Francisco de Miranda

Francisco de Miranda

Infobox Military Person
name=Francisco de Miranda
lived=March 28 1750July 14 1816
placeofbirth= Caracas, Venezuela
placeofdeath= Cádiz, Spain

nickname="El Precursor"
"El Primer Venezolano Universal"
"Hijo de la Panadera"
serviceyears=1773 - 1812
battles= American Revolutionary War
French Revolution
Venezuelan War of Independence

Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez (Caracas, March 28, 1750 – in prison, El Arsenal de la Carraca, Cadiz, July 14, 1816), commonly known as Francisco de Miranda, was a Venezuelan revolutionary. Although his own plans for the independence of the Spanish American colonies failed, he is regarded as a forerunner of Simón Bolívar, who during the Hispanic American wars of independence successfully liberated a vast portion of South America. Miranda led a romantic and adventurous life. An idealist, he developed a visionary plan to liberate and unify all of Spanish America but his own military initiatives on behalf of an independent Spanish America failed in 1812, on being handed over to his enemies, dying in 1816 while imprisoned in Spain. Within fourteen years of his death, however, most of Spanish America was independent.

Early life

Sebastian Francisco de Miranda was born on March 28th, 1750 in Caracas, Venezuela. His father, Sebastian de Miranda Ravelo, was a wealthy merchant from the Canary Islands, and his mother, Francisca Antonia Rodríguez de Espinoza, was a wealthy Venezuelan. Growing up, Miranda enjoyed a wealthy upbringing, attending the finest private schools, while being slightly discriminated against for his roots. Miranda was not necessarily a member of high society growing up, as his heritage was continually put into question by the Criollo aristocracy. As a result of this, Miranda grew up very conceited (Describing himself in Russia and Sweden as an inexisting "Count of Miranda", a bogus identity ) and arrogant.

In the United States

Miranda, who had bought himself a commission as a Captain of the Spanish Army around 1771 (something not unusual in the European armies at the time), became interested in the American Revolutionary War, while serving as Captain of the Aragon Regiment and aide-de-camp to General Juan Manuel de Cajigal y Monserrat, (1739 - 1811).

Under Cajigal, Miranda participated in the 1781 Battle of Pensacola, defending Spanish territory in what is now the modern-day US state of Florida, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

He later returned to the United States in 1783, where he met, among others, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Thomas Jefferson, embarking from Boston for England on 15 December 1784.

In Europe: England, Prussia, Turkey and Russia (1786 - 1790) and his British Children

It is worthwhile mentioning that much later, after his adventures in England, (until 9 August 1785), Miranda went to Venice, Padua, Verona, Mantua, Parma, Modena, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Livorno, Rome and Naples, (from 12 November 1785 to around 16 March 1786 where he moved on 2 April 1786 to the modern-day Dubrovnik, then named Ragusa and a vassal city of the Ottoman Empire), Istanbul in Turkey (until 23 September 1786), Russia, (from 26 September 1786 until 7 September 1787, slightly below one year), Sweden, (in Stockholm as from 10 September 1787 until 2 November 1787), Norway, from 10 November 1787 until departing from Karlskrona, now in Sweden, from 17 December 1787), Denmark (from 23 September 1787 until 10 March 1788 after being received in Denmark orders of capture from Spain no later than 22 January 1788), the Free Hanseatic Town of Hamburg, (from (1 April 1788 until the 27 April 1788), the Free Town of Bremen, (leaving on 27 April), Holland, (from around the 2 May 1788 until around 16 June 1788), some actual Belgian towns and German cities along the Rhine river, Swiss Basel, (arrival 30 July 1788, and then again after touring German-speaking Switzerland on 12 October 1788), Swiss Geneva (arrival 25 September 1788), and France, (entry around the 3rd and 4th weeks of September 1788, two stays in Marseilles, the second departing there towards Bordeaux on 26 February 1789 via inland waterways), travels to Rouen, Le Havre and Paris around 5 May 1789, getting papers as "Mr. Miroff from Livonia" to arrive in Dover, (England) and then London on 19 June 1789, taking lodgings at the house of his British friend, "A Barlow", at 47 Jermyn Street ).

