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

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

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

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 12

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 14

Vol. I
Chapter XIII

Last Transactions with Pitt

On May 7, 1804, William Pitt proceeded to Buckingham Palace to confer with George III. He found the King resolved to oppose the inclusion in the projected ministry of Charles James Fox, and soon discovered that in consequence Lord Grenville would not join him. Six members of Pitt's new ministry had been in Addington's cabinet. Among these were Lord Hawkesbury, who now became home secretary, the Duke of Portland, who became Lord President of the Privy Council, and Viscount Castlereagh, who became president of the India board. Lord Harrowby was made secretary of state for foreign affairs. The management of colonial affairs was now transferred from the home office to the war office; Earl Camden became secretary of state for war and the colonies. Henry Dundas, who had been created Viscount Melville, was appointed first lord of the admiralty. In this very month Gillray drew a spirited cartoon entitled "Britannia between Death and the Doctors" which portrayed Pitt, the chief physician, executing a war dance beside the sick lady, while, on the other hand, she was being threatened by a spear brandished by Napoleon who represented Death.

[image ALT: A half-length portrait in oils, three-quarters right, of a middle-aged man, wearing a rumpled coat or jacket; he has tousled wavy hair and a worried expression, but of great energy and intelligence. He is Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, an early‑19c British politician.]

Lord Melville. Painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P. R. A., in the National Gallery, London. From a mezzotint by E. McInnes. In the collection of the British Museum.

Scarcely had Pitt's ministry been formed, when Popham indited Miranda in this wise: "I wrote a short memorandum for you, which Lady P. copied last night. I think you ought to say so much, more if you like it, and alter it to your own fancy, but it should be ready against the New Ministry is appointed. Nobody has any nomination yet but Mr. Pitt."1 On May 15, three days after Pitt again became premier, Miranda addressed a letter marked private to Viscount Melville. He declared that he was to an extent justified for intruding so early upon the new ministry because of the peculiar condition of his country, because of the influence which Napoleon  p267 possessed with the court of Madrid, and because of the danger that he might extend his designs to the Spanish Indies. He expressed serious apprehensions that the French might suddenly seize the ports of Venezuela and New Granada. He declared that steps preparatory for a South American expedition had been taken in Trinidad, New York, and London. Anxiously did he solicit from the new cabinet "a final resolution" on the subject. In the third person he described the fluctuations in English policy.

"The Merchant who had prepared all the Articles necessary, under the orders of Mr. N. Vansittart who was deputed by Mr. Addington to confer on all occasions with the undersigned, and who absolutely received an order from Mr. Vansittart to purchase and arm a ship for the Conveyance of these articles, received very suddenly on the 7th of last month an order to suspend every preparation and expence which he had been previously directed to undertake. — Mr. Vansittart however in the last conference he had with the undersigned on the 3d of the present month pressed on him the importance and necessity of submitting himself on the earliest occasion to the notice of the new administration; and he trusts he shall be allowed the first vacant moment to lay before them his military Plans and his Correspondence with the agents of his secret American Friends and Others who are now residing at Trinidad, where the undersigned wishes to repair without any loss of time to open a more direct Intercourse with the settlement at Guaira opposite to Trinidad where he conceives there is a very formidable Party already established, and which may pave the way for the accomplishment of all his views in the River Oronoque etc, . . . and this will open such a channel for exporting the manufacturers of Great Britain, and returning a very valuable Trade to this Country. The undersigned scarce thinks it necessary to trouble His Majesty's government more in detail at this moment, further than to observe that he considers he shall be able to make a considerable progress from Trinidad before even War (which in his mind appears inevitable, should take place with Spain);º provided the Governor of Trinidad is a Person of some political knowledge  p268 and a general conciliatory disposition."2

On May 16 Miranda addressed a letter marked "secret" to the new Prime Minister. He expressed the hope that either he would be accorded an interview with that Minister in place of Vansittart who had gone out of office, or that another government official would be deputed to deal with him upon the delicate and important topic of Spanish-American liberation. "The military plans," continued Miranda, "as well as the correspondence with agents of Spanish America, and the actual state of the preparations, will be made known to the person designated for that purpose. I hope that after this examination the new ministers of His Majesty will consent that the project shall be continued, especially as all the expenses and preparations have already been made, and as they will be able to decide whether or not to initiate the enterprise and whether or not they wish to take part in it, as they may judge convenient."3 Popham had also approached the cabinet. On May 18 he sent word of his proceedings to Miranda: "I had some conversation yesterday with Lord Melville, who takes up the thing very warmly; he has just begun in Office which is in such confusion that it will be some days before he sees his way clear, — he will certainly give you an audience next Week."4

Meantime, believing that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, Davison had retained some articles which had been prepared for the expedition under the previous ministry. On June 7, 1804, he wrote to Miranda to express regret that he had neither heard anything from Sir Evan Nepean, who had been appointed secretary for Ireland, nor had he received "any further information on the subject which ought long ago to have been finally determined upon by Government. If I do not hear something in the course of today," he continued, "I shall be obliged, tho' however reluctantly, to assign over the articles to the Transport Board. — I am sorry I can give no interesting intimation whatever." In conclusion he reported  p269 that "Sir Home Popham took a late dinner with me yesterday, but could say nothing farther on the Grand Object."5

