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

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

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

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

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

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

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 15

Vol. I
p293
Chapter XIV

Miranda's Attempt to Revolutionize Venezuela in 1806

In 1805 differences between Spain and America seemed to augur a war. The United States had claims against Spain for the seizure of American vessels and also for the suppression of the commercial entrepôt at New Orleans that had been conceded by the Treaty of San Lorenzo. A dispute had arisen between these nations because of the undetermined boundaries of Louisiana which in 1803 the United States had purchased from France. So embittered had the Marquis of Casa Yrujo become that in March, 1804, Secretary of State James Madison had warned that Minister not to forget the deference that was due to the government to which he was accredited.

Reports concerning the critical relations between Spain and the United States had reached Miranda's ears. His ruminations were influenced not only by the conviction that the prospect of a war with Spain would procure sympathy and aid for his cause in America, but also by discontent with the fluctuating policy of English ministers in regard to the Spanish Indies. On August 31, 1805, he addressed a brief note to Colonel Williamson announcing that he was about to leave his home in Grafton Street. Two days later, accompanied by his secretary, Miranda embarked at Gravesend on the ship Polly bound for the United States. His secretary, Thomas Molini, undertook to keep a journal of the voyage.

On November 9 Miranda disembarked at New York. He had again traveled under an assumed name; among his effects there was a letter of credit for some eight hundred pounds in favor of Mr. Martin. He soon made his friend Rufus King, who was now residing in New York, acquainted with his designs. He also talked enchantingly about them to his former traveling companion, Colonel Smith, who was now surveyor of the port of New York. Through Smith the South American  p294 met a sea captain called Commodore Lewis and a merchant named Samuel Ogden. Both of these men became much interested in his projects.1 Still Miranda soon decided to seek aid in Washington and Boston. To Henry Knox he sent a letter that contained the following passage: "The object of this letter is to inform you, that the moment is at last arrived when the great Scheme we had in view for this many years past is to take place, or at least to be attempted with great probability of success. And as you may have in your Power to coöperate at its execution either by you, or some of your Friends at the most critical and interesting moment, I send you this advise through an intimate friend at Boston that he may give you every information that could be required on the subject."2 Miranda dispatched an agent named Armstrong to confer with Christopher Gore at Boston, while on November 29, 1805, he started on a trip to the capital via Philadelphia.3

[image ALT: A half-length portrait in oils, three-quarters right, of an old man with short hair wearing an early‑19c military uniform; his left hand rests on the barrel of a cannon, and his right on his hip, pulling his cloak back to reveal a west coast, tightly buttoned: he is definitely pot-bellied. He has a pleasant, self-assured expression. He is Henry Knox, an American politician.]

Henry Knox, Painting by Gilbert Stuart. In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

During his brief sojourn in that city the revolutionary met ex‑Vice President Aaron Burr. That discredited Republican, who was hatching a conspiracy which evidently involved the separation of Mexico from Spain, later admitted that he had been much pleased with the "social talents and colloquial eloquence" of Miranda but declared that he had carefully refrained from giving him an opportunity to disclose his views about the emancipation of the Spanish Indies.4 On his part Miranda stigmatized the Mephistophelian politician as a "detestable" and "infamous" man who had betrayed his plans to the Marquis of Casa Yrujo.5 To his government the Marquis intimated that Burr did not view with pleasure the advent of a rival conspirator. Before leaving Philadelphia the traveler visited his old acquaintance, Dr. Rush, who gave him a letter of introduction to Secretary Madison that mentioned the rôle of Miranda in the French Revolution. "He is still the friend of liberty," continued Rush, "and a believer in the practicability  p295 of governments that shall have for their objects the happiness of nations, instead of the greatness of individuals. He knows your character, and longs to do homage to your principles."6

Miranda reached Washington on December 6, 1805. On the next day he called on President Jefferson whom he found conferring with members of his cabinet. In his diary Miranda wrote that when he mentioned the warring nations of Europe, Jefferson said: " 'We will feed them all while they fight.' 'If they pay for it,' added one of his secretaries, and the President added 'to be sure.' " The visitor recorded that he next made a call upon Secretary Madison to suggest that, if the President considered it proper he wished to inform him confidentially about "certain purely American affairs."7 Then Miranda made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Washington. On December 9, after visiting the Senate and the House of Representatives, he received a brief note from Madison expressing a desire to meet him.8

On December 11 Miranda had an interview with the Secretary of State in which he mentioned his design to liberate the Spanish Indies. According to his own story, the revolutionary told Madison that to ensure the success of his plan it would only be necessary for the United States Government to wink at his activities. He even wrote in his diary that the Secretary declared that citizens of the United States could aid him. Miranda noted that in an interview two days later Madison said that although his government looked favorably on the project for the emancipation of South America yet he did not see how it could furnish assistance at that juncture without showing a lack of good faith. To this Miranda responded that the South Americans only desired such indirect aid as France had furnished the United States in the American Revolution before the Treaty of Alliance was signed. He reasoned that the United States should give her consent and wink at his  p296 enterprise. Then Madison replied that he did not conceive the need of his government either smiling upon the affair or viewing it with anger; for citizens of the United States could do whatever her laws did not absolutely prohibit, especially in an affair which was "honorable and useful."9 In letters to Turnbull and Vansittart, Miranda stretched the truth when he asserted that the United States Government had given its "tacit consent" to his revolutionary enterprise.10

On the afternoon of December 13, by invitation of the President, the South American dined with him in company with his daughter and certain congressmen. In his diary Miranda wrote that during the dinner he sat by the President's side. The diarist recorded that during the conversation Jefferson exclaimed that he had been born too soon to see the splendor of the New World which was steadily advancing toward complete independence.11 Before leaving the capital Miranda also visited George Clinton, a former acquaintance who had become vice president. Dr. Thornton of the Department of State became warmly interested in Miranda's design. Jonathan Dayton, ex‑Senator from New Jersey, also became conversant with the affair and secretly imparted to Yrujo information about the proposed filibustering expedition. Miranda met his old friend Stephen Sayre with whom he not only discussed his revolutionary projects but also his interviews with Jefferson and Madison.

In an account of his conversations with Miranda the Secretary of State declared that he had informed the adventurer that, as the United States was in amity with Spain, "nothing would be done in the least inconsistent with that sincere and honorable regard to the rules imposed by their situation. * * *" The Secretary avowed that if the United States should undertake hostile measures against Spain these would be performed "not in an underhand and illicit way, but in a way consistent with the laws of war and becoming our national character." According to his story, Madison reminded Miranda that "it  p297 would be incumbent on the United States to punish any transactions within their jurisdiction which might according to the law of nations involve an hostility against Spain, and that a statute of Congress had made express provision for such a case."12 Upon learning of Miranda's visit to the capital Yrujo instructed the Spanish consul in New York to spy upon him and to discover what he had accomplished.13 The English Minister Anthony Merry meantime reported to Downing Street that he had reason to believe that the American Government did not have confidence in Miranda and that his visit to Washington had "therefore been attended with no material result."14

