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Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Miranda

by
William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press
1929

The text is in the public domain.

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

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Chapter 9

Vol. I
p161
Chapter VIII

Relations with England and the United States, 1797‑1799

During Miranda's sojourn in France the design of separating the Indies from Spain had not been completely forgotten in England. Among those Britons who cherished this idea was Nicholas Vansittart, a rising young barrister and politician. Influenced largely by mercantile motives, in August, 1796, the very month when France and Spain entered into an offensive and defensive alliance, Vansittart sketched an ambitious project for an expedition to be launched from England for the conquest of South America and Mexico. An able Scotch politician and intimate friend of William Pitt named Henry Dundas, who was secretary of state for war, became deeply interested in commercial relations between Spanish America and the English West Indies.

In April, 1797, Secretary Dundas instructed Thomas Picton, who had just been appointed governor of the newly acquired island of Trinidad, to pay special attention to measures which might promote commerce between that island and South America. He even informed Governor Picton that, in case the Spanish colonists were inclined to resist the oppressive policy of the Motherland, they would receive aid from England in a struggle for independence. A proclamation in Spanish embodying the views of his government was distributed by Picton on the coast of the adjacent Continent. This propaganda encouraged discontented Spanish colonists. In July, 1797, a revolutionary conspiracy was discovered at La Guaira; some of its ringleaders were imprisoned, while others escaped to Trinidad.

Agents of discontented Spanish Americans were prompt to take advantage of hostilities between England and Spain. Among those emissaries were Caro and Nariño. A native of New Granada, because of seditious actions Antonio Nariño had been sentenced to imprisonment in an African dungeon.  p162 However he escaped from his guard, and proceeded to London where he apparently presented a plea to the English Government for arms, munitions, and frigates to liberate his native land.1 Pedro José Caro represented himself to be a native of Cuba who owned extensive estates on that island. Caro arrived in London in February, 1797, and attempted to interest English ministers in the emancipation of the Spanish Indies. Disappointed in his first attempt, he withdrew to Paris where he secured letters of introduction from Miranda to Joseph Smith and John Turnbull. In his letter to Turnbull, Miranda said that this agent was intrusted with important papers. When he forwarded these documents to Downing Street from Dover, Caro accompanied them by a brief epistle in which he requested permission to visit England. After reaching London the Cuban broached his scheme to Turnbull, who, on October 18, 1797, informed William Pitt of the arrival of the emissary.

Caro's proposals were based on the hypothesis that many people in the Spanish Indies were intensely dissatisfied with the existing régime. In New Granada, said he, there were thirty thousand revolutionaries with plenty of money and gunpowder. From that base the rebellion might easily be extended not only to Peru and Chile but also to Central America and Mexico. Although the object of the insurrection was the establishment of an independent nation, yet Caro solicited the assistance of England. He asked that government to furnish cannon, muskets, and ammunition, to dispatch a fleet to invest Cartagena, and to send five thousand soldiers to seize the Isthmus of Panama. The conspirator promised that England would be amply remunerated for this succor when an independent government was set up in Spanish America.2

In a letter dated October 19, 1797, Caro informed the English Government that General Miranda had also labored on the project. "The merits and talents of this American," said Caro, "are well known; his reputation is worth an army. At present he is disposed to come to London for the purpose  p163 of correcting the design, of concerting means for its execution, and of proceeding to America where he can promote the enterprise better than anyone else."3 On December 23 Caro evidently renewed his plea to the ministers; he argued that Miranda would be hailed with enthusiasm by his Venezuelan compatriots.4 Miranda's explanation of the motives that impelled him to make another visit to the English metropolis is furnished by an autobiographical fragment:

"In the month of January, 1797, in view of the ratification in Paris of the offensive and defensive treaty of Spain with the French Republic, I wrote to Mr. Turnbull in London by means of a trusty person whom I charged with the commission of presenting himself to Mr. Pitt. This agent was to make known the circumstances and conditions under which I had entered the French service and participated in a Revolution that, however, had entirely altered its character. My original object was nothing less than the liberty and independence of my native land. I considered it to be my duty to forsake a system so abominable as that which France was pursuing, — a system antagonistic to the régime that had induced me to enter her service in 1792. Accordingly I besought Pitt to turn his eyes of the my previous propositions in favor of Spanish America; for the condition mentioned to me as that which was suitable for the beginning of the enterprise, namely, a war between Spain and England, had actually come to pass. Besides, there was a probability that hostilities would break out not only between France and the United States but also between the United States and Spain, thus assuring a useful coöperation in the execution of the plan. In addition, at the present juncture all the Spanish-American colonies are more mature and better prepared for the event. Mr. Turnbull punctually executed the commission; he was very well received by Mr. Pitt who gave him a favorable but tentative response. * * * At last, after waiting more than three months for a reply from Don Pedro Caro and Mr. Turnbull, without receiving any news or becoming aware of the reason for the delay, I resolved to leave Paris for London. This decision was partly because  p164 I wished to perform my duty in a task of such magnitude, and partly because I was convinced that in England I would not be denied hospitality. Beyond any doubt the hazard and the difficulties that confronted me were prodigious."5

A wig and green spectacles disguised Miranda, when on January 3, 1798, he secretly departed from Paris. He explained to Turnbull that he used an old Russian passport and journeyed under the name of "Mirandow." The incognito general reached Calais on January 7; four days later he embarked on a vessel that brought him to Dover. Miranda stated that upon examining his trunk, the customs officer was surprised to discover a secret compartment in which books and documents bearing his name were concealed. The traveler then made his identity known to the collector: his papers were sealed in a packet without anyone having read a word of them; and he wrote to Smith and Turnbull to announce his safe arrival.6 In a letter to Turnbull, Miranda said that he had been obliged to leave France because he was proscribed and that he was happy to have escaped the clutches of the Directory. "In the uncertainty of knowing where to find an asylum," continued Miranda, "my protector Catherine being no more, I decided to come here."

