[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 8

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 10

Vol. I
p188
Chapter IX

New Affiliations and Fresh Financiering

As was his custom at this epoch, Miranda confided his sentiments to writing. In a diarial note dated May 3, 1799, he wrote this commentary about his treatment by English ministers:

"As I had asked for a passport for the island of Trinidad or for the United States, and had become aware that they did not wish to grant me this, excusing themselves with a thousand subterfuges, I had recourse to my friends, Count Woronzow, who is at present in high favor, and Mr. King, the American Minister, who is a favorite of his government. Eventually through their influence Mr. Wickham answered to Mr. King on the 26th that His Majesty's Council had at last decided that, in view of all the circumstances, it would grant me the passport which I had requested for Trinidad and thence to the adjacent Continent for the purpose desired. To us this concession seemed a great point gained, and Count Woronzow encouraged me to take this step; for, if a post should be captured in South America, we should soon gain supporters. This good friend added that if it were not for the odd genius of Paul I, or if the Empress Catherine still lived, he would procure for me two Russian frigates and two thousand soldiers which were all that would be necessary.

"While we were in this mood and urging Lord Grenville and Mr. Pitt to grant me the passport, which now appeared dubious to us because Mr. Wickham was preparing to journey to the Continent, it happened that one morning there appeared in my room a Mr. McArthur, a person whom I knew only casually, in company with a naval officer called Captain Graves. They came to propose a step which they believed would please me, namely, that I should sail with English warships and land on the coast of South America as the Washington of that Continent. Cautiously and without eagerness  p189 I responded to the proposition; I postponed a discussion of it to another occasion."1

The notion of Captain Thomas Graves apparently was that England should furnish Miranda with arms, munitions, some officers, and a small naval force "in order to promote the liberty and independence of the Spanish colonies on the American Continent from which there would flow to east more honor and profit than from the bloody and expensive European war." The captain's idea naturally pleased Miranda, they formulated a project for a South American expedition, and Graves brought the scheme to the attention of Lord Spencer, first lord of the admiralty, and other government officials. However Miranda recorded that, as he had expected, Lord Spencer shattered their hopes, and that in consequence he again undertook to request a passport. But William Huskisson, under secretary of war, declared that no order had been given to issue such a permit, "and added 'that General Miranda had recently become an object of suspicion to the government.' Behold how despotism always seeks to arm itself in its calumny in order to find fault with one who is blameless!"2 Such was the egoist's bitter comment!

Subsequently Miranda repeated his efforts to leave England. On May 25, 1799, he reminded Wickham of the desired passport for Trinidad or the United States.3 A month later the indigent petitioner wrote to Mr. Flint at the Alien Office to state that about two weeks earlier he had for the third time asked permission to proceed "to the United States where he had been offered an asylum against the proscriptions of the French Directory and its Allies." He complained that his long delay in England had reduced him to "the dreadful alternative of contracting debts or soliciting alms."4 On July 1 Miranda sent Pitt copies of his notes to Wickham and Flint. He alleged that the extraordinary delays in granting his legitimate request proved that there was a prejudice against  p190 him. Hence he appealed to the Prime Minister to expedite the granting of his passport.5 There is no doubt that Miranda again had to eat crow; for in August, 1799, Rufus King made an attempt to get permission for him to leave England: in extenuation of his efforts, King pleaded Miranda's pecuniary embarrassments. Though the Venezuelan seems to have secured passage on the ship Washington for America, and though the American Minister even wrote a letter to Colonel Pickering introducing him as a man of "uncommon Talents and rare acquirements"; yet on October 18, King added a postscript to the effect that his friend could not secure permission to sail for the United States.6

During these tantalizing experiences, either through friendships that he formed in London or through correspondence with sympathizers in the West Indies, Miranda was steadily improving his relations with Spanish Americans. After Caro reached Trinidad, where he assumed the alias of "Josef de Oquendo y Atney," he communicated with Miranda to inform him about conditions on that island as well as about tendencies on the neighboring Continent. On February 19, 1799, the emissary wrote his chief to declare that Venezuela was still much agitated and that only two thousand men and a leader were necessary to insure success for the revolutionary cause. Six days later Caro stated that with the aid of the governor of Trinidad he expected soon to depart from the island, but that he was disturbed because of the lack of recent news of Miranda.7 On April 21 the Cuban reported that he was planning to leave Trinidad for South America in disguise. He added that he was transmitting to Miranda a valuable map of the Isthmus of Panama.8 On April 29 Caro discerningly expressed his views about conditions in the province of Caracas. He lamented the fact that the Venezuelans neither had a concerted plan nor did they "work with foresight. They  p191 are better prepared to change their masters than to become free. They believe that it is the same to acclaim independence as to be independent and that independence will be accomplished simply by rejecting the yoke of Spain and placing themselves under the protection of any other nation."9

On May 12 Caro assured Miranda that merely with the aid of their friends in the West Indies they could undertake the arduous task of emancipation. "A gust of wind would be enough to kindle the fire."10 Two days later he added that their last recourse would be to start the revolution alone: "a dilatory system exposes us to many risks; the secret will become known."11 On June 3, 1799, Miranda replied to Caro declaring that audacity was necessary for the execution of their enterprise; that they ought to strike at Spanish power at the proper moment; and that he expected soon to embark for Trinidad. On September 2 he wrote to this conspirator to explain that he was trying to obtain permission to go to the United States and to instruct him to join his compatriots without delay.12

