[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 10

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 12

Vol. I
p221
Chapter XI

Formulation of Plans for the Addington Ministry

On April 23, 1801, Mr. Flint of the English Alien Office wrote to Under Secretary Hammond to ask whether Miranda should be given a permit to proceed to London. Not without success did Turnbull urge Addington to grant the émigré a passport. Hence Miranda soon prepared to assume his former rôle. However he could no longer calculate upon the sympathetic interest of the great Prime Minister; for, because of the King's stubborn opposition to Catholic emancipation in Ireland, William Pitt had retired from office. On March 14, 1801, Henry Addington, one of Pitt's friends who had been speaker of the House of Commons for more than a decade, had become chancellor of the exchequer and prime minister. A vain man with moderate ability, Addington induced certain of Pitt's advisers to remain with him. Yet in men of recognized talent his cabinet was weak as compared with that of his predecessor.

Among the new ministers was Earl St. Vincent who became first lord of the admiralty. Miranda did not long delay in making approaches to the Addington ministry. In his diary he wrote on April 28 that he had informed Turnbull about designs which he had reason to believe that France entertained against Portugal, Brazil, and the Spanish Indies. With this news, said Miranda, his friend went to the Admiralty to talk with Lord St. Vincent. Turnbull also paid a visit to the Treasury to converse about English foreign policy with Nicholas Vansittart, now a member of Parliament and follower of Addington, who, upon returning from a mission to Copenhagen, had been made joint secretary of the treasury.1 Vansittart soon wrote to the merchant to ask that instead of repairing to Downing Street the promoter should meet him secretly at  p222 his rooms in the Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, as the Prime Minister was of the opinion that in this manner secrecy would be much better preserved. "You will please to represent me," added the Secretary, "as honored with Mr. Addington's entire confidence."2

[image ALT: A portrait, three-quarters left, of a man in late middle age, seated in an armchair, and wearing elaborately embroidered robes; his right hand is on a book on a small table. He has a pleasantly noncommittal expression. He is Nicholas Vansittart, a British member of Parliament in the early 19c.]

Nicholas Vansittart. Portrait by William Owen. In the collection at Christ Church, Oxford University.

A significant relationship between that influential secretary and the agent incognito thus began. At the appointed time Miranda met Vansittart who informed him that Addington had received the letter from Gravesend which he had addressed to Pitt. In a conversation which he carried on in French so that the servant might be kept in ignorance of what was going on, Miranda elucidated his projects to Vansittart. Details of the meeting are found in an account that Miranda composed in his diary:

"I told him that at present I solicited only a small amount of aid in arms and a few men who might be found in America, especially in the islands of Trinidad and Curaçao, and that, if the English Government did not wish to participate in the affair, I had mercantile friends who would furnish me with what was necessary, and with whom we could make the arrangements, provided that the government did not object.* * * With animation he replied 'that the intention was to execute the thing completely and in a large way; that, in his opinion, this was what ought to have been done three years ago; and that, if they now insisted that I should show them the general plan, it was to assure themselves that the enterprise would not be mismanaged and to secure the succor which was necessary when once the project was agreed upon.' * * * During this discussion I formed the idea that the ships and other forces which were necessary should come by way of the Pacific Ocean from India. I said 'that the military plan had already been examined and approved by Sir Ralph Abercromby, and also by Sir Charles Stewart, who, in my judgment, was the commander best fitted to coöperate in this enterprise.' * * * He said to me 'that the person who seemed well fitted to aid us was Sir Sidney Smith, and I agreed.' "3

 p223  By indirect methods Miranda, who evidently feared that the United States might get wind of his latest move, got possession of a box containing valuable papers which he had left in the custody of Minister King. He placed some of these in a portfolio and on May 1, 1801, proceeded to another conference with Vansittart. To quote Miranda's journal again:

"He read the plan of military operations that I had prepared in 1799. It appeared magnificent to him. But when I observed 'that at that time we had counted upon the Americans,' he responded to me with alacrity, 'that there was now no need to count upon them for anything.' We carried on a lengthy discussion about the population of the Spanish Indies, about the proportion it contained of Indians to other inhabitants, and, among other things, about the ratio of whites to people of color. * * * He saw the propositions I had made to Pitt in the year 1790 * * * as well as the proposals of 1798 with the data concerning products, commerce, population, land and naval forces, all of which appeared to him satisfactory. He said to me that he had read with much interest the plans formed by Brissot in 1792 for Spanish-American independence.

