José Tomás Ovalle

This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Ovalle and the second or maternal family name is Bezanilla.
José Tomás Ovalle y Bezanilla
President of Government Junta of Chile
In office
December 24, 1829  February 18, 1830
Preceded by Acephalous executive
Succeeded by Francisco Ruiz-Tagle
President of Chile
In office
April 1, 1830  March 8, 1831
Vice President Fernando Errázuriz
Preceded by Francisco Ruiz-Tagle
Succeeded by Fernando Errázuriz
Personal details
Born (1787-12-21)December 21, 1787
Santiago, Chile
Died March 21, 1831(1831-03-21) (aged 43)
Santiago, Chile
Spouse(s) Rafaela Bezanilla Bezanilla

José Tomás Ovalle y Bezanilla (December 21, 1787 March 21, 1831) was a Chilean political figure. He served twice as provisional president of Chile.

Early life

He was born in Santiago, the son of Vicente María Ovalle Guzmán and of María del Rosario Bezanilla y Noriega. He studied in the Convictorio Carolino and law at the Universidad de San Felipe, where he obtained his doctorate in both laws in 1809. He married his cousin, Rafaela Bezanilla Bezanilla on April 1, 1812, and had eleven children.

Ovalle was twice elected deputy for Santiago (1823 and 1824-1825), supplementary senador (1824), Vice presidente of the Provincial Assembly of Santiago and was a delegate to the Plenipotenciaries Congress of 1830, being elected Vice president.

Civil War of 1829

When the Chilean Civil War of 1829 broke out between the conservative centralists and the liberal federalists, President Francisco Antonio Pinto was forced twice to leave the post of president to Francisco Ramón Vicuña. First, from July 14 to October 19, when Vicuña assumed as President Delegate, and then finally when he resigned on November 2 and Vicuña assumed power.

On December 7, 1829 the conservative troops under General José Joaquín Prieto, commander of the southern army, approached Santiago from the South. The conservative army decided to halt the march onto Santiago for a while and camped a few miles outside the city. The government under Vicuña fled northward to Coquimbo. On December 14, 1829 General Prieto and his troops met the liberal army under Francisco de la Lastra and defeated them at the Battle of Ochagavía. Then, the two military leaders signed a peace treaty, which complicated the political situation further. Meanwhile President Vicuña and his ministers where imprisoned by the victorious conservative troops in Valparaiso.

First administration

Chile was without a leader for a few weeks (from December 7 to 24, 1829) until a Government Junta was organized and took control, in order to avoid the continuance of hostilities, under a neutral José Tomás Ovalle who was acceptable to both sides. This junta ruled the country from December 24, 1829 to February 18, 1830. Finally an agreement was found with the involvement of Ramón Freire which nominated Francisco Ruiz-Tagle as acting president.

Second administration

Because of internal dissent with his ministers, Ruiz-Tagle resigned six weeks later on March 31, 1830 and was succeeded by vice-president Ovalle who assumed as a transitional president, and held the position until the advanced state of his tuberculosis forced him to ask for a constitutional leave on March 8, 1831. He died a few days later, on March 21, 1831, at 9 AM, and his remains were interred under the altar of the Santiago Cathedral, where they were lost during the renovations of the 19th century and found again in 2004.

After José Tomás Ovalle died, he was replaced by the President of the Plenipotentiaries Congress, Fernando Errázuriz, who took over on March 31, 1831 with the title of Accidental Vice President of the Republic. Errázuriz called new elections, where General José Joaquín Prieto was elected. General Prieto was installed on September 18, 1831, and thus began the era of the decade governments.


The Ovalle Cabinet
Office Name Term
President José Tomás Ovalle1 April 18308 March 1831
Minister of the Interior & Foreign Affairs Diego Portales5 April 183031 August 1831
Minister of War & Navy Diego Portales5 April 183025 September 1830
Colonel José María de la Cruz25 September 183024 March 1831
Minister of Finance Pbtro. Juan Francisco Meneses18 March 183015 June 1830
Manuel Rengifo15 June 18309 November 1835


On 2004, his remains were found during restoration work on the Santiago Cathedral, where they had been buried (and subsequently forgotten) in 1831.

Political offices
Preceded by
Francisco Ramón Vicuña
President of the
Government Junta of Chile

Succeeded by
Francisco Ruiz-Tagle
Preceded by
Francisco Ruiz-Tagle
President of Chile
Succeeded by
Fernando Errázuriz
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