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Chapter 22

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

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

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Chapter 24

Vol. II
p196
Chapter XXIII

Captivity in Spanish Dungeons

On July 31, 1812, an accusation had been framed against General Miranda by Casas charging that he had conspired to leave Venezuela without having completed and published the Capitulation of San Mateo. After Monteverde took possession of La Guaira the captive was taken from the castle of San Carlos and thrust into a dungeon. Rumors were soon circulated in the West Indies that he was being examined by a commission of Spanish officers.1 In a vile prison, loaded with chains, "up to his ankles in water,"2 deprived of all communication, and in fear of being poisoned, Miranda was for a time reduced to subsistence on bread and water. It was presumably his son Leander who described the conduct of the Spaniards in these words: "Deaf to the common dictates of humanity, they chained this martyr to the cause of liberty to the floor of the prison in which he was confined."3

The other side of the shield is presented in the correspondence of the royalist commander. In December, 1812, Monteverde wrote to the Spanish Secretary of War and stated that to keep Miranda a prisoner in Venezuela was very dangerous to public tranquillity. The commander urged that the prisoner of state should be transported to Spain at once.4 On January 20, 1813, in another letter to the same Minister the conqueror gave the fullest interpretation of his conduct after the Capitulation of San Mateo which has come into our hands. Monteverde declared that he had thrust the insurgent leaders into dungeons in order to free Venezuela of "these dangerous men," revolutionists by habit and ambition, who had brought many misfortunes upon their country. In regard to the conquered people, he wrote that each day he was more and more undeceived  p197 in regard to their disposition. "They will do nothing for mild and gentle treatment," he said, "and any punishment administered to them ought to be accompanied by a certain amount of force which will make the Government respected and which will prevent vengeance from those who are punished. This condition explains why, on entering this city, not finding myself with sufficient troops, and dreading to undertake their subjugation with my soldiers, who were engaged at that juncture against the uprising of the negroes of Curiepe since happily subdued, I did not have Miranda and other revolutionists who were imprisoned on their departure from La Guaira — revolutionists who had planned to flee with him and to abscond with property of the State — judged by a military tribunal and shot. This condition explains why I had to dissimulate and regretfully to give passports to three or four Venezuelans in spite of all my fears."5

Early in 1813 the ex‑Dictator was transported from La Guaira to Puerto Cabello where he was cast into another dungeon. He was confined in a cell of the fortress of San Felipe, the very castle that had witnessed Vinoni's betrayal of the patriot cause. On March 8, when a commissioner of the audiencia of Caracas was inspecting the prisoners who were rigorously confined at Puerto Cabello, he visited that castle. In his official report the appears the following entry: "Another vault: Don Francisco de Miranda, who has been a prisoner for the space of eight months or thereabout, in chains; his case pending in the audiencia."6

Soon afterwards a report reached Curaçao that Miranda's condition had been somewhat improved, as his friends had been allowed to furnish him with provisions. A rumor was also circulated in this isle that during an examination the prisoner of state had declared that he was "a General in the British Service, and that he had acted under the orders of that Government."7 Although presumably ignorant of the strange  p198 stories in circulation about him, yet Miranda deemed it wise to address a petition to the colonial authorities. On May 19, when the governor of Puerto Cabello was making a visit to the dungeons of San Felipe, this prisoner who was confined to one of its upper cells implored him for permission to have authentic copies made of two memorials that he had prepared for the audiencia of Caracas. After describing the events that preceded the Capitulation of San Mateo, in a memorial dated March 8, 1813, Miranda explained his conduct in the campaign of 1812.

"The events of this campaign are so notorious that I shall not analyze them. I shall only say that Venezuela, recognizing the imminent peril to her security, by a general and spontaneous act of all her authorities, appointed me generalissimo of her soldiers and invested me with all the supreme authority that she possessed. I used this authority, it appears to me, with all the honor and zeal in my power, and exercised all my resources to procure a happy outcome. Yet, in spite of the repeated successes that our arms obtained at the port of Guayaca and the town of La Victoria, on the other side I was convinced of the calamitous condition to which the capital city and the port of La Guaira had been reduced because of the lack of provisions, and because of the sudden invasion which was made at that time by slaves from the valleys and coasts of the northern region. Stimulated by offers of liberty made by our enemies, they had begun to perpetrate at Guatire and at other places the most horrid assassinations. These events made me realize that it was absolutely necessary to adopt a policy dependent upon my honor and responsibility which would avert those awful evils, which would restore peace and tranquillity to the people, which would in some manner repair the disasters caused by the earthquake, and which, in fine, would reconcile Americans and Europeans so that in the future they might form one society, one family, and one interest. Thus Venezuela would furnish to the rest of the Continent an example of her political views; she would show that she preferred an honorable reconciliation to the calamities of a desolating civil war."8