[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders portrait, profile left, of an elegant woman in late middle age, with a bit of a double chin and a kindly and intelligent air. She wears a heavily embroidered blouse of some light material, not well seen, with the bejewelled round emblem of an order over her left breast, and a wide silk sash extending from her left shoulder to her waist; a single choker of matched pearls; a crown of laurel leaves. She is the Russian empress Catherine the Great.]

Empress Catherine II. Anonymous portrait in the Musée de Versailles.

He expressed his desire to proceed to London in order to renew his proposals to the English Government. He hoped that just as France had aided the English colonists in 1778, so would England now aid the Spanish colonists. Sentiment in the Spanish Indies, added Miranda, favored an insurrectionary movement. Then he mentioned the origins of his latest plan in these words:

"I recently met some friends at Paris who fixed upon bases for the absolute liberty and independence of Spanish America, which resembled those that brought about the independence  p165 of the United States. They agreed that England should be well paid for the services which she is in a position to offer us but that she should not attempt to demand from us a monopoly of commerce. The coöperation of the North Americans is much desired; for they are our neighbors, our brothers in liberty, and, in fine, our own compatriots. I shall show you the instructions that I carry with me which contain a confirmation of what was done at Hollwood in 1790. I wish that a wise and liberal plan, like that which France had formed in 1792, and which we were upon the point of executing when the infernal genius of Robespierre overturned everything, would now be adopted by England in conjunction with the United States to promote the general welfare of the human race and the triumph of true liberty."7

When Miranda's arrival at Dover was made known by Turnbull to the Prime Minister, his secretary sent the following epistle to that merchant: "Mr. Pitt is much obliged to you for sending him M. Miranda's Letter, and desires me to acquaint you that a passport is sent to Dover to permit him to come to Town under his assumed Name. — Mr. Pitt will be in Town on Monday next at one o'clock, and should Mr. Miranda be arrived, he would be glad to see him at that time; but if it shall be thought by him more prudent to avoid observation as much as possible, Mr. Pitt will see him at any time between one and three on Tuesday next at Hollwood."8 Miranda reached London on January 15. As he learned that Pitt was expecting to meet him at his country seat, he went there on the following day. The émigré thus described his reception by the Prime Minister:

"The porter immediately announced my arrival to Mr. Pitt who came to meet me without any delay. He received me in a very jovial and friendly fashion, congratulating me upon my happy arrival; he reminded me that about eight years ago in that very place we had met for the first time to consider the same important affair. However he stated that circumstances  p166 were now quite different, for England was actually at war with Spain. I replied that these circumstances caused us to repeat or, in more appropriate words, to renew the negotiations of 1790 upon the identical affair. — 'All this is very well,' he said, 'but in the name of what persons of through what persons is your authorization given? and, could not a document be framed which, so far as possible, would take the form of your credentials in order that the affair might be conducted with greater regularity?' I responded 'that we had already anticipated both of these objections and that in order to meet them, so far as possible, we had agreed that my instructions should at the same time serve as credentials; that they were granted by the commissioners, deputies, and representatives of the Spanish-American colonies; and that all of them were in the packet which I had brought with me.' "9

That packet contained a copy of Miranda's "instructions" and a letter dated January 16, 1798, which was addressed to Pitt. In this epistle Miranda described himself as the "principal agent of the Spanish-American colonies," who had been appointed by a "junta of deputies" of Mexico, Peru, Chile, La Plata, Venezuela, and New Granada to renew with English ministers the relations of 1790. As a model to be followed in this transaction Miranda mentioned the Treaty of Alliance of February, 1778, between France and the United States. Hostilities between England and Spain, he declared, had induced him to leave his asylum at Paris in the conviction that the juncture was propitious for his negotiations.10

Miranda's instructions purported to be articles signed by a revolutionary junta at Paris on December 22, 1797. They stated that the junta was composed of "deputies" who had been sent to Europe from the Spanish Indies to concert with him a project for the emancipation of their native land from the rule of Spain. The instructions alleged that the Spanish-American colonies, having unanimously resolved to proclaim their independence and to establish their liberty on a firm  p167 basis, addressed themselves to the English Government and invited it to join them in promoting that enterprise. The assistance requested from England was not to exceed twenty-seven vessels of the line, eight thousand infantry, and two thousand cavalry. A defensive alliance of England, the United States, and the Spanish Indies was declared to be "the only hope which remained to liberty that had been so boldly outraged by the detestable maxims" avowed by France. A treaty of alliance was proposed that would concede to England commercial favors in Spanish America. After independence had been established, delegates from different sections of the emancipated domain should assemble to frame commercial regulations. Article XIII of these credentials intrusted to Francisco de Miranda not only the negotiations with England but also the military operations in America.

This instrument was framed in tentative terms. It did not state the sum that should be paid by liberated Spanish America to England for her assistance. It did not draw the boundaries of the projected state. It did not indicate what was to become of the Spanish West Indies. His country's views on these matters, said Miranda, were to be considered as secret instructions that should be formulated when they were adjusted by subsequent conferences.

This proposals provoke some tantalizing questions. What authorization had the deputies of Spanish America for their action? Who were its agents? The instructions bore the signatures of Francisco de Miranda, José del Pozo y Sucre, and Manuel José de Salas. There is a possibility that Pozo and Salas also may have been Jesuits who had been expelled by Spain from the Spanish Indies.11 Pablo de Olavide, who was to act as an agent with Miranda, was a native of Peru domiciled in Spain who had promoted the settlement of foreigners in the Sierra Morena. He was an erudite old man who entertained whimsical ideas about relations between North and South America. Although John Adams, who apparently knew him,  p168 scoffed at the idea that this Peruvian had any dealings with Miranda,12 yet it is clear that in January, 1798, the Venezuelan expected him to proceed from France to England.13 Possibly Olavide may have been authorized to act by a junta of Spanish Americans at Madrid.