After his return to New York on December 29 Miranda capitalized his conferences with Secretary Madison. He informed Smith that his project had the "tacit approbation and good wishes" of the government and that there would be no difficulty in the way of American citizens promoting his plans if the laws were not "openly violated."15 He assured King that the United States Government would "wink at the things being done by individuals."16 He vigorously pushed the preparations for an expedition. Through Ogden he secured vessels to transport his followers to South America. A memorandum in Ogden's handwriting found in Miranda's papers indicates that the merchant agreed to advance about twenty thousand dollars for arming and provisioning a vessel of one hundred and eighty-seven tons called the Leander and two smaller vessels named the Emperor and the Indostan.17 On January 4, 1806, the general drew bills of exchange aggregating two thousand pounds upon Turnbull and Vansittart.18 On January 25 Miranda gave Ogden drafts on parties at Trinidad that amounted to five thousand pounds, while that confiding merchant agreed to excuse him from all financial responsibility if  p298 those orders were not duly honored.19 In a letter to Vansittart the organizer thus linked his activities in England and the United States:

"After having discovered on my arrival in this country that the Federalists and the government were in open war I decided to proceed to the capital in order to sound the disposition of the administration in regard to me and the project with which you are acquainted. I found it very well disposed: it gave me a perfect, tacit consent, and left to merchants the option of doing the rest. Mr. K––––– and Mr. G––––– who had promised much, have done nothing upon the pretext that nothing was intrusted to them. However, other merchants have promoted the affair, and have cleverly equipped me so that I can depart on the tenth of this month. I assure you that the arrangements are more extensive and more solid than those which we had formed with Davison. I am persuaded that in the ordinary course of events we shall succeed, and that before three months you will know the result. Give me your support for that period, and our wishes will at last be accomplished!

"Mr. K––––– only sent your letter to the capital. Thus, having promised a small support to those respectable persons who follow me in considerable number, I am forced to raise two thousand pounds by drawing upon you and Mr. Turnbull rather than to depart without the supplies which are indispensably necessary or to make my secret known among merchants who are not personally interested, which might perhaps ruin the affair! I beg you to speak with Davison or with any other person whom you may judge proper in order that the needed money may be advanced with a premium or with a lien upon the undertaking. As American merchants are furnishing forty-five thousand pounds for this purpose, should not those of London advance two thousand for an enterprise which promises them at least an equal benefit? Finally, do what you can in this part of the affair in order that I may complete the essentials with success.

"I leave to your discretion whether to communicate a part  p299 of this letter to our friend, Sir Evan. I shall write him without fail upon the completion of the enterprise.

"Your sincere friendship is a guarantee that I need not again recommend that which interests me in Grafton Street."20

Colonel Smith undertook to secure men for the enterprise. Some followers he engaged directly; others he got through agents. The precise object of the expedition was ordinarily concealed; recruits were induced to enlist under a variety of pretexts. An agent called Fink, who was a butcher in Bowery Lane, seems to have engaged some volunteers to serve in "the President's guard."21 In addition to the assurance of regular pay, attractive rewards or flattering promises of advancement were often held out as inducements. Unlucky persons with shattered fortunes were thus lured into a strange service which held a prospect of lucrative returns. One deluded mortal appears to have arranged that a friend should take charge of all the "gold, silver, gold‑ore, and bullion" which he might bring home.22 On the other hand, Mrs. W. S. Smith sent an anxious letter to Miranda to express the opinion that she did not know of any other person to whom she could with so much confidence intrust her son.23 The very air of mystery that enveloped the undertaking tempted some adventurous spirits to enlist. Because of widely different motives, above two hundred recruits entered the service of a leader whom few of them had ever seen.24

Military supplies were meantime embarked on the Leander. According to a report of the quartermaster, they included 582 muskets, 16 blunderbusses, 15 carbines, 19 nine pounders, 8 six pounders, 2 brass two pounders, 2 petards, 440 cutlasses, 297 hangers and sabres, 6,500 cartridges, 1,586  p300 pounds of ball, 5 tons of lead, and 10,000 musket flints.25 These supplies were kept out of the captain's manifest in order that the port officers might be deceived as to the purpose of the voyage. On February 2, 1806, the Leander, which was cleared out for Jacmel in the island of Santo Domingo, put to sea with a fine breeze from the northwest.26

Ten days before his departure, Miranda had mailed two letters to Washington. With a letter to the President he sent a copy of Molina's history of Chile;a he expressed the hope that if the prediction which Jefferson had made about the destiny of Colombia was to be realized, it might be consummated by the "generous efforts of her own children."27 In a letter to Madison the South American thanked him for his attentions and expressed the belief that the important affairs which he had elucidated to him would remain "the most profound secret until the final result of that delicate affair." Miranda affirmed that in New York he had conformed "in everything to the intentions of the government" which he hoped to have comprehended "with exactness and discretion." The French original in the Madison manuscripts bears two annotations by the Secretary of State which were presumably made on July 22: the first note records that the important affairs mentioned were what "passed with the Brit. Govt."; while the second declares that Miranda's assertion that he had conformed to the intentions of the American Government was "not true."28 It seems that the exact truth lay rather with the Secretary than with the filibuster.

Although Minister Yrujo had gained an inkling of the interviews between Madison and Miranda, yet he did not comprehend the real object of the conspirator until after the Leander had weighed anchor. Then he dispatched warnings to the governor of Cuba, the Viceroy of New Spain, and the Captain General of Venezuela. To Secretary Madison he sent  p301 a protest against the departure of the filibusters. Yrujo also brought his complaint to Madison's attention through the French Minister at Washington. Further, the Spanish Minister at Paris denounced to Talleyrand the alleged unneutral conduct of the United States.29

Yrujo's protests presumably stimulated the administration to take measures against Miranda's abettors in New York. Colonel Smith was removed from office. In company with Ogden he was indicted for aiding to equip the Leander. During his trial Smith affirmed that he had promoted the filibustering expedition because he believed that it was being prepared with the consent of Jefferson and Madison. Smith and Ogden addressed a memorial to Congress in which they asserted that though federal officials in New York City had been cognizant of the equipment of the expedition, yet they had taken no steps to prevent its departure. In general, public opinion in that city was in favor of the accused men who were eventually acquitted.

In a jubilant mood Ogden sent Miranda a letter declaring that they had triumphed over their enemies and the oppression of the government.30 Jefferson, who was squirming under newspaper criticism of the administration, indited a letter to the Aurora in which he denied that either he or Madison had countenanced Miranda's expedition: "To know as much of it as we could was our duty, but not to encourage it."31 After Smith and Ogden were acquitted, Madison declared that a disclosure would be left to time which would "do full justice to all parties."32 On April 4, 1806, the Richmond Enquirer printed a letter from Stephen Sayre who affirmed that Miranda would meet delegates from Mexico, New Granada, and Venezuela at Trinidad. "If Miranda be not gone to that Island," added Sayre, "you may laugh at my credulity!"

