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Francia Jose Gaspar Rodriguezda

Francia, Jose Gaspar Rodriguez da (1757-1840), the celebrated dictator of Paraguay, was born at Asuncion. Although he took the degree of doctor of theology, he soon became a lawyer, and had filled several official positions in his native town when the royal government of Paraguay was overthrown in 1811. As secretary to the revolutionary Junta, he made such good use of his position that when, after two years, a republic was established under the direction of two consuls, he became one of them. Having gained popularity by depriving the Spaniards of civil rights, he was named at first sole dictator for three years, and in 1817 secured supreme power for life. With the help of a secretary, he controlled the government in its minutest details, and by a system of espionage put down the slightest opposition to his person. Military executions were frequent, and heavy fines were the only alternative. Exportation was forbidden and internal trade strictly regulated, while the dictator himself was an active cattle dealer. His leisure hours were given to study, astronomy and French philosophy being his favourite reading. Like Louis XL, his chief counsellor was a barber, but Napoleon was the great object of his admiration, and he imitated him even in his dress. In spite of its harshness, Francia's government was popular, and he at all events saved Paraguay from the anarchy which prevailed in the surrounding states.