As a basis for his proceedings Miranda might have adduced the vague authorization sent him from Caracas in 1782. While residing at Paris he had probably conversed with Nariño about the Spanish Indies; undoubtedly he had conferred with Caro. In a document by which Miranda on March 20, 1798, conferred certain powers upon the English mercantile house of Turnbull and Forbes, he complacently styled Caro and himself as commissioners of the continental Spanish-American colonies.14 Though the names of Olavide, Pozo, and Salas do not appear in a list of alleged agents of Spanish America that was carefully preserved by Miranda,15 yet it seems scarcely correct to assert, as did an anonymous informant of the French Government in London, that the idea of a representation of Spanish America as set forth in these instructions sprang entirely from the brain of the principal agent.16

Let us turn again to Miranda's account of his conference with the English Prime Minister:

"He perused my letter and the instructions with the greatest attention. When he reached the proposal of an alliance with the United States, he exclaimed in a tone of joyfulness and sincerity: 'We should much enjoy operating jointly with the United States in this enterprise! Do you know whether the Spanish Americans have made any such proposals to her? 'I believe they have not,' I responded, 'for if they  p169 had done so, they would not have charged me with the task; and I promise you that I shall not take a single step in this matter until I receive a decision or a reply from you.' 'Very well,' he said to me, with an inclination of his head, and he read farther. * * * 'Does the article in which twenty ships of the line are requested from England,' he asked me with surprise, 'refer to ships in the West Indies?' I responded, 'Not only to vessels there but also to those in the South Sea and in other seas.' 'Very well,' he replied, 'for if it were not thus, the negotiations would end here, as it would be impossible for us to supply from the West Indies such large forces. However, we can furnish the aggregate number of ships required.'

" 'Then speaking about another point,' he added, 'although it is not England's ambition to interfere in any manner in the political system, what is the form of government that you aim to establish in Spanish America?' 'Very similar to that of Great Britain,' I responded, 'for it is to be composed of a house of commons, a house of nobles, and an Inca or hereditary sovereign.' 'Very well,' he said, 'because if you had intended to introduce a system like that of France into Spanish America * * *!' 'I assure you,' I interjected with emphasis, 'that we should prefer to see the Spanish Americans continue for a century under the oppressive rule of the king of Spain rather than to see them submerged in the calamities of the abominable French system.' 'Very well,' he said. 'Then,' I continued, 'It is efficaciously to prevent such a contagion and to exclude Gallic influence that we have thought of immediate emancipation and of an alliance with England and the United States in order, if necessary, unitedly to contend against the monstrous and abominable principles of pretended French liberty. To show you that these are the same opinions which my compatriots profess, I have here a draft of a constitution that is believed to be most suited to the spirit and the opinions of our Americans, a project that the commissioners of Spanish America have sanctioned.' He read it with care; and when he came to the article concerning the hereditary Inca, he indicated his approval by nodding his head.

"At last he said to me: 'Indeed all is very good, and I do not perceive any impediment to it; but as this affair is very grave and momentous, I cannot say any more to you at present, — in  p170 a short time you will receive a more formal and decisive reply!' I observed 'that the frank spirit with which I had proceeded encouraged the hope that the greatest promptness would be displayed in the consideration of this matter and that he should treat me in the same spirit.' 'Certainly,' he replied, 'it is always best to settle such matters promptly and with mutual satisfaction!' He then asked me when I had arrived in the city. I replied that I had only been in London since five o'clock yesterday. To me it appeared that this question had as its object to discover whether I had had time to frame a constitution and other projects after my arrival here, but my prompt reply apparently satisfied him. I told him that I did not wish to be deprived of the draft of the constitution, for I had no other copy. I only left it with him because of his keen desire to see it. * * * I was surprised at the extremely good reception that Pitt accorded me and at his entire forgetfulness of the acrimonious altercation with which our relations had terminated early in 1792."17

Partly because he believed him to be one of Alexander Hamilton's close friends, Miranda soon visited Rufus King who had become United States minister to London. Miranda told King that the English wished to cultivate friendly relations with the Americans and that, if England and the United States should be compelled to act jointly against France, it would be easy to separate the Spanish Indies from the Motherland. The Mississippi River would form a natural boundary between Spanish America and the United States.

Though King did not commit himself, yet he displayed so much interest that when he paid a visit to Miranda on February 8, the latter explained his plan for the liberation of Spanish America. The attack was to be made on the east side of the Isthmus of Darien. From England the South American wished to secure eight thousand seasoned infantry and two thousand cavalry, besides a naval squadron that was to be directed against the coast of Peru. From the United States he desired five thousand dollars. As a recompense for her aid,  p171 England was eventually to be paid thirty million pounds. Goods from England and the United States that might be transported across the Isthmus of Panama after the establishment of Spanish-American independence were to be charged lower tolls than the merchandise of other nations.18 As completed, Miranda's instructions proposed that the Spanish islands in the West Indies should be divided between England and the United States.19 King did not see the constitution prepared for Spanish America, for a note in the promoter's manuscripts states that the only copy of "this interesting document" was never returned by Pitt.20 In Miranda's papers there is preserved the preamble to a treaty, which had perhaps been framed by Pownall, that bound the United States, the King of Great Britain, "and the Sovereign States of the Spanish People of America" to act against France in a "Triple Alliance."21

A vast and revolutionary project indeed was that envisaged by the embittered and imaginative Venezuelan exile, — one which aimed to link together the two Anglo-Saxon nations in opposition to "the pernicious doctrines" of the French Revolution and in aid of such dissatisfied colonists as might dare to strike a blow for independence from their Spanish masters! France, as well as Spain, was to be deprived of the illimitable resources of the Indies, while the coöperating nations were to insure a transit to world commerce across the Isthmus!