The negotiations, — if such they may be designated, — again proceeded too slowly to suit Miranda's taste. On June 12, 1804, he committed his thoughts to a memorandum. He wrote that, as the tentative measures undertaken by the English Government had been made known to Spanish-American "agents" at Trinidad and New York, he feared that, if he did not promptly appear in the New World, a premature and misdirected uprising might occur in South America. He stated that interested parties in England and the United States had promised him ample supplies of arms and munitions. In regard to coöperation from the English Government, he declared that this had best be done under the direction of "Sir Home Popham, the officer who under the sanction of the recent ministry helped to make the naval preparations; for I am persuaded that he combines with military and political knowledge a zeal and devotion for the success of this enterprise which it would be difficult to find combined in any other person." The promoter expressed the opinion that he should be allowed to depart for America as soon as possible, and that before sailing he should be permitted to make arrangements for a "general plan of operations against the entire Spanish-American Continent and in the Pacific Ocean." He mentioned with approval the projects for the government of independent Spanish America that he had framed in May, 1801. He recorded that his plan for an attack on Caracas at that time had been modified in view of information recently received from South America. Of this Sir Evan Nepean had been duly informed in order that he might transmit the news to the cabinet.6

In a supplementary memorandum dated August 3, 1804, Miranda made a fresh argument for immediate action by England.7 He sent copies of these memoranda with illustrative documents  p270 to Captain Popham so that they might be transmitted to Evan Nepean. Two days later Popham acknowledged the receipt of Miranda's letter with its enclosures. He reported that he had transmitted them to Nepean, and as he said he would endeavor "to arrange all points before he went to Ireland," continued the captain, "I am inclined to think much better of the chance of its being put into execution." Further, Nepean had promised to send to Miranda for such letters "as he wanted for Mr. Pitt's Information; I also spoke to Lord Melville on the Subject, and you may rely on it, that independent of my sincere regard for you, I see the thing has so many national advantages, that I feel it a Duty to advance it with all my weight, which God knows is but very little. You may however rely upon it that I shall lose no opportunity to press it to an issue; but Sir Evan is the person on whom you must place all your dependance, and I advise you by all means to see him the moment he returns from Bridhat." The impatient temper of the revolutionary agitator is mirrored in the concluding phrase in which Popham assured Miranda that "the moment I hear anything I will inform you, and I beg you will always command me when you have occasion only don't be in a passion."8

His other coöperator, Davison, also held out encouragement, for he wrote to Miranda on August 6, that everything was "in a train of being brought to a decision without farther delay." Davison added that he had given Sir Evan Nepean "a list of additional articles" that he thought Miranda should have and which Nepean approved. "He told me you were to be with him yesterday and afterwards he was to be with the ministers so that I flatter myself the matter is finally adjusted and fixed."9 Fifteen days later Miranda sent a plea to Secretary Nepean. "You say in your letter to Davison," wrote the promoter, "that you find it impossible to prevail on a certain person to allow our friend to embark immediately, the reasons  p271 for objecting to it at the present moment are obvious." He then explained that he did not complain of him on that score but rather because of his precipitate departure for Ireland without returning some "sacred documents" which had been confided to his care, the loss of which would be "irreparable."10

The status which these negotiations soon assumed and the intimate relations that had developed between Miranda and his chief supporter can best be indicated by quoting an epistle which Vansittart wrote to the general on September 20, 1804:

"I received your letter of yesterday with true satisfaction. I expect that our government, eventually finding itself deceived about the views of the court of Madrid, will put more energy into those measures which affairs have thus far allowed to suffer because of procrastination and indecision. That which appears to me most urgent is to send orders by land to the governor general of the Indies to prepare a corps of six thousand Indian troops for a distant expedition and to prepare a reserve of equal size to follow those troops some months later. If you do not have an occasion to see Lord Melville, you can suggest this idea through Popham. It is essential that no time shall be lost in dispatching a squadron for the South Sea before the season is too far advanced for the ships to round Cape Horn. The knowledge as well as the zeal of Nepean would be infinitely useful, but I fear that he will not be able to leave Ireland until he is replaced. I shall be in the city on Wednesday as I had planned; I recommend, above all, that you should meditate about the organization of the country after its liberation."11

As he evidently believed that hostilities would soon break out between England and Spain and as he wished to secure the markets of South America for English merchants, the first Lord of the Admiralty meantime undertook to become fully acquainted with Miranda's projects through Nepean, Popham, and other persons. In September, 1804, a merchant  p272 named George Fitzwilliam who had arrived from Trinidad displayed much interest in the fate of the Spanish Indies. At Miranda's suggestion Fitzwilliam called on Lord Melville at Wimbledon and informed him of the discontent in northern South America at Spanish rule; he declared that thousands of Spanish Americans were galled with the yoke of their government and would flock to the banner of freedom and independence. Fitzwilliam apparently hinted that attempts were being made to form a liaison between Venezuela and the French Government of Santo Domingo. He told Miranda that he had declared to Melville that procrastination in the revolutionizing of Spanish America "created difficulties, and might prove fatal — But no doubt of Success could be entertained, if a force Sufficient to inspire confidence were immediately sent." The merchant reported that the Minister seemed "to be impressed with the importance of the Subject and with the Idea of a Prompt execution." Evidently Melville expressed the hope that Miranda "would not require a large Force" and sent word that "he intended to bring the business forward the first thing when he came to town."12

It is likely that a knowledge of this interview stimulated Miranda to urge his views again. He was also egged on by a letter from Home Popham at Dover whose conduct was being investigated by a select committee of the House of Commons, and who had been recently placed in command of the gunship Antelope on the Downs station:

