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Chapter 15

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,
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Chapter 17

Vol. II
p28
Chapter XVI

Activities as a Propagandist

The period following the departure of Wellesley's soldiers for the Iberian Peninsula forms an interlude in Miranda's life. While patriotic juntas that assumed governmental functions were being formed throughout Spain, he lived quietly in London in the enjoyment of a regular allowance from the English Government. His literary interests revived. He frequently expressed the hope that the Continent might be delivered from the French. He spent much time meditating about the fate of the Spanish dominions in the Old World and the New.

Steps that Napoleon took to insure his brother the allegiance of the Spanish colonies had meantime exercised a significant influence upon South America. An agent conveying reports of the accession of Joseph Bonaparte to the throne of Spain and the Indies reached the capital of Venezuela on July 15, 1808. This emissary made the people, as well as the Captain General, acquainted with the downfall of the Spanish Bourbons. To paraphrase the words of Captain Beaver, who brought news of the Spanish uprising against the French, the people proclaimed Ferdinand VII by heralds throughout the city of Caracas and placed his portrait in the hall of the cabildo. On July 28 that council in vain presented an address to Captain General Casas praying for the creation of a junta at the capital. Some time afterwards Colonel Cochrane Johnstone invited Miranda "to eat a Mutton Chop with him" in order to meet Captain Hope. Under date of September 28 Miranda recorded in a diarial note that this captain had informed him of the tumult caused in Caracas by news of the Napoleonic usurpations in Spain. "If this story is true," concluded Miranda, "it appears to me a favorable augury for the independence of our America."1

 p29  His relations with Castlereagh and Wellesley were not completely severed. On August 19, 1808, Miranda wrote to Castlereagh to state that he had received communications from Trinidad and from the city of Caracas in regard to the condition of Venezuela. As he had been unable to discuss the matter with Sir Charles Stewart, Miranda declared that he had advised his correspondents to communicate directly with the English Government in order to agree upon "such measures as circumstance might require." He had further suggested that the South Americans should not wait for advice from the juntas that had arisen in Spain, but that the cabildos should assume the government of the country.2

On July 20, 1808, Miranda had sent a significant letter to the Marquis of Toro and the cabildo of Caracas. In it he maintained that the existing circumstances were "most critical and dangerous" for the Spanish Indies. The most probable result of the conquest of Spain by France, he declared, would be the subjection of "the Colombian Continent" to the same misfortunes as the Iberian Peninsula. In consequence he urged that the cabildo of Caracas should assume the government of that province, and that it should send agents to London to negotiate directly with English ministers about the destiny of the New World. He asserted that the interests of the Spanish juntas were incompatible with the "interests and rights" of the Spanish-American provinces and asked the cabildo to forward copies of his letter to Bogotá and Quito.3

Miranda planned to transmit this epistle to South America through Admiral Cochrane. In a letter in English addressed to the admiral on July 21 he complained that "our Expedition is again retarded on account of the late Events in Spain — which result will bring forward the accomplishment of my views on South America." He asked Cochrane to forward this missive by English cruisers to La Guaira, and urged that the  p30 Venezuelans should dispatch agents to Downing Street at once. "We are all," said Miranda, "in expectation of the result of a great conflict in Spain, which must bring matters to an issue in a very short time."4 On September 10 he addressed a letter to the cabildos of Habana and the city of Mexico to suggest that although England had altered her plans in respect to the Spanish dominions, yet her views remained the same. Annexed to this communication were documents that illustrated the policy of France toward Spanish America in 1792 as well as a copy of his note that explained why he did not accompany Wellesley to the Spanish Peninsula.5

On October 6, 1808, Miranda sent an important letter to the Marquis of Toro and the cabildo of Caracas. In this communication he expressed grave fear that a conflict would soon be precipitated between peninsular officials and Spanish colonists. He argued that because of the absence of a representative system the Spanish patriots had been compelled to form an imperfect scheme of government, and that subsequently they scarcely had time to concert a plan of defense and a general organization before their country was overrun by French troops. In order that his countrymen might be prepared for impending changes, he inclosed plans of government for liberated South America. These were the projects submitted to the English Government in May, 1801, which he had slightly modified. Miranda took occasion bitterly to denounce the administration of Captain General Vasconcelos of Venezuela. He implored his countrymen to follow the example that had been set by Spanish patriots in reforming their system of government and claiming their "liberties and independence." The propagandist also inclosed documents illustrating his endeavors in England, France, and the United States to promote the emancipation of the Spanish Indies.6

