[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Haga clic aquí para una página en Español.]
Español

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 2

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!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 4

Vol. I
p34
Chapter III

Tour of the United States


[image ALT: A summary political and relief map of the Eastern seaboard of the United States from the northernmost corner of Florida to the southern part of Maine, on which a dashed line marks the travels of Francisco de Miranda: by sea successively to Newbern, NC; Wilmington, Georgetown and Charleston, SC; Philadelphia, PA; then mostly by land: up the Hudson Valley to Saratoga, then thru Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and leaving the United States eastward by ship.]

From "The Diary of Francisco de Miranda," edited by W. S. Robertson. Reproduced by courtesy of the Hispanic Society of America.

[A larger, fully readable version opens here (926 KB).]

The young Venezuelan had fixed his eyes upon the United States at an interesting juncture. The last battle of the American Revolution had been fought. A Preliminary Treaty of Peace between England and the Thirteen Colonies had been signed at Paris on November 30, 1782; and two months later preliminary articles of peace were signed by England, France, and Spain. On April 11, 1783, Elias Boudinot, president of the Continental Congress, issued a proclamation announcing the cessation of hostilities by land and sea between England and the United States. At the suggestion of General Henry Knox, to perpetuate friendships that had developed during the war, an hereditary association of officers of the American army was formed which took the name of the Society of the Cincinnati. During the very month when Miranda decided to flee from Cuba, some American soldiers accepted furloughs.

Snugly ensconced on board an American sloop named the Prudent, on the morning of June 1, 1783, Miranda stole out of the harbor of Habana. By the aid of cartography he had succeeded in escaping from the toils laid by Spain's minions, and through the good offices of Seagrove he had obtained passage for the Carolinas. It appears that the latter had secured a pledge from the captain of the Prudent that he would allow the fugitive to disembark at Charleston. Yet Captain Wilson did not cast anchor until he had reached North Carolina. On the afternoon of June 10, 1783, Francisco de Miranda landed at Newbern.1

He found lodging in a cozy tavern. His journal reveals the variety of novel impressions that surged upon his mind. Miranda soon became convinced that the social organization of the United States was in a primitive stage. In company with a future historian of North Carolina he admired the imposing  p35 "palace" that had been erected by the Governor Tryon.2 Under date of June 17 he wrote in his Diary that the people of Newbern had just celebrated the cessation of hostilities with England by a barbecue at which rum and roast beef were consumed by the common people, the country gentry, and the leading magistrates. "It is impossible," said Miranda, "to imagine a more purely democratic gathering, — one which illustrates all that Grecian poets and historians have told us about similar celebrations among the free peoples of Greece."3

[image ALT: A finely detailed drawing of a small three-story brick building with a pedimented center section and a balustraded roof, attached by curving discovered columned walkways to two symmetrical small two-story buildings, on either side, in the same style but without pediments and balustrades. A wide alley leads from the foreground to the central doorway of the main building — it too columned and pedimented; on either side of the alley, a small cannon and a stack of five cannon balls. In the foreground, facing the viewer, stands an 18c gentleman with a tricorn hat and a walking stick. It is a view of the Tryon Palace in Newberne, NC.]

The "Tryon Palace," Newbern, North Carolina. From a wash drawing. Reproduced by courtesy of Marshall DeLancey Haywood.

Not only did he complain that during an excursion into the country his siesta was rudely interrupted by sallies of huge, unmentionable insects but also that he was sadly disturbed at night by the hoarse croaking of enormous bullfrogs. On the other hand, he much admired the mocking bird whose variety of tone and melody beggared description. In the middle of July the traveler arrived at Beaufort. Then he paid a visit to Wilmington where he was astonished to see peaches that were as large and as beautiful as oranges. At Wilmington and Georgetown he viewed fortifications that had been constructed by redcoats during the Revolution. A Carolinian acquaintance characterized the traveler as a "most agreeable" foreigner who was animated by "the most liberal Sentiments."4

On July 29 he sailed past Fort Moultrie and disembarked at Charleston.5 Through letters of introduction from Seagrove and Cagigal he was soon able to meet Governor Guerard and other dignitaries. Edward Rutledge, mayor of Charleston, soon made a formal call on the visitor to deliver a challenge from William Brailsford, an American who had become incensed at Miranda because of his conduct during the Bahama campaign. After Miranda had declared that he had a high opinion of Brailsford, that he had not been responsible for his imprisonment at New Providence, and that "so far  p36 from intentionally reflecting on America, he had always respected and possessed a Friendship for her," that gentleman courteously withdrew his challenge.6 Among important publicists and army officers to whom Miranda stated that he was introduced by the governor at a reception were General Greene, Judge Heyward, Colonels Morris and Pinckney, Major Eustace, Dr. David Ramsey, Attorney General Moultrie, and Chief Justice Burke. Miranda added that, accompanied by an aide-de‑camp, he inspected such scenes of revolutionary exploits as Forts Johnston and Moultrie.

In his visits to the courts of justice he imagined that he saw in operation "the admirable system" of the English Constitution. "The government of this State," said Miranda, "is purely democratic as are the governments of all the other states."7 During two short months he became well acquainted with prominent citizens of Charleston. Major John Eustace of Georgia on the eve of his departure from that gay metropolis, thus mirrored his views concerning the traveler. "I beg you will estimate my sentiments by the anxious ardor with which I have sought your society on all occasions; * * * I request you to accept my best and most unfeigned orisons for your health and happiness."8