 p199  The petitioner asserted that this idea had been approved by the chief citizens of Caracas, and that, after a short armistice, a Treaty of Capitulation was negotiated, printed, and distributed in the province of Caracas. In consequence the patriot soldiers laid down their arms and the Venezuelans submitted to a new order. "With what pleasure," proceeded Miranda, "did I flatter myself that I had fulfilled my duties with the greatest satisfaction, when in the midst of disastrous circumstances I ratified with my signature a treaty which was so beneficent and advantageous to the public good, a treaty which was sanctioned with all the formalities known to the law of nations, a treaty which Great Britain would also view with pleasure because of the conveniences that her ally gained, a treaty which, in fine, would open to peninsular Spaniards a secure and permanent asylum, no matter in what mode the struggle that they were waging with France might terminate. Such were my ideas, such my sentiments, and such the firm bases of this pacification that I proposed, negotiated, and brought to a proper end."9

Miranda then expressed surprise that at the very juncture when Spain announced that the Treaty of San Mateo was inviolable, he beheld her government infringing that capitulation, and "conducting various persons to prison who had been arrested arbitrarily or by sinister and tortuous means." He declared that these excesses stimulated the passions of certain persons who merely sought an excuse to unbridle them. "Denunciations multiplied," he continued, "political opinions which had been entertained before the signing of the armistice and which had been consigned by that contract to oblivion were now described as crimes against the State, and finally by inter-relating certain crimes the Spaniards prepared the lists of an almost general proscription." The ex‑Dictator alleged that to justify those crimes various pretexts were maliciously trumped up. He thus described the treatment of the hapless victims:

 p200  "All these prisoners were conducted to the port of La Guaira. Some victims mounted on beasts of burden were tied hand and foot on pack saddles. Others were driven on foot. All were threatened, outraged, and exposed to the indignities of the persons who escorted them; while in transit they were even prevented from responding to the demands of nature. They presented to spectators objects most worthy of interest and compassion.

"Then with horror I beheld scenes repeated in Venezuela which my eyes had witnessed in France. I saw arrive at La Guaira droves of men belonging to the most illustrious classes, who were treated like bandits. I saw them buried near me in those terrible prisons. I saw both rich and poor, venerable old men, tender maidens, artisans, and even priests bound with chains and condemned to breathe the mephitic air that extinguished artificial light, contaminated the blood, and inevitably prepared the way for death. Lastly, I saw sacrificed to this cruelty citizens distinguished for probity and talent who perished almost immediately in those dungeons, not only deprived of the aid that humanity dictates for the alleviation of physical suffering, but also deprived of the spiritual succor prescribed by our holy religion, and dying in the arms of their comrades, — citizens who would a thousand times rather have died with arms in their hands when they generously capitulated than have submitted to such outrages."10

In the midst of such occurrences, added Miranda, there was promulgated in Venezuela "the wise and liberal Constitution" which had been sanctioned by the Cortes. Yet instead of dungeons being opened and tranquillity being restored, other unfortunate persons of all classes and ages were cast into prison. The ex‑Dictator then asked whether this policy of prescription could be in conformity with the intentions of Spain. He stated that the Spanish Government had avowed principles that were diametrically opposed to those which were now being followed in Venezuela. "In such critical circumstances," he urged, "I claim the empire of the law, I invoke the judgment  p201 of the entire world, and, above all, I appeal respectfully to the authority of Your Highness in whose hands there resides exclusively and constitutionally the supreme judicial power of this district, who are the organ of the laws and the instrument for their application: to Your Highness, I repeat, I address my pleas for the first time in defense of the people of Venezuela who have not done anything since the capitulation to justify the Spaniards in treating them as criminals. My own honor, highly compromised in favor of their security and liberty, demands rigorous justice; a wise policy inculcates this, sane morality prescribes it, and reason dictates it! Otherwise I shall appear to be the most despicable being in the sight of the entire universe!"11

This appeal was duly presented to the audiencia of Caracas. "From Puerto Cabello," said José F. Hereida, regent of that tribunal, "I sent vigorous representations to the audiencia that it should take cognizance of Miranda's case in order that Spanish honor might not be stigmatized as Punic faith."12 But these efforts were in vain. Still it appears that in May, 1813, the prisoner's condition was somewhat improved. A report was circulated in Curaçao that his fetters had been removed.