On December 9, 1808, he addressed an explanatory letter to Admiral Cochrane. He declared that he was anxiously awaiting "some answer from South America to the Letters I  p31 had the honor of transmitting through your care. The Principal Object in sending them, was to persuade the Cabildos to send some Deputies that might explain and shew to this Government the feelings of the Continental People of South America on this momentous occasion. The time for acting is near at hand, and I hope we shall receive the above information soon so as to enable us to make a proper use of it."7

In the end of January, 1809, Governor Cockburn of Curaçao and Captain Fyfe, commander to English naval forces at that island, intercepted a packet of letters that Miranda had addressed to the Marquis of Toro. After examining the letters these officials decided that to forward them to South America would not be compatible with the relations existing between England and Spain. To Spanish colonial officials Cockburn expressed the view that this correspondence was a French intrigue which was designed to shake Spain's confidence in England. Yet, upon transmitting the missives to his government, he declared that Miranda was "held in general detestation" in northern South America, and that a connection with him would tend to weaken English prestige and influence in that region.8

About the same time Miranda had sent other packets of letters to Habana and to the city of Mexico. Upon opening them Governor Cockburn saw that they contained revolutionary papers which had been copied from Miranda's manuscripts. One of the packets addressed to Habana contained the following documents: copies of missives that Miranda had addressed to Caracas and Buenos Aires between July and September, 1808; copies of correspondence that described the French plan of 1792 for the emancipation of the Spanish Indies; a copy of Miranda's letter in which he declined to enter the English service against Spain; and a copy of Hamilton's epistle of August 22, 1798, which expressed his views about the liberation of South America. When he reported to Castlereagh his action in detaining this correspondence Cockburn  p32 said that he could not believe that the English Government had sanctioned "such an attempt to dismember the dominions of His Catholic Majesty in America," while it was "so nobly struggling to support His Empire in Europe."9

Admiral Cochrane also had scruples about forwarding such packets. Hence he wrote to Spencer Perceval to state that, in the belief that this Minister was acquainted with their contents, he had transmitted to South America certain letters which Miranda had sent under the "cover" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Cochrane asked for instructions about the disposal of similar packets that might subsequently reach him. The situation was indeed awkward. On January 14, 1809, the English Government and the Central Junta, which had assumed the reins of government in Spain, put the seal on their informal relations by a convention of peace, friendship, and alliance. To Miranda's hope of English coöperation in his life purpose this treaty in reality gave the coup de grâce. On February 2, 1809, inclosing an extract from Cochrane's letter, Herries asked the propagandist for an explanation of the admiral's damaging statements.10 A copy of Miranda's retort shows that he tried to exculpate himself from the charge of carrying on a seditious correspondence under an official cover by the allegation that Cochrane had altered the sense of his letter by substituting the word "Perceval" for the word "government."11

Meantime the Captain General of Venezuela had not been idle. He warned the Central Junta about Miranda's transmissal of seditious papers. In March, 1809, it accordingly instructed the Spanish Minister in London, Admiral Apodaca, to protest to the English Government against intrigues directed from London by a "revolutionist who was celebrated only because of treason against his King and country." If he could do so without compromising himself, the envoy was directed to have Miranda arrested or even transported to  p33 Spain.12 On May 16, 1809, Apodaca accordingly sent a letter to Canning in which he protested against the activities of "the traitor Francisco de Miranda," who, taking advantage of the disturbed condition of Spain due to the French invasion, by inflammatory documents transmitted from London was attempting to separate Venezuela from the Motherland. Canning's attention was pointedly called to the fact that, in spite of the close relations between England and Spain, the revolutionary conspirator was being allowed to carry out "his depraved projects" through Admiral Cochrane.13

In a diarial note Miranda recorded that on the forenoon of May 23 "with no little surprise" he had received a visit from Under Secretary Cooke. Read Miranda's account of the ensuing interview. "With serene and friendly countenance he said to me smiling: 'You are denounced, the Spaniards say that you keep writing to Caracas, and stirring the minds of that Province; there are the Letters, — I'll send them to you!' 'I am not surprised,' I responded, 'that the Spaniards should denounce me; for that is their custom.' " According to his own story, Miranda added that he had duly informed Wellesley, Castlereagh, and Stewart of his correspondence with Spanish America. Miranda thus suggestively linked this episode with other incidents of his romantic career.

