Though in 1808 manifestations of loyalty to the Motherland had been made in the Spanish Indies, yet here and there provisional juntas had been formed. Separatist tendencies were soon manifested. Miranda judged that the quasi-insurrectionary commotions which took place in 1809 in various quarters of South America were important and satisfactory from every point of view. In a letter addressed to Governor Hislop on February 8, 1810, the revolutionary thus expressed his views on the international situation:
"You can scarcely form a correct idea of the vacillating and disgusting state of this country. The trouble is that neither do we have a competent administration nor can we form the kind of administration that is necessary. Whatever plans have been formed here during the past two years seem to have been so absurd or so badly executed that the enemy has gained incalculable successes and advantages. * * *
"Commercial and political attention is now being turned toward Spanish America at a time which to me seems somewhat tardy. According to the latest advices, Quito, Charcas, Arequipa, Chuquisaca, and perhaps even Lima and Buenos Aires, have already formed a popular administration that is independent of the cursed Central Junta. Persons of standing and influence in those provinces have recently written to me in regard to these movements, but, after consulting with my friends here I have decided not to change my situation until the favorable moment arrives. Perhaps that time is not far distant."1
The transfer of political authority in Spain from the Central Junta to a Regency convinced Miranda that the juncture was auspicious for a change in English policy toward the Indies. He accordingly designed to urge his views upon Vansittart but that Minister was unfortunately absent from London. p72 Miranda then called upon Sir Evan Nepean, but found that he was in the country looking after a new estate. Hence the disappointed Venezuelan described the situation to Wilberforce in the hope that they might be able "to devise some other mode of pressing a decision from the Government at this critical moment."2
The distracted condition of Spain soon stimulated movements in America that formed the prelude to the protracted struggle for independence. In Venezuela a supposition that Captain General Emparán was in the French interest encouraged those colonists who dreamed of altering their political régime. The spirit of dissent did not decrease when prominent Venezuelans became aware of the irruption of French soldiers into Andalusia and the dissolution of the Central Junta. On April 18 Spanish agents arrived in the city of Caracas with the announcement that the newly established Regency should be recognized. This order convinced disgruntled creoles that the proper time for action had arrived.
Upon the following day, which was Holy Thursday, the cabildo of Caracas assembled in an extraordinary session that Emparán was invited to attend. Deputies of the clergy and the people eventually proposed that a junta of government should be formed for Venezuela. A persuasive canon named José Cortés de Madariaga, who was a native of Chile, urged that the Captain General should be excluded from this junta. Emparán evidently appealed to the people from the balcony of the town hall to retain him in supreme command. When they refused to do so, he relinquished his office. Accordingly, by what seemed like a preconcerted movement, on April 19, 1810, the governmental authority of the Captaincy General was assumed by the extraordinary cabildo of the capital city. In reality, this dramatic change signalized the beginning of a disguised revolution.
On April 20 the cabildo issued a manifesto that announced the change of government, avowed its fidelity to Ferdinand p73 VII, and invited the people of Venezuela to join this movement. On the same day it framed an address to Spanish Americans declaring that the Venezuelans were resolved to assume "the political independence which the order of events" had restored to them. The town council even avowed that Venezuela had entered the ranks of "the free nations of America!"3 It also enacted some reform decrees. The alcabala or tax upon the sale or exchange of certain articles of consumption was swept away. The tribute or poll‑tax exacted from the aborigines was abolished. Provision was made that the soldiers who had effectively supported the revolutionary changes should be rewarded by double pay. A subscription was started to raise funds to pay the expenses of the provisional government. Agents were selected who were to be dispatched to adjacent provinces to solicit support for the new régime.
Twenty-three prominent citizens were soon selected to act as a governmental junta. Secretaries of war and the navy, finance, justice, and foreign affairs were appointed. On April 27 "the Supreme Junta" issued a proclamation to the cabildos of capital cities in Spanish America inviting them to imitate the political transformation that had taken place at Caracas. It also suggested that a Spanish-American federation should be formed.
On the following day the junta appointed Juan V. Bolívar, an elder brother of Simón Bolívar, and Telésforo de Orea as agents to the United States. Their credentials stated that the governmental junta, which wished to preserve the rights of Ferdinand VII in Venezuela, desired to improve the relations of amity and commerce with friendly or neutral nations. Early in May the junta framed an address declaring that the Venezuelans would not recognize the Spanish Regency but that they would gladly obey a government in the Motherland which was founded upon legitimate and equitable principles. In August it abolished the slave trade. In September it made a commercial agreement with the secretary of the governor p74 of Curaçao to the effect that goods imported into or exported from Venezuela by English subjects should be allowed to pass on the payment of three-fourths of the duties that were levied upon other foreigners.4
Let us now pas quickly over the rest of Spanish America of 1810 and take a rapid bird's‑eye view. In May an extraordinary cabildo at Buenos Aires replaced Viceroy Cisneros by a provisional junta which announced that it would preserve the King's authority. In July a cabildo at Bogotá formed a semi-independent junta for the Viceroyalty of New Granada. In September the Captain General of Chile was replaced by a governmental junta that avowed allegiance to Ferdinand VII. About the same time a daring curate named Hidalgo started an insurrection against Spanish rule in Mexico. It seemed indeed as though a seismic convulsion had passed through the Spanish Indies. Although the distracted Spanish Americans loudly proclaimed fidelity to their captive King, yet it appears that some audacious creoles had visions of secession from Spain. Eager for news from dissentient Spanish America, in a confidential letter written in English to Colonel Smith on June 18, 1810, Miranda thus gave voice to his sentiments:
"I have already received applications, even from opposite parties in S. A., inviting me to join them; with offers of the most Pre‑eminent situations, honours, etc., but I think that prudence requires I should defer it, until the abominable Spanish Agents shall be expelled from the Country; and then it would be the proper time for me to appear, and to take an active part in ascertaining the Independencies of those Provinces, under the solid basis of a permanent, rational, and free government. — Then, all our anxiety and suspense will cease, and better prospects and satisfaction will dawn for us — May Divine Providence protect our patriotic and virtuous designs, p75 for the welfare and protection of mankind in the most awful and threatening period of its subjugation!"5
Near the end of June reports of the events of April 19 at Caracas reached England. Suggestive commentaries upon the kaleidoscopic changes in Venezuela soon appeared in London newspapers. Blanco White published some "Political Reflections" in which he asserted that "the standard of independence had been raised in South America."6 On June 23 the Courier declared that the important news was not unexpected. "It will be more a matter of astonishment than that vast territory should have preserved its dependence upon the Mouth Country so long, considering the total want of energy on the part of the Spanish Government, and its subserviency to the councils and commands of France, than that it should at last have disclosed a spirit of independence, and expressed a determination to exist as a separate State."