"Then he said to me, 'at present there is still something lacking, that is, to know the form of government which you intend to establish.' To this I responded that 'I could not dictate a government for the country but I expected that, should the affair continue to prosper, a recommendation from us, if it were wise and prudent, would have an almost decisive effect, and that in our judgment a system of government similar to that of the United States would be very popular and perhaps the most convenient.' He agreed to this but warned us against the influence of foreign immigrants like those who were now distracting North America. He also advised that the voters should own some property, in which we agreed. He then said, 'draw up this project of provisional and federal government in writing and bring it to me tomorrow so that it may be submitted to the judgment of the Minister and a response secured.' 'Oh,' he said to me, 'where will you locate  p224 the capital?' I responded, 'probably on the Isthmus.' "4

On the following day, — so wrote Miranda in his diary, — he proceeded to frame the projects of government. He spent May 3, 1801, amending them. When these were completed, he revised a proclamation to the Spanish Americans that he had drafted in 1798. After Vargas had copied the documents in a clear hand, Miranda submitted them to Vansittart and asked for observations.5 The opening paragraphs of the proclamation read as follows:

"Don Francisco de Miranda, a native of the city of Caracas, to the people of Colombian Continent who compose the Spanish-American colonies! Dear and brave compatriots: — Empowered by you for some years to labor for the establishment of your independence, we have at last the inexpressible satisfaction of informing you that the epoch of your enfranchisement has arrived. Our entire existence has been consecrated to you; our last efforts will fulfill your ample desires. The time has arrived to drive out the barbarians; the day has come when the rod of iron which the Spanish Government has stretched across the sea will be broken. Remember that you are the descendants of those illustrious Indians who did not wish to survive the enslavement of their country, and who preferred a glorious death to a dishonorable life. Those chosen warriors fell with Montezuma on the walls of the city of Mexico and with Incan leaders on the walls of Quito and Cuzco. Thus they presaged the misfortunes of their posterity. They preferred to die rather than to remain slaves; thus they became victims to their ardent love of liberty. Beyond doubt they perished, but I see them reincarnated among you, more brilliant than ever.

"They are about to establish the independence of their  p225 country upon the ruins of a destructive government. In an enterprise so important, one that is to render to you that which is yours, it is your duty to make known to the universe the purity of the motives which animate you, and to prove to the Two Worlds that neither vengeance, hatred, nor ingratitude, as our enemies declare, are your sole guides, but that you listen, above all, to the voice of justice and to the imperious sentiment of self-preservation."6

The spirit of these phrases is scarcely typical of the proclamation which occasionally became pedantic. The title by which the Spanish monarchs claimed the Indies was flouted. Satirically did Miranda state that it was based upon "the decree of an Italian bishop." With some justice he argued that the right of conquest could not properly be urged by Spain as the basis of her territorial claim, for the conquistadors subjugated America at their own expense. Further, he maintained that the Motherland ought now to remove her soldiers from the Spanish Indies and grant the colonists their independence. Have not the Spanish Americans, asked Miranda, sighed for more than three centuries under foreign oppression? Among the examples of mistreatment of the Indians which he cited was the horrible execution at Cuzco of Tupac Amaru, a descendant of the Incas. He appealed to aristocratic colonists by citing such illustrations of Spain's narrow colonial policy as the fact that a creole could not even leave his native province in order to study art and science in a foreign country without a permit from the government. He spoke of the ruthless or faithless measures by which Spain had quelled rebellions in northern South America. His apprehensions in respect to tendencies in independent Spanish America are set forth in the following passage in which, in a spirit of rodomontade, Miranda unwittingly essayed the rôle of a prophet:

"The most decisive success will be the prize of your generous efforts. If your brothers of North America, who numbered  p226 only three millions, were able by their courage, virtue, and perseverance to establish their independence, why should you not be able to gain freedom with a population of more than fifteen millions who will fight with perseverance under the banners of liberty? * * * In erecting the independence of your country upon the ruins of an oppressive régime, you will spread the renown of your exploits far and wide. You will engrave your names in the temple of memory. The task that you undertake is great and generous; you must be careful not to defeat it by irregular measures. You should always remember that the punishment of a crime is a function only of the tribunals of justice. An assassin remains always an assassin no matter what were his motives. At the juncture when you are about to confound your tyrants you should not imitate their tyranny. It is not your desire to replace an irregular government by an irregular government, to substitute an oppressive régime for an oppressive régime, or to destroy an ancient tyranny in order to erect a new tyranny. In fine, it is not your desire to establish upon the downfall of a foreign despotism the régime of a not less odious despotism, that of license and anarchy!"7

