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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

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

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Chapter 18

Vol. II
p47
Chapter XVII

Essays in Journalism

During the interlude that followed the beginning of the war of the peoples against Napoleon, Miranda not only carried on a revolutionary propaganda by letters to his compatriots but also through the printed page. Accordingly we shall now consider a phase of his activity that may be styled journalistic.

In divers ways Miranda sought to influence public opinion in England. In the end of November, 1808, Dr. William Thompson wrote to him and pointed out that the description in the Annual Register for 1806 of his attack on Venezuela was a calumny. Thompson expressed his intention to correct the misrepresentation in the next number of that annual; "the Sting shall be pulled out and as much balm as possible poured into the wound." To him Miranda declared that the account of his expedition published in the Register was such as "any infernal imposter could ever devise"; he sent documents to Thompson that would aid him "to make the refutation complete." Further, he declared that "the cure of the Disease, Calumny, can be obtained only from its contrary, Truth."1 After the Annual Register for 1807 had issued from the press, Miranda wrote Vansittart to inform him that in it he would find narratives of his expedition against Venezuela in 1806 and of Popham's attack on Buenos Aires, "which were truly interesting and authentic!! Sed magna est vis veritatis, et prevalebit."2

Perhaps this attempt at justification led Thompson to bring to Miranda's attention a proposal by one John Murray to prepare his biography. Murray's plan was to publish "a complete narrative of the whole of the General's transactions not only in regard to his grand object of emancipation but  p48 during the time that he served in France and respecting all of which he has probably retained official documents and notes — in this way it would prove very interesting to the public and highly creditable to the character of General Miranda of the actual grandeur of which the millions are little aware. — I think that I would venture upon a Volume in Quarto for which extent I conceive there will be facts sufficient to produce a genuine, interesting, and valuable work."3 Though nothing came of this proposition, yet it may have suggested to Miranda the idea that bore fruit during the next year in a volume about the liberation of Spanish America.

In conjunction with Vansittart the South American became much interested in a project to publish an English version of the Diccionario geográfico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales ó América by a learned Spaniard named Antonio de Alcedo. As a fit person to undertake the large task of translation Vansittart recommended the son of an intimate friend, "an excellent young man" named George A. Thompson who had been well trained in languages.4 Upon becoming acquainted with this youth, Miranda was favorably impressed, and soon intrusted to him a volume of Alcedo's monumental work.5 By the midsummer of 1810 the young man had begun the task of translating the Spanish encyclopedia into English. It was not until 1812, however, that the results of this literary enterprise began to appear in "Thompson's Alcedo."

During this period of apparent retirement Miranda also aimed to disseminate a knowledge of Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains. In the end of 1808 he undertook to have a notice of that tract printed in an English journal. As the magazine in which to publish this article he selected the Edinburgh Review. The ostensible author of this essay, who in reality worked in conjunction with Miranda, was a philosopher and journalist named James Mill, the father of John  p49 Stuart Mill, the classical economist.

On January 4, 1809, this philosopher sent the general for examination the first part of the manuscript, and asked for data from Miranda's books to fill certain gaps. Mill was of opinion that the liberation of Spanish America was too extensive a subject for "an article in a Review. * * * It is hardly possible to place all the important points in the light which they would require. What we can do, will, however, I think, produce a strong impression."6

Three days later he wrote to Miranda that he had finished the essay and would call on him that evening in order that they might "discuss every point together." Then he proceeded to explain his object: "You will perceive that my great aim, in the part of the review you now receive, has been to present the subject, as strongly as I was able, in that particular aspect which would most fall in with the prejudices of this nation, and at the same time give instructions which might, as far as possible, prevent those who are to decide from adopting any erroneous and pernicious plan of action."7 In another letter of the same date Mill said: "I received a letter on Tuesday from the Editor of the Edinburgh Review in which he states his great satisfaction with the description I had previously given him of the plan and purport of our Article and expressed his longing desire to see it." Soon afterwards the collaborator wrote to Miranda, however, to state that he had just received a note showing that the omniscient editor, Francis Jeffrey, was not altogether satisfied with the essay: You will see, by reading the letter, said Mill, "that he is a little startled at several things but at last gives up every particular, except the appearance of harboring a design to emancipate the Spanish colonies, even if the Spaniards should succeed in expelling the French. As the present news puts that out of the question, I think there will be no great difficulty in solving that knot too."8

This correspondence reveals that the author of the essay  p50 about Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains, which was published in the Edinburgh Review for January, 1809, drew his information and his inspiration alike from the self-styled agent of the Spanish-American colonies. That interesting article was appropriately entitled the "Emancipation of Spanish America." In its pages Mill paid a tribute to the learned Jesuit exile who had written this tract as an appeal to his compatriots to shake off the galling yoke of their Spanish masters. Then he took occasion to consider "the brilliant prospects" that, in view of the titanic struggle between England and France, seemed to be dawning for mankind in the New World. In outlining "the mighty benefits to be expected from a just and wise arrangement of the affairs of Spanish America," he cited the United States as an example, and laid emphasis upon the advantages that would flow to English merchants from the liberation of the Spanish Indies.