Ever on the alert for favoring circumstances Miranda promptly learned of the formation of a junta in Venezuela. In a note to the Duke of Gloucester written at half-past two on a Monday morning he declared: "The late News from Caracas are confirmed by various letters received from the contiguous Islands, by Merchants in this City."7 An article in the Examiner on July 1, which noticed Miranda's plans, naturally attracted his attention. It avowed that a decisive revolt against the miserable Government of Spain had long been expected. Distracted Europe now turned an eager eye to the New World. Reports about an insurrection in Venezuela should excite strong sympathy in every Englishman as suggesting "the dawn of a new era in history." Its editor declared that if the Spanish colonies should choose to declare their independence, "they have at least a full claim to our forbearance against them, and should be left to work out their deliverance on every ground of policy and natural right." Then he add: "Whatever we may do, will be done rather against p76 Bonaparte than for them, — rather against the overturner of old systems whom we have helped to make a powerful despot, than in favor of the overturners of old systems whom we may help to make friends and freemen." Upon the manifesto issued by the junta of Caracas the Examiner made the comment that it approached "a complete declaration of independence" and that Ferdinand VII was "now a mere name." When Miranda sent a copy of the Examiner to the Duke of Gloucester, he declared that its description of "the late revolution at Caracas" was more accurately stated "with the exception of the too flattering account of himself" than any other he had read in the London newspapers.8
Miranda soon took measures to transmit his sentiments to friends in the West Indies. In a letter to Francisco Febles on July 7, he declared that the steps which had been taken at Caracas seemed very favorable to him and that they appeared to be in accordance with instructions that he had sent from London "a year ago by a person who came for that purpose." He requested Febles to dispatch certain Spanish Americans from Trinidad to Venezuela in order that they might succor their compatriots. He enclosed a copy of the Examiner with the comment that it described the affairs of Venezuela and her "relations with England very well, although what it says about me personally is very extravagant."9 On the same day in a letter of similar tenor addressed to Governor Hislop of Trinidad with whom he maintained a correspondence, the revolutionary suggested that perhaps the governor might wish to print extracts from the Examiner in the Trinidad Gazette. He declared that news of the events of April 19 at Caracas had "excited very general interest for the emancipation and freedom of South America at this most critical period. * * * God grant to the new Governors of Caracas wisdom and moderation, as everything depends on their conduct to win the affections and good will" of all Europe or to lose them.10 Miranda also undertook to disseminate the news of the Venezuelan p77 uprising in other parts of South America. On August 2 he addressed a letter to Felipe Contucci, and, after expressing astonishment at views which his correspondent had expressed in favor of the founding of a monarchy in La Plata under Carlota Joaquina, he said:
"The Captaincy General of Venezuela has just furnished you, it appears to me, with a grand example of patriotism, prudence, and policy. If you follow that example, with the limitations and reserve which are necessary under the conditions existing in your country, I believe that will do much better than if you embark in perilous projects for the purpose of introducing foreigners and new sovereigns into your provinces. In number XXVI of the Correio Braziliense you will find authentic documents and details about the memorable events which happened on April 19 in the province of Caracas. The annexed numbers of the Colombiano will furnish you with the news of Europe that should most interest our Americas. Read these with care and draw from them the benefit that I sincerely and cordially desire shall accrue to those beautiful and hitherto mistreated regions."11
About this time Miranda became acquainted with Matías de Irigoyen, an agent of the junta of Buenos Aires. Irigoyen had arrived in London with instructions to negotiate with the English Government for permission to procure military supplies. We extract the following from a discerning letter addressed by Miranda to Saturnino Rodríguez Peña, after learning from Irigoyen and his colleague Larrea about the establishment of a governmental junta at Buenos Aires in May, 1810:
"From their reports it appears to me that the events at Buenos Aires do not promise any less success than those at Caracas. It is a remarkable thing that those two cities, so distant from one another, at an interval of only thirty days, without the slightest communication, have followed throughout the same steps and have taken the political measures which are adapted to carry out their glorious revolutions! Take care, p78 my friend, to support this policy; for every retrograde step that is now taken will involve the most fatal consequences for the happiness of those countries. * * * Liberty is nothing else than justice wisely administered; and where atrocious crimes are committed with impunity, true liberty cannot have an abode!