When the real purpose of the expedition became known,  p302 some American newspapers made favorable comments. The Newark Centinel said of Miranda: "We are among those who wish him success, and who would gladly echo his triumphs. Not because we are anxious to see him docked with the ensigns of royalty or clothed with the majesty of wealth, but because a great empire would be open to the enterprise of our citizens, and an abject and miserable people would become a nation of freemen." The Richmond Enquirer reasoned that if the projected attack were successful, Spain might "tremble for all her possessions in South America"; a "new confederation of States might start into existence." Its editor hoped that General Miranda might become "the Washington of South America."33

After the Leander had been several days at sea the commander appeared on deck. A callow youth named Moses Smith, who had joined Miranda, declared that an "air of authority distinguished him" from the other members of the company. "He had on a red gown and slippers," continued Smith, "and his physiognomy shewed that he was not of our country. It was whispered about that he was a great general called Miranda, whose name had been celebrated."34

Some of the recruits now realized that his real object was to start a rebellion in South America; and they were encouraged to believe that their government had given its "implied sanction" to the enterprise. Rumors were likewise circulated that the "countenance and coöperation of the British" would be given. Further, the supposed disposition of South Americans to flock to Miranda's standard was made the basis for high expectations of success. The courteous and conciliatory disposition that their leader displayed at this time won the adherence of many of his deluded recruits. One astute lad declared that Miranda advised the young men to study mathematics and Spanish. He entertained them by expounding his ideas about politics. To illustrate his remarks he drew streams  p303 of knowledge from his own varied experiences. Not only were his followers impressed by his retentive memory but also by his marvelous power of conversational eloquence. One of his disciples, at least, received the impression that he intended to sow "the seeds of heroical deeds; of liberty and revolution."35

On February 13, 1806, the vessel was hailed by the English frigate Cleopatra commanded by Captain Wight. His first lieutenant impressed a number of the Leander's sailors on the claim that they were Englishmen. Not until after Miranda had visited the frigate and by means of documents extracted from his portfolio of papers convinced Captain Wight that his undertaking was "advantageous to the British Government," would that commander allow the expedition to proceed.36 As Wight released some American sailors who had been impressed into the English service, Miranda apparently promised that, if his enterprise were successful, the ports of Venezuela would be opened to English vessels. He then indited a letter to Admiral Mitchell, commander in chief of the English squadron on the North American station, to request that the Cleopatra should be permitted to join his expedition.37

General Miranda soon began to organize the "Colombian Army." On February 14 he appointed officers for his motley followers. The men were organized into groups of engineers, artillerymen, artificers, light dragoons, riflemen, and infantrymen. The deck of the Leander presented a busy scene. Men who were ignorant of military tactics were studying manuals on the art of war. Sergeants were drilling recruits. Carpenters were making staves for the pikes; while an armorer was repairing "old muskets, pointless bayonets, and rusty swords" that had been secreted on board. Printers were taking off the press the commissions of the commander in chief of the expeditionary army to his officers. The "Colombian" flag was first displayed on March 12: its colors were red, blue and yellow.  p304 Soon afterwards Miranda's officers signed articles of war in which they swore to be faithful to the people of South America.38

A draft found in the manuscripts of Miranda shows that, presumably by the aid of one of his followers, he had framed a series of regulations for the commerce of liberated Colombia. These regulations provided that immediately upon arriving in a Colombian port each master of a foreign ship was to make a report to the local collector of customs stating the nationality of the vessel, the number of the crew, and the names of the passengers. Every master was also to present to the collector a manifest of the cargo on board, and within twenty-four hours was to make a regular entry at the custom-house under penalty of confiscation. No goods were to be landed on Colombian soil without a permit from the collector. Merchandise landed from the United States was to be taxed a certain, unspecified per cent on its invoice value. An export duty was also to be laid on all goods leaving the ports of Colombia in vessels belonging to United States citizens. American vessels entering such ports were also to pay tonnage duties. At regular intervals reports were to be made to the commander in chief of the Colombian army concerning the volume of imports and exports and the amount of import and export duties that had been collected.39

At this time Miranda appeared in a most attractive rôle; he no longer stood haughtily aloof:40

"He assumed the manner of a father and instructor to the young men. He spoke of the prospect of success, and of the preparations made for him with great confidence. The glory and advantages of the enterprise were described in glowing colours. At another time he detailed his travels, his sufferings and escapes in a manner to interest both their admiration and sympathy. He appeared the master of languages, of science and literature."41

 p305  Such was Miranda at his best. After the Leander had reached the island of Santo Domingo a bitter dispute occurred between Captain Lewis and an officer named Armstrong. This controversy displayed the commander in a bad light. "A great deal of indecent warmth was shown on all sides," said Biggs, "but in the highest degree by the general himself, who appeared, before the storm was over, more fit for bedlam than for the command of an army."42 Other quarrels about the respective authority of Lewis and Miranda sadly lowered the general's prestige.

Messengers who had been sent from Jacmel to Port-au‑Prince to invite Captain Jacob Lewis, a brother of Miranda's commander, to join the expedition with the Emperor returned with the disappointing news that this cautious captain had decided not to coöperate. After more than a month's delay, Miranda accordingly left Jacmel where he had secured only two small vessels called the Bacchus and the Bee and a few recruits. Possibly because of the incompetence of the pilot, the Leander did not reach Aruba until April 11. So slow was her progress after leaving this island that the commander held a council of war. This body laid the blame for the unskillful management of the vessel upon Captain Thomas Lewis.43 While the Leander was proceeding toward the Venezuelan coast most of her sailors were induced to enlist under the Colombian standard. With less than two hundred poorly armed followers Miranda was at last ready to strike a blow at Spanish power.

Warnings sent by Yrujo had stimulated Guevara Vasconcelos, the captain general of Venezuela, to direct the commanders of coast guard vessels to be vigilant.44 The delays of the expedition had given the Spaniards ample time to prepare against attack. In consequence when Miranda attempted to disembark near Puerto Cabello during the night of April 27,  p306 his efforts were thwarted by two small Spanish vessels. Shots were exchanged between them and the Leander. "The action," said Miranda's secretary, "continued for about 40 Minutes (without our receiving any injury) when it was deemed prudent to decline the contest, from their decided superiority both in weight of Metal, and the number of their Men. The signal was kept flying for the two schooners to join us."45 As the Bee and the Bacchus were unable to keep up with the Leander, they were intercepted by the enemy. In the words of a filibuster, "the redoubted Miranda and the Almighty Lewis fled," leaving about sixty recruits on board the unarmed schooners.46 After a manly defense, late in the afternoon of April 29, the hapless adventurers surrendered to the vengeful Spaniards. The vanquished men were bound and carried in triumph to the Continent.

The unfortunate captives were thrust into the filthy dungeons of a castle at Puerto Cabello. Soon they were summoned to stand trial on the charge of "piracy, rebellion, and murder." They were subjected to a rigorous examination in Spanish fashion; and the colonial officials took pains to gather information about any South Americans who might be in Miranda's confidence. On July 12, 1806, Captain General Vasconcelos, who presided over the trial, pronounced judgment. Ten of the prisoners were condemned to death by hanging. Fifteen were to serve ten years in a prison at Omoa. Thirteen were to spend the same period in Morro Castle at Puerto Rico. Sixteen were to pass eight years of imprisonment in a castle near Cartagena. Three lads were to be dispatched to the fortress of Cartagena until the King's pleasure in their cases might be made known. The heads of the ten chief malefactors were to be ignominiously exposed to the public gaze. The attempt of the filibusters was designated as "an atrocious crime," while their leader was stigmatized as a "perfidious traitor."

 p307  The public hangman was directed to burn Miranda's proclamation as well as his captured banner. His portrait was to be publicly burned in effigy. The inhabitants of Venezuela were prohibited from maintaining any relations with the filibuster except in order to capture him. In the King's name thirty thousand pesos were to be offered as a reward for the traitor's body, dead or alive. When describing the barbarous manner in which the sentence was executed upon the captives, one of them not inappropriately said that in "the mean insults and sanguinary triumphs of the Spaniards we read Miranda's apology."47

Although the capture of these men damped the spirits of the Leander's company, yet Miranda soon regained his poise. A council of war decided that, before attempting another landing, the expedition should proceed to Trinidad and solicit aid from its governor. On May 26, 1806, however, the Leander was chased by an armed ship which fired at her. That vessel proved to be the English sloop of war Lily. Her captain, Donald Campbell, described the Leander's master as a "perfect pirate" in idea; he declared that the crew was "perfectly dissatisfied and nearly in a state of mutiny."48

[image ALT: A zzz.]