Miranda evidently felt the need of advice in regard to his actions; hence he wrote to his old friend Pownall. In response that enthusiast spurred him on and made some precautionary suggestions in this veiled fashion:

"Now therefore teach yourself to believe, that Providence has extricated you out of all these Evils, and preserved you for  p172 some great purpose; and never cease to look to it: Consider the miseries and sufferings which you have experienced not only for six years, but for many more years back, as intended by that Providence to train and discipline you to a Character equal to some grand Rôle in the Drama of the World, I mean, the New World. — Vive la liberté dans le Nouveau Monde. * * * I perfectly comprehend what the intimation in your letter points to. And I most earnestly beg to guard you against making any confidential communication to me, by Letters. Believe me there can not be any assured safety and certainty in such conveyance. * * * There are some Cautions which I wish to make to you as necessary to your own Safety and Honor in your engagements in Service; and of the utmost importance towards your carrying such service into execution effectually: But they are of that nature which I will not put to paper."22

However, Lord Grenville, a cousin of William Pitt and secretary of state for foreign affairs, informed King confidentially that he did not favor the immediate execution of Miranda's projects. In the middle of February that Minister told King that the cabinet had decided to retain Miranda in England, but that it would not promote the independence of Spanish America unless there was imminent danger that Spain would pass under the sway of France.23 Mingled with this sentiment, we may assume, there was the apprehension of a Napoleonic invasion, — a menace that made a vivid impression upon Englishmen. Among the burlesque pictures by which the gifted English artist, James Gillray, depicted that phase of the titanic struggle was a caricature entitled "Consequences of a Successfull French Invasion." In this cartoon the betrayed and tattered "English Republicans" of divers classes were depicted as being driven to work in a field of garlic, as being fed on soupe maigre, and sheltered in pigsties.

[image ALT: A vicious cartoon of a farmscape in which miserable, ill-dressed, leprous, depraved-looking peasants hoe a parish of soil with a few tiny plants under the huge whips of lordly men in long robes, extravagant hats and an air of concentrated wickedness. In the background, four men are harnessed to the poles of a plow while another man with an extravagant hat cracks a whip over their heads. On a nearby shack is posted a long placard titled 'Regulations of the Farm'. It is an early‑19c British cartoon of what would happen to England if the French invaded her.]

"Consequences of a Successfull French Invasion." Cartoon by James Gillray. From Wright, "The Works of James Gillray."

[Thayer's Note] The piles of objects near the cauldron are some unidentifiable greens to our left, and turnips or rutabagas on the right. The paper between the piles reads:

Recantation of British & Irish Republican Husbandmen and Manufacturers

The placard on the shack is titled:

Regulations of the Farm

The caption below the cartoon reads:

Me teach de English Republicans to work. — Scene. A Ploughed Field.

Ever watchful for an opportunity that might advance his master design, on March 20, 1798, Miranda addressed an important note to the Prime Minister:

 p173  "The undersigned, the principal agent of the Spanish-American colonies, having learned by private advices as well as by public reports of the critical condition in which Spain is actually placed by a threatened French invasion that menaces the government with an anarchic convulsion, believes that this will precipitate another convulsion in the New World; for the Spanish colonists, finding themselves loosened from the bonds which unite them to the Mother Country, will be compelled to seek a new system of government. According to this hypothesis it appears inevitable that, unless prompt and efficacious measures are taken during the interval which will elapse before a new system can be formed the anarchic and subversive principles of the French régime will slip in. Hence his colleagues and compatriots have sent the undersigned to the ministers of His Britannic Majesty and of the United States in order to avert by wise and vigorous measures a catastrophe which would be as lamentable for the New World as fatal for the Old.

"He sees with regret the delay, which is probably necessary, that the government has made in granting him a conference or a response to the frank overtures which he had the honor to submit on January 16 to the Honorable William Pitt. He believes that the aid of six or eight ships of the line from England and four or five thousand soldiers from the United States would be all that is necessary for his purpose at the present moment, for it is probable that a rupture between the United States and France is not far distant.

"Because of this reason the undersigned has believed that he would only fulfill the desires of his constituents by dispatching to Bogotá a compatriot who is actually with him so that he might inform other compatriots about the actual condition of affairs and that they might grant him authority or give him other instructions. This agent will also be directed to proceed to Philadelphia with letters from Minister King in order that he may make overtures to the United States Government as proposed by Articles IX to XII of the instructions.

"The undersigned hopes that these preparations will merit the approbation of the honorable Minister; and, as they will not be executed until eight or ten days have elapsed when the vessel that should transport Don Pedro Caro to Philadelphia  p174 will sail, any correction or arrangement which Mr. Pitt may judge proper to indicate can be accomplished without inconvenience.