"From what Señor Larrea tells me I am convinced that you have gone to join your worthy brother in Buenos Aires. You should then labor with zeal and activity to lay the bases of civil and representative government, allowing time to mature progressively these institutions. Thus you will give your country the greatest benefit that men can confer upon their fellow-beings, — that is, to redeem them from slavery and to make them free and independent. May Providence grant you complete success in such a noble enterprise and give them the enjoyment of such great felicity!"12
Miranda soon received letters from Venezuela regarding the April revolution. Two citizens of Caracas wrote to their compatriot to declare their esteem for his character and to express the hope that he would by his knowledge and ability contribute "to the perfection of the portentous work which had been begun."13 In reply Miranda characterized April 19 as "a celebrated and glorious day for Caracas. An ever memorable epoch, if its results are as favorable as its good beginnings promise, and as the patriotism of her citizens should expect." He ventured the opinion that the "great task has only been started and that the most difficult and arduous work is necessary for its perfection. Still, if everyone coöperates with unselfishness and good will to the same end, the consummation of the work appears to me not merely probable but easy. 'With concord,' says a great writer, 'small states become great, while discord destroys even the greatest state.' " The enthusiast expressed hope that he might soon proceed to his native province where he would behold "those people free and happy" whom he had "left servile and oppressed."14
p79 J. M. Fernández of Caracas, who seems to have been a relative of Miranda, also sent him a laudatory letter. This correspondent stated that he had celebrated the events of April 19 with a group of Miranda's friends which included members of the Bolívar family and the Marquis of Toro. He declared that there were other patriots in Caracas who esteemed Miranda "as the first patriot of the country, and the champion upon whom we count. The influence of his eloquence should secure the support and protection of England, and thus bring to these provinces the greatest degree of felicity."15 In his reply Miranda said that "Messrs. Bolívar and Méndez, who have corroborated the information which you sent me, will doubtless tell our friends in that city how much I am pleased by their estimable favors. Oblige me by offering my regards to the Toros, the Bolívars, and the other persons who have wished to be remembered to me, until Providence grants me the pleasure of giving them an embrace and of felicitating them personally on the glorious events with which they have immortalized themselves and rendered their fellow beings free and happy."16
At this critical juncture Miranda was again harassed by delays in the payment of his financial allowance. In the end of June he sent Molini to a trusted official of the English Government with a request that the half-year quotas of the allowances due to himself and his secretary should be paid. A form of receipt found among his papers indicates that the amount then due him was three hundred and fifty pounds.17 The youthful Robert Peel, however, referred Miranda to Mr. Jenkinson, an under secretary in the war department, and declared that the account from which the "allowance" had previously been paid had not yet been transferred to him.18 Not being able to obtain satisfaction from Peel, Miranda next applied to Herries who informed him that the difficulty was due to "a delay in p80 the issue of a sum of money to the Secretary of State" out of which his allowance was to be paid.19 In spite of assurances that his monetary affairs would be settled by the payment of the six months' quota due him, a letter addressed by Miranda to Herries shows that in the end of July, 1810, the arrears were still unpaid.20
English publicists meantime realized the import of the changes that were taking place in America. As early as June 29, 1810, Lord Liverpool sent careful instructions on this matter to Governor Layard of Curaçao. After stating that England's object hitherto had been to assist the Spaniards to maintain the "independence of the Spanish Monarchy in all parts of the World," and to discourage any proceeding that would have "the Effect of separating the Spanish Provinces in America from the parent State in Europe," he wrote that if "the Spanish Dominions in Europe should be doomed to submit to the Yoke of the common Enemy," the King would be bound by the same principles which had "influenced his Conduct for the last two years in the Cause of the Spanish Nation, to afford every Assistance to the Provinces in America which may render them independent of French Spain." His Majesty expressly disclaimed any design of territorial acquisition.21 In secret and confidential instructions to Layard of the same date Liverpool declared that nevertheless it was not the King's intention to become involved in hostilities with the Venezuelans if they should determine to maintain their independence. Any measure that could be construed as involving a formal recognition of the new government at Caracas should be scrupulously avoided.22
A knowledge of the deep interest that England had often shown in the fortunes of Spanish America had meantime impelled the junta of Caracas to select agents to lay Venezuela's case before English ministers. Early in June it appointed p81 Simón Bolívar, a scion of a distinguished family, and an influential creole named Luis López Méndez as commissioners to England. Andrés Bello, a young Venezuelan scholar, was made the secretary of this mission. Bolívar and Méndez brought with them an address from the junta of Caracas to the English King. This communication suggested that England was destined "to complete the grand work of confederating the scattered sections of America, and to cause order, concord, and rational liberty to reign therein."23 The credentials of the agents declared that they were to inform the English Government of the political changes in Venezuela, that they should claim the protection of George III, and that they should offer to negotiate a treaty of alliance.
Simón Bolívar in 1810. Portrait by Charles Gill. From Mancini, "Bolívar et l'émancipation des colonies espagnoles." Reproduced by courtesy of Perrin et Cie., Paris.
Their instructions directed the agents to justify the political transformation in Venezuela because of the arbitrary administration of colonial justice and the illegitimate character of the Central Junta. The fact that Spanish provinces had established governmental juntas was to be adduced as an additional justification for the acts of April 19. With regard to the new government at Caracas the statement was made that it intended to consult the people through an assembly of delegates from the Venezuelan provinces. Explicitly did the instructions declare that there was a universal sentiment in Venezuela for "adhesion to the metropolis," if the patriot cause prevailed in Spain, but for the establishment of independence, if French soldiers should be victorious. A wish was expressed that the enormous burdens which restricted colonial agriculture and commerce should be decreased and that the administration of justice should be improved. A desire was manifested for the formation of a Spanish-American federation. The allegation was made, however, that Venezuela still viewed herself as "an integral part of Spain." Bolívar and Méndez were instructed to ask the English Government to facilitate the purchase of arms for the Venezuelans, to protect p82 their commerce, and to see that English officials in the West Indies favored the new régime. They were also to solicit the English ministers to adjust any differences that might arise among the Venezuelans or between them and the adjacent Spanish colonies.