Mill descanted at length about the persistent efforts of Miranda to free his native country from Spanish rule. Appropriately did he declare that in the Venezuelan's "breast the scheme of emancipation, if not first conceived, seems at least to have been first matured." Mill included in the article excerpts from significant, inedited documents concerning Miranda's career. Here and there the essayist conveyed hints about the ramifications of the promoter's activities. As an illustration let us notice what was said about the policy of the English Government in 1808. "After various delays, a force was at last assembled; and it has been oftener than once publicly stated, we believe with perfect accuracy, that the expedition which was prepared at Cork last summer, and which was to be commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley, was intended to coöperate with Miranda in the long projected measure of emancipating South America, and, had not the extraordinary revolution which broke out in Spain given to those forces a different destination, it is probable that, by this time, that important measure would at length have been accomplished."9  p51 As these phrases suggest, the people of England were thus informed of negotiations concerning a matter that had for years been "almost exclusively the nurseling of ministers."10

In one of the letters written to Miranda by a sympathizer named Edward Fryer the latter declared that he was pleased at the graceful policy suggested by this article in regard to the Spanish Americans, "of receiving them, like honest men and not grasping at them like ruffians."11 During the following month Miranda wrote to Governor Hislop of Trinidad to declare that the disposition of the people of Spanish America was to reject King Joseph while their officials wished to accept him. Then follows a commentary:

"This conduct is so natural that I have never expected anything else. And for this reason I have advised my compatriots that they should assume absolute governmental authority and dispatch capable, authorized persons to this capital in order that we may treat with England concerning the most certain manner of saving Spanish America by separating it in time from Spain. To me there never was any doubt about the subjugation of the Motherland. You, my friend, have been deceived by vulgar fables and yarns that the gazettes have been constantly disseminating among the people in spite of my precautions. * * * My friend, America is the only asylum left to us, the only part of the Spanish dominions that can now be saved!"12

A Spanish American called José María Antepara stated that upon arriving in England his attention was directed to the article in the Edinburgh Review. He judged that it contained "highly interesting statements and speculations" about his native country. In regard to Miranda he went on to say: "Among these important materials were many facts relating to a fellow countryman, of whom I had indeed heard much, but vaguely. It became a natural object of my ambition to obtain his acquaintance, which, through the intervention of  p52 common friends, I accomplished."13 Señor Antepara seems to have lived in Mexico; more than once Miranda described him as his "Mexican friend"; and memoranda found among Miranda's manuscripts indicate that this crony was acquainted with Mexican leaders who were discontented with the Spanish régime.14 There is a possibility that Antepara, who declared himself to be "a native of Guayaquil," was a Jesuit who had been banished from the Spanish Indies.15

Though we are not certain when this mysterious character first met Miranda, yet it is clear that they had become acquainted before the close of the year 1809; for at that time they were having printed a work ascribed to Antepara. On January 24, 1810, a printer named Juigné, who had an office at 17 Margaret Street, wrote to Miranda and informed him that he had seen Antepara that very morning, had given him "his book," and had quoted him a price on an edition of seven hundred copies bound in a blue paper cover. "Mr. Antepara told me," added the printer, "that he would talk with you about this matter."16 One of Miranda's significant efforts as an editor was accordingly made by the aid of a Spanish-American sympathizer. Early in 1810 there was published in London under Antepara's name a book entitled South American Emancipation: Documents historical and explanatory showing the designs which have been in progress and the exertions made by General Miranda for the attainment of that object during the last twenty-five years. The first item in the volume was the article from the Edinburgh Review entitled the "Emancipation of Spanish America." This treatise also contained a number of inedited documents respecting Miranda. Among these was a letter of commendation that Catherine II had addressed to her ambassadors, correspondence concerning Miranda's career in France, papers pertaining to his attempt to revolutionize Venezuela in 1806, and selections  p53 from his recent correspondence with Spanish Americans. It also printed diverse inedited papers that illustrated other phases of his propagandism.

As Antepara stated in his preface, this illustrative material had been selected from "a treasure of upwards of sixty volumes of private and other papers" that Miranda preserved in his library. Miranda's guiding hand can be detected in the choice of these documents that were obviously selected to throw light upon various phases of his romantic career, to rehabilitate him in the eyes of the world, and to furnish the English public with detailed information about the true object of his insurrectionary designs. As some of these papers were intended for perusal by South Americans, they were presented "in a purely Spanish dress." By translation into English they were made more available to "European eyes."17

To forge another instrument for his campaign of propaganda, Miranda formed the design of publishing a pamphlet for circulation in the New World. This tract he obviously intended should convey to American subjects of Ferdinand VII information that would enlighten them about the critical state of European affairs.18 His design resulted in the founding of a new journal. That periodical he placed under the direct charge of Antepara who was to be assisted by other "Mexicans" sojourning in London. In an undated note signed "Alerta," which was ascribed to Antepara, the writer said that his compatriots wished to start the periodical, and that he had informed them of a conference which he had held concerning it with Miranda.19

The first number of this periodical was printed in London on March 15, 1810. It was a small two‑columned journal in Spanish named El Colombiano. Across the top of the title page was printed a motto from Cicero's De Finibus: Nec magis vituperandumº est proditor patriae, quam communis utilitatis  p54 aut salutis desertor, propter suam utilitatem, aut salutem.a The first article began in these words: "The critical circumstances in which the Spanish possessions in America are placed in consequence of the disgraceful events that have just taken place in the Iberian Peninsula which will probably be followed by the entire subjugation of Old Spain, the necessity that the inhabitants of the New World should know the condition of affairs in Spain so that in accordance with events they can take the decision which they may judge suitable in so perilous a crisis, the desire that we have of being useful to those countries and of contributing to their felicity, — all these have incited us to communicate to the inhabitants of the Colombian Continent the news that we believe interesting for their guidance in so intricate a complication of affairs. This information will put them in a position to judge with rectitude and to work with certainty in a matter to so much interests them. It ought to prove the origin of their future felicity."

