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Chapter 11

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!

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Chapter 13

Vol. I
p244
Chapter XII

Hopes and Fears

The incognito promoter continued to press his plans upon Addington's ministers. On August 30 he proposed that two hundred men and a warship should be prepared for immediate departure. But in a cabinet conference in September, which seriously considered the revolutionizing of Spanish America, the Home Secretary maintained that twelve thousand men were necessary to initiate such a movement. Again, he argued that he could not agree to an attack which would have such far‑reaching results without precise knowledge about the principles and ulterior views of the revolutionists.

Further, by this time the great rivals were almost ready for peace. Napoleon's arms had proved victorious on the Continent, while England remained Mistress of the Sea. The titanic conflict was brought to a pause on October 1, 1801, by the Preliminaries of London in which England and France agreed to reciprocal restorations of territory. Vexed by fluctuations of fortune, Miranda's mood was far from enviable. With the cessation of hostilities, and the elaboration of the Preliminaries of London into a definitive treaty, his hope of immediate and effective aid from England in the accomplishment of his darling project was shattered. On October 6 he wrote to Vansittart to implore news about the surprising event which had cast him into a terrible condition of desolation and uncertainty. Yet he admitted that the hint which had reached him through Rutherfurd and Turnbull that the English Government proposed to offer him "generous succor" had given him some comfort.1

A side light is indeed cast upon Miranda's relations with the Addington ministry by an inquiry concerning his means of support. Gold from Russia he could not secure because of the death of Catherine II. There is no evidence to show that  p245 he was now receiving any money from his relatives. In truth, his chief financial support at this juncture was, in his own words, "an invaluable old friend."2 Itemized statements filed away among his papers show that prior to May 1, 1799, large sums had been advanced to him by John Turnbull.3 The most exact account of the expenditures from January, 1798, to October 10, 1800, for which Miranda himself was directly responsible, including the interest thereon, is his own signed memorandum that is headed:

"£2,227,‑6.

"I hereby declare that the Amount of the within account was advanced to me by Messrs. Turnbull, Forbes and Co. for the purpose of assisting me and others concerned with me, in endeavoring to give Liberty and independency to Spanish America, and to establish firm and advantegiousº connections between that Country and Gt. Britain — and that they were induced to do so in great measure by the favorable reception I met with from Mr. Pitt on my arrival in this Country in the year 1798, for the purpose of carrying into execution the Stipulation agreed upon in the year 1790 at Hollwood between the government of England and South America; which sum I shall pay with my own when circumstances shall permit me."4

On June 4, 1801, Miranda wrote to Secretary Vansittart that his preparations for a South American expedition had involved him in certain expenses "within the limits agreed upon" and that he hoped the English Government would authorize Turnbull to defray them.5 The result of Miranda's importunities was the Secretary's assurance in October, 1801, that the English Government proposed to make him "an allowance of £500 a year in England" and that it might also make "some arrangements" about "the incumbrances" which  p246 he had mentioned.6 This did not satisfy Miranda, however, for on October 23 he addressed a letter to Vansittart based upon the understanding that he would continue to reside in England and making four propositions: that he should be granted an annuity of seven hundred pounds, that he should be given one thousand pounds with which to pay his debts, that John Turnbull should be reimbursed for money which he had advanced on his behalf in 1799, and that this merchant should also be paid two thousand guineas for advances made to him in 1801. Miranda declared that he had always shown his desire to remain in London, if a competent income and the payment of his debts were assured him, — otherwise he would be compelled to depart from English soil.7

It is to be presumed that the petitioner did not secure from the English Treasury all that he demanded. A letter which he subsequently addressed to Vansittart shows that at this time the English Government granted him an allowance of five hundred pounds per annum.8 Whatever was the exact nature of the other adjustments which he reached with the ministers, it is clear that in the end of 1801 Miranda was so far satisfied with his financial situation that he had decided to remain in London. In a disingenuous letter to a French friend he alleged that funds from his family had at last reached him, and that he had been able to provide for himself an income in England.9

