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Chapter 23

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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Vol. II
p216
Chapter XXIV

The Man and his Rôle in History

After the proscription of September, 1797, Miranda relinquished Paris as a place of residence. Soon he definitely located in London. For a time he occupied rooms in the house of Mrs. Oldham, 33 Great Pultney Street. At one time or another he also lived in Marylebone Road, in Allsop's Buildings, and in Tavistock Street. Ultimately he leased a house at 27 Grafton Street which was adjacent to a bit of meadow called Fitzroy Square. His home was near Tottenham Court Road on the site now occupied by a respectable, three-story brick house with green blinds.

The earliest available document that Miranda composed there bears date of July 18, 1803. On that day he addressed a letter to Nicholas Vansittart to ask that the English Government should be so good as to continue for some time la gratification extraordinaire que j'ai reçuº jusqu'ici. Only thus, he declared, could he meet the expenses of the house which he had leased in Grafton Street. Within its walls he presumably descanted about art with the pock-marked recluse James Barry, the Irish painter. In its parlor he discoursed with his old friend Melville about literary projects, and gave advice to another littérateur named Thompson. There he entertained his Spanish-American friends as well as certain Englishmen who were interested in the fortunes of the Spanish Indies. In an inner sanctum time and again he pored over revolutionary plans with his secretary who in 1805 was Thomas Molini, perhaps the very bookseller with whom he had had dealings in Paris. An intriguing adventurer named Joseph Pavia, who occasionally borrowed money from Miranda, asserted that he had frequently beheld the arch-conspirator in his residence "in the midst of all sorts of books and numerous charts and maps."

Miranda's residence at 27 Grafton Street comprised nine rooms. Besides a front parlor, a rear parlor, and a dressing room, it included two drawing rooms, two bed rooms, a "Front  p217 Library," and a "Little Library." Though some of the furniture was of mahogany, yet an inventory of Miranda's household goods does not reveal that his home was luxuriously furnished. He had only a modest amount of household silver. Among the pictures that decorated his walls were Apollo, the Lord's Supper, the Ascension, several prints representing Chinese costumes, and some copies of paintings by Raphael. A chart of the world on Mercator's Projection hung, we may be sure, in a prominent place. The front drawing room was adorned with plaster busts of Apollo, Cervantes, and Homer. In the little library there was ordinarily only a desk, a deal table, and one rush-bottomed chair. Upon its walls there probably hung a map of South America. The scale on which the revolutionary was living is shown by the fact that he once expressed his willingness to accept in lieu of the extraordinary grant of funds which covered the rent and running expenses of his house an annual sum of two hundred pounds.1

As already indicated, Miranda early displayed a fondness for books. An inventory of his property that was prepared at Habana on February 12, 1783, enumerated about four hundred and fifty volumes. This list contained some works of engineering, history, and mathematics, besides a goodly number of books on politics and literature.2 Indicative perhaps of special interests are the following classics: Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, Smith's Wealth of Nations, and Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. Among French titles were Montecuculi's Mémoires and the Règlemens Prussiens. During his travels Miranda sent to London from France, Holland, Russia, and Switzerland, boxes crammed with publications concerning the life and history of the countries he had visited. It seems likely that he purchased some of the treatises recommended to him by Dr. Thomas Christie in  p218 a list of tomes "such as might be considered to form a tolerably complete Medical Library for a private gentleman who is not of the Profession."3 In 1802 a shipment of books to Miranda from Paris weighing three tons was detained at an English customhouse pending the payment of duties that aggregated two hundred and fifty pounds.4

While browsing in dingy second-hand bookstores in London the Venezuelan made large additions to his library. In truth he became a bibliophile; his collection must have been one of the finest private libraries in the English metropolis. Among the volumes that presumably he possessed when he moved into 27 Grafton Street were the following: Harris, List of Convent-Garden Ladies; Rousseau's Works; Rollin's Ancient History; Tooke's Life of Catherine II; Lavater, Essai sur la physiognomie; and Alcedo, Diccionario geográfico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales.5 By 1805 he had prepared a catalogue of his collection. It is probable that by this time he had in his possession a "Fine Collection of Spanish Books, particularly relating to North and South America."6

On the other hand, in 1807 a barrister estimated that the balance which Miranda owed to London bookstores aggregated some five thousand pounds.7 Upon being told during his sojourn in Trinidad that a scheme had been formed to place part of his library in the custody of booksellers to whom he was indebted, Miranda's feelings were wounded and he thus appealed to English friends to prevent such a transfer:

"My wishes are that Dulau's bill should be immediately paid, with the Money that may be due me in the Treasury, as nothing could be more disagreeable to me than the removal of a single Book from my House, it really hurts my feelings  p219 to think of it."8

Though Miranda's magnificent collection has long since been dispersed, yet scattered through his manuscripts there still remain rare brochures and obscene squibs which attest his wide interests and suggest his vices. A few illustrations must here suffice. An anonymous pamphlet entitled Quiesce: Conseils d'un philosophe à Marc-Aurele, bears Miranda's comment "excellent and wise little treatise."9 A copy of the Rules and Articles for the Better Government of the Troops raised, or to be raised, and kept in Pay, by and at the Expence of the United States of America bears this note in Miranda's handwriting, "presented by Baron Stubenº in his retreat near New York in 1784."10 Among papers concerning France the revolutionary filed away not only the cahier of Auvergne but also a copy of the Marche des Marseillois, chantée sur differens théatres. At St. Petersburg he purchased a booklet entitled État de Russie. Another rarity is a translation from French into Spanish of Viscardo's Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains, which the promoter had prepared for distribution in Spanish America.

Miranda stored his books in the front library of his residence in Grafton Street. They soon overflowed that room. Under his own immediate surveillance he placed the rare papers which he had brought from America as well as diaries, letters, broadsides, and memoranda concerning his travels and negotiations. It appears that when he was not at home his manuscripts were kept under lock and key. To supplement this wonderful collection of data he had various plans and maps which he had gathered during his American and European peregrinations. He also purchased charts from English cartographers. On one occasion William Faden, geographer to the King, dunned Miranda for some sixty pounds for a collection of maps that had been made to order and delivered to his house.11

 p220  At leisure hours, when he was not importuning publicists, sketching plans, or entertaining fellow conspirators, he spent considerable time in the study of history and politics, the military art, and languages, living or dead. As a result of travel and study, by 1790 he had acquired some knowledge of English, French, and Italian. Subsequently he undertook to master other European tongues. Among the papers concerning his sojourn in France, there is found under date of February 30,º 1795, an epitome of the German language which he had begun to study.12 Whatever progress he may have made in the study of the classics while attending the University of Caracas, after he had attained manhood he frequently displayed an acquaintance with Latin authors. After he had fixed his residence in London, he even undertook to learn the Greek language. In his diary under date of July 19, 1801, Miranda made the following entry: "At home studying my Greek which gave me infinite pleasure."13

Yet he was a dilettante scholar. Though his linguistic knowledge was wide, it was not accurate. Among translations of his letters, which he was fond of adorning with citations from classic and modern authors, a clever translator has inserted the following note to a Latin quotation ascribed to "Esop": "Faithfully copied. As several similar blunders occur in Miranda's Latin quotations, there is every reason to suppose that they are not attributable to the Transcriber."14 Nevertheless this criticism should not be taken too seriously; for at various times during his career Miranda employed a secretary whose fine Italian handwriting is not always easily distinguished from his own. Further, among his voluminous papers he was accustomed to file unsigned plans and memorials that had been altogether or in part composed by other persons. He followed this practice without always clearly indicating those portions of the documents that he had helped to prepare.  p221 Then, too, as the years passed, Miranda's knowledge of the English language, at least, steadily improved.

As an illustration of Miranda's methods we will print a letter from an Englishman named Jenkins who once acted as his scribe: "Mr. Jenkins presents his Compliments to Col. de Miranda, and assures him that the profoundest regard shall be paid to the secrecy of the work committed to him — he is sorry to find it extremely defective as to Sense in some places, and very generally as to punctuation, many of the sentences are broken into different paragraphs which cannot be fully remedied without an intire new Copy. Mr. J. however will do all he can to render it complete as possible."15

At leisure moments General Miranda renewed his acquaintance with men engaged in literary pursuits. On October 8, 1803, General Melville wrote to him and asked for a loan of a "very valuable work on ancient Printing by Mr. Turnbul."16 Miranda had also entered into intimate relations with Dr. William Thompson who was busy writing articles concerning the "History of Europe" for the Annual Register. As early as December 10, 1798, Thompson had laid before the revolutionary a manuscript concerning the events of 1793 in France with a request for additions and corrections.17 On September 10, 1799, this author wrote to him again and declared: "I wish it were possible for me to submit to your inspection the subsequent years. * * * Your Sentiments have a Clearness and Force that impressesº the Imagination and convinceº the Understanding."18 On May 16, 1800, Thompson asked Miranda for information about his imprisonment in Paris; and on September 20 he made inquiry about Miranda's pamphlet of 1795 proposing the reorganization of France.19 As the result of a conversation that he had had with the general, on February 20, 1804, this industrious scholar submitted to Miranda for correction a sketch of modern military art which  p222 was based upon a conversation with that general.