"P. S. The accompanying estimates of the population and products of Spanish America have been sent me by commissioners of that country who have based it upon the best available and most recent information."24

Data preserved among Miranda's papers enable us to learn the basis for his views. Estimates, which were apparently taken from reports of the Council of the Indies for 1774, indicated that the population of Spanish America, including the Spanish West Indies, amounted to 10,250,000. Miranda considered these figures too low. He calculated that, including the barbarous as well as the civilized Indians, there was in the Spanish Indies in 1797 a population of 18,150,000. He expressed the opinion that Spanish America could furnish a quota of men for military service which would aggregate 1,750,000. He reckoned the amount of gold and silver annually coined in Mexico, Central America, New Granada, Peru, and La Plata at 64,000,000 pesos. He estimated that the annual imports into Spanish America aggregated 24,000,000 pesos, while goods worth an equal sum were introduced as contraband.25

The compatriot whom Miranda decided to send to South America was Pedro Caro. Miranda's "Secret Instructions" to Caro, a translation of which passed into the hoax of the English ministers, furnish other details about the design that was being hatched. Caro was directed to proceed to the United States and to deliver a letter from Miranda to Alexander Hamilton and a letter from King to Timothy Pickering, who was secretary of state. The agent was to obtain an audience with President Adams in which he should insist on a prompt answer to his master's proposals. Then he was to proceed to New Granada where he should inform the colonists about political conditions in Europe and the United States. He was  p175 to urge revolutionary sympathizers at all cost to prevent the introduction of the principles of the French Revolution lest liberty should find there a grave instead of a cradle. The instructions further provided that after these sympathizers were informed of the favorable attitude of England and the United States toward Spanish-American independence they should await the appearance of an expedition at the places agreed upon for "proclaiming our Independence and Sovereignty under a Form of wise, just, and equilibrated Government which may make us in a very little Time the happiest and most respectable Nation upon Earth." Miranda continued as follows:

"Some respectable and capable persons should be sent to me immediately as well to Philadelphia as to the Island of Trinidad, to assist me both in the military and political way. By them fresh Powers should also be sent, more legalized than the former ones, or at least a more ample confirmation of them, and it should be a general Rule not to make use of people of little Worth, because having Nothing to lose they risk all and finish by destroying the very Edifice they apparently wished to raise, — the French Revolution is the best proof of this assertion! Whereas if Men of Property and Integrity are named, everything they do will prosper from the Interest they have in consolidating a Government of Laws that may be the Protector of Property and Personal Liberty, the basis of all civil Happiness, and in which the general Utility of all may be found to be exactly united. — Proof, the Revolution of America, which is the most evident Example, and the strongest Contrast to French Atrocity that can be presented; but it is not meant by this ever to exclude Virtue and Talents in whatever Individual they may be found united. — 'For commanding (says Saavedra) Science is necessary, for obeying, a common Understanding, and sometimes Ignorance alone, is sufficient.' "26

As his agent was unable to sail from Falmouth promptly, near the end of April, 1798, Miranda altered his plans. He instructed  p176 Caro to proceed directly to the West Indies and thence to New Granada. The emissary was to forward the letters addressed to Hamilton and Knox through Secretary Pickering.27 In his letter to President Adams, Miranda included a copy of his perfected instructions. He capitalized at a high value the assurances which Pitt had let fall, and asserted that his propositions had been very favorably received by English ministers. He attributed their delay to an expectation that the United States would sever relations with France and to a desire to act with the American Republic to establish Spanish-American independence. He expressed fear that the introduction of French soldiers into Spain might promote the spread of the principles of the French Revolution in the Spanish Indies.28 Not only did Miranda mention the assistance that he required to initiate the insurrection but he sketched his frame of government. He inclosed estimates that probably dealt with the population and resources of the Spanish Indies. On May 21, 1798, he addressed a letter to Pitt to inform him of Caro's mission, to request another conference, and to urge the necessity of a prompt decision. The packet addressed to Pickering was forwarded by Caro from Falmouth to a correspondent of Turnbull at Philadelphia who transmitted it to the Secretary of State.29

Meantime the promoter had also attempted to interest Alexander Hamilton in his project. On February 7, 1798, he had written to that leader of the Federalist party to inform him of his purpose in leaving Paris for London. Miranda expressed the opinion that, unless a miracle took place, the proscriptions of the 18th Fructidor would give the coup de grâce to French liberty. He asserted that "the entire Spanish-American Continent seems prepared to throw off the yoke in a wise and reasonable manner and to enter into an alliance with the United  p177 States and England. It is to promote this object that I came here: I cannot say more to you at the present moment; but I hope that you will soon learn more. * * * I believe that we will ultimately gain a victory for our cause and thus promote the happiness of the New World as well as the tranquillity of the Old."30 The lapse of years had doubtless chilled Hamilton's ardor for the independence of the Spanish Indies, for on this letter he wrote the following cautious but critical comment:

"Several years ago this man was in America much heated with the project of liberating S. Am. from the Spanish Domination.

"I had frequent conversation with him on the subject and I presume expressed ideas favorable to the object and perhaps gave an opinion that it was one to which the Ustatesº would look with interest — He went then to England upon it — Hence his present letter. I shall not answer because I consider him as an intriguing adventurer."31

Ignorant of the change in Hamilton's attitude, on April 6 Miranda wrote another letter to him from which we take the following paragraph:

"This will be given to you, my dear and respected friend, by my compatriot, Don Pedro José de Caro, who is intrusted with dispatches of the utmost importance for the President of the United States. He will tell you confidentially what you wish to learn about the subject. It appears that the moment of our emancipation approaches and that the establishment of Liberty over all the Continent of the New World is confided to us by Providence! The only danger that I foresee is the introduction of French principles, which would poison Liberty in its cradle, and which would soon culminate in the destruction of your Liberty; but, if we take wise precautions in time, everything will go well. * * * It is agreed that the form of government is to be mixed. I hope that you will not refuse to join us when the moment arrives. At least I am sure that your Greek predecessor Solon would not have refused;  p178 and it is possible that I shall go soon to take you myself! There is another person in the United States whom I know by reputation and whom I believe could render us very important services in a military way: that is General H. Lee of Virginia. As I received at the opening of the Revolution in France, through my friend Colonel W. S. Smith, a letter from Lee who was very desirous of entering the French service, I flatter myself that he would not refuse to join us now, when it is an affair of true liberty which we all love and of the welfare of his compatriots of Peru and Mexico. * * * Will our friend Knox come? I should be charmed to learn this but I fear not."32

