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Fine map of Colombia, shortly after its independence.

From 1796 to 1806, Colombia was constantly in conflict over the nature of its government. Constant fighting between federalists and centralists gave rise to a period of instability, which came to be known as la Patria Boba (the Foolish Patriotism). Each province, and even some cities, set up its own autonomous juntas, which declared themselves sovereign from each other.

With the arrival of news in May 1810 that southern Spain had been conquered by Napoleon's forces and that the Spanish Supreme Central Junta had dissolved itself, declarations of independence in Quito (1809), Gran Colombia (1810), Venezuela and Paraguay (1811) and other territories, established their own governments. Cartagena de Indias established a junta on May 22, 1810, followed others, including the viceregal capital, Bogotá. Although the Bogotá junta called itself a "Supreme Junta of the New Kingdom of Granada," it failed to provide political unity, and battles broke out between cities and towns as each tried to defend its sovereignty. There were two fruitless attempts at establishing a congress of provinces in the subsequent months.

By March 1811 the province of Bogotá had transformed itself into a state called Cundinamarca. Cundinamarca convened a "Congress of the United Provinces," which first met in Bogotá, and later moved to Tunja and Leyva to maintain independence from the capital city. It established a confederation called the United Provinces of New Granada on November 27, 1811, but Cundinamarca did not recognize the new federation. The dispute over the form of government erupted into civil war by the end of 1812, and once again in 1814. By mid-1815 a large Spanish expeditionary force under Pablo Morillo had arrived in New Granada. Cartagena fell in December, and by May 1816 the royalists had control of all of New Granada.

From then on, the long independence struggle was led mainly by Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander in neighboring Venezuela. Bolívar returned to New Granada only in 1819 after establishing himself as leader of the pro-independence forces in the Venezuelan llanos. From there he led an army over the Andes and captured New Granada after a quick campaign that ended at the Battle of Boyacá, on August 7, 1819.

That year, the Congress of Angostura established the Republic of Gran Colombia, which included all territories under jurisdiction of the former Viceroyalty of New Granada. Bolívar was elected first president of Gran Colombia and Santander, vice president.

The Constitution included with the map is the Constitution of Cucuta. The Colombian Congress in Cúcuta, in the beginning of 1821. The Battle of Carabobo, on June 24, 1821, officially brought independence to Venezuela and on July 18 the Congress restarted with greater impetus in Cúcuta to include the regions recently liberated: Caracas, Cartagena, Popayán and Santa Marta. The Constitution of Cúcuta was proclaimed on August 30, 1821 and published on July 12. This has been considered the first Constitution of Colombia that was effective in Gran Colombia until its dissolution in 1831.

The map appeared in Buchon's edition of Carey & Lea's Atlas, which was highly prized not only for its cartographic information but the marvelous information about each of the states and territories included.

The atlas was issued in 6 editions in English, French & German, between 1822 and 1827. The French edition is a completely revised map, with better engraving quality than the original Philadelphia edition.

Jean Alexandre Buchon Biography

Jean Alexandre Buchon (1791-1849) was a French scholar and historian. Born as the French Revolution raged, Buchon was dedicated to recovering France’s history in order to help the country heal and grow. He gathered French stories and published them as part of Collection des chroniques nationales franciases ecrites en langue vulgaire, du XIe au XVIe siècle (4 vols, 1824-1829). He also compiled and published an exploration collection and several histories, particularly about medieval France.

For geography, his most important contribution was publication of the French edition of Carey & Lea’s American Atlas in 1825. Each page of the atlas includes highly detailed text about the state or territory depicted, as well as a map of the area. The French edition is generally considered in high regard as compared to other editions, as it has quality paper and superior engraving.