In conclusion Miranda invited his compatriots to sanction a series of regulations by which he hoped to preserve justice and public order during hostilities. He proposed that the cabildos of "the Colombian Continent" should send to the headquarters of the liberating army delegates who were to form a congress which should establish a provisional government. Roman Catholicism should remain the national religion but all other religious faiths were to be tolerated. The Inquisition was to be swept away. No ecclesiastic was to perform any civil or military functions. The odious and oppressive tribute which had been levied upon the Indians was to be abolished. Not only the aborigines but also the free colored people were "henceforth to enjoy all the rights and privileges" of white citizens. All male citizens between the ages of eighteen and fifty-eight years were to be obliged to take up arms for  p227 the defense of the country and were to conform to any military regulations that might be adopted.8 According to a diarial note, Miranda also proposed to distribute among his compatriots copies of a Spanish translation of Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains which he had had printed in London.9

Miranda's project for the government of the liberated Spanish-American colonies was composed of two parts: a scheme of a "provisional government," and a project of a "federal government." The first clause in the provisional scheme declared that all authority emanating from the Spanish Government was ipso facto abolished. Assemblies should be formed from inhabitants belonging to whatever caste either born in the country or settled there, twenty‑one years of age, who enjoyed an annual revenue of fifty pesos and who had taken an oath of allegiance to the independent government.

Local officers who had been selected by the Spanish Government were to be replaced by the cabildos. Those councils were to increase their membership by one‑third, somewhat after the fashion of the special meetings styled cabildos abiertos, by members chosen from the Indians and from the colored people of the respective province. Every extraordinary cabildo was to select two alcaldes who should have charge of justice and police in the respective district during the war. Each of those councils was also to choose one or more citizens from its respective district who should organize an assembly that was to administer the province until a federal government was established. During the revolutionary war the execution of provisional laws was to be intrusted to two citizens who were designated curacas, a title evidently borrowed from official titles of the Inca régime.

The existing laws were to remain in force, with certain exceptions, until new legislation was enacted. All personal taxes, such as the tribute levied upon the Indians, were to be abolished. Customs duties were to be reduced to a uniform rate  p228 of fifteen per cent on imports and twenty per cent on exports. All laws concerning the Inquisition were to be abrogated. The clause regarding religious faith ran thus: "Religious toleration, being a principle of natural right, will be generally permitted; the Colombian people will always recognize the Apostolic Catholic and Roman religion as their national religion."10

The provisional scheme of government also contained clauses concerning the management of military affairs. During the war for liberation the armed forces of the revolutionists were to be under the direction of a citizen styled the hatunapa. His chief duties were to be the organization of the military forces and the defense of the country. Until the assembly made definite arrangements, the commander in chief was to raise through requisitions the funds that might be necessary for the prosecution of the war. Foreigners who had arrived in Spanish America after the struggle for independence had begun could ordinarily not be admitted to the rights of citizenship. Persons who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new government were to withdraw into the interior of the country during the war. Any one who should take up arms against Spanish-American independence was to be perpetually expatriated.

More significant than the provisional scheme was the project for a "federal" government. This plan sketched a political system for the emancipated nation. A certain clause provided that citizenship was to be restricted to persons born in Spanish America of free parents and to foreigners married and domiciled there who had taken the oath of fidelity to the new government or who being unmarried had served in the armies of independence during more than three campaigns. The clauses concerning local government resembled those in the provisional scheme.

The provincial assemblies were to choose the members of the general legislature. "This assembly will be designated the  p229 Colombian council," stipulated the constitution, "it will have the sole power to make laws for the entire American federation." As in the project of 1790, stipulations resembling those in the United States Constitution were made for the amendment of the fundamental law. Yet this constitution made provision for only one house of the legislature.

Under normal circumstances the supreme executive power should be vested in two persons chosen from active citizens forty years of age who had previously filled one of the important imperial offices. These officials were to be called Incas, "a name which was venerated in the country." While one Inca was to remain at the capital of the empire, the other Inca was to traverse the provinces. The Incas could appoint censors, ediles, and questors, — officials whose functions much resembled those of the corresponding officials in Miranda's governmental plan of 1790. They were to watch over the general welfare of the empire, and were empowered to defend it against sudden attack, but could not wage an offensive war without the consent of the Colombian council.