Upon transmitting this sketch, Dr. Thompson solicited Miranda's literary advice. He declared that he wished to discuss "sundry points" with the general before he wrote either the dedication or the preface. He asked his mentor to examine the prospectus so that he might clearly understand his design, "which is not so much, or in any direct way, to give a history of the Military Art, as of Battles and Stratagems of War, etc. — I am fully sensible of the facilitation I have received from you, and other Advantages, in the prosecution of my Design — I should be glad to be permitted to acknowledge this, in a public or private manner, and in all possible ways to testify the Gratitude, Esteem, and Attachment with which I have the Honor to be, Dear Sir, your obliged and Obedient servant."20

In the first edition of his treatise entitled Military Memoirs, relating to Campaigns, Battles, and Stratagems of War, Antientº and Modern, Dr. Thompson gratefully mentioned the "private authorities, from which he drew not a little of his information" whose names "would have done credit to the book, had he been at liberty to state them."21 On November 12, 1805, Thompson wrote to Miranda in part as follows:

"When I spoke to you about publickly acknowledging my great obligations to you in guiding and bridging my Collection of Military Memoirs, you generally dissuaded me — I had a great mind to do it nevertheless. But I did not well know — I hesitated. A 2d. Edition wt. Improvements by Captain James Glenie whom you may have seen at General Melville's — I have introduced your name in an Advertisement prefixed — I have had a great deal of Conversation about all this with Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Taylor, to whom I am greatly indebted on many accounts and whose Name is also introduced — He approved and advised me to bring your Name forward. * * * I will send you a Copy of this new Edition, very first opportunity. I every day intended to write. I have  p223 to apologize for not apprizing you. But really I thought it best not to do so."22

In the second edition of his treatise Dr. Thompson acknowledged that he had had aid from various persons but that his "great guide and assistant was General Miranda, a man of learning, genius, military talents, experience, and reputation." Thompson did not hesitate to apply to "this distinguished stranger" a characterization which had been made of Scipio Africanus; namely, that there was "no one who spent, with greater elegance, his hours of leisure. He was ever engaged in the improvement of the arts either of war or of peace. Addicted wholly to arms or books, he never relaxed either the exercise of his body, in danger, or of his mind, in application to study."23 In a subsequent letter to his critic the author gratefully wrote: "The Military Memoirs have been well received — commended by the Edinburgh Reviewers, that damn most things. For this I am indebted to the General who directed my Attention and gave me a General View of the Vicissitudes and progress of the Art of War."24

The private life of Miranda is further revealed by certain steps that he took in regard to the disposal of his property. On August 1, 1805, he wrote to his friends, Chauveau Lagarde and Clérisseau, to direct them that in case of his death they should send his papers and other property in Paris to Turnbull and Vansittart. He instructed the Frenchmen that in such an event they should give one hundred louis d'or to his faithful maid, Françaiseº Pelicier. Further, he informed them that his previous testamentary dispositions were cancelled.25 On the same day, declaring that he was on the point of embarking for America to carry out the plans which had engrossed a large part of his life, Miranda framed a will that contained some curious clauses.

 p224  In that document the testator named Turnbull and Vansittart as his executors and made a list of his property. This inventory included the goods in his home in Grafton Street as well as the bronzes, mosaics, and paintings in the custody of his friends in Paris. It described his private archives that contained documents respecting his ancestry and travels, his correspondence with French generals and ministers, and his papers concerning negotiations with the English Government in regard to Spanish-American emancipation. The will mentioned ten thousand louis d'or as the debt still owing the testator by France because of his military service. In case of death his manuscripts were to be sent to the city of Caracas, provided that Venezuela should become independent or should open her ports freely to other nations.

His household goods were left to one whom Miranda designated as "mi fiel ama de llaves, Sarah Andrews," a woman who had for some time been serving as his maid or housekeeper. In case of his death she was to be given whatever remained of six hundred pounds that were deposited with his executors to defray household expenses. His remaining property in London and Paris was to be used for the education of one whom he described as "my natural son Leander whom I especially recommend to my executors and friends; for he is of the tender age of eighteen months, and without any other protection on the part of parents or relatives."26

This strange testament is supplemented by a letter of instructions that Miranda framed on August 28, 1805, for Messrs. Turnbull and Vansittart. In this letter he directed them to look after his affairs in London during his absence.

"The house, as well as all the property and furniture which it contains, will be left in the same condition as that in which they actually are at present and in charge of Mrs. Martin who will take all possible care of them. She will receive for this purpose fifty pounds each month in order to pay the rent and the annual taxes, as well as the household and other expenses.  p225 If she has need of anything more it should be advanced to her on my account. The money that Mr. Turnbull has received for this purpose will furnish the necessary sums, as is explained in my letter of the 18th. of this month which Mrs. Martin has in her possession. My testamentary dispositions, which I have left secreted in a drawer, shall be opened if need arises and should be put into execution by your kind services and by virtue of the good friendship for which I am indebted to you. The balance of my accounts with the booksellers Dulau, White, and Evans — the only ones which are not paid up — will be met as soon as I am able. In any case the books that have not been paid for can be returned to those booksellers, according to our agreement."27

The private life of Miranda is further illumined by inedited correspondence. In a letter directing John Turnbull to look after his interests in London he declared: "In truth I have said that I desired to have Leander baptized by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is necessary that the this should be done without noise and with the consent of his mother."28 Excerpts from an epistle sent to Miranda by Sarah Andrews on September 29, 1805, demonstrates that she was actually caring for the child:

"I hope you found all your friends in good Health anº happy to see you — my dear Leander is everything that a fond Mother can wish, he is everyday more Beautiful, Healthful, an Engaging. His little actions are every moment more endearing — he is my hope an comfort in the absence of my ever dearest friend — God send that we may soon be again under the Protection of the wisest and best of friends — my dear sir I find the loss of you more than ever — I remember with Pain my ingratitude on several occasions — and your goodness to forgive me — I will reward you with my Fidelity an conform in everything as I have promis'd — the baptism of my dear Child has not taken place in consequence of the not nowing the name you have exprest in your Paper's — an it must be the same. Mr. Turnbull has no relection of anything — the chrisen  p226 an family name of the child must be express'd in the Baptism, otherwise it is of no yuse. Mrs. Turnbull advises me to not to Baptise him untill you have the goodness to transmit to me, what shall be done. * * * I am very Pleas'd with the society of Mrs. Molini. I trust I shall soon hear of great news from my dear Genl. One Month has allready Past away since our Departur — I find great Conciliation in my lovely Child. Col. Williamson call'd one eving in a Post Chaise my Leander — so an thought it was you — he was overjoy'd — the Col. appear'd affected with my Child's attencion to him. * * * A thousand Blessings attend you — wright me as offen as you can it will console me."29

In a letter dated September 30, 1805, addressed to "Mr. George Martin," John Turnbull wrote that "Leander and Mrs. Martin are very well." He declared that Miranda's wish that Leander "should be christened by a Priest of the Roman Catholic persuasion" would be faithfully carried out.30

A clue to the father's sentiments concerning his family is found in a passage from an epistle which he sent to Sarah Andrews from New York on January 4, 1806:

"I long to receive your letters my good Sally — it is from Mr. Turnbull only that I have heard since I quitted England. I have written to you 3 times since my arrival here; I hope all goes well at home, and that your prudence and zeal will be a remedy for the small neglect of others. Take a particular care with the Health and Education of Leander — treat him with mildness and gravity, as to bring his temper to submission without breaking his spirits and liveliness. Let your health be attended to for the sake of us all — I want you as much as anybody else to carry in execution, and terminate with success my schemes. Take advice from Mr. Barry if you want it; don't let your brother come near the house."31

Beyond any doubt Leander's mother was Sarah Andrews, an uneducated woman reputed to be of Jewish extraction. Although Ricardo Becerra, a South American littérateur who  p227 composed a biography of Miranda, asserted that his hero was married to Miss Andrews, yet no certificate of such a marriage has ever been found.32 On the other hand, there is ample evidence to show that Leander was born out of wedlock. According to a letter from "Sarah Martin" to Miranda the child's birthday was October 9, 1803.33

Before the midsummer of 1806, another child was born to Sarah Martin. On June 5 John Turnbull sent this news to Miranda: "Mrs. Martin and your two Boys are very well. She is made happy by the good accounts of your success. Since your departure she has conducted herself with exemplary Prudence and Propriety."34 On the same day Mrs. Martin wrote to her absent master complaining of the ill conduct of one of his former servants who had remarked that her children were "not lawful."35 About six months later the doting mother declared that the father had never named her "dear baby," that is to say, the child who became known as Francisco.36

In a letter to Miranda dated May 7, 1807, John Rutherfurd mentioned a visit which he had made to 27 Grafton Street. He conveyed his impressions of the children in an interesting fashion: "The eldest boy is a fine, stout, bold little fellow and promises to have Talent and spirit enough to be a general himself. — There is an appearance of frankness and good sense about him that pleases me much." Professing to speak without flattery, Rutherfurd expressed the opinion that with good tutoring he would be a credit to Miranda. "The younger one," continued this correspondent, "appears as if he would be handsomer than the older brother and is extremely good humored but he is too young yet to say more of him than that he is pleasing. The elder one not only resembles you in person, but in one instance when I was there this morning assumed a look in speaking to his mother so much like you that it struck me most forcibly."37

The slight extent to which the illicit relations of Miranda  p228 with Sarah Andrews is stressed in these letters is not because of any excisions. That lack of emphasis is due to the lax standards of a profligate age. One has only to glance at the Diary of Farington the Academician to notice how amazingly frequent mention is there made of the illicit connections or the illegitimate offspring of people who were prominent in the artistic or aristocratic circles of English society.

