[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Haga clic aquí para una página en Español.]
Español

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 11

Vol. I
p212
Chapter X

Miranda's Last Visit to France

An interlude between the consideration of his plans by Pitt and by Addington was employed by Miranda in a trip to the Continent. Utterly disgusted at the failure of his negotiations with the Pitt ministry, he had for some time dreamed of making another visit to France. There the Directory had been swept away by a coup d'état and a consular government established. In January, 1800, the émigré had addressed a letter to Napoleon, who had been made First Consul. He declared that he was a French citizen as well as one of the oldest soldiers of the Republic, and claimed the rights which he alleged had been violated in September, 1797. He complained that, after his acquittal on the charge of treason, he had been persecuted in Paris, that his library had been pillaged, and that his salary as a French general had been left unpaid. Then he presented this plea:

"Now that the august reign of justice and moderation has been loftily proclaimed under happy auspices, I hope to obtain by your supreme authority that justification which so many other persons in a similar position have very properly received. I hope that my formal stipulation with France will be at last fulfilled. The love of liberty for which I have made sacrifice upon sacrifices caused me to renounce a home in my native land, which is perhaps the most oppressed country in the world. This love was the cause of my intimate liaison with France. Before the outbreak of the French Revolution the same motive had caused me to seek a refuge in England. It was because of this old connection that she furnished me with an asylum when the rulers of France drove me from her breast in September, 1797. For more than a year I have eagerly solicited permission to leave England in order to proceed to the United States but have not been able to obtain it! That failure, Citizen Consul, explains why this letter is not addressed to you from a neutral country. May the blessings of liberty become known to those of our fellow beings who desire  p213 them, and may France after so many sacrifices become a stable and glorious nation founded upon the inestimable gift of a wise and perfect liberty, — these are, and always will be, my most sincere wishes!"1

This appeal was apparently forwarded to the First Consul through Vargas who left England for France in February, 1800. In a letter which he meantime addressed to the Prime Minister, Miranda analyzed the international situation. He declared that the imminent problem was whether England or France should be the power to have intimate relations with the Spanish Indies. He argued that the European state which aided a revolution in that vast domain would gain access to its commerce and sources of revenue and that this nation would also be able to form an alliance with the United States.2

Pownall became aware of Miranda's desire to leave England, and on May 1 he sent a note to Dundas to ask that his friend be given a passport. Shortly afterwards the ex‑governor not only sent Miranda some projects of political organization which he had framed for the emancipated Spanish Americans but also an offer of his services to the revolutionary cause in Spanish America.3 On July 15 he repeated this request and further asked that the Venezuelan should be allowed to proceed to Trinidad and thence to his native land. Pownall argued that as Miranda arrived in England before the passage of the last Alien Act and had resided there under a safe-conduct for two years, that as he had done nothing contrary to the rights, laws, or interests of east, he could not be considered as a prisoner of state, and hence by the law of nations he had a right to claim a passport in order to leave the country.4

In a "Pro‑Memoria," an unrevised paper that Pownall sent his friend about this time, he offered some shrewd suggestions in regard to the Spanish-American people. He advised Miranda  p214 that when he should providentially return to his native land, he should not be shocked or disgusted upon finding that his compatriots could with difficulty be taught what were their interests. If they prove suspicious and ungrateful, he proceeded, — unwittingly assuming the rôle of a prophet, — "overcome this evil by good," that is, by making them realize their true interests. He warned the revolutionary not to allow his political views to be warped either by parties or factions but to act with the welfare of the whole people in mind. "Expect to meet with opposition, but pary it as long as it can be paried: where and when it can not, promptly and decidedly bear it down; yet try all other means first. * * * Permit me lastly to recommend to you not merely to read, but to study, with a practical view to Example, the History of Moses, as of the Greatest Statesman and purest Patriot, which History notices."5