Minister King added fuel to the flames that had been lit in London. On April 2 in a cipher dispatch to Pinckney, Marshall, and Gerry, the Americans who had been sent to negotiate with Talleyrand, he informed them that if England did not revolutionize the Spanish Indies, France would introduce her system there which would be extremely dangerous to the United States.33 Instead of dealing with these commissioners directly, however, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs introduced them to certain confidants — styled in the published correspondence as X, Y, and Z — who explained that a bribe was needed to facilitate negotiations. On May 15 King wrote a letter to Miranda to call his attention to a résumé of the dispatches from the American agents to France that had just been published in the newspapers. Private advices from the United States, he declared, were to the effect that because of the publication of the X Y Z correspondence public opinion had united in favor of the President, and the opposition in Congress had decided to support his aggressive policy. Then he went on to say that money was "voted to equip Ships of War, to raise Troops, to replenish the arsenals, to repair and compleat the Fortifications, and an armed Vessel dispatched to France to bring away the Envoys."34 In letters to Hamilton  p179 the Minister declared that because of conditions on the European Continent the United States was being forced into an offensive war. He argued that the destiny of the New World would thus be placed in her hands.35 On August 1 King sent an enthusiastic letter to Miranda stating that his advices from home exhibited "a fine Picture of what France has not yet seen; a nation of freemen rising with scorn and arms against her!"36

On August 22, 1798, Alexander Hamilton wrote to King about Miranda's scheme. Hamilton declared that he wished it to be undertaken and that he desired to see "the principal agency" in the United States which was "to furnish the whole land force necessary. The command in this case would very naturally fall upon me — and I hope I should disappoint no favorable anticipation. The independency of the separated territory under a moderate government, with the joint guarantee of the coöperating powers, stipulating equal privileges in commerce would be the sum of the results to be accomplished." Yet the Federalist politician expressed the opinion that the United States was not ready for the enterprise. Inclosed in the letter was a note addressed to Miranda that was to be delivered by King if he judged this procedure discreet. In it Hamilton declared that he could not participate in the emancipation of Spanish America unless that undertaking was patronized by the United States. He suggested that during the approaching winter his government might decide to coöperate. He sharply outlined the revolutionary project by stating that there should be a fleet from England, an army from the United States, and a government for the emancipated Spanish colonies which would suit both coöperating nations.37

[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders portrait in oils, three-quarters left, of a middle-aged man in early‑19c dress, of which only the cravat stands out (his jacket or coat merging into the neutral background of the painting). He has a penetrating expression with a hint of a smile; he is Alexander Hamilton.]

Alexander Hamilton. Painting by John Trumbull. In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

From this letter the American Minister as well as the agent of South America drew fresh inspiration. King replied to Hamilton on October 20, 1798, to assert that England was prepared to coöperate precisely as he desired.38 On October  p180 19 Miranda sent an urgent letter to Caro imploring him to come to London from Portugal where he had been stranded.39 On the same day he sent an epistle to Knox in which he expressed the hope that Providence would enable them to profit wisely by existing circumstances. "In fine," said Miranda, "everything seems to favor the execution of our projects of the year 1784. I expect that you will carry out your promises and that I shall soon have the honor of taking you to our country."40 This epistle was enclosed in a letter to Hamilton which stated that with regard to the coöperating land and naval forces the wishes which Miranda had expressed in his letter of August 22 had been to an extent fulfilled. We quote the significant passages:

"All is approved, and we await only the fiat of your illustrious President to depart like lightning. In effect, the moment appears most favorable and the latest events seem to leave us a vast and tranquil field in which we can act to our entire satisfaction. Let us profit with wisdom by the nature of the circumstances and render to our country the greatest service that a mortal is capable of offering to his fellow beings. Let us save America from the frightful calamities that in overturning a large portion of the World threaten the destruction of the portions still remaining intact. I ask you to forward the enclosed letter to our mutual friend General Knox, whose appointment in the army brought me the greatest pleasure. — May you always continue, my dear friend, to be the benefactor of the human race that never had so much need of similar support! Let us unite ourselves firmly to secure the health of our dear country, and perhaps in rescuing it from the threatening evil, we will save the entire World which staggers on the edge of an abyss!"41

It was after receiving this letter that Hamilton wrote to a friend that if the United States should engage in war, her game would be to attack where she could. "France is not to be considered as separated from her ally. Tempting objects  p181 will be within our grasp."42 Meantime Miranda undertook to sketch plans for military operations against the Spanish Indies. These projects were based upon the assumption that England and the United States would coöperate to insure Spanish-American independence. A salient part of his memoir runs thus:

"The emancipation of Spanish America has been demanded for more than eighteen years by almost all the inhabitants of the country. This liberation is a political task that I am certain can never be undertaken with more likelihood of success than under the present circumstances. At a juncture when almost all the ports of France and Spain are blockaded, when the United States, having solemnly decided against France and consequently against her ally Spain, has fully decided to act in concert with Great Britain to wreak the greatest possible injuries upon her enemies, what measure would be easier and at the same time more effective than to detach from Spain an immense dominion with a population and richness which constitute a mass of resources that by a counter stroke could be turned to the advantage of France in whose interests Spain is so blindly involved?"43

He analyzed the situation and based his hope of success on three factors: the weak defenses of the principal points that were to be attacked; the disloyal attitude of many Spanish commanders; and the favorable disposition of the colonists. He maintained that "the desire of the Spanish Americans for an emancipation which would render them entirely independent of the Motherland" was proved by their rebellions against Spanish rule. He mentioned the success of certain revolutionists in New Granada who actually succeeded in compelling Spanish officials to sign an agreement that pledged their government to make specific reforms. He asserted that manifestations of discontent in Spanish America had become so pronounced that when the people decided to establish their independence  p182 they would accomplish it despite all opposition. He alleged that the regular soldiers there were mostly creoles who were discontented with the Spanish régime.