The resentment expressed by Miranda in a letter to Vansittart about the unsympathetic conduct of Turnbull toward his family displays a surprising depth of devotion.

"I have written to you about my private affairs at Grafton Street, and I have learned more of the blunders and indiscretion of our friend Mr. Turnbull — I request of you therefore not to fill out the Power of Attorney with his name on any account, and if you have done it, to repeal it, for fear that the man should do me an irreparable mischief before we can remedy it — My intention is that the House should be kept until the lease is expired and even for a longer time — Turnbull's want of feeling with that family is beyond conception. I forgive him, and recommend them to you, — they are objects too near my own heart, not to trouble my best friends with their protection. I tremble when I consider that the imprudent behavior of Turnbull might have occasioned the death of that Mother and left the children unprotected in the Streets. This is enough, I won't trouble you any more on this disagreeable subject."38

On his departure for Venezuela Miranda did not much alter the will that he had framed in 1805. On the second page of his testament he inserted a clause concerning the disposal of his manuscripts, and by a footnote to the following page he acknowledged Francisco as his natural son. He added a codicil dated October 5, 1810, which stated that he ratified and confirmed this testamentary disposition and asked that his friend and executor, Nicholas Vansittart, should carry it out.  p229 In the provisions of the court for the administration of the estate, the testator was described as a bachelor.39 Instead of the mother of Miranda's children being an English noblewoman of illustrious lineage, the precursor's own papers clearly demonstrate that she was an untutored domestic whose rough hand was not even adorned by the wedding ring. Thus another Mirandian tradition long cherished by admiring South Americans is demolished by the iconoclastic blows of Time.40

To an extent Miranda's morality was that of his age and environment. A fondness for good, red wine had not left him when he entered the French military service. His ideals of behaviour were far below those of his gifted fellow countryman, Antonio José de Sucre, the Chevalier Bayard of Spanish America. From a moral point of view Miranda may rather be likened to Miguel Hidalgo, the daring and unconventional priest who has been styled the "Father of Mexican Independence." In truth, some pages in the history of the Venezuelan patriot reflect the low standard of social conduct that prevailed in certain circles during the latter part of the eighteenth century. During his early career a code of sexual morality no higher than that which was occasionally followed by contemporary courtiers of the Continent was Miranda's. A diligent and unrestricted search through his papers would reveal material for a spicy article on his amorous adventures.

To the writer this has been emphatically demonstrated by the perusal of a large mass of inedited manuscripts concerning  p230 his travels. Portions of the diary of Francisco de Miranda describing his tour of Europe are unprintable because of their gross immorality. In fact certain squibs and memoranda which the writer found preserved in his papers might appropriately be consigned to a pornographic collection. On the other hand, such patent evidence of Miranda's acquaintance with wanton manners of the demimonde has not been found in the material concerning his later life. Neither has there been found in his papers any evidence of illicit relations with women who belonged to the higher strata of society.

A story has been handed down by Venezuelans that, after Francisco de Miranda had perished, the English Government bestowed an allowance upon the mother of his children. The writer has found no confirmation of this, however, in the archives of England. In early manhood the sons of General Miranda proceeded separately to the land of their father. In an epistle to Leander de Miranda in 1827 Simón Bolívar confessed that a picture of Leander which he had seen had suggested "ideas that were both glorious and melancholy," for it recalled the physiognomy of his illustrious father.41 Francisco de Miranda became attached to the train of the Liberator of northern South America. As the result of an acrimonious dispute over a love affair, the martyr's namesake shot the Dutch consul general in the first duel fought in Colombia.42 In April, 1831, immediately after the battle of Cerinza, the unfortunate Francisco was executed, — a victim of the politico-military dissensions that began to devastate that country. Leander, who seems to have retained his British citizenship, eventually returned to Europe. He died in Paris in 1883.43 Lineal descendants of the first Dictator of Venezuela still live in Italy as well as in South America.

Contemporary judgments upon Miranda's personality  p231 vary widely. Estimates of his character were not infrequently distorted by prejudice. For these warped views he was himself in part responsible. His intimate friend Dr. Guthrie warned him that at St. Petersburg his frank manner of expressing his opinions on all subjects "without paying attention to a number of little formalities and considerations" that were observed at the Russian court had probably won him "as many enemies as admirers."44 To a casual acquaintance Miranda could appear jovial and cordial, yet to statesmen and publicists he ordinarily presented a dignified demeanor. This hauteur veiled an analytical mind which not infrequently detected hidden motives. Throughout life he was an ardent and discriminating student of men.

During his mature years, however, Miranda displayed a large amount of personal vanity. Fond of praise, despite his critical spirit, at times he was inclined to lend too willing an ear to flatterers and to mistake adulation for genuine appreciation. Miranda's good qualities were alloyed with a mixture of bad. As has been indicated in this biography, when discussing his own life or plans, Miranda sometimes left the straight path of truth. He frequently capitalized at too high a value such reports as he received about the discontent of his compatriots with Spanish rule. In certain cases he misrepresented the facts; notably, as when, in addition to altering the order of his baptismal names, he designedly decreased his age. Among his manuscripts there still reposes an authenticated copy of his baptismal certificate that he altered by inserting a phrase which made his birthday four years later than the actual date.45

The religious ideas of Miranda were in part the result of his diverse experiences. Though he was by training a Roman  p232 Catholic, and though he received the sacrament of confirmation in the Catholic church, yet before he left the Spanish service he was denounced to the Inquisition because he entertained beliefs that were not orthodox.46 During his travels in the United States he derided peculiar religious practices: adult baptism, public confession of sin, a puritanical Sabbath. Profoundly was he impressed by the toleration that prevailed in the Middle Colonies. Of New Jersey he wrote in his Diary: "Each person praises God in the language and manner dictated by his own conscience. There is no dominant religion or sect, — all are good and equal."47 Yet the influence of his Catholic training was shown in his unfavorable reaction to the emergence of Unitarian beliefs in Boston. After visiting King's Chapel he recorded in his Diary: "A few days ago that fool Freeman dared to preach in the Anglican Church that the mystery of the Trinity was absurd, and that the Athanasian Creed was apocryphal. In another country the people would have burned him but here they only smiled, and he remained a preacher in his pulpit."48

Neither was he pleased with narrow sectarianism. "Damnation Murray," a Presbyterian pastor who prayed God to extirpate all other Christian sects, "in such a manner that in a moment he excluded all the Universe, except his own flock, from the divine protection," Miranda stigmatized as a "barbarian" and an "ignoramus."49 Another interesting viewpoint is furnished by the fact that in New Hampshire he was displeased to see ecclesiastics exercising an influence in the legislature. He objected to the constitutional requirement in that state that a member of the legislature should profess Christianity.50 To Samuel Adams the critical visitor pointed out an inconsistency between the theory and the practice of the Massachusetts constitution. "The contradiction," said Miranda, "which I noticed, was on the one hand, between admitting as  p233 one of the rights of humanity the worship of the Supreme Being in the manner that seemed best to each individual without according by law predominance to any sect, and, on the other hand, the exclusion from legislative or representative office of any persons who did not profess the Christian religion."51 It would accordingly seem that his American travels induced Miranda to believe in religious toleration, while they did not necessarily destroy his faith in Catholic doctrines. Most significant of all perhaps is the fact that his journal reveals him as opposed to any sectarian influence in politics.