"Finally, in taking leave Cooke said to me: 'Don't write any more to the Southamericans — unless it is in answer to their Letters.' 'I shall not,' I responded, 'for I have resolved, at least that if they do not declare their independence, I shall not move from here.' This remark seemed to please him. Then I added: 'Do you know, sir, that your allies are famous for their denunciation of falsehoods? In my case, for example, they accused me of being a contrabandist in company with Cagigal and Espeleta; later they sent me a complete justification of our honorable innocence. — Lastly when I was in Paris in the year 1800 they made accusations to Napoleon that I  p34 was a friend of England, — Anduaga being the chief accuser, — and even that, being the principal agent of Mr. Pitt, I had directed the infernal machine which was thrown at his coach in the Rue Nicaise shortly after my arrival in Paris! By this infamy they merely succeeded in having me detained in the prison of the Temple for about five days until the falsehood was ascertained and I returned to this country!' "14

The Under Secretary evidently thought that it was necessary to warn the propagandist again. On May 27, 1809, at the instance of Castlereagh, Cooke sent the following note to Miranda:

"You must be sensible that under the existing Relations between Spain and Gt. Britain it is necessary to abstain from any measure which can cause jealousy between them. It has been understood that since the Pacification with Spain you have continued a Correspondence with Persons in the Caraccas which however justifiable previous to that Event have no longer any claim to Support or Connivance from the British Government. I am therefore directed by Lord Castlereagh to make this intimation to you and at the same time to state his Hope, that you will abstain from any Correspondence of the Nature alluded to, that no suspicion may be cast upon His Majesty's good faith, and trust it may not be necessary to remove you from His Majesty's Dominions."15

In response Miranda spiritedly avowed that his conduct did not warrant such a harsh judgment.16 On June 3 Canning sent a letter to Minister Apodaca to express his "most perfect confidence" that Admiral Cochrane was not aware of the contents or the authorship of the seditious letters. Apodaca was assured that Cochrane had been ordered to discover how this correspondence had been conveyed to him. Canning emphatically declared that the Venezuelan had dispatched his communications without the cognizance of the English Government.17 Miranda was evidently informed that, if the ministers  p35 became aware of any further activity of this sort, he would be ordered to depart from English soil.18 The allowance that he was receiving from the English Treasury must now have seemed to the agitator as a very apple of Sodom.

Near the end of June, 1809, one Captain Sanz, alias Juanico, arrived in London with tidings from the Marquis of Toro and the cabildo of Caracas.19 On June 23 Miranda wrote a diarial entry to the effect that Captain Sanz had called at his house and had presented evidence to show that he was "a faithful partisan and lover of our liberty and independence." This captain declared that to kindle a revolution in South America there was needed only a caudillo like Miranda in whom the people had confidence.20 Under date of July 3 the latter took note of another visit from Sanz who advised him to proceed at once to St. Thomas where compatriots would meet him.21 Although he was warned by a Spanish-American friend named Cortés that this emissary had been in secret conclave with the Spanish Minister in London,22 yet Miranda evidently intrusted his fellow countryman with letters for Venezuela.23 Meantime the informer had furnished Minister Apodaca with the names of friends of Miranda at Caracas, had given him some of Miranda's incendiary literature, and had assured him that the propagandist was now directing his activities toward Brazil and La Plata.24 Hence Apodaca sent a fresh complaint to Canning that, despising the intimations given him by the English Government, Miranda was transmitting his revolutionary propaganda to southern South America by way of Brazil.25