The editor criticized the organizations that had successively undertaken to exercise national governmental functions for the Spanish patriots. The eminent Spanish publicist Jovellanos was cited in regard to the illegal status of the Supreme Junta. A quotation was made from one of its decrees to show its "insanity and ambition." A decree of the Regency dated February 14, 1810, which conceded delegates in the Cortes to Spanish America, was denounced because it did not give the colonists proportionate representation. An extract was quoted from a recent expedition of the French Minister of the Interior in which he announced that his government would not favor Spanish-American independence. In a prophetic vein the article declared that the "independence of the Colombian Continent is an event that has been foreseen for a long time. All the nations have fixed their eyes upon the New World in order to see what decision it will take in the actual crisis that confronts the Spanish monarchy."

The second number of this periodical dealt with the French invasion of Spain. It contained translations of documents illustrating the policy of France. Then under the rubric, "Increase  p55 of the Monstrous Power of Napoleon," the statement was made that his marriage to Princess Louise of Austria had "given to France and to the Confederation of the Rhine such a great accession of force, that every effort to diminish the ascendancy of Napoleon will be useless at present, and highly dangerous in the future." He was ironically characterized as the regenerator of the human race. The allegation was made that opposition to him developed in the same ratio as that in which his colossal power increased. After a discussion of French decrees concerning state prisons and the press, the editor asked Spanish Americans to judge "From these terrible and notorious facts, what lot those nations must expect who, being subjected to the influence of France, are obliged to live under such laws! The most oppressive system that could ever affect mankind! May Providence that has separated you from Europe by the vast ocean also preserve you from an influence so pestilential and so fatal!"20

On April 3 Miranda sent copies of the first and second numbers of the Colombiano to Mr. Herries and stated that, if this official noticed anything in it "worth correcting," he could prevail upon its owner, a "Gentleman from South America," to make any alterations that might be desired.21 Two days later the sponsor of the journal wrote to Arthur Wellesley, who had been made Lord Wellington after defeating the soldiers of Marshal Victor and King Joseph at Talavera. Miranda expressed the hope that the Duke would terminate his campaign in a manner which would be as useful and glorious for his country as satisfying to his military and personal reputation. In reference to his own darling project he proceeded to say:

"The affairs of South America are still in the suspense in which they were placed by your departure. It is only a short time ago that I wrote to Mr. Perceval with his consent about  p56 that important subject. At this moment we have in London certain natives of Mexico and Peru who have made strong appeals to me in regard to the affairs of their countries but we have not made great progress. I send you the two numbers of El Colombiano which they have had printed here at their own expense in order to transmit news of the most important events in Europe to their compatriots of the Colombian Continent."22

A translation of the second number of the journal was soon submitted by its founder to a trusted official in Downing Street to indicate "the complexion" which he would try to give that paper if he were "permitted to influence it."23 This literary enterprise, however, did not favorably impress Vansittart. When he wrote to Miranda from Torquay to acknowledge the receipt of two numbers of the Colombiano, he said: "I think that if I had been in town I should have advised against such a publication; as it will require extraordinary caution to avoid exciting jealousies and giving a handle to your enemies. At any rate I hope it will be conducted with the greatest vigilance and care."24

As early as March 27 Señor Abella informed the Spanish Minister that this journal was not designed for sale but for circulation in the Spanish Indies. The informant was convinced that the Colombiano was "an incendiary paper, subversive of the good order, tranquillity, and union that ought to reign in the Americas." He declared that he had "immediately undertaken to refute it. This action did not completely satisfy my zeal and good intentions; hence I have attempted with the keenest diligence to learn who was its author. Finally I discovered in the very printing office of Juigné where it was published that its author is General Miranda."25

On the following day Apodaca informed his government that the Colombiano misrepresented events in the Peninsula and attacked its authority in those American provinces that had furnished many proofs of fidelity to Spain. "In consequence,"  p57 he continued, "as Miranda is a subject against whom by order of my government I had previously addressed formal complaints to the English ministers, I shall not lose an instant in asking that they should take some steps which will make it impossible for him to continue such revolutionary machinations."26 The Spanish Minister subsequently informed his government that the incendiary journal was being edited by Miranda with the aid of a Spaniard called Cortés and of an American named Antepara. Yet Apodaca's complaint to Downing Street about this new activity of "the traitor" was fruitless; for the envoy was soon informed that the laws of England allowed the publication of such a periodical.27 Miranda's inedited correspondence shows that he promptly sent the Colombiano to Rodríguez Peña for transmittal to Buenos Aires.