In an emergency that council was to decree that a single executive should be chosen. This ruler was to be clothed with all the powers of a Roman dictator but his term of office should not be prolonged beyond one year. The Spanish-American dictator was to be appointed by the Incas from citizens who had attained the age of at least forty-five years and who had already filled one of the important imperial offices. Not without interest to students of United States history is the fact that in a copy of this plan preserved among Miranda's papers the clause concerning the dictator bears an annotation to the effect that it had been suggested by Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton.11

This plan also contained careful stipulations regarding the judiciary. The judges who were to preside over the provincial  p230 courts were to be appointed by the provisional assemblies with the consent of the executive power. Local courts were to be patterned after tribunals in England and the United States. The mode of trial should be by jury. A special type of jury was, however, to be established until the mass of citizens were more conversant with liberty. The supreme court of the nation was to be composed of a president and two other members chosen by the executive power from federal judges. It was to have jurisdiction over cases relating to international law, cases arising from treaties with foreign nations, and cases concerning the misdeeds of federal magistrates.

Roman Catholicism was declared to be the religion of the nation. Complete religious toleration was, however, to be observed. Priests and ministers of the gospel, as well as notaries and lawyers were to be excluded from all civil and military offices.

The plan of federal government, unlike Miranda's project of 1790, did not delimit the dominions that were to belong to the nation. The Spanish-American state that Miranda now dreamed of establishing was evidently to be composed of more territory than the Captaincy General of Venezuela; for the capital city was to be erected at the most central point, "perhaps on the Isthmus of Panama." That city was to bear "the celebrated name of Colombo" in honor of the Great Discoverer. "If one adopts the name Colombia to designate the new republic," reasoned Miranda, in an annotation inscribed upon his copy of the plan, "the inhabitants ought to be called Colombianos; this name is more sonorous and majestic than Colombinos."12

To an Anglo-American mind the term "federal" applied to the plan was a misnomer. Perhaps the most significant feature of this project for a constitutional government in Spanish America is that it aimed to establish there an empire or an imperial republic rather than a federation or a pure republic. In fact there were in the Spanish Indies no bases for the organization  p231 of a federal system such as those which existed in the Thirteen Colonies. The plans sketched in 1801, which in the main represented Miranda's mature ideas about the political organization of independent Spanish America, provided for a more centralized and monarchical type of government than the projects of 1790. The proposal for a dictator would seem to indicate a keen appreciation by the incognito revolutionary of the actual needs of his compatriots. Perhaps he dreamed that some day he might reach that eminence himself. In this respect Miranda's project resembles the Plan of Iguala by which Agustín de Iturbide became Emperor of Mexico.

In all likelihood Francisco de Miranda was the chief author of these plans. He had undoubtedly made a study of various political systems. As in the scheme of 1790, he had drawn inspiration from the history of Rome. The use of such terms as curaca and hatunapa indicate that he had studied the Inca governmental system. The provisions concerning religious toleration were the result of his observations in England and the United States. Obviously he now proposed to utilize certain institutions that were firmly rooted in the Spanish colonial system. Especially noteworthy was his design to use the cabildos which offered a prospect for the development of local government. In truth, Miranda's national plan of 1801 derives significance from the fact that it was a unique proposal to superimpose a representative government of a monarchical type upon modified Spanish institutions.

The Sieyès of Spanish America must have been influenced by the political ideas of Pitt, Turnbull, and Vansittart. He felt the need of improving his governmental plans as will be shown by a letter to Pownall written at a linen draper's shop in Westminster.

"Here I am again my dear and worthy friend; and the object that brings me is always the same. The new ministers received me with friendship and with very good grace. Conferences accordingly opened at once, and after a thorough discussion  p232 of the political and military plans, we are on the eve of a definitive decision. Turnbull believes that it can only be favorable, and he bases this upon the zeal and the approbation which one of the principal ministers manifested to him concerning the enterprise. I admit to you that because of the attitude that I have noticed on the part of those members of the Government with whom I have had occasion to communicate we should expect a happy outcome; but as I have been much concerned in this matter, I will not believe anything until all is completed.

"After an agreement was reached in regard to the military and political objects, the ministers asked me for my project of a permanent government. For good or ill they were framed and transmitted in two days, accompanied by a proclamation that should precede everything else. In this manner a simple fiat will decide the whole affair: — the juncture could not be more favorable!

"Everything is being done in the greatest secrecy, and without the Americans knowing anything about it — Turnbull is the only person (on the outside) who has been initiated; and this is the reason why I have not written to the respectable Mr. Faulkner but have remained here in the strictest incognito during the twenty days since my arrival. But I certainly need your counsel, my wise coöperator, especially to correct and perfect the legislative project. In the name of humanity and in the name of all my compatriots for whom youth already done so much, I beg you to come to me as soon as possible. In this flattering expectation, I remain always your unalterable friend,

M–––––––––.

