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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Life of Miranda

William Spence Robertson

The University of North Carolina Press

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 1

Vol. I
p. ix

Spectacular and romantic was the career of Francisco de Miranda, Precursor, Knight-Errant, and Promoter of Spanish-American liberty. He was the first cultured South American to make a tour of either the United States or Europe. His life has a unique interest because he was the only personage of his time to participate in the struggle for the independence of the Thirteen Colonies, the French Revolution, and the war for the liberation of South America. It may without exaggeration be said of him that he became acquainted with, and frequently captivated, more distinguished figures of his age in both the Old World and the New than any other contemporary. General Washington, the dashing Marquis Lafayette, Haydn the composer, the enigmatical autocrat Catherine II, William Pitt, Alexander Hamilton, the domineering General Dumouriez, Napoleon, Bernardo Riquelme, later famous as Dictator O'Higgins, the Iron Duke, Simón Bolívar, who was destined to become the Liberator of Colombia, — these and a host of others were more or less intrigued by Miranda's dynamic personality and fascinating schemes. Historically, his life is important not only because it is concerned with the attitude of world powers toward Latin America during a critical period, but also because it epitomizes the early history of a South American nation during the heroic age.

Many years have passed since I was first attracted by the life and politics and diplomacy of our southern neighbors. While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, studying under Professor Frederick J. Turner, I became interested in the history of Latin America. This interest was increased while I pursued graduate study at Yale University under that keen critic and intrepid scholar, Professor Edward Gaylord Bourne. In 1901 I undertook to investigate under his direction for a doctoral dissertation the revolutionary  p. x activities of Miranda. Expanded by materials that I subsequently gathered in the archives of Spain, in 1907 the resulting essay was awarded a moiety of the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize of the American Historical Association.

During my investigation in the English archives in 1902 I found documents which convinced me that shortly after General Miranda capitulated to the Spanish royalists in July, 1812, an extensive collection of his papers that had escaped the clutches of the Spaniards had been spirited away to London, where they were deposited in the custody of Lord Bathurst, secretary for war and the colonies. Diligent search in the Public Record Office, however, did not enable me to lay hands on the coveted papers. Hence I surmised that, according to a custom of the time by which an English minister sometimes viewed official papers that had accumulated during his term of office as private rather than public archives, Lord Bathurst had transferred the Miranda MSS. to his country seat when he went out of office in 1828.

But it was not until 1922 that I was accorded the privilege of examining the papers of the third Lord Bathurst. After a rumor reached me that documents concerning Miranda had been found in those papers, I made a trip to the mediaeval town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. At once I identified the mysterious collection as the long-lost Miranda manuscripts. I found that these manuscripts, which were bound in sixty-three folio tomes, contained a veritable legion of diaries, letters, squibs, newspaper clippings, and intimate memoranda in their original form. I also became convinced that the discovery of these valuable memorabilia — later purchased by the Venezuelan Government and deposited with the Academia Nacional de la Historia at Caracas, — would make imperative the rewriting of Miranda's life-story in a fashion that would occasionally be iconoclastic. The old passion, which had animated me in my salad days, flamed up again, and, forsaking for the time being other literary loves, I returned to my primer amor. The more material I found about the adventurous career of Miranda, the more did my interest  p. xi in the first South-American Dictator increase.

In 1924‑1925, during a year of sabbatical leave from the University of Illinois, I resumed the task of collecting material for Miranda's biography. Again I made my way to the foot of the Cotswold hills and spent my days — and sometimes my nights — in delving deeply into the voluminous Miranda MSS. With new clues in my possession, I made a fresh search for illuminating sources in the Public Record Office, the manuscripts of the British Museum, the Archives Nationales, the Archives du ministère des affaires étrangères, and Archivo General de Indias. I also sought for new light in the printed works in the British Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, and the Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid. During my visit to Venezuela in 1917 I had secured rare printed material regarding the revolutionary era of her history through my friend, the noted bibliographer, Señor Manuel Segundo Sánchez. Though the skillful aid of another friend, Señor Vicente Lecuna, the historian of Bolívar the Liberator, I have secured not only articles that have recently appeared in the public prints of Venezuela concerning Miranda, but also inedited data from the archives of the cathedral of Caracas and the archives of the Central University of Venezuela.

In composing a biography based largely upon inedited sources, I have made frequent use of quotations to verify, to illustrate, or to amplify the narrative. When the quoted documents were in English, I retained the original capitalization, orthography, and punctuation. Omissions that I have made from the documents quoted are marked by asterisks. Leaders (. . .) are employed to show the use by a quoted writer of a series of dots to indicate a greater pause than that marked by a period or perhaps to suggests a hiatus in the thought. Words which I added to quotations for the sake of clarity are inclosed in brackets.

My long-sustained quest has been facilitated by many persons. With rare generosity, in 1922 Lord Bathurst gave me  p. xii the key to his estate office in Cirencester where the papers of Miranda then reposed. Thus I was allowed to use the rich and varied Miranda memorabilia without any restrictions. Lord Bathurst later kindly copied for me certain Mirandian letters that turned up among some papers of Lord Melville that he had purchased. Dean Arthur H. Daniels of the Graduate School of the University of Illinois assigned funds for the purchase of books concerning Hispanic America for the University Library. I am thankful to the staff of that library, as well as to officials of the Widener Memorial Library, the Library of Congress, the British Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid for their helpful attention. The officials of the Bureau of Indexes and Archives of the United States Department of State, of the Archives du ministère des affaires étrangères, of the Archives nationales, and of the Archivo General de Indias aided my investigations in various ways. Mr. Archer M. Huntington, president of the Hispanic Society of America, has kindly allowed me to use a map that had been prepared under my direction for The Diary of Francisco de Miranda, 1783‑1784, which was recently published by that society. For assistance in collecting illustrations for this biography, I am particularly indebted to my colleague, Professor Frederick C. Dietz, to my friend M. Abel Doysié of Paris, France, to the Director of the National Archives of Venezuela, Dr. Vicente Dávila, and to Signor Diego Suárez Costa y Miranda, a lineal descendant of the martyred Miranda, whose home is in Florence, Italy.

For advice and encouragement in the last stages of my work I am grateful to Dr. J. F. Jameson of the Department of Manuscripts of the Library of Congress, to Dr. Max Farrand, Director of Research at the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, and A. E. Stamp, Esq., Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office. Dr. Pelham H. Box, onetime Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the University of Illinois and now Assistant Lecturer in History at the University of  p. xiii Bristol, carefully read and criticized the entire manuscript when it was in preliminary form. When it was nearly completed, it was further improved as a result of the constructive criticism of my friend, Professor Earl L. Bradsher of Louisiana State University. In its final form the Life has received from the publisher all the considerate attention that an author could desire.

Urbana, Illinois

William Spence Robertson

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