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Chapter 21

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 23

Vol. II
p167
Chapter XXII

The Fateful Capitulation of San Mateo

In view of the fratricidal conflict that was being waged in Spanish America, the English Government had early suggested to Spain that its good offices might be employed between her and the revolutionists. This offer was partly due to a keen desire by England to conserve the trade that had been developing between her merchants and the Spanish colonists. In June, 1811, the Spanish Cortes agreed to allow England to act as a mediator on certain conditions. So far did these negotiations progress that a few months later the English Government appointed Sir Charles Stuart, John P. Morier, and Admiral George Cochrane to serve as commissioners for the mediation between the revolted colonists and Spain. To aid him in the execution of his mission Nicholas Vansittart forwarded to Stuart a letter of introduction to General Miranda. In addition Vansittart sent that commissioner "such particulars respecting the character and views of that officer" as he thought might be of service in the proposed negotiations.1 A copy of an unofficial memorandum concerning the South American Revolution that was prepared for the commissioners depicted the Dictator of Venezuela in colors which were not attractive. Miranda was denounced as the leader of a radical faction from which "no sort of conciliation" was to be expected. "The terror upon which they ground their power will not avail them for a long time, but the state to which they will have rendered the Country, is truly dreadful. * * * As terror has been their instrument of Power, Anarchy and Destruction will be their last resource when they find themselves in distress to preserve it."2

Commissioner Morier proceeded to Jamaica which he reached in March, 1812.3 Instructions prepared for the English  p168 commissioners by Lord Castlereagh on April 2 declared that England's desire in the proposed negotiations was "to see the whole of the Spanish Monarchy united in common obedience to their lawful Sovereign Ferdinand the Seventh, and the entire power and resources of the Monarchy in all parts of the world concentrated under a common Government and directed with unanimity and effect against the common Enemy."4 Meantime, however, a Cortes at Cadiz had promulgated a liberal Constitution which not only declared that the Spanish nation included all Spaniards in both hemispheres but also that the legislature was to include deputies from the Indies. However this Cortes did not wish to see Mexico included in the projected mediation on the ground that this Viceroyalty was not in rebellion when England proffered her good offices. Hence it declined to sanction the mediatory policy. Nevertheless rumors of this project for a reconciliation between Spain and her revolted colonies reached Miranda and influenced his policy during the fateful days that came upon Venezuela.

The crucial condition of affairs that resulted from the slave uprising, the surrender of Puerto Cabello, and the advance of Monteverde, dispirited the patriots. Nevertheless, as contemporaries suggested, the horizon became clear, and the conduct of General Miranda became less enigmatic.5 He decided to hold a conference with Venezuelan leaders.

On July 12 at Miranda's headquarters at La Victoria, there assembled two members of the National Executive Power, Francisco Espejo and Juan G. Roscio; the Secretary of War, José Sata y Bussy; the Director of the Finances, the Marquis of Casa León; and the Minister of Justice of the province of Caracas, Francisco Antonio Paúl. To them the generalissimo described the disastrous situation produced by the fall of Puerto Cabello and the occupation of the coasts of  p169 Choroní and Ocumare by the royalists, "less by force of arms than by the influence of perfidy, fanaticism, and fraud which instead of diminishing were increasing and offering new advantages to the enemy." He made clear that the patriots had neither received aid from other nations nor was there any prospect that they would receive such assistance. Further, some Venezuelan provinces were in the hands of the enemy, while others were not aware of their duties under the Constitution or were without arms with which to aid the confederate soldiers. He pointed out that in reality there were then free from occupation by royalist soldiers little more than those regions adjacent to the cities of Caracas and La Guaira. Let us read an extract from the document that embodied his decision as accepted by other leaders:

"Because of these reasons, because of the poverty of our armament, and the absence of any hope of foreign aid, I have decided to initiate negotiations with the commander of the enemies' forces. In the perilous circumstances in which Venezuelan liberty is placed this policy is imperative in order to secure the lives and properties of those persons who have not yet fallen into the hands of the enemy. We must propose an armistice and negotiate an agreement with the enemy that will stop bloodshed and assure peace according to the mediation offered by the generous English Government. They all agreed to the possession of the generalissimo; and its execution was left to his prudence and to his military and political genius."6

Accordingly on the same day Miranda, declaring that he wished to avoid the bloodshed which would accompany an obstinate struggle, proposed an armistice to Monteverde.7 In response the royalist commander stated that, in accordance with the desire of the Spanish Cortes, he also wished to avoid a bloody war. He declared that he was willing to engage in negotiations for an armistice but maintained that a cessation of hostilities ought not to hinder the advance of his soldiers  p170 who were moving by land and sea to occupy positions near the capital city. Further, Monteverde stipulated that a conference on this subject should take place at his convenience. To these conditions Miranda could not agree, but he commissioned Lieutenant Manuel Aldao to confer with the Spanish commander. As Monteverde expressed his desire to follow the humane policy recommended by the Cortes, on July 17 the Dictator authorized Aldao and Sata y Bussy to treat with him.

Their instructions provided that, an armistice being agreed upon, "the decision of the conflict should be left to those mediators selected by the court of England who were momentarily expected." The Dictator held that if this procedure was not followed, a treaty of peace might not conform to the instructions of the English mediators. Miranda proposed that if mediation was acceptable, then the patriot army should be allowed to re‑occupy the posts it had held when stationed at Maracay. "If this cannot be obtained," said he, "you will proceed to a decorous capitulation that will conserve the lives and properties of all persons who have promoted or followed the just cause of Caracas in these provinces and that will leave them in liberty to remain here or to depart and to dispose of their property within three months." The patriot commander also proposed that all prisoners of war should be set free and that the partisans of independence should not be molested because of their conduct or political opinions. To insure the security of those persons who contemplated leaving Venezuela, Miranda possessed that the opposing armies should remain in their present lines for thirty days. In the meantime the money of the Confederation should continue to circulate. The island of Margarita ought to be excluded from the capitulation in order that partisans of Venezuelan independence might there seek an asylum.8

Though the proposal for English mediation was not acceptable to the Spanish commander, yet at Valencia on July  p171 20 the patriot commissioners reached a partial and tentative understanding with him. All prisoners of war held by either party were to be declared free at once. In the territory that had not been reconquered persons and property should be protected. No one should be imprisoned or deprived of his property because of his political conduct. All persons who desired to leave Venezuela should be furnished with passports. Among the propositions of Monteverde which were not accepted by the patriots were demands that the former Captaincy General should be governed by the laws and regulations of Spain, that all the unconquered territory should be placed at his disposal, and that his proposals should be accepted within two days. To Miranda these seemed like hard terms from an unforgiving enemy.