Early in the following month victories won by Simón Bolívar, who had led patriots into Venezuela from New Granada, gradually forced the royalist soldiers to retreat toward the city of Caracas. A prospect that the inveterate revolutionist might be liberated by his own compatriots evidently frightened Monteverde; for he suddenly decided to transport Miranda to the West Indies. "With another officer who at that time was imprisoned in the castle of Puerto Cabello, I was seized," said Miranda, "on June 4 in the dead of night, without our friends or agents being given any notice, hurried on board a small vessel, and conveyed precipitately to Puerto Rico. When we inquired of the governor of that island, who received us with proper humanity, the reason for our deportation,  p202 he informed us, without mentioning any specific cause, that we had been transferred by direction of the Captain General of Venezuela, and that we were to remain there until the receipt of new orders."13

On the following day a Spanish colonial official sent a note to the Secretary of War that explained the slow procedure of the audiencia of Caracas in respect to Miranda. He reported that this case had been opened on November 3, 1812, by a judge of that tribunal, as a result of an order from the Captain General. A demand was made for additional documents, especially those dealing with the sentence passed upon the filibuster in 1806. Meantime a charge had been framed by the faithless Casas to justify the seizure and incarceration of the fallen Dictator at La Guaira on the suspicion that he was about to flee from Venezuela without concluding and publishing the Capitulation of San Mateo. Delay in the prosecution of Miranda was inevitable, it was declared, because of the multitude of criminal cases pending before the audiencia. Further, the conclusion of this case was not deemed urgent because from its very inception Monteverde had shown that he wished to have the chief conspirators transported from the country.14

At Puerto Rico the prisoner of state was confined in Morro Castle. There he framed a memorial to the Spanish Cortes. In that document, which was dated June 30, 1813, he declared that two events had incited him to protest: first, the infringement of the treaty of San Mateo by Monteverde; and second, the scandalous violations of the Spanish Constitution in Venezuela. As an illustration of these violations he mentioned his deportation from Puerto Cabello to Puerto Rico. He maintained that, if there were any charges against him he should be tried by the audiencia of Caracas, as provided by the Constitution, and that, if there were no accusations against him, he should be set free. He argued that the Capitulation of San  p203 Mateo should be fulfilled, that the Spanish Government should appoint impartial officials who would observe it, and that the Constitution should be enforced throughout Venezuela. With indignation he declared that the policy which the Spaniards had followed in regard to his native land was more in conformity with the rules of the Inquisition than with the clauses of the Constitution. He asserted that Monteverde had persisted in violating the terms of the solemn Treaty of San Mateo with the exception of a single clause which he as patriot commander had never ratified. The adaptable mood of the fallen Dictator is shown by the fact that while declaring that, although his devotion to the cause of human liberty was notorious, yet he congratulated Spain upon the Constitution that had been drawn up at Cadiz. He avowed that he now considered himself "as one of those liberal Spaniards who sincerely desire the triumph and prosperity of truth liberty in both hemispheres." He maintained that all Liberals, "whether Americans or Europeans, wish to be free and equal in rights." The responsibility for the failure to bring about a reconciliation between Spain and the Indies he laid at the door of those Spanish officials who oppressed the colonists.15

This appeal for justice and reconciliation from Miranda undoubtedly reached the Spanish Cortes. Comments written in Spanish fashion on the margins of the petition indicate that in September and October, 1813, it was successively referred to three committees of the Cortes which was in session at Cadiz: the committee on memorials, the judicial committee, and the committee on legislation. The last endorsement by a Spanish official on this memorial dated at Madrid, March 19, 1814, reads, "the Rebel," and, after giving a summary of his plea, the statement is made that the matter was then pending before the legislative committee.16 On that very day the ex‑generalissimo of Venezuela," as he subscribed himself, again petitioned that the capitulation which he had made with Monteverde should be fulfilled. He also asked that impartial  p204 judges should be appointed to see that the Constitution of 1812 was observed in Venezuela.17 Any action on these petitions was effectively prevented, however, by the policy of Ferdinand VII who, upon being restored to the Spanish throne on the downfall of Napoleon, promptly incarcerated the leaders of the Cortes, and discarded the liberal Constitution. Fairly to present the case of Spain, we should notice that during the following year Pedro Cevallos, the Spanish secretary of state, extenuated his Government's policy toward the Venezuelans by the technical plea that as the Capitulation of San Mateo had never been sanctioned by the insurgents it had no binding force.18