"General Miranda. An accurate Likeness taken at Barbadoes," June, 1806. From a print in the Ibero-American Library of the late Senhor Manoel de Oliveira Lima, Washington, D. C.

[Thayer's Note] The caption reads in full:

General Miranda.
An accurate Likeness taken at Barbadoes

General Miranda arrived at Barbadoes in the Leander armed Ship under American Colours, 7th June 1806, Sailed from Barbadoes for Trinidad in the Leander with the hired Sloop Tronmer under Convoy of H. M. S. Lilly & Gun Brig Express 20 June 1806

London Pubd October 21st 1806 by William Holland No 11 Cockspur Street

When Campbell boarded the Leander he told Miranda of the death of William Pitt. The Minister's noble frame, which had been long racked with gout, had received its death blow by the news that his last coalition against France was bound to dissolve because of the decision of the Prussian King to accept Hanover at the hands of Napoleon. Eventually George III had asked Lord Grenville to select a new cabinet. In consequence there was formed the ministry of "All the Talents": Grenville became prime minister and first lord of the admiralty; Earl Spencer was made secretary of state for home affairs; Nicholas Vansittart became secretary of the treasury, and William Windham took the post of secretary for war and the colonies.

Miranda's cruise in the Caribbean naturally piqued the  p308 curiosity of the new Prime Minister. In a letter to Lord Auckland on June 5, 1806, Grenville said that "an immense question is opening by this attempt (successful hitherto) of Miranda's on the Caracas. The thing was launched by our predecessors, as a matter of connivance only, without any plan for acting in consequence of it. How far shall we now countenance it, or engage in it?"49

While Lord Grenville was speculating about the policy to be adopted toward Miranda, under the escort of the Lily his expedition proceeded to the island of Grenada where it was hospitably received by Governor Maitland. That governor supplied provisions which enabled the Leander to sail for the island of Barbadoes. There Miranda became acquainted with Admiral Alexander Cochrane. So effectively did the revolutionary describe to the admiral his negotiations with English ministers that on June 9 they signed a significant agreement. In this pact Cochrane promised to support the Leander with a naval force and agreed to protect her from attack by the Spaniards. He conceded Miranda permission to recruit forces at Barbadoes and Trinidad. On the other hand, Miranda promised that, in case of his success, English citizens would be assisted in the recovery of their just debts in Spanish America and that the independent Spanish-American nations would concede commercial privileges to England. This provisional agreement was to remain in force until a commercial treaty should be negotiated between England and the new states.50 Cochrane urged in a dispatch to Earl Spencer that five thousand English soldiers should be sent at once to aid Miranda to liberate South America. His justification for this policy was a belief that in case of Miranda's success a great market would be opened in the emancipated colonies for English manufactures.

Miranda also solicited aid from General Bowyer, commander of the English soldiers at the Leeward Islands. In a letter  p309 dated June 10 he conveyed the impression that the English Government had decided to aid him if he were successful. He asked for some seven hundred soldiers, as well as arms, munitions, and provisions. General Bowyer informed Miranda, however, that, not having received any instructions from his government about the expedition, he must decline to support it. Miranda's attempt to persuade the governor of Barbadoes to assist him was likewise without fruit. Just before his departure from that island Miranda addressed a letter to Vansittart asking him to do everything in his power to induce the new ministry to support his undertaking.51

Meantime rumors about Miranda's expedition had provoked much excitement in Venezuela. In dispatches to the Spanish Government the Captain General had expressed his alarm. At the same time he took vigorous measures to thwart or to defeat the patriot-filibuster. Arms were distributed and fortifications were strengthened. Soldiers were stationed at strategic points. A thousand inhabitants of the province of Caracas made contributions to a fund for its protection. The cabildo of the capital city denounced Miranda as a "conspirator," a "traitor" who had committed heinous crimes. Early in May it started subscriptions to a fund to reward anyone who might capture him. With a rhetorical flourish it announced that all the citizens of the capital wished to see the traitor "reduced to ashes."52 In the distant city of Bogotá the Viceroy became apprehensive about the safety of New Granada.

[image ALT: A 19c relief map of what is now Venezuela; it is not very readable at any magnification.]

Map of the Captaincy General of Venezuela with the Guianas, 1807.
From François de Pons, "Travels to South America."

[A magnified version is, unfortunately, not much more readable.]

After increasing his company by a score of men, who were mostly adventurers or vagabonds, on June 20, 1806, Miranda sailed from Barbadoes. Leander was now accompanied by the Lily, the English brig Express, and a merchant schooner named the Trimmer. The misconduct of Captain Lewis having brought him into much disfavor, he relinquished his post, and Miranda intrusted the ship to the guidance of  p310 "a very inexperienced young man." At Trinidad the expedition was accorded sympathetic treatment from Governor Hislop. He even permitted volunteers to be recruited from the insular militia to serve under Colonel de Rouvray and two other English officers who joined the expedition. According to Molini's journal, besides sailors, about one hundred and ninety men were thus added to the expeditionary force.53 Writing to Vansittart, Miranda avowed that Hislop had given him "a cordial and warm reception, equal'd only by that of Admiral Cochrane at Barbadoes." Miranda explained a financial device to which he had recourse in these words:

"I was obliged by the pressure of Circumstances to draw £688‑2‑0 Stg at Barbadoes, having received at that moment news from the Continent of S. A. that absolutely required the sailing of the Expedition — I hope the Government will not refuse the payment of this small sum, in consideration of the magnitude of the Object, and the mutual interest of both Nations. I shall remain accountable for the payment of the whole."54

In a letter addressed to Lord Cochrane on June 29, Miranda thus explained his intentions and hopes and fears:

"We learn at this Moment that six sail of the line and one frigate are at anchor at Martinique, ready to sail, and in very good order, etc. — Under these circumstances H. E. Governor Hislop, Captain Campbell, and myself have agreed to suspend our departure until we hear from you.

"The information we have been able to collect here from the opposite Continent is satisfactory, and promises fair success on Cu–––a, that is the Point we have agreed upon: though the apparent object is the Gulph and Guarapiche river.

"The public spirit in this Island is in general for us: and the Governor is friendly and interested in the success of the Enterprise as yourself.

"We shall be able to collect it appears from 5 to 700 Volunteers  p311 of the Militia and Inhabitants of the Country; which force is deemed, by the best informed People from the opposite side, under the command of the intelligent officers that direct it, quite sufficient to insure success.

"We have thought necessary to lay a general Embargo upon all Vessels at Trinidad, until we hear from you; this circumstance alone [will] be sufficient to request of you the most expeditious answer, and as we are decided not to move before we hear from you, I hope you will not delay one single instant in transmitting to us this Answer.