In a letter addressed to Napoleon on July 8, 1800, Miranda repeated his complaint about the refusal of England ministers "under all sorts of pretexts" to give him a passport. "After this sort of treatment," said Miranda in a petulant tone, "one is tempted to believe that this government is engaged in dishonoring those persons whom it cannot corrupt."6 Another indication of his feelings is found in a letter in English which on July 24, 1800, he sent to William Pitt. To cite a significant passage: "I have had the honour of applying to you repeatedly for a proper Permission to quit England, having lost all hope of being of use to my native Land; which motive alone induced me to come into this Country. And as I understand now, you desire to know where I intended to go to — I may assure you that my wishes are to go thro' France and Spaine to Caracas — having reason to beleave that at this present moment I may perhaps obtain permission from the Court of Madrid, for to go and see my Family and to obtain possession also of my Patrimonial State of which I have been deprived for this many years past."7 Evidently the request  p215 was not granted, for a month later Miranda secured a passport requesting all persons whom it might concern to allow him to pass freely "without any molestation or hindrance."8 In his papers were found hints that he hoped to be indemnified by the French Government and also that he desired to interest the First Consul in the fortunes of the Spanish Indies.

In October he reached The Hague. There he presented himself to the French envoy who decided to allow him to proceed to Antwerp.9 An anonymous character meantime wrote to him from Paris to transmit the sentiments of friends. This person expressed the view that Miranda might not advance the cause of Spanish-American independence by a trip to the French capital. Yet he declared that if the promoter felt that he would not thus simply change one prison for another, his friends could get permission for him to make the visit. "In my judgment," said the mysterious counsellor, who was perhaps a South American, "this is the time to finish the volume on Europe and to begin the volume on America."10

From Antwerp, the scene of his triumph in 1792, Miranda sent a letter to Fouché, the all‑powerful French minister of police, on November 2, 1800, to state that he was awaiting a response from Napoleon to a claim which he had presented through Senator Lanjuinais, and to ask that he should be treated with the consideration deserved by one who had been beggared and exiled from France.11 Through his correspondent, Madame Pétion, he received notice that, at the instance of his friend Lanjuinais, the First Consul had accorded him tacit permission to live in retirement at Paris in order to arrange his affairs.12 Meantime Miranda gained the confidence of the French prefect at Antwerp who eventually granted him a passport as "a citizen of America."13

Thus he was allowed to cross the French frontier. On November  p216 30, 1800, he addressed the Minister of Police and declared that he understood he had Napoleon's tacit permission to visit Paris. He expressed his intention to act circumspectly and to proceed to the United States when his claim was adjusted.14 In his journal Vargas wrote that after arriving in the capital Miranda occupied himself almost exclusively with "the liberal arts, thinking little or nothing about politics, and awaiting a favorable moment in which to present a demand for the wages that France owed him."15

[image ALT: An oval engraved head-and‑shoulders portrait, profile right — captioned F. MIRANDA — of a man still young, in an early‑19c military uniform: jacket with wide embroidered lapels and a high collar. He has wavy hair falling in locks over the top of his ears, and wears an expression of concentration tinged with ferocity; he is the 19c Venezuelan patriot Francisco de Miranda.]

Miranda as a General of the French Republic. Engraving by François Bonneville. In the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

The ex‑general was not allowed much time, however, to demand the payment of his salary; for on December 1 Fouché issued an order that Miranda should be placed under arrest, and that all his papers should be seized. As the prefect of police soon reported to Fouché that the suspect was not to be found in his reputed lodgings at 1497 Rue St. Honoré, it is evident that he was not detained at once.16 Eventually, however, Miranda was arrested and cast into the Temple. His papers were sealed in a large morocco portfolio. The suspicions of the Parisian police were not diminished when they found in his belongs some engravings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, a curious Latin document to which an imperial seal was attached by black and yellow cords, and an enigmatic note from a man named Smith who on behalf of a little committee of "philosophers" had invited Miranda to expound to them his views about "the arts" which they loved as well as he.17