Between the lines of this clever document one can read the desire of the Venezuelan junta to reap whatever advantage might be afforded by changing circumstances. Its anomalous position was aptly illustrated by the clauses of the instructions that aimed to guide the conduct of the agents toward their long-exiled compatriot. Though those clauses stated that Miranda should be viewed as a person who had rebelled against Ferdinand VII, — whose rights this junta professed to support, — yet the suggestion was made that if his influence might in any way promote the success of this mission, he ought not to be slighted.24
The Venezuelan agents arrived at Portsmouth in the English brig Wellington on July 10.25 Within a few days after their arrival in the English capital Bolívar and Méndez had met their famous compatriot. On July 19 Miranda wrote to the Duke of Gloucester as follows:
"Envoys of Caracas have finally arrived on a mission to this government to offer their friendship and a free commerce in all ports of the extensive territory of Venezuela. Their independence applies only to the authorities established in Spain on behalf of Ferdinand VII under the name of Junta or Regency which they do not recognize, and whose agents have been expelled from the country without bloodshed or mistreatment. The envoys consider themselves as the true representatives of that portion of the Spanish-American people who while recognizing Ferdinand VII, yet propose to treat with him upon this important matter, if he ever secures his liberty. They have been politely received by ministers of His Majesty to whom they have delivered their dispatches in spite of Apodaca p83 and his associates without wished absolutely to prevent this. * * * They brought me flattering recommendations from my relatives and from other actors in the memorable April revolution. Those communications display amity and esteem toward me because of the services I have rendered that noble cause and not only urge in the name of leading personages of the country that I should vigorously second the negotiations with England but also that I should come to join them."26
At this time the English Secretary for Foreign Affairs was Marquis Wellesley, the elder brother of Lord Wellington. At the first interview that Bolívar and Méndez had with the Marquis they were evidently informed that the English Government could enter into no official relations with them because of its alliance with Spain. There is a tradition that, acting upon impulse, Bolívar made an eloquent plea for the acknowledgment of the independence of Venezuela. Wellesley doubtless divined that the Venezuelans aimed to secure an alliance with England: he pointed out the dangers to which Spain and her allies were alike exposed by the separation of a colony from the patriot government in Spain, and urged that a conciliatory policy should be adopted which would reunite Venezuela to the Motherland. Bolívar and Méndez argued, however, that their provisional government was the only organization by which they could hope to preserve the rights of Ferdinand VII against French usurpations. In an unofficial manner Wellesley then offered to promote an amiable adjustment between Venezuela and Spain. He assured the agents that England would furnish naval protection to Venezuela to enable her to defend the rights of Ferdinand VII and to resist France.27
The rôle of England was indeed a difficult one. As was suggested p84 in an official English memorandum, she wished to prevent Venezuela's separation from the Mother Country, to induce Spain to alter her exclusive commercial policy, and to preserve the Spanish-American colonies from the influence of France.28 Still, in spite of the cautious attitude of the English Minister, Spain took umbrage at the countenance given to the Venezuelan agents which she feared would encourage her colonies to declare their independence.29 An English sympathizer now intimated to Miranda that Marquis Wellesley might decide to send Wellington to Venezuela sword in hand "to form a royal regency" and to arrange an alliance with England.30
While the Foreign Secretary was formulating the policy of neutrality and mediation in the differences between Spain and her continental colonies in America that England was destined to follow for several years, Bolívar and Méndez were making acquaintances in London. Their exiled compatriot soon undertook to introduce them to both his English and his Spanish-American friends. On July 19, 1810, Miranda asked a South American named José de Tovar to a tea in Grafton Street where Bolívar and Méndez were expected to be present.31 On the next day he invited Richard Wellesley, a son of the English Secretary, to his home to meet "the South American friends."32 A few days later he asked Wilberforce when he would be "in Town, and at leisure to receive a visit from the Deputies of Caracas, his Countrymen, who wish to pay their respects to the protector of oppressed humanity."33 On August 17 the philanthropist wrote to Miranda as follows: "It will give me very sincere pleasure to see you and your friends from South America on Tuesday and I beg you will assure them that I account myself fortunate in being in this part of England when they are in London."34
p85 An entry in Wilberforce's Diary informs us that upon one occasion Miranda and two Venezuelan agents appeared on the veranda of the reformer's house when the family was engaged in morning prayers and remained there until half past twelve.35 It seems possible that on another occasion both Bello and Irigoyen were members of the party that visited the reformer; for Miranda wrote to Wilberforce to state that he would in a few days accompany five agents from Caracas and Buenos Aires to his residence.36 In August, 1810, Miranda also made an appointment for a visit by Bolívar and Méndez to the royal observatory.37 As he was interested in the system of mutual instruction for poor children that had been introduced by an educational reformer named Joseph Lancaster, accompanied by these deputies, Miranda paid a visit to a training school for teachers established by that educator. It seems that the South Americans decided to send to England two Venezuelan youths in order that they might be educated in the principles of the Lancasterian system.38
The exile undoubtedly took the impressionable Bolívar to the top of a high mountain and showed him the promised land. Miranda's enthusiasm for the cause of Spanish-American independence must have influenced the ardent and volatile Venezuelan, who while abroad on an earlier occasion had been impressed by the military glory of Napoleon and by the free institutions of the United States. By virtue of his knowledge of European conditions and of English policy Miranda was admirably fitted to give hints to Bolívar and Méndez for the management of their delicate negotiations with Marquis Wellesley. Evidently they consulted their compatriot about ways and means to accomplish the object of their mission. On July 27 in a letter to John Turnbull that explained his delay in declining an invitation to dinner, Miranda said: "The sole motive has been a constant and pressing attention on the p86 Business that has brought a Deputation from Caracas to this Country."39 In a letter to Governor Hislop a week later Miranda said that he was much occupied with the affairs of the Venezuelan agents and that he soon expected to leave England in their company.40 The dramatic story that Bolívar and his companion had to tell about the political changes at Caracas must indeed have stimulated the exile's desire to return to his native land.
A luminous account of this meeting is found in the memoirs of General O'Leary who long served as the aide-de‑camp of the Liberator. That general avowed that in reality one of the chief objects of Bolívar's mission to London was to induce General Miranda "to aid the cause of America with his military talents and experience by returning to Venezuela. For Bolívar had for some time recognized in Miranda great military genius"; and he believed that he had discovered in him "the man whose happy destiny included the glory of realizing the splendid project of emancipating South America." Although some of his compatriots viewed Miranda as a dangerous man, yet Bolívar "who would not forget the interest of his native land for any consideration, took the course that his judgment indicated as being the best in an affair of so much importance. He used his warmest arguments to insure that Miranda would continue to coöperate in the cause for which he had suffered so much. Although age had weakened a constitution that was worn by the fatigues of a life full of misfortunes, this proposal coincided with Miranda's desires, and Bolívar urged it with such enthusiasm that the old man accepted with pleasure and without hesitation."41
A few days after Bolívar and Méndez had held their first interview with Marquis Wellesley, Miranda wrote the following letter to that Secretary:
"The Events that have taken place in the Province of Venezuela, in April last, which have most essentially altered the p87 connexions between that People and the old Spanish Government — together with the arrival of their Deputies in this Metropolis, rendering my presence in England totally unnecessary; — form the motive of this application to Your Lordship.
"In the course of those remarkable changes, I observe with satisfaction, that a spirit of Justice, Moderation, and Wisdom, guides those illustrious Patriots, in the pursuit of a reform, worthy in my opinion of admiration, and if consolidated, pregnant with all the progressive happiness I could wish — therefore meeting with my most hearty approbation.
"These circumstances, united to the most pressing solicitations for my immediate return to that Province, from my relations and other distinguished friends in the city of Caracas, induce me to request from H. M. Ministers the due permission for carrying these wishes into execution. It is in fact not only the inclination of acquiescing with my Countrymen's invitation; but the great desire I naturally feel of returning in a private situation, to the bosom of my family, and to the Country that gave me birth and education; after more than thirty years absence and anxiety, for its welfare and happiness.