However the mysterious movements of Caro soon rendered him an object of suspicion to Governor Picton of Trinidad. That governor believed him to be an emissary from the court of Madrid who had inveigled himself into Miranda's confidence. In the midsummer of 1799 Picton accordingly ordered him to leave the island.13 Hence Caro was deported to London. There he soon attempted to secure a bonus from the English Government. Apparently in a contented mood, early in May, 1800, he left London on a strange mission to Hamburg.14 The sequel, however, proved either that he had become dissatisfied with the financial emoluments which Miranda allotted him or else that he had become weary of his rôle.

From Hamburg on May 31, 1800, Caro sent a humble petition to Charles IV in which he deplored his disloyalty. He asserted  p192 that his treasonable acts were due to disappointment over his failure to secure employment or fortune in the King's service. Of Miranda's credentials Caro declared that although at first he had believed them to be authentic, yet time and circumstances had made him aware of their farcical character. In regard to the promoter's governmental plans he said that an "Inca-Dictator" was to rule over liberated Spanish America on behalf of the future supreme ruler who was to be none other than Miranda himself. Caro besought the King to pardon his treason and either to permit him to pass the rest of his life in a remote corner of the earth or else to allow him to expiate his crime in the royal service.15 That mercenary adventurer thus flits out of our story.

The principal Spanish-American agent also carried on a correspondence with his boyhood friend, Manuel Gual, who had escaped from Venezuela upon the discovery of his complicity in a revolutionary conspiracy. On July 12, 1799, Gual wrote to Miranda from the West Indies to declare that, since the failure of the uprising against Spanish rule in 1797, the desire for independence had only increased in Venezuela, that to accomplish its liberation the enterprise only needed to be launched with English aid, and that he desired no greater honor than to serve under Miranda's orders. On September 30 following, Miranda sent a copy of this epistle to Secretary Dundas, accompanied by a plea for aid that his fellow conspirator had presented to the English commander at the Windward Islands.16 In a postscript to his note to Gual of October 4, 1799, Miranda gave an introspective exposé of his own ambitions:

"So far as regards my person, my friend, it will always be at the service of my country for which I have already made such sacrifices that it would be absurd for me now to abandon the enterprise. No matter what post might be assigned me, it would be acceptable and honorable so long as the other persons  p193 concerned marched toward the goal of our liberty and independence. The influence of no foreign power whatever should be allowed to interfere in the management of the country; for in such a case Spanish America would be coveted and despoiled by any other maritime powers that desired to engage in a partition. May God prevent this! Finally, my friend, the true glory of all Spanish Americans will consist in the consummation of this enterprise. We have two grand examples before our eyes: the American Revolution, and the French Revolution; let us discreetly imitate the first; but let us avoid with the greatest care the fatal effects of the second."17

On February 4, 1800, Gual wrote to Miranda and declared that a smile from their native land was more precious than all the perfidious favors of tyrants. He inquired when the day would arrive upon which he would be able to embrace his friend, — a glorious day when they would be able to march against the Spaniards who tormented and dishonored Venezuela. He vowed that only after he had beheld that day could he "die content. I desire that you should be convinced of the ease with which the revolt may be undertaken. Because of the atrocious oppression of these monsters, the enterprise needs only a slight impetus. I expect that the breach once begun will be made absolute by the lance of Achilles."18

A month later Miranda wrote optimistically to Gual to inform him that measures were secretly under way in England for the liberation of Spanish America:

"The generals who are to command the expedition have been to see me about the affair. Their intentions and ideas agree perfectly with ours and with those of the Spanish Americans who have been here. May Providence lend support to our undertaking in order that it may be executed with prudence and good faith by both parties. The result should promote the common welfare in an incalculable manner! Observe secrecy in this matter and maintain your honorable resolution to die for liberty and independence of your country. May  p194 an evil fate befall any American who thinks otherwise!"19

Yet Miranda's hopes fluctuated. In a disappointed spirit he soon sent word to Gual that the destination of the expedition intended for Spanish America had been changed and that no one actually knew whither it was bound.20 On June 4 his mood had changed again; for, hinting that in a few days he might transmit important news, he addressed a letter to this friend and urged him to assemble all the sympathizers with the cause of Spanish-American independence who might be in Trinidad, Martinique, and Curaçao.21 However, the result proved that Miranda had been again deceived or else that he had deceived himself.

As a link in the international relations of Miranda there figured at this time a bizarre Frenchman called Louis Dupéron. In Paris they had reached an agreement that, if circumstances in England favored the liberation of the Spanish Indies, Dupéron was to follow Miranda. Under an assumed name the Frenchman deviously made his way to London in the midsummer of 1798. There he was employed as Miranda's scribe. In less than a year, however, the secretary had a difference with his master.