Dr. Andrew Turnbull, an Englishman who had lost land grants in Florida largely because of his sympathy with the revolting colonists, gave Miranda letters of introduction to Colonel Barré, to the scientist and theologian, Dr. Priestley, and to the ex‑premier, Lord Shelburne, which reflect his opinion of the Venezuelan. Shelburne was told that from Miranda he could obtain reliable information about the condition of South America. Priestley was informed that the object of Miranda's travels was "rather to converse with Men than to see Countries." The visitor was characterized as an "intelligent traveler and accurate observer of whatever can instruct  p37 the Mind, or add dignity to human Nature. I beg the Favour also of your introducing this learned Stranger to such of your Friends as will conform him in the good opinion he has of our National Merit and Learning." The note to Barré said, in part, of Miranda: "The accidental Mention of his having taken the Character of General Wolfe as his Guide in the Military Career induced me to wish him the Advantage of being acquainted with you, Sir, as one of that General's most intimate Friends and as sharer with him in the dangers and Glories of an Expedition which though successful proved fatal to the brave Wolfe."9

The future historian, David Ramsey, wrote to a friend named Smith as follows:

"I have had so much pleasure and have acquired so much information from the bearer Col. de Miranda that I am desirous of the honor of introducing him to your acquaintance. He is a native of South America and of high rank in the army of his most Catholic Majesty. He loves liberty with an ardor that would do honor to the freest State in the world. He arrived here lately and has been respectfully noticed by the best people of this Metropolis. I wish him to be received with every mark of attention as he passes through the continent, and I am certain that men of sentiment and of inquisitive dispositions will be much delighted with his company."10

Early in November Miranda sailed from Charleston for Philadelphia. Upon disembarking at its busy wharves he was much impressed with "the multitude of vessels of all nations" which plied to that "beautiful, free, and commercial city." He secured accommodations in a hotel named the Indian Queen which he enthusiastically declared was the best in which he had ever lodged. His attention was soon attracted by Charles W. Peale's portraits of personages who had participated in the American Revolution. With keen interest the incipient revolutionary inspected the hall where the Second Continental Congress had frequently assembled to consider  p38 "the great task of independence."11

In a short time he met the Spanish agent, Francisco Rendon, to whom he had a letter of introduction from Cagigal.12 Totally ignorant of Miranda's escapades in the Spanish service, Rendon persuaded him to become a guest in his mansion and introduced him to his diplomatic associates. Through letters of introduction from Carolinian acquaintances, the quondam colonel met many of Philadelphia's leading citizens. Among other personages Miranda mentioned in his journal that he had become acquainted with Baron von Steuben, the former Prussian commander; Generals Arthur St. Clair and Anthony Wayne; Thomas Mifflin, president of Congress; Robert Morris, superintendent of finance; John Dickinson, governor of Pennsylvania; Caesar A. Luzerne, minister of France; his secretary, François de Barbé-Marbois; Peter J. Van Berckel, minister of Holland; a well-known physician named Benjamin Rush; the astronomer David Rittenhouse; and the rising politicians, F. A. Muhlenberg and Gouverneur Morris.13

The arrival at Philadelphia of General Washington, who was on his way to Annapolis to lay before Congress his resignation as commander in chief of the American army, was of special interest to Miranda. Read an apposite excerpt from his Diary describing the reception given to that military hero on December 8, 1783:

"Men, women, and children expressed as much contentment as though General Washington had been the Redeemer entering into Jerusalem, — such are the extravagant notions and sublime concepts entertained concerning this singular and fortunate man throughout the Continent. There is indeed no lack of philosophers who study Washington in the light of reason and who entertain a more just opinion of him than that which has been formed by leaders and by the common people. It is certainly very peculiar that although there are many illustrious persons in the United States who by their  p39 virtue and talents promoted the great and complicated work of incidence, yet on no other personage is there bestowed the general praise or the popularity that are accorded to this chieftain. Perhaps it is more correct to say that only he enjoys popularity: just as the rays of the sun, which are ordinarily dispersed in the atmosphere, when gathered into a focus produce an admirable effect in the realms of physics, so too the achievements of many individuals in the United States who aimed at independence are now gathered up as by a focus in Washington, — a usurpation as capricious as it is unjust! On the following day, accompanied by Rendon, I visited Washington and presented a letter of introduction from General Cagigal that gratified him. I had the pleasure of dining in his company during the time which he spent in Philadelphia. His demeanor is circumspect, taciturn, and inexpressive but a suave manner and great moderation make it endurable."14


[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders portrait, three-quarters left, of an old man in 18c civilian dress, in a stone medallion of oak leaves surmounted by the bearded head of some Greek god or philosopher, the whole on a plinth with the long-range inscription PATRIÆ PATER. The man is George Washington; the portrait is by Peale.]

George Washington. Painting by Charles W. Peale. In the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Though there is no evidence to prove that Colonel Miranda confided his vague aspiration concerning the liberty of his native land to General Washington, yet this chance encounter made a vivid impression upon one who was destined to be the early paladin of Spanish-American independence.

Accompanied by new friends, in the end of December, 1783, Miranda made a trip by sleigh to Wilmington, Delaware. With Captain Rutherfurd, whom he had met in Gibraltar, he visited those sites that the British had fortified after the battle of Brandywine and studied the movements of the contending armies. After returning to Philadelphia he had some interesting conversations with Barbé-Marbois. Miranda complained in his Diary that the Frenchman was circulating false reports about his activities in the West Indies and about  p40 Spain's participation in the American Revolution.15 To him the creole apparently predicted that an insurrection would soon break out in South America similar to the Revolution which had just ended in North America. Miranda gave Barbé-Marbois the impression that he had mentioned to Spanish officials the necessity of admitting foreigners into the Spanish colonies, and that he had intimated to these officials that an uprising of the Mexican aborigines in 1778 was "a warning of the highest importance."16