In the meantime Miranda's friends and acquaintances in England had become aware of the tragic results of his revolutionary activity. On October 5, 1812, the English government published a notice of the surrender of the Venezuelan patriots and of Miranda's imprisonment. This news was translated into Portuguese and printed in the Correio Braziliense.19 On October 12 Luis López Méndez appealed to Lord Castlereagh on behalf of the unfortunate inhabitants of Caracas.20 Two days later he sent a memorial to Castlereagh to reënforce his previous arguments and to ask that the English Government should interpose to protect the conquered Venezuelans from Spanish vengeance!

"Your Excellency can easily imagine to what point the desolation and misery of Venezuela have increased by the possession of the capital city and all its resources by the hostile faction. Only England, by interposing in favor of the vanquished in order that at least Spain should fulfill scrupulously the capitulation that has been agreed to, can put a stop to the rage of the Spanish faction that is thirsting for vengeance. This is the favor which the memorialist beseeches of the English Government, convinced that if at an earlier period it raised its voice in favor of the Spanish Americans with the  p205 sole purpose of ending the civil war, that now when to this fatal scourge there have been added in Caracas the effects of an even more horrible calamity, Great Britain cannot refrain from alleviating them by the easy and secure means that are at hand by virtue of her powerful influence in Europe and America. The interposition which Don Luis López Méndez respectfully asks on behalf of General Miranda and his other compatriots would beyond doubt be of great utility in the reëstablishment of order, peace, and confidence in Venezuela; it would at least avoid the continuation of those horrors which will soon complete the destruction of her people, and it would necessarily augment the popularity of England in the New World."

An official of the Foreign Office endorsed this communication as follows: "D. L. López Méndez * * * requests the countenance of England to the cause of Venezuela and Miranda's Person."21 On November 28 of the same year Méndez sent another appeal to Castlereagh in which he besought the English government to mediate with Spain in order that the Capitulation of San Mateo might be faithfully carried out: "The petitioner does not conceive it necessary to recall to Your Excellency the motives that commend the people of Caracas to the generous compassion and friendly offices of Great Britain, but persuaded that only England can alleviate the burden of the calamities beneath which his compatriots are groaning, and convinced that her interposition with the Spanish Government would at least preserve the existence of a large number of victims, whom national honor, public faith, and all that is sacred among men cannot protect, he again appeals to Your Excellency beseeching him to submit this petition to the Prince Regent in order that His Royal Highness may judge it feasible, as the undersigned respectfully hopes from the frank and noble sentiments of His Royal Highness, to interpose his august mediation with the Spanish Government in order that by carrying out the capitulation which  p206 evidently preceded the entry of the royalist soldiers into Caracas some relief can be furnished to the unfortunate inhabitants of that province, and a check can be given to the consummation of acts of perfidy and cruelty that have no precedent in the history of civilized nations." In Downing Street this plea was indorsed "further application in favor of Miranda, & c."22

Though no formal response was made by English publicists to these appeals, yet they were not indifferent to Miranda's fate. When in January, 1813, he sent to Lord Bathurst a letter which made a plea on behalf of Miranda, Lord Grenville expressed the view that some consideration should be paid to the fact that the prisoner had at one time been countenanced by Pitt. Besides he declared that he did not feel himself "at liberty in a case where a man's life is at stake to omit any step that can on my part be useful to him, nor will you, I am very certain, ever neglect an act of humanity if the case be one in which you can with propriety interfere."23 Another clue to the attitude of English ministers toward Miranda is afforded by a letter from Nicholas Vansittart to Lord Castlereagh that inclosed an appeal of Méndez for financial aid. Vansittart stated that he wished that something could be done for the unfortunate Venezuelans but that he realized how difficult it would be to aid them.24

After Miranda's faithful secretary reached London, he undertook to champion the Venezuelan cause. On March 11, 1813, Thomas Molini transmitted to Richard Wellesley an account by Delpech of the events in Venezuela that led to the Capitulation of San Mateo. "Mr. M. has long been desirous," said Molini, "to submit to General Miranda's friends, some account of those transactions, and particularly so, from having seen various statements in which the General's character has been most grossly calumniated."25 Delpech's sympathetic and justificatory explanation of Miranda's conduct promptly found its way into the files of the Foreign Office. There it lay  p207 almost unheeded; for the alliance between England and Spain compelled English statesmen to turn a deaf ear to appeals in favor of their former protégé.