"I confess to you, dear Admiral, that when I see the opportunity that chance has put at this Moment in the enemy's Hands of crushing our Enterprise, by subduing and taking Possession of some of the principal Ports of S. America before any force from G. B. can enable us to frustrate their pernicious views, I shall deem it a miracle if the New World by our efforts at this moment is rescued from bearing the disgraceful yoke of France."55

Meantime the house of Turnbull was taking steps to profit by a favorable turn in Miranda's fortunes. On June 7 Turnbull wrote to Miranda asking him to point out a few ports in the Spanish-American provinces to which English ships laden with manufactured goods could proceed in safety. You may if you choose, added the calculating merchant, "appoint me your Commercial European Agent as that may enable me to be of service, in promoting your views."56 Several days later Turnbull wrote again and inclosed some circular letters in Spanish that his firm had prepared for distribution in South America. These anticipatory broadsides, which were dated June 20, 1806, began by mentioning the glorious events that had resulted from the efforts of General Miranda, events that would ensure "an intimate and friendly connection" between England and Spanish America. Under the auspices of this old friend, Turnbull and Son offered the South Americans their services in England or any part of the Continent. "You may calculate with certainty that all the products of this  p312 province which used to arrive in England via Spain burdened with imposts of every kind will have an advantageous market here; the same results will take place with products of English factories that were formerly sent to Spanish America via Spain because of the saving of the heavy duties that they paid in Spain, and upon their arrival in the colonies. So great would the economies be that we should not be surprised if these manufactures unloaded in America would not cost one half of their former price."57

Upon being informed that the French squadron which had been at Martinique had sailed for Europe, Miranda decided to make another attack on South America at once, especially as assurances seem to have reached him that the colonists "were anxiously awaiting his arrival to free them from the Spanish yoke."58 After he had secured additional "English supplies" and increased his fighting force to some three hundred men, he left Trinidad. Admiral Cochrane directed Captain Campbell to take charge of the seven English vessels which composed "the expedition attached to General Miranda."59 On the eve of his departure the general addressed a letter of thanks to Governor Hislop that contained this introspective commentary on his venture:

"The news which I have received from the Colombian Continent impels me to leave this island without delay in order to take succor to my native land that has either to cast off the yoke of Spain or to become the unfortunate slave of France like Holland and Switzerland. No other consideration would impel me at this moment to leave the island of Trinidad; for the succor furnished me by new recruits has been far from completing the number which is necessary for an enterprise so important as that which we shall attempt to begin.

"The conviction which I have reached that a delay will not cause any increase in my forces, — for all the remonstrances that I have been able to present to the chiefs who command the land forces in the West Indies have not made me  p313 feel certain of their immediate coöperation, — has caused me to reach a decision which, however hazardous it may be, is perhaps the only one that I can now execute. I hope that Providence, reënforcing the pure intentions which animate us, will grant us success; and that, when better informed, posterity will pass an equitable judgment upon the events which may flow from a devotion as patriotic as it is honorable."60

On July 23, 1806, Miranda wrote to Admiral Cochrane in similar terms. He said that his failure to gather larger reënforcements at Trinidad was due to a belief that this island would ultimately be delivered to Spain and to a feeling that England was not cordially coöperating with him. He expressed hope that the people who had gathered on the Venezuelan coast would furnish him with the means to start the emancipation of Spanish America. "I fully rely on your naval assistance," added Miranda, "to support me on those points."61

During the night of August 1 the expedition reached the bay of Coro. A heavy sea prevented an attack from being made until early dawn on the morning of August 3. The vanguard of Miranda's forces, which was led by Colonels de Rouvray and Downie and Lieutenant Beddingfield, all of whom had served under the English flag, soon drove the Spanish soldiers from the beach and stormed a battery. By the aid of boats from the English vessels another contingent was landed; thus the Spaniards were driven out of the fort and the town of Vela de Coro. The Spanish flag was replaced by the insurgent banner. Miranda soon sent out messengers bearing flags of truce who were to offer protection to those inhabitants that would return to their homes. When the town of Coro was captured it was found to be almost deserted.62 According to the Spanish commander, Miranda lived near a city gate, in a state of perpetual vigilance, surrounded by his most trusted followers, and with a steed constantly saddled.63

 p314  The commander issued a proclamation to the South Americans which was fastened on the doors of churches and public buildings. In it he ordered all officials who were exercising authority on behalf of the Spanish Government to cease their functions at once. Local courts were meantime to exercise governmental authority. Any individuals who might aid Spain were to be viewed as traitors, while persons deserting the Spanish service were to be rewarded. Officials of the colonial treasury were asked promptly to transfer public funds to the new administrators. Male citizens between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five were summoned to the Colombian colors. The standard of national independence was to be displayed in the most conspicuous places. Colombian citizens were to wear cockades in their hats. For the time being a general assembly was to be formed; and a promise was given that eventually a permanent government would be erected. The public good, said Miranda, "is the supreme law."64 A Spanish translation of Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains was distributed among those inhabitants who could be reached.65 Nevertheless Miranda's efforts to recall his fellow countrymen were futile; and, as no supplies of any kind were found in the town, he decided to evacuate Coro and to return to Vela de Coro.66

Though by this time Miranda must have suspected that his expectations of substantial aid from compatriots were misplaced, yet he still hoped to secure effective assistance from English commanders. On August 8 he sent an emissary with letters asking for aid to Admiral Cochrane, to Admiral Dacres at Jamaica, and to Sir Eyre Coote, governor of Jamaica. Coote responded that, not having received "any order or advice" from his government about Miranda's undertaking, it was utterly impossible for him to render any assistance. Admiral Dacres replied that as the forces at his disposal were small and as he had not received the slightest intimation from his government, he could do no more than to guard Miranda  p315 by a cruiser.67 Admiral Cochrane, an ardent well-wisher of the enterprise, had already written to Miranda that, as his government had not vested him with power, he could do no more than to protect the expedition by a small squadron.68

On July 13, 1806, Earl Howick, first lord of the admiralty, wrote William Windham that he had read Cochrane's letter to Lord Spencer describing his relations with Miranda. Howick did not feel inclined to pass a favorable judgment upon these proceedings. He expressed grave doubts as to the policy of "embarking in this scheme." Even if it were desirable in other respects he asked, "can we spare the force that will be necessary to give it a reasonable chance of success? You say 3,000 men for Buenos Aires — Cochrane talks of 5,000 to support Miranda. To man such a force in addition to what will be required for Sicily, seems to me impossible without leaving ourselves without the power of acting anywhere else, if an opportunity should present itself, and without reducing too much our army at home if the threat of invasion should be renewed."69 This species of argument evidently had great force with the Grenville cabinet. At a meeting two days later its members reached an argument to disapprove of the decision taken by Cochrane to aid Miranda with "ships under his command, and even to conclude a treaty with him; and that he should be directed to take no steps by which His Majesty can be further committed in that enterprize."70

The Spaniards in Venezuela had meantime been making preparations to resist the threatened invasion. On the very day when Miranda landed his picture was cast upon the ground by the hangman, trodden under foot, and ignominiously burned. Juan de Salas, commander of the district of Coro, had dispatched messengers to the adjacent towns to solicit aid. He aimed to station soldiers so as to prevent the filibusters from penetrating into the elevated regions where he believed that there were many discontented slaves who would follow the  p316 revolutionary banner. The forces gathered for the defense of the province were gradually increased by soldiers who were hastily recruited from Indians and negroes. According to the figures of the Spanish commander, by August 8, 1806, this motley army amounted to at least fifteen hundred men.71 With this force Salas cautiously followed Miranda to Vela de Coro; there he stationed some of his followers on the sand hills near the invaders. On August 12 they captured Captain Johnson of the Leander with a number of seamen.72 Captain General Vasconcelos led forces amounting to perhaps four thousand men from the capital city toward Valencia where he proposed to form a military camp. According to one observer, all persons who had not taken up arms against the invaders were to be considered as traitors. Signs are not lacking, however, to show that here and there some colonists secretly sympathized with the filibusters.73

Two letters that Miranda received from Admiral Cochrane at this juncture indicate plainly that commander's views. One of these letters marked private and confidential and dated at Tortola, July 30, ran thus:

"After the part I have taken to support the success of your Plans I hope you are convinced that I have your interest much at heart.