"Permit me, My Lord, at the same time, to testify here my most sincere thanks to the British Government, not only for the friendship and generosity, with which they have supported me for the space of more than twenty years of an intimate connexion, in affairs of the greatest importance, and in the most eventful times — but for the Hospitality and approbation shewn to me, by the various administrations, that have governed Great Britain during such a length of time. — The continuation of their good will, in granting me now a definite arrangement, in the pecuniary allowance settled upon me — with a safe passage, in one of H. M.'s Ships of war to any of the Ports in the Province of Venezuela; will perfectly gratify and enable me to return to my beloved country, with sentiments of the highest respect, friendship, and gratitude, for the British Nation, — whose prosperity and happiness I sincerely desire; and whose friendship, and mutual intercourse between both Countries, it shall be my constant study to promote.
"If H. M. Ministers should deem it proper to entrust me with any Message, or Despatches, for the present Government p88 of Venezuela — or should afford me the opportunity of accompanying any agent from this Country to that Province, it will afford me both gratification and pleasure."42
To reënforce this request Miranda soon addressed a letter to Richard Wellesley that was couched in these words: "I understand that a frigate is being prepared to convey the agents of Venezuela to La Guayra, and, as a return to my native land in the company of my relatives and friends is of the utmost importance to me, I beseech you to procure from Marquis Wellesley a favorable response to the respectful petition that you had the kindness to send him in my name."43 Nor did Miranda fail to indicate his intentions to his compatriots. On August 3, 1810, he wrote to the Venezuelan junta. He sent his felicitations on the events of April 19: he declared that this date marked "the most celebrated epoch in the history of Caracas and in the annals of the New World. You will be forever lauded as illustrious men who accomplished a work so holy and immortal." Miranda then praised the selection of Bolívar and Méndez as commissioners to London; he stated that he had informed them of the steps which he had taken in respect to Spanish America, and declared that in their first conferences with the English ministers they had conducted themselves creditably. He stated that in view of information received from them and from his "relatives and other friends at Caracas," he had informed the English Government of his desire to terminate the long negotiations that he had carried on with it for Spanish-American independence. "I do not doubt," declared Miranda, "that the English ministry will concede to me so just and equitable a request, — and I hope that Your Highness will also approve these desires, which are dictated by my zeal and by sentiments that are naturally patriotic."44
As he had received no response from Marquis Wellesley, on August 29, after consulting Simón Bolívar, Miranda sent p89 another letter to that Minister about "his desire and intention" of leaving England for the New World. He declared that he had received "new intimations" from Caracas and "very pressing solicitations" from Bolívar urging him to proceed to his native land, "which circumstance leaves him no alternative in the possibility of remaining by choice, any longer in this Country." He even expressed a willingness, if his pecuniary proposals were inconvenient at that moment, to postpone or to relinquish them "though with no small inconvenience to his private concerns," in order that he might promote the welfare and salvation of South America. To Vansittart, who had so often given him friendly personal advice, Miranda made this appeal:
"Here is a copy of the letter which I have just sent to Lord Wellesley and which seemed suitable to Bolívar and Richard Wellesley. The latter promised me a reply from his father without delay. The only objection which he could foresee to my request was the fact that the Spaniards might take in bad part the fact that I would accompany the agents from Caracas on their return at a time when England is about to offer her mediation to Spain. My response was that the agreement between the English Government and myself was of a much earlier date, and implied the absolute condition that I should be allowed to depart at the moment when my country had need of my services or whenever I might wish to return there. It would be more incompatible with the good faith of the English Government to retain me here at this moment against my will than to infringe the treaties made with the defunct Central Junta."45
To this appeal Vansittart replied on August 30 to assure the expatriated Venezuelan that he fully approved of his letter to Lord Wellesley and hoped that he would receive a favorable answer. "Perhaps it might be in some degree more satisfactory to the Spaniards if you were not to go out in the same ship with the Deputies," he continued, "and that would p90 be of no consequence provided you had passage in another ship of war at the same time. With regard to the mediation offered by England, you ought to take the opportunity of explaining that you are so far from being adverse to it that you are willing to give every assistance in your power in carrying it into effect, having no other object than to bring about a good understanding between the Colonies and Spain (provided she is able to maintain her own independence) on terms calculated to secure the liberties and happiness of both."46
Marquis Wellesley, however, evidently felt that he confronted a dilemma. Because of the alliance of England with Spain, because of a desire to support in every way the struggle of his brother Arthur in Spain, and because of England's declaration that she would support the integrity of the Spanish dominions in both hemispheres, he was loath to grant Miranda's request. Obviously the Minister was apprehensive of the revolutionist's influence in his native land. Like Vansittart, he was doubtless averse to the departure of the exile in company with Bolívar. On southeast Wellesley asked him to delay his departure "for eight or ten days only."47 In vain did the Spanish Ambassador try to secure a pledge from the Marquis that Miranda would be prevented from returning to his native land.48
In the meantime the Venezuelan mission was making arrangements for departure. Its members reached the decision that Méndez should remain in London to represent Venezuela, while Bolívar should return to Caracas. On September 19 the luggage of a party of Spanish Americans and also voluminous papers of Miranda were received on board His Majesty's brig Sapphire; at noon on the following day, by order of the Admiralty, five members of this group were allowed to embark on the frigate. Besides the names of Simón Bolívar and José Antepara, the muster of that frigate for September 20 and p91 25 contains the name of Antonio Leleux, an obscure person who thus projects himself into our story. Shortly afterwards the Sapphire made sail for the West Indies without the long-exiled son of Caracas.49
Miranda had meanwhile been urgently pressing his case upon the English Foreign Minister. On September 24 he asked for Wellesley's "kind decision and commands," for Venezuela. He avowed that the object which he had "most at heart," next to "the preservation" of his native country, was "the welfare and prosperity of Great Britain." On the next day he sent to Wellesley a memorandum about his pecuniary concerns" stating that he wished the government either "to continue the payment of his Pension of £700 a year and his Secretary Mr. Molini of £200; in the hands of his friend the Right Honorable Nicholas Vansittart or to give three or four years purchase once paid, as it is customary; which he should prefer." Then he presented to the consideration of the ministers if the losses he had "sustained in the late fire at the Island of Trinidad, by the circumstance of retaining there, various articles of Clothing, Arms, and Ammunition, through the recommendation of Sir Arthur Wellesley (now Lord Wellington) for the purpose of being used in the Expedition for the Coasts of Caracas in the year 1808; should not be entitled to a compensation. — The either of the various articles consumed, he computes to be from Eight hundred to One thousand Pounds Sterling."50
Influenced presumably by representations of the Spanish Minister, who naturally feared the results that might flow from the return of Miranda to his native land, Marquis Wellesley still hesitated about reaching a definitive decision. Doubtless Miranda had already realized that the English Minister desired to detain him in England or at least to delay his departure for South America. In any case his final and irrevocable decision was soon taken. On October 3 he addressed a p92 farewell letter to Wellesley to announce that he was about to leave England. He expressed the hope that this step would not be considered precipitate and that the financial claims set forth in his memorandum of September 25 would receive proper attention from English ministers. In that affair his representative was to be his tried friend, Nicholas Vansittart.51
Thus did Miranda make known his determination to depart from the home that had so long served him as an asylum. At last he had decided to leave the shores of England without the express consent of her government and without any understanding about this financial status.