"I came up here for a few hours and I find a Letter from Lord Melville on business of the most pleasant nature, it will do, he says he shall soon send for me. — Now my honest fellow, in a few words you must write to Lord Melville, tho the first thing you are to do is to send for a chaise to go to Wimbledon, call first at the Admiralty to see if he is in Town, if not drive there — while the chaise is getting ready, write a few lines which you can leave at Wimbledon if he is not at home, but try to see him. Let your Letter say, that as Mr. Frere has asked  p273 his Passports there is now not an hour to be lost, and you hope he will send a Messenger after Sir Home Popham without delay to come to Town to make the whole of the preparation in this affair, and if his Lordship means his present Ship to go that he will let it come to Spithead to be ready to receive you. — This is the substance — put it in your language. — write to me at Dungeness, Kent, where I shall be tomorrow."13

In a letter addressed to Melville on September 27, 1804, Miranda stated that he and Davison had agreed "that all the articles purchased already on account of Government and those lately added by Sir Evan Nepean for the same purpose" should be made ready within a fortnight. The revolutionary now avowed that the aid which he desired was a regiment of infantry, a company of artillery, and a company of light cavalry. He declared that this force would appear "preposterous" but for the fact that the invaders would meet not enemies but friends. The only real difficulties that he apprehended would be either from delay or from intervention by other people than the English. "I hope," added Miranda, "that Providence, and your Lordship's Wisdom will avert the mischief."14

He soon renewed his representations to Pitt. In a letter dated September 29, 1804, he expressed the opinion that the time had arrived when he "ought to claim" Pitt's "sacred promise" to aid Spanish America in case of a war between England and Spain. Miranda alleged that the results of certain negotiations at Madrid had become known to the Prime Minister and requested permission to proceed to Trinidad where compatriots awaited him. He said that Fitzwilliam had declared that emissaries from Venezuela had recently passed through Trinidad bound for Santo Domingo where they intended to solicit aid in the establishment of their independence. He hoped that Pitt's patriotism and wisdom would avert the calamities which would flow from concerted action between the French and the Spanish Americans. Lord Melville, he declared, had memoranda of the forces and supplies which were  p274 considered necessary for an expedition to South America.15

Events meantime transpired that made English ministers look with increasing favor on Miranda's plans. Hookham Frere, the English ambassador to Madrid, arrived in London on September 17. His reports conveyed the impression that Spain was arming against England. Upon being informed that the Spanish fleet was about to join the French fleet, Pitt resolve to warn Spain of the danger involved in her hostile conduct. On September 18 the cabinet decided to direct Admiral Cochrane to blockade Ferrol, to order Admiral Cornwallis, who was blockading Brest, to join Cochrane, and thus to insure the capture of galleons that were on the high seas en route to Cadiz. On October 5 English frigates accordingly intercepted four Spanish corvettes that were transporting specie from South America to Spain, and, after a short conflict in which one ship blew up, the treasure fleet surrendered.16 In the meantime Miranda had ordered Faden to make some careful maps of South America.17

Under date of October 13, 1804, Miranda's instructive account of his relations with Melville and Popham runs in these words:

This forenoon I was at Popham's residence. He told me that he dined yesterday with Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville at Wimbledon for the purpose of discussing my plans about the independence of South America. He said that in truth they had discussed nothing else and that the ministers seemed to display a very favorable attitude toward the affair, especially Mr. Pitt, and that the bases, principles, and means which I proposed were acceptable. Further, he reported that Pitt concluded by saying: 'Suppose that you should be governor of Trinidad and that we should not have war with Spain, how could you restrain Miranda from crossing the narrow strait of Pária to the Continent and doing that which he has so long premeditated? Animated by elevated thoughts and by the noble ambition of becoming the liberator and the legislator  p275 of his native land, he would wish to play in the most sublime manner the rôle that Washington played in North America.' To this my friend responded 'that I would not undertake anything which was not agreed upon here, and that he knew enough to assure Pitt that whatever I might promise on my word of honor I would not break for all the world.' Thus the discussion ended, the agreement being reached that Popham and I should formally draw up the aforesaid plans, should do them into English, and proceed together on Tuesday the 16th at 9 A.M. to the house of Lord Melville at Wimbledon. With maps and plans at hand they would then investigate the affair in detail and make a definitive decision."18

According to Miranda's memorandum, after conferring with Davison, he proceeded to Popham's house. With maps, books, and papers brought from London he and Popham set to work. Aided by a secretary, they soon completed a memoir which was signed by Popham and dated October 14, 1804. That document outlined a fresh plan for an attack on the Spanish Indies. Sanguine hope was expressed in this project of coöperation in the revolutionizing of South America by the inhabitants of New Granada and Venezuela. Expectations were also entertained of aid from friends at Trinidad, which was to be employed as a base of operations against the adjacent Continent. For the campaign in Venezuela the South American desired two thousand infantry, two corps of dismounted cavalry, and two companies of artillery from seasoned troops in the West Indies. These forces were to be accompanied by an English squadron that should include a sloop of war and a frigate. Once master of his native province, Miranda evidently believed that he could raise there some twenty thousand recruits and that his liberating army would be increased as he marched through New Granada toward the Isthmus of Panama.

A feature of this plan in which Popham was particularly interested was an expedition of some three thousand soldiers  p276 against the Viceroyalty of La Plata. He also proposed that sepoys from India, aided perhaps by recruits from Australia, should proceed to Valparaiso, Lima, and Panama. With the governor of Trinidad acting as the commander of the naval squadron, with Miranda directing the land forces against northern South America, and himself in charge of the expedition against Buenos Aires, the naval officer evidently thought that the chief strategic positions in South America would be captured. Thus that Continent could be separated from Spain. Such a policy would promote the destruction of the Spanish navy and greatly reduce the revenue of France. England's income and importance would be correspondingly increased.