Like other disputes in which Miranda was at one time or another involved this one was largely due to his inability to meet pressing financial obligations. Dupéron maintained that after a service of eight months, he had received no salary. Consequently on January 30, 1799, he demanded that he be paid one hundred and twenty pounds to return a loan, to relieve the needs of his family, and to meet the expenses of his return to the Continent.22 After receiving a portion of his claim, Dupéron vanished. He had meantime transferred to an ex‑inspector general of the secret police of Paris named Du Bois, alias D'Ossonville, copies of valuable manuscripts preserved in Miranda's papers. Du Bois soon attempted to sell  p195 these papers to the Spanish Ambassador at Vienna.23 After reaching France, however, Dupéron was incarcerated on suspicion of being implicated in a royalist conspiracy. Meantime the court of Madrid again warned officials in the Indies to beware of Miranda's iniquitous schemes.

At this epoch the plotter learned of a strange character who sometimes went under the name of "Rossi." This person had evidently tried to transmit to English ministers information about Spanish rule in South America. A fragment of a letter addressed by the "Jesuit Rossi to the English Government in 1797," which is preserved among Miranda's papers, mentioned the discontent prevailing in Peru. It suggested that all that was necessary to start an uprising against Spanish rule was something to rally around. Rossi declared that "all the rest of Spanish America" suffered the same wrongs as Peru and that its inhabitants were animated by the same spirit.

With this letter is found a note, which was perhaps written by Miranda, to the effect that the fragmentary letter was found among the manuscripts of "the ex‑Jesuit Don Viscardo, a native of Arequipa in Peru."24 Apparently this mysterious revolutionary had enjoyed a pension from the English Government to which he had presented plans for the liberation of the Spanish Indies. Whether or not Rossi was simply another name for Viscardo, it is clear that shortly after the latter's death in London in February, 1798, Miranda came into possession of his inedited papers. In January, 1799, the plotter wrote to Caro to state that he was engaged in revising what their "compatriot Viscardo had done."25 On September 2, 1799, Miranda informed the Cuban that he was transmitting to him "a copy of the Letter of Viscardo."26

This was the Lettre aux Espagnols-Américains of Juan  p196 Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán, which, presumably at the instance of Miranda, was published at Philadelphia in 1799. One of the earliest and most ardent pleas for Spanish-American emancipation that found its way into print, Viscardo's Lettre was soon used as a vehicle of propaganda. In a letter to Gual on October 4, 1799, Miranda directed him to ask the governor of Trinidad for a copy of this pamphlet which he had sent out in order that it might be circulated in South America. "Ask him for it," said Miranda, "and you will see with what solid, august, and evident reasons our compatriot Viscardo victoriously supports the justice and beauty of our cause." Four months later Gual informed his master that he had read the tract with "holy enthusiasm."27

Miranda certainly became acquainted with an aspiring young South American youth who was in England. In a dinner invitation which was probably extended in 1798, John Turnbull expressed the hope that Miranda would bring with him "the young Gentleman from Chile" in order that he might converse with him and perhaps form some commercial connections.28 Among the annotations inscribed on Miranda's copy of his remonstrance of March 19, 1799, to William Pitt is a note that reads as follows: "A young Peruvian who is actually in London would voluntarily undertake to transmit the decision that England might take on this important matter, if this decision were satisfactory or important for his compatriots." Adjoined to that commentary is Miranda's illuminating explanation: "Don Riquelme, a native of Santiago de Chile, offered to carry the decision to his compatriots; but, as I did not receive any favorable news, shortly afterwards he left London in order to return to his native land."29

That Chilean was undoubtedly the youth who was then  p197 known as Bernardo Riquelme. He was the natural son of an adventurous Irishman named Ambrosio O'Higgins who terminated as Viceroy of Peru a picturesque career in the Spanish service. In his reminiscences Bernardo O'Higgins stated that when he encountered Miranda in 1798, that general was engaged in instructing some Spanish-American youths how to enjoy "the sweet fruit of the tree of liberty." Bernardo further declared that he became Miranda's favorite disciple, that when he heard from his master's lips the vivid story of his revolutionary endeavors he viewed the narrator as another Washington, and that with tearful eyes he threw himself into the arms of this revolutionary Father and inquired if "the breaking of the first link of a chain in North America caused a new nation to appear," were there not much stronger motives for "the destruction of the rest of this chain" that fastened other sections of the New World to European sceptres. He asked to be allowed to kiss the hands of the personage who was destined by Providence "to break those fetters which so ominously burden our compatriots." He predicted that from their labors there might "be born republics greatest that will some day become the example for nations of the Old World. Behold in me, Sir, the melancholy remains of my countryman Lautaro! In my breast burns the same spirit as that which liberated my native land Arauco from its oppressors!"30

[image ALT: An engraved head-and‑shoulders portrait, three-quarters right, of a young man in an early‑19c military uniform: tight embroidered jacket, massive epaulets, medals and decorations, and a sash from the left shoulder to the waist, but no headdress. He has a chubby face and short somewhat spiky brushed hair and long mutton-chop sideburns, and looks at the viewer with a firm but benign expression; he is Bernardo O'Higgins, Supreme Director of Chile.]

Bernardo O'Higgins as Supreme Dictator of Chile. Reproduced by courtesy of the Chilean Legation at Washington.