Documents found in his own papers enable us to interpret the last part of this assertion. In an account of Turnbull and Forbes against the English Government figures are presented showing that from May, 1801, to July, 1802, to meet expenditures arising from Miranda's activities this firm had disbursed funds that aggregated over twenty‑one thousand pounds. Among these disbursements there were in round numbers the following items: "To amount Mr. Davidson's account about £10,500 paid in part by a Warrant granted to Mr.  p247 Turnbull for his Trouble," ten thousand pounds; to Faden, for maps, sixteen pounds; to Caston and Company, for printing types, one hundred and eighty pounds; to Arding, for a printing press, ninety-five pounds; to Berge, an optician, seventy-five pounds; to Hatchett and Company, coachmakers, two hundred and fifty pounds; to Cuff, a saddler, two hundred and seventy pounds; and to Henry Tatham, a sword-maker, eight hundred pounds. In addition, besides several cash payments to "Mr. Martin" that amounted to more than one thousand pounds, and a payment to Chauveau Lagarde because of a sum of four hundred pounds distributed by him at Paris on Miranda's account, there was this entry, "Amount of Sundry Sums paid to General Miranda as pr. acct. certified by him," £2227‑6; "Interest on ditto to 13th Oct., 1801, when we recovered payment of the Warrant, £112‑5‑3."10

In a supplementary account of articles purchased by the English Government through Rutherfurd that aggregated some two thousand four hundred pounds are these items: to Tatham and Egg for one thousand swords and four hundred belts, eight hundred pounds; to two "Seals of Office purchased by Mr. Martin," twenty‑six pounds; and to one "Stand of Colours," thirteen pounds. This account was followed by a postscript: "N. B. All these articles were paid for by orders on Messrs. Turnbull, Forbes, and Co. and the Vouchers transmitted to Mr. Sullivan."11 These expenditures were obviously made by England to prepare the way for a South American expedition.

Meantime Miranda lost no chance of presenting his views. When his earlier sympathizer, Thomas Graves, — who had been made an admiral because of his valiant service as second in command under Lord Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen, — reached Yarmouth, Miranda sent him the following greeting composed, like many of his letters, in French:

 p248  "My dear Admiral: Allow one of your former friends to congratulate you upon your brilliant success. Upon my arrival in this country I did not fail to inquire for news about you from our mutual friends Turnbull and McArthur — and I hope that we shall have the pleasure of meeting you in London one of these days.

"The old projects for the true liberty of the New World, which in former times so much interested your generous soul, have unfortunately not been executed, in spite of repeated and very earnest efforts. Shall we always be unfortunate and without success in what is perhaps the most just, the most practicable, and the most beneficent enterprise that has ever been undertaken for the benefit of men? To me this seems incredible! And if you wish to take the trouble of reading the book of M. de Pradt concerning the colonies, which has been recently published in Paris, you will be convinced that this undertaking will soon take place and cannot fail of success.

"Finally, take care of yourself; send me the news, and allow me still to count you in the number of Philo Colombiens.

P. S. Letters will reach me safely when addressed in care of Messrs. Turnbull, Forbes, and Co., London."12

On January 16 the admiral made this response from the Monarch at Yarmouth Roads:

"Your letter of the 18th instant from London has given me great pleasure and I feel myself highly flattered by your congratulations and the credit you give me for those sentiments you so eminently possess and that are so honorable to human nature. — I do assure you it will give me great satisfaction to meet you and our benevolent, much enlightened and amiable friend Mr. Turnbull in London, to whom I shall enclose this letter. — When you see our sensible and honorable friend Mr. McArthur I beg you will remember me to him with sincere regard. — I shall with infinite pleasure read l'ouvrage de Mr. de Pradt sur les Colonies and most ardently wish for an opportunity of assisting the South Americans in their emancipation and hope the period is not far distant when we shall  p249 both be displaying the banners of Liberty on the shores of South America, and that our efforts may be under the auspices of this Country is the Sincere wish of him who has the honour to be

With unfeigned regard

My Dear General

Yours most faithfully

Thos. Graves."13

The treaty negotiated at Amiens in March, 1802, by Joseph Bonaparte and the skillful Talleyrand with Minister Merry and the drowsy Cornwallis followed in the main the provisions concerning the restoration of conquests that were laid down in the Preliminaries of London. Of the peace which was arranged it was aptly said that everybody in England was glad but nobody was proud. However the convention had been made by Cornwallis in such a bungling fashion that it led to the restoration of almost all the French colonies while it did not safeguard English commerce against Gallic aggression. In particular, the Treaty of Amiens left two storm centers in Europe: the French were not bound to withdraw their soldiers from the Dutch Netherlands, while the English were to restore Malta to the moribund Knights of St. John. What wonder that there were statesmen in England who believed that this treaty was scarcely more than a truce! When Parliament sanctioned it, at the proposal of Lord Hawkesbury the House of Commons adopted a motion expressing confidence that the King would defend the nation's resources against encroachment and that his subjects would at any time support the honor of the crown and the liberties of their country with the same energy, zeal, and fortitude which they had manifested in the war that had just terminated.