When it became publicly known in Philadelphia, however, that the loquacious colonel was a deserter from the Spanish service, he was no longer so popular in diplomatic circles. In this dilemma his secret pact with Cagigal, to proceed to Europe to seek justification from the Spanish King, was mentioned only to Rendon.17 There is reason to believe that the Spanish agent continued to be Miranda's sincere friend, although in his official capacity he felt constrained to treat him in a cautious manner. This agent sent a warning to his government that the vengeful officer had dropped hints of his intention to visit England and to present to the court of St. James certain plans for the capture of strongholds in Spanish America. Rendon also reported that he had induced Miranda to leave Philadelphia and to promise that he would proceed to London where he would await a communication from the Spanish court.18

In the middle of January, 1784, the discomfited tourist left Philadelphia bound for the North. In a sleigh drawn by four horses he crossed the river Delaware near the place where in December, 1776, Washington had made his perilous crossing. A stop at Princeton during the noon hour enabled Miranda to glance at New Jersey College. After his ferryboat had dodged floating ice in the Hudson River, he found in New  p41 York City accommodations for himself and a servant. In the company of new acquaintances he soon visited Long Island, which he designated "the Hesperia of America." Miranda also inspected certain camps that had been occupied by English soldiers during the late war. He noticed the trenches that had been held by Washington's soldiers in 1776, and scaled the heights where General Sullivan had been captured by scarlet clad soldiers.19

On a trip to West Point, accompanied by Colonel Taylor, Miranda surveyed the positions that had been occupied by English soldiers and by American patriots in the battle of White Plains. Viewed from the heights, the Hudson River, which was being traversed by many sleighs, presented a "magnificent and extraordinary scene" to one who was unaccustomed to snow and ice. Upon being given letters of introduction from New York acquaintances, Colonel Hull, the commander of West Point, hospitably welcomed the visitor to his house. At once Miranda and his companion proceeded to view the magazines of arms and munitions as well as a model of the insignia for the Society of the Cincinnati. Next they examined the forts and redoubts near West Point. A blockhouse on the river's bank did not escape Miranda's keen eyes. He viewed the redoubt on Constitution Island,a visited North Fort and South Fort, and also the fortifications constructed by Duportail, the French engineer.

Accompanied by some West Point officers, Miranda then proceeded by sleigh down the Hudson River. Thus he caught a glimpse of the ruins of Fort Montgomery. Near Stony Point he saw one of the camps that had recently been occupied by American and French soldiers. Colonel Hull, who had taken part in the attack, graphically described to Miranda the capture of Stony Point by "Mad Anthony," — an exploit which the creole colonel depicted in his Diary as beyond doubt "one of the most brilliant actions of its kind that could be found in military history."20

 p42  During his stay in the city of New York, Miranda met many citizens of the New Republic. Prominent among them were Governor George Clinton, Colonel W. S. Smith, the lumberman Colonel William Duer, the ardent patriot Stephen Sayre, Chancellor Robert Livingston, and the intriguing genius, Alexander Hamilton. So favorably did Miranda impress Duer and Sayre that he secured from them the loan of a considerable sum of money which he used to defray the expense of his travels.21 With Henry Knox, a visiting New England general who had reorganized American artillery service during the Revolutionary War, Miranda struck up a cordial friendship. He met the itinerant Englishman, Thomas Paine, who had composed the flaming pamphlet Common Sense that early in 1776 crystallized American sentiment in favor of independence. In a letter written several years later Paine said that he first became acquainted with Miranda "at New York about the year 1783. He is a man of talents and enterprise, and the whole of his life has been a life of adventures."22

In the end of May the South American made an excursion up the Hudson River beyond the Palisades. After disembarking at Albany he rode on horseback through a country which was so beautiful that he compared it with Cuba. His journal furnishes June 4 as the date on which he visited the battle field of Saratoga. Upon Bemis Heights he inspected the American trenches and redoubts. He also surveyed the position that had been occupied by the English army with its "devilish" entrenchments. He stated that these works with redoubts and advance posts had remained almost intact despite the fierce fire directed against them during the engagement. Yet Miranda noted that there was scarcely a tree near the site of the battle which did not bear scars of the conflict. He declared that he beheld the battery which had been bravely assaulted by the American general, Benedict Arnold, the spot where the  p43 English general, Fraser, had been mortally wounded, and the place where the English commander, General Burgoyne, had pitched his tent.23

It seems likely that Miranda gladly accepted an invitation to dine with members of the Society of the Cincinnati on Monday, July 5, 1784.24 While sojourning in New York City the resentful refugee broached a scheme for the liberation of his native land to Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton. Before departing from this city he evidently obtained from Hamilton a list of military officers of the United States that began with the name of General Washington. Among the personages in this list whose names were marked to indicate that they were considered of special importance were Colonels Lee and Laurens and also Generals Greene, Steuben, and Knox.

A copy of this list that is preserved in Miranda's manuscripts bears the indorsement, "Note of Mr. Hamilton."25 This roll was obviously connected with those grand projects that in a letter to Hamilton in 1792 Miranda declared they had considered in New York City.26 Several years later the American indeed admitted that he had "had frequent conversation" with the Venezuelan about the liberation of the Spanish Indies, that presumably he had favored the design, and that he had perhaps expressed the opinion that the United States would be interested in such an enterprise.27 According to a memoir which Miranda later composed, it was at this very juncture that his notions about the emancipation of South America began to crystallize. "In the year 1784, in the city of New York," he recorded, "I formed a project for the liberty and independence of the entire Spanish-American Continent with the coöperation of England. That nation was naturally  p44 much interested in the design, for Spain had furnished a precedent by forcing her to acknowledge the independence of her colonies in America."28 Among papers concerning his American tour that the plotter preserved was a copy of the Letters from Phocion, in which Hamilton avowed that the "influence of our example" had "penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism," and "pointed the way to inquiries which may shake it to its deepest foundations."29

Miranda doubtless passed many pleasant hours in the company of New York friends and acquaintances. An illustration of the variety of his interests is found in the following note: "Judge Hobart's most respectful Compliments to Col. de Miranda, the Jury has just returned to Court and found the Rioters Guilty."30 Another billet contains these informing passages:

"Mrs. Montgomery with her best Compliments returns Colonel Miranda two of his books — the third, Helvet — she has absolutely fallen in love with — and cannot think of parting with it. She has however by way of compensation left a history of the last war in America written by an officer who was an Eyewitness to what he wrote * * *. Mrs. Montgomery still flatters herself that by chance she shall see the Col. before his departure from this country. Yet should that moment not arrive, she wishes him to accept her prayers for his further happiness and her thanks for his many attentions."31

After his departure from New York City, Miss Eliza Livingston wrote to Miranda to chide him for not informing her of his itinerary and to tease him about his gallant attentions to the ladies while in New York. "Surely when in this City," she said, "you greatly approved of female society."32 In a letter written early in 1785, she added: "Sayre stays this winter with your friends the Duers. I never meet those men but they speak of you, and drink the health of the Queen of the Incas."33

 p45  To William Duer the traveler had confided his intention to visit England. In a letter to an Englishman who was a friend of Lord North, Duer gave his impressions o Miranda:

"This Gentleman is from Disposition and Reflection a Citizen of the World, which he traverses with a View of Increasing a Stock of Knowledge, which is already far from being Inconsiderable.

"It is not therefore surprising that he has formed a Determination of visiting England, which has been long Considered by Intelligent Foreigners as the Nation of Philosophers: or that he should wish to form an Acquaintance with the great Characters in which it abounds. * * * He will be found a very Interesting Acquaintance, and will I doubt not by Exchange of Useful Information in Matters of Science and Politics, endeavor to Compensate for any valuable Communications which you and my Friends may impart to him on the Constitution, Commerce, and Government of your Country."34

Letters of introduction furnished to Miranda by other American friends show that they had become aware that he had a special motive in visiting the United States. In a letter to Thomas Russell, General Knox described his new acquaintance as "a Spanish Gentleman, and an enthusiast in the cause of Liberty. * * * He possesses an extensive knowledge of men and things, and his opportunities have been exceeded only by his eagerness to improve them."35 To James Swan, Knox said that this foreigner desired "to view more nearly the scene where such great things had been performed by comparatively small means."36 Of Governor Hancock of Massachusetts the general asked permission to introduce "a Spanish Gentleman who, with talents perfectly formed for the purpose, is desirous of seeing N. America and those Characters, who have materially contributed to effect a revolution, which is  p46 contemplated through Europe with astonishment."37

It is possible that Miranda mentioned his revolutionary designs to Baron von Steuben, a Prussian who had served on the staff of Frederick the Great and had also acted as inspector general of the American army during the Revolutionary War. General Steuben presented Miranda with a copy of his treatise on military discipline which had been highly serviceable to American patriot officers. On July 23, 1784, he wrote to Miranda to express regret at his impending departure and to hope that he might again enjoy his conversation. "My best wishes will accompany you everywhere. May you be as happy as you deserve to be!"38 Thus did the Prussian disciplinarian bid farewell to the future dictator of Venezuela.

Two days later Miranda disembarked at New Haven from the sloop Friendship. It was Sunday afternoon, and he noticed that the streets were deserted, "for all the world had gone to church."39 After securing lodgings in the coffee house kept by Mrs. Smith, he listened to a sermon by a well-known Boston divine. On July 26 he visited President Stiles of Yale College and presented letters of introduction from acquaintances in New York.40 Dr. Stiles accompanied him to the college where Miranda visited classes in algebra and Hebrew, attended prayers in the chapel, and drank a glass of wine with some tutors. On the following day he went to the campus again and was allowed to examine the President's interesting manuscripts. While visiting the college library Miranda inspected a curious Latin tome that contained passages from the Holy Scriptures with execrable illustrations. He noted in his Diary that certain halls were adorned by portraits of Yale's benefactors. He climbed the rugged hill called West Rock in order to peer into the famous cave that for several years had sheltered one of the regicide judges.41

On July 29 Miranda again visited Yale College. On this occasion he saw some students delivering declamations or harangues.  p47 In his journal he described this exercise as "an excellent method to accustom them to speak in public and to impart grace to movement and expression."42 As President Stiles wrote in his Diary that Miranda had not only traveled to Madrid but had also visited Paris, Rome, Naples, Venice, and London, it would seem that the visitor either prevaricated or was misunderstood. There is no doubt that Miranda convinced the President that he had a perfect acquaintance with the policy and history of "all Spanish America." He described to Stiles the colleges of South America and Mexico. He stigmatized the learning of the Mexicans as "inferior, trifling, and contemptible." Mexico had no "great Literary Characters," he asserted; for there a genius dared "not read nor think nor speak, for fear of the Inquisition." On July 30 Miranda left New Haven on horseback bound for Boston. In his journal President Stiles characterized him as "a learned Man and a flaming Son of Liberty."43

At Wethersfield on August 1, which was Sunday and consequently "a church day," Miranda went to a meeting-house with Colonel and Mrs. Chester. There he particularly admired the singing which he declared was the most solemn and ecclesiastical that he had ever heard on the American Continent. In the evening of August 4, — so runs his journal, — he mounted the Boston stagecoach and rode through a picturesque region to Hartford. Thence he traveled via Windsor to Springfield. The customs of northeast impressed him as ultrademocratic. "I shall not refrain from mentioning here," he wrote in his Diary concerning an inn, "that the spirit of republicanism is so strong in this country that the coachman who drives the stage and all the other guests sat together at the same table. It was with no small difficulty that I arranged that my servant should eat by himself."44

At Springfield the tourist was particularly interested in the factories of arms that adjoined the arsenal. He noted that  p48 some cannon and small arms of French make were still stored there. While the horses of the stagecoach were resting at Windsor he noticed a comely young woman reading a translation of Rollin's Histoire Ancienne. In answer to his inquiry, she unhesitatingly responded that in her judgment Franklin was superior to Aristides. Miranda recorded the opinion that the books of the Hartford Public Library were used more than the tomes which were so carefully preserved in the Biblioteca of the Escorial. He attended a tea party in the house once occupied by Silas Deane, the first agent of the Thirteen Colonies to France. From Middletown, where he conversed with some officers who had served in the American Revolution, he sailed in a sloop down the Connecticut River to New London. While on a visit to Norwich, he called on General Huntington, sipped tea with some ladies, and, as was his custom, strolled through a cemetery to scan inscriptions on tombstones.