O'Higgins went on to declare that, embracing him tenderly, Miranda said:

" 'Yes, my son, Divine Providence desires to fulfill our  p198 wishes for the liberty of our common country which is decreed in the book of destiny. Much secrecy, valor, and constancy are the aëgis that will guard you from the blows of tyrants.' Without loss of time Miranda initiated his disciple into the secrets of cabinets of America and Europe respecting Spanish-American affairs. A fine library was the place in which the master studied the policy of nations; he devoted most of his time to the art of war. During long winter nights he told his disciples anecdotes of the French Revolution. From time to time he made wise comments in order that they might remember the errors which stained with blood and smothered in its cradle the liberty that should have been extended to the whole world."31

Miranda's company was also sought by Pedro de Vargas. This character, who bore as an alias the name "Pedro Oribe," represented himself to have been one of the leaders in Nariño's abortive conspiracy. Fortunately he escaped from the toils of the Spanish Government, and finally made his way to England where he met Miranda in November, 1799.32 The latter became so much interested in the designs of the fugitive that he soon addressed to William Pitt a letter which inclosed a memorial from this "commissary." It would be difficult to say to what extent this petition merely reflected Miranda's views.

In his plea Vargas avowed that the evils of Spanish rule in northern South America had reached a climax. "The population of the country is large enough so that it can aspire to independence; today the Viceroyalty of New Granada is like an eldest son who must be emancipated." He argued that this liberation was earnestly desired by all classes. "Despoiled even of our homes, assassinated in them, or reduced to slavery for three consecutive centuries, what is more natural for us than to attempt to overthrow tyranny by force?" He thus described the purpose of his mission: "My associates ask from England aid in men, arms, and munitions, besides some warships to protect the contingents and to hinder or to intercept the reënforcements  p199 that Spain may send. They pledge themselves to negotiate an alliance with Great Britain and fully to reimburse her for all the expenses of the expedition."33

Between the years of 1798 and 1800 the lodgings of Miranda thus became known to discontented Spanish-Americans who had drifted to the English metropolis. Other compatriots than Caro, Vargas, and O'Higgins presumably consorted with the self-styled agent of the Spanish-American colonies whether his abode was in Queen Charlotte Road, or Great Pultney Street, or New Road. A Spanish minister aptly said that the famous rebel, General Miranda, was the focus of those persons who conspired against Spain.

An hypothesis which is not inconsistent with the rest of Miranda's activity is that during this period he founded in London a society which developed into an influential international association of Spanish-American revolutionaries that became known as the Logia Lautaro. There is no doubt that this club later became active in South America where it mysteriously promoted the revolution directed by San Martín. But though works dealing with the Masonic Order were listed in a catalogue of Miranda's library as early as 1783, and though he displayed an interest in Masonic establishments during his trip through Europe, yet an examination of his inedited papers reveals nothing to prove either that he belonged to the Masonic Order or that he was the founder of the Lautaro Lodge. Nor has evidence elsewhere been found to show that he ever initiated such revolutionists as San Martín and Bolívar into an association of South American Carbonari. In truth, there is no evidence to indicate that Miranda ever met San Martín.

The chief indication of Miranda's possible connection with a revolutionary association, is found in the fragmentary reminiscences of Bernardo O'Higgins which we will therefore use again. Writing in the third person the Chilean averred that the continuance of hostilities between France and England  p200 "furnished a new theatre that stimulated the meditations of Miranda," who had awaited this war to initiate his operations. "O'Higgins left England for Spain with plans that had been framed in London with the South Americans, Bejarano, Caro, and others, — plans that upon the arrival of O'Higgins in Spain he presented to the Great American Reunion, reserving for its secret committee the most private measures which he could not reveal to the members of the Great Reunion. This society fixed its headquarters at the Columns of Hercules whence there sallied forth the emissaries who were to destroy the tyrant's throne in South America: O'Higgins for Chile and Lima, Bejarano for Guayaquil and Quito, Baquijano for Lima and Peru, as well as the canons Cortés and Fretes who were also bound for Chile."34 There is a possibility that the historian of the future may by the aid of hidden South-American archives some day indisputably link such associated conspirators to the monster web that Miranda was spinning in London.

The Chilean historian Vicuña Mackenna printed "the advice given by an old South American to a young compatriot upon his return from England to his native land." In this breviary Miranda gave his favorite disciple the sage counsel of one who had long been tossed on the stormy billows of the world:

"Upon leaving England, you should not forget for a single instant that outside of this country there is in all the world only one other nation in which you can discuss politics outside of the tried heart of a friend. That country is the United States. Choose therefore a friend, but choose him with the greatest care; for if you blunder you are lost. Upon different  p201 occasions I have suggested to you the names of various South Americans in whom you can repose confidence, if you meet them in your journey, which I doubt, for they live in a different zone. * * *

"Because of the events of Chilean history I would expect much of your countrymen, particularly in the South, where, unless I am mistaken, you intend to reside. Their wars with their neighbors should have made them skillful in the use of arms, while the proximity of a free people should have made them understand the idea of liberty and independence. * * * Youth is the age of ardent and generous sentiments. Among the young men of your own age you will encounter many who are ready to listen to you and who are easily convinced. But, on the other hand, youth is also the age of indiscretion and of temericalº acts; therefore you should be bewareº of those defects of the young men as well as of the timidity and the prejudices of the old.