Perhaps it was Delpech, who was now seeking to interest France in the fortunes of Spanish America, that transmitted a strange rumor to Paris about his master. This tale was that when Miranda was presented to a Spanish-American court for trial he had presented in his defense a commission from the English Government empowering him to act as a pacificator in the internecine struggle, and that, in consequence, the Spaniards had set him at liberty. It was even rumored that the ex‑Dictator had departed from Venezuela for Puerto Rico with the avowed intention of presenting himself before the Spanish Regency and Lord Wellington.26

As the months passed, both López and Molini must have realized that England, the faithful ally of Spain, was not in a position to intercede in behalf of the promoter whom she had sheltered for so many years. Ambassador Wellesley, who seems to have been informed of Miranda's sad plight, later declared to Secretary Cevallos, that England had decide not to interfere between Spain and her revolted colonies "in any other manner than with a view to reconcile the differences between the two Parties by amiable Negotiation."27

Meantime the ex‑generalissimo had traveled the last stage in his via dolorosa. In the latter part of 1813 Miranda was transported from Puerto Rico to Cadiz. There he was conducted to the castle of La Carraca which was located on an island in the harbor. On January 8, 1814, El Redactor General of Cadiz mentioned that the famous conspirator was incarcerated in La Carraca. As a prisoner who was deemed dangerous to the security of the State, Miranda was cast into a dungeon of the fort of the Four Towers, a two‑storied structure that was surmounted by a tower on each corner. Shackles were again fastened to his ankles. Tradition records that, in  p208 response to an inquiry by a Peruvian named Sauri who was a fellow prisoner, Miranda exclaimed that his Spanish chains burdened him less than the shackles with which he had been bound by his own comrades at La Guaira! Likewise there has been preserved a story to the effect that on a certain occasion while taking exercise in the narrow patio of his prison, Miranda lifted his fetters in his hand and mournfully lamented that the first link in his chain had been forged by his own compatriots. An official of the English navy who visited La Carraca even avowed that he had beheld "the venerable and distinguished prisoner" fettered to the wall by a chain that was fastened around his neck.28

Under the close surveillance of Spanish gaolers, the state prisoner did not find it easy to inform English friends of his whereabouts. However, before many months had elapsed, Miranda succeeded in smuggling out of his prison a letter in French addressed to his "dear and worthy friend," Nicholas Vansittart, who was now chancellor of the exchequer in the Liverpool ministry. In this letter from La Carraca, on May 21, 1814, the astute prisoner said that, as he was writing "unrobed and clandestinely," it would be necessary for Vansittart to divine his meaning. The ex‑Dictator mentioned the stipulation of the Treaty of San Mateo providing that no person should be persecuted because of his previous political opinions. He alleged that this capitulation had been approved by the Spanish Government, put into force "very religiously" in Venezuela, and

"with all the world, except with me, who was, however, the chief author of the scene. The Spaniards evaded this difficulty by sending me to Puerto Rico, and by transporting me from that port to Cadiz where the Spanish Government was then located. Upon our arrival its officials had left Cadiz for Madrid, and the evilly-disposed governor confined me in this arsenal from which I can have no communication with the English who are my friends.

 p209  "If the Spanish King has approved the Constitution, I should be considered free because of its guarantee of personal liberty and by virtue of my right; but as all this is falling to the ground, and as the old government has regained its terrible place, a very powerful friend is needed to rescue me from the clutches of despotism. I can find nothing else that will explain why I suffer this persecution and hatred. England, all powerful today in Spain, can easily render me that service by demanding through Lord Wellington or through her Ambassador at Madrid that Spain should carry out the Capitulation with respect to me as she has fulfilled it with the others.

