Compare and contrast the way Latin American nations achieved independence with the process in the United States.

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The American revolutionaries initially fought to maintain their accustomed rights of self-government under the British Crown rather than independence from the mother country. The continuance of a stable political order with the right of self-representation was their focus, not rebellion. Only when these efforts failed was the decision to fight for separation made.

The spark that lit the fuse of revolution in Latin America was the classical liberal Bourbon Reforms, which intended to scale back the trading privileges of the criollos. When Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 and Charles VI abdicated, the Mexican authorities were split over whether Joseph Bonaparte or Charles's son Ferdinand VII was the rightful king. The criollos initially sided with Ferdinand VII, whom they petitioned for redress of their perceived grievances. They thought the Spanish-born Peninsulares were usurping their privileges. Viceroy José de Iturrigaray supported the criollos's proposal of a new council to govern the colony. Peninsulares, seeing the danger of their exclusion from the new council, organized a coup to maintain their rights and authority. After the coup, Iturrigaray was replaced by a Spaniard, and the power struggle between the criollos and the Penisulares was underway in New Spain.

Reform-minded classical liberals in Spain put forward a new Constitution calling for the separation of powers, church reform, checks on the power of the monarchy, and enhanced powers for parliament in 1812. The Creole elites feared the loss of the privileges they enjoyed under the old system and threw their influence behind independence. Unlike the American revolutionaries, the criollos focused on independence rather than on securing the rights of all of the proposed citizens or subjects of their country. The Americans, on the other hand, fought for the maintenance of their traditional political liberties first and foremost and for independence only as a last resort. Despite popular myths to the contrary, the classical liberal reformers were in Spain, and the local revolutionaries were the political reactionaries trying to cling to their colonial privileges against broader reforms for the good of the nation.

Rather than put their best efforts into constructing a sound foundation for a new and lasting political order, the criollos focused their efforts on demonizing and killing the Spanish and on securing their own privileges rather than broader national interests.

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