The attempts to abduct Miranda by the Diplomatic Representatives of Spain failed as the Russian Ambassador in London, S. Vorontsov, declared on 4 August 1789 to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Francis Godolphin Osborne, 5th Duke of Leeds KG PC (29 January 1751 – 31 January 1799), that Sebastian de Miranda, Spanish subject, was a member of the Russian Diplomats in London at the service of H. R. H. Empress Catherine II of Russia, (2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729 – Chosen Empress July 1762 after assassination of her husband Tsar Peter III - 17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796). His letter to Catherine II is a good example of the lecherous manners of some of the eighteenth-century courtesans.

Miranda made use of the Spanish-British diplomatic row known as the Nootka Crisis in February 1790 to expose some British Cabinet ministers to his ideas about the independence of Spanish territories in South America.

Later on, after battling in France, see below, Miranda made his home in London, where he had two children, Leandro (1803 - Paris, 1886) and Francisco (1806 - Cerinza, Colombia, 1831), [Edsel González, Carlos. "Miranda Andrews, Francisco", "Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela". Caracas: Fundacíon Polar, 1997. ISBN 9806397371] [Fundación Polar. "Miranda Andrews, Leandro", "Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela". Caracas: Fundacíon Polar, 1997. ISBN 9806397371] with his housekeeper, Sarah Andrews, whom he later married. During this earlier times in London he had met Colonel William S. Smith, secretary to John Adams's American Legation.

Miranda during the French Revolutionary Period

From 1791, Miranda took an active part in the French Revolution. In Paris, he befriended the Girondists Jacques Pierre Brissot and Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve, and he briefly served as a general in the section of the French Revolutionary Army commanded by Charles François Dumouriez, fighting in the in the Low Countries.

Miranda was first arrested in April 1793 on the orders of Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville, Chief Prosecutor of the Revolution, and accused of conspiring against the republic with Charles François Dumouriez, the renegade general. Though indicted before the Revolutionary Tribunal – and under attack in Jean-Paul Marat's "L'Ami du peuple" – he conducted his defence with such calm eloquence that he was declared innocent. Even so, the campaign of Marat and rest of the Jacobins against him did not weaken. He was arrested again in July 1793, when he was incarcerated in La Force prison, effectively one of the ante-chambers of death during the prevailing Reign of Terror. Appearing again before the tribunal, and mustering all his soldierly courage, he accused the Committee of Public Safety of tyranny, in disregarding his previous acquittal.

Miranda seems to have survived by a combination of good luck and political expediency: the revolutionary government simply could not agree what to do with him. He remained in La Force even after the fall of Robespierre in July 1794, and was not finally released until the January of the following year. Now convinced that the whole direction taken by the Revolution had been wrong, he started to conspire with the moderate royalists against the Directory, and was even named as the possible leader of a military coup. He was arrested and ordered out of the country, only to escape and go into hiding.

He reappeared after being given permission to remain in France, though that did not stop his involvement in yet another monarchist plot in September 1797. The police were ordered to arrest the "Peruvian general", as the said general submerged himself yet again in the underground. With no more illusions about France, or the Revolution, he left for England in a Danish boat, arriving in Dover in January 1798. His name remains engraved on the Arc de Triomphe, which was built during the First Empire.

Expeditions in South America, the First Venezuelan Republic, and Death (1806 -1816)

His life has long been associated with the struggle of the Spanish colonies in Latin America for independence. Miranda envisioned an independent empire consisting of all the territories that had been under Spanish and Portuguese rule, stretching from the Mississippi River to Cape Horn. This empire was to be under the leadership of a hereditary emperor called the "Inca", in honor of the great Indian Empire, and would have a bicameral legislature. He conceived the name "Colombia" for this empire, after the explorer Christopher Columbus.