"It is also an error to believe that a man who wears a tonsure or who reposes in the easy seat of a canon is an intolerant fanatic and a decided enemy of the rights of man. I know from experience that in this class there are found the most illustrious and liberal of South Americans but the difficulty is to discover them.

"The pride and fanaticism of the Spaniards are insuperable. They will despise you because you were born in America and abhor you because you were educated in England. You should accordingly always avoid them.

"The Spanish Americans, impatient and communicative, will demand of you with avidity the story of your travels and adventures, and from the nature of their questions you can form a rule by which you can determine the character of those persons who interpellate you. Making proper allowance for their profound ignorance, you should estimate their character by the degree of attention which they display in comprehending you. According to this test your confidence should be granted or withheld.

"Never allow disgust or desperation to gain control of your mind; for if you once entertain those sentiments, you will render yourself incapable of serving your country. * * * Love  p202 your country! Nourish that sentiment constantly, fortify it by every possible means; for only by its duration and its energy can you accomplish good. The obstacles in the way of serving your country are so numerous, so formidable, and so invincible, I shall venture to say, that only the most ardent love for it can sustain you in your efforts for its future happiness."35

Let us next consider General Miranda's finances. As he was not fully remunerated for his military services in France, and as he had to find some means of subsistence, his activities in England in 1798 and 1799 again raise the question respecting his financial relations with that government. At this juncture John Turnbull not only advanced money to him but also acted as his fiscal intermediary with English ministers. A letter of Turnbull dated February 18, 1799, which was addressed to Under Secretary George Hammond, explained the situation thus:

"I had the Honour some time since to inform you and to request that you would communicate the same to Lord Grenville, that from having conceived that M. de Miranda's Service might have been rendered useful to this Country, I had desired my House in Trade of Turnbull, Forbes, and Co. to supply him with what money he had Occasion for his Subsistence, since his arrival in England — He has now been in London upwards of twelve Months and altho he has certainly lived during that time with every degree of Prudence and Economy, yet our Advances for him and different persons whom he has brought to England, and sent from England, in order to coöperate with him, have become considerable. I am unwilling to intrude for a moment on Mr. Pitt, and we have no Objection to support the Advance, and continue our Assistance, provided that there is any prospect of our being ever reimboursed, either by Genl. Miranda, or otherwise. For our satisfaction in this respect, I beg leave to entreat, that after submitting this matter at a leisure moment to Lord Grenville, you  p203 will do me the Honour to favour me with your Sentiments."36

A curt reply from Downing Street furnished little consolation to either Miranda or Turnbull. "Having submitted your letter of yesterday's date to Lord Grenville," said Hammond, "I have been directed by His Lordship to inform you that he cannot hold out the smallest expectation that His Majesty's government will defray M. de Miranda's expences in this country."37 A letter from Turnbull to Miranda dated May 11, 1799, thus analyzes his financial prospects at that time:

Inclosed is a sketch of your Acct., which amounts to £1720 — as it was made out. I thought it as well to send it you that you might look it over at your leisure but you may be well assured, that we are far from intending to put you to any Sort of Inconvenience, by not continuing to assist you, as far as we really consistently can, or I am persuaded, my good sir, that you yourself would desire — The farther advance to Combray, who as well as Dupéron has pestered me with long Letters, yesterday, that I have not taken the trouble to read, will amount to about £50 wh. will make the whole of your advance be £1770 and altho money is at present very valuable we will with pleasure endeavor farther to assist you in order to enable you to get from England, and give you some chance at Trinidad, with a Sum wch. will make the whole of our Advance amount to £2,000, comprehending the Interest and advances to be still made to Mr. Caro and you must really not look to us for any more on any Consideration whatever — At same time I am sensible, that you will stand much in need of Credit at Trinidad and I therefore very much wish that you would use every means to prevail on Mr. King and Count Woronzow to give you a conditional Credit for £500 cash to be drawn on their agents in London, provided you should have occasion for it — I cannot think that they would refuse you so small a favor, especially when you show them what a large sum merely from Friendship we have advanced — Mr. King leaves Town on Monday for Bath, and that occasions me to write you."38

 p204  Yet, in September, 1799, Miranda temporarily relinquished his plan to go to the New World. Through Turnbull he was given a message from Under Secretary of State King to the effect that the English ministers had decided that for the present he should not leave England, and that they wished him to have "a sufficient allowance" so that he might live in an easy and comfortable manner during the period which it might be judged expedient for him to stay there.39 Turnbull further informed him that the government entertained a high opinion of him "as Mr. Pitt's man," and that in the near future his hopes would be realized and his fine plans carried out. However, when the ministers gave him a stipend of three hundred pounds a year, without any reimbursement for his expenses, he complained that this was "capricious conduct."40 On September 30 he addressed a letter to Under Secretary King hinting that he was dissatisfied at the financial remuneration which he had been allowed. As indicative of his sentiments he quoted his letter to Pitt of January 28, 1791, and declared that upon this basis he had authorized Turnbull to receive on his account "any money that His Majesty's ministers may be willing to advance to me: — and it being always understood by me, that my detention in England is with the view on the part of its government of fulfilling, at a convenient opportunity, its promises towards South America."41