In an undated letter to Lord Melville the naval officer thus explained his intentions in framing the memoir: "As I thought your Lordship would like to be prepared on every point, for your conversation with General Miranda tomorrow at breakfast; I have taken his opinion on several heads, which has enabled me of write the accompanying Paper; I will bring out the Charts necessary to satisfy you geographically, and the General will in course enter upon any detail respecting himself, or make any objections to what I have proposed if they should occur to him."19

Let us now read Miranda's account of his reception by Lord Melville:

"He received me very graciously saying that, if Spain would furnish a favorable opportunity for war, he would be much pleased. Then we proceeded to eat breakfast while talking about the project in general terms. We discussed the information that Mr. Fitzwilliam had brought about Trinidad and the Venezuelan coast as well as the risk that the colored people of Spanish Santo Domingo might combine with those of Venezuela and New Granada. At this we completed our breakfast, the table was cleared, and the maps were unrolled so that Lord Melville might observe with these at his elbow  p277 what our memoir contained. He passed over the persuasive and argumentative part of the paper, assuring us that this was not necessary, for he had been a complete convert for more than five years. We began with the island of Trinidad, the Orinoco River, and the Venezuelan coast as far as Maracaibo, all of which appeared satisfactory to him.

"But at this point Popham, who thought like an Englishman, intruded a strange idea by proposing that the port of La Guaira ought to remain in the possession of England as a key to commerce and in order that it might not pass into other hands. I responded to this strange idea by declaring that not only would this measure be inconsistent with Venezuelan independence and alarming to all the world but that the inhabitants of the country would desert La Guaira. Further, I maintained that other ports would at once be opened where people would be treated with freedom and consideration, while the English would be viewed with suspicion. Lord Melville accepted my views and agreed that to leave this port in the hands of the Spanish Americans would be the best policy and indeed the only policy which would gain their confidence.

"Next we considered Santa Marta, Chagres, Panama, the Magdalena River, and Cartagena. It appeared proper to Lord Melville that the squadron which was to act in concert with the continental army should proceed along the coast at the same time that the army, progressively increased by the inhabitants of the country, equipped itself with the military supplies and munitions conveyed by the squadron and took possession of those posts and ports that were located along the coast and the rivers. In that manner England would be able to furnish arms and munitions for the soldiers of the country and to support them with her fleet. This assistance is the only and indeed the easiest coöperation that England can furnish for the independence of South America. 'You would give for this service,' he said to me, 'a corresponding donation.' 'For the soldiers and the squadron,' I responded; 'and to pay the cost of the armament,' added my Lord. 'In the most liberal manner,' said I. To which he agreed, saying 'very well.' He  p278 also said 'that with regard to land forces England would scarcely be able to furnish any because the difficulty of raising soldiers here was almost incredible.' To this I replied 'that the colored regiments actually found in the West Indies would perhaps be more useful to us at the start.' He agreed with me that in those climates colored soldiers were better, and that their fidelity and valor had been shown in the last war."

Miranda's account continues that they next considered operations against the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires. He apparently expressed the opinion that an English garrison should be stationed there to guard the ports of Maldonado and Montevideo. "Then," added Miranda, "we proceeded to consider the South Sea. I explained how native soldiers from Botany Bay might coöperate usefully for the same object in Chile by acting against the small Spanish squadron which should be in that sea.

"All this seemed to go very well. He observed that although the plan was vast and apparently complicated, yet, in his opinion, there was nothing in it which was not practical and sensible in relation to the whole. I mentioned to him with what I considered the requisite delicacy not only the necessity of regulating religious affairs so as to insure a stable government, but also the need of perfect liberty and independence. With regard to independence he responded that we could be of tranquil minds; for even if England wished to retain a part of South America for herself she could not do so because the difficulties encountered in sending from time to time two thousand Englishmen to India to preserve dominions that she possessed in nearly absolute sovereignty were almost incredible. With regard to the establishment of a stable government of whatever type in the country, this outcome was what he considered the principal object; for only if those countries were well organized, and if they established a permanent régime, would they become happy among themselves and commercially useful to England. Otherwise the contrary result would take place; thus the interest between the Spanish continental colonies  p279 and England was perfectly mutual. This liberal conclusion pleased me much."20

In his memorandum Miranda also mentioned that Lord Melville showed him the letters, documents, and maps which had been transmitted to Pitt through Nepean. Miranda further declared that he and Popham and Melville indicated upon maps the most advantageous points of operation for English expeditionary forces. He even recorded that Melville directed that a ship should be intrusted to Popham at Dover in preparation for the expedition. Transports and soldiers were to be gathered on the coast of Ireland. At the end of his memorandum Miranda penned this ardent phrase: "God grant that the affair may continue to progress!"21

On October 19 he addressed a note to Melville to urge immediate action lest the projects that they had considered should be defeated by England's enemies. In a letter to the Prime Minister three days later he expressed the hope that the plans which he and Popham had just submitted to Lord Melville had met with Pitt's approbation. He added that unless those projects were "executed with decision and celerity" their success might be considered as precarious.22 On October 29 Miranda wrote to Melville to inform him that Spanish agents in England were sending vessels to Vigo and Bilbao in order to inform their government that expeditions were being fitted out in England "against the Spanish possessions in America."23

On the same day Popham wrote the following letter to Miranda that suggests the state of the enterprise as well as his condition of mind:

"It would have been the greatest satisfaction to me, if I could have administered any comfort whatever to you, for I assure you that independent of my personal respect, I think the object to which your attention has been so long called is of the greatest Consequence to this Country, but my friend  p280 I not only fear from a letter that I have received from Evan that its accomplishment is very distant, and the selection of me for it still more so; if however it does take place I shall most heartily wish it success, and I will give you all the advice and assistance in my power to afford, tho I do confess it will be very distressing to me to see it in full Force without my being called upon to act at one of the points. If Sir Evan Nepean was in England I do think it would not only take place with some spirit, but that I should be employed most materially in its direction. I am very much disappointed in everything, but the extent of my Family is such that in respect to them I must bear with the vexatious disappointments I have met with. I trust to the interference of Fortune to extricate me, for I must doubt having any Friends, and yet I cannot think Lord Melville will totally desert me; I shall write a few lines to Davison today if I can. If not when you see him say he shall hear from me directly."24

On November 2 Popham sent another despondent letter to Miranda to complain that "a number of contemptible insects" were "rearing their Heads to sting" him and to provoke him to do something intemperate.25 Soon afterwards this officer wrote to advise Miranda that in view of measures which were being taken against the ports of Spain he should ask Lord Melville for an interview.26 On November 7 the promoter addressed that Minister to solicit this interview in the hope that he might be authorized to take "some decisive step" to avert the mischief from France which threatened his unfortunate country.27 On November 16 Miranda appealed to Melville in a letter which we will print in full:

"It is really painful and distressing for me, to see the period prefixed for the commencement of the preconcerted operations on S. America arrived, and not receiving any intimation whatsoever — yet, some previous and indispensable arrangements, both in private, personal and political Matters, ought to precede my departure from this Place. I hope therefore my Lord, and I entreat your Lordship, noº to defer  p281 any longer the only opportunity left to us by Providence, to rescue my unfortunate Country from falling into the unmerciful hands of French tirany — and applying at the same time its wealth and future prosperity to the support and glory of Great Britain.

"I needn't mention to your Lordship how essential itº would be for the despatch and the success of the Enterprise, theº actual coöperation of Sir Home Popham . . . but I must recommend in the present Case, the sound Roman War maxim.

"Occasio in bello amplius solet juvare, quam Virtus."28

From Dungeness on November 27, 1804, Popham wrote to Miranda to state that he had not been able to secure permission from the Admiralty to proceed to London. "I hope Lord Melville will soon think it right," continued Popham, "to call me up to assist you; I am of less use here than I should be on the Monument. I want him to send you out to make the preliminary arrangements at Trinidad, without an hour's loss of time, this is what you should press."29 Four days later, Melville expressed his opinion to Popham thus: "General Miranda is not more importunate with you than he is with me; but he unfortunately supposes us at war with Spain; we are not so * * *."30 At last Miranda provoked Melville to supplement that view in the following guarded message: "I am very sorry that you or any other Person who has occasion to write to me should be kept in suspense; but it necessarily arises from the nature of the Subject on which you address me. Whenever I am at liberty to be explicit either one way or other, there will be no unnecessary delay on my part."31

The English attack on the treasure ships, which was made without a formal declaration of hostilities, was deeply resented by Spain. On December 12 she formally declared war on England. The news of open hostilities between these powers naturally stimulated Miranda. On December 14 he addressed a letter to Pitt in which he brusquely recapitulated his argument about an attack on South America from the British West Indies.  p282 He declared that he had just received letters from Trinidad which implored him to proceed to America. Everything was ready, he assured the Minister, for a revolution in Venezuela. He requested that the documents which he had transmitted to Pitt through Nepean should be returned. Nor had he forgotten the need of fiscal readjustments. He declared that he had on that very day paid a visit to the Treasury and had solicited one Mr. Brown to speak to Pitt about his financial affairs: "I ask you to give orders about my finances before the holy days," pleaded Miranda, "as a thing which is indispensable before the departure."32

To Rutherfurd, who was now in Trinidad, he wrote in sanguine words:

"The die has been cast, and war at last declared between England and Spain. The business that you know of has also been decided; but when will everything leave here? As yet I cannot foretell with precision. I am convinced that an expedition will be delayed from four to five months at least, although I am told that it will leave sooner."33

At this time another plotter attempted to influence the first lord of the admiralty. On January 7, 1805, John McArthur submitted to Lord Melville the project of Antonine François de Bertrand-Moleville, a French statesman who had taken refuge in England, for the separation of the Indies from Spain. Bertrand-Moleville suggested that it was futile for England to wage a purely defensive war against France, that, as the European part of the Spanish monarchy had become a province of the French Empire, it was necessary to wrest from Napoleon the vast Spanish domains in America. The émigré proposed that the first blow in this campaign should be struck against Mexico by an English army.34

A knowledge of this plan presumably stimulated Miranda to present a fresh plea. On January 19, 1805, he addressed  p283 Lord Melville and again urged the need of immediate action by England if the Spanish Indies were to be saved from French influence. Though he declared that Nepean, who was now serving as one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty, was in "daily communication" with that Minister, yet he asked for "a short audience" with him in the hope that "the Political Arrangement of the Plan might receive considerable benefit from it."35 On February 5, 1805, he addressed a letter to Nepean to regret that the important affair had again been postponed ad infinitum, and to request that he should solicit from Pitt and Melville permission for him to proceed to the Windward Islands on a warship bearing orders from the English Government that he should be allowed to move against the common enemy without any obstruction. "I believe," proceeded Miranda, "that it is infinitely wiser to act with all the aid which England can offer us, after confusion and disorder are once introduced into Spanish America." He declared that his compatriots, however, would like to secure from England such aid as that which had been furnished by France and Spain to the United States during the American Revolution. In return the Spanish Americans would concede to England certain commercial advantages.36

Apprehensions regarding Napoleon's plan to invade England had probably affected the attitude of the English cabinet toward the execution of Miranda's plans for the liberation of the Spanish Indies. Important events had indeed transpired in France. On May 18, 1804, the aspiring First Consul was proclaimed Emperor of the French. Three months later at Boulogne, the Emperor had reviewed the Grand Army, which had presumably been gathered in preparation for embarkation. Whatever may have been the actual designs of Napoleon for the dispatch of flotillas transporting thousands of soldiers across the channel, it is clear that suspicions concerning his designs were still rife in England. In the autumn of 1804  p284 England, Rome, and Austria formed the Third Coalition against France. In February following Gillray published a caricature of the comedy of politics that was entitled the "Plumb-pudding in Danger; or State Epicures taking un Petit Souper."37 The cartoonist's conception was that "the great Globe itself" was too small to satisfy the insatiable appetites of Pitt and Napoleon. He portrayed them dividing the globe which was depicted as a plum pudding.