Meantime other numbers of the journal had been printed. The third issue published a decree of the Spanish Regency dated February 14, 1810, and declared that it made an illegal claim to the possession of sovereign authority. This number also contained extracts from letters of Sir John Moore discussing the government of Spain. It likewise printed a speech that Marquis Wellesley had made in Parliament touching the evil conduct of the Supreme Junta. A supplement printed a manifest of Carlota Joaquina, consort of the Prince Regent of Portugal, dated Rio de Janeiro, August 19, 1808, and an extract from an American newspaper concerning French agents who were supposed to be en route to the Spanish Indies. In an appeal to Spanish Americans against such machinations, the Colombiano declared that the enemy was "not idle; as it is impossible to subjugate you by force, he aims to subjugate you by astuteness. Be vigilant against his emissaries who beyond doubt are going to sow discord among you in order that they may dominate you. Remain united and you will be invincible."28

The fourth number of El Colombiano translated from an  p58 English periodical comments about South American affairs which suggested that the Spanish Americans should form a new government. This number also printed items concerning conditions in Spain that were taken from El Español, a Spanish periodical of London which was edited by a journalist styled Blanco White, who utilized information that was transmitted to him by English officials. The fifth number of the Colombiano reprinted other material from the same periodicals. In connection with the excerpts from El Español the comment was made that a real revolution was necessary to liberate Spain. The Spaniards were entreated to get rid of all vestiges of their former government: "If the heat of a revolution terrifies you, if preoccupations make you fear even the thought of liberty, you should realize that you are destined perpetually to remain slaves!"29

On May 19 the vigilant Spanish Minister wrote to the Captain General of Galicia to warn him that copies of El Español, a magazine intended to discredit Spanish operations in the Peninsula, and El Colombiano, a journal designed to revolutionize Spanish America, were being distributed from London.30 The editor in chief, however, soon decided that it was wise to cease publishing his periodical. On June 2, 1810, he addressed a letter marked "private" to Vansittart to state that he need not be disquieted about the Colombiano any longer: "one has taken every possible precaution; and number five will be the last for the present."31 Yet Miranda's purpose had been in part accomplished; for before the end of this year extracts from his journal were published in such secessionist organs as the Gaceta de Caracas and the Gaceta de Buenos Aires.32

From 1808 to 1810 Miranda's home in Grafton Street was undoubtedly a rendezvous for those discontented Spanish Americans who found their way to London. In addition to Antepara and Sanz, at this time Miranda became acquainted with  p59 a Spaniard named Cortés who had served under the French flag in the Antilles. After becoming interested in revolutionary projects, he had proceeded to Europe in order to sound the intentions of England in regard to Spanish America. Short after his arrival in London he sent a letter to Miranda to assert that the French aimed to absorb the Spanish colonies in America and to offer his services to prevent that calamity.33 Early in 1809 another mysterious conspirator who went by the name of Toledo sought the society of Cortés and also made approaches to Miranda.34 He was promptly informed by Cortés of the arrival in London of disaffected Mexicans.

The leading advocate of Spanish American independence also became acquainted with patriots from Portugal who had sought an asylum in England. A Portuguese who had friends in Brazil afforded him an opportunity to transmit letters to Rio de Janeiro. As early as October, 1808, Miranda was in touch with another Portuguese named Hippolyto José da Costa who vainly endeavored to publish in the Times an article about events at Caracas. Further, to paraphrase the words of an Edinburgh periodical, one of the Portuguese journals published in England was induced to favor the schemes and to "exaggerate the merits of Miranda, as one who was to be the Washington of the southern continent."35

This journal was probably the Correio Braziliense ou Armazem Literario that was founded in London in 1808. In number XI of this periodical, which bore the date of April, 1809, its editor began to publish in Portuguese a synopsis of the article on the "Emancipation of Spanish America" that had just appeared in the Edinburgh Review.36 Six months later Da Costa, who was the founder and editor of the Correio Braziliense, wrote to Miranda to inform him that a certain essay concerning Spanish-American affairs had been printed in Portuguese, to ask for suggestions about an article respecting  p60 Venezuela, and to inquire regarding the date of a certain number of the Gaceta de Caracas that had evidently been loaned to him by the Venezuelan.37 In the midsummer of 1810 the Correio Braziliense published Portuguese translations of some of the seditious letters that Miranda had been dispatching to capital cities in the Spanish Indies.38 Da Costa was undoubtedly a channel through which information regarding the separatist movements in Spanish America found its way from Miranda into the pages of Portuguese-American journals.

Miranda kept watch upon articles concerning his native land that appeared in English newspapers. An intermediary through whom he presented his views to the English people was a Spanish American styled Dr. Constancio who seems to have been a Mexican.39 Notes inscribed upon newspaper clippings that Miranda carefully preserved among his papers show that articles printed in London dailies above the pseudonym of "Las Casas" were in reality written by Dr. Constancio. In a communication published by the Statesman on September 13, 1809, "Las Casas" criticized English policy toward Spain. In what seems like an adaptation of Miranda's views, he asked the following questions:

"Why, shall we ask, was there any stipulation made concerning America, with the Spanish patriots? Why did we pledge ourselves for the continuance of the slavery of our natural friends? Why not allow them the same liberty of choosing a government which the Spaniards claimed? Had the self-elected Juntas acquired, or inherited, any rights over America? * * * If we were determined to support the Spanish insurrection, we ought to have done it without binding ourselves to keep the colonies united with the mother-country. * * * Unless then we again address ourselves frankly to the Americans, laying aside our Spanish connections, it is impossible for us to succeed, while by our fruitless attempts we shall only increase the influence of Bonaparte, when he is master of Spain,  p61 over the rich continent of America. * * * Let the natives alone frame their own government."