Although Miranda wished to have his child Leander baptized by a Catholic priest, yet there is nothing which demonstrates that at this epoch of his career his religious sentiments were particularly devout. One of his followers in the expedition of 1806 was so shocked at the attitude of indifference that Miranda took toward Protestant services which were held on board the Leander that he wondered whether his chief had any religious faith at all. "If, as a philosopher, he deems religion false," wrote Biggs, "as a politician, he should allow it to be useful."52 However, the revolutionary had a high opinion of the influence exercised by Jesuit missionaries in the Indies. "The Jesuits have done more good to South America," he maintained, "than any other set of Men or Religious Order that ever went to that Continent. The civilized portion of the Community received gratis the best system of education and Literature they ever had — and the savage Indians the most rational Christian Civil and moral institutions that ever were applied since the conquest, for their benefit and happiness."53 Perhaps the fairest judgment upon the religious doctrines of Miranda would be that he tended to drift from Roman Catholicism to Deism. Yet it seems possible that in his last mournful years he found consolation in the doctrines of the Church of St. Peter.

 p234  The military ideals of Miranda were the result of study and experience. He was doubtless influenced by his service under the flags of France and Spain. Yet his leanings were generally toward the academic side rather than the practical. In particular, he studied such classic authorities as Montecuculi, Turenne, and Frederick the Great. Not without significance perhaps is the fact that among his memoranda is preserved an analysis drawn from Montecuculi of the circumstances when a commander should avoid giving battle. This authority maintained that an encounter should be avoided when it is apparent that the enemy will defeat himself; when a commander's forces are inferior to those of the enemy; when a commander expects aid; when the enemy occupies a strategic position; and when there is more to be lost than to be gained.54

Champagneux, who discussed military affairs with Miranda in La Force, declared that he was acquainted with all the authors who had ever written on the military art whether historians or theorists. That Frenchman expressed the opinion that for Miranda to excel in the art of war it would be necessary for him to add more experience to the large amount of theory with which he was acquainted. This critic added that his fellow prisoner was so imbued with the principles of military art that he would not willingly have consented to capture a town against its rules.55 In 1806, when describing to his followers the dangers of a military career, Miranda sometimes ended his anecdotes by mentioning the honor acquired by those soldiers who endured privations with fortitude. After discussing the hairbreadth escapes which soldiers often experienced, he frequently descanted upon his own exploits and sufferings in military service. One of the unfavorable judgments of an American upon Miranda was due to his predilection for those persons who liked to hear him speak in that vainglorious fashion. "I believe," opined Biggs, "that vanity  p235 and egotism, which are qualities destitute of any recommendation whatever, are generally associated with other traits that have no claim to approbation."56 Upon his return to Venezuela the revolutionist apparently formed a low opinion of the military ability of his compatriots. Tradition has it that in a disgusted mood he once said that they ought to learn how to handle a musket before fastening epaulets on their own shoulders.57

An inquiry as to the source of the economic and political ideals of Miranda furnishes an interesting problem. Allusions and citations scattered throughout his papers show that he had read more or less widely in such writers as Jovellanos, Vattel, Montesquieu, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau. In 1809, after perusing a report of the Spanish publicist Jovellanos respecting a project of an agrarian law, Miranda wrote an appreciative note that may be rendered as follows:

"This is a work dictated by the purest patriotism. It embodies profound and philosophic views concerning the bad administration of Spain, particularly about the two important activities of agriculture and commerce. It would do honor even to Turgot, Adam Smith, or Montesquieu. This treatise is probably the cause of the infamous persecution that thrust Jovellanos into the dungeons of Palma in the island of Majorca where he was detained for seven years."58

The academic attitude of Miranda toward the doctrine of the separation of governmental powers was possibly due to Montesquieu. Another philosophic writer who perhaps influenced the Venezuela doctrinaire directly or indirectly was Jean Jacques Rousseau; for his philosophy of the social compact seems to underlie some of Miranda's reasoning about political rights. In his arguments regarding the rights of Spain over her colonies the Venezuelan was undoubtedly influenced by the views of the Swiss writer, Emmerichs de Vattel, whom  p236 he styled "the wisest and most celebrated of modern publicists." In a proclamation prepared in 1801 for distribution among his compatriots Miranda cited Vattel's Droit des Gens in support of his contention that Spain did not have a valid title to the Indies. As an illustration of the mode in which the doctrinaire leaned upon this jurist we will quote from that part of the manifesto which followed a terrible indictment of the Spanish conquistadors:

"Confounded and reduced to silence upon this important matter, the sinister advocates of the court of Spain take refuge in their inmost intrenchments. As a last argument they ask 'how can you displace the government of His Catholic Majesty when a proscription of three hundred years has given it legitimate rights over you and your property?' But Vattel and the consensus of opinion before him have thus responded to these miserable defenders of usurpation and tyranny: 'The Sovereign who pretends to be the absolute master of a people reduced to slavery brings to pass a state of war between the subjugated people and himself.' Have not the people inhabiting the Hispanic-American colonies groaned for more than three centuries under foreign oppression?"

The manner in which Miranda's reasoning about the reversion of political rights to the people was based upon a free use of the classic apologist for the English Revolution of 1688 may be illustrated by the same proclamation. He argued that it was time to overthrow the frightful tyranny in the Indies and to let "the real proprietors re‑occupy their usurped domains. Let the reins of public authority return to the hands of the ancient inhabitants and natives of the country from whom a foreign force has torn them. 'It is manifest,' said Locke, 'that the government of such a conqueror is most illegitimate, is most contrary to the law of Nature, and that one cannot overthrow it too quickly.' "59

The promoter of revolutions also drew inspiration for his attack on Spanish colonial policy from a prominent French  p237 economist and statesman. In a memoir dated August, 1798, Miranda thus quoted doctrines that he attributed to Anne Robert Jacques Turgot:

"Wise and happy will be that nation which first learns to adapt her policy to new circumstances, which will see in her colonies only allied provinces! Wise and happy will be that nation which first becomes convinced that her policy in regard to commerce consists in employing all her land in the mode most advantageous for the landed proprietor and in employing all her labor in the mode most useful for the individual who works! That is to say the policy of using land and labor in the manner in which each person guided by his own instinct would use them. If one would allow laissez faire: — all the rest is simply illusion and vanity. When the total separation of America from Europe forces all the world to recognize this truth and purges European nations of commercial jealousy, then a great cause of war will disappear from among men. It is very difficult not to pine for an event that should prove to mankind a good augury."60

So far as his ideas about the commercial policy to be followed by liberated Spanish America are concerned, Miranda had caught the spirit of laissez faire. Though he did not wish to establish free trade, yet he did advocate a considerable reduction on the duties levied upon goods imported into the emancipated Spanish colonies. In this particular he was a disciple of Turgot and Adam Smith.

Although Miranda's philosophy about the right of revolution was presumably influenced by the writings of Thomas Paine, yet some of his political ideas were in sharp contrast with those of that expatriated Englishman. Upon severing the political bonds which had so long united the Spanish colonies with the metropolis Miranda did not wish to establish a democracy but rather to form an imperial republic. During his travels in North America he was occasionally startled at the extremes to which he thought the spirit of democracy had  p238 carried the people of the emancipated English colonies. Although in a sense a democrat, yet he had monarchical leanings. Strange though it may appear, the Spanish officer who had fought against English redcoats during the American Revolution, was guided in his main governmental conceptions not so much by the example of the United States as by that of England. The Diary of his American tour demonstrates that even before he landed in London he had become a passionate admirer of English political institutions.61 When Miranda made his remarkable tour of Europe he was no admirer of French doctrines, and although he became for a time a champion of French liberty, yet he later revolted against the ultra-democratic principles of the French Revolution. It is not misleading to say that Francisco de Miranda was an aristocratic democrat.

One of the most striking features about the mentality of Miranda is the catholicity of his interests. During his youth and early manhood, at least, his appetite for knowledge was insatiable. More than one well-informed person who came into contact with him during his remarkable travels commented upon the accuracy and the universality of his knowledge. In 1788 Professor Pictet of Geneva wrote to a friend of Miranda: "He is the most extraordinary man whom I have ever met because of the extent of his travels in the four quarters of the world, because of the information that he has thus imbibed, because of the richness of his conversation, because of his knowledge of history, literature, fine arts, — in a word because of a universality of which I had no idea and of which I had never beheld an example."62 In a more critical spirit some years later Miss Williams thus described the general: "Miranda had a very lofty spirit, much general information, and a keen taste for literature. Further, he spoke several languages. My admiration for his character was so strong that I almost pardoned him for the boastfulness with which he  p239 always talked about great principles."63

Scattered through Miranda's papers are numerous proofs of the variety of his emotional and intellectual interests. He collected maps of the Old World and the New and saved pictures of such diverse characters as Cagigal, Montesquieu, and Catherine the Great. Among recipes that he carefully filed away was one for the manufacture of mineral water. A jealously guarded prescription was one designed to prevent venereal contagion. He preserved memoranda on divers subjects: a description of the royal gardens at San Ildefonso; Hamilton's reports on the finances of the United States; the number of invalids in Greenwich Hospital; the revenues of Bengal; a comparison of the inscriptions on the theatre of Potsdam with those on the Haymarket Theatre; an enormous elm tree in Hyde Park twenty‑two feet in circumference; and "Directions for to fight Cocks, Jamaica, 1781."64 On the margin of a handbill describing certain museum exhibits Miranda wrote of an enormous rattlesnake that it was "a most beautiful animal possessed of an incredible audacity and ferocity!"65 His critical spirit is illustrated by a diarial entry to the effect that upon visiting a so‑called Roman bath he found it to be an English bathtub which had been chiselled out of a Roman sarcophagus.

