Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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FRANCIA, Jose Gaspar Rodriguez (fran'thea), dictator of Paraguay, born in Asuncion in 1757 or 1758; died there, 20 September 1840. He boasted that he was of French extraction, but his father is supposed to have been born in Brazil, and to have immigrated to Paraguay. His mother was a Spanish Creole. He studied for the priesthood at the seminary of his native City, and afterward in the University of Cordova, where he received the degree of D. i), and was for a short time professor of theology. He then practiced law, and was appointed to several public offices. When the independence of, Paraguay was declared Francia was elected secretary of the revolutionary junta, who were scarcely able to read and write. In October 1813, the junta was abolished, and Yegros and Francia appointed joint consuls for a year: but Francia was the moving spirit of the government, and in 1814 he was made dictator for three years, at the end of which time he contrived to secure a reelection for life. He ruled the state with a despotic sway, but husbanded the national resources with great sagacity. No export, or import trade was allowed without the dictator's license, and an exorbitant duty and death awaited those who were detected leaving the country without his permission. The opponents of his rule were either shot or imprisoned. Some of Francia's prisoners were subjected to the cruelest tortures, and his apparent delight in torture gave rise to the belief that, like some of his brothers, he was occasionally deranged. On the other hand, he was generally humane toward the poor.
He had once been fond of gambling and social and sensual enjoyments, but now he resided in the palace of the former Spanish governors in complete seclusion, attended only by four servants. His barber, a mulatto, was the principal channel of his communication with the outer world. He had great mental powers, which he cultivated by study and reading. He was especially fond of the French literature of the 18th century, and an admirer both of Robespierre and Napoleon. The anecdotes of his eccentricities were almost as numerous as the reports of his cruelties. Two Swiss surgeons, Renger and Longchamp, whom he detained from 1819 to 1825, published an "Essai Itistorique sur la Revolution de Paraguay et le Gouvernement Dictatorial du Docteur Francia" (Paris, 1827). Two young Scotchmen, J. P. and W. P. Robertson, who went to Paraguay on a commercial venture and were expelled by the dictator, gave appalling accounts of his administration in " Letters on Paraguay" (2 vols., London, 1.838); "Francia's Reign of Terror" (1839); and "Letters on South America" (3 vols., 1843).
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