On November 1, 1809, "Las Casas" contributed an essay to the Statesman entitled the "Emancipation of South America." In this article Constancio argued that Napoleon was now "the sole Lord of the whole Continent," that the liberation of Spanish America would furnish new and profitable markets for English goods, and that "a new power in America" would also serve to counterbalance the prestige of Napoleon in Europe. In the following month Constancio informed Miranda of his prospective departure from England. After expressing pleasure at having become acquainted with Miranda's merit, loyalty, and talent, Constancio continued: "It is with regret that I have resolved to abandon your beautiful and sublime project, but the condition of my finances does not permit me long to remain without any employment."40

The essayist in chief did not altogether escape public criticism. On April 5, 1810, the Times published an anonymous letter, apparently written by a Spaniard, which deliberately conveyed the impression that the people of South America were not generally desirous of achieving their independence. An intimation was also conveyed in this communication that a South American who had striven to promote that independence did not possess a reputable lineage. Miranda's secretary soon tried to have the editor of the Times insert a refutation to what was considered a "disreputable charge."41 When that attempt failed Miranda endeavored to clear his escutcheon by articles in other London newspapers.42 In a letter about "South America" signed by "A Peruvian" that was published in both the Statesman and the Morning Chronicle, a reply was made to the reflections upon the general's ancestry.  p62 The Peruvian, — if such indeed he was, — declared that "General Miranda was received into the armies of the King of Spain at the age of seventeen, at the rank of Captain, which he could not have been without proving titles of nobility." The polemist further declared that authentic documents attesting his assertions had been deposited with a bookseller named Dulau in Soho Square, "where any person on whom the assertion of the anonymous Spaniard has made an impression, may receive satisfaction."43

Though Miranda's time was largely absorbed by journalistic labors, yet he did not become a recluse. On December 25, 1808, Lady Townshend asked him to dinner to meet the duke of Cumberland.44 A card found in General Miranda's papers dated "St. James 6th Jany. 1809," bears an invitation to him to dine with the Duke at the palace.45 Shortly afterwards the general was invited to dine with Admiral Nugent.46 In May, 1809, he brought to the attention of Francis Jeffrey, who was visiting London, the posthumous works of his friend "the illustrious artist" Barry as a publication worthy of attention in the Edinburgh Review.47 A letter from an old English friend named Benjamin Waddington dated July 5, 1809, inviting Miranda to pay his family a visit of a week or a month at Hanover House, near Abergavenny, shows that he was still popular in other circles. With this invitation Waddington inclosed a billet in which his wife and daughter expressed an anxious desire "to form an acquaintance with a person whose virtues and talents" had long excited their admiration. They expressed the hope that the general would grant "from gallantry to two women, the request that motives of convenience might induce him to refuse to a man."48 It is to be regretted that Miranda did not explain in the letter announcing his intention to obey "their amiable commands" what he promised to expound verbally to Waddington, namely, the motives  p63 which induced him "to decline accompanying Sir A. Wellesley into Portugal and Spain, etc."49 During his excursion to Monmouthshire the Venezuelan visited Abergavenny, Cheltenham, Gloucester, and Oxford University.

In 1809 Miranda became well acquainted with the curious dwarf, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, to whom he loaned books and maps relating to Spanish America. On his part, Miranda borrowed from Bentham a treatise of the Spanish publicist Jovellanos.50 In August, 1809, the utilitarian philosopher directed their mutual friend James Mill to invite Miranda to visit the farm house in Surrey where he was sojourning. "May you," wrote Bentham to Miranda, "by God's grace live a thousand years."51 It was probably under Miranda's influence that Bentham's interest turned from Mexico to South America.

With the philanthropist William Wilberforce, who was a member of Parliament, the exile formed a deep attachment. After dining with Wilberforce at Kensington Gore early in May, 1809, Miranda wrote in a diarial entry that his host had treated him with much "friendship and tenderness." There Miranda met a director of the East India Company, who discussed "with great pleasure and approval" his plans concerning South America. Miranda was now convinced that news of the rout of the Austrians by Napoleon had caused Englishmen to look with fresh interest to the Spanish Indies. In consequence he believed that they wished to be informed about its "climate, population, and productions. I also perceived," he said, "some sentiments of liberty in the conversation of Wilberforce and of horror for the Inquisition. Hence I have sent him the works of De Pons about Venezuela and the Archives Littéraires about the Inquisition."52 In the letter to the reformer Miranda stated that in this periodical under the rubric Spain the philanthropist would find discussed "some of the nefarious proceedings of the Holy Tribunal as late as  p64 the year 1804; where by its unremitting efforts to degrade human understanding [it] has at last so perfectly succeeded as to bring the Nation, and the Monarchy that supported it," to its absolute subversion.53