In the belief that the acceptance of these terms would cause many evils, in the fear that the unfortunate inhabitants of the unconquered portions of Venezuela might justly have occasion to complain that he had made their torments heavier, and in the hope that the Spaniard might modify his demands, on July 22 Miranda appointed the Marquis of Casa León to continue the negotiations.9 Two days later Miranda agreed to an adjustment of the disputed points with Monteverde: soon afterwards he passed over to the royalist camp. On July 25, 1812, having consulted the National Executive Power, Miranda accepted Monteverde's terms; he appointed Colonel Sata y Bussy as agent to complete the arrangements.

According to the protocol which marked the climax of the negotiations, the agreement was reached that nothing in the treaty was to exclude Venezuelans from enjoying the provisions of the Constitution of Cadiz in regard to Spanish America. All inhabitants of territory that was unconquered by the Spaniards were to be considered as sacred in their persons and properties. A final and definitive act of capitulation was to be signed by Miranda and Monteverde in Caracas or wherever they might judge convenient.10 Shortly afterwards the Spanish  p172 commander transmitted to his government the protocol of the Capitulation of San Mateo. Careful scrutiny of its articles reveals the surprising fact that, although they were signed by a Spanish naval officer, yet they did not mention certain small vessels belonging to the patriots. Later explanations by Miranda show that by virtue of this omission from the capitulatory articles it was his intention to make possible the withdrawal from Venezuela of his unfortunate followers.11

By these articles the generalissimo of a revolutionary army of some four thousand five hundred men capitulated to an upstart loyalist who commanded forces that were evidently inferior in numbers. But the royalists were rapidly increasing in strength, while, largely because of desertions, the patriots were steadily dwindling away. Miranda's prestige had been injured by his dilatory policy; and his fondness for foreign military officers had increased the jealousy with which he was viewed by some of his comrades. Certain Venezuelan leaders indulged in the hope that by a vigorous stroke they might still emerge victorious.

Among Miranda's associates and contemporaries grave differences of opinion prevailed about the wisdom of the Capitulation of San Mateo. Some Venezuelans naturally questioned the authority of the Dictator to determine the fate of the new nation. The capitulation was thus interpreted by Austria:

"The spirit of the generalissimo was fatigued. Ever since the commencement of the campaign he had been censured because of plans that were more or less mysterious. He lacked support in public opinion for the exercise of his unlimited authority. He was keenly and justly irritated at the defection from the patriot cause of persons with fame and reputation, a defection that had been going on ever since the first uprising. He was oppressed by years. In fine, his fame and his person were threatened. Hence he conceived the project to lay down his arms and to restore a shameful peace to Venezuela through  p173 a negotiation with the Spanish commander that would subject her anew to the Peninsular Government. A terrible idea! A pusillanimous thought, — insufficient to save the dignity of the Republic and to extinguish the fire of liberty which patriotism had lit in one glorious day!"12

Alexander Scott, who had been intrusted by the United States with the shipment of provisions for persons who had suffered by the earthquake, was also unfavorably impressed by Miranda's conduct. On November 16, 1812, he wrote to Secretary Monroe as follows:

"Miranda by a shameful and treacherous capitulation surrendered the liberties of his country — Whether he was an agent of the British Government as he now states, or whether this conduct resulted from a base and cowardly heart, I cannot decide. As to myself, a short acquaintance with him convinced me that he was not only a brutal and capricious tyrant but destitute of courage, honor, and abilities. Thus has terminated this unfortunate revolution, nor has the evil ended here —"13

One of the most illuminating commentaries is that of Dr. Felipe Fermín Paúl, who witnessed the capitulation:

"The surrender of General Miranda was a mystery to all. It was said that he would sign the articles on shipboard. None of the officials in Caracas or La Guaira heard of the capitulation until after Spanish troops had occupied the territory. The anxiety and suspense in which everybody was placed inevitably provoked reactionary projects that were mainly directed against this chief because he had not lived up to the confidence that had been reposed in him, because he had acted against the general opinion of the people, and because he had compromised a multitude of citizens who were exposed to sufferings and outrages. Certain proceedings against Miranda in which there were involved some of the most illustrious supporters of the independence cannot properly be attributed to their lack of patriotism but rather to an irresistible impulse  p174 for their own preservation; they evidently calculated that, if their chieftain could save himself, they might command the same fortune."14

Comments on the Dictator's conduct were often colored because of events that occurred after the Capitulation of San Mateo was signed. Miranda was bitterly criticized because he had selected the Marquis of Casa León as his agent in the negotiations. Delpech stigmatized Casa León as a "traitor," —15 a judgment which is supported by the fact that the Marquis was rewarded for his conduct by the Spanish commander.16 The charge brought against Miranda that he betrayed his native land indeed hinges on his relations with that nobleman. Seventeen years after the Capitulation of San Mateo was signed, a striking formulation of this accusation was made by the royalist writer Díaz in his recollections of the Venezuelan rebellion. He presented the view that Miranda "meditated concerning the plight of Venezuela with the Marquis of Casa León about the necessity for a capitulation." However, the rebel chieftain represented to the Marquis that as he was "without means to return to England, he could not undertake what he wished." Casa León seized this opportunity: "he proposed to furnish Miranda with a thousand ounces of gold, and, when the latter accepted the offer, he at once informed me in order that I might remit a part of the gold to La Victoria, while the remainder was soon to follow to Caracas and La Guaira. In consequence negotiations for a capitulation were begun. * * * I sent two hundred and fifty ounces of gold to La Victoria."17