"From my late accounts from home it appears that you have some warm friends in the present ministry but I fear that you have also some that are not so much so as I could wish.

"Situated as I am now, I cannot openly act, but secretly will give you all the assistance in my power — I will take care that the Enemy's Ships do not annoy you unless they come with a superior force, but my authority extends no farther as Government altho informed by me of your being on the Coast have not vested me with powers to afford you aid.

 p317  "I must also limit the Supplies of provisions but hope before this that you are in the midst of Plenty on the Main — Should the British Govt. charge what has been already supplied to my private account I trust that when you have it in your power that the same will be repaid.

"Capt. Sayerº who will deliver this has my instructions to render you every assistance he can compatible to my limited powers."74

In a postscript the admiral wrote: "Destroy this and the Enclosed." In the inclosed epistle, which was also dated July 30, Cochrane cordially wished Miranda success: "It gives me pleasure," he wrote, "to see that you are likely to be supported from Eng. You will observe that Mr. Turnbull's meeting took place the day after the one my Brother had with Lords Grenville and Moira on the 6th. I am vexed at the little support you have met with and am sorry that I can afford you no more." In conclusion he urged the filibuster "to secure a strong post" that could be held until assistance arrived from England. Inclosed in this letter was an extract from an epistle that the admiral had just received from his brother Colonel Cochrane Johnstone which ran as follows: "I am to be with Lords Moira and Grenville tomorrow about Genl. Miranda. I am endeavoring to prevail upon them to render him immediate assistance — Lord Melville is keen about it and Davison and I are hard at work for him."75 These letters show that persons in England who were interested in the execution of Miranda's plans were pleading with English statesmen to give him immediate and effective aid.

In view of the increase in the enemy's forces, the reduction in numbers of the attacking party, the lack of assistance from the Indians, and the impracticability of securing water for the squadron, on August 13 General Miranda held a council of war. This council, composed of that general, D. Campbell, William Gagehall, and de Rouvray, agreed that the expeditionary force should move its position to another part of the  p318 Continent not far distant where they could hold a port against the enemy until the aid expected from English officials could be received. However, as any other position on the Venezuelan coast appeared to the council untenable, it decided to evacuate Vela de Coro.76 Hence the commander in chief ordered the invaders to depart. "At 10 P.M.," recorded Molini, "the General and suite embarked on board the Lily, and at 12 the whole of the Forces were on board, altho' we had been much impeded by a very violent rain."77 Shortly after the expedition left the Venezuelan coast, the Spanish officials at Coro started an inquest to ascertain the identity of those persons who had encouraged or harbored the invader. Thousands of pesos were subscribed by Venezuelans to pay for the head of "Miranda the Traitor."78

At the island of Aruba the revolutionist made a brief sojourn. Though apparently he was not much affected by the sufferings of his men who were disheartened, scantily clad, and poorly fed, yet he doubtless keenly felt the loss of prestige. Besides, he received a friendly letter from Admiral Cochrane that contained some disheartening news:

"I think it highly proper to inform you that by recent Instructions received from England, I am directed to limit the assistance you are to receive from me, to protection from the Naval Force of the Enemy; to prevent succours being landed; and to secure your re‑embarkation in the event of your being obliged to leave the shore.

"I am further directed to send by a fast sailing Vessel, full details of the situation in which the Continent of South America now stands, in order that His Majesty's Ministers may finally decide as to the future measures they may take.

"In consequence of the above, a schooner attends Capt. Dundas of the Elephant to Coro which Schooner will receive on board your dispatches and immediately proceed to England.

 p319  "I think it proper to give you this early information lest you should be led to expect a Military Force to arrive for your support — a circumstance I am ignorant of being in contemplation of His Majesty's Government, but should any arrive, you may depend on its being forwarded to you without loss of time."79

The direction in which the thoughts of some English statesmen were occasionally turning is shown by an extract of a letter from Windham to Grenville dated September 11, 1806:

"I cannot but feel a strong conviction of the truth of the opinions contained in the Letter which you sent me from Hislop, and a great longing that a part of the force we are now disposing of, was applied, not to the revolutionizing, but to the obtaining possession of a part of the Spanish Settlements in S. America."80

Miranda was disposed to draw instructive lessons from his experiences. In a letter to Cochrane he declared that he had "ascertained with precision what the favorable sentiments of the inhabitants are toward us; and how much they detest the oppressive Government under which they groan at present. I have no doubt after this trial, of what we could with certainty obtain, if a small land force could be collected, before succours arrive into this Province, either from France or Spain."81 Miranda's hope of immediate English coöperation must have declined, however, when on September 22, 1806, Captain Dundas of His Majesty's ship Elephant warned him that, if he did not leave Aruba for Trinidad at once, English naval protection would be entirely withdrawn, and that Cochrane would furnish no more provisions than those which were needed to carry his followers "to some port of safety."82

Yet, stimulated by news that he had received from Admiral Cochrane of the efforts of friends to secure aid for him from  p320 the English cabinet, Miranda now addressed letters to Lords Grenville and Melville. Two passages from the plea to Melville dated September 19 will indicate his mood:

"My Right Honble. friend Mr. Vansittart, with whom I have kept a constant correspondence on the same subject, from the moment I quitted England in Sepr. last by the consent and agreement of the late Ministry — will give to your Lordship an exact account of our proceedings in this expedition, I hope the small succours that we want at this present moment will be given to us by your interposition, and I have no doubt from the experience we have now acquired in the Country itself, by the intercourse and communication we had for some time with the inhabitants, that success will attend our present efforts, and rescue the New World from becoming tributary and Vassals of the despots of France.

"I will not trouble your Lordship with any reflections about the great consequences that these plans if carried into execution may pursued in favour of Great Britain and Mankind, when I know that your Patriotic and Political Sentiments are similar and congenial to mine."83

The Leander reached Grenada on October 21, 1806. There many of Miranda's followers discarded their revolutionary uniforms. The disbanded men were paid only a part of the wages that they had been promised. In vain did they appeal to their former chief for financial assistance. He was made defendant in a suit by the owner of the Trimmer who wished to be paid for the use of his vessel. An incidental result of this expedition was its projector became bankrupt. Long after his followers dispersed at Grenada, he was harassed by requests for the payment of expenses incurred because of his ill‑starred cruise in the Caribbean Sea.84

In a letter to the President, Stephen Sayre chided Jefferson because he had not accepted some "noble offers" that he alleged Miranda had made to him in Washington. Sayre said  p321 that Miranda's "ideas are lofty — his schemes magnificent — his intelligence uncommon and correct — and I believe his virtue is above the reach of corruption." Yet this sympathizer expressed a fear that, if the revolutionist was forced to get aid from England, that nation would induce the people of Spanish America to become the enemies of the United States and would carve out kingdoms there for her princes. "The policy of Miranda, if aided by us," he continued, "is decidedly to adopt the representative system, throughout the whole Continent — to have ambassadors, from each confederation of states, who shall meet in some central part and prevent, if possible, any misunderstandings that may arise in the Union."85

In the British West Indies comment upon Miranda's activities varied according to the good or ill success of his expedition. On September 2, 1806, the Barbadoes Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette declared that Miranda would "demonstrate to the world, that though his enterprise has been called rash by some, Quixotic by others, and by all deemed dangerous, yet it is in his power to take and preserve a position on Terra Firma." On November 4, however, this gazette said that "it does not now appear, as far as the events and issue of his recent expedition are developed, that he is possessed of those superior virtues or, if we may be allowed the expression, those vicious excellencies, which are necessary to give energy and effect to a bold undertaking."