In the company of Dr. Constancio, in January, 1810, the South American dined with Wilberforce. In his Diary the publicist wrote that Miranda talked until half past eleven, "and still untired — very entertaining and instructive, but used God's name lightly, else all his sentiments and positions just, humane, and even delicate; as his refusing to bear arms against Spain."54 On his part the reformer hoped to interest Miranda in the abolition of negro slavery. So deep a concern in Spanish America did Wilberforce show that Miranda submitted to his inspection confidential papers concerning his negotiations with English and French ministers from 1790 to 1808.55 As a result, said Miranda, the philanthropist "was filled with zeal for our independence and desired to see the plans originally drawn up with his friend Mr. Pitt carried out by the present government."56 It is evident that the promoter hoped through Wilberforce and Nepean to influence the English Government to favor his long-meditated projects.57 A letter written in the third person displays the propagandist at work:

"General Miranda has the honour to send to Mr. Wilberforce the few extracts from the late classic authors about the Spanish Colonies of South America, which he promised the other day.

"He sends also the copy of Capn. Beaver's letter about the occurrences that took place in the city of Caracas, when they learnt the invasion of the French, etc. (and which paper, if he should not absolutely want, he begs him to return after perusal).

"Two printed copies of Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols- p65 Américains, where he will find the solid grounds of our contention with the Spanish oppressors, and their abominable old government. There is more truth, justice, and solid reasoning in this small Pamphlet, than in all the speeches and assertions about Spain and South America, that he has yet seen or heard of from the noble Lord H–––––d."58

At the invitation of Captain James Stanhope, who declared that his sister was "very anxious" to make his acquaintance, Miranda also met the eccentric Lady Hester Stanhope, who had managed the household affairs of her uncle, William Pitt.59 Captain Stanhope had recently returned to London from Coruña where he had witnessed the tragic death of Sir John Moore, an intimate friend and correspondent of Lady Hester. On April 29, 1809, the South American thus recorded his impressions of Lady Hester in a disjected jotting scrawled on the back of a note from her brother:

"I have dined with Lady Hester Stanhope (niece of Mr. Pitt) who enchanted me by her amiability, erudition, and liberal conversation. At one time she talked about Rome and Italy, which she had visited; at another time she talked about Greece, which she wished to visit and which she was not able to see when she was in Naples. She also talked about Venezuela whose independence she wished to see established upon a basis of rational liberty. In this connection she said to me that her uncle Mr. Pitt had upon various occasions talked to her with interest and warmth about this affair, and had particularly lauded my patriotic ideas. With this motive he had shortly before my embarkation for New York proposed that we should dine together at Walmer Castle. Ever since, Lady Hester had wished to become acquainted with me, and had also wished to visit my interesting country. She said further that if I needed a recruit of her species, she was ready to follow me there though it should be to do nothing else than to manage schools and hospitals. All this she descanted upon with the greatest jocularity and grace until midnight when I retired  p66 most highly impressed by her conversation, good judgment, amiability, and interesting person. She is one of the most delightful women I have ever known, — and, if her behaviour accords with my first impressions, — she is certainly a rarity among her sex."60

In a letter dated July 31, inviting Miranda to visit at a farm house near Bath where she was sojourning, Lady Hester expressed her delight at the prospect of seeing him "in this part of the world." She hoped that, whether he should lodge at an inn or at a neat house in town she should have the pleasure of seeing him every day to dinner "and that you will spend as much more of yr time here as you can spare from yr books, a certain number of which I suppose travel with you."61 There is no doubt that Miranda discussed his grand passion with her at length. On January 21, 1810, he wrote to her that "the interview on Wednesday last, with Mr. W–––––, was long, interesting, and satisfactory; and I had another the next day (by his own request) with the Duke of G–––––, on the same subject whom I am to see again tomorrow and shall not forget your message. They seem both earnest and hopeful; I wished you was near to communicate, and to give advice — things appear certainly promising now, and in a short time we must perceive the reality."62 About this time, with an acknowledgment of his solicitous inquiries about her health, Lady Hester sent Miranda a book and wrote thus: "May I be allowed to flatter myself that the pages which contain an account of the brilliant political career of Lord Chatham, will not be rendered less valuable, from being presented to you by his Grand-daughter. * * *"63 Untoward events were perhaps what saved the revolutionary from an affaire de coeur.

Miranda's notions regarding the Spanish Indies at this juncture are expressed in his correspondence with Vansittart and with Spencer Perceval, who had become prime minister  p67 in October, 1809. In a letter addressed to Vansittart under date of January 1, 1810, Miranda declared that the news from South America about revolutionary discontent and commotions was "satisfactory in every point of View."64 In a letter to the same friend about two months later he said: "I have seen Mr. Wilberforce and the Duke of Gloucester who displayed a great interest in my affairs. * * * Mr. Wilberforce has promised to speak to Mr. P––––– upon the subject, but I believe that the government is at present in a most unfavorable position to act."65 A month later Miranda addressed a letter to the Prime Minister to ask that he would appoint some trusty person or persons with whom he might confer about the policy that England should adopt toward the Spanish colonies. "This mode," commented Miranda, "might perhaps be most efficacious for bringing this affair to a final decision; and to rescue, if possible, those Colonies from the imminent danger of falling under the baneful influence of France: — which circumstance would be attended in all probability, with the ruin of its innocent inhabitants, and an immense detriment to the commerce and interests of Great Britain." He added that the means necessary to emancipate Spanish America would be nothing "in comparison of what was formerly required, and Great Britain had agreed to afford."66 However, as he admitted in a letter addressed to Lord Wellington, Miranda did not feel that he was now making much progress toward the execution of his long-cherished designs.67