P. S. I bear the name of F. Martin — and if you should write to me address the letter in an envelope to Mr. Turnbull — I have a million things to communicate to you — The secret of my arrival here is an essential thing for success. May 14 at 12 o'clock."13

Pownall replied in a prosy letter couched in these words:

 p233  "I receiv'd this day your Letter dated the 14th Inst. Your incognito is not so guarded, but that I heard several daies past of your arrival. — I waited to hear from you before I wou'd address any letter to you, lest I might make a blunder.

"I receiv'd your letter written from Paris, wherein you mention the speculation of sending your Books to Petersburg. I answer'd it, and sent my answer to yr. friend T. desiring him to get a certain minister to forward it to you. It was conceiv'd in the same stile on the subject of books: desiring you to get for me from the National Institute a Drawing of the Ancient Chariot Wheels at Kars, and a specific description of them: Also to offer them a communication of a Paper of mine on the Hieroglyphic and Elementary writing of the Egyptians. It is of no great import whether you receiv'd it or not, it was intirely guarded on literary topics which you would understand.

"As I have nothing so much at heart as the object toujours le même, which you mention, it is with the purest cordial joy that I hear from you, the hopes which you express of its being revived and again taken up. There is nothing I would not do, nor any trouble which I wou'd not take in my power to promote it. But as I first introduced you to Ministers on this point: You must now introduce me as connected in it from its first proposition, to our present Ministers whom I am totally unknown to. You must inform them of the part I have always had in it, and that I am ready, if they have no objection or desire it to renew my operations in it. For be assured that if I was to interpose my Labours, or you to communicate with me unknown to them or without their consent, or without their desiring it, my interposition would only spoil the good effect to be expected from it. You must therefore 1. acquaint them of the Part which I have had in it from its proposition, and have their leave to communicate with me, and of the desire you have of my assistance. 2. that they will, in such a way as they choose, signifye their desire that I should. — I will attend such desire without hesitation or the loss of a moment. — No time in the interim shall be lost, I will directly turn my thoughts to it, so as to recall all that has passed; and to arrange  p234 all that may remain to be done on its present revival.

Ever and unalterably

Yr friend

T. Pownall."

Bath May 15 / 1801

"Sir Robert Abercromby the Brother of Sr. Ralph Abercromby is here. It has so happened that we have talked over the Business, as intended when Sr. Ralph Abercromby was to have had the command [of] it — And he says. 'What Pity it did not take Place — it was clear that it must have succeeded.' I find he had the Secret communicated to him —"14

After an auspicious beginning, the negotiations lagged. A letter to Miranda on May 14 suggested the predicament of the English Government as conceived by Vansittart. That Secretary much regretted "the delay which has taken place in Mr. Martin's business. He is sensible that from its nature it requires a particular degree of dispatch and celerity. At the same time Mr. M. must be aware that until the issue of certain events is distinctly known it is impossible for Govt. to decide upon the part to be taken."15 Five days later Vansittart sent a note to Miranda to arrange another conference.16 When they met, the Secretary returned some papers, saying in frigid tones to the promoter that the English Government could not "spare a large enough body of soldiers" to undertake the project until it learned about the events that had occurred in Egypt. In his journal Miranda wrote that Vansittart gave him assurances that England would nevertheless enable him to begin operations by furnishing a loan of money, a good frigate, and a few small warships, besides some arms, munitions, artillery, and officers. Then the diary continues:

"I asked him if England was disposed to aid us in the maintenance  p235 of our independence? To which he responded affirmatively. He said that in a very short time England would send a considerable body of soldiers to coöperate with us. I also asked if the proclamation and the projects of government seemed good to him. To this he responded in affirmative terms but said that certain minor clauses ought to be slightly modified. He declared that above all the English wished that no one should be deprived of his property; that people should not be killed in cold blood; that religion should be maintained, allowing that an arrangement should be made with the Pope about this; and that the abolition of the Inquisition as well as the establishment of religious toleration were very just measures. * * *

"I also inquired what payment England would ask for her aid, as it would be convenient to have that matter understood in advance so that there might be no disagreement later. His reply was very brief and clear: 'We do not ask any more than to be permitted to trade with those countries on the same basis as other nations, being treated as the most friendly nation.' * * * Then we proceeded to make a list of the articles that were needed in order to get ready with dispatch, for promptness was most necessary. Lord St. Vincent was very active and everything would have to be submitted to him."17