At this juncture Miranda's finances again caused him distress. On February 25, 1805, he was informed that Edward Cooke, under secretary for war, wished to see him in regard to the settlement of a "small account pending" from the previous administration. Besides two hundred and fifty pounds expended for "secret services" at New York and Trinidad, Miranda asked Cooke for one hundred and fifty pounds, which was three-fourths of his "annual gratification" for the year ending in December, 1804.38 On March 29 he addressed what was apparently his last communication to Lord Melville. He declared that he had received reports that armaments were being prepared in Spanish ports for vessels destined to the South American colonies.

"Give me leave therefore My Lord to beg of your Lordship the grant of that final decision that is wanted only for carringº our preconcerted Plans into execution. Or at least the indispensable authorizations to Col. Williamson and Mr. A. Davison for preparing the arms, and organizing the Corps already approuved and recommended by Sir. E. Nepean.

"The absence of Sir Evan from the Admiralty, now and the pressure of actual circumstances, will excuse my solicitude at this present moment — and I hope will obtain from your Lordship's Patriotism and Wisdom such prompt and efficacious measures as will save my unfortunate country from its impending ruin and insure to Great Britain an everlasting source of commercial prosperity."39

 p285  On April 21, 1805, Miranda appealed to Nepean and declared that news of a war between England and Spain had produced a great sensation in the Spanish Indies. The Spanish Americans, he averred, were getting ready to rise against their masters. They wished him to join them. At least, they desired to secure his "plan of civil government."40 Near the end of May, 1805, Vansittart sent the following letter to the revolutionary: "I have seen Sir Evan Nepean and desired him to communicate to Mr. Pitt your resolution of leaving England. If he sees Mr. P. today I will send you word in the Evening: and if not I shall be glad to see you on Thursday Morning at ten o'clock in Gt. George St."41 A diarial note enlightens us in regard to Miranda's fluctuating hopes and fears. He stated that although he had received assurances through Cooke that he would be allowed to carry out his plan of operations without delay, yet upon conferring with Vansittart his hopes again declined. Read a salient extract:

"Vansittart merely told me that Nepean had said no more yesterday than that Pitt had given him a reply to the effect that if the government had offered to allow me to depart whenever I should judge this convenient, then it would be necessary religiously to fulfill that pledge, but that it was imperative that I should promise him that I would do nothing in Trinidad without the consent of the governor. This decision completely surprised me. I observed that in plain language he wished to say merely that I might proceed to Trinidad, that the governor of that island would inform me of the wishes of Mr. Pitt regarding my person, and that instead of being a just or equitable arrangement this was a personal insult or an infamous exile without the least appearance of reason or authority. In fine, it was equivalent to a change from an inconvenient position to one that was unendurable and infamous, especially if we recollected what Governor Picton had done with Gual and other persons on that very island."42

Miranda stated that Vansittart felt the force of his argument  p286 and advised him to see Nepean. After conferring with Nepean, Davison, and Williamson, the promoter felt much disgusted. Eventually Williamson brought word from Cooke that the views of Nepean about Miranda's departure for Trinidad were his personal ideas and not those of anyone else. As Miranda considered this an attempt by Under Secretary Cooke and others to embarrass him, he indignantly recorded this obscure but pious wish: "God grant that we may not have another repetition of the infamies of Dupéron or Hawkesbury in the Preliminaries of Amiens!"43

In a letter addressed to Vansittart dated June 1, 1805, Miranda reiterated his request for a final decision about his departure from English soil:

"You know better than anyone else the efforts that I have made for more than three years to bring the interests of this country into harmony with the independence and happiness of my native land. You know that I cannot longer defer my departure for South America without compromising my honor, my dignity, and, above all, the welfare of my country that seems destined to pass like Holland and Italy under the yoke of the modern Attila! Therefore I beg of you not to lose an instant in taking those steps that would be most reasonable and compatible with the interests of both England and Spanish America at a moment so critical!"44

After reaching the conclusion that he had not succeeded in his attempt to secure aid from England to revolutionize the Spanish Indies Miranda was tempted to seek the reasons for his failure. Through Nepean on June 13, 1805, he sent a justificatory note to Pitt. He assumed that Pitt's reluctance to grant him permission to proceed to Trinidad to initiate the emancipation of Spanish America was due to the inconsiderate actions or the "perfidious insinuations" of his enemies. Dupéron's conduct he denounced.