During the ensuing lull in hostilities the Spanish Indies were not forgotten either by Miranda or by English statesmen. In the spring of 1803 Addington informed Minister Rufus King that, if war should again break out, perhaps one  p250 of the earliest measures of his government would be to occupy New Orleans.14 On his part, through correspondence with Vargas, who was now in Trinidad, Miranda kept informed about the conditions in South America. On February 6, 1803, that emissary wrote to Miranda to inform him of the death of Gual, to state that an agent who had been sent by that compatriot to the adjacent continent had been captured, and to allege that Governor Picton was hostile to their plans.15 On March 19 Vargas reported that Picton had stigmatized the patriots of South America as "Jacobins," and that though the creoles lacked a leader yet conditions in the province of Caracas remained favorable to an insurrection. He averred that there were many people in Trinidad who would support a movement for Spanish-American independence. He declared that various persons had mentioned Miranda to him as the future redeemer of South America.16

Englishmen who hoped for peace with France were rudely startled by the King's message to Parliament on March 8, 1803, in which he complained of hostile preparations in French ports and recommended that measures should be taken for the security of his dominions. Five days later at an audience in the Tuileries in agitated tones the First Consul said to the English Ambassador, Lord Whitworth, that England was determined to re‑open hostilities. " 'The English are bent on war,' said Napoleon, 'but if they are the first to draw the sword I shall be the last to put it back into the scabbard. They do not respect treaties.' "17

The opinion of some military men in England was reflected by the artist Joseph Farington who wrote in his Diary under date of March 22 that he had conversed with an English captain who thought that war was "most probable. That Any Peace with Buonaparte can only be considered as an armed truce, and that it may be best to bring the question 'Whether he can subjugate this Country' to issue."18 Indeed the negotiations  p251 between England and France sorely tried the Treaty of Amiens. Eventually in terms that were little short of an ultimatum England demanded to be allowed to retain Malta, a key to Egypt. Unable to obtain an affirmative response to his proposals, on May 12, 1803, Lord Whitworth demanded his passport. Four days later Parliament was notified that a rupture had taken place between England and France. Thus the dogs of war were again unleashed.

Miranda's hopes of English aid in the execution of his plans had meantime revived. On April 3 Minister King wrote to Secretary Pickering and expressed the opinion that, if war broke out, "Great Britain will immediately attempt the emancipation and independence of South America."19 After receiving a letter from Vansittart making a date for a conference, Miranda wrote a diarial note which stated that an agreement had been reached that the armament and supplies which had been prepared for an expedition should be at once sent to Trinidad "in order that there may be no delay in our operations against France." Miranda fondly imagined that, if his operations were successful, and if an assembly of South Americans should decide in favor of independence, a proposal might be made to Spain for an amicable separation from her colonies.20

But the revolutionary promoter soon decided to trim his sails to suit the shifting winds. By May 17 he had modified his plans. On that day he drew up a memoir in Spanish which was intended for English ministers. His proposition was that England should furnish him with arms and munitions, with colored soldiers from her contingents at Trinidad, and with some transports and warships. Then he added:

"Insignificant though this force is, it will be sufficient to give the necessary impulsion upon the Continent, if one considers that the mass of the inhabitants are awaiting us with impatience, and that the majority of the Spaniards at Trinidad  p252 are desirous to join us for this purpose, as one may see by an extract from the letters of commissioner Vargas. * * * This simple exposé will suffer to convince the ministers of His Britannic Majesty of the necessity in which I find myself of obeying the voice of the Motherland that calls me to her succor at a moment which is really dangerous. Consequently I hope that they til have the goodness to grant me without delay transportation to Trinidad with whatever succor their wisdom may deem suitable to grant."21

A translation of this memoir was sent by Miranda to Lord St. Vincent. That nobleman expressed regret that "the state of his health" prevented him from having the honor of seeing the promoter.22 Miranda soon sent an impatient letter to Vansittart expressing his keen desire to sail for the New World.23 This secretary responded as follows: "No decision has yet been taken about America; thus I do not know what advice to give you, except that you should await the outcome of events which cannot long be postponed."24 In a diarial jotting annexed to that letter Miranda thus recorded his keen disappointment: "This advice is tendered after I have been officially assured that orders had been given to embark for Trinidad the armament which has been in readiness for us here for two years, and that in case war should break out anew, we should be given aid without fail. Further, when my friend Mr. King was about to embark for New York in May last and proposed that I should sail with him because his friends there would furnish me with the necessary aid, these people advised me not to proceed for they were preparing to aid us with what we needed."25 We may again safely conclude that in deciding to postpone an attack on Spanish America the English ministers had been influenced by the prevailing fear of French designs.