Because of this letter Lord Castlereagh asked Vansittart to discover how much truth there was in Apodaca's complaint. Castlereagh said that he would be reluctant to adopt any unkind  p36 measures toward the exile, "but, connected as we are with Spain, the honor of the country and of the Government must not be compromised; and I think you will be able to obtain assurances from Miranda, so distinct with respect to his conduct, as to justify me in continuing to him the protection which he now receives."26 In response to this query Vansittart expressed his confidence in Miranda's desire to be quiet.27 Accordingly on August 15, 1809, Canning informed the Spanish Minister that, as a result of his inquiries, he was certain that Miranda's actual conduct could not justify the least disquietude or lack of confidence on the part of Spain.28 Six days later Vansittart wrote a letter to Miranda to inform him about Castlereagh's inquiry "respecting some supposed correspondence" through Brazil. "I answered his letter," said Vansittart, "and I believe satisfied him that the complaint was without foundation; but it shows how closely your actions are watched and how much they are misrepresented."29

The seditious communications from Grafton Street did not reach their destination without the knowledge of Spanish colonial officials. Upon receipt of Miranda's letter of July 20, 1808, the Marquis of Toro transmitted it to Captain General Casas. The Marquis alleged that in the same sealed packet he had received the instructions of a spy for the English King. Toro denounced his correspondent as an "outlawed Traitor"; he charged that "the perfidious Miranda" was assiduously attempting to undermine the loyalty of Venezuelans to Ferdinand VII. With a show of indignation, he asked that these underhand activities should be brought to the attention of the Spanish Government in order that the traitor might be punished for the atrocious affront that he had offered to the honor of a nobleman.30 It is to be presumed that the Marquis of Toro thus brushed the stigma of treason from his own name.

Miranda also strove to initiate a correspondence with colonists  p37 in the Viceroyalty of la Plata. On July 24, 1808, he sent a letter to the cabildo of Buenos Aires. In this communication, modifying his arguments to suit a different audience, he praised the citizen soldiers of Buenos Aires for their expulsion of the English invaders who had attempted "too subjugate our America." As illustrative of the intentions of England, he mentioned the instructions to Generals Crawford and Whitelocke and the King's speech to Parliament on July 4, 1808. In a postscript he asked that his missive should be forwarded to Chile, Peru, and Quito.31

Soon afterwards he got into touch with dissatisfied creoles of La Plata. From Rio de Janeiro on July 28, 1808, Saturnino Rodríguez Peña, who had been dispatched as an emissary to Brazil, had sent an instructive letter to the agitator. Rodríguez Peña asserted that the mere report that Miranda was to be "the principal agent" of South America emancipation would stimulate his compatriots more than "all the might of England." With a proclamation conceived like that which he had circulated at Coro, said Rodríguez Peña, all the provinces of La Plata might easily have been emancipated.32 On July 25, 1809, Miranda sent Rodríguez Peña and the cabildo of Buenos Aires plans for the government of the liberated Spanish colonies and papers indicative of England's attitude toward Spanish America.33 Three days later he addressed another packet to Rodríguez Peña with the request that it should be transmitted to Buenos Aires with promptness and security.34 His letter to the cabildo of that city, however, fell into the hands of Santiago de Liniers, the new viceroy of La Plata, who submitted it to the audience of Buenos Aires which decided to make the incident known to Spanish officials at Lima.35

On November 2, 1808, Miranda addressed another epistle  p38 to Rodríguez Peña and inclosed a copy of the circular letter that he had transmitted to Venezuela. He expressed his disgust at "the dishonest and infamous conduct" of Padilla for whom he had secured a pension and "gratifications" from the English Government.36 Through this correspondence Miranda came into touch with a mysterious character named Felipe Contucci who had evidently acted at Rio de Janeiro as the agent of "a powerful junta of Americans that had been secretly formed in Buenos Aires."37 Two days later that emissary sent Miranda the following explanatory missive:

"I should like to send you an exact account of the actual condition of the province of the Río de la Plata; but as Rodríguez Peña has done so, I shall only say that we are laboring to calm those domestic disorders which agitate the colonists and which occasioned my agency near Her Royal Highness, Princess Carlota. Although this mission has not had the best results, yet fortunately it has enabled us to follow with due caution the steps of Your Excellency which lead to the most just and useful road for my beloved Americans. Everything has been well arranged, and I believe that the only obstacle which we can foresee will be easily surmounted. First, it will be necessary for us to invite Viceroy Liniers to join our party. When this slight difficulty is overcome, we shall accomplish our desires and enjoy the felicity for which you, more than any other man, have labored with much ardor. There is nothing that we need. If we should await the succor that England could give us, the most opportune occasion would be lost; and we would subsequently encounter new obstacles to be surmounted. Oh, if the South Americans could only have the satisfaction of seeing you by their side, what would be their glory! You ought to decide to leave England in order better to regulate the affairs of the vast and rich Argentine provinces. Their inhabitants would doubtless receive you with the love and tenderness of which they are capable and to which you are so much entitled."38

 p39  In his reply to Contucci, on May 1, 1809, Miranda inclosed a copy of his latest communication to English ministers about the emancipation of the Spanish Indies. "I am," wrote Miranda, "and ever will be the vigorous defender of the rights, liberties, and independence of our America, whose honorable cause I have defended and will defend all my life, not only because this attitude is just and necessary for the salvation of its unfortunate inhabitants, but also because at present that region is interesting to all mankind! Count on me, therefore, until the end!"39 On the same day he addressed Rodríguez Peña in similar terms: "Follow in the meantime your prudent plan with determination and good judgment; you may count upon me to defend the rights and liberties of our beloved Motherland unto death!" With regard to Felipe Contucci the promoter said that he appeared to be a capable person "and very suitable for the affair." Miranda expressed a wish that Contucci were by his side at that moment: "I am here alone to champion the rights of America in this capital which swarms with an incredible number of Saracens and enemies of our independence."40

Meantime Rodríguez Peña had become dissatisfied with the proceedings of Padilla whom he had authorized to act as his agent. On August 21, 1809, he wrote to ask Miranda to serve as his representative in London and to complain that, because of Padilla's negligence, he had been left "without honor and without a pension" from the English Government.41 In consequence Miranda made a plea to English ministers on behalf of Rodríguez Peña. Then Padilla undertook to defend himself. He affirmed that Miranda had "begun his imposture by passing himself off as a representative of the people of S. America";42 he denied "having received any letters" from Rodríguez Peña for "many months past."43

On March 13, 1810, Miranda sent to Sir Arthur Wellesley  p40 a résumé of the fiscal relations of Padilla and Rodríguez Peña with the English Government. This exposé showed that pensions had been granted by the English Government to both these men because of their services to English commanders at the time of the invasion of La Plata, but that Padilla had not transmitted Rodríguez Peña's quota to South America. According to an undated memorandum preserved in the archives of the English Government, it had assigned to Padilla an annual pension of four hundred pounds and to Rodríguez Peña one of three hundred pounds.44 As Miranda's pleas were reënforced by the arguments of a merchant from Rio de Janeiro named Curtis, the English ministers became convinced of Padilla's duplicity. Arrangements were accordingly made for the payment of his correspondent's pension through a banker. In April, 1810, Lord Strangford, the English ambassador in Rio de Janeiro, was informed of Rodríguez Peña's needy circumstances and directed to furnish him with six hundred pounds.45 Thus Miranda's intercession secured just treatment for an Argentine compatriot.

Through Francisco Febles, who had remained in Trinidad, Miranda had meantime been receiving reports of conditions in his homeland. On October 8, 1808, Febles acknowledged receipt of letters which the propagandist had addressed to the city of Caracas. He expressed the opinion that, if the French succeeded in dominating Spain, the people of Venezuela would struggle to establish their independence under English protection.46 In imaginative words on January 15, 1809, Febles assured Miranda that the Venezuelans adored his standard as though it were an idol of worship, — even as the Jews adored the Messiah. "I hope that divine Providence and the Creator of the world will guard such an important life as that of Your Excellency," continued Febles, "in order that we may accomplish  p41 our desires; for the present juncture furnishes a most opportune occasion to gain our ends. The people of Caracas have made some movements but they have lacked force, valor, and a star like Your Excellency to direct so great an enterprise."47 On June 21, after mentioning the arrival in Venezuela of the new Captain General, Vicente Emparán, Febles avowed: "The province of Caracas is in a more suitable condition for independence than ever before, but a leader is lacking." He asserted that a fifth or a sixth part of the forces sent by England to the Iberian Peninsula would have been "sufficient for our independence, an achievement desired by all, and one which would endure for centuries."48

