Francisco de Miranda

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Francisco de Miranda
Francisco de Miranda by Tovar y Tovar.jpg
Supreme Chief of Venezuela
In office
25 April 1812 – 26 June 1813
Preceded by Francisco Espejo
Succeeded by Simón Bolívar
(As President of the Second Republic of Venezuela)
Personal details
Born Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinoza
(1750-03-28)28 March 1750
Caracas, Venezuela
Died 14 July 1816(1816-07-14) (aged 66)
Cádiz, Spain
Nationality Venezuelan
Profession Military
Military service
Nickname(s) The Precursor
The First Venezuelan Universal
The Great American Universal
Allegiance  Kingdom of Spain
 Kingdom of France
 United States
Years of service 1771–1812
Rank Generalissimo
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
French Revolution
Siege of Melilla (1774)
Venezuelan War of Independence

Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinoza (March 28, 1750 – July 14, 1816), commonly known as Francisco de Miranda (Spanish pronunciation: [fɾanˈsisko ðe miˈɾanda]), 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 Spanish 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 ended in 1812. He was handed over to his enemies and four years later, in 1816, died in a Spanish prison. Within fourteen years of his death, however, most of Spanish America was independent.

Early life

Statue of Francisco de Miranda in Caracas.

Sebastian Francisco de Miranda was born in Caracas, Venezuela Province, in the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Granada, and baptized on April 5, 1750. His father, Sebastian de Miranda Ravelo, was an immigrant from the Canary Islands who had become a successful and wealthy merchant, and his mother, Francisca Antonia Rodríguez de Espinoza, was a wealthy Venezuelan.[1]

Growing up, Miranda enjoyed a wealthy upbringing, and attended the finest private schools. However, Miranda was not necessarily a member of high society growing up- he faced some discrimination due to his Canarian roots, and his heritage was continually put into question by the Criollo aristocracy.


Miranda's father, Sebastian, always strove to improve the situation of the family, and in addition to accumulating wealth and attaining important positions, he ensured his children a college education. Miranda was first tutored by Jesuits, Jorge Lindo and Juan Santaella, before entering the Academy of Santa Rosa.[1]

On January 10, 1762, Miranda began his studies at the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas, where he studied Latin, the early grammar of Nebrija and the Catechism of Ripalda for two years. Miranda completed this preliminary course in September of 1764 and became an upperclassmen. Between 1764-1766, Miranda continued his studies, studying the writings of Cicero and Virgil, grammar, history, religion, geography and arithmetic.[1]

In June of 1767, Miranda received his baccalaureate degree in the Humanities.[1] It's unknown if Miranda received the title of Doctor, as the only evidence in favor of this title is his personal testimony stating he received it in 1767, at age 17.

Issues of ethnic lineage

However, beginning in 1767, Miranda's studies were disrupted in part due to his father's rising prominence in Caracas society. In 1764, Sebastian de Miranda was appointed the captain of the local militia known as the Company of the White Canary Islanders by the governor, Jose de Solano y Bote. Sebastian de Miranda directed his regiment for five years, but his new title and societal position bothered the Mantuanos. In retaliation, a competing faction formed a militia of its own and local aristocrats, Don Juan Nicolas de ponte and Don Martin Tovar Blanco filed a complaint against Sebastian de Miranda. Sebastian de Miranda requested and was granted honorary military discharge to avoid further antagonizing the local elite, and spent many years attempting to clear the family name and establish the "purity" of his family line. In 1769, Sebastian produced a notarized genealogy to prove that his family had no African ancestors. The need to establish the "purity" of the family bloodline was important to maintain a place in society in Caracas, as it was what allowed the family to attend University, to marry in the church, and to attain government positions.[1]

In 1770, Sebastian won his family's rights through an official Royal Patent, signed by Charles III which confirmed Sebastian's title and societal standing.[2] The court ruling, however, created an irreconcilable enmity with the Mantuanos, who never forgot the conflict nor forgave the challenge, which inevitably influenced subsequent decisions by Miranda.[1]

After the court victory of his father, Miranda left Caracas to pursue a new life in Spain, and on January 25, 1771, Miranda left Caracas from the port of La Guaira for Cadiz, Spain, on the Swedish frigate, the Prince Frederick.[disambiguation needed][1]

First travels

Arco triunfo miranda.jpg

In 1771, Miranda began a long journey around the world that lasted most of his life. He described his experiences over this time in his journal, which reached to 63 bound volumes. He participated in three major historical and political movements of his time: American Revolutionary War, French Revolution and Spanish American wars of independence.