Miranda stigmatized Attorney General Law's description of him as a soldier of fortune as calumnious. Lord Bute, who  p287 had characterized him as an adventurer and contraband trader, was reminded of the justificatory decision of the Council of the Indies. Miranda maintained that he had never departed "an instant from the moral and political principles" which formed the bases of his relations with the Prime Minister in 1790. He suggested that Pitt should select two or three reliable persons to examine the charges which he presumed had been brought against him in order to determine whether or not they were incompatible with "the propositions and the information that he had had the honor of presenting to the British Government at various times concerning the independence" of the Spanish-American colonies. Should it be found that these charges were baseless, "mutual confidence," said Miranda, would be established between himself and Pitt. This understanding would promote "the welfare of a considerable portion of the civilized world." The conclusion of his plea was couched as follows:

"The importance of the object, as well as my delicacy towards those respectable persons who have honored me with their friendship, and have seconded me with their efforts during this long and painful negotiation, require me to take this step. This request is a justification which I owe to my country, to my compatriots, to my friends, and even to the government which has accorded me an asylum and an honorable support! In view of these circumstances, I cannot doubt, Sir, that you will grant this just and honorable demand for an investigation as the only mode of determining the truth of this accusation by the necessary justificatory proofs or of condemning to infamous contempt the vile and obscure calumniators."45

It was presumably regarding this communication that Vansittart thus assured Miranda: "I showed your letter to Nepean who very much approves of it and thinks it may have a good effect."46 A week later Vansittart sent his injured  p288 friend a message from the Irish Office as follows: "I saw N. this morning and he told me that he had just put your letter into Mr. Pitt's hands and had also given him a draft of an instruction to the Govr. of Trinidad relative to the mode of coöperating with you and that P. said he would attend to them but had not yet given him any answer."47 A diarial fragment by Miranda dated July 5, 1805, thus describes the Prime Minister's response to his justificatory note:

"The reply to this letter was a verbal message by Sir Evan Nepean, — which was also repeated to me by Vansittart, — in which Mr. Pitt assured me that he was not in the least anxious or suspicious in regard to such rumors; for his opinion concerning my integrity and honor is unchangeable in spite of what might have happened years past in more turbulent times which he desired should be buried in perpetual oblivion. He besought me to be fully convinced that I merited from him the most favorable opinion and the most perfect confidence. My friend Vansittart nevertheless agreed with me that there must have been some basis for suspicion, and that in hand case my justification was well made. There is no doubt that the impression must have been strong, for threats that seemed fierce were suddenly transmuted into courtesies and satisfactions."48

In the latter part of June, 1805, Miranda continued to urge upon Nepean through Vansittart the imperative necessity that he should be granted immediately the promised passport for Trinidad.49 On July 9 he addressed a plea directly to Nepean repeating that he had long impatiently awaited the decision of the English cabinet in regard to the succor promised Spanish Americans for their liberation from Spanish rule. He solicited Nepean to use his influence to bring the ministers to an immediate decision. He maintained that his object was to associate the commercial interests of Spanish America with those of England as "perfectly compatible" with each other.

Though there is no proof that his novel proposals were actually  p289 laid before Nepean, yet, as they embodied Miranda's ideas at this time, we shall notice his five alternative plans. (1) The plan arranged with Melville and Popham to dispatch a squadron bearing three thousand colonial troops as well as an armament for twenty thousand soldiers, who were to be recruited after the troops had disembarked. (2) The plan arranged with Nepean to dispatch a squadron bearing fifteen hundred colonial soldiers and an armament for ten thousand recruits to be assembled after the colonials had landed. (3) The plan arranged with Davison to send two small ships with armament for five thousand men to the island of Trinidad and to transport to the Spanish Continent one thousand volunteers from that island in the expectation that they would be reënforced by five thousand South Americans. (4) The plan proposed by Liverpool merchants to equip two vessels as privateers with an armament for two thousand men and to send them to the South American coast near Trinidad. (5) The plan to furnish the promoter simply with letters of recommendation that would authorize the governors of Curaçao and Trinidad to allow inhabitants of those islands to embark with arms and munitions on privateers or neutral vessels.50

On July 13 Miranda sent word to Christopher Gore and Rufus King that after inconceivable delays he expected soon to depart for America.51 On the same day he addressed to Nepean an epistle that displayed agitation:

"I saw our friend Mr. Vansittart yesterday and I asked him to see you in order to accelerate the conclusion of my affair today or tomorrow at the latest, for I have already made all my special arrangements to embark in the course of next week. I am at the present moment engaged in writing to my friends and interested compatriots upon this subject, and in the supposition that I shall embark to join them within fifteen days.

"Thus you will see, my worthy friend, that I have not a single moment to lose, and that my fate will be decided in a very short time . . . May God grant that this will be settled  p290 for the good of all! I hope that it will be, and I am even convinced of that. Next Monday I shall visit you at Fulham in order that I may definitely make my final arrangement, and so that I can recommend to you my house which I shall leave under the protection of our good friend Davison.

"I beg you above all to maintain the most profound secrecy in an affair so important and delicate not only for my personal safety as for the good of the enterprise itself."52

A diarial entry dated July 16 carries the story a little farther. Miranda declared that, after having conferred with Pitt, Nepean advised him to be patient and to remain in England a little longer; "for the political affairs of Europe were not yet in that state of maturity to commence our enterprise." To this Miranda aptly responded that they could neither accuse him of precipitation after so many years of patience or of lack of confidence; for, in the short space of a year, he had "four times witnessed the promises" given him "by His Majesty's Ministers broken." What made this worse, he continued, was that fact that no one had ever explained to him the motives for these decisions, — "everything being shrouded in mystery under the pretext of negotiations." He offered to remain in England if, after being confidentially informed of the "secret motive" for these decisions, his friend Vansittart would assure him that to remain there as Pitt advised "would be compatible with the interest and honor" of his country.53