On December 8 Febles wrote to Miranda to declare that if any European nation should desire to separate the Spanish colonies from Spain, that juncture would be the appointed time, as the South Americans were favorably disposed. Yet he added that the "sons of America are not capable of raising their heads and of maintaining a movement of such consequence. At least, unless you or some person of equal importance should lead them; for among them not only is there much ignorance but also much fear of the subordination in which the Spanish Government has kept them all their lives."49 About the same time another Spanish-American revolutionary named Casanares wrote from Trinidad to Miranda to inform him about the varying opinions of Venezuelans concerning their political status. He declared that some of his compatriots were opposed to the rule of King Joseph, others desired no other ruler than Ferdinand VII, but that certain influential persons cherished Miranda's views. The sentiments of Casanares are epitomized in two sentences: "Our native land needs a man who is capable and intelligent, — a man endowed with your virtues. Only a spirit like yours can bring our compatriots out of this servile capacity into the sunlight!"50

Though the expedition that had been designed for the liberation  p42 of Spanish America had been sent to fight French troops in the Iberian Peninsula, yet Miranda did not altogether relinquish hope of English aid in the execution of his projects. His expectations naturally rose in proportion as the prospect of English victory over Napoleon seemed to wane. In the end of 1808, when Wellesley paid a visit to London, after the defeat of Spaniards upon the Ebro by Napoleonic soldiers, Miranda addressed a letter to him. "You see clearly, Sir Arthur," said he, "that I am not surprised about the occurrences in Spain and their disastrous results."51 On January 26, 1809, after Napoleon had triumphantly entered the gates of Madrid, in the course of "a long conference" with Wellesley, Miranda submitted English translations of his recent correspondence with Spanish Americans. The English commander read these epistles with much care. Miranda's account of the interview proceeds:

"When he had finished, he said to me calmly: 'I can only say to you in friendship and confidence that at present the ministry does not direct its views toward South America, and hence it appears to me better that we should drop the matter until the Spanish affair has terminated.' 'How then,' I responded, 'do you not judge that England's attempt to secure the independence of the Iberian Peninsula is already frustrated?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'but we cannot, — without failing the Spaniards and dishonoring ourselves, — treat with agents who come from the Spanish colonies; for the Spaniards always say to us that if we should protect the independence of their Americas it would be better for them to treat with France.' 'Then to deal with me,' I responded, 'will be even more incompatible than to treat with anyone else.' 'No,' he replied, 'for I have an express order from the ministers to renew whatever communications you may judge convenient in these affairs but neither to communicate with nor to receive any other person.' In the supposition that Spain would declare for Joseph Bonaparte, he proceeded immediately to ask my opinion about the public spirits of the continental Spanish-American  p43 colonies. Upon learning that I believed that the majority of the people would favor absolute independence, he promptly said: "Thus it is as we desire, and in regard to government, England should not intermeddle. The political system will be attended to in America.' "52

To judge by Miranda's diarial note, after he had shown Wellesley letters that he had received from the West Indies and South America, the English general declared that when the Spanish affair had ended, which he did not believe would last long, "we would direct all our attention to America!" From this conference Miranda thought that he could divine the intentions of the English Government in regard to the Spanish Indies. His inaccurate hypothesis was as follows: that, if the Spaniards should propose an alliance against France, the English would abandon the Spanish Americans "without the slightest remorse"; that as the English had discerned that the Spanish Americans desired to be independent of the French, so they now affected to be indifferent in order that they might sell their friendship or protection as dearly as possible; that, having perceived that Spanish America would not follow their guidance in regard to government and commerce, the English wished to display indifference about the form of government which the Spanish colonists might wish to adopt, "as it would not be that of Ferdinand VII, their worthy ally."53