With informal British help, Miranda led an attempted invasion of Venezuela in 1806. At the time Britain was at war with Spain, an ally of Napoleon. In November 1805 Miranda travelled to New York, where he rekindled his acquaintance with Colonel William S. Smith, who introduced him to merchant Samuel G. Ogden (who would later be tried, but acquitted, for helping organize Miranda's expedition). [Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 31, May, 1860] Miranda then went to Washington for private meetings with President Thomas Jefferson and his Secretary of State James Madison, who met with Miranda but did not involve themselves or their nation in his plans, which would have been a violation of the Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793. Miranda privately began organizing a filibustering expedition to liberate Venezuela. Among the volunteers who served under him in this revolt was David G. Burnet of the United States, who would later serve as interim president of the Republic of Texas after its secession from Mexico in 1836. Miranda hired a ship from Ogden, which he rebaptized the "Leander" in honor of his oldest son.

In Jacmel, Haiti, Miranda acquired two other ships, the "Bee" and the "Bacchus", and their crews. It is here in Jacmel on March 12, when Miranda made, and raised on the "Leander", the first "Venezuelan" flag, which he had personally designed. On April 28 the small fleet was overtaken by Spanish war ships off the coast of Venezuela. Only the "Leander" escaped. Sixty men were captured and put on trial, and ten were sentenced to death. The "Leander" and the expeditionary force regrouped on the British islands of Barbados and Trinidad. The expedition landed at La Vela de Coro on August 3, captured the fort and raised the flag for the first time on Venezuelan soil. Before dawn the next morning the expeditionaries occupied Coro, but found no support from the city residents. Rather than risk a defeat, the small royalist force seem to have dissipated in thin air, supposedly escorting refugees, to await reinforcements. Realizing that he could not hold the city for long, Miranda ordered his force to set sail again on August 13, and he spent the next year in the British Caribbean waiting for reinforcements that never came. On his return to Britain, he was met with better support for his plans from the British government. In 1808 a large military force to attack Venezuela was assembled and placed under the command of Arthur Wellesley, but Napoleon's invasion of Spain suddenly transformed Spain into an ally of Britain, and the force instead went there to fight in the Peninsular War.

The First Republic of Venezuela

After Venezuela achieved "de facto" independence on April 19, 1810, when a junta was established and the colonial admistrators deposed. The Junta sent a delegation to Great Britain to get British recognition and aid. This delegation, which included future Venezuelan notables Simón Bolívar and Andrés Bello, met with and persuaded Miranda to return to his native land. There he agitated for the provisional government to declare independence. Miranda gathered around him a group of similarly-minded individuals and helped establish an association, "la Sociedad Patriotica", modeled on the political clubs of the French Revolution. By the end of the year the Venezuelan provinces elected a congress to deal with the future of the country, and Miranda was chosen as the delegate from El Pao, Barcelona Province. On July 5, 1811, it formally declared Venezuelan independence and established a republic. The congress also adopted his tricolor as the Republic's flag.

The following year Miranda and the young Republic's fortunes turned. "(See Venezuela (First Republic) and Venezuelan War of Independence.)" Republican forces failed to subdue areas of Venezuela which had remained royalist. In addition, Venezuela's loss of the Spanish market for its main export, cocoa meant that an economic crisis set in, which mostly hurt the middle and lower classes, who lost enthusiasm for the Republic. Finally a powerful earthquake and its aftershocks hit the country, which caused large numbers of deaths and serious damage to buildings, mostly in republican areas. It did not help that it hit on March 26, 1812, as services for Maundy Thursday were beginning. The Caracas Junta had been established on a Maundy Thursday as well, so the earthquake fell on its second anniversary in the liturgical calendar. This was interpreted by many as a sign from Providence, and many, including those in the Republican army, began to secretly plot against the Republic or outright defect. Other provinces refused to send reinforcements to Caracas Province. Worse still, whole provinces began to switch sides. On July 4 an uprising brought Barcelona over to the royalist side. Neighboring Cumaná, now cut off from the Republican center, refused to recognize Miranda's dictatorial powers and his appointment of a commandant general. By the middle of the month many of the outlying areas of Cumaná Province had also defected to the royalists. With these circumstances a Spanish marine frigate captain, Domingo Monteverde, operating out of Coro, was able to turn a small force under his command into a large army, as people joined him on his advance towards Valencia, leaving Miranda in charge of only a small area of central Venezuela. [Parra-Pérez, Caracciolo. "Historia de la Primera República de Venezuela" (Caracas: Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de la Historia,1959), 357-365.] In these dire circmstances the government appointed Miranda generalissimo, with broad political powers. By mid-July Monteverde had taken Valencia, and Miranda thought the situation was hopeless. [Incorrectly, according to some observers. Trend, J.B. "Bolivar and the Independence of Spanish America" (New York: Macmillan Co, 1946), 80-83.] He started negotiations with Monteverde and finalized an armistice on July 25,1812. He then went to the port of La Guaira intending to leave on a British ship before the royalists arrived, although under the armistice there was an amnesty for political offences. Bolívar and other revolutionaries regarded this action as treasonous. In one of Bolívar's most morally dubious acts, Bolívar and the others arrested and handed Miranda over to the Spanish Royal Army. Bolívar claimed afterwards that he wanted to shoot him as a traitor but was restrained by the others; Bolívar's reasoning was that "if Miranda believed the Spaniards would observe the treaty, he should have remained to keep them to their word; if he did not, he was a traitor to have sacrificed his army to it" [Trend J.B. "Bolivar", 85, quoting contemporary English Colonel Belford Wilson and adding that many republican officers were in fact "imprisoned or shot"]