Miranda landed at the Port of Cadiz on March 1, 1771, and stayed for a few days with a distant relative, Jose D'Anino [1] and after two weeks in Cadiz, Miranda left for Madrid.[2] In Madrid, Miranda pursued his education, especially modern languages, as they would allow him to travel throughout Europe.[1]

He conceived the idea of Latin American unity during his travels. He fought bravely in America, Europe and Africa, though he thought Sepoy bring India-ran and traveled throughout Europe, Asia Minor, North America, South America and the Antilles. He met many important figures, including George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Simón Bolívar, Catherine the Great, Frederick II of Prussia, the Duke of Wellington, José de San Martín, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Robert Peel, La Fayette, Stanislaw Poniatowski, William Pitt, Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin, Thomas Cochrane, Samuel Adams and Johann Caspar Lavater.

He was influenced by his relationships with Hispanic personalities including San Martín, Andres Bello, Bernardo O'Higgins, Carlos Montúfar, Carlos María de Alvear, Servando Teresa de Mier, Domingo José Martins, Manuel Palacio Fajardo, Juan Germán Roscio, Manuel Gual and Pedro Gual, Hipólito Costa, Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, Matias de Irigoyen and Rodríguez Peña.

Miranda was directly involved in the French Revolution for which he was awarded the title Hero of the Revolution and Marshal of France. He is the only American engraved on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

In Madrid

Cason del Buen Retiro. Miranda looked iconic buildings and monuments Madrid of the time.

On March 28, 1771, Miranda came to Madrid and took an interest in the libraries, architecture, and art that he found there.[1] In Madrid, Miranda pursued his education, especially modern languages, as they would allow him to travel throughout Europe.[1] Miranda also sought to expand his knowledge of mathematics, history, and political science, as he aimed to serve the Spanish Crown as a military officer.[2] During this time, Miranda also pursued genealogical research of his family name in an effort to establish his ties to Europe and Christianity, which was an issue especially important to him after his father's struggles to legitimize his family line in Caracas.[2]

It was in Madrid that Miranda began to build his personal library, which he added to as he traveled, collecting not only books, but manuscripts and letters as well.[2]

In January of 1773, Miranda's father transferred 85,000 reales vellon (silver coins), to help his son obtain the position of Captain in the Princess's Regiment.[1]

Early campaigns

During his first year as a Captain Francisco de Miranda traveled with his regiment mainly in North Africa and the southern Spanish province of Andalusia. In December of 1774, Spain declared War with Morocco, and Miranda experienced his first combat during the conflict.[1]

It was during this period, when Miranda was assigned to guard the stations of an unwanted colonial presence in North Africa that he began to draw connections to the colonial presence that he represented and the similar colonial presence in Spanish South America . At this time his first military feat took place during the siege of Melilla, held from December 9, 1774 to March 19, 1775, in which the Spanish forces managed to repel the Sultan of Morocco Mohammed ben Abdallah.[1] However, despite the actions taken and faced danger, Miranda did not get any award or promotion and was assigned to the garrison of Cadiz.[2]

Despite Miranda's success in the military, he faced many disciplinary complaints, ranging from complaints that he spent too much time reading, to financial discrepancies, to the most serious disciplinary charges of violence and abuse of authority.[1] One of Miranda's well-known enemies was Colonel Don Juan Manuel de Cagigal, who charged Miranda with the loss of company funds and brutalities against soldiers in Miranda's regiment. The account of the dispute was sent to Inspector General O'Reilly, and eventually reached King Charles III, who ordered Miranda to be transferred back to Cadiz.[2]

Plaza Miranda, Maracay, Venezuela

Missions in North America and Antilles

Monument to Francisco de Miranