholarly work in favor of the independence of Venezuela and the entire Hispanic America region.
Roscio took on the titanic task to find in the Bible the inexorable need of authentic Christians to seek freedom and reject despotism in any of its expressions. His work aimed at showing that sovereign monarchic power has no biblical justification. The book, which also started a new form of writing in Venezuela that would be inherited by none other than José Antonio Ramos Sucre, was written following the Augustinian method of confession, and it’s a prodigy of precision and elegance in the use of language.
The philosophical backdrop of the independence process is Liberalism, as can be surmised, among other things, by reading Roscio’s work, set out on the task to assemble in a single volume his Catholic upbringing and the new liberal ideas that were quite different from the Catholic Church’s stance back then, as it defended the divine right of kings. Roscio’s ideas opposed the status quo of his time; he read the Bible as a modern man, in his historical context, considering its political dimensions and with the necessary critical analysis.
Roscio’s ideas opposed the status quo of his time; he read the Bible as a modern man, in his historical context, considering its political dimensions and with the necessary critical analysis.
“El triunfo de la libertad sobre el despotismo” is a gem, although according to Jesuit priest Luis Ugalde, who knows it in depth, “perhaps there aren’t even ten Venezuelans who have read this work in full.”
Roscio’s work was published in Philadelphia, in 1817, and re-edited twice more in this city, and thrice in Mexico. The first Venezuelan edition was published in 1953, which means that the book was read by very few Venezuelan citizens, since the Mexican edition of the 19th century didn’t circulate all that much. We owe the 1953 edition, like many other things, to the work of Pedro Grases.
The layer of myths that prevents us from seeing the skeleton of Venezuelan history requires many revisions and rereads. One of the most urgent tasks is analyzing the independence process, and expose works like Roscio’s. Please take these humble lines as encouragement to read him.