Perhaps Miranda's ardently expressed desire to proceed to that Continent had some relation to the modest size of his stipend. On December 2, 1799, he addressed a letter to the Duke of Portland, who was secretary of state for home affairs, about his desire to leave England for America. He requested to be informed who was the proper person to ask for information "upon this distressing business" and complained that he had been detained in England for two years.42 The South American was evidently in sore financial straits, for he had to borrow small sums from his friends. Among the kind letters  p205 that he received from his old friend General Melville was one dated December 17, 1799, in which that gentleman stated that at many periods "he would have been happy to have accommodated Genl. Miranda with a loan of a sum ten times greater than the one in question, and to have waited his convenience for the repayment," but that as his private fortune was at present "barely adequate to his unavoidable expenses" he was under "the disagreeable necessity" of asking him to repay the small sum which he had borrowed.43 The financial condition of Miranda is mirrored in the following letter to him from John Turnbull dated February 5, 1800:

"Inclosed you have a Copy of Your Account, by which you will find that since the 1st of May we have paid you £306 — on account of which, we have only received £200 from Government. Before that day our advance amounted to £1942. Really, My Dear Sir, it is impossible to go on at this Rate — the Simple Interest of our advance amounts to £100 pr. ann. Mr. Forbes, I assure you, is equally disposed as I am, to assist and to serve you, — but a Line must, for your Satisfaction as well as ours, be drawn. We were in hopes, that £2000 would have been the utmost possible amount of our advance — we will now extend it to 2000 Guineas or £2100 — to the 1st of last Month, which will enable you to get free of Mr. Caro, and pay off your little debts; but from the 1st of last month, we shall pay you the £25 regularly, and cannot possibly go beyond it. On this Principle, as you will see by the Statement inclosed, you will have still to dispose of for yourself and M. Caro £76‑17‑3, and to receive in the beginning of next Month £25 — say March — and every other Month, so long as we receive the allowance from Gov't. You must sincerely regulate your Matters accordingly, as we cannot go farther, and it is extremely distressing to us, to have paid away so much money, especially in the present times without a Prospect of recovering it. The allowance, I cannot doubt, will with good management, be amply sufficient to enable you to live comfortably."44

Meantime Miranda had rented lodgings in New Road,  p206 where he sought relief from tribulation in his beloved books. As early as December, 1799, he employed a servant to look after his household; for in his diary he mentioned a maid named "Sally."45 He renewed relations with his old crony, Thomas Pownall, with whom he again discussed his projects. Of the ex‑governor Miranda wrote in an undated memorandum: "I have passed some pleasant hours in the society of this good friend whose taste for letters and love for liberty unite us more and more."46 At Pownall's residence in Knightsbridge the two enthusiasts subscribed to a new scheme for the revolutionizing of northern South America by native insurgents who were to be aided by the English garrison from Trinidad. A unique feature, which was probably suggested by Pownall, was the provision that when Cartagena was captured it might be placed in the hands of the English as security for the fulfillment of commercial or political pledges.47 This occasion seems to have been one in which Miranda contemplated a transfer of territory in South America to England.

In the end of 1799 his perennial hopes blossomed again. In a diarial note dated December 15 he wrote that he had been visited by a relative of one of his American friends, Captain Rutherfurd of the Royal Engineers, who desired to gather information about the condition of South America. Miranda furnished Rutherfurd with a list of books and maps for study. He soon divined that the captain was forming a project for military operations against the Spanish Indies. Upon learning that, with the approval of English ministers, Rutherfurd was sending this data to Sir Ralph Abercromby, the conqueror of Trinidad, who was then in Scotland with Secretary Dundas, Miranda recorded that this was being done "for the independence and liberty of Spanish America, without which it would be infamy for me to acquiesce." In a continuation of this note dated February 10, 1800, Miranda wrote of Rutherfurd:

 p207  "In truth he came to see me at 11:30 P.M., offered me his hand in friendly fashion, proposed a conference, and assured me that his object was the absolute independence of the colonies. This plan would allow their inhabitants the liberty to select the form of government that they might judge most convenient without any concession of commercial monopoly or anything else that would shock my liberal and patriotic sentiments. On this supposition I showed him on the map what in my judgment would be the military operations that a body of four thousand regular troops, accompanied by four or six warships, might undertake against the province of Caracas. To this scheme he perfectly assented, saying, 'I see now that there is not the slightest difficulty.' Then we considered New Granada where we saw the fortress of Cartagena that appeared to him an insurmountable obstacle. Yet when I indicated the defects of its fortifications, and above all a point that was extremely weak, which I did not show him until he had given me his word of honor sacredly to keep the information to himself, he agreed 'that the force would be sufficient and that the obstacles would be much less than he had at first imagined.' He then said to me 'that we should not use less than nine thousand soldiers and ships in proportion.' "48

It was evidently from letters sent him by Miranda that Gual gained the impression that the chief promoter expected to proceed to Jamaica whence an English force of some twelve thousand men would be sent against Venezuela and New Granada.49 In response to an inquiry of Rutherfurd, who evidently did not fancy a war of castes similar to that which had broken out in Santo Domingo, Miranda affirmed that the great majority of the people in northern South America were "Indians and whites, with pure customs and in that stage of civilization which would have suited Plato for the establishment of his republic."50 The Spanish Government meantime got wind of the interest that Englishmen were taking in the schemes of  p208 Miranda, Caro, Vargas, and Gual; it sent a warning to the Captain General of Cuba to the effect that the chief intriguer was destined to lead a military expedition from Trinidad against Puerto Cabello.51