The view that the patriot leader was thus induced to betray his native land for selfish gain was elaborated by the Spanish historian Torrente. He alleged that "at the very  p175 juncture when the royalist commander took possession of the capital city Miranda went to La Guaira in order to embark, with the expectation of receiving seven hundred and fifty of the thousand ounces of gold which had been offered him to lay down his arms, and of which only two hundred and fifty had been sent to La Victoria by Don José Domingo Díaz."18 After Díaz had published his recollections, Felipe F. Paúl stated that León gave orders for money to the generalissimo which the latter never cashed.19 With the exception of this allegation which was repeated by Austria, there has not been found in the writings of contemporaries any support for the accusation that the Dictator surrendered because he was promised financial aid, unless indeed the fact, — which may have been attributable to other causes, — that in Miranda's property which was carried off from Venezuela there should have been, according to his own later statement, a thousand ounces of gold.20

While his agents were negotiating about a capitulation, the Dictator had arranged for the removal of his books, papers, and other property from Caracas to La Guaira. On July 15 Casa León informed Miranda that his trusted aide-de‑camp, Antonio Leleux, had cautiously conveyed most of his papers to that port; and on the following day the Marquis reported that other belongings of the Dictator had been likewise transferred. Apparently Leleux obtained assurances from Manuel María de las Casas, the military commander of La Guaira, that the Dictator's wishes concerning the disposal of his property would be obeyed. At the instance of Miranda, steps were also taken to secure for the use of Venezuelan patriots the Zeloso and other small vessels that might constitute a naval force.21 It was evidently in conformity with Miranda's wishes that on July 18 by order of Casa León ten thousand pesos in specie from funds belonging to the tottering Republic were  p176 delivered by Casas to an English merchant named George Robertson who planned to leave Venezuela.22 After the tentative Capitulation of San Mateo had been signed, twelve thousand pesos in specie were likewise delivered by Casas to the same merchant.23

Possibly the general may have intended for his own use the specie which was thus transferred to the English merchant. Yet it seems more likely that Miranda considered that he was consigning this treasure in virtue of the agreement by which he had been made Dictator of Venezuela. Evidently he had scrupulously refrained from any discussion with Monteverde about certain property of the Venezuelan Republic. George Robertson, who overheard a conversation between Captain Haynes and the Dictator, declared that "Gen'l. Miranda stated that the floating property of the State of Venezuela was not at all stipulated to be given up (he having carefully kept free of all discussions on that head) but that he intended it should afford a conveyance for the unfortunate Inhabitants to some friendly or allied Port."24 This statement harmonizes with an interpretation of Miranda's actions that was later made by Pedro Gual. He declared that in the course of his decision with the Dictator about a capitulation, Miranda thus forecast his future steps:

"Let us direct our views toward New Granada where I count upon Nariño who is my friend. With the resources that we can probably obtain in that Viceroyalty, and with the officers and munitions that we can take from Venezuela, we shall again regain Caracas without risking the dangers by which we are menaced at the present moment. It is necessary to allow Venezuela to recover from the effect of the earthquake and the depredations of the royalists."25

To the writer this interpretation seems quite credible. The  p177 idea of renewing the attack on the royalists from New Granada as a base was in accordance with the life-purpose of Miranda. Yet, as the Dictator did not make known his intention to all of his colleagues, when those patriots who were not aware of the real character of his negotiations learned that they were pledged to lay down their arms and to relinquish the unconquered portion of Venezuela to an inferior force of royalists, they naturally became disgusted.

Few of the distracted Venezuelans realized that their generalissimo was confronted by a dilemma: either to surrender to the royalists, or to resort to a desultory warfare by independent bands. The idea of becoming an irregular fighter, however, was presumably no less distasteful to Miranda than to Napoleon. The Venezuelan who had been trained as a professional soldier in European wars was not attracted by the alternative of guerilla warfare. In this respect he furnished a singular contrast with Bolívar.

On July 26, having intrusted the final arrangements of the capitulation to Sata y Bussy, General Miranda quietly withdrew from the headquarters of the Venezuelan army at La Victoria and proceeded to the capital city. He later declared that he duly informed the municipal authorities of Caracas of the terms of the surrender and that they gave that agreement their sanction.26 If this were true, it was extremely unfortunate for the general that, apparently awaiting a notice of the final adjustment of the terms of the capitulation by Monteverde and Sata y Bussy, he did not make it public. On July 28 Carlos Soublette, who was now acting as Miranda's aide-de‑camp, published an order of the day that provided for the disbandment of the patriot soldiers who were encamped near the capital city.27 The anxiety of the Dictator concerning his precious papers at this juncture is shown by the fact that on the same day Soublette sent a letter to Leleux that ran as follows:

 p178  "The general orders me to write to urge you again to pack properly his papers and maps that are in trunks. You are to have these trunks transported immediately to La Guaira and embarked upon the brig Watson which is soon to set sail for Curaçao. You are to address the trunks to the firm of Robertson and Belt who are to be directed to keep them in their possession. It will be necessary that you should yourself go to La Guaira in order that all this should be done with the greatest order and safety as a matter of much concern to the general. You shall likewise proceed to pack the books that are left in Caracas in order that they may be forwarded upon another occasion, if this should prove necessary."28

When the surrender was made known to the Venezuelans they scattered or destroyed their military stores and dispersed wildly over the country.29 The resulting disturbances did not facilitate negotiations with the Spanish commander about the remaining articles of the capitulation that were concerned with the surrender of military supplies and the relinquishment of territory unconquered by the royalists. It appears that those articles were never sanctioned by the fallen Dictator.30 In the end of July, 1812, Monteverde entered the distracted city of Caracas.