Divers means were adopted in England to intensify or to deride the notion of an impending invasion. Among these were patriotic tracts, libellous biographies, wild tales of atrocities  p253 perpetrated by French armies, and parodies on Napoleon's proclamations. Sometimes these lampoons took the form of playbills, like the following attributed to Theatre Royal: "In Rehearsal, and meant to be speedily attempted, a farce in one act called The Invasion of England. Principal Buffo, Mr. Buonaparte, being his first (and most likely his last) appearance on this stage." A passage from the "anticipated Critique" of that farce reads thus: "We don't know exactly what this gentleman's merits may be on the tragic boards of France, but he will never succeed here; his figure is very diminutive, he struts a great deal, seems to have no conception of his character, and treads the stage very badly; notwithstanding which defects, we think if he comes here, he will get an engagement, though it is probable that he will shortly after be reduced to the situation of a scene-shifter."26

Gillray drew a cartoon entitled the "King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver." In satiric literature Napoleon was ridiculed as a "man tiger," a pigmy, "a small thing, that has made a great pother." At theatres songs were sung that breathed defiance to the prospective invaders. The first stanza of a song entitled "The Island," ran as follows:

If the French have a notion

Of crossing the ocean.

Their luck to be trying on dry land;

They may come if they like,

But we'll soon make 'em strike

To the lads of the tight little Island!

Though Miranda apparently did not partake of this dread of a Napoleonic invasion, yet he temporarily relinquished hope of English coöperation. On July 12 he framed a communication to the English Government which showed that he had a bizarre dream of furnishing livestock from Venezuela to the English West Indies and thereby promoting a revolution.27 On July 18, 1803, he addressed a note to Vansittart  p254 proposing an adjustment of his financial relations with the English Government in order that he might be able to depart for his native land. He expressed his willingness to renounce his allowance of five hundred pounds per annum in return for a payment of fifteen hundred pounds that was to be viewed as a loan. But he asked that the government should continue "for some time the extraordinary gratification," apparently amounting to two hundred pounds a year, which he had been receiving to cover the expenses of his house in London. He explained his motives in these words:

"The object of this proposition is to offer to my country in the last act of my devotion all that I possess, as I am thoroughly convinced that a cause more just, more important, more honorable, and more interesting to humanity has never been presented to mortal beings. Not having received a definite decision about my notes of May 17 and July 12, I should like to believe that this is not due to a lack of consideration and good will on the part of His Majesty's ministers. It would be inexplicable if a nation so powerful and so rich as England, that finds herself directly or indirectly involved in a war with Spain and her Allies, a nation that ought indubitably to be the chief and the first power to gather the expected fruits of this emancipation, would not desire to promote it by a pound, a musket, a soldier, or a vessel!"28

Five days later Miranda supplemented this by another letter addressed to Vansittart but intended for Addington. He pointed out that Spain's failure to take measures for the safety of her colonies during the peace, the weak garrisons in certain French colonies in America, and the cession of Louisiana to the United States by France made this juncture most favorable for the execution of his enterprise. All of these advantages, however, would be lost by postponement: "I prefer the least favorable decision," he concluded, "to the most plausible and advantageous of delays."29 On July 29 Miranda was informed by Vansittart that the ministers were occupied with  p255 Irish affairs, and that to his latest propositions Addington had not made any definite response.30

Through letters from Vargas, Miranda was confirmed in the belief that conditions in the province of Caracas were ripe for rebellion. In one letter that compatriot reported that there had been fresh manifestations of discontent with Spanish rule in Venezuela and that the people of Coro were most disposed to revolt. "I have already told you," continued Vargas, "that there are persons here who would sacrifice their lives and their property for this great cause and that similar sentiments are entertained in all the Spanish-American colonies." Of Gual's former associates, he said: "I have told them that you have not forgotten your native land; this assurance filled them with enthusiasm." He assured Miranda that he would leave nothing undone at Trinidad to promote the success of the great plan: "Do not forget," he added, "that you were born in America and that she calls you with open arms."31 In another letter, after describing Picton's hostile attitude toward their plans, Vargas reiterated his views:

"Nevertheless, I have told you that the province of Caracas is favorably disposed to revolt, that the militiamen are our partisans, that the regular soldiers there aggregate only six hundred veterans who are scattered throughout the garrisons of the province, that there are no fortifications at the capital city, that the Spaniards are constantly trembling for fear of an insurrection, that Coro is the place where the largest number of friends of liberty reside, and that in consequence Curaçao would be an interesting point."32