Evidence that will help us to divine the state of Miranda's mind can also be gleaned from letters which he addressed at this juncture to persons in America. In October, 1809, in a letter to a North American friend named Loudon the promoter expressed the opinion that in proportion as the French gained control of the Iberian Peninsula, South America seemed "to fly away from Old Spain."68 In an epistle to Contucci  p68 on January 17, 1810, he declared that Spain was now entirely evacuated by English soldiers and that almost all of her provinces had been either completely subjugated by the French or had submitted to King Joseph. He expressed the hope that in a short time the intention of the English Government in regard to the Spanish-American cause would become as favorable as it had hitherto been "vacillating and contradictory."69

In a letter addressed to his old friend Colonel Smith on February 7, Miranda declared that a change of administration was expected in London every day. "The course of events," he avowed, "areº however, in favor of our Patriotic and just Views for the Independency of the Colombian Continent, and even for its Liberties, that is a much more important object. The late accounts I have received relative to Quito, Peru, and Buenos airesº promise freedom, under a representative form of government." He expressed the hope that these blessings would soon be extended to all the Spanish colonies in spite of "Spanish imbecility" and English nonsense.70 In a letter to Febles on February 8, Miranda declared that there were in London certain creoles from the Spanish Indies who thought and felt as he did but with more vehemence and severity. "You will see this," he continued, "by the brief addition to the tract of Viscardo which they have reprinted here and which you will soon receive for distribution to interested persons in Terra Firma. Colonists in southern South America have much solicited me to join them, but I shall watch with caution and vigilance without forgetting my old friends and compatriots."71 Obviously the plotter thought that England would soon be forced to give up her struggle against Napoleon on the European Continent and that she would then undertake the execution of his plans. At least, he wished to encourage this belief among his diverse correspondents.

During the years when Miranda was busying himself as an essayist and propagandist he was again harassed by financial  p69 difficulties. On November 18, 1809, he wrote to Nicholas Vansittart to explain that he had called on Under Secretary Herries in regard to his finances. "He promised me," said Miranda, "to speak to Mr. Jenkinson, successor of the detestable Cooke, about the payment of that three-fourths of my allowance that is due me. If you know this new secretary I wish that you would write him a line on this subject * * * in order that he may use it suitably. This would counteract the perfidious insinuations of Mr. Cooke whom I believe capable of anything."72 On November 30 Herries wrote to Miranda to inform him that Jenkinson would "be glad to see him at his office in Downing Street between 12 and 2 o'clock tomorrow, — when, if General Miranda will bring with him some document to show to what period his allowance was last paid by Mr. Cooke, Mr. Jenkinson will pay him what is due upon it.73 On December 4 Miranda informed Herries that he had "received the total amount of his allowance to this day" but that Molini's allowance had not yet been paid.74

In the middle of December, Davison who was in financial straits because of disreputable practices as a government contractor turned over a promissory note of Miranda for one thousand pounds to a banking firm in Pall Mall that demanded immediate payment. Not being able to do so, Miranda was forced to appeal to Nicholas Vansittart. In response that friend sent him a note on December 23 declaring that the contractor had played him a very villainous trick.75 On the next day Vansittart wrote thus: "Davison has acted infamously but there is no remedy but to pay him off. You must pay as much as you can without distressing yourself and I have written to Messrs. Boehm and Tayler, one of the most reputable mercantile houses in London who have acted as bankers to my father and mother and since to me, to assist you with whatever may be necessary to complete Davison's demand."76 Mr. Tayler accordingly took over the promissory note to Davison;  p70 and Miranda wrote to his constant friend: "I feel quite relieved indeed, by being out of any connexion with that odious and despicable Being, and thank you very much for it."77 Vansittart replied in a sympathetic strain: "I am very glad you have had a satisfactory interview with Mr. Tayler. * * * I congratulate you on having put an end to your connection with Davison."78 It was in this wise that Miranda incurred a not inconsiderable obligation to John Tayler which was not liquidated at the time of his death.

The change in the policy of Downing Street caused by the Spanish uprising did not altogether prevent Miranda from following developments in South America. Neither did it hinder him from enlarging his acquaintance with discontented Mexicans and South Americans who continued to visit England. During this period the chief spokesman of dissatisfied Spanish-American colonists deliberately undertook to use the press as a vehicle of propaganda. By spicy articles in newspapers and journals and by the publication of the unique volume entitled South American Emancipation, Miranda disseminated a knowledge of conditions in Spanish America and of his own designs more widely than ever. His most distinctive literary achievement was perhaps the founding of El Colombiano that was designed to spread in the Spanish Indies news of the distracted condition of Spain. Thus the seeds of revolution were to be widely scattered.