"Be so good as to talk with your friends and with my friends, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Mr. Wilberforce, &c., — in order to obtain a prompt and efficacious recommendation. * * * By the annexed proclamation you will see with what emphasis the Spaniards ratified the Capitulation and promised not to persecute anyone for what had transpired in the epoch previous to that contract. * * * All my papers, which in large part are also those of the English Government on account of my correspondence, are safe at Curaçao with the English firm of Robertson, Belt, and Company, as well as my books and baggage, with 22,000 pesos in silver and 1,200 ounces in gold. I beg you to secure this as well as you can. Molini knows all about it and will indicate the best action to take. I believe that the merchants are known to the firm of Murton in London; and I think that they will act honorably. I ask you to see that Mr. Tayler send me credit to the house of Duff at Cadiz, for he is the only person that knows how to communicate with me. Do not allow any of the Spaniards to learn anything about this affair; for they are abominable people, whom I have come to understand thoroughly and to my cost. Let your reply come in an envelope of Mr. Duff, and always with reserve."29

Months seem to have elapsed before the ex‑Dictator's friends could aid him. In September, 1814, Peter Turnbull,  p210 the son of Miranda's old friend, the retired London merchant, secretly made arrangements that the prisoner should be furnished with sums of money. On December 8, 1814, John Turnbull wrote of Vansittart to inform him that he had received news of their "old and unfortunate friend" from his oldest son at Algeciras. Peter Turnbull had reported that he had found General Miranda "in prison at Cadiz, where he will probably remain all his life, unless means can be found to effect his Escape — I wrote him some days since a letter, merely giving him accounts of the health of his friends in London; which I sent open thro' the governor of this place. — and it has been communicated to me, thro' an authentic Channel, which I can mention when I get home, that for £1,000 Sterling his liberty could be effected."30

On April 13, 1815, Miranda addressed another letter to Vansittart which reached its destination.

"This is the third letter that I have been able to write you since being confined here; but unfortunately I have addressed my letters through Sir J. Duff whom I have discovered to be a strange and detestable personage with respect to myself. Finally he insultingly refused to let me have five pounds sterling. * * * The letter or order that I last sent him, made out to you for one hundred pounds sterling, he retained, as well as a receipt for one hundred and fifty pesos, without sending me a sou. If he had done what I wished, I would now actually be free from all embarrassments, and very probably reposing in Grafton Street. Some days ago I wrote to Rutherfurd at Gibraltar to ask credit for two hundred pounds sterling on some commercial house at Cadiz, excluding that of Duff, but, as yet, I have received no response. It seems that adversity pursues me everywhere and in every possible manner. * * * Finally, my dear friend, if it so be that you are still alive to solace me, send me credit for two hundred pounds on a commercial house at Cadiz. This is this only mode to get me away from here, if it arrives in time."31

Evidently this sum did not pass into Miranda's hands. For  p211 on May 15 he sent another letter to his faithful friend expressing deep regret that he had not received money at so favorable a juncture. The prisoner lamented as "an unfortunate blow" the death of his old friend Colonel Rutherfurd on whose aid at Gibraltar he had placed dependence.32 Three months later, Miranda wrote to Vansittart thus: "I do not know whether my letters have reached you, but I well know that I have not received the least news from you." Miranda then declared that he had never swerved from the "honorable and just principles" which had rendered him worthy of Vansittart's esteem. Again he mentioned "the abominable infraction" by Spain of the Treaty of San Mateo. He complained that his timorous gaolers did not even wish him to read the Gaceta de Madrid. "Nevertheless," he added, "I have by chance obtained some Latin classics, which enable me to pass the time with utility and pleasure: Horace, Vergil, Cicero, Don Quixote, and Ariosto, as well as the New Testament. * * * But what I absolutely need is a little money."33

About this time Miranda addressed pleas for funds to other persons. Anxious to keep his correspondence with the outside world a secret, in the spring of 1816 the state prisoner began to sign his epistles with the pseudonym of J. Amindra. On March 1 he wrote to a firm at Cadiz asking for a sum of money that he declared was on deposit for him. He stated that three hundred pesos were needed "to reëstablish" his fortune: "otherwise I consider myself lost beyond remedy."34 The memory of former times must have seemed to him like the evening sun upon his soul.