In August, 1803, Miranda was informed by Christopher Gore, an American friend who was now in London, that a supply of muskets could be secured on short notice from Boston and New York.33 Disgusted at the delays by England, the South American sent a letter to Rufus King declaring that to him the conduct of that government appeared suspicious, if  p256 not perfidious. About the middle of August tentative preparations were apparently made for his departure from London. His proposal was that, upon being paid the amount of money which would have accrued from his annual allowance of five hundred pounds in from three to five years, he was to renounce it forever. At Trinidad he hoped to find two vessels from the United States bearing arms and munitions. He appealed to King for coöperation and forwarded an estimate of the cost of furnishing five thousand men and supplies for one year.34 Meantime in letters to Vargas, Miranda expressed hope that in some manner or other he would soon be able to join him. On August 18 he warned that compatriot to beware of Spanish partisans who would, if possible, sell the friends of independence to the devil himself.35 On September 10 he wrote again to state that he had just seen Vansittart and Nepean; he added in a hopeful vein:

"Although there is no decision whether or not we shall have succor immediately, yet we have decided that I shall have passage with my suite for Trinidad in a frigate within twenty or thirty days at the latest. During this interval it is very likely that war will be declared against Spain and then we shall get everything; but, if this does not happen, then we shall commence the task ourselves with the forces which we can gather in the island and those which come from New York. The moment is so favorable that it would be unfortunate to lose the chance in order to wait upon those persons who desire only to sacrifice us for the last time. I have written to Mr. King at New York and asked that without delay he should send to us at Trinidad two American vessels with four thousand muskets and munitions and at least two hundred brave Americans."36

However, Miranda was again induced to linger in the English metropolis. The prospect of war with France and Spain soon inclined certain Englishmen to hearken to him. One  p257 Colonel Fullarton, who had long been interested in the Spanish Indies, was consulted about Miranda's plans. A prosperous and enterprising government contractor named Alexander Davison became a convert to the cause of Spanish-American emancipation. Actively did he coöperate in tentative preparations for an attack on South America. He offered to furnish three or four vessels for the expedition, if the English ministers would agree to equip a ship of war and to recompense him in case the attack should fail. As a remuneration in case it should succeed, Miranda apparently promised Davison commercial advantages in the liberated colonies.

"August 1, 1803, this letter was given to me by Sir Home Popham today. He expressed a desire to serve with me in whatsoever expedition may be formed to establish the independence of South America."37 This note, penned by Miranda in Spanish on the margin of an undated letter, marks the beginning of his friendship with a naval captain whose conduct was being investigated because of alleged unjustifiable expenditures in repairing his ship, the Romney, at Calcutta. In an undated epistle to Miranda that officer wrote: "I wish ministers would see your Plan in so essential a point of view as they ought; I long to be in a state of intimate action with you, on this subject."38

In November, 1803, in a memorial addressed to Charles Yorke, who had become secretary of state for home affairs, Captain Popham elaborated a plan for an attack on the Spanish Indies. Popham declared that Miranda desired a regiment of infantry, two companies of artillery, and two squadrons of dismounted cavalrymen. Soldiers led by him were to proceed against Venezuela; thence they were to invade New Granada, and eventually the Presidency of Quito. A fortified post was to be established on the Isthmus of Panama where the promoter planned to communicate with the forces that were to be sent from India to the Pacific Ocean. On his part the naval officer urged English ministers also to send an expedition  p258 against the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.39 Not only did Popham consult with Miranda but he also attended conferences with members of the cabinet about an attack on South America.40 The project undoubtedly also came to the attention of Sir Evan Nepean.

Miranda seems to have considered the outlook promising; at least he wished to be prepared for any contingency. On November 12, 1803, he drew up some rough estimates for the attack that was being contemplated against the Spanish Indies. His project involved the employment for twelve months of an Indiaman of some thirteen hundred tons burden and of six small armed vessels. Infantry, artillery, and cavalry commanded by English officers were to be furnished by the government and placed on board armed vessels. It was also to provide funds for the purchase and provisioning of the ships. Certain English merchants, however, were to assume a considerable share of the expense. Miranda declared that, if this project were approved by the Prime Minister, he could name the merchants who would thus coöperate and the officers who should supervise the equipment of the expedition.41 Meantime he was receiving encouragement from a new partisan in Trinidad. Juan M. Rico, an expatriated Venezuelan who had been implicated in Gual's conspiracy, wrote to the promoter and expressed his enthusiasm for the cause of Spanish-American independence. In the words of a sympathizer he declared that the "general happiness" of Venezuela depended upon Miranda.42