Just before his departure he took some preliminary measures with regard to reforms to be introduced into his native land. He took with him the draft of a law that Jeremy Bentham had framed to establish the liberty of the press in Venezuela.52 Influenced by Bentham and Wilberforce, he evidently proceeded to South America with the intention to oppose slavery and the slave trade. The activities of Miranda as well as the political changes that were taking place in Spanish America stirred the interest of English manufacturers and merchants. "The joyful anticipation of mercantile adventurers also found their way into the newspapers," said an Edinburgh journalist, "and enthusiasts were not wanting, who, taking no lesson from experience, exclaimed with Dr. Price, 'Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.' "53
On October 10, 1810, accompanied by Thomas Molini, Francisco de Miranda left England without his family. Possibly he again traveled under the name of Martin. After sojourning a few days at Curaçao, he left for La Guaira on December 4 in the English sloop of war the Avon. His compatriot Simón Bolívar had preceded him. According to a letter which he sent to Marquis Wellesley, Miranda landed at La Guaira on December 11. After the Avon returned to Curaçao, the governor of this island sent word to Downing Street that p93 the junta of Caracas had appointed Bolívar a member of a committee to assure the returned native of its extreme pleasure at his safe arrival.54
On December 10 Miranda had addressed a letter to the junta of Caracas. Its secretary, Juan G. Roscio, replied that, in view of the patriotism that his negotiations in behalf of Spanish America had displayed and of the recommendations made by Bolívar and Méndez, the junta had granted him permission to proceed to the city of Caracas. The returning exile was, however, informed that a transformation had taken place in his native land: that the ancient tyranny had been replaced by a government which aimed solely to promote the happiness of the people; and that every citizen was convinced that his first duty was toward society. A suggestion was made that, as Miranda had enjoyed many more advantages than his compatriots by his residence at foreign courts, the obligations that he owed his native land were correspondingly greater. The tone of this epistle indicates that certain Venezuelans viewed the return of the famous exile with grave misgivings.55
On the other hand, there is no doubt that many of his fellow citizens received him with joy. An epistle from Caracas dated December 18, 1810, stated that General Miranda was given "that enthusiastic reception to which he is so justly entitled. A great number of the first citizens went down to La Guaira to escort him to his native place, which he entered about noon on Thursday last, mounted on a beautiful white charger." This letter added that Miranda was accompanied by "a numerous cavalcade of men of the first distinction; and followed by an immense crowd of citizens who greeted his return."56
On December 21, 1810, the Gaceta de Caracas stated that the people had welcomed the man who had not forgotten his native land despite the distinctions that had been showered p94 upon him in Europe. A few days later the cabildo of Valencia declared that the incriminatory documents about his revolutionary designs which had been lodged in its archives were concerned with "the decorous, irreprehensible, and wise Patriotism" of Miranda. On January 7, 1811, the cabildo of San Carlos congratulated the general on his happy return; it declared that his efforts to liberate his fellow countrymen deserved their "eternal gratitude." On February 4 the cabildo of Caracas announced that the acclamations of a people who had carried him in triumph to the heart of his country had demonstrated the pleasure caused by his safe arrival. The junta of Bogotá sent an address to Miranda avowing that he would purify these regions, which had been "stained by the blood of so many victims, offered up at the shrine of despotism." In a letter to Bello, the secretary of the Caracas junta stated that Miranda was soon accorded the rank and pay of lieutenant general, and that papers denouncing his revolutionary activities were burned.57
Still, there were some Venezuelans who did not hail Miranda's return with unmixed pleasure. Reflections made by Roscio indicate that a minority of the people of Caracas soon viewed Miranda's conduct with suspicion, dislike, or even hatred.58 In recollections of the revolution in Venezuela that were composed many years later a royalist named José Díaz stated that the most turbulent youth of Caracas viewed the illustrious exile as a man endowed with wisdom and as the only person who capable of governing the new nation. On the other hand, Díaz asserted that those persons who entertained moderate opinions soon looked upon him as a perilous being who might overturn the State.59 This antagonistic attitude did not improve after the patriots became aware that the returned native maintained a secret correspondence with persons in England.
p95 On the other side, a notice of his arrival in Venezuela soon found its way into the Correio Braziliense, which announced that he had been received by the junta "with most distinct honors."60 On January 7, 1811, Miranda wrote thus, in part, to Marquis Wellesley:
"The Government and the people of Venezuela have received me with great applause, friendship, and affection, conferring at the same time civic and military rewards; by which means I shall be able I hope, to have the influence required for the purpose of promoting the interests of Great Britain, as perfectly compatible with the welfare and safety of these Provinces.