The air of mystery enveloping Miranda's departure from La Victoria as well as his failure to publish the terms of the surrender combined to provoke intense dissatisfaction among patriot leaders. Even before the jubilant royalists had entered the capital city, Miranda, who despite the express terms of the capitulation seemed unwilling to trust his own person to the mercy of his enemies, had departed from Caracas for La Guaira. The goal of disheartened patriots fleeing from the menace of Spanish conquerors, that port has not inaptly been compared to the Tower of Babel.

 p179  On July 29 there had opportunely arrived at that port His Majesty's brig Sapphire commanded by Captain Haynes. At the request of the Zeloso's captain, Haynes sent an officer and men on board that brig to maintain order until the capitulation became known. The English captain also found much consternation among English merchants at La Guaira because of an embargo that the patriots had laid upon commerce and a fear that Spanish troops might enter the city before the prohibition was lifted. Haynes accordingly wrote to Miranda to ask what steps he intended to take about English property that was afloat in the harbor. To this letter the Dictator replied from Caracas on July 30 to state that such property was not in the least danger as it was not only protected by the independent batteries of La Guaira but also by a solemn capitulation which had thus far been respected by the enemy. In conclusion Miranda expressed hope that Haynes would protect the patriots instead of augmenting their afflictions.31 On the same day Leleux embarked his master's books and papers on board the Sapphire. For greater protection this luggage was addressed to George Robertson of the English firm of Robertson and Belt of Curaçao with which Miranda had had business transactions.32 George Robertson on the same day embarked on the Sapphire twenty‑two thousand pesos that he had received from Miranda.33 Meantime there arrived at La Guaira other revolutionists, including José Antepara, Gregor McGregor, and Simón Bolívar, who planned to emigrate from Venezuela. It seems that the military commander of La Guaira originally intended to take refuge on the Sapphire under the protection of the British flag.

At eight o'clock on July 30 General Miranda reached La Guaira. Captain Haynes recorded that the general immediately declared the embargo at an end. "As soon as I could  p180 disengage him from the crowd, who encircled him," continued Haynes, "I informed him of my Officer and Crew being on board the Zeloso, and that as matters were so well arranged I should withdraw them. He entreated me not to do so and informed me that he had every reason to fear that I should have full exercise for my Humanity; that he did not expect the incidental arrival of a British Ship of War, and had consequently kept that Brig as the mainstay of the unfortunate adventurers who had embarked in the cause of Independence under him."34 The English captain urged the ex‑Dictator to embark on the Sapphire at once, but unfortunately he decided to pass the night on Venezuelan soil.

The momentous decision to remain on shore furnished the disgruntled compatriots of Miranda with the desired opportunity. Even before he reached La Guaira the military commander of that port had been in secret communication with Monteverde. On the other hand it seems that, after General Miranda reached the coast, Casas had solicited from him four thousand pesos of the specie which had been quietly embarked upon the Sapphire.35 After Miranda had unsuspectingly retired, Casas intrigued against him with certain patriots who had fled from the wrath of the Spaniards. Prominent among them was the former commander of Puerto Cabello, Simón Bolívar. These refugees felt that they were being betrayed, for their homeland was being given up to the royalists although the capitulation had not been ratified. It seems that certain patriots were further incensed because of Miranda's heated replies to their inquiries about the surrender. Insane with fury, they denounced their commander and vehemently demanded that he should be detained. They decided to seize him before dawn on the morning of July 31.36

We continue the sombre story by the aid of fairly well authenticated tradition. It appears that after placing pickets  p181 in the street and in Casas' house, conspirators led by Bolívar stealthily proceeded to the chamber in this house where Miranda was asleep in bed. The fatigued general seems at first to have expostulated to his new secretary, Carlos Soublette, at being awakened at so early an hour, but recognizing the voices of former comrades, he arose and soon appeared before the intruders in a challenging attitude. Bolívar then stepped forth and in a loud voice told the fallen chieftain of their decision that he was to be made a prisoner. By the light of a lantern held by Soublette, Miranda thereupon haughtily surveyed one after another of the conspirators who encircled him, and passionately ejaculated: "A tumult! A tumult! These people are only capable of stirring up tumults!"37 He relinquished his sword. Then the conspirators insolently escorted him to the castle of San Carlos.

A letter from Antonio Leleux, the officer to whom the Dictator had entrusted his treasured memorabilia, thus rehearsed the dramatic circumstances that happened after the capitulation:

"The Soldiers for the greatest part deposited their arms with the greatest reluctance; and the General came to La Guayra, to embark himself and go to Curaçao, having previously sent me with his books and papers, etc., to have them put on board an English vessel, and direct or accompany them if I found an opportunity before he came to Messrs. Robertson and Belt of Curaçao. Accordingº they were put on board H. M. S. Sapphire Capt. Haynes, and to secure the effects I thought prudent to make them out to Mr. Robertson, who was at that time at La Guayra, sure they would be respected as being British effects and the General arriving on the 30 in the evening spoke to Capn Haynes, telling him in presence of the Governor of Guayra that the embargo which had been laid for some time on the merchant vessels, was raised; and that they might all go, the next day intending himself to take his  p182 passage on board the Sapphire.

"The Governor of Guayra whose name is Casas, a mean man whom the Gl. had raised from the dust and loaded with favors, had with that indifferent coolness considered for a few days past, what line of conduct would be most advantageous to him. He nevertheless appear'd determined to follow the Gl. if he should order four thousand dollars in specie to be given him, out of twenty‑two thousand the Gl. had embarked as his private property. This was declined and he was only offered $800. on the ground that the Gl. having to provide for a great number, he could give but little to every one. Casas made no answer; but from this very moment determined to stay and make his peace with Monteverde. He caballed, intrigued, the very moment the Gl. went to bed, with some other malcontents and at three o'clock in the next morning he arrested the unsuspecting gl. who was quietly sleeping in bed, put [him] in a Castle, gave immediately advice of what he had done to Monteverde; ordered by his own authority those Vessels that had permission from Miranda, not to go out the harbor, sunk an English one that attempted it; detained every stranger and natives on Shore till the enemies entered the town."38

On the same morning a courier seems to have reached Casas with a peremptory message from Monteverde commanding him to prevent the patriots from sailing from the port.39 On July 31 the independent colors that had been flying over the forts at La Guaira were replaced by the Spanish flag.40 The military commander of that port had now definitely decided to cast in his lot with the royalists. Casas promptly laid an embargo on all vessels in the harbor and sent word of his proceedings to the Spanish commander. Further, he kept the patriot refugees inside the walls of the city until the advancing royalists had entered its gates. In a dispatch to his government Monteverde thus described the capture of Dictator Miranda:

 p183  "As soon as I reached Caracas I gave the most peremptory orders for the detention of the rebel leaders who were at La Guaira, but fortunately by the time that I reached that port, although I had marched with the greatest rapidity, Casas had with the advice of Peña and by the aid of Bolívar thrust Miranda into a prison and also detained all of his companions who were in that port. In this transaction Casas risked his life, which he would have lost if his orders had not been carried out. Peña and Bolívar ran a similar risk. Casas finished his task in a most satisfactory manner. He had previously disobeyed the orders of the Despot that he should place the Europeans and Canary Islanders of that vicinity on a pontoon that should be scuttled upon the slightest occasion. * * * I cannot forget the interesting services of Casas, nor those of Bolívar and Peña; because of these services I have not touched their persons, simply conceding to Bolívar passports for foreign countries; for his influence and connections here might be dangerous in the present circumstances."41