One of the most comprehensive views of Miranda's mental traits, making allowance for time and circumstance, was that presented to the Revolutionary Tribunal by Chauveau Lagarde. When he spoke of his client's reputation the French advocate argued that if the witnesses had "differed among themselves in their more or less honorable terms of praise, they were in unanimous agreement concerning Miranda's great republican virtues. * * * You have seen that in disdain of rank, honor, and fortune, and to the hatred of the oppression and despotism that had persecuted him, he had consecrated himself almost completely to the study of science, art, and philosophy,  p240 and to the study, the spread, and the glory of his idol, liberty, without which he believed that people could not attain true happiness."66 The eloquent pleader likened Miranda to Socrates.

An interesting estimate of Miranda's personality is furnished by one of his followers in the Caribbean cruise. An officer named James Biggs declared that his chief occasionally acted like a teacher of ethics. This officer stated that Miranda professed to abhor vice and meanness in every degree and shape and avowed himself to be an enthusiastic lover of virtue. "To use his own language, he 'abominates tyranny; hates fools; abhors flatterers; detests pride; and laments the diabolical corruptness of modern days. He loves freedom; admires candor; esteems wise men; respects humility; and delights in that noble and beautiful integrity and good faith which distinguished the golden times of antiquity.' "67 Yet a careful study of his career shows that although this promoter of revolution was fond of inculcating lofty ideals, yet he often fell short of living up to them in practice. Like other men who have lived less romantic lives, Miranda was a poseur.

Here and there in this biography contemporary descriptions of Miranda's character and personality have been presented. Our image of his personal traits at maturity gains color from a picture drawn by the observant Captain Biggs. That officer declared that when seated General Miranda was "never perfectly still; his foot or hand must be moving to keep time with his mind which is always in exercise." A fine exemplar of temperance, Miranda always slept "a few moments after dinner," and then walked "till bed time, which with him is about midnight." He never complained about a poor meal, and used "no ardent spirits; seldom any wine." Dignified and graceful in his movements, the revolutionist could artfully dissimulate his feelings, except when he was angry. Captain Biggs, who was no blind admirer of his filibustering chieftain, thus depicts his personal appearance:

 p241  "He is about five feet ten inches high. His limbs are well proportioned; his whole frame is stout and active. His complexion is dark, florid, and healthy. His eyes are hazel coloured, but not of the darkest hue. They are piercing, quick and intelligent, expressing more of the severe than the mild feelings. He has good teeth, which he takes much care to keep clean. His nose is large and handsome, rather of the English than Roman cast. His chest is square and prominent. His hair is gray, and he wears it tied long behind with powder. He has strong grey whiskers growing on the outer edges of his ears, as large as most Spaniards have on their cheeks. In the contour of his visage you plainly perceive an expression of pertinaciousness and suspicion. Upon the whole without saying he is an elegant, we may pronounce him a handsome man."68

As already indicated, the revolutionary had gathered a splendid collection of books. A lawyer estimated in 1807 that they were worth almost nine thousand pounds.69 In the autumn of 1810 this library was left at 27 Grafton Street in care of Sarah Andrews. In the last copy of his will Miranda stated that his books numbered some six thousand volumes.70 In May, 1817, through an official of the English Government who tore the document out of a bound volume of Miranda's archives, Molini obtained the manuscript catalogue of his master's library.71 In July, 1828, a well-known auctioneer of London named Evans placed a part of the collection on sale. Among the interesting items which attest the deceased owner's wide interests were the Correio Braziliense, Barry's Works, Buffon's Histoire Naturelle, and Milton's Poetical and Prose Works. A rare item was the Biblia Sacra Polyglotta. To make his copy of that learned work more perfect, Miranda had added to it the improved text of Montanus' edition of the Bible and the Apocryphal Books.72 The auctioneer's note on  p242 this part of the sale shows that some five hundred items brought almost three hundred and fifty pounds.73

Another portion of Miranda's library was sold by Evans in April, 1833. Among rare works which it contained were Théâtre de l'Hermitage de Catherine la Seconde, Quatremère de Quincy, De l'Architecture Egyptienne, and Vocabularia linguarum totius orbis comparativa, a work that had been undertaken at the order of Empress Catherine. Miranda's interests had even extended to manuscripts, for the auctioneer also placed on sale "the Correspondence of the Celebrated Marshal Keith with Lord J. Drummond, and Lord E. Drummond."74 An auctioneer's note on the second part of the sale shows that it brought almost eight hundred pounds.75 In accordance with the provisions of Miranda's will, one hundred and sixty‑six classical volumes belonging to his collection were transferred by his administrator to the University of Caracas where they formed the nucleus of its library.76

Miranda was an assiduous reader. While in the Spanish military service he perused volumes concerning the art of war in ancient and modern times. At intervals during his first visit to the United States he read books about the history and customs of the American people. After reading Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, he wrote in his Diary that it was "one of the most curious and authentic documents of fanaticism which one could imagine."77 Throughout life he was particularly fond of reading about the history and literature of Spain and the Spanish Indies. His critical comments on certain works furnish clues for the interpretation of his mentality. With regard to Raynal's history of the Indies, which we now know was mosaic in its workmanship, he wrote on April 2, 1784, that he had perused the seventh volume of Abbé Raynal. "I find much Declamation, Argument, and Philosophical Reflection;  p243 but little Information, few Facts, and what is most unpardonable, these are seldom true, as I could show almost in every page. I wish he may be better informed concerning South America and the East Indies, but I own I am very doubtful."78

In the creole's fertile brain more than one literary project was formed that he never executed. In March, 1787, he wrote the following entry in his journal. "I presented Prince Potemkin with the Historia de México by Clavijero which I bought in Rome in order that it might be translated in England."79 In a diarial passage dated May 9, 1788, Miranda wrote that he had reached his hotel in Utrecht, feeling very tired, at eight in the evening. "I went to bed," he said, "and lay there reading Gil Blas which certainly appeared incomparable to me." On the following Sunday he recorded this judgment: "To me Gil Blas appears to be an excellent composition; the book gives an exact picture of the life of a courtesan and of false appearances in this world. Certainly it is passing strange," he soliloquized, "that I have not earlier perused this precious book."80 After reading Rousseau's Confessions, under date of May 17, 1788, his judgment was that although not well written, yet it was "original and contributed not a little to a knowledge of the interior of the human heart." Then he asked why he had not "read this book earlier?"81 After spending the next day reading "with pleasure and profit" Miranda inscribed this sentiment in his journal: "Oh, my beloved books, what an inexhaustible solace they are for the alleviation of human life!"82

Other sources illustrating what may be termed Miranda's philosophy of life are found among his papers. On the flyleaf of a volume of his manuscripts that were presumably bound shortly before he left England in 1810 there are inscribed some stanzas which evidently pleased his fancy, whoever was their author:83

 p244  Saber poner en practica el Amor,

que á Dios, y al hombre debes profesar,

á Dios como á tu fin ultimo amár,

y al hombre como imagen de su Autór.

Proceder con lisura y con Candór,

á todos complacér sin adulár;

sabér el propio genio dominár,

y seguir á los otros el humór.

Con gusto el bien ageno promovér,

como propio el ageno mál sentir;

sabér negar, sabér condescender.

Saber disimulár, y no fingir;

todo esto con prudencia has de exercér,

para acertar la Ciencia de vivir.