Near the end of August the voyager arrived at Newport. Letters of introduction soon enabled him to dine with new acquaintances. Miranda enjoyed the salubrious air of "the paradise of New England," where he beheld with pleasure sleek cattle grazing in verdant pastures. He surveyed the forts and redoubts that had been constructed by the English and by the French during the Revolutionary War, and viewed the route that had been taken by General Sullivan's retreating patriots. Not only did he examine various batteries and forts in the adjacent bay but he also made a pilgrimage to the farmhouse where in 1777 the English commander, General Prescott, was surprised and captured by American soldiers. This exploit he described as "one of the most brilliant actions of its kind executed either in ancient or modern times."45 In his Diary he recorded that during a visit to the cemetery he paused a moment in front of a monument erected in honor of Chevalier de Ternay, who was commodore of the squadron that in 1780 convoyed transports which carried auxiliary soldiers  p49 from France to New England.

On September 9 Miranda took a room in Rice's tavern at Providence. In his usual fashion he soon made new acquaintances. These included Dr. Moyes of Edinburgh, Scotland, who was delivering a series of lectures on natural history and the philosophy of chemistry. Miranda could not refrain from viewing the fortifications that General Sullivan had constructed at Fox Point for defense against the English. He visited a court of justice where he admired the talent of the judges and lawyers. On September 14, according to his Diary, he dined with Rev. James Manning, who was president of Rhode Island College. Miranda recorded that this college commanded a splendid view but that its library and scientific apparatus were scarcely of collegiate rank. Its charter he found to be liberal and well-designed, while the cost of education was very low. Commodore Hopkins, whom the inquisitive traveler visited at his residence near Providence, he characterized as an ignorant and vulgar person whose geographical knowledge was very slight. After attending divine service in an Anabaptist meeting-house as well as in a church frequented by the "New‑Lights," early on the morning of September 15, he again mounted a stagecoach en route for Boston.46

Among prominent people whom he soon met in that city were Governor Hancock, James Bowdoin, General Henry Jackson, Dr. James Lloyd, Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, and Rev. Joseph Willard. With a new‑found friend Miranda soon ascended Beacon Hill. Accompanied by General Knox, who was now in Boston, he viewed the state house and the court house. He wrote in his Diary that the "best building is the church which they call King's Chapel." His visits to the state house made him doubt the wisdom of intrusting the citizenry with legislative authority. He passed judgment on the lawgivers in this critical passage:

"On various occasions I attended meetings of the Massachusetts  p50 legislature where I beheld in patent fashion the defects and inconveniences which this democracy suffers because legislative power is placed entirely in the hands of ignorant men. In the midst of a debate that he did not understand one legislator was reciting verses which he knew by heart. After the assembly had been discussing a subject for two hours, another legislator inquired before voting what was the motion before the house. Most of the legislators are of this caliber. In these democratic assemblies the most absurd and unjust measures have been proposed, debated, and approved throughout this continent."47

While sojourning in Boston the traveler was gratified to meet "the famous republican," Samuel Adams, with whom he conversed at length about certain defects of the Massachusetts Constitution. "He gave me," added Miranda in his journal, "much interesting information about the origin, principles, and occurrences of the recent Revolution, and treated me in a familiar manner."48 The same source informs us that James Bowdoin, who had been president of the Massachusetts constitutional convention, also furnished Miranda with "very interesting information about the events of the late Revolution and its true origin."49 The personality of General Knox made a vivid impression on Miranda. A characterization in his Diary reads in this wise: "Among all the military chieftains whom I have met in this country, even including the Idol, General Knox is one of the best informed on the theory and practice of war. His bearing is agreeable, and his conversation is interesting."50

Another diarial entry ran as follows: "In the suburbs of Boston and near all the roads may be found fortifications that were constructed by the English or the Americans during the siege of this city."51 On his way to Cambridge, Miranda surveyed the site of the battle of Bunker Hill. With historical  p51 insight he saw that confusion might arise by the careless use of that name for the battle which in reality was fought on Breed's Hill. "What difficulties," asked he in his journal, "will not be caused to posterity when its Polybuses,º who will travel in order to write with truth and dexterity the history of the present age, find such contradictions between the correct name of the site and the name of the event, especially as a monument now erected to immortality upon the very site of the battle does not clear up this doubt?" The itinerant apostle of liberty presumably also made a pilgrimage to Faneuil Hall.52

Accompanied by Dr. Waterhouse and other tutors Miranda paid a visit to Harvard College. With surprise he noticed that the habitations of both students and teachers were utterly devoid of adornments. The library he considered well arranged, and its books not badly selected, but he thought that the museum of natural history scarcely merited its name. He viewed a spacious room that was hung with portraits of Harvard's benefactors. At the refectory he partook with some students of a frugal repast composed of cabbage, potatoes, and salt pork, with bread and cheese, and a little cider. When the visitor returned to college to inspect the apparatus that was used to give instruction in natural philosophy, he dined by invitation with President Willard, and presented him with a silver medal that had been minted in Mexico to commemorate the founding of her academy of law. "It appears to me," said Miranda in his Diary, "that Harvard College is better adapted to train clergymen than to mould capable and well-informed citizens. Certainly it is extraordinary that Harvard does not even have a single professorship of the living languages, and that the chair of theology is the most important chair in the college."53