About this time he was attacked by a fever that indubitably interfered with his plans for flight. Scarcely had he recovered when he again began to scheme how he might escape from his island dungeon. One day in March, 1816, the prisoner wrote a letter to an English banking firm at Cadiz declaring that he had recovered from his fever and had arranged to leave next Wednesday or Thursday on a "little journey."  p212 Then he proceeded in a passage that seems purposely vague:

"Everything has been prepared with sufficient care so that we shall arrive happily at Gibraltar. But as the Moors are now our enemies perhaps chance may carry us to a port like Lagos on the Portuguese coast near the strait where it will be necessary to charter a boat or a felucca with the flag of England, or the United States, or of some other nation that is at peace with them. Because of this possibility, it would be very useful if you would send me directly or through some of your friends at Cadiz a few lines of recommendation for merchants in those ports so that they may aid me in such circumstances to proceed as soon as possible. At the same time, in case I should need more money than I have for this purpose, I ought to carry a draft for two hundred pesos on the house of Turnbull and Company of Gibraltar. It seems to me that in this way I could take with me whatever is necessary for a happy ending without compromising you in any manner."35

This simplification is supplemented by a letter written from Gibraltar by Peter Turnbull to Vansittart on April 7, 1816:

"Since I had last the pleasure of writing you, my Friends at Cadiz have sent me two more letters from our Friend. * * * It is now ten days since I received them — and I feel considerable uneasiness at having in this interval heard nothing further. I earnestly wish that some artful people be not deceiving him, in order to get money from him, — but at any rate it is satisfactory to find that he has means of communication, and that his Health is not bad. From the tenor of the Letters, he seemed on the very point of moving and I shall be all anxiety until I hear something further."36

On the following day Peter Turnbull informed a correspondent that he had reason to believe that Miranda would be free "at no distant period." Turnbull stated further that the prisoner had "applied for certain small sums of money for this purpose which I directed to be furnished him. * * * I  p213 made the regular Arrangements for his being supplied with whatever he might require — and since that time I have read several letters from him. The last was received about ten days ago — at which time he expressed his intention of proceeding hither in the course of three days."37 However, some mishap occurred, and the little journey, which Miranda had so hopefully anticipated, had again to be postponed. He then wrote to Peter Turnbull and declared that it had been necessary for him to sacrifice three hundred pesos of the money which he had intended for his journey. "And thus I ask you," implored Miranda, "to send me without delay three hundred pesos by Señora A. in order to replace that loss and to enable me to depart, which I ought to do within three days at the latest; if possible, she should also bring me a letter of recommendation for Portugal."38

Miranda's health declined so rapidly, however, that he was not again able to attempt to carry out his plans for escape. During the night of March 25 he was seized with what his faithful attendant, Pedro José Morán, described as an apoplectic fit that threatened to end his life. After he rallied from this he was next attacked by typhus fever. A few days later he was seized by inflammation in the head and a hemorrhage from the mouth which reduced him to the last extremity. About this time the invalid prisoner was removed to the hospital of the arsenal of La Caracca. Four conferences of physicians, said Morán, held out no prospect of recovery.39 The dying man apparently made no attempt to modify his testament of 1810 or to frame a new one. A priest gave him the holy sacrament of extreme unction.40

[image ALT: A drawing of a man in late middle-age, fully dressed but half-recumbent on a small plain unmade bed: his right foot is on the floor, the other stretched out on the bed. He holds himself partway up, leaning his chin on his right hand, his elbow on a pillow. In the foreground, a small square rattan and wood stool. It is a painterly view of Venezuelan patriot Francisco de Miranda in his prison cell in Spain at the end of his life.]

Miranda in the prison of La Caracca. Painting by Arturo Michelena. In the Museo Indígena, Caracas. From O'Kelly de Galway, "Francisco de Miranda." Reproduced by courtesy of Honoré Champion, Paris.

Early on the morning of July 14, 1816, in the hospital of La Caracca, the chief of the apostles of Spanish-American independence gave up his spirit to the Creator.41 Pedro Morán who gathered up the papers which his master had carefully  p214 preserved, complained that the friars and priests who were present at Miranda's deathbed would not allow him to perform any funeral rites for his dead master. "In the same condition in which he expired," added his servant, "with matrass, sheets, and other bedclothes they seized hold of him and carried him away for interment; they immediately afterwards came back and took away his clothes and other belongings to burn them."42 The body of the prisoner of state, whose death certificate declared that his case was still pending and that he was unmarried,43 was interred in the small cemetery of the district which included La Caracca. There the old soldier began his last bivouac. In view of his tragic imprisonment and death Miranda may not inappropriately be likened to the hero of Haitian independence, Toussaint L'Ouverture, who perished miserably in a French dungeon.

