The Napoleonic Wars in Europe resulted in a power vacuum in Spain, which provided an opportunity for the independence movements in Spain’s South America colonies. In April 1810, the cabildo (municipal council) of Caracas seized control of the provincial government in the name of King Ferdinand VII, who Napoleon Bonaparte had deposed and imprisoned in France. The municipal governments in the capital cities of the other Venezuelan provinces followed Caracas’ lead.

In March 1811, representatives from the provinces convened at the First Venezuelan Congress and soon began to debate whether they should become an independent state. Under the leadership of Francisco de Miranda and Simón Bolívar the independence movement was victorious, and on 5th July 1811, the Congress delivered a Declaration of Independence to create the American Confederation of Venezuela (more commonly known as the First Republic of Venezuela). Almost immediately Venezuela plunged into a twelve year civil war between republicans and royalists who wanted to remain under Spanish control.

In 1812, the republic collapsed due to internal disputes, a Spanish blockade and a major earthquake. Nevertheless, it was re-established by Bolívar in the following year, but it lasted less than twelve months. Eventually, in 1823 the republicans defeated the forces of a resurgent Spain and achieved Venezuelan independence within a larger federal state, Gran Colombia, which declared had independence in 1819 and comprised other Spanish colonies including present-day Colombia, Ecuador and Panama and parts of of Brazil, Costa Rica, Guyana and Peru.

The texts of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence and Constitution of 1811 are both available in Spanish and English at the Rice University Digital Scholarship Archive.