About the middle of October, 1784, Miranda departed from Charlestown by stagecoach. At Salem he stopped long enough  p52 to pay a visit to Gallows Hill where witches had been executed in "an age of crass fanaticism." He recorded in his journal that he read in the town archives of a woman who had been fined and scourged for not having attended church. Nevertheless he noted that although the soil of New England was poor "yet such is the industry and spirit with which liberty inspires the people that from a small plot of ground they raise enough produce to support their large families, to pay heavy taxes, and to live in comfort and enjoyment, — a thousand times more happy than the proprietors of fertile lands and rich mines in Mexico, Peru, La Plata, Venezuela, or indeed in any part of Spain's American dominions!"54

Still, on being compelled to pay double the ordinary fare for crossing a stream by ferry on Sunday, the critical traveler commented unfavorably on what he designated as a religious stratagem. While sojourning at Portsmouth in the company of Colonel Langdon, Miranda visited the city hall, dined with the president of New Hampshire,b and listened to a discussion of the defects of its new Constitution. He next attended some sessions of the legislature which was translating that fundamental law into action. There he was astounded to behold a group of pastors presenting a memorial to the legislators, — a procedure that he thought disclosed "the ambition and vanity of the clergymen as well as the simplicity and prepossessions of the people."55 At a tea party in Langdon's house, he became acquainted with the presidents of two small New England colleges who spent two mortal hours in a tiresome discussion of ecclesiastical problems. "If one should judge of those institutions by their preceptors," wrote Miranda, "there is no small amount of pedantry in such seminaries."56

While in New England he evidently mentioned to casual acquaintances the scheme that he was meditating in regard to his native land. At the home of Dr. Lloyd, where he was invited to dinner,57 Miranda's conversation vividly impressed  p53 the physician's youthful son. More than twenty years later he said that Miranda appeared to him as "the most extraordinary, and wonderfully energetic man that I had ever seen; * * * his darling theme was the prospect of revolutionizing the Spanish provinces of South America; * * * While commenting on these subjects with great vehemence of enthusiasm and severity of denunciation, and in a rapid impassioned and commanding eloquence, with his whole frame in motion, and pacing the room with giant strides, he presented to my juvenile imagination a new and apparently more elevated sample of the human character, and seemed capable of leading a People impatient of their Government, and ripe for its subversion to any deeds of daring to which his ambitions might direct them."58 The revolutionary conspirator observed with much interest the visit to New England of Marquis Lafayette, the dashing French hero of the American Revolution. In his journal Miranda thus delineated Washington's comrade in arms:

"Marquis Lafayette arrived when I was in Boston. I took occasion to meet him. To me he appears to be a mediocre character who is endowed with the activity and perpetual motion of a Galician. * * * This trip of the Marquis appears to me to be one of those sleight of hand performances by which France tries to delude mankind, and which on many occasions produces the desired effect. Yet to the eyes of discerning persons such performances are only ridiculous political farces. These guileless people, as yet inexpert in politics, have made excessive and absurd demonstrations of pleasure, even in such small towns as Marblehead; so that in order to receive adulation the hero has passed from one town to another with the velocity of a Rolando."59

At Boston, on the eve of his departure from New England, Miranda's designs concerning the Spanish Indies assumed form. The project that he had dimly envisaged at New York under the stimulus of Hamilton's sympathy was now given a definite outline by Knox's coöperation. A letter sent to Miranda  p54 by Knox from Dorchester on October 11, 1784, suggests the degree of intimacy that had been reached in their friendship:

"I beg a thousand pardons for not having seen you during the week past. It was my fixed determination to have called upon you almost each day but a number of perverse accidents frustrated my intentions. If you are unengaged, and could do me the pleasure of passing this day at Dorchester, the servant with the carriage has directions to wait your time. We have no company."60

It was presumably in conferences held between October 11 and November 23 that Knox and Miranda formulated a plan for coöperation from New England in the revolutionizing of the Spanish Indies.61 This is made plain by illuminating memoranda dated November 23, 1784. These documents deal with a scheme to raise soldiers in New England for the liberation of the Spanish-American colonies. Among them is an "Estimate of the supposed expences of raising, clothing, and arming five thousand men, fully officered, and divided into proportions of Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery, and all the other necessaries for immediate operation. Provisions and Ammunition for one Year."62

This plan proposed that five thousand men should be enlisted in New England to serve for five years at a bounty of fifty dollars apiece. Whether infantry, cavalry, or artillery the soldiers were to be paid at an average rate of sixty dollars per month. The military supplies were to include five thousand muskets, five thousand bayonets, fifty cannon or howitzers of different calibers, and five hundred rounds of ammunition for each cannon and each musket. An estimate of twenty  p55 thousand dollars annually was included for hospital expenses, and one million dollars were allowed for contingent expenses. While the date and the title of these estimates are evidently in Miranda's handwriting, yet in his index to this volume of his manuscripts the original memoranda are ascribed to General Knox, and they are in a handwriting that is evidently Knox's.63 With these documents Miranda filed that list of military officers which, as we have noticed, he had framed in New York by the aid of Alexander Hamilton.

This grand project was doubtless what he had in mind when in his later correspondence with Knox, the plot mentioned the scheme considered during the "symposiums" that they had held in Boston.64 Further, we know that when Miranda departed from New England he left with Knox a copy of a cipher.65 Evidence emanating from both Hamilton and Knox thus lends an air of credibility to Miranda's later assurances to an English naval officer who became interested in his design that he laid his plan "before Generals Washington, Knox, and Hamilton, who promised him every assistance and gave him assurances of raising troops in the province of New England, provided he could persuade Great Britain to assist with her navy."66 However, this statement exaggerated the encouragement which the American generals gave to Miranda. Aside from a visiting card of General Washington that Miranda later fastened between the pages of his Diary, there is no evidence emanating from the triumphant American commander to show that he ever evinced any interest in the ambitious project of the Venezuelan prophet of liberty.