During his long and dismal incarceration at Cadiz the prisoner's friends in London had insistently tried to liberate him. It is clear that they furnished him with considerable money to promote that end. In the inedited papers of Lord Bexley there is a preserved copy of a letter from Mr. C. E. Fleeming from a port in southern Spain, presumably addressed to Peter Turnbull, that helps to interpret this chapter:

"As there seems to be no doubt of General Miranda's death, I beg you will do me the favor to inform me if you are authorized to return me the money I had advanced on his account. Last autumn you informed me you had funds of his in your hands, and I have paid on his account since our conversation on this subject, in September, 1814, Six hundred and fourteen Dollars, and before that period two hundred. You are aware of the difficulty of procuring vouchers in a regular manner, or indeed my being able to make any claim — but I trust to your assistance as well as prudence in taking care the persons employed may not be endangered by any means, for which purpose I take the liberty of recommending you to send any correspondence you may have relative to this transaction  p215 by the English Packets, and by no means overland by Post."44

As the cemetery of the district including La Caracca was closed a half century later without the ashes of Miranda being removed, the world is today ignorant of his burial place. Although after his death the Captain General of the department of Cadiz transmitted to Madrid the news that Francisco de Miranda had died a natural death, yet strange stories were soon circulated. There was bruited about in his native land a rumor that it was uncertain whether the fallen dictator had died of grief, by poison, or by secret execution. Eventually the melancholy circumstances attending his death, as well as a knowledge of his real services to the cause of Spanish-American independence, caused his compatriots to view Miranda as a martyr.


The Author's Notes:

1 Hodgson to Bathurst, Sept. 15, 1812, W. O., 1/112.

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2 Leleux to Vansittart, Aug. 26, 1812, F. O., 72/140; Rojas, El general Miranda, p774.

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3 Walker and Miranda, Colombia, p335.

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4 Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, IV, 471; Figueredo, "Para pagar la cabeza del 'Traidor Miranda'," in El Cojo Ilustrado, XX, 656.

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5 Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, IV, 464.

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6 Causas de infidencia, p5.

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7 Hodgson to Bathurst, March 16, 1813, W. O., 1/113.

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8 O'Leary, Memorias, XIII, 61‑62.

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9 Ibid., p63.

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10 O'Leary, Memorias, XIII, pp63‑64.

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11 Ibid., pp64‑66.

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12 Hereida, Memorias, p55.

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13 Becerra, Ensayo histórico documentado de la vida de Don Francisco de Miranda, II, 303.

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14 Fiscar to the secretary of war, June 5, 1813, A. G. I., audiencia de Caracas, 133‑3‑12; Becerra, II, 293‑94.

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15 Becerra, II, 305‑6.

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

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17 "Lista de los expedientes y papeles que tratan de la Revolución de Caracas," A. G. I., audiencia de Caracas, 133‑3‑12.

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18 Cevallos to Vaughn, Sept. 10, 1815, F. O., 72/176.

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19 IX, 671.

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20 F. O., 72/157.

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21 Ibid.

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22 F. O., 72/157.

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23 Report on the Manuscripts of Earl Bathurst, p226.

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24 Jan. 12, 1813, F. O., 72/150.

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25 Ibid., 72/151.

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26 "Nouvelles reçusº des Indiesº Occidentales par lettres de Caracas, en date du 19 Janvier, 1813," A. A. E., Colombie, 1.

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27 Feb. 14, 1815, F. O., 72/173.

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28 Becerra, II, 513; Larrazábal, Vida y correspondencia general del libertador, I, 140.

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29 Add. MSS., 31, 231, ff. 73‑74.

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30 Add. MSS., 31, 231, f. 208.

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31 Ibid., ff. 257‑58.

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32 Ibid., f. 269.

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33 Ibid., f. 334.

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34 Rojas, El general Miranda, p778.

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35 Rojas, El general Miranda, p779.

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36 Add. MSS., 31, 232, f. 39.

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37 To Tayler, ibid., f. 43.

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38 "hoi Jueves" (copy), ibid., f. 40.

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39 Rojas, El general Miranda, p780.

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40 Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, III, 73; cf. Becerra, I, p. cxxii.

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41 Rojas, op. cit., pp780‑81.

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42 Rojas, El general Miranda, p781.

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43 Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, III, 73.

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44 "18 April," Add. MSS., 31, 232, f. 42.


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