Aside from these activities, his sojourn in London had served to stimulate an interest in the cause of Spanish-American emancipation not only on the part of certain English publicists but also among literati, merchants, philosophers, and social leaders of the English metropolis. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Miranda thus helped to lay foundations for the sympathetic yet interested outlook on American affairs that reached fruition many years later and Canning's decision to acknowledge the independence of the emancipated Spanish colonies in the New World.


The Author's Notes:

1 Both letters dated Nov. 28, 1808, Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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2 Nov. 18, 1809, ibid., vol. 61. A revised account of Miranda's attack on Venezuela is found in An. Reg., 1807, pp206‑9.

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3 Inclosure in Thompson to Miranda, March 21, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 59.

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4 Vansittart to Miranda, Oct. 19, 1809, ibid., vol. 61.

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5 Miranda to Vansittart, Dec. 16, 1809, ibid.

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6 Mir. MSS., vol. 59.

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7 Ibid.

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8 Undated, ibid.

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9 Ed. Rev., XIII, 297.

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10 Ibid., p311.

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11 "March 30," Mir. MSS., vol. 59.

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12 April 21, 1809, ibid., vol. 60.

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13 Antepara, preface, p. iii. In a letter to Miranda endorsed "Agosto 23, 1809," Cortés wrote that he had talked with Antepara who contemplated meeting him, Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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14 Ibid., vol. 62.

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15 Antepara, title-page.

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16 Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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17 Antepara, preface, pp. iv‑vii.

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18 Circular letter, March 24, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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19 Ibid., vol. 63. On March 12, 1810, Juigné sent Miranda an estimate of the cost of publishing two hundred and fifty copies of a tract, ibid.

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20 El Colombiano, April 1, 1810. Copies of this rare periodical were found by the writer in the Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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21 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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22 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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23 Robertson, Miranda, p427, and note b.

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24 April 20, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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25 Abella to Apodaca, A. G. S., estado, 8173.

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26 Ibid.

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27 Apodaca to Bardaxi, May 15, 1810, ibid.

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28 April 15, 1810.

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29 May 15, 1810.

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30 A. G. S., estado, 8173.

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31 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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32 Gaceta de Buenos Aires, October 4, 1810; Gaceta de Caracas, Nov. 9, 1810.

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33 Jan. 26, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 59.

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34 Toledo to Miranda, Feb. 12, 1809, ibid.

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35 Edinburgh Annual Register, vol. IV, pt. I, p387.

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36 Correio Braziliense, II, 349‑59.

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37 Oct. 20, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 61.

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38 Correio Braziliense, V, 204‑12.

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39 Wilberforce, Life of William Wilberforce, III, 434.

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40 Dec. 7, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 61. On May 30, 1811, Dr. Constancio, who was then in Paris, sent a letter to Bassano, French minister of foreign affairs, to propose that he should be sent to sound Miranda and other Venezuelan patriots concerning close relations with France, A. A. E., Portugal et Brésil, 127.

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41 Courteney to Miranda, "Friday 6 o'clock," Mir. MSS., vol. 63.

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42 "To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle," ibid.

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43 Statesman, April 9, 1810; Morning Chronicle, April 16, 1810.

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44 Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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45 Ibid.

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46 "Saturday, March 25th," ibid.

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47 Miranda to Jeffrey, May 8 and May 27, 1809, ibid., vol. 60.

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48 Ibid.

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49 July 31, 1809, ibid.

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50 Bentham to Miranda, April 1, 1809, ibid.

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51 Aug. 25, 1809, ibid.

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52 "Mayo 6," ibid.

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53 May 8, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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54 Wilberforce, III, 434.

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55 Miranda to Wilberforce, Jan. 13, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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56 Miranda to Vansittart, Jan. 19, 1810, ibid.

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57 Miranda to Wilberforce, April 26, 1810, vol. 63.

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58 June 4, 1810, ibid.

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59 J. Stanhope to Miranda, April 19, 1809, ibid., vol. 60.

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60 Diario, "April 29," Mir. MSS., vol. 60. See further, Bentham, Works, X, 458.

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61 Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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62 Miranda to Lady Stanhope, Jan. 21, 1810, ibid., vol. 62.

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63 "Tuesday night," ibid.

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64 Ibid.

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65 February 26, 1810, ibid.

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66 Miranda to Perceval, March 31, 1810, ibid.

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67 Miranda to Wellington, April 3, 1810, ibid., vol. 63.

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68 Oct. 3, 1809, ibid., vol. 61.

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69 Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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70 Ibid.

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71 Ibid.

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72 Mir. MSS., vol. 61.

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73 Ibid.

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74 Ibid.

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75 Ibid.

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76 Ibid.

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77 Jan. 1, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 62.

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78 Jan. 3, 1810, ibid., vol. 61.


Thayer's Note:

a de Finibus, III.19.64; in the Loeb edition translation onsite at that link, "The traitor to his country does not deserve greater reprobation than the man who betrays the common advantage or security for the sake of his own advantage or security." The Latin quote is essentially accurate, except for the solecism (Cicero wrote vituperandus, of course), and the supplied commas, which actually somewhat obscure the sense. The Latin text, as given in the Teubner edition of 1915, may be found at the Latin Library.


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