In this manner the future Liberator was able to escape to the West Indies. The betrayal of Miranda to his implacable enemies was a tragic incident which has besmirched the fame of certain Venezuelans. On their behalf it should be said that they could scarcely have been aware of Miranda's hidden motives. Of the three men who were primarily responsible for this foul deed, Peña, Bolívar, and Casas, only the civil commander of La Guaira died without making an attempt to explain his motives or to justify his conduct. However, it seems that Peña was disaffected to the patriot cause; for in ominous words he had recently asked the Dictator to be relieved of his post. It appears that when Simón Bolívar was complimented by Monteverde about his conduct at La Guaira, he responded that he had "seized Miranda in order to punish a traitor to his country, not to serve the King!"42 Many years later Colonel Wilson, the Liberator's aide-de‑camp, thus elucidated Bolívar's motives: "To the last hour of his life he rejoiced of that event,  p184 which, he always asserted, was solely his own act, to punish the treachery and treason of Miranda in capitulating to an inferior force, and then intending to embark, himself knowing the capitulation would not be observed." Wilson even asserted that Bolívar always gloried in the fact that he had "risked his own safety which he might have secured, by embarking on board a vessel, in order to secure the punishment of Miranda for his alleged treason. His plea was not altogether ill founded; for he argued that if Miranda believed the Spaniards would observe the treaty he should have remained to keep them to their word; if he did not, he was a traitor to have sacrificed his army to it. General Bolívar invariably added, that he wished to shoot Miranda as a traitor but was withheld by others."43

Because of reflections by Bolívar, who stigmatized his conduct in preventing the departure of the patriots from La Guaira as traitorous, at one time Manuel María de las Casas contemplated the publication of an exposition that would justify his conduct. As he was hospitably treated by the Liberator in 1827, however, Casas discarded this idea. Still, after Restrepo had characterized that commander as a most ungrateful and perfidious wretch, his relatives undertook to vindicate him.44 They composed a careful, documented defense of his conduct which at certain points was supported by letters embodying the recollections of Venezuelan patriots who had actually been at La Guaira on the fateful days following the Capitulation of San Mateo.

One of the most judicial of these letters was that of Juan P. Ayala who interpreted the action of the patriots as an attempt to detain the Dictator because of their "just suspicions" that he would not sign the capitulation "until after he had embarked, thus leaving all the patriots unprotected and compromised." Ayala made some wise observations that are worthy of notice. He declared that "almost all revolutions  p185 terminated in attempts of the participants to calumniate each other in order to justify and save themselves; that they were wont to cast in each others' faces in a vile manner the faults and political errors committed because of the factions formed among them to profit by revolutionary purposes and results. From these dissensions originated the calumnious accusation of treason to their country against Señor Casas and General Miranda. This ignominious idea had never occurred to them, especially to Miranda, except in so far as, being a man of strong character, he thought of carrying out plans of government that he cherished, — plans that were not suited to his compatriots."45 In our own times, however, a great-granddaughter of Casas spoke the truth when she said that his conduct was due to the fact that he was a royalist.46

In fine, the evidence indicates that at this crisis Casas was a traitor to Venezuelan independence. Peña had become a recreant to that cause even before Miranda reached La Guaira. As regards the ardent revolutionist Bolívar, — who in his afterthoughts seems to have utterly forgotten the disastrous effects of the loss of Puerto Cabello, — it is likely that he was animated by bitter resentment toward the fallen leader. "There are not lacking persons," said General Briceño Méndez, "who accuse Bolívar, because of the imprisonment of Miranda, of having wished to ingratiate himself with the Spaniards and obtain his own pardon at the cost of the life of his general; but the truth is that Bolívar had no other object than to avenge his country, and to avenge himself for the evil of having been detained in Venezuela so that he should fall a victim to the enemy."47 Because of his incarceration the ex‑Dictator was evidently not allowed a chance either to reject or to sanction the final articles of the fateful Capitulation of San Mateo. While meditating about the strange turn which the wheel of fortune had suddenly taken General Miranda must have felt that his long and arduous labors as apostle and  p186 promoter of Spanish-American independence had been rewarded by base ingratitude.

Meantime what had become of the Sapphire? Soon after Miranda had been betrayed, that brig escaped from La Guaira. A number of patriots who had prudently embarked on that vessel, including Antepara and McGregor, were accordingly transported to Curaçao.48 The actions of Captain Haynes, who claimed to have left that port while the Venezuelan flag was still flying over the castle, greatly provoked the Spanish commander who complained to the English admiral at Barbadoes.49 On August 9 in a letter to Pedro Labrador, the Spanish secretary of state, General Monteverde made the following accusation: "The chief of the rebels, the cursed Francisco Miranda, in his premeditated flight in conjunction with his companions has carried off the money that was left in an exhausted treasury and also a small amount of silver plate and jewels belonging to the churches which he could lay his hands upon as they had been collected because of the earthquake."50

Ten days later Monteverde addressed a protest to Governor Hodgson of Curaçao. Emphatically he demanded the property that Casas had transferred to George Robertson before Miranda's betrayal. Monteverde argued that the twenty‑two thousand dollars which had been carried off on the Sapphire was the property of the Spanish crown, and formed a "part of the Funds taken off by the Traitor Miranda, from La Guayra, after this Province was restored to the Dominion of my Sovereign." After asserting that Miranda and Robertson had combined to export these funds in a fraudulent manner, the Spanish commander added: "Very happily the Military Commander Don Manuel Ma. de las Casas who was appointed by Miranda to the Command of La Guayra (but already corresponded with me knowing that I was coming to take possession  p187 of said City from the Town of Victoria) had the very wise and prudent precaution to demand two obligations from Mr. Robertson for the said amount of Twenty‑Two Thousand Dollars which said Robertson obliged himself to pay to the order of said Casas on presenting said Documents." After informing Hodgson that he had sent an agent to Curaçao to receive these funds, Monteverde added: "He is likewise intrusted by me to take charge of the Boxes with Plate, Trunks, Packages, etc., containing the Interests of His Catholic Majesty carried by the said Ship Sapphire to your Island."51 In a letter to Lord Bathurst, who became secretary of state for war and the colonies in the Liverpool ministry that was formed in June, 1812, Governor Hodgson transmitted the correspondence which he had had with Monteverde about the boxes and trunks that had been transported by the Sapphire from La Guaira to Curaçao. The governor's explanation ran as follows:

"The Plate is claimed by a Don. S. Bolívar, but having been landed in a clandestine manner, it has been seized by the Collector of His Majesty's Customs, and is now under prosecution; several of the Trunks found empty at the seizure, report says, contained Church Plate when they were first landed; however no satisfactory proof on this point can be adduced.