Pierre Fardel, judge of the division of Halle-aux‑blés of Paris, soon examined the prisoner who was accused "of espionage and of corresponding with enemies of the State." On March 4, 1801, in response to an inquiry about his profession, Miranda stated that he was "a general in the service of the French Republic." When asked what he had been doing in England since his proscription, he replied that he had been  p217 expecting that the oppressive measure which France had adopted in regard to his forward cease. The Latin document that had been found among his belongings, he explained, was a manuscript of the bishop of Liége which came into his possession when he occupied that city as a commander of the French army. The engravings of the King and Queen of France, he declared, belonged to his servant. In his own defense the accused alleged that he had dismissed Dupéron on becoming aware that he was in league with Pichegru and wished "to reëstablish the old régime in France."18

On March 5, 1801, Miranda was taken from the historic prison and subjected to further examination. During an inquiry concerning certain friends, he was questioned particularly about Dumouriez as well as about Mesdames Custine and Pétion. To a query about his negotiations with English ministers, he tactfully replied: "The motive of my relations with the cabinet of London was the liberty and independence of South America, — like that which France and Spain guaranteed to the United States, — without any monopoly of commerce or any territorial possessions by the English upon that Continent."19 When asked whom he proposed to use in the execution of his plans, he respond: "I wished to carry them out myself with the aid of two ex‑Jesuits of Peru and three agents of the Spanish-American colonies who were in London." In answer to a question about England's motive for not executing his projects the prisoner diplomatically said: "The cabinet of London and especially the King are so set against any idea of liberty and independence that they prefer to sacrifice their own interests in order to gratify their hatred against the principles of liberty which are established in France, especially since they have seen that the Austrian and Russian armies are beginning to win victories in Italy against the soldiers of this Republic."20

French police papers throw light upon the treatment to which the émigré was subjected. When his arrival in Holland  p218 became known in Paris, the police prepared a report about him. This précis declared that Miranda "had been employed by the English cabinet to which he had given all the information and advice" that he supposed would be most prejudicial to France. Further, his conduct upon two occasions left little doubt that he had become a traitor to the French Republic. Certain persons had expressed the calumnious opinion that even before leaving Paris the suspect was in the pay of England.21 A note scrawled on the margin of an order for the deportation of the ex‑general succinctly declared that he was suspected of "maneuvres or intrigues contrary to the interests of the French Government and its Allies."22º

Miranda interpretatively linked this romantic episode with Spanish intrigues against his person. Read what he inscribed in a diarial note dated Paris, March 10, 1801: "Infernal machinations of the court of Madrid: (1) that I should not be received in France when I returned from my proscription; (2) that the infamous Fouché should accuse me of correspondence with enemies of State, upon this pretext get possession of my papers, and cast me into the Temple. — Miraculously I emerged from that prison after being detained six days, because of the vigorous exertions made by my friends, especially by Lanjuinais."23 A note written by the émigré on the margin of Vargas' diary furnishes a more pointed interpretation:

"The motive alleged was that I had become a spy of England."24

Miranda was thus forced to leave Paris without urging his claim upon the First Consul or unfolding his projects about the emancipation of the Spanish Indies. In accordance with an order of Fouché, on March 14, 1801, the prefect of police liberated Miranda from his dungeon and directed him to leave  p219 France within four days.25 He now relinquished hope of Napoleon's aid.