Under Miranda's direction, on May 19, 1801, a list was prepared of the articles required for the equipment of 12,000 or 15,000 men composed of cavalry and infantry. Among the military supplies specified were 6,000 to 12,000 muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, 1,000 to 2,000 saddles and bridles, 1,000 to 4,000 sabres, 2,000 pairs of pistols, 5,000 to 10,000 pikes, 3,000 to 10,000 uniforms, 3,000 cutlasses, 10,000 short swords, some 50 pieces of artillery, 5,000 cannon cartridges, 400,000 flints, and 1,500,000 small arm cartridges. Besides 12 flags, the expedition should be furnished with 12 to 30 standards bearing as a device "the Rain Bow, the Figure of Liberté with the name Colombia, and the following Motto — Pro Aris et Focis."

 p236  A large supply of mattocks, hatchets, pickaxes, shovels, billhooks, and broadaxes was also to be furnished. Four surgeons were to be provided as well as some medicine chests. In addition there were to be 2 printing presses. Miranda evidently expected that many soldiers would be recruited in the English West Indies; for this list specified that only 4,000 infantry, one company of artillery, some artillery officers, engineers, infantry, and light cavalry, besides drummers and musicians, were to accompany the expedition from England.18 A supplementary memorandum prepared by Rutherfurd mentioned certain officers who should be employed and suggested that in the English contingent there should be included "drill sergeants and Riding masters to instruct the new levies."19

On May 24, 1801, in a conference at Lincoln's Inn with Vansittart and Sir Evan Nepean, who had served for years as secretary of the admiralty,a Miranda explained his plans for the expedition against the Spanish Indies.20 On the following day he sent to Vansittart a statement concerning those military operations about which they had evidently agreed. This memorandum contained proposals for an attack on northern South America. The rendezvous of the attacking force was to be at Curaçao where artillery, infantry, and cavalry were to be gathered with a generous supply of flags, uniforms, arms, and munitions. The point of disembarkation was to be the town of Coro in Venezuela. There a military camp was to be formed after the Roman fashion, and native forces were to be gathered for use in attacks on San Felipe, Nirgua, and Valencia. Then the invaders were to proceed into the beautiful valleys of Aragua. As they advanced, — thus reasoned Miranda, — they would enlist large numbers of recruits. While revolutionists were marching to the gates of the capital city,  p237 English warships from Grenada or Trinidad should threaten a bombardment of Cumaná and La Guaira. Miranda's hypothesis was that the small size of the forces which could be mustered to the defense of any one of these points, as well as the disaffection of the inhabitants, would assure the success of the invaders. He thought that after the capture of the city of Caracas additional native reënforcements would join them and that La Guaira could then also be attacked by land. The promoter proceeded with much optimism:

"Thus there would be conquered the entire Captaincy General which is thickly populated, very rich, and one of the most flourishing regions in America. Its inhabitants are much inclined toward independence and have close liaisons with the Biscayan merchants of the country who desire emancipation with as much ardor as the creoles themselves. The governor of Trinidad could make himself the master of Angostura in order to penetrate the Orinoco River as far as Bogotá."21

Protected by English vessels, the invading forces were to advance from the province of Caracas upon Santa Marta and thus to provoke an insurrection in the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Before long, said Miranda, the fortress of Cartagena would open its gates, and the town of Teneriffe, which was located at a strategic point on the river Magdalena, would be captured. Soldiers should then be disembarked at Chagres on the Isthmus of Panama. Miranda did not anticipate a protracted resistance by the town of Panama; for the governor, he believed, would aid any attacking force. He maintained that these operations would also decide the fate of Chile and Peru. A small maritime force should, however, be dispatched to the Pacific Ocean. With this communication he sent data concerning the necessary supplies, a list of officers who were to be consulted about the operations, and the names of disaffected natives of northern South America who were sojourning in  p238 the British or the Dutch West Indies.22

At this juncture Miranda framed a series of military regulations for the guidance of the members of the expedition. A preamble to these rules stated that in "a free government the laws are sovereign and all the citizens are subjects." Soldiers and officers were alike declared to be responsible "to the civil authorities for any infraction of the laws of the country." The regulations were arranged in three divisions or, as they were styled after the Spanish fashion, titles. Title I was composed of twenty-three penal laws. Title II concerned crimes that were to be judged by the police court of the army. Title III contained provisions respecting military discipline. In addition, these regulations included stipulations about a general military court, and a tribunal for military discipline. A certain article provided that any soldier who might use his arms to resist the police or the army patrols should be punished by death. Any soldier who became inebriated while in the service was to be sentenced to labor in the camp; for the second offense he was to be condemned to labor on public works for one year. A soldier who stole from the inhabitants was to be sentenced to ten years of hard labor. If the robbery had been accompanied by any mistreatment of the people, the offender should be punished by death. Any one who might receive women of evil habits was to be ignominiously cast out of the army.23