In another volume of Miranda's manuscripts there is written on the flyleaf a passage from a favorite author which may be thus done into English: "Few matters are conquered by impetuosity; some are solved by force; many by suffering; and almost all by reason and interest." Another motto inscribed on the same page reads as follows: "Perseverance will carry out labors that have been commenced: do not lift your hand from them until they have been crowned with a fortunate result."84 and the flyleaf of another tome of his manuscripts Miranda copied a quotation from Cervantes that runs in this wise: "There are no better soldiers than those men who forsake the study for the battle field. No scholar becomes a soldier who does not become a fighter of the best type; for whenever force is joined to ingenuity and ingenuity to force there is formed a miraculous combination in which Mars rejoices, which supports Peace, and which causes the Republic to advance." On the same page, ascribed to himself, is this moral maxim: "Cities are made neither by imperishable stones nor robust timbers nor artful walls. But wherever there are men who know how to defend themselves by their own  p245 strength, — there are fortifications, there are illustrious cities!"85

An outstanding trait of Miranda was his persistence. It is not easy to find in the chronicles of filibusters or revolutionists a perseverance excelling that possessed by this Venezuelan patriot. To find a good parallel in the history of North America one must go to the adventurous annals of exploration. Miranda's perseverance was not unlike that of the indefatigable Frenchman, Cavalier de la Salle, who amidst innumerable, unknown perils with undaunted front explored the mysterious basin of the majestic Mississippi. To aid him to maintain a buoyant spirit in the midst of the frequent trials and disappointments of his career Miranda was possessed of a vast fund of energy. His mind, if not his body, seemed always in motion. Another aid in the pursuit of means to accomplish his designs was a large degree of personal ambition. It appears that by September, 1810, he considered himself the leader who was destined to achieve the overthrow of Spanish rule in his native land.

Endowed with a visionary and doctrinaire type of mind, Miranda was much less successful in executing certain tasks that were intrusted to him than in plotting splendid schemes on paper. There is probably no better way to suggest this trait of his character than to notice briefly the comments of ex‑President John Adams concerning Miranda's elaborate plan of 1798 for a tripartite alliance of England, the United States, and Spanish America. Adams likened the revolutionary promoter's project to "a Quixotic attack of a windmill," and said that Miranda was "either an Achilles, hurt by some personal injury, real or imaginary, * * * or he is a knight errant, as delirious as his immortal countryman, the ancient hero of La Mancha." The ex‑President declared that it would have been about as plausible for a group of North American patriots to have proposed to the Duke de Choiseul in 1773 a triple alliance of France, Spain, and the United States against  p246 England. He imagined that the Duke would have responded by requesting those patriots to present their full powers, and that when they failed to produce them he would declare: "You have no powers; you represent nobody."86

With respect to the attitude of the English cabinet, Adams asked if it were possible that Miranda should be such a conjurer as to bewitch Mr. Pitt and his colleagues into a serious belief that South America was "to be revolutionized so easily by Miranda and his two Jesuits?"87 Somewhat too dogmatically asserting that Miranda and his associates had no authority except their ipsi dixerunt, Adams argued that it was extremely improbable that a plan like Miranda's for a confederation of free governments could have been carried out in the Spanish Indies. To him such a project seemed as chimerical as "similar plans would be to establish democracies among the birds, beasts, and fishes."88

Diverse judgments have been passed upon the career of Francisco de Miranda. It would seem that in his public activities he was not always consistent but changed his ground to suit the exigencies of the occasion. A clever opportunist, in some particulars his attitude toward nations, as well as toward society, may be compared with the attitude taken in the nadir of his life by Aaron Burr. It should be admitted that Miranda would not have fancied this comparison, — quite otherwise; for he once said that Burr's ideas and character were as opposite to his "as two extremes can be."89 In another letter to an American friend in 1809 he deprecated the association of his name with that of Burr: "You know that I never had any connection with this strange Being, and much less compatibility of Ideas or sentiments."90 Though Miranda may not have realized it, a point of resemblance is that Burr evidently conspired to separate a portion of the Spanish dominions from the metropolis. Like Aaron Burr, Miranda was apt to become disgusted with men and with nations when they laid aside his  p247 schemes or postponed their execution. Thus it was that, after his disappointment at the outcome of the Nootka Sound Controversy, he turned eagerly to France in the hope that in their revolutionary enthusiasm her aspiring leaders might be induced to hearken to his schemes for the emancipation of the Spanish Indies. In the case of Miranda we are certain that he disavowed allegiance to the flag under which he had been born in order to promote the consummation of his designs.

Disappointed at the turn which events had taken in France, in 1798 Miranda again viewed England as the nation that was destined to carry out his designs. But when he felt that English ministers were holding him too long in the leash against Spain, his thoughts turned to France where Napoleon had become first consul, and then to the United States where he sanguinely expected to receive aid or coöperation. In view of his ruling passion, it is accordingly only just to Miranda to say that in reality he was not inconsistent. What he aimed to accomplish was the liberation of his native land: as an opportunist who wished above all to promote this end, he was prepared to seek succor or encouragement from whatever nation held the best prospect of success. In this respect he resembles Christopher Columbus; for, like the great Genoese, Francisco de Miranda traveled from court to court offering, though he knew it not, a New World to European nations for conquest.

The rôle of Miranda may also be considered from the viewpoint of his actual conduct in military campaigns. Peculiar though it may seem, he was singularly unsuccessful in crucial operations in which he became engaged. Three events in his career, the battle of Neerwinden, the engagement with the Spanish coast guards on the Venezuelan shores in 1806, and the fateful Capitulation at San Mateo six years later, — all lent color, if not support, to the accusations of certain contemporaries that there was in Miranda a streak of cowardice. As already shown, because of his conduct at Neerwinden he was accused of treason toward the government that he was serving. His unanimous acquittal by the jury in a memorable  p248 trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal leaves no doubt that he had been unjustly accused. In that case the blame for his inglorious failure seems to lie rather with the weak morale and lax discipline of his untrained volunteers than with his defects as a general. The mildest judgment upon his attack on Venezuela in 1806 is that it was indeed quixotic; his flight from the Spaniards who attacked the unarmed schooners was more prudent than chivalrous.

For the fateful surrender at San Mateo the generalissimo was denounced and betrayed by his own compatriots. Nevertheless a careful study of this event in the light of his personal experience with agents of the Spanish Government discredits the view that he was a traitor to the cause of Venezuelan independence. The fairest interpretation of his actions which can be made is that he wished to evade his implacable enemies and later to resume the struggle for independence. His faith in the movement for Spanish-American independence was unwavering. He was constant to his mistress, — Liberty.

The story of Francisco de Miranda's life is not simply a biographical sketch. He symbolizes a type: he had forerunners who seem destined to remain comparatively unknown; he had associates like Nariño and O'Higgins; and he had successors like Simón Bolívar, José de San Martín, and Antonio José de Sucre. A Venezuelan poet has aptly said that Miranda was more than a man, — he was an idea. A herald of independence, Miranda incarnates the idea which at one time or another animated many Spanish Americans of the early revolutionary era, namely, that they could not successfully revolt against their Spanish masters without foreign aid. He was a leading representative of those South Americans who suffered incarceration in Spanish dungeons because of their liberal principles or who pleaded to European cabinets for succor in the Lernaean task of emancipating their native continent from the domination of the Spaniards. Though Spanish Americans occasionally looked to France or to the United States, yet the power that they generally viewed as their most probable coadjutor was England. By a clever appeal to commercial and  p249 political motives Miranda often directed the thoughts of European or American publicists and students to the future of the Spanish Indies.

[image ALT: A portrait in oils, three-quarters left, of a young man with a triangular face and fairly close-cropped curly hair. He wears an early‑19c military uniform: the jacket is embroidered with palms and scattered with military decorations; a massive left epaulet is visible, the other is concealed by a cloak which he holds back with his right hand. He has a pensive, slightly worried air. He is Antonio José de Sucre, the South American military hero.]

Antonio José de Sucre. Portrait by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Palacio Federal, Caracas. Reproduced by courtesy of Señor Vicente Lecuna.

The epic of Miranda amply shows that during the period of the French Revolution and Empire the Spanish Indies was frequently viewed by England as a domain that should be separated from the Motherland in order to prevent France from revolutionizing it. The story of Miranda's life is a portion of the history of the attitude of world powers toward the disintegrating empire of Spain as well as a part of the narrative of the protracted struggles for the independence of Spanish America. Imperfectly known though it has been, the romantic career of this knight-errant of Venezuela has fired the imagination of filibusters and revolutionists. A unique filibuster, the chief apostle of Spanish-American independence, and a founder of the Venezuelan Republic, Francisco de Miranda will live long in the song and story of two hemispheres.

Another viewpoint from which the activities of Miranda can be judged is that of his self-imposed task as a drafter of constitutions. The fundamental laws that he undertook to frame for the emancipated Spanish Indies from 1790 to 1808 were based to some extent upon a study of the governmental systems then existing in America and Europe. To a degree which cannot easily be measured Miranda's governmental projects were affected by the political and constitutional notions of his foreign friends. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of those plans was that they provided for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy or of constitutional monarchies in the liberated regions.

Miranda's proposal for the establishment of a dictatorship in critical times was perhaps an indication that he perceived the need of the Spanish Americans for a strongly centralized government after the Roman model. Though certain features of his constitutional plans were patterned after specific provisions of the Constitution of the United States, yet in many essentials his model was the English Government. In that particular,  p250 as well as in respect to the notion of providing a censorship over morals, Miranda furnished precedents for the political ideals of Simón Bolívar. A study of the governmental plans entertained by the Liberator in 1819 and 1826 indicates that in certain constitutional matters he had presumably been influenced by Miranda's ideas.