On March 24, 1809, Miranda again brought the problem of the Spanish Indies to Castlereagh's attention. He stated that he had always been zealous "in promoting the Liberties and independence of the Colombian Continent" and "in preventing its subjugation by the new pretended King of the Indies, Joseph Bonaparte." He expressed the opinion that the "best informed" Spanish Americans detested the idea of "becoming subjects to the French or to any other foreign nation" and much desired "emancipation and a better form of Government framed by themselves." He declared that, if the  p44 colonists did not take an attitude, the Spanish officials in America would ultimately decide in favor of King Joseph. Miranda thus described to Castlereagh the interview which he had recently had with Sir Arthur Wellesley:

"I offered my services to Great Britain for the purpose of proceeding without delay to Mexico or Habana in company of one or two English Commissioners that might explain to the constituted authorities of the Country the favorable dispositions of Great Britain * * * and after hearing and debating, in presence of the English Representatives, the interests on both sides, to come to a decision agreeable to their Instructions upon which we could frame a solid and general Plan to act upon in the future operations and measures to be taken hereafter for the independency of that Continent. His answer was 'that his Majesty's Ministers could not for the present enter into any further discussion upon the subject, while the Spanish attempt was pending; but as soon as that subject should be over, the business he presumed would be resumed and the promised answer transmitted to me': — we agreed, however, that my communication should be imparted without delay to your Lordship. * * * Weighing all these circumstances — and seeing the Squadrons of France and Ferrol ready for sea, and one of them already sailing in the direction of S. America, my anxiety is certainly increased to an alarming degree!"54

Glimpses of Miranda's thoughts about the condition of the Spanish Indies may also be had from other papers. On May 3, 1809, Vansittart wrote to him and stated that he had shown to Castlereagh a letter from Contucci but that the Minister had declared that England was bound by treaty to Spain.55 In the comment which Miranda made about this episode he recorded that Vansittart had informed him that Castlereagh had appeared surprised and embarrassed at Contucci's letter. Evidently this friend also read to the Minister the propagandist's replies to the letters of Contucci, Rodríguez Peña,  p45 Febles, and Hislop.56 On November 18, 1809, Miranda declared to his confidant that he no longer had any doubt of the fatal result of English expeditions to the European Continent. "If we allow the Colombian Continent to be lost also," he continued, "one may then well doubt whether the enemies of England are in France or here in this island!"57

In the spring of 1809 Miranda made new acquaintances in London. He met a student of English politics named Gould F. Leckie with whom he corresponded about Spanish America. Among other books Miranda loaned to Lord Sheffield, De Pons' Voyage à la partie orientale de la Terre-Firme which that nobleman found so instructive that he sought to procure a copy for his own library.58 The Duke of Gloucester also became interested in Miranda's designs. At the instance of the Duke, — so wrote Miranda in a note, — on April 24 they called on Lord Grenville. There they met Lord Grey; and a conversation sprang up among these noblemen about the Spanish colonies. They also discussed the means by which Venezuela might be revolutionized without the inconveniences that had been experienced in France. This long discussion about "the independence of the Colombian Continent," said Miranda, greatly pleased the Duke of Gloucester who felt convinced that Grey and Grenville would favor Spanish-American emancipation.59

When he accidentally met Castlereagh the South American reminded him that he desired to have his precious papers returned. In response the Englishman said that the ministers were dissatisfied with him because he was maintaining a correspondence with the Spanish-American provinces while "at the same time receiving a considerable income from this government." In exculpatory phrases Miranda evidently replied to the Minister that he had made known his intercourse with Spanish Americans to Wellesley and Stewart, and that he had  p46 never been anything else than "the principal agent of his compatriots near the British Government." Whereupon, wrote Miranda, Castlereagh's countenance became serene, and he advised him to write no more letters about the affair. As a result of this interview Miranda felt that he had offset the unfavorable influence of Cooke and had advanced his plans for the liberty and independence of the Spanish Indies. Through Vansittart the promoter seems also to have taken steps to make known his ideas to Lord Sidmouth with the hope of thus influencing the ministers.