Despite encouraging words from Vansittart, Miranda became extremely impatient of the delay made by English ministers in the execution of his project. In his diary under date of June 4, 1801, he formulated a series of propositions for presentation to Turnbull. Among these was a proposal that he should be allowed soon to proceed to the West Indies, and that England should aid him by furnishing money, officers, and supplies for the emancipation of South America. He also proposed that before his departure he should have a conference with Lord St. Vincent, Mr. Addington, and Lord Hobart,  p239 who was secretary of state for war and the colonies.24 A week later Secretary Vansittart wrote to Miranda to express regret at the delay in the execution of a project in which they were both much interested. Special circumstances, he said, had made necessary a further postponement of the "definitive decision of the British Government."25 On the same day Miranda addressed a letter to Vansittart to declare that he wished the government to make a decision immediately. Further, he stated that he had decided after mature reflection to leave England accompanied "with the least succor."26 In the last half of June, 1801, he addressed two letters to that Secretary to urge the need of immediate steps by the government if the Spanish Indies were to be saved from the yoke of France; he even expressed his willingness to renounce English aid, if he were permitted to leave London for the West Indies.27 On June 20 Turnbull reassured Miranda thus: "At last I have received a note from Mr. Vansittart, requesting me to advance you as far as £300 towards discharging such Expenses as you may have incurred."28

Miranda carried on discussions with Rutherfurd, Turnbull, and Vansittart. On July 9 he inscribed in his diary that at a dinner attended by those enthusiasts Vansittart gave a toast wishing success to the rainbow. On the next day Miranda noted that Pownall had read the projects of government, and that after he had "proposed some slight alterations," they "were in agreement about them." Miranda added that this approbation gave him great satisfaction; for the ex‑governor was "a person of science and sobriety" who had much considered the matter, and who was as much interested in the success of his revolutionary plans as himself.29 On July 16 he sent Vansittart translations of his governmental projects so that they might be shown to Lord St. Vincent.30 On the following day Miranda wrote that a decision had been reached  p240 about the color of the uniform to be worn by the soldiers: the jacket of the infantry should be red, the waistcoat white, and the trousers blue. He also recorded a rumor that Lord St. Vincent was seeking for officers to lead the auxiliary contingent. With reluctance did he notice that an English commander had been proposed for the management of the expedition until Caracas had been captured and a new government formed.31

At this juncture the incendiary was brought to the attention of the English public in an unenviable manner. During a suit in the court of King's Bench regarding Allwood's contraband transactions in the West Indies the Attorney General ironically mentioned General Miranda as "a man who had always shown himself ready to enter into any plan that forwarded his own interest; and it was equally the same to him whether he drew his sword for Spain, England, or the French Republic, provided those who employed him paid for his services."32 It is probable that this characterization of himself as a soldier of fortune provoked the statement which in a diarial note Miranda declared that he had made to Colonel Rutherfurd, namely, that if an English expedition should be dispatched to the Spanish Indies he "would never for a moment consent that a foreign force should exercise any authority in the country or assume the rôle of a conqueror there. I would only serve under the American Standard."33

A serious question about the relation which ought to prevail between General Miranda and the English commander of an expedition to South America, was apparently first raised at the residence of Lord Hobart on July 13. Besides Miranda, there were present at this conference, Vansittart, Lord Hobart, a trusted official named Sullivan, and Lord St. Vincent. An inquiry was made concerning who should command the English auxiliary forces when they disembarked in South America. "I replied," wrote Miranda in his diary, " 'that this should be the person who commanded the American forces  p241 which, united under the standard of independence, composed the American army.' 'Very good,' said Sullivan and Vansittart, 'this will be when they have formed a government, and when that government has appointed a commander in chief, but before this is done the English commander cannot obey an authority that is not sanctioned by the people.' "

Miranda responded that such a policy would lead to the subjugation of the Indies by foreign soldiers aided by Spanish Americans. It seems likely that he made the remark which he attributed to himself: "I, for my part, will never draw my sword against any Spanish American except under the standard of American liberty." Not without reason did he maintain that otherwise the enemies of England would be justified in saying that, aided by "the perfidious Miranda who, selling his country and his compatriots, had formed plans and furnished the means," under the pretence of giving independence to the Spanish Indies, she had conquered that region in a fashion similar to that in which she had subjugated India.34

As a solution for this crucial problem Miranda proposed that the English Government should select a special agent who in conjunction with himself was to determine what the auxiliary forces from England should do before they were formally placed at the disposition of Spanish America. Among persons whom he suggested for this rôle were Governor Picton and Thomas Pownall. In a letter to Pownall the revolutionary proposed that the ex‑governor should serve as England's commissioner "with full authority to decide upon the field all the difficulties which might arise between an English army and Spanish-American soldiers or between a Spanish-American government and English military authorities." Miranda ventured the prediction that an English expedition for the liberation of Spanish America seemed certain unless some very extraordinary, unforeseen event should take place.35 It is perhaps not without significance that on July 13 Pownall wrote to Miranda to offer that when the Colombians became  p242 independent he would act as "their accredited agent" in England, provided they would clothe him with sufficient authority.36 Thus step by step the ex‑governor withdrew from the negotiation regarding Spanish-American emancipation. The last expression of his views was in A Memorial of the Sovereigns of Europe and the Atlantic published in 1803 in which he declared that the Spanish colonists in South America were "at the crisis of an explosion to independency, which the government of old Spain hath not the power to prevent or to resist."37

The negotiations between Miranda and members of the Addington ministry are significant because they were largely responsible for the definite formulation of the promoter's political plans. In his imagination he saw rising upon the ruins of the Spanish Empire in the New World a congeries of states or more likely a huge imperial state. That state he evidently intended to designate Colombia; its capital should be on the Isthmus of Panama. Although he figured sanguinely upon vigorous assistance from his fellow countrymen, yet the crux of his proposed politico-military operations lay as he now perceived, in the selection of a military commander for the English forces.

It appears that in 1801 Miranda scarcely hoped that England would concede this command to him. At no time did he approach a more practical solution of the problem than at this juncture when he proposed the choice of a commissioner who was to accompany the expeditionary forces, — a commissioner who was to be satisfactory to him as well as to the English Government. A keen student of the policies pursued by European governments toward the disintegrating Spanish Empire, he did not fail to discern the imminent danger that, if his plans were once accepted, English redcoats might undertake the conquest instead of the liberation of South America. Though it seems that he was willing to make concessions to English commerce in the emancipated regions, yet it is clear  p243 that on this occasion he would not have agreed to any concession of territory. Thus he refused to contemplate any step that might facilitate the founding in his native continent of an English protectorate. He had sold his arm to no one.


The Author's Notes:

1 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

2 April 29, 1801, Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

5 "Martin" to Vansittart, May 4, 1801, ibid., declared that he had prepared the "Mémoires Politiques" and that he was sending "ci‑joint les deux Esquisses demandes."º In another letter four days later Miranda asked Vansittart to examine "les Pieces ci‑jointes, qui ont été preparesº en vertu de ses ordres, et des observations faites par lui dans notre Conference de Vendredi dernier au Soir," ibid. Although the "Esquisse de Gouvernement Federal" bore the date May 2, yet this was evidently the date when it was begun. It is difficult to estimate the influence of Vansittart's political ideas upon Miranda.

[decorative delimiter]

6 "C. Proclamation," Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

10 "Esquisse de Gouvernement provisoire," Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

11 "Esquisse de Gouvernement Federal," May 2, 1801, Mir. MSS., vol. 47. This plan and the "Esquisse de Gouvernement provisoire" with slight modifications as transmitted by Miranda to Spanish America in 1808 are printed in Robertson, Miranda, pp520‑25.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Mir. MSS., vol. 47. On May 25, 1801, Pownall wrote a letter to Miranda that began as follows: "Inclosed I send off to the Service in which your heart is engaged, My Project of Legislation for the Emancipation of a Great Portion of Mankind to Independence and Liberty, in whose cause, as you justly observe, we have been Co‑operators for these eleven years past; and for the Establishment of a True Representative Government, suited to the circumstances of the Country, and to the Habits, Manners, and Circumstances of the Inhabitants, founded on old foundations," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

18 "Necessaries for the Arming a Corps of 12 to 15,000 Men as well infantry as Cavalry," Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

19 "Col. Rutherfurd's memorandum," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

20 Miranda to Nepean, May 24, 1801, ibid. On May 21 Miranda had written to Turnbull to complain that his absence from London had delayed the completion of his arrangements. On May 22 the merchant replied that he would return at once, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Inclosure in Miranda to Vansittart, May 25, 1801, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

23 "D. Reglamento militar," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

24 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

25 June 11, 1801, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Miranda to Vansittart, June 17 and 19, 1801, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Diario, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Diario, Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Morning Post, July 14, 1801.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

34 Diario, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Undated, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Pownall, Thomas Pownall, p459.


Thayer's Note:

a A summary of his career is given by Wade, Mackenzie of Canada, p308.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 20 Jul 16