In his mature constitutional projects Miranda made considerable allowance for the utilization of Amerindian institutions, such as the cacique, the curaca, and the Inca. He also planned to concede larger functions to the cabildos. Gil Fortoul, the accomplished student of Venezuelan constitutional history, has expressed the opinion, however, that in 1808 the creoles of Venezuela, who were intrenched in the town councils, would have strenuously objected to some of Miranda's constitutional proposals, — especially to his project to reënforce the cabildos by persons selected from the aborigines and the colored people of the country.91 As has been indicated, in 1811 the Venezuelan patriots would not accept Miranda's constitutional views; for they fondly dreamed that Spanish Americans could organize and operate a government fashioned after the most liberal republican type. In general, they failed to realize that people who had never assembled in local legislatures like the inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies, who had never sent delegates to inter-colonial congresses, and who had not yet organized such a political entity as a state, were scarcely ready for a régime like that of the United States. There is a possibility that if Miranda's constitutional plans had been accepted in South America, they might in certain respects have been shown to be better adapted to the genius of the people than the federal and republican types ordinarily adopted there in the era of emancipation.

The discovery of the lost papers of Miranda now makes it possible to consider his financial affairs with considerable exactness. As has been already shown, the expenses of his trip to Spain and the cost of his captaincy in the Spanish service  p251 were met by his father. Although on more than one occasion Miranda alluded to his estates in South America and also stated that he had received financial aid from his relatives there, yet there is no proof that he regularly received an income from that quarter. In view of the vigilant watch that the Spaniards kept on his movements and of the small amount of communication which he was able to carry on with his native land, it seems improbable that any considerable sum of money reached Miranda from his relatives after 1790. It is clear that the itinerant colonel borrowed money from North American friends to help defray the cost of his peregrinations in the United States and Europe.

During his sojourn in Russia, Empress Catherine II conceded to Miranda a purse of gold. Her munificent present indeed enabled him to pay off debts which he had incurred during his extensive travels.92 There is no evidence to show, however, that the French Government ever fully paid the general for his military services to the Republic. The spirit in which he tried to settle one of the debts that he had incurred in France may be illustrated by an extract from a letter of Stone to Miss Williams in which the former said of Miranda: "He will be so kind as to inform you, since you are his correspondent, whether assignats lent in the spring of 1793 can be repaid by the same number of assignats in 1796, or if a sum which cost me upwards of £120 sterling can be balanced by 20 shillings?"93

During the major portion of his career as a revolutionary promoter Miranda was dependent upon English sources of revenue. On certain occasions when he was much in need of money his friends Davison and Melville loaned him funds. His mercantile friend John Turnbull advanced him large sums on credit. Though the extant records of the English Government do not disclose that Miranda's name was ever inscribed on its  p252 list of regular pensioners, yet during his sojourn in England he was either conceded lump sums by English ministers or was paid a stipulated allowance of hundreds of pounds per annum. He was indubitably granted money by Pitt in 1791; in the autumn of 1799 he was given a stipend of three hundred pounds per year; he was paid a substantial annual allowance by the Addington ministry from 1801 to 1805; and when the decision was reached to dispatch an expedition under Sir Arthur Wellesley to Spain instead of to South America, an arrangement was again made that he should be paid regular sums from the English treasury.

When the Venezuelan left London for his native land, in addition to a financial grant that had been made to his secretary, he was enjoying an annual allowance of seven hundred pounds. Though no adjustment was made by English ministers on his departure, yet that government ceased making payments to the promoter. At least there is no evidence available to show that it ever paid him a single penny after October, 1810. During his early career Miranda undoubtedly formed expensive habits; and later his finances were sometimes embarrassed because he generously advanced money to needy fellow countrymen who were interested in the fortunes of Spanish America. On certain occasions he was reduced to solicit money from quondam acquaintances or intimate friends. At other times, when rubles or francs or pounds were readily at hand, he lived in relative financial ease. It is indeed remarkable that a man who after 1783 did not regularly earn a salary or enjoy an inherited income was able to live in a comfortable or even a luxurious manner. Undoubtedly this is one reason why his life was marred by many acrimonious disputes about monetary matters.

Incidents in the career of a man who might not inappropriately be styled a chronic revolutionist indeed raise the inquiry as to whether or not he was engaged in an attempt to emancipate the Spanish Indies for selfish gain. Two different conceptions of Miranda's character may be entertained: one that he was a patriot; and the other that he was a mercenary.  p253 The view may be held that Miranda was nothing more than an avaricious soldier who disposed of his services to the nation which remunerated him most generously. A Spanish writer has interpreted the rôle of Miranda in Venezuela in 1812 as being simply that of a shifty adventurer who betrayed the liberty of his native land in return for gold. That conception would place him on a lower level than a mediaeval soldier of fortune. On the other hand, the view may be held that Miranda was a pure-minded patriot. Dominated by this conception, certain Spanish-American literati have formed exaggerated estimates of Miranda's services to the cause of Spanish-American independence. Such writers have forgotten, however, that the persistent attempt to incite rebellions in Spanish America was with Miranda not only a ruling purpose, — it was an obsession. In fact, it became his profession. Miranda was a promoter of revolutions. The writer cannot agree with the Spanish-American author who extravagantly declared that in the task of the redemption of the world the Venezuelan revolutionist was "the Nazarene."94 Indeed it is to be doubted whether, if that author had beheld the evidence that is preserved in Miranda's inedited papers, he could have retained his exalted opinion of the St. John the Baptist of Spanish-American redemption.

Bolívar is the Spanish-American leader with whom Miranda may most aptly be compared. Each of these leaders got his initial impulse from a sojourn in strange lands. In early manhood both men dedicated themselves to the task of Spanish-American liberation. In mature life both became convinced that among world powers England was destined to establish the most significant relations with Spanish America. Unlike Miranda, however, Bolívar made no sustained effort to accomplish the emancipation of South America through the aid and support of foreign nations. Yet when the epoch of Spanish-American independence actually dawned, Bolívar had a great advantage over his aged compatriot, for he had remained  p254 in close touch with his fellow countrymen; besides, his wide family connections gave him added influence and prestige. Though Miranda had dreamed of liberating the widely-scattered sections of South America, of establishing there a new family of states, and of giving them autonomous constitutions, yet the personage who did most toward the accomplishment of that ideal was Bolívar. It was indeed fortunate that fate intrusted this task to Bolívar's hands; for the Colombian Liberator had the rare persistence, the youthful magnetism, and the unresting energy essential to that Herculean enterprise.

As the narrative of his life has clearly shown, there were occasions when our Venezuelan hero must have been animated by mixed motives, — resentment against Spanish bureaucrats mingled with love for the land which gave him birth. Francisco de Miranda was both filibuster and patriot. Neither in his public nor private morals does he rise in our estimation when compared with the white-souled Argentine hero, José de San Martín, who was without fear and almost without reproach. To an extent Miranda's change from a faithful officer to a revolutionary plotter resembles the transformation of the Mexican Liberator, Agustín de Iturbide, from a royalist colonel to a rebel commander.

Miranda must be ranked as inferior to Bolívar with respect to lasting military and political achievements. The mantle of the unfortunate revolutionary indeed fell upon the shoulders of Bolívar, who after a bloody and protracted struggle became celebrated as "The Liberator." In truth, by virtue of genius, persistence, and good fortune the Liberator at last succeeded in consummating some of the designs that Miranda had sincerely cherished. Simón Bolívar became the uncrowned king of northern South America.

[image ALT: A portrait in oils, slightly three-quarters left, of a young man with a rectangular face, his hair brushed straight, and long sideburns. He wears an elegant and rather plain early‑19c military uniform: a low-collared jacket with embroidered cuffs and collar is open revealing a plain waistcoat. The six-pointed star of a military order is on his left breast. He is seated with his hands falling in his lap in a natural position, and looks at the viewer with an intelligent and slightly inquisitive air. He is Simón Bolívar, the South American military hero.]

Bolívar the Liberator. Portrait by an unknown artist. In the Suárez-Costa-Miranda Collection, Villa Selva e Guasto, Florence, Italy. Reproduced by courtesy of Signor Diego Suárez Costa y Miranda.

Still, among the founders of the Venezuelan Republic the great precursor of independence, Francisco de Miranda, occupies a niche which is not the least distinguished. As a promoter of revolutions, General Miranda holds a place in the history of Spanish America which is unique. In certain respects  p255 he may not inappropriately be compared with the puritan revolutionist Samuel Adams who has been styled "the man of the town-meeting." In other respects Miranda may be likened to that prophet of democracy, Thomas Paine. Indeed the martyred Venezuelan may appropriately be styled the morning star of the Spanish-American Revolution.