"On my arrival at this Capital I did not fail in communicating to the Government, what the views and wishes of the British Government were, with respect to the safety of these Provinces, and the support they were at the same time bound to give to the Spanish Cause in the Peninsula. I found their sentiments perfectly in unison with Your Lordship's views and have no doubt but that they will continue following the same moderate course; notwithstanding the provocations and harsh proceedings of the Agents of the Spanish Regency at Puerto Rico, without which, no disturbance would have occurred at Coro or Maracaibo, — nor in this Capital, where their plots obliged the government to take coercive measures, far distant from their wishes, and the conciliatory spirit they were pursuing. * * * The Right Honorable Nicholas Vansittart * * * has my Power of Attorney; and as this country has already conferred upon me Military charges and duties, incompatible, I conceive, with any foreign emoluments, I beg Your Lordship would have the goodness to order the settling of the pecuniary arrangements proceeding from my Pension agreeable to the Memorandum I left, when I quitted England * * *."61
Miranda did not lose touch with his friends in London. From time to time Nicholas Vansittart sent him sage counsel p96 in regard to Venezuelan affairs. On March 7, 1811, Vansittart wrote urging his correspondent to send Méndez "frequent and detailed accounts" of occurrences in Spanish America, as people in England were puzzled by the contradictory reports that were being received. The discerning friend added this wise advice: "I hope your influence will be sufficient to repress any violence and controul any spirit of persecution, which may appear among your countrymen."62 After hearing reports of the execution of Spaniards at Caracas, Vansittart asked Miranda for an explanation of attendant circumstances. "I am sure," he opined, "that nothing would more indispose both our Government and the public here to any connection with you than an appearance of severity; or so much unite opinions here in your favor as measures of mildness and conciliation to all classes of inhabitants in your country." Further, he advised Miranda that the credit of Venezuela should be placed on a firm basis in London by regular remittances.63 Whatever responses the Venezuelan may have sent Vansittart have unfortunately not come down to us.
The adjustment of Miranda's financial relations with England formed an important topic of this correspondence. On July 3 the Englishman wrote to Miranda: "I have spoken several times to Mr. R. W. respecting your pension. He is not able to get a decided answer from his father, who seems however more inclined to reimburse the pension in the manner desired by you than to continue it. I believe it will be settled at last; but the time is uncertain, and it cannot be relied upon as an immediate resource."64 In the same connection Vansittart wrote to Miranda on August 19: "I have had several conversations about your pension with Mr. W. who appears to have the most friendly disposition towards you, but he has not been able to get his father to determine anything, though I proposed such an arrangement as I hoped would have removed his difficulties. You who know by experience how difficult p97 it is in this country to get any business done out of the common course will not be surprised that I have not yet succeeded."65
The South American also kept touch with Turnbull, Bentham, and Wilberforce. To Wilberforce he wrote that he found the feelings of the Venezuelans very sympathetic toward the reformer's "philanthropic sentiments."66 Through Jeremy Bentham an attempt was now made to bring Miranda into close relations with Aaron Burr. In the autumn of 1811, when that discredited conspirator had returned to England from a trip to the Continent, Bentham wrote to him with the intention of removing any dislike that he might entertain for the Venezuelan. With some reluctance Burr yielded to Bentham's desires.67 Hence, in January, 1812, James Mill indited a note to express the wish that the cause of Venezuela should have Burr for a friend and to suggest that Miranda should reply by a letter expressing a willingness "to enter into a reciprocation of good offices" with the American.68 Whatever dreams of coöperation between Burr and Miranda their mutual friends in England may have entertained, however, were soon destroyed by unexpected events.
Before describing the spectacular career of Miranda in Venezuela, let us notice the explanation which the English Government made about its relations with him. On June 5, 1811, Lord Liverpool wrote in disingenuous terms to John Hodgson, who had just been made governor of Curaçao:
"In the personal Communication which I had with you previously to your departure from this Country, I acquainted you that General Miranda had left England without intimating his intention to any Member of the British Government, and without even a suspicion on its part that he had left it until his arrival at Curaçao was notified to me by Brigr. General Layard and I assured you that it was not without great surprize and dissatisfaction that I learnt from that Officer p98 that General Miranda had been conveyed from Curaçao to the Carraccas in a British Ship of War.
"I have determined to take the earliest opportunity of repeating officially what I then communicated to you verbally, and of acquainting you that as the British Government had not the means of preventing or discouraging the enterprise into which General Miranda embarked wholly without their concurrence, they feel on that account still more desirous that you should abstain from any engagements or correspondence with him personally which might induce a suspicion either on the part of the Mother Country or the Spanish South American Provinces that General Miranda had been abetted by the British Government or encouraged by its connivance.
"With regard to the general line of conduct to be pursued by you, I must refer you to the Instructions which I have given to General Layard in the course of the Events that had taken place on the Neighboring Continent and to the assurances you have already received that it is the anxious wish of the Government of this Country to conciliate the differences between Spain and her Colonies to render available the common resources of both to the prosecution of that Contest which is their Common Cause."69
A few years later in refutation of the charge that England had acquiesced in the return of the exile, which was brought by the Minister of the restored Ferdinand VII, the English Ambassador at Madrid, Henry Wellesley, made this comprehensive disclaimer for his government:
"The next complaint relates to the permission which, in defiance of the repeated protests and representations of the Spanish Government, it is alleged was given to General Miranda to leave England. Don Pedro de Cevallos cannot be ignorant that the laws of Great Britain do not admit of any Individual being forcibly detained in the Country unless he shall commit an offence which shall render him answerable to those Laws. But it happens in this case that, at the instance of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, p99 General Miranda was induced to continue in England for a considerable period of time after he had made preparations for his departure, and when he did depart, so little was he encouraged by the Government to persevere in his enterprize, that upon his arrival at Caracas, he is known to have expressed his dissatisfaction at the conduct of His Majesty's Ministers, and to have publicly stated that no hopes were to be entertained by the Insurgents of assistance from Great Britain."70
In 1810 patriots in Spanish America caught a glimpse of the independence that Miranda had long predicted. To the Venezuelan exile the news of the formation of a governmental junta in his native city was a clarion voice that challenged him to battle for his ideals. Encouraged by reports brought to London by agents of colonists who secretly aimed at the separation of their countries from Spain, he decided to relinquish the monetary recompense that England had been paying him in return for past or potential service. He bade farewell to his comfortable home in London without any pledges from English ministers in regard to fiscal adjustments and voyaged to his native land in the wake of Simón Bolívar. The man who, for many long years, in good repute and ill repute, in both the New World and the Old, had preached a crusade for the emancipation of Spanish America with a fervor akin to that of Peter the Hermit, was now to essay to lead a band of new crusaders into the holy land of liberty.