Yet, perhaps because of the sudden departure from London of General Abercromby, who was sent to Egypt where he met an heroic death at Alexandria, the promoter was compelled to relinquish hope of immediate action. In a diarial entry concerning the abrupt termination of the conferences in conjunction with one and another "shameful contradiction" on the part of English ministers, Miranda commented that "an interpreter was not necessary for an understanding of the text."52 On March 18, 1800, Pownall, who had vainly attempted to lay his views before the Prime Minister, wrote to Pitt announcing that he had reluctantly retired from the transaction, and that his Spanish-American acquaintances had withdrawn their propositions.53 In a letter addressed to Rutherfurd, Miranda regretted that "the most favorable opportunity" had been allowed to slip away. He expressed his hope that Abercromby and Rutherfurd would never make use of the information which he had furnished except to promote "the absolute Liberty and Independency of the Hispano-american Colonies."54

Meantime progress had been made in the contraband case in which Miranda had been involved. After General Cagigal had proceeded from Cuba to Spain, being unwilling to divulge the whereabouts of his favorite aide, he was ignominiously thrust into a castle at Cadiz.55 As the result of a petition to Charles III recounting his long and faithful service, a royal order was issued that his case should be heard by the Council of the Indies which acted as the supreme court for Spanish America.56 An American acquaintance who saw Cagigal in a miserable plight at Cadiz warned Miranda that the  p209 only condition on which the prisoner could expect justice was to deliver his protégé to Spain.57

On December 10, 1799, Cagigal wrote that the suit had at last been decided in his favor. He transmitted an extract from the judgment of the Council of the Indies which stated that Colonel Miranda was "a faithful subject" of His Catholic Majesty and "deserving of his royal favor."58 He invited Miranda to proceed to Spain in order that they might jointly enter a claim for damages at Madrid.59 With due prudence, however, the creole declined to risk crossing the Spanish frontier. He wrote to his old commander to declare that in Spain the situation of an honest man would always be very precarious and that a bad man ordinarily enjoyed with impunity the fruit of his crimes.60 The conspirator's commentary on that correspondence preserved in his papers furnishes his interpretation of this incident: "New attempt of the Court of Madrid to deceive Miranda by using as an instrument of its perfidy his esteemed friend Don Juan Manuel de Cagigal."61

In the summer of 1800 Miranda again tried to leave England in spite of the Alien Act that placed restrictions on the movements of foreigners. In a memorandum concerning his application for a passport he mentioned certain motives that animated him. He declared that, having withdrawn his application for a passport he had solicited English assistance in his designs, he had "no further Business in England." In a diplomatic fashion he asserted that, as his conduct while in the Spanish service had been justified because it was directed against "an ungrounded and false accusation under which he had suffered persecution for nineteen years from the court of Madrid," and as his property rights had been restored, it was necessary for him to return to his own country. He expressed gratitude for the protection which England had afforded him, but maintained that he was entitled to a passport on the following  p210 grounds: that he was not a prisoner of war, that he had come to England under a safe conduct, and that he was not accused of having performed any acts against the English Government.62

On July 18, 1800, Miranda wrote to Gual in words that were more indignant than truthful. The treatment that he was receiving at the hands of ministers, who declined to allow him to leave England for the West Indies, had provoked his intense disgust. He expressed the opinion that the tyranny of the French Directory had completely ended and that the Revolution had now returned to its original principles. "In this country," he continued, "every promise that has been made to us has been broken; I see nothing but perfidy and bad faith." He declared that all the Spanish Americans who were in London had gone to Paris. "I have demanded with vigor my passport to leave the country and perfidiously they detain me." After this intimation that he was contemplating a return to France, he added that he had not received a single letter from his compatriot. Rightly did he divine that his correspondence was being intercepted by English officials. "If by any chance you write me," he concluded, "let it be under cover to Mr. King, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America."63

A letter from the Secretary of State for War dated three days later presents the English official view regarding Miranda's detention:64

"I have received from Mr. Pownall a letter by the tenor of which I understand that the object of the interview you have desired with me is to apply for a passport to quit this Country, on permission to go thro' Trinidad to the Caraccas.

"It would be superfluous for me to give you the trouble of calling upon me, because the question of your residence in this Country is in no respect cognizable by the department of Government over which I preside. But in the event of your receiving  p211 permission to leave England, I am firmly persuaded that your repairing to Trinidad would unquestionably afford occasion to various speculations and observations which ought by no means to be encouraged, and I am therefore concerned to be under the necessity of intimating to you that such a request could not be acceded to."