Yet he still felt that the French Government had a keen interest in the Spanish Indies. After the publicist Abbé de Pradt had completed a volume on the emancipation of the Spanish colonies, Miranda wrote to continental friends to make solicitous inquiries about its reception. In a letter to the French statesman Boissy d'Anglas he inquired: "What does Spain say about De Pradt's plan? What do people think that the French Government anticipates in regard to this absolute independence?"26 An extensive correspondence proves that he did not forget his friends in Paris. The best exposé of the effect of Miranda's experiences in France upon his political ideas is found in a letter addressed to an unknown correspondent in which he avowed that the French Revolution had not diminished his love for liberty a single particle. "When I speak of liberty," said he, "it is not the species of liberty that Robespierre, Sieyès, and Fouché have pretended to establish but the type of liberty which Montesquieu and Locke have very clearly explained. When I mention justice, I do not mean the kind of justice that Danton and Merlin gave us in France."27

Upon being released, the émigré was furnished with a passport dated Paris, March 14, 1801, which stated that he was a native of Caracas who was going to the Batavian Republic.28 According to the diary of Vargas, who accompanied Miranda on his return journey, on March 22 they left Paris and proceeded by way of Antwerp and Rotterdam to The Hague. It appears that they obtained permission to leave this capital only through the intercession of the Prussian Minister. Then they took passage on an American vessel bound for England.29 On April 21 Miranda addressed letters to Turnbull from Gravesend. In an epistle marked "secret" the South American informed his friend that he had just reached this  p220 port after being exposed to great personal danger from the governments of France and Spain. Avowing that he wished to make a "last effort" to save his country by English aid, he asked Turnbull to help him get permission again to sojourn in London.30 In a note addressed to Pitt, which was marked "private," Miranda outlined his program in these words:

The causes for my arrival in this country are the imminent dangers which at this moment menace the Spanish-American Continent and the expeditions already prepared or being prepared in ports of the French Republic to invade the Spanish Indies. These oblige me to demand permission from you to make a brief sojourn incognito in England in order that I may embark on a neutral vessel for the coast of Venezuela or for the United States. News which I have recently received informs me that many of the Spanish-American colonies are upon the point of an almost general insurrection. If unfortunately the existing government of France should interfere, that intervention will throw those colonies into a condition of complete disorganization or will precipitate disasters similar to those which took place in Santo Domingo, unless wise, prompt, and vigorous measures are taken in advance. I ask that, in view of a measure so important and useful to the common welfare of Spanish America and England, you will be so good as to grant me without delay the permit which I have the honor to ask for myself and for one of my compatriots. He accompanies me under the name of Smith while I pass under the name of Martin in order to preserve the strictest incognito for the promotion of this affair."31


The Author's Notes:

1 10 Pluvoise,º an 8, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Feb. 11, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

3 May 25 and June 13, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Pownall to Dundas, June 15, 1800 (copy), ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

5 May 9, 1800, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Mel. MSS., f. 33.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Signed by Rufus King, Sept. 29, 1800, A. N., F7, 6285, no. 5819.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Semonville to Herbonville, Oct. 25, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Mancini, Bolívar et l'émancipation des colonies espagnoles, pp193‑95.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Robertson, Miranda, p348.

[decorative delimiter]

12 29 Brumaire, an 9, A. N., police générale, F7, 6285, no. 5919.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Passport signed by C. Herbonville, 3 Frimaire, an 9, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Ô'Kelly de Galway, Les généraux de la révolution, pp91‑92.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Dunnoie to Fouché, 12 Frimaire, an 9, F7, 6285, no. 5819.

[decorative delimiter]

17 "30 Pluvoise,º an 9," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Ô'Kelly de Galway, pp96‑98.

[decorative delimiter]

19 Ibid., p99.

[decorative delimiter]

20 Ibid., p100.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Robertson, Miranda, p349, note d. The financial accounts of the English Government do not reveal that money was paid Miranda for secret service on the Continent, A. O., series 3, vol. 949. On this matter nothing was found in the Mir. MSS.

[decorative delimiter]

22 15 Ventôse, an 9, F7, 6285, no. 5819.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

24 Ibid., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Dunnoie to Fouché, 24 Ventôse, an 9, F7, 6285, no. 5819.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Dec. 15, 1801, Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

27 June 8, 1801, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Passport signed by Püs, ibid., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Vargas' Journal, ibid., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

31 April 21, 1801, ibid.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Jun 15