[image ALT: A photograph of a page of a notebook with very neat handwritten lines, on top of which have been fastened 8 small cards, 4 of them printed, and all of them containing parts filled in in handwriting — calling cards and social invitations. It is a sample page of Francisco de Miranda's Diary; the page is notable for one of the 8 cards, bearing George Washington's signature.]

Reduced facsimiles of cards which Miranda fastened between the leaves of his "Diary." From the Miranda Manuscripts.

[A larger, almost completely readable version opens here (973 KB).]

Whether Miranda was aware of it or not, the court of Madrid was already suspicious of his designs. On being prematurely informed that the fugitive had sailed from the  p56 United States for Europe, the chief Secretary of State of Charles III, Count Floridablanca, wrote to Bernardo del Campo, the Spanish minister in London, directing him to make a formal demand upon the English Government that Miranda should be delivered up to Spain as a prisoner of state. A memorandum prepared for Floridablanca gave the Spanish view of his defection. It declared that he had abused his authority on the mission to Jamaica by purchasing merchandise which "he introduced clandestinely into Habana with the protection and aid of Governor Cagigal. Because of this, by order of the King, a suit was instituted against the contrabandist. As Miranda considered himself to be the chief conspirator, in order to escape his just deserts, he took the decision to abandon his employment and to proceed to the United States where he has divulged that he will voyage to London to furnish information to the English Government and to present projects against Spain."67

The suspected conspirator had profited much by his visit to North America. He had improved his knowledge of the English language and had become acquainted with the parties and politics of the United States. He had studied the maneuvers of contending armies in the struggle that had rendered asunder the British Empire. Not only had he examined the fortifications of Charleston, Philadelphia, New York, Newport, and Boston, but he had inspected the battle fields of Bunker Hill, Brandywine, and Saratoga. From the lips of military chieftains he had listened to graphic descriptions of memorable revolutionary exploits. In the extravagant words of John Adams it was a general opinion in the States "that Miranda knew more of every campaign, siege, battle, and skirmish that had ever occurred in the whole war, than any officer of our army, or any statesman in our councils."68

With the highest zest Miranda had beheld popular acclamations in North America when news was received that secession  p57 from England was an accomplished fact. The American spirit of religious toleration affected him profoundly. Commendable traits in the administration of the emancipated colonies he was inclined to ascribe rather to the excellences of the English Constitution than to any intrinsic virtue in the institutions that had been evolving upon American soil. With a critical reaction he had beheld certain manifestations of democratic spirit among citizens of the States. Yet the tone of happiness that ordinarily prevailed among the people of the New Republic made an enduring impression upon his spirit. The amorous adventures of Miranda with American ladies incited a Mexican littérateur to liken him to Casanova.

Among the large group of friends and acquaintances that he had made during his American tour there were a select number, notably Knox, Smith, and Hamilton, that he believed would be ready to help him in the execution of his secret project to emancipate the Indies from Spanish rule. It does not appear, however, that he had determined to undertake such an enterprise at once. He still cherished the intention of making a tour of Europe to complete his education and to improve his knowledge of military affairs.

On November 29, 1784, Miranda paid Captain Callahan twenty‑two guineas for his passage in the ship Neptune from Boston to London.69 Among the letters of introduction that the tourist carried with his cherished papers was one from William Duer to George Rose, "Secretary to the Treasury, Whitehall, London." Simply as a contemporary estimate of Miranda, it is worth quoting at length:70

"This Letter will be delivered to you by my particular Friend Col. Miranda, late Secretary to Genl. Cagigal, the governor of the Havanna, and an officer of distinguished merit in the Spanish Service.

"He has unhappily for him met with that Fate, which has  p58 too often befallen the man of Virtue and Talents in an Arbitrary Government, the Persecution of bigoted and Intriguing Men; and it is not Improbable but the same Spirit of his Enemies may Endeavor to Extend itself to him during his Residence in England which he visits with a View of enlarging the Circle of his Knowledge, till the Storm which has been unjustly raised against him is blown over. You will do an act of singular Justice and Humanity in aiding him with your advice, in promoting his Happiness and Security whilst he resides amongst you; and should he judge it advisable for attaining the last Object to have a Conference with the present Prime Minister, will you take him by the hand, and favor me with being his Introducer.

"I shall not give Pain to the Feelings of my Friend to whom this Letter is delivered open, by saying what I think of his Abilities and merit as you will thank me when we have the Pleasure of meeting for giving you so valuable an Acquaintance, who will be able to give you not only a very accurate detail of that unexplored Country of which he is a native, but a much more just account of the Resources, Genius, and State of Politics of the United States than you would be able to obtain from most of its natives."


The Author's Notes:

1 Miranda, Diary, pp3‑4.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Martin, History of North Carolina, II, 265.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Miranda, Diary, p6.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Ibid., pp7‑13; S. Halling to Allibone, July 16, 1783, Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Miranda, Diary, p14. Cf. Eustace, Le citoyen des États-Unis d'Amérique, pp6‑7.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Inclosure in Miranda to Brailsford, "Vendredy," Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Miranda, Diary, p25.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Eustace to Miranda, Oct. 3, 1783, Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

9 A. Turnbull to Barré, Nov. 2, 1783, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Oct. 29, 1783, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Miranda, Diary, p29.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Antepara, South American Emancipation, pp252‑53.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Miranda, Diary, pp30‑31.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Ibid., pp39‑40. See also, Washington, Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington, III, 2394. In a letter addressed by Miranda to Cagigal on January 11, 1784, he thus described his reception by Washington: "Las recomendaciones que v. me remitio para D. Francisco Rendon, y el General Washington, fueron entregados por mi propa mano á ambos sugetos que hicieron el maior aprecio, particularmte el primero á quien ademas he merecido me franquease quanto en su Casa propa brindandome con quanto lo necesitave y efectuiera en su poder." Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Miranda, Diary, p46.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Barbé-Marbois, Histoire de la Louisiane, pp161‑62.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Miranda to Cagigal, January 14, 1784, Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Rendon to Gálvez, January 4, 1784, A. G. I., audiencia de Santo Domingo, 84‑2‑9.