In the end of 1803 he again held conferences with English ministers. Among his papers is a letter of December 7 which, unlike many others, was written in English and in the third person: "General Miranda presents his Compliments to the Earl of St. Vincent and as he understands that the affairs of Spain are drawing to that period when the benevolent plan of  p259 South America, in which Ld. St. Vincent formerly took so warm an Interest, may be brought forward, — he requests Lord St. Vincent will give him the Honor of an Audience next Sunday which he supposes will perhaps be a leisure day to his Lordship."43 Through Secretary Vansittart, who continued to act as an intermediary, on December 10 Miranda was invited to dine at the residence of Charles Yorke who had become home secretary. On the back of the card asking him to dinner Miranda inscribed this instructive comment:

This invitation was given because of a long conference which that Minister, Popham, and I had held three days earlier. It was even suggested that there was a necessity that I should accept the commission of a British lieutenant general with a command over the coasts of South America in order that no difficulty might arise with English soldiers during the expedition. This was suggested to me by Sullivan and Vansittart whom I saw on December 10. Only five of us met at this dinner. Yorke was remarkably attentive and friendly to me. We conversed much about expeditions to South America. To me all the world seemed well disposed and in a mind to carry out such an enterprise with the exception of Sullivan, who appeared to me to be a man of duplicity and limited ability. Ultimately Vansittart set a date upon which we should all gather at his house with Sir Evan Nepean. I was asked to return with certain maps of America and to bring Vargas with me. It did not appear to me that the Minister was animated by his earlier fervor."44

At this juncture Davison became anxious. He informed Popham that an order ought to be given for the saddles which were required for the enterprise.45 Nevertheless, early in 1804 English statesmen were still meditating about the policy to be pursued toward the Spanish Indies. On January 4 Miranda wrote to Secretary Vansittart to urge immediate action. He declared that otherwise the Spanish Americans would consider  p260 him as an incapable person and a perfidious friend. Merchants in London, he declared, were ready to furnish arms, ships, and the funds necessary to carry out his enterprise, if the English Government did not desire to participate. He maintained that at least it should not oppose his project. Two days later he sent Popham extracts from letters which he had received from Spanish America in order that they might be submitted to Secretary Yorke and thus encourage an early decision. France, he averred, was a menace to Spanish-American independence, and the "Colombians" were impatient at the delay.46 But Vansittart soon informed him that while England was at peace with Spain she would not be disposed to favor any design which would furnish a basis for the slightest imputation on her good faith.47

Popham then wrote Miranda that he had been very busy "on the subject of our wishes, a seat" in the House of Commons, so that he might become "the agent in Parliament of South America." He expressed the opinion that he would be elected a member of Parliament, "When we are in Colombia," predicted the aspiring naval officer, "the Senate shall pay for all our Speculations."48 In an undated epistle, which displays Popham's keen interest in the revolutionizing of Spanish America, this officer stated that he had "just seen Davison, and entered very fully into all our Conversation of yesterday; he thinks from something that has transpired that your wishes are by no means abandoned, as no permission has yet been granted to give over the arms which he has prepared to another Department." Popham then added: "He assured me that with every Inclination to manifest his sincere desire of serving you, he does not think the Privy Council would give him leave to embark so many Arms, and warlike Stores. I question it myself, but I think it ought to be a measure of the Secret and Confidential Department and when I can secure this damn'd Seat, I shall then be able to have a freer intercourse and push it with more weight."49

 p261  In another undated letter Popham reluctantly admitted:

"I really have not had resolution to call on you, as I cannot yet obtain from Lord M. any fixed appointment to see you, he is so overwhelmed with business that except to his immediate department he has not yet a moment to dispose of; I saw Davison who tells me he is pressing Sir Evan to interest himself to bring everything to an immediate Issue. I shall never lose sight of this great object, and will not fail to take every opportunity of urging its Consequence and urging an Interview with you as soon as can possibly be obtained."50

On March 12, 1804, Miranda felt that the time for action was close at hand. He wrote a sanguine letter to Vansittart stating that Under Secretary Cooke was now convinced of the accuracy of his calculations in regard to a South American expedition. Further, an assurance had reached him from Lord Melville that everything was ready for action "according to the preconcerted plan."51 During this month a schedule of articles was prepared which were to be furnished by Davison. This list included a printing press, five thousand jackets, and ten thousand shirts.52 To the memorandum preserved in Miranda's papers which bears the endorsement "ordered by Mr. V.–––––," there is annexed a list of articles requested by General Miranda. That list included twenty-five tons of pig lead, one hundred barrels of gunpowder, three hundred muskets, three thousand pikes, and a vessel of some three hundred tons completely armed and equipped.53 Despite reports of Spain's neutrality, on March 31 Miranda had decided that in consequence of an agreement with Vansittart he ought to leave England near the end of the next month.54