On July 18 Miranda addressed a letter to the Prime Minister to ask for permission to embark for America in the course of the next week, and to declare that he wished to prevent the entrance of the "modern Gauls" into the South American Continent. He expressed the hope that "Divine Providence in seconding his views might render England, as well as his native country, forever independent, friendly, and happy."54 On the next day he got an epistle from Vansittart which declared that though he had received from Nepean "the fullest assurances of Mr. Pitt's good will to the cause, he said nothing  p291 which could satisfy me of his intention to act, or which would justify me in dissuading you from pursuing your intention of going to America." In a diarial note adjoined to this epistle Miranda recorded that the Prime Minister had declared himself to be the best friend of his plans that could be imagined.55 It is scarcely to be supposed, however, that the subtle Miranda believed all the assurances which Pitt purposely let fall. Obviously the Minister was anxious to keep the exile in leading strings not only that he might take advantage of his aid in revolutionizing the Spanish Indies should occasion offer but also that he might harass the Spanish Government, which was aware of Miranda's activity in London.

Though Miranda noted a peculiar anecdote to the effect that Pitt had said that, if money were a consideration to him England would detain him at all cost, yet, in reality, he was not without an eye to the main chance.56 Early in August he took up with Nepean and Cooke the adjustment of his remuneration by England. According to Miranda's diary, Nepean informed him that Pitt wished that he should receive from the English Treasury sixteen hundred pounds for his expenses which should not be a substitute for his annual allowance of seven hundred pounds; "for whenever I might return to England my pension would be paid in the same terms as at present, and this ought to convince me of the sane intentions of the ministers and of the favorable opinion which they entertained of me."57 At a later date, however, Cooke took the view that, because of the cash payment which was made, Miranda had relinquished all demands against the English Government.58

Upon being told that although war in Europe was breaking out with renewed vigor, yet it was impossible to aid his enterprise, Miranda mistakenly reached the conclusion that the government's policy was due to an agreement with Spain that if she would maintain her neutrality and independence, England would not disturb the Spanish colonies. The  p292 revolutionary recorded, however, that he and the ministers had reached an understanding. His story was that they agreed that he should keep the English squadrons near South America acquainted with his movements; "that we should maintain a secret correspondence; that he should be convinced that the government secretly wished him the best success in this enterprise; and it would not fail to support us with all its power after the undertaking had begun. This was also the opinion of my friend Vansittart who assured me that he was intimately persuaded that the ministers had more hope in the outcome of the enterprise which I was about to execute in South America than in the entire European coalition."59

There is little doubt that José de Anduaga, the Spanish minister in London, tried to spy upon the movements of the incendiary. In January, 1805, Anduaga warned his court that Spanish America was presumably the objective point of certain expeditions which were being contemplated in England.60 A suggestive though inaccurate interpretation of Miranda's activities is embodied in a biographical sketch that Spain later published in South America. In this pasquinade that government alleged that with "what Miranda had stolen in the campaigns in France," he ultimately retired to England "where he remained until 1805, scheming at the side of the sanguinary and Machiavellian Pitt how to organize an expedition against Spain, his own country, — the country which had given him birth and honored him more than he deserved. Because of the fact that England, being confronted with the formidable army of Napoleon, could not think about an expedition as the perfidious Miranda wished, he could not execute his designs although he believed himself capable of making conquests in the best portions of our America."61

The Author's Notes:

1 "Friday," Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Ch. MSS., bundle 160.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Ibid., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

6 "Private Memorandum," June 12, 1804, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

7 "Addition," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Fitzwilliam to Miranda, Sept. 24, 1804, Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

13 "Dover 23d," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Ch. MSS., bundle 160.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Annual Register, 1804, pp555‑56.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Faden to Miranda, Aug. 23, Oct. 15, 1804, Mir. MSS., vol. 24.

[decorative delimiter]

18 "Conferencias con los Ministros de S. Mag. Brit.," Oct. 13, 1804, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

19 Mel. MSS., f. 78. See further Am. Hist. Rev., VI, 513‑17; Minutes of a Court Martial, 79. A copy of Popham's memoir of Oct. 14 is found in Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

[decorative delimiter]

20 "Conferencias con los Ministros de S. Mag. Brit.," Oct. 13‑16, 1804, Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Mel. MSS., f. 41.

[decorative delimiter]

24 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Undated, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Mel. MSS., f. 42.

Thayer's Note: The tag — "[Taking advantage of] opportunity is of more help in war than valor" is from Vegetius, III.26.
[decorative delimiter]

29 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Minutes of a Court Martial, p134.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Dec. 8, 1804, Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Dec. 22, 1804, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

34 "Substance of Monsr. Bertrand de Moleville's plan for alienating the Continent of S. America from Spain and for establishing independent States," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Wright, Works of James Gillray, p316.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Miranda to Cooke, Feb. 25, 1805, Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

40 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Endorsed May 22, 1805, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

42 "Mayo 24, 1805," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

43 Diario, Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

44 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

45 Castlereagh, Memoirs and Correspondence, VII, 413‑16.

[decorative delimiter]

46 June 13, 1805, Mir. MSS., vol. 49. A copy of Miranda's justificatory note is found in the papers of Lord Bexley, Add. MSS., 31, 320, f. 43.

[decorative delimiter]

47 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Miranda to Vansittart, June 19 and 26, 1805, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

50 Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

52 Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

54 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

55 "Julio 19," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

56 Diario, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

57 "Agosto 5," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Turnbull to Nepean, Sept. 17, 1807, ibid., vol. 56.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Diario, "Agosto 5," Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Anduaga to Cevallos, Jan. 6, 1805, A. G. S., estado, 8170.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Medina, Historia y bibliografía de la imprenta en Buenos-Aires, p263.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Jun 15