During the period which followed the arrival of the Asturian envoys in London the promoter of Spanish-American independence thus became the director of a propaganda of rebellion. In this new rôle his activities took on various forms. By means of letters addressed to correspondents in Spanish and Portuguese America, he strove to spread a knowledge of his carefully devised projects for the liberation of the Spanish Indies. Further, he tried to make his countrymen acquainted with the kaleidoscopic changes that were taking place in Europe. Above all, he aimed to instill in their minds the thought of independence from the Old World. Though Englishmen had not altogether relinquished the idea of separating the Spanish colonies from the Motherland, yet upon becoming fully aware of Miranda's attempts to spread the doctrine of revolution in the American dominions of the soldier new ally, English ministers took energetic steps to force him to cease what to them had become a pernicious activity. On at least one occasion a minister insinuated to the propagandist that he was biting the hand that fed him.


The Author's Notes:

1 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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2 Castlereagh, Memoirs and Correspondence, VIII, 448‑51.

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3 Martínez, "Miranda," El Cojo Ilustrado, V, 509; cf. Antepara, South American Emancipation, pp270‑71.

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4 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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5 Antepara, pp276‑77.

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6 Ibid., pp278‑81.

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7 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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8 Robertson, Miranda, pp525‑26.

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9 Inclosures in Pole to Hammond, Aug. 31, 1809, F. O., 72/89.

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10 Mir. MSS., vol. 59.

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11 "Febrero 3," ibid.

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12 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp243‑44, 246.

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13 Robertson, Miranda, p423, note f.

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14 "Mr. Secretary Cooke, Mayo 23, 1809," Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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15 Ibid.

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16 Miranda to Cooke, May 29, 1809, ibid.

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17 F. O., 72/84.

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18 Draft to Cockburn, June 7, 1809, W. O., 1/102.

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19 Rojas, El general Miranda, p239.

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20 "Viernes, 23 de Junio," Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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21 Diario, ibid.

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22 Cortés to Miranda, "Wednesday," ibid.

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23 Diario, July 20, ibid.

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24 Apodaca to Garay, July 17, 1809, A. G. S., estado, 8172.

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25 Rojas, El general Miranda, p247.

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26 Castlereagh, VII, 454.

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27 Ibid., p456.

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28 Rojas, El general Miranda, p248.

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29 Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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30 Oct. 25, 1808 (translation), Ad. R., 1/4354.

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31 Antepara, pp273‑74.

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32 Mir. MSS., vol. 60. On Saturnino Rodríguez Peña and his mission to Rio de Janeiro, see Levene, Ensayo histórico sobre la revolución de Mayo y Mariano MorenoI, especially pp312‑24, 341‑44.

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33 Mitre, Historia de Belgrano, I, 481.

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34 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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35 Mitre, I, 480.

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36 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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37 Rodríguez Peña to Miranda, Jan. 24, 1809, ibid., vol. 60.

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38 Antepara, pp285‑86.

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39 Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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40 Ibid.

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41 Ibid., vol. 62.

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42 Padilla's undated memorandum, W. O., misc. series 3, vol. 1121.

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43 Curtis to Miranda, March 2, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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44 W. O., misc. series 3, vol. 1121.

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45 "C. J." to Strangford, April 13, 1810, ibid., vol. 1122. In a postscript to a letter of Apr. 3, 1810, to Rodríguez Peña, Miranda declared that he had recently learned that "el dicho P–––––," evidently meaning Padilla, had been acting as an "Agente ó Espia de Apodaca," Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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46 Mir. MSS., vol. 48.

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47 Ibid., vol. 60.

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48 Ibid., vol. 61.

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49 Ibid., vol. 63.

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50 Dec. 1, 1809, ibid.

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51 Dec. 12, 1808, Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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52 Diario, "Enero 26, 1809," ibid., vol. 59.

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53 Ibid.

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54 W. O. I., misc. series 3, vol. 11119.

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55 Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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56 Diario, "May 4," ibid.

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57 Ibid., vol. 61.

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58 Sheffield to Miranda, April 2, 1809, ibid., vol. 60.

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59 Diario, April 22-April 28, 1809, ibid.


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