[decorative delimiter]

19 Miranda, Diary, pp46, 47, 51, 56.

[decorative delimiter]

20 Ibid., p64.

[decorative delimiter]

21 In 1784 Col. Duer evidently loaned Miranda $1,336.67. See inclosure in J. Duer to Miranda, Jan. 9, 1805, Mir. MSS., vol. 50; on Sayre's loan see Sayre to Jefferson, Nov. 15, 1806, Jeff. MSS., series 2, vol. 77, no. 13.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Conway, Life of Thomas Paine, II, 22.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Miranda, Diary, pp69‑71.

[decorative delimiter]

24 B. Walker and J. Fairlie to Miranda, July 2, 1784, Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Ibid., vol. 45. Other names in this list were the following: Marquis Lafayette, Generals Duportail, St. Clair, Wayne, Cols. Dearborn, Ogden, Putnam, and Lt. Cols. Burr and Hull.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Miranda to Hamilton, Nov. 4, 1792, ibid.; see also, Miranda, Diary, p157, note 306, and infra, pp126‑27.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Robertson, Miranda, pp251‑52; and infra, p177.

[decorative delimiter]

28 "Para Gensoni en Paris," Oct. 10, 1792, Mir. MSS., vol. 27.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Hamilton, Works, II, 329.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Undated letter, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Oct. 23, 1784, ibid., vol. 44.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Feb. 28-Mar. 12, 1785, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

34 To Wm. Brummele, Feb. 12, 1784 (copy), ibid., vol. 21.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Undated copy, ibid., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Undated copy, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

37 April 28, 1784 (copy), Mir. MSS., vol. 5.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Miranda, Diary, p77.

[decorative delimiter]

40 Stiles, Literary Diary, III, 130.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Miranda, Diary, pp77‑79.

[decorative delimiter]

42 Ibid., p79.

[decorative delimiter]

43 Stiles, op. cit., III, 130‑31; Stiles' MS. Diary.

[decorative delimiter]

44 Miranda, Diary, pp82‑83.

[decorative delimiter]

45 Miranda, Diary, p106.

[decorative delimiter]

46 Ibid., p113; Manning to Miranda, undated, Mir. MSS., vol. 6.

[decorative delimiter]

47 Miranda, Diary, p120.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Ibid., p118.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Ibid. On Nov. 23, 1784, Bowdoin wrote a note to Miranda inviting him to tea and thanking him for the loan of a book, Mir. MSS., vol. 21.

[decorative delimiter]

50 Miranda, Diary, p119.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Ibid., p120.

[decorative delimiter]

52 Ibid., p122. Among his papers Miranda filed a card on which was printed the following: "Admit the Bearer to Dine at Faneuil-Hall on Tuesday, 19th October. Dinner ½ past 2 O'Clock," Mir. MSS., vol. 6.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Miranda, Diary, p123.

[decorative delimiter]

54 Miranda, Diary, p129.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Ibid., p135.

[decorative delimiter]

56 Ibid., pp134‑35.

[decorative delimiter]

57 Lloyd to Miranda, Oct. 18, 1784, Mir. MSS., vol. 21.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Robertson, Miranda, p250.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Miranda, Diary, p121.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Mir. MSS., vol. 50.

[decorative delimiter]

61 In a letter to Knox, Nov. 4, 1792, Miranda mentioned "those schemes our patriotism suggested to our minds in our Semposiums at Boston," Robertson, Miranda, p291. In a letter addressed to Knox on October 19, 1798, Miranda said: "Enfin tout semble se reunis pour que nos projets de l'année 1784 s'accomplissant. . . . J'espère que vous tiendres vos promesses, et que bientot j'aurai l'honneur d'aller vous prendre chez nous !" Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

62 "1784, Boston, Papers relative to North America," Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

63 Ibid. The entry in the index reads: "Knox's estimate & ca. for raising 5,000 Men." Cf. Miranda, Indice, p52.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Miranda to Knox, Nov. 4, 1792, Knox MSS., vol. 32, f. 176.

[decorative delimiter]

65 Miranda to Knox, Apr. 9, 1791, ibid., vol. 28, f. 119.

[decorative delimiter]

66 Am. Hist. Rev., VI, 510. The views which Hamilton later expressed about Miranda may be found infra, p177.

[decorative delimiter]

67 Sept. 13, 1784, and inclosure, A. G. S., estado, legajo 8139.

[decorative delimiter]

68 Adams, Works, X, 135.

[decorative delimiter]

69 Callahan's receipt, Mir. MSS., vol. 7. Miranda had evidently contemplated a visit to British America; for in a "Lista de Cartas de Recomendacion" (ibid., vol. 5) there are some letters labelled "Canada."

[decorative delimiter]

70 Ibid., vol. 5.


Thayer's Notes:

a There are three Revolutionary War redoubts on Constitution Island: two of them had been abandoned at the end of the war, and the third, possibly the one meant here, though still in use (as a powder magazine) at the time of Miranda's visit, would only be abandoned in 1787. Good information is found on the Fortress West Point pages at FortWiki.

[decorative delimiter]

b Although independent from England, New Hampshire would not join the United States for another four years: at the time of Miranda's visit, she was an independent republic.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 27 Jun 15