The correspondence cited in this chapter shows that in 1798 and 1799 Miranda was in much closer contact with his compatriots than has been hitherto supposed. Although the information transmitted to him from his correspondents may occasionally have been misleading, yet he was kept in touch with revolutionary sentiment in northern South America. Among the important results of Miranda's residence in London were the significant affiliations that he formed with those Spanish Americans who made his residence a rendezvous. Though the English Government neither executed his plans nor permitted him to proceed to the West Indies for the purpose of executing them himself, yet it liquidated some of his expenditures. Though the ministers did not grant him a regular pension, yet through the firm of Turnbull and Forbes they advanced him money enough to pay his expenses and to insure him a comfortable living in London. After so many rebuffs, this financial assurance must have served Miranda as a solace.


The Author's Notes:

1 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Diario, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Ch. MSS., bundle 160.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Ch. MSS., bundle 160.

[decorative delimiter]

6 King, II, 664‑65.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

8 Ibid. On the map see Robertson, Miranda, pp517‑18; it is found in A. N. F7, 6285, no. 5819.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Picton to Dundas, Sept. 28, 1800, C. O., 295/1.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Miranda to Vargas, May 8, 1800, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

15 A. G. I., audiencia de Caracas, legajo 4.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Castlereagh, Memoirs and Correspondence, VII, 273‑75.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Ibid., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

19 Mar. 4, 1800, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

20 April 4, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

22 Dupéron to Miranda, Jan. 30, 1799, Mir. MSS., vol. 24.

[decorative delimiter]

23 Du Bois, "Causes secretes de la detention du Citoyen D'Ossonville," Sept. 17, 1801, A. N., F7, 6318 B; in part, in Ô'Kelly de Galway, Les généraux de la révolution française, pp113‑16.

[decorative delimiter]

24 "Papier trouvé parmi ceux desº Jesuite Rossi addressé au governement Anglais en 1797," Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Miranda to Caro, Jan. 16, 1799, ibid., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Aguilar, "Aportaciones á la biografía del precursor de la independencia sur‑americana," in Boletín del centro de estudios americanistas de Sevilla, año V, no. 20, pp8‑9. Viscardo's rare tract was reprinted in 1911 in Villanueva, historia y diplomacia: Napoleón y la independencia de América, pp295‑321.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Undated, Mir. MSS., vol. 22.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Ibid., vol. 45. In the same tome is the following undated note addressed to Miranda:

Querido Paisano,
y Sor mio,

en respuesta a la note de Vmd. debo decir le que con mucho gusto me hallase con Vmd. a la hora citada.

su mas afecmo

Servor,

Q. S. M. B.

B. Riquelme.

York Street no. 38."

[decorative delimiter]

30 O'Higgins, Epistolario, I, 29, note. There is a tradition that Miranda taught mathematics to O'Higgins — see Moses, The Intellectual Background of the Revolution in South America, p30; Vicuña Mackenna, La corona del héroe, pp238‑39.

[decorative delimiter]

31 O'Higgins, I, 29‑30, note.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Diario, Nov. 17, 1799, Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Nov. 20, 1799 (copy), inclosure in Miranda to Pitt, Nov. 25, 1799, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

34 O'Higgins, I, 30, note. The view that Miranda was the founder of a Spanish-American revolutionary club is taken by Mitre, Historia de San Martín, I, 135‑36; Mitre, Historia de Belgrano, I, 113, II, 272‑73; Vicuña Mackenna, Vida de O'Higgins, p62; Mancini, Bolívar et l'émancipation des colonies espagnoles, pp272‑75; Hemenway, "The Relationship of Masonry to the Liberation of Spanish America," in the Builder, I, 259‑64; Alemán, "Aus der Vorgeschichte der Mai‑Revolution," in Die Kette, IV, no. 13, pp17‑24; Zuñiga, La logia "lautaro" y la independencia de América, pp33, 37‑38, 40.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Vicuña Mackenna, La corona del héroe, pp240‑43.

[decorative delimiter]

36 Copy, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Hammond to Turnbull, Feb. 19, 1799, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Ibid., vol. 22.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Endorsed, "Sept. the 18th. 1799," Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

40 "Conferencia," ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Ibid., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

42 Ibid., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

43 Ibid., vol. 22.

[decorative delimiter]

44 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

45 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

46 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

47 Jan. 5, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Aguilar, "Aportaciones á la biografía del precursor de la independencia sur‑americana," loc. cit., año V, no. 20, p15, note 1.

[decorative delimiter]

50 Diario, Feb. 10, 1800, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Orguiso to the Captain General of Cuba, July 3, 1800, Cub. MSS.

[decorative delimiter]

52 Diario, Feb. 12, 1800, Mir. MSS., vol. 46.

[decorative delimiter]

53 Copy, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

54 May 6, 1800, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

55 O'Reilly to José de Gálvez, Sept. 16, 1783, A. G. I., audiencia de Santo Domingo, 84‑2‑9.

[decorative delimiter]

56 Cagigal to Charles III, Aug. 22, 1783, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

57 Sayre to Miranda, May 15, 1788, Mir. MSS., vol. 23.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Antepara, South American Emancipation, p257.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Ibid., p256.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Ibid., p260.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Mir. MSS., vol. 45.

[decorative delimiter]

62 "Case of General Miranda on which he claims his passport," Mir. MSS., vol. 46. In a letter of June 15, 1800 (copy), to Dundas, Pownall used similar arguments, ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

63 Robertson, Miranda, p344.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Mir. MSS., vol. 46.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 1 Jul 15