Early in November, 1806, Miranda decided to dispatch De Rouvray to London. Molini wrote in his journal that this agent was sent in order that their leader might obtain "immediate succours or a categorical answer" respecting the intentions of the English ministers.86 On November 3 Miranda wrote to Sir Evan Nepean, Earl St. Vincent, and Lord Grenville. A significant portion of the letter to St. Vincent runs as follows: "I hope that at this present moment your influence  p322 shall not be wanted for the purpose of carrying into execution those benevolent Plans, that the administration in which your Lordship was so conspicuous a member had formed for the welfare of Great Britain and the happiness of mankind." In a confidential letter addressed to Vansittart on the same day Miranda thus mentioned De Rouvray's mission:

I pray you to listen to him with the same attention that you would give me if I were present; and to introduce him to those ministers of His Majesty whom you judge it proper that he should see at the present moment. Send me a positive response in regard to the future fate of this expedition in order that I may be able to retain here the persons who are voluntarily devoted to this generous enterprise and who are awaiting with impatience a definitive conclusion. There is no need for me to depict to you my personal position; I rely with confidence upon your honor and your friendship. You have been the confidant of my secrets and my pure intentions. Give me your advice and extricate me from the disagreeable and dangerous position in which I am placed at the present moment."87

The quandary of the English ministers at this juncture can only be comprehended by noticing the changes that Home Popham had wrought in the Viceroyalty of la Plata. In April, 1806, Popham, who had been vindicated by a parliamentary committee and was now in command of the English naval forces at the Cape of Good Hope, decided, without the authorization of his government but with the aid of some regular soldiers under General Beresford, to make an attack on Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Reports which he had received about the defenseless condition of those ports had convinced him that they could easily be conquered and that large markets would thus be opened for English manufacture. On the eve of his departure from St. Helena for La Plata the English Commander wrote a letter from the Diadem to Lord Castlereagh to  p323 explain that his project had "not arisen from any sudden impulse, or the immediate desires of gratifying an adventurous spirit," but as the outcome of a plan that he had previously framed at the request of Lord Melville for "a general emancipation in South America, and that the great organ of action in this undertaking" was General Miranda.88 Early on the morning of June 25 English warships entered the estuary of La Plata River, and two days later scarlet clad soldiers took possession of Buenos Aires. To Miranda, whom he supposed to be in England, on July 20 Popham sent an intriguing epistle:

"Here we are in possession of Buenos Ayres, the finest Country in the World, and from what I see of the disposition of the Inhabitants, I have no doubt if Ministers would accede to your Propositions and send you here, that your Plan would take as well from this side as from the other, try my friend to come out. I have written to Sir Evan Nepean who is the only person I recollect to have been particularly interested in the Subject; Davison you will of course see, as well as Lady Popham and they will give you all the Information they have. I am so occupied that I scarce know what to do first. I wish you were here. I like the South Americans prodigiously. God bless you my dear General."89

In a letter to Miranda, inclosing this epistle, Turnbull wrote in these words:

"I have shewn it to our good Friend Mr. Vansittart — The Influence and Consequence of his party are most materially increased, by the Death of Mr. Fox. Lord Grenville, I am sure is well attached to you, and to your cause. Sir Evan Nepean has no Prospect of getting again into Power — and Mr. Fox's Party, particularly Lord St. Vincent's, were so inveterate against Sir Home Popham, that the House of Commons would not give him a Vote of Thanks for the Conquest of the Cape of Good Hope and on the contrary another Naval Officer was immediately sent thither to supercede Sir Home — Fortunately  p324 for him, he had left the Cape, before his Successor arrived, and as he has now been so successful and Lord Grenville's Party totally predominates, I should hope that they will not longer take a Part against him. * * * The Manufacturing Towns are anxious to send you Supplies, and Lord Auckland, the President of the Board of Trade, is desirous to give you every Encouragement that I can suggest."90

Popham sent a dispatch to the English Government to announce the conquest of Buenos Aires. He asked that he should be speedily reënforced. In reply the admiralty approved "the judicious, able, and spirited conduct" of his officers and marines but disapproved of the attack on South America because it had been undertaken without the sanction of the government.91 Still, when Vansittart transmitted Miranda's letter to Lord Grenville, he was evidently given the impression that the government might decide "to take a very active Part in wresting South America out of the hands of the Spaniards" but that it wished to have the South Americans show their "disposition to come forward."92 After Home Popham was recalled for leaving his station without orders, in vain did he plead in extenuation of his proceedings the fact that William Pitt had entertained designs upon the Spanish Indies. Although the English ministers tardily decided to dispatch an expedition under Generals Crawford and Whitelocke to conquer southern South America, yet this ill‑considered plan failed largely because of heroic resistance of the citizen soldiers of Buenos Aires.93

The initial success which attended Popham's attack on La Plata indicates that if Miranda had secured firm possession of strategic positions in northern South America, the English Government might have decided to aid him by armed force. Though citizens of the United States and at least one federal  p325 official promoted the enterprise, and though the negligence of the American Government permitted the Leander to sail from New York, yet Miranda's attack on Venezuela in 1806 was in some respects more of a British than an American enterprise. Although perhaps they were not fully aware of it, English ministers furnished some two thousand pounds to meet the expenses of the attempt to revolutionize Venezuela in 1806.94 When Miranda attacked Coro more than one‑half of his invading army was composed of men who had lived under the British flag. It is clear that without the supplies which were obtained from English commanders in the West Indies the Leander could scarcely have kept on her cruise. Further, Miranda would evidently have found difficulty in withdrawing from the Venezuelan coast without a shield of English vessels.

In a negative way England had actually encouraged filibusters. By neglecting for a time to give instructions to her servants in the West Indies to withhold supplies and munitions from Miranda, she gave her implied sanction to the attempt to revolutionize South America. In a speech in Parliament on December 19, 1806, Lord Castlereagh pertinently asked why the ministers had not decided "one way or other on a question obviously interesting to the British empire? So far was government from making up their mind on it," he added, "that our commanders were constantly obliged to reply to the applications made to them for support that they would write home for instructions; and at last we contributed our aid by sending a few light vessels to convoy the expedition."95

It is clear that Miranda's sea force was altogether too small for the huge task which he had in mind. In 1808 Sir Arthur Wellesley estimated that an attack on northern South America should not be undertaken with less than ten thousand regular soldiers. Further, the warnings sent to South America by Yrujo as well as Miranda's delays in the West Indies had  p326 given the Spaniards a splendid opportunity to make preparations to repulse the invaders. Although some fellow countrymen sympathized with Miranda, yet at this juncture many others were either faithful to their King or indifferent to a change of masters.