Passages from a letter written by Davison to Miranda will indicate how the enterprise stood on April 2, 1804:

"I have received intimations from the person I employ that  p262 he has a Ship in view that he conceives will exactly answer the purpose, and that she will be ready in the course of a few days for Inspection. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. V.––––– on Wednesday, who gave me verbally the necessary instructions to proceed with everything excepting the Arms, Pikes and Gunpowder. However these articles, I can have no great difficulty in procuring, should he at any time approve the purchase of them. He appeared most ready to promote the plan, and from what I could learn from him, it will not be his fault, if the Object be not carried into the full Extent of Your Wishes. He is a pleasant gentlemanlike man, and possesses the strictest principles of Honor. I pin great faith on what he says, — I wish you would see Sir Home Popham and ask him if he knows of a clever fellow that would on Friday next go and take a look at the Ship I have in view to purchase, as I would wish to consult a professional man, tho' I am myself a tolerable good judge of Ships, yet upon such an occasion as the one in question it would be a very great satisfaction to me to have my opinion sanctioned by that of a Naval Character. — I shall be at Home on Thursday by noon. — my absences do not prevent the supplies being provided, as I have issued all the requisite orders for them agreeably to Mr. V's instructions.

"The Ship reported to me is about 300 Tons pierced for 20 Guns and calculated to carry 140 men and is coppered. * * * As it is a matter that must positively be kept a profound secret, and every deception used to prevent its being made public at least two months to come, I have made my Broker believe that the purpose I want the Ship is to send her out as a Privateer. * * *"55

On April 3, 1804, Miranda wrote to Christopher Gore at Boston in enthusiastic terms:

"The affair progresses here without change or delay conformably to the arrangement of which I informed you before your departure. My departure is irrevocably fixed for the approaching first of May; the ship is purchased; and its armament will be completed in eight days. Thus all that which I  p263 earnestly demanded of you should be provided before my arrival at Trinidad, which will be in the middle of June next, that is to say, powder and four thousand muskets for use in war. The remainder may be sent at your leisure; but those articles must be at Trinidad at the above-mentioned time because they are indispensable in my calculations. I rely absolutely upon your zeal and good friendship; and I say further that the English Government is enchanted with this coöperation. * * * The color of the uniform is blue and yellow. Audentes Fortuna Juvat."56

Yet Miranda's high expectations were to remain unfulfilled. As no decisive rupture took place between England and Spain, the ancient ally of France essaying a neutral rôle, the peace-loving Addington directed that an order should be issued to Davison directing that measures preparatory to a South American expedition should cease.57 Still hoping, on April 6 Miranda informed Vansittart that he had just seen Davison and Popham on "the affair in question," that the armament of the vessel was almost completed, and that all the supplies would be embarked within eight days. He asked to see Vansittart in order that he might be able to write definitely to his correspondents in America by the next mail. "I shall accordingly go to see you at the accustomed hour," said the promoter, "unless you advise me to the contrary."58 However, on April 7 Miranda received an intimation that his plans were again frustrated; for he inscribed that date on a "secret" letter received from Secretary Vansittart which ran as follows:

"I am much embarrassed because of a circumstance which should cause you, as well as me, the greatest regret. I have been prohibited from taking the least part even indirectly in the affair. This in truth causes me to reflect as to how I can avoid inconveniencing you. Perhaps it will be necessary for you to refrain from further communications to me. At least a  p264 little time is needed to think this over."59

Three days later Miranda penned his reply:

"Your note of the seventh of this month, my dear Sir, has certainly pained and surprised me. It has affected me more than it otherwise would have done because it did not state any motive which would justify such behaviour and because not a single step has been taken in this delicate affair without previous consultation with you or at least without your consent. Nevertheless, as I love to view the attitude of my friends and of honest men in as favorable a light as possible, and as you said, 'That a little time is needed to think this over,' I shall transmit my sentiments upon this singular transaction on a more favorable or opportune transaction.