Miranda never saw freedom again. His case was still being processed, when he died in a prison cell at the Cuatro Torres Fort at the Arsenal of La Carraca, outside of Cádiz in 1816. He was buried in a mass grave, making it impossible to identify his remains. So an empty tomb has been left for him in the National Pantheon of Venezuela. [Branch, Hilary Dunsterville. "Venezuela:The Bradt Travel Guide", 3rd ed. (Chalfont St Peter: Bradt Publications, 1999), 62. ISBN 1-898323-89-5] [Dydyńsky, Krzysztof. "Venezuela", 2nd ed. (Hawthorn:Lonely Planet Publications, 1998), 129. ISBN 0-86442-514-7]

The oil painting by the Venezuelan artist Arturo Michelena titled, "Miranda en la Carraca" (1896), which portrays the hero in the Spanish jail where he died, has become a graphic symbol of Venezuelan history, and has immortalized the image of Miranda for generations of Venezuelans.


Daniel Florence O'Leary, aide-de-camp to Simón Bolívar, said of Miranda's death: :"Miranda was a man of the eighteenth century whose genius lay in raising the consciousness and confidence of his fellow Americans. Although he prided himself on being a soldier, his greatest battles were fought with his pen".


* "It cites the following references:"
** Biggs, [James] . " [ History of Miranda's Attempt in South America] ", London, 1809.
** The Marqués de Rojas, "El General Miranda", Paris, 1884.
** The Marqués de Rojas "Miranda dans la révolution française", Carácas, 1889.
** Robertson, W. S. "Francisco de Miranda and the Revolutionizing of Spanish America", Washington, 1909.


*Miranda, Francisco de. (Judson P. Wood, translator. John S. Ezell, ed.) "The New Democracy in America: Travels of Francisco de Miranda in the United States, 1783-84". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.

*Roberston, William S. "Francisco de Miranda and the Revolutionizing of Spanish America" in "Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1907", Vol. 1. Washington: Government Priniting Office, 1908. 189-539.

*Robertson, William S. "Life of Miranda", 2 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929.

*Thorning, Joseph F. "Miranda: World Citizen". Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1952.

*Moisei Alperovich . "Francisco de Miranda y Rusia", V Centenario del descubrimiento de América: encuentro de culturas y continentes. Editorial Progreso, (Moscu), shortened version in Spanish, (1989), ISBN 5 - 01 - 001248 -0, Edit. Progreso, URSS, 380 pages. Russian Version : unabridged, (1986).

A very extensive critical bibliography with an exploration of the Russian State Archives and those of some European powers as well as some of the Russian XVIII Century Nobility. A rather quite hard to read book but a "think tank" truffed with extensive original notes from Tsarist and Cold War Russian historians.

External links

* Grogan, Samuel [ "Francisco de Miranda"] , History Text Archive
* [ Another statue] by Lorenzo Gonzalez (1977) on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
* [ "General Miranda's Expedition"] , "Atlantic Monthly", Vol. 5, No. 31 (May 1860). An account of the Leander affair

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