"Miranda's correspondence with many distinguished Characters in Europe is inclosed in one of them, it is carefully preserved, and I beg to be honored with your Lordship''s orders respecting it, as well as the other subjects of this Letter.

"I am sorry to say that several Letters from very high Characters in England to Miranda, have been made public in this Island, with a view, no doubt, of disseminating the opinion that Great Britain is friendly to a Revolution in South America."52

Fortunately for Miranda's fame, there reposes in the English archives an explanatory list, which was prepared by customs officers at Curaçao in September, 1812, of the trunks and  p188 packages carried from Venezuela to that island which were "clandestinely landed from His Majesty's Sloop Sapphire and were not declared at His Majesty's Customs, first claimed as the private Luggage of George Robertson, Esquire, and now claimed by Foreigners."53 This lists clearly shows that two trunks bearing the name of Simón Bolívar contained some silver plate, that a portmanteau, a box, and a trunk bearing Miranda's initial contained atlases, books, and wearing apparel, while three other trunks bearing the initial "F. M." on a brass plate contained the bound volumes of Miranda's manuscripts.54 Some of the silver plate that was taken from Venezuela therefore seems to have been Bolívar's instead of Miranda's. The specie that was transported from La Guaira to Curaçao was, for the time being, retained by Robertson and Belt who maintained that the major portion of it rightly belonged to them because of debts incurred by the first Dictator of Venezuela. By direction of the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies the fallen leader's papers were soon carefully transported to England. A century later the author, to whom the present Lord Bathurst generously gave access to the papers of his famous ancestor, identified the sixty-three tomes as the lost manuscripts of Miranda.55

The English Government obviously realized the need of guarding the papers of the revolutioner who had so long lived on its bounty. On November 2, 1812, William Prince, the postmaster of Curaçao, informed the general postoffice at London that after Miranda had been betrayed he had "received a Letter and Some Packages of Newspapers" addressed to that general but that as it was not "deemed advisable to forward them as they would certainly come into the hands of the Spanish Government of Caracas, and perhaps be prejudicial to him," and as he had been instructed not to recognize "any Agents of the late Independent Government of Venezuela,"  p189 he desired to know what action he should take.56 On January 11, 1813, the secretary of the London postoffice transmitted "the Packet from London address to Gen'l Miranda" to the Foreign Office.57 An indorsement on Prince's letter signed with the initials of Henry Goulburn, under secretary of war and the colonies, reads thus: "When you get it let me see it."58 Unfortunately this mysterious packet, which was perhaps sent from 27 Grafton Street, has not come into our hands.

By virtue of a clause of the Treaty of San Mateo which provided that he should retain command in Venezuela until the treaty was carried into effect, Monteverde succeeded in maintaining control of the subjugated region, despite the arrival of Fernando Miyares, the captain general of Venezuela. On August 3 Monteverde issued a proclamation to the people of Caracas in which he declared that one of the proofs of the justice and the legitimacy of governments was good faith and exactness in the fulfillment of their agreements. He proclaimed that his promises were "sacred" and his word "inviolable." Yet he announced that his pledges did not extend to all epochs of Venezuela's unfortunate history; for they terminated at the moment when the capitulation was signed and sanctioned. "Subsequent occurrences," he maintained, "are included in another circle in which there should operate the absolute authority of the law and of your security."59 In spite of these assurances, however, eight prominent patriots, including Isnardi, Madariaga, and Roscio, were seized by order of the conqueror, cast into prison, and transported to Spain. To justify this proceeding Monteverde maintained, without presenting proof of his allegation, that these "eight monsters" had conspired to violate the Treaty of San Mateo.60 As a contemporary said, the shouts of liberty were thus replaced by the groans of slavery.

In a dispatch to the Secretary of State on October 1, 1812,  p190 Monteverde justified his proceedings. He took the view that, as a result of his measures, conditions in Venezuela had much improved. He maintained that he had not forgotten the promises made in the Capitulation of San Mateo, as he had set free some of the least blameworthy of the imprisoned Venezuelans under pledges for good conduct. "Nevertheless," he went on to say, "as there are a certain number of these prisoners whose opinions are well known, whose activities have been exceedingly notorious, and whose conduct even after the capitulation did not leave any doubt in the minds of faithful servants of the King respecting their conduct, I have arranged that they shall be kept safely until His Majesty deigns to make known his sovereign wish in regard to them."61 In a letter to Secretary Monroe dated November 16, 1812, Alexander Scott described the policy that Monteverde had adopted toward the unfortunate Venezuelans. "A system of proscription, sequestration, imprisonment, and cruelty almost unexampled, has been adopted and practiced toward the unhappy republicans — Loaded with irons, and deprived of the necessities of life, many have fallen victims to the contaminated air of crowded dungeons, noxious in all countries, but doubly fatal in a climate like this —"62

On October 21, a communication was read to the Spanish Cortes from the Secretary of the Navy that announced "the submission and pacification" of Venezuela and the imprisonment of "the rebel Miranda" and some of his partisans. At the motion of José M. Calatrava, the Regency was instructed to inform Monteverde of the great satisfaction with which the legislators had learned "the happy result" of his measures for the pacification of Venezuela.63 The Spanish Government thus gave the Treaty of San Mateo its tacit approval.