Miranda next outlined a plan of military operations. He suggested that to divert the enemy's attention from the main objective point a feint might be made against Habana or Santiago de Cuba. The first move was to be against Chagres on the Isthmus of Panama that should be invested by American soldiers who were to rendezvous at Grenada or Trinidad under the escort of English warships. A feint might also be made against the city of Caracas. "The province of which this city is the capital," asserted Miranda, "is generally considered to be the most dissatisfied with the Spanish Government." He maintained that the real attack in northern South America, however, should be against a weakly defended fort in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, a strategic post which he declared was only ten or twelve leagues from Panama. Once master of that Viceroyalty, urged the revolutionary, "it will be necessary to circulate in the country a proclamation explaining to the inhabitants the object of the operations and inviting them to join the invaders as soon as possible. There is hope that those commissioners who are scattered through this extensive territory will have brought matters to such a pass that as soon as an armed force appears the people will rise en masse to join it."

In order to control the navigation of the Magdalena River the town of Santa Marta should be captured. The important city of Cartagena, however, should not be invested without the assistance of siege artillery and the support of English warships. Once that port fell into the hands of the attacking forces, declared Miranda, the inhabitants of the neighboring provinces would flock to the insurrectionary standard. The following extracts further explain his military plan:

"However certain one might be of the favorable disposition of the inhabitants, it will be necessary to neglect nothing which may strengthen them in that determination. Accordingly  p183 upon the capitulation of Cartagena, it will be advisable to dispatch three ships of the line and some frigates to Buenos Aires in order to keep Spanish forces out of that important gateway from which by land they could attack Chile and even Peru. It will also be necessary as soon as possible to induce the British Government to send a squadron of four vessels of the line and some frigates to cruise in the Pacific Ocean between Lima and Acapulco. There is no doubt that the spirit of independence will soon spread from one end of South America to the other. The province of Chile in the South and of Venezuela in the North, which are almost at the extremities of the Continent, are generally considered as the countries where the inhabitants most ardently desire emancipation.

"With respect to other northern provinces of South America and also Mexico, it is certain that the people who inhabit them are at least as ripe for independence as those whom we have considered. * * * It will be convenient to leave Mexico to the last. The establishment of independence in that rich country will crown the important work which itº now proposed. Her proximity to the United States and the ease with which the chief settlements can be attacked in the rear from Acapulco doubtless assure success."44

This plan is obviously the one which Caro, who played false to his master, subsequently informed the government of Spain was presented by Miranda to the English cabinet in September, 1798.45 In his decision to make the initial attack near the Isthmus of Panama, Miranda was probably influenced by his knowledge of conditions in northern South America. Among his papers there is found in Pownall's handwriting the draft of a summons to a town, a fortress, or a citadel demanding its surrender on behalf of the sovereign and independent people of South America.46 In outlining his plan of campaign, as well as in writing to Hamilton, Miranda's enthusiasm had carried him much farther than circumstances warranted.  p184 Despite the advice of Governor Picton who proposed that an attack should be made on Cumaná in which expatriated Venezuelans could be used, not yet convinced that France would ultimately absorb Spain, and apprehensive of a Napoleonic invasion, English ministers were reluctant to light the revolutionary tinder that Miranda averred was scattered throughout South America.

Yet England might have changed her policy, if the United States had decided to execute the project. Though President Adams weighed Miranda's proposals carefully when they were presented to him for the third time, yet he made no reply. While some Federalist leaders were reluctant to engage in hostilities against France, others were loath to enter into an alliance with England. Further, on September 28, 1798, Talleyrand informed the United States that he would receive a minister from that country with the respect due to the representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation. A train of circumstances was thus set off that culminated in a treaty between the United States and France in the year 1800.

Though Miranda was ignorant of the circumstances which enabled President Adams to negotiate peace with France, yet he must have felt that his chances of success were waning. Another event that presumably operated against the immediate execution of his plans was the formation of the Second Coalition of England, Austria, Naples, Russia, and Turkey against France. In January, 1799, Miranda asked the English Government for a passport to proceed to the West Indies. Doubtless this request was inspired by the thought that in Trinidad, where revolutionaries from South America had taken refuge, he might secure efficacious aid in the execution of his project.47 The passport was not granted, however, and Miranda lingered in London.

On March 19, 1799, he presented a memorial to Pitt in which he again pleaded the cause of the Spanish Indies. He  p185 expressed the hope that a declaration of war by the United States against France would be the signal for a proclamation of Spanish-American independence. He affirmed that by this time Caro had arrived in the New World and had transmitted news of his negotiations to emissaries who would spread it throughout the South American Continent. He also asked an embarrassing question:

"What will be the result when in place of the succor so long expected and so often promised it becomes known that word now says that she cannot furnish the least aid or hold out the least hope? It is difficult to judge of the effect which despair will provoke under such circumstances; but it is certain that those wise and intelligent persons who have flattered themselves that they would see established on the South American Continent a system of order and morality which might counteract the disorganizing maxims spread by France will be much disheartened and lowered in the estimation of Spanish America; that their interests and the future safety of the United States will be gravely compromised; and that the commercial and other advantages which this immense Continent offers to Great Britain will really be lost to her. On the other hand, if one imagines that in order to carry out its views of invasion and expansion, the versatile genius of the French Directory is capable of wreaking its vengeance upon the United States as well as upon Great Britain, with the colossal and revolutionary power that it unfortunately possesses at the present juncture one naturally trembles at the fate of the human race!"48

A despondent tone pervades this memoir. After waiting fourteen months for a decision Miranda declared that only on that day had he learned indirectly that England was not able to offer any prospect of coöperation in the emancipation of the Spanish Indies. Yet, apparently still indulging in the hope of assistance from the United States, Minister King forwarded a copy of this plea to Secretary Pickering. However neither Miranda's appeal to Pitt nor King's appeal to  p186 Pickering evoked any response. It is possible that, if President Adams had decided to favor Miranda's designs, England might have equipped a fleet for an attack on South America. In spite of the attitude of Hamilton, however, other prominent Federalists in the United States were unwilling to join hands with England against France. They were still anxious to abide by the teachings of Washington. Left to her own devices and harassed by the fear of a French invasion, the contingency of the absorption of Spain by France was the pivot on which the policy of England toward Spanish America revolved. Thus the prospect of a tripartite alliance for the liberation of the Spanish Indies faded away.