Miranda's international rôle was important. During an age signalized by transformations in the political order in both the Old World and the New, this Venezuelan was one of the first students of politics to discern the significant relation of the Spanish Indies to the bitter struggle that was being waged between the two great powers of Europe. His insistent activity stimulated the interest of both France and England in the future of Spanish America. It is to be supposed that his labors as a propagandist were not without influence upon the practical policy which English statesmen eventually formed in regard to the commercial and political future of Mexico and South America.

The achievements of Miranda have been commemorated in both America and Europe. In two hemispheres medals have been minted in his honor. He has been praised by historians and publicists, by poets and statesmen. Let it suffer to mention here two of the most signal of these tributes. Long after he had ceased to importune Napoleon, the notable services of the creole general to the French Republic were accorded signal recognition. By order of the French Minister of the Interior, in 1836 the name of Francisco de Miranda was carved on the Arc de Triomphe at Paris amidst the names of distinguished generals of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era. The most fitting recognition by Venezuela of the services of Miranda was the unveiling in her national pantheon on July 5, 1896, of a memorial cenotaph erected at the right of Tenerani's stately monument to the Liberator. Under that cenotaph a marble tomb still awaits Miranda's ashes.


The Author's Notes:

1 Miranda to Vansittart, July 18, 1803, Mir. MSS., vol. 48; "Inventory of Furniture," Aug. 2, 1805, ibid., vol. 24. See further El Cojo Ilustrado, V, 507‑12, where may be found pictures of some of Miranda's personal effects; and Becerra, Ensayo histórico documentado de la vida de Don Francisco de Miranda, II, 528, note, where they are mentioned.

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2 "Equipage de la Havana," Mir. MSS., vol. 4.

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3 Undated, Mir. MSS., vol. 22.

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4 White to Miranda, Nov. 2, 1802, ibid., vol. 47.

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5 Catalogue of the Second and Remaining Portion of the Valuable Library of the Late General Miranda, passim.

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6 Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library of the Late General Miranda, pt. I, title-page.

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7 Kibblewhite to Davison, July 7, 1807, Mir. MSS., vol. 56.

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8 Miranda to Turnbull, July 11, 1807, ibid., vol. 53.

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9 Ibid., vol. 35.

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10 Miranda, Diary, p153.

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11 March 8, 1792, Mir. MSS., vol. 20.

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12 "Elemens de la Langue Allemande," Mir. MSS., vol. 43.

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13 Ibid., vol. 77.

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14 F. O., 72/89. A more favorable view of Miranda's linguistic attainments was given in 1815 by Leleux, see Glenbervie, The Diaries of Sylvester Douglas, II, 194.

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15 "Monday Eveng, Sepr. 26," Mir. MSS., vol. 23.

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16 Ibid., vol. 22.

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17 Thompson to Miranda, Dec. 10, 1798, ibid., vol. 23.

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18 Ibid.

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19 Ibid.

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20 Mir. MSS., vol. 23.

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21 Preface, p. xv.

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22 Mir. MSS., vol. 56.

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23 Burke, Additional Reasons for our Immediately Emancipating Spanish America, p65.

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24 Feb. 3, 1808, Mir. MSS., vol. 56.

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25 Robertson, "Miranda's Testamentary Dispositions," in His. Am. Hist. Rev., VII, 283‑84.

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26 Robertson, "Miranda's Testamentary Dispositions,", loc. cit., p287.

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27 Mir. MSS., vol. 49.

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28 Miranda to Turnbull, Jan. 4, 1806, ibid., vol. 50.

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29 Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

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30 Ibid.

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31 Ibid.

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32 Becerra, II, 499.

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33 Oct. 1, 1806, Mir. MSS., vol. 52.

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34 Ibid., vol. 52.

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35 Ibid.

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36 Jan. 6, 1807, ibid., vol. 53.

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37 Ibid.

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38 Jan. 6, 1807, Mir. MSS., vol. 53. Brief mention of Miranda's family is found in Farington, Diary, IV, 30.

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39 Robertson, "Miranda's Testamentary Dispositions," in His. Am. Hist. Rev., VII, 292.

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40 An entertaining story that Francisco de Miranda, Jr., was the son of Lady Hester Stanhope was told by a Colombian littérateur named Medardo Rivas in a bit of historical fiction titled "Los dos hermanos," published in his Obras. In that sketch (pp466‑67) Rivas prints an alleged letter of Leander de Miranda that mentions a fortune left to himself and his brother by Lady Hester. This epistle was evidently concocted; for by that Lady's will drawn in 1807 she bequeathed her property to her brothers, see Hamel, Lady Hester Stanhope, Appendix A. See further supra, II, 225‑28, where it is clearly shown that Francisco and Leander were sons of General Miranda by Sarah Andrews born years before he met Lady Hester. The legend that these children of Miranda were sons of that noblewoman has been kept alive by South Americans.

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41 Bolívar, Papeles, p155. On Leander see further O'Leary, Memorias, XXXI, 453; Gutiérrez Ponce, Vida de Don Ignacio Vergara, I, 286.

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42 Boussingault, Mémoires, III, 188‑90. On Francisco see further Posada, "Apostillas," in Boletín de historia y antigüedades, XIII, 90‑94.

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43 Ô'Kelly de Galway, Les généraux de la révolution, p72.

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44 Guthrie to Miranda, letter dated Oct. 28, 1789, Mir. MSS., vol. 18.

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45 Ibid., 1; cf. Boletín de la academia nacional de la historia, XI, 22, where the baptismal certificate preserved in copy in the Mir. MSS. is printed but where the inserted phrase, "y quatro" is neither printed nor mentioned. A facsimile of the original certificate which the author obtained in 1924 from A. C., libro de bautizos de blancos, vol. 13, f. 196, is found in Miranda, Diary, p12.

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46 Medina, Historia del tribunal del santo oficio de la inquisición de Cartagena de las Indias, p362, note 1.

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47 Miranda, Diary, p50.

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48 Ibid., p120.

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49 Ibid., p136.

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50 Ibid., p134.

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51 Ibid., p118.

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52 Biggs, History of Don Francisco de Miranda's Attempt to effect a Revolution in South America, p91.

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53 Miranda to Thompson, July 16, 1808, Mir. MSS., vol. 58.

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54 "Raisons d'éviter Batailles," Mir. MSS., vol. 29.

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55 Champagneux, Oeuvres de J. M. Ph. Roland, II, 409‑16.

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56 Biggs, p27.

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57 Gil Fortoul, Historia constitucional de Venezuela, I, 194‑95.

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58 "Nota Bene," April 8, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 60.

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59 "(C) Proclamation," Mir. MSS., vol. 47.

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60 "Plan Militar formado en Londres en Agosto, 1798," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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61 Diary, p22.

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62 Pictet to Bordier, Sept. 30, 1788, Mir. MSS., vol. 15.

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63 Souvenirs de la révolution française, p98.

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64 Mir. MSS., vol. 3.

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65 Ibid., vol. 24.

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66 Plaidoyer pour le général Miranda, p45.

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67 Biggs, pp100‑1.

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68 Biggs, pp288‑89.

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69 Kibblewhite to Davison, Aug. 17, 1807, Mir. MSS., vol. 57.

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70 Robertson, "Miranda's Testamentary Dispositions," loc. cit., p290.

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71 Memorandum of G. Mayer, May 9, 1817, Mir. MSS., vol. 53.

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72 Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library of the Late General Miranda, p11.

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73 Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library of the Late General Miranda (British Museum), Appendix, p23.

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74 Catalogue of the Second and Remaining Portion of the Valuable Library of the Late General Miranda, p43.

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75 Ibid. (British Museum), p44.

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76 Landaeta Rosales, "El General Francisco de Miranda," in El Universal, Sept. 26, 1919.

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77 Diary, p95.

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78 Diario, Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

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79 Ibid., vol. 10.

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80 Ibid., vol. 13.

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81 Ibid.

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82 Ibid.

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83 Ibid., vol. 1.

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84 Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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85 Ibid., vol. 27.

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86 Adams, Works, X, 143‑44.

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87 Ibid., p141.

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88 Ibid., p145.

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89 Miranda to Loudon, Nov. 2, 1809, Mir. MSS., vol. 61.

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90 Miranda to Ogden, Nov. 2, 1809, ibid.

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91 Gil Fortoul, "El primer fracaso de Miranda," in El Cojo Ilustrado, XV, 328.

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92 A. H. Sutherland's Account of "Count François de Miranda," June 16, 1789, shows that by virtue of a letter of credit from St. Petersburg, which was sent by order of the Empress, Sutherland disbursed on Miranda's account at London from Oct. 30, 1787, to June 16, 1789, sums that aggregated £886‑10‑5, Mir. MSS., vol. 21.

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93 June 3, 1786, ibid., vol. 43.

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94 Rojas, El general Miranda, p. xi.


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