In December, 1812, after publishing the liberal Constitution that had been formed for Spain by the Cortes of Cadiz,  p191 General Monteverde directed a junta to prepare a list of Venezuelans who were dangerous to public security or who were suspected of disloyalty and to include those who had participated in "the criminal act of April 19, 1810." A royalist writer estimated that as a result some fifteen hundred persons were incarcerated.64 Certain patriots likened Monteverde to a ravening wolf. In consequence of the violation of his public pledges by the Spanish commander many maledictions fell upon the head of the captive Venezuelan leader. On April 8, 1814, Simón Bolívar, who had been proclaimed the Liberator of Venezuela, declared that the shameful Capitulation of San Mateo was not the work of Monteverde but the result of circumstances and of the cowardice of the commander of the Venezuelan army.65 In his manifesto addressed to the nations of the world, the Liberator denounced his former comrade by declaring that in 1812 the "only force which restrained Monteverde was unfortunately commanded by a chief, who, obsessed by ambition and violent passions, either did not recognize the risk or else wished to sacrifice to his own feelings the liberty of his country. Despotic and arbitrary to excess, not only did Miranda make the soldiers discontented but he disorganized all the branches of public administration."66 Yet, on the other hand, when Madariaga was summoned from a Spanish prison cell to answer certain questions he declared that the Treaty of San Mateo was negotiated by the Dictator of Venezuela with the consent of the magistrates of that country and the universal approval of the inhabitants.67 The truth evidently lies between these two extreme views.

Divers opinions have been expressed about Miranda's conduct by Spanish-American writers. These verdicts have varied according to their notions of the imminence of the peril which in July, 1812, confronted the Republic of Venezuela, and according to the conceptions that their authors entertained of  p192 Miranda's character. A Venezuelan patriot who linked the Capitulation of San Mateo to earlier chapters of the revolutionist's life later maintained that Miranda was more disposed to be a faithful interpreter of the policy of the English cabinet than to consecrate himself to the cause of Venezuelan liberty.68 Contemporaneously, however, J. P. Morier, who had returned to England from the West Indies whither he had gone on a fruitless mission as a commissioner of the projected mediation between Spain and her colonies, thus expressed his views: "The progress of the revolution in the Caracas has for the moment been arrested by the success of General Monteverde. But the little good faith, observed by him in the Treaty of Capitulation with Miranda, has tended as little to reëstablish the Credit of the Royal Party, as it has that of Miranda individually, who is now universally abhorred as having by that Treaty, surrendered the Cause he had pledged himself to support."69 Certain Spanish historians have not been able to refrain from denunciations of the rôle played by Bolívar: they have characterized him as a false friend, and have intimated that he desired to ingratiate himself with Monteverde.

It is worth while to quote the verdict of certain foreigners who were serving under the patriot banner, for their judgments are less apt to be biased by prejudice than those of either Spaniards or Venezuelans. In a memoir by two Frenchmen concerning the Venezuelan revolution they stigmatized the generalissimo as a traitor both to Venezuela and to Spain. "In an intent," they wrote, "Miranda lost the fruit of thirty years of intrigues, his honor, and his liberty. Such is the deplorable fate of political adventurers."70 Delpech thus vented his spleen in a précis addressed to Molini: "Finally, my friend, everything became ignominy, confusion, and vileness; this immoral and despicable people richly deserve chains and humiliation. So much shame could only be covered by an earthquake  p193 that would swallow them up in its abyss." In justificatory words Delpech declared that much "time would be needed to respond to the calumnies, the sophistries, and the outrages" with which people had overwhelmed Miranda, and to struggle with "the multiform hydra of imposture, fanaticism, and ignorance." In an interpretative spirit he added that the public generally judged events by their results: "they have said that Miranda was a traitor because the villain Monteverde infringed the capitulation, and all the people of property have been delivered up to the assassinous dagger of the infamous Spaniards. But without discussing these unfounded assertions, I venture to believe that, if Miranda had been a traitor, he would certainly not have deceived himself by partaking of the fate of those whom they said he sold to Monteverde. If I did not have the conviction that he was incapable of such a base action, I would say that it is impossible, that a man who laboured all his life for the independence of America was able at the end of his career to forget this glorious enterprise, to stain his white hair, and to dishonor forever his memory in descending to the tomb, and in return for so much ignominy and crime to receive no other recompense than chains and death."71

The policy of Monteverde was not altogether negative. He speedily selected the Marquis of Casa León to take charge of the fiscal administration of the colony as intendant. He soon reëstablished the audiencia of Caracas. In accordance with Spanish law and custom he ordered all foreigners to depart from Venezuelan soil. So arbitrary were certain measures of Monteverde that occasionally even the Spanish Government could not refrain from censuring his conduct; for he assumed that the former Captaincy General should be treated like a conquered province. In particular, Monteverde's disregard of the Treaty of San Mateo aroused a vengeful spirit among South Americans. Its wanton violation was sometimes cited by Venezuelan leaders as a justification for the war to the  p194 death which subsequently raged in their country between patriots and royalists. Even the unfortunate, unforeseen results of Miranda's greatest failure thus stimulated among the people of northern South America that love of liberty which had been the obsession of his mature life.

To the writer it seems that in agreeing to the Capitulation of San Mateo, the first Dictator of Venezuela was influenced by the idea that such a course was the best policy which he could adopt for the welfare of his native land. In the succession of calamities that had befallen the new State he found ample justification for the negotiation of a treaty so generous to the vanquished. After the fall of Puerto Cabello, in view of the desertions from the patriot army and the increase of Monteverde's forces, the prospect of victory for the Venezuelans steadily declined. Miranda's judgment may be questioned but not his patriotism.

Available sources for the study of this period indicate that some Venezuelans were not truly converted to the cause of independence while many others were anxious to be enrolled on the winning side rather than on the side that was fighting for liberty. In view of the circumstances Miranda could scarcely be blamed if he had lost confidence in the military efficiency of his raw recruits.