Still these experiences were not altogether unprofitable to Miranda. He had improved his acquaintance with influential English statesmen. He was undoubtedly one of the first men of his age to appreciate the relation of the Spanish Indies to the titanic struggle which was being waged between England and France. Rightly did he divine that England's mercantile activities would impel her to take a keen interest in the separation of the Spanish colonies from the Motherland. He professed to dread the introduction of Gallic principles into Spanish America; he wished to anticipate any tendency of that sort by starting a revolution there by the aid of England. Yet the apprehension of a French invasion of England as well as the fear of precipitating in South America scenes like those that had stained the Revolution in France deterred English ministers and caused them to postpone action.

Miranda's attempt to include the United States in his grand alliance shows that he appreciated the perennial interest which some of her statesmen took in the fortunes of the Spanish dominions. The proposals which the promoter urged upon President Adams were based upon the hypothesis that the United States was still a dependency of the European state system. Although Miranda failed to engage American statesmen in his vast design, yet he rightly understood the yearning of leading personages of the United States toward  p187 the rich but decaying empire of Spain in America. This sympathetic yet interested attitude is a factor that should be appreciated by the historian who would rightly interpret the New Republic during the administrations of Washington and Adams, as well as later.


The Author's Notes:

1 El precursor, pp224‑27.

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2 Robertson, Miranda, pp316‑17.

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3 F. O., 72/45.

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4 Copy, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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5 Undated memorandum, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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6 Miranda to Turnbull, Jan. 12, 1798; Miranda's undated memorandum, Mir. MSS., vol. 45. Cf. Robertson, Miranda, p318. On Dec. 24, 1796, Godoy had sent a premature warning to Marqués de Branciforte, viceroy of New Spain, that "the famous Spaniard Miranda," who was in the pay of England, had embarked on an expedition against Mexico, A. G. N., reales cédulas, legajo 165.

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7 Jan. 12, 1798, ibid.

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8 By J. Carthew, Jan. 13, 1798, ibid., vol. 46.

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9 undated memorandum, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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10 Robertson, Miranda, pp318‑19.

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11 Ch. MSS., bundle 345; draft in Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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12 Adams, Works, X, 143.

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13 Miranda to Newport, Jan. 29, 1798, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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14 "Poder dado á Messrs. Turnbull y Forbes," ibid., vol. 46.

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15 "Nombres de algunos Comisarios de la América del Sur, venidos á Europa en diferentes epocas," ibid., vol. 45.

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16 Ô'Kelly de Galway, Les généraux de la révolution, pp109‑10. In the article on "Miranda" by Martínez in El Cojo Ilustrado, V, 509, the statement is made that the Spanish-American emissaries who framed Miranda's instructions in Paris were Bejarano, Caro, Iznardi, and Nariño.

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17 Undated memorandum, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

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18 King, Life and Correspondence, III, 558‑59.

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19 Adams, Works, I, 679‑84.

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20 "Esquisse de Constitucion 4.6., este papel se le entrego Original á Mr. Pitt en la Conferencia que huvimos á mi arrivo aqui (Eno. de 1798) en Hollwood — Le parecio tan bien que me rogo se lo dexase criendo que con aquello se allanarian todas las dificultades; mas sucedio al contrario, que ni yo tuve mas respuesta en el asunto — ni puede recoger mas este Papel interesante," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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21 Endorsed "Preamble to Triple Alliance," ibid.

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22 Feb. 11, 1798, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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23 King, III, 558, 561.

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24 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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25 "Vista política de la América Española," ibid., vol. 45.

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26 April 6, 1798, F. O., 72/45.

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27 Miranda to Caro, April 25, 1798, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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28 Adams, Works, VIII, 569‑72.

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29 Mir. MSS., vol. 46; Aguilar, "Aportaciones á la biografía del precursor de la independencia sur‑americana," in Boletin del centro de estudios americanistas de Sevilla, año V, no. 19, p12, note 4.

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30 Ham. MSS., vol. 20, f. 208.

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31 Ibid., f. 209.

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32 Ham. MSS., vol. 20, f. 210; Ed. Rev., XIII, 291.

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33 King, II, 300‑1.

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34 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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35 King, II, 656‑57.

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36 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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37 King, II, 659‑63.

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38 Ibid., p662.

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39 Miranda to Caro, Aug. 17, 1798, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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40 Ibid., vol. 45.

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41 Robertson, Miranda, p519.

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42 Hamilton, Works, VI, 136.

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43 "Plan militar formado en Londres en Agosto, 1798," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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44 "Plan militar formado en Londres en Agosto, 1798," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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45 Aguilar, "Aportaciones á la biografía del precursor de la independencia sur‑americana," loc. cit., año V, no. 19, pp19‑23.

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46 "Clause in the Summons," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

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47 King, II, 663‑64. On the attitude of Secretary Pickering to Miranda's project see Robertson, Miranda, pp335‑36.

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48 Copy, Pick. MSS., vol. 24, f. 150 ff.


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