In one way or another Miranda had transferred to his native city the bulky tomes that contained the constitutional projects which, as he fondly imagined, he had perfected for the government of the liberated Spanish-American colonies. Though he managed to keep up a correspondence with friends in England who were deeply interested in his fortunes and those of Venezuela, yet we know that the English Government instructed its agents in the West Indies not only that he should receive neither aid nor encouragement from Downing Street p100 but also that England now desired to reconcile with Spain those very colonies which, to use words attributed to Lord Melville, she had so often planned "to insurge." Still the wind seemed to be in the sails of the revolution.
Miranda was still suspected of cherishing a design to ascend a barbaric throne in the Spanish Indies. The available evidence would indicate that in 1810, as in 1797, he viewed England and the United States as the two nations from which his compatriots could most readily expect aid in the impending struggle against their Spanish masters. His study of existing conditions had led him to the conclusion that the cabildos or town councils would have to take lead in initiating the wars for liberation and that the great task would be forwarded by the convocation of regional congresses. There is little doubt that he still entertained the idea of forming an association or confederation of independent Spanish-American nations.
General Miranda had much changed in appearance and characteristics since the trying times of the French Revolution. By 1808 his hair had turned white. No longer was he animated by the unresting energy and abundant vitality of his young manhood; his iron constitution was corroding. In 1808 he suffered from at least one serious illness. At the dawning of the momentous year 1810 Miranda stood near the threshold of a distinct era of his adventurous career. By far the major portion of these years had been spent in foreign climes among peoples whose manners and customs were alien to his own people. In a European atmosphere he had received some outward marks and his personality had largely unfolded. Aggressive, ambitious, and dogmatic, scarcely as magnetic as of yore, Miranda had acquired a certain austerity of demeanor. This adventurous son of Caracas was not of a conciliatory disposition; he either attracted or repelled strongly. Harassing experiences and grievous disappointments had rather embittered his disposition than chastened his spirit. Yet, despite his years, he was still animated by a youthful and contagious enthusiasm for liberty. He dreamed that, escaping from the p101 toils of tortuous, Machiavellian diplomacy, he might saunter in the green pastures and lie down beside the still waters of his emancipated Fatherland.
1 Mir. MSS., vol. 62.
2 Miranda to Wilberforce, April 26, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
3 Times, July 2, 1810.
4 Ponte, Bolívar y otros ensayos, pp332‑35. However, this arrangement was disapproved by Lord Liverpool, who in a dispatch to Governor Layard, Jan. 19, 1811, informed that governor that commerce with the Spanish colonists would have to be carried out in accordance with Orders in Council, C. O., 66/3.
5 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
6 El Español, IV, 42.
7 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
8 July 2, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
12 Aug. 15, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
13 J. E. Sizo and F. A. Miranda to Francisco de Miranda, June 6, 1810, ibid.
14 Miranda to Sizo and F. A. Miranda, Aug. 3, 1810, ibid.
15 June 4, 1810, ibid.
16 Aug. 3, 1810, ibid.
17 Miranda to Peel, June 29, 1810, ibid.
18 Peel to Miranda, June 29, 1810, ibid.
19 Herries to Miranda, July 3, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
20 July 28, 1810, ibid.
21 W. O., 1/103. This dispatch is printed, with modifications, in Ed. An. Reg., vol. IV, pt. I, pp381‑82.
22 W. O., 1/103.
23 Walton, An Exposé on the Dissentions of Spanish America, Appendix, p. xxv.
24 "Instructions from their Highnesses the Supreme Junta of Venezuela to their Commissioners going to the Court of London," June 2, 1810, W. O., 1/104.
25 Rojas, Simón Bolívar, pp13, 14.
26 Mir. MSS., vol. 63. On the interest of the Duke of Gloucester in the cause of Venezuela, see further, Glenbervie, The Diaries of Sylvester Douglas, II, 129.
27 Robertson, "The Beginnings of Spanish-American Diplomacy," Turner Essays in American History, pp242‑46.
28 Robertson, "The Beginnings of Spanish-American Diplomacy," Turner Essays in American History, p247.
29 H. Wellesley to Marquis Wellesley, Aug. 29, 1810, Add. MSS., 37, 292.
30 Courteney to Miranda, "10 O'Clock, Wednesday," Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
31 Miranda to Tovar, July 19, 1810, ibid.
33 July 26, 1810, ibid.
35 Wilberforce, Life of William Wilberforce, II, 459.
36 Aug. 21, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
37 Enderby to Miranda, Aug. 7, 1810, ibid.
38 Ed. Rev., XIX, 20.
39 Aug. 4, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
41 O'Leary, Memorias, XXVII, 33‑34.
42 July 25, 1810, F. O., 72/103.
43 Aug. 11, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
44 Gaceta de Caracas, Nov. 20, 1810.
45 Aug. 29, 1810, Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
46 Mir. MSS., vol. 63.
47 F. O., 72/104.
48 Apodaca to Bardaxi, Nov. 26, 1810, A. G. S., estado, 8173.
49 S. L., 1245; Ad. M., series 2, vol. 3169.
50 F. O., 72/105; Robertson, Miranda, pp433‑34.
51 Robertson, Miranda, p434.
52 Bentham, Works, X, 457‑58.
53 Ed. An. Reg., IV, pt. I, p380.
54 Robertson, Miranda, p438, note f; Gaceta de Caracas, Dec. 11, 1810.
55 Rojas, Simón Bolívar, pp32, 33.
56 London Packet, March 6, 1810.
57 Robertson, Miranda, pp439‑40.
58 Amunátegui, Vida de Don Andrés Bello, p98.
59 Recuerdos sobre la rebelión de Caracas, pp30, 31.
60 Correio Braziliense, VI, 300.
61 F. O., 72/125; in part in Robertson, Miranda, p441, note c.
62 Add. MSS., 31, 230, ff. 206‑7.
63 Ibid., 31, 230, ff. 212‑14.
64 Ibid., 31, 232, ff. 73‑74.
65 Ibid., 31, 230, f. 216.
66 Wilberforce, III, 434, note.
67 Burr, Private Journal, II, 252, 287.
68 Ibid., p288.
69 C. O., 66/3.
70 Wellesley to Cevallos (copy), Feb. 4, 1815, F. O., 72/173. The complaint to which Wellesley replied was made to him by Pedro de Cevallos, Jan. 20, 1815, ibid.
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