Then, too, in justice to the Venezuelan patriots, it should be stated that they did not all cheerfully submit themselves to the domineering leadership of a son of Caracas who had long lived on foreign gold. Not the least of Miranda's mistakes, — at least in the eyes of his countrymen who knew little or nothing of his long duel with the ubiquitous agents of Spain, — was his inexplicable decision to await neither at his military headquarters nor in the capital city the termination of the definitive negotiations for peace. The epic of his life supports the interpretation that, animated by a keen desire to avoid falling into the merciless clutches of those inveterate foes who had persecuted and hunted him since 1783, he had resolved to leave his post. It was an ironic fate that consigned the apostle and promoter of Spanish-American independence to  p195 a Spanish dungeon as a result of the unworthy measures of his own compatriots. This débâcle presents some resemblance to the downfall of José Artigas, the enigmatical hero of the revolution in Uruguay, who, after being routed by the traitor Francisco Ramírez, relinquished the struggle for independence and passed his last years as an exile in Paraguay.

The repeated attempts of Francisco de Miranda to establish the liberty of his native land terminated in a tragedy. Nevertheless the last effort of the revolutionary promoter to establish a free state in Spanish America had not been altogether in vain. Venezuelans like Bolívar and Sucre, who under his leadership had received training in warfare against the royalists, became the champions of a new struggle for independence. That war was waged while Francisco de Miranda was fretting his life away in lonely prison cells.


The Author's Notes:

1 Stuart to Vansittart, May 8, 1812, Add. MSS., 31, 230, f. 236.

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2 "Memorandum of the Revolutions of Caracas and Buenos Ayres," endorsed "Mr. Blanco," F. O., 72/124.

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3 Morier to Wellesley, March 14, 1812, ibid., 72/156.

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4 F. O., 72/124.

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5 Poudenx and Mayer, Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire de la révolution de la capitainerie générale de Caracas, p81.

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6 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp738‑39.

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7 Ibid., pp739‑40.

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8 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp740‑45.

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9 Ibid., pp745‑48.

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10 Ibid., pp750‑53.

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11 Statement of G. Robertson, July 31, 1812, F. O., 73/153.

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12 Bosquejo de la historia militar de Venezuela, pp148‑49.

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13 Manning, Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, II, 1160.

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14 Casas, Defensa documentada de la conducta del comandante de La Guaira, p35, note.

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15 "Relation succincte des évènements dernièrement survenus à Caracas par L. Delpech de Caracas," Feb. 27, 1813, F. O., 72/151.

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16 Robertson, Miranda, p472, note a.

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17 Díaz, Recuerdos sobre la rebelión de Caracas, p47.

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18 Historia de la revolución hispano-americana, I, 308.

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19 Casas, p35, note.

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20 Miranda to Vansittart, May 21, 1814, Add. MSS., 31, 231, f. 74.

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21 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp392‑94.

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22 Casas, pp32‑33 and note.

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23 Receipt, July 30, 1812 (copy), F. O., 72/153.

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24 Statement of G. Robertson, July 31, 1812, copy, ibid.

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25 Blanco, Documentos para la historia de la vida pública del libertador, III, 761.

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26 Rojas, El general Miranda, pp754‑56.

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27 Ibid., p699.

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28 Rojas, op. cit., pp699‑700. Recently the inference has been made that Leleux was a son of Miranda, see Gonzáles, "Tras la pista de Leleux," in Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, X, 196‑98. Leleux dropped no hint of such relationship when in 1815 he conversed with Lord Glenbervie about his former commander, see Glenbervie, The Diaries of Sylvester Douglas, II, 194‑95. Neither has any evidence to support this absurd view been found in the Mir. MSS.

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29 Rojas, op. cit., p756.

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30 Ibid., pp756‑59.

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31 Haynes to Stirling, Aug. 4, 1812, with inclosures nos. 2 and 3, Ad. R., 1/263.

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32 Captain Haynes's Log, July 30, 1812, S. L., 1245.

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33 Robertson's receipts, July 26 and 30, 1812, translations, W. O., 1/112.

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34 Haynes to Stirling, July 31, 1812, Ad. R., 1/263.

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35 See infra, p182.

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36 Austria, pp159‑60, 163‑64.

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37 Becerra, Ensayo histórico documentado de la vida de Don Francisco de Miranda, II, 263; Documentos históricos sobre la vida del generalísimo Miranda, pp97‑98.

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38 Leleux to Vansittart, Aug. 26, 1812, F. O., 72/140; in part in Robertson, Miranda, p475. Leleux's later account of the commission with which Miranda intrusted him is found in Glenbervie, II, 194‑95.

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39 Austria, pp160‑61.

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40 Captain Haynes's Log, July 30, 1812, S. L., 1245.

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41 Robertson, Miranda, p528.

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42 Larrazábal, Vida y correspondencia general del libertador, I, 138.

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43 O'Leary, Memorias, XXVII, 75‑76, note.

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44 Historia de la revolución de la república de Colombia, III, 141.

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45 Casas, p64, note.

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46 Rivas Vicuña, Las guerras de Bolívar, p86.

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47 Austria, p164.

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48 Haynes's "List of Passengers," Aug. 3, 1812, W. O., 1/112.

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49 Monteverde to the secretary of state, Aug. 7, 1812, A. G. S., estado, 8174.

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50 Robertson, Miranda, p477, note b.

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51 "Copy of a Translation," W. O., 1/112.

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52 Sept. 27, 1812, ibid.

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53 Lloyd and De Larrey, "List of Trunks, Packages, etc.," undated, inclosure in Hodgson's letter to Lord Bathurst, Sept. 27, 1812. W. O., 1/112.

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54 Ibid., Miranda, Diary, p. xxii.

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55 Miranda, Diary, p. xxvi.

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56 F. O., 72/150.

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57 Ibid.

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58 Ibid. In regard to the return to Vansittart of certain letters that he had written to Miranda, see Miranda, Diary, p144.

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59 Blanco, III, 708.

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60 Ibid., pp710‑12.

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61 A. G. I., audiencia de Caracas, 133‑3‑12.

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62 Manning, op. cit., II, 160.

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63 Diario de las discusiones y actas de las cortes, XV, 472.

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64 Blanco, IV, 117.

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65 O'Leary, XIII, 178‑79.

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66 Blanco, IV, 11.

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67 Robertson, Miranda, p478, note c.

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68 Austria, p162.

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69 Feb. 13, 1813, to Castlereagh, F. O., 72/156.

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70 Poudenx and Mayer, Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire de la révolution de la capitainerie générale de Caracas, pp83‑84.

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71 "Relation succincte des évènements dernièrement survenus à Caracas par L. Delpech de Caracas," Feb. 27, 1813, F. O., 72/151.


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