As a Venezuelan historian suggests, perhaps the dominant creole aristocrats opposed Miranda because they believed that his endeavors were subsidized by English gold.96 In any case, the appearance of a small attacking force did not induce the people of northern South America to rise in arms against the Spaniards. Yet if that attempt had been strongly supported by English soldiers, its success might conceivably have led to the separation of all the Spanish continental colonies in America from the Motherland. In the wake of such a transformation English merchants would have developed an extensive and profitable commercial intercourse. In fact Miranda's attack on Venezuela incited an astute French agent named De Pons to warn his government that France was the only nation which could protect the Spanish colonial Empire against the ambitious designs of England.97

As a counterblast to this attempt to revolutionize Venezuela, in 1807 the Spanish Government published in South America a "Portrait and Biography of the Traitor Miranda."98 This denunciation contained an interpretive account of the activities of that "wicked man." The Spanish Government stigmatized President Jefferson as a "disloyal friend of Spain" who overlooked Miranda's activities "in order that he might recruit some two hundred men." It declared that warnings dispatched by the vigilant envoy Yrujo enabled Spanish officials to prepare to receive Miranda as he deserved. That "miserable person, in order not to lose everything and to tempt  p327 fate," attacked the Venezuelan coast with a ridiculous force. After the repulse of his first attack the traitor then undertook "to visit the islands of his friends the English, beseeching aid and offering South America as a reward." As an explanation of the repulse of Miranda's second attack, the statement was made that "the Spaniards were vigilant at all points and the Spanish Americans everywhere detested the memory of such a wicked son."


The Author's Notes:

1 Trials of William S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden, pp. ix, xx, xxi, 107; King, Life and Correspondence, IV, 578.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Nov. 27, 1805, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

3 King, IV, 469, 582.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Private Journal, II, 254.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Miranda to Smith, July 3, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Robertson, Miranda, p363, note c.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Dec. 9, 1805, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Diario, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Jan. 4, 1806, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Madison, Writings, VII, 202‑3.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Yrujo to Stoughton, Dec. 23, 1805, A. H. N., estado, 5555.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Merry to Mulgrave, Jan. 3, 1806, F. O., 5/48.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Biggs, History of Don Francisco de Miranda's Attempt to Effect a Revolution in South America, pp272‑73, note.

[decorative delimiter]

16 King, IV, 530‑31.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Undated, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

19 Ogden's receipt, Jan. 25, 1806 (copy), Mir. MSS., vol. 53.

[decorative delimiter]

20 Jan. 4, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 50. To Miranda's letter of Nov. 27, 1805, General Knox had replied on Dec. 14 to avow that it had afforded him "great delight" to learn of Miranda's arrival in the United States, but to state that he was returning to his family which was then in Maine, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Trials, pp147, 149, 171.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Sherman, A General Account of Miranda's Expedition, p19 and note.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Jan. 29, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

24 Molini's Journal, ibid., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Armstrong, "General Return of Arms, Accoutrements * * * on Board the Ship Leander, April 14th, 1806," Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Molini's Journal, ibid., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

27 King, IV, 584.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Robertson, Miranda, p368, note c.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Ibid., pp369‑74.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Castlereagh, Memoirs and of course, VII, 416.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Randall, Life of Thomas Jefferson, III, 167.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Madison, Letters and Other Writings, II, 226.

[decorative delimiter]

33 In the Federal Gazette, March 8, April 8, and June 30, 1806.

[decorative delimiter]

34 Smith, History of the Adventures and Sufferings of Moses Smith, p79.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Robertson, Miranda, pp376‑77.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Wight, "Memo. for General Miranda," Feb. 13, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Am. Hist. Rev., VI, 518‑19.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Biggs, pp16‑35.

[decorative delimiter]

39 "General Observations for the Government of the Commerce in the Ports of Colombia," Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

40 Biggs, p27.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Ibid., p290.

[decorative delimiter]

42 Ibid., pp24‑25.

[decorative delimiter]

43 Biggs, pp24‑55; Sherman, pp40‑43; "Minutes of Proceedings in a Council of War," April 21, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

44 Yrujo to Cevallos, April 16, 1806, A. H. N., estado, 5555.

[decorative delimiter]

45 Molini's Journal, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

46 Am. Hist. Rev., III, 681.

[decorative delimiter]

47 Robertson, Miranda, p380.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Am. Hist. Rev., VI, 523.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, VIII, 179.

[decorative delimiter]

50 Antepara, South American Emancipation, pp213‑15.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Robertson, Miranda, pp382‑83; Miranda to Vansittart, June 17, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

52 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp179‑85. See further the intercepted correspondence in the Evening Post, Nov. 9, 1806.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Biggs, 99; Molini's Journal, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

54 June 25, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

56 Ibid., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

57 Inclosure in Turnbull to Miranda, June 23, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Molini's Journal, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Marshall, Royal Naval Biography, X, 404.

[decorative delimiter]

60 July 23, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

62 Marshal, X, 404‑5; Biggs, pp115‑17.

[decorative delimiter]

63 Rojas, El general Miranda, p227.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Biggs, p131.

[decorative delimiter]

65 Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

66 Molini's Journal, ibid., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

67 Robertson, Miranda, p388.

[decorative delimiter]

68 July 30, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

69 Add. MSS., 37, 847, f. 255.

[decorative delimiter]

70 Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, VIII, 236.

[decorative delimiter]

71 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp209‑16.

[decorative delimiter]

72 Molini's Journal, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

73 London Chronicle, 1806, p444; Casas to Godoy, Aug. 26, 1806, A. G. I., audiencia de Caracas, 133‑4‑9.

[decorative delimiter]

74 Mir. MSS., vol. 51.

[decorative delimiter]

75 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

76 Minute of the council of war, Aug. 13, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

77 Molini's Journal, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

78 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp221‑23; Figueredo, "Para Pagar la cabeza del 'Traidor Miranda,' " in El Cojo Ilustrado, XX, 654‑55.

[decorative delimiter]

79 Sept. 11, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

80 Copy, Add. MSS., 37, 487, f. 113.

[decorative delimiter]

81 Sept. 19, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

82 Castlereagh, VII, 421‑22.

[decorative delimiter]

83 Mel. MSS., f. 44.

[decorative delimiter]

84 Biggs, pp204‑16, 221‑29, 233‑37; Miranda to Ogden, Oct. 3, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 61.

[decorative delimiter]

85 Nov. 15, 1806, Jeff. MSS., series 2, vol. 77.

[decorative delimiter]

86 Molini's Journal, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

87 These letters of Nov. 3, 1806, to St. Vincent and Vansittart are found in W. O., 1/1113.

[decorative delimiter]

88 April 30, 1806, ibid., 1/161.

[decorative delimiter]

89 Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

90 Sept. 17, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

91 Minutes of a Court Martial, pp54‑56, 69, 70.

[decorative delimiter]

92 Turnbull to Cochrane, inclosure in Cochrane to Miranda, Nov. 30, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

93 Proceedings of a Court Martial, I, appendix, pp. v, xxii, xxv‑xxvii.

[decorative delimiter]

94 Turnbull to Miranda, June 5 and Sept. 20, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

[decorative delimiter]

95 Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, VIII, 79.

[decorative delimiter]

96 Gil Fortoul, "El primer fracaso de Miranda," in El Cojo Ilustrado, XV, 325.

[decorative delimiter]

97 "Mémoire sur la cession de la capitainerie générale de Caracas à la France," 1806, A. A. E., Colombie, 1.

[decorative delimiter]

98 Medina, Historia y bibliografía de la imprenta en Buenos-Aires, pp263‑64.


Thayer's Note:

a Fr. Juan Ignacio Molina's Historia de Chile was the most complete of all histories of Chile published until the nineteenth century (Galdames, History of Chile, pp122130). As a Chilean Jesuit, its author was one of those expelled by Spain in 1767, and doubtless on Miranda's list.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Jun 15