"Moreover at the present moment the engagements that I have contracted in virtue of my later agreements with the government of this country bear solely upon me, It is necessary that I strive to acquit myself of them in an honorable manner and thus demonstrate my good faith and the rectitude of my intentions toward those persons who might suffer by a change in policy. Solely for this purpose and to adjust the definitive arrangements of my personal and pecuniary affairs, I demand an interview of you at a convenient time and place. As good faith and exactness in transactions are the only thing which can guarantee a man any repose or satisfaction in life, I beseech you to excuse this importunity; and I frankly avow to you that as the reputation of being an honest man is in my opinion the most honorable title which one can possess, it is the only title that persons ambitious to get power will some day merit."60

When Davison learned of this fiasco he was much provoked. In a confidential epistle dated April 10 he stated that he had conversed with Vansittart and that the Secretary was "sincerely distressed" about the failure to execute the revolutionary design. "I am quite satisfied in my own mind," said Davison, "that it is not owing to Himself that the Service has not been carried into effect. He expressed much concern on your account and I am sure that he is sincere."61

 p265  While Addington was premier the mood of Miranda was thus marked by alternating hopes and fears. Possibly it was at this time that his annual allowance was increased two hundred pounds a year. In addition some measures were presumably taken to relieve him from the financial embarrassment due to the preparations that the English Government had sanctioned for a South American expedition. In any case there is no doubt that in the spring of 1804 he became aware that the formation of a new cabinet was imminent. For, in the belief that Lord St. Vincent was neglecting the national defense, on March 15, 1805, Pitt had introduced a motion into Parliament that an inquiry should be made into the condition of the navy. He urged that in addition to the floating castles which protected England there should be prepared for the defense of her coast an adequate mosquito fleet. In a speech in Parliament on April 23 Pitt declared that the French had assembled some thirteen hundred transport vessels within sight of English shores. In the face of such criticisms the government's majority dwindled. Largely because of the apprehensions of those Englishmen who dreaded an invasion launched from the cliffs of Boulogne, on May 10, 1804, the Prime Minister gave up the seals of office.


The Author's Notes:

1 Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

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2 Antepara, South American Emancipation, p261.

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3 Turnbull's "Note of Sums at General Miranda's debit not included in the annexed note," Mir. MSS., vol. 22.

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4 "General Miranda in Account Current with Turnbull, Forbes & Co., with Interest to 10th. October, 1800," ibid., vol. 47.

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5 Ibid.

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6 Oct. 22, 1801, Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

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7 Ibid.

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8 Miranda to Vansittart, Aug. 24, 1803, ibid.

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9 Miranda to Barthélemy, Dec. 15, 1801, Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

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10 "The British Government Dr. to Turnbull, Forbes & Co.," ibid.

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11 "General Account of Articles purchased on account of and by order of Government," ibid.

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12 Jan. 16, 1802, Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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13 Jan. 20, 1802, ibid.

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14 Robertson, Miranda, p352, note e.

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15 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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16 Ibid.

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17 Browning, England and Napoleon, p116.

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18 Diary, II, 88.

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19 I. & A., Despatches from England, vol. 10.

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20 April 2, 1803, Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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21 À Londres, ce 29 Avril, 1803," Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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22 St. Vincent to Miranda, May 19, 1803, ibid.

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23 June 11, 1803, ibid.

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24 Undated, ibid.

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25 "ce 18 Juin 1803," ibid.

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26 Wright, Works of James Gillray, p296.

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27 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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28 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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29 Ibid.

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30 Ibid.

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31 June 25, 1803, ibid.

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32 June 27, 1803, ibid.

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33 Gore to Miranda, Aug. 22, 1803, ibid.

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34 King, Life and Correspondence, IV, 298, 299, 517‑18.

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35 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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36 Ibid.

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37 Ibid.

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38 Ibid.

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39 Castlereagh, Memoirs and Correspondence, VII, 290‑92.

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40 Minutes of a Court Martial, pp78, 79.

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41 "No. 6. A Rough Estimate for the Expedition in Question," Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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42 Oct. 12, 1803, ibid.

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43 Ibid.

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44 Ibid.

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45 Undated, Popham to Miranda, ibid.

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46 Ibid.

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47 Vansittart to Miranda, Jan. 6, 1804, ibid.

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48 Undated, ibid.

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49 Ibid.

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50 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

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51 Ibid., vol. 47.

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52 "Articles forthwith to be provided by Mr. Davison," ibid., vol. 48.

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53 "Added by General Miranda," March 20, 1804, ibid.

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54 Miranda to Vansittart, March 31, 1804, ibid.

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55 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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56 Ibid., vol. 49.

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57 Vansittart to Miranda, March 12 and 19, 1804, ibid., vol. 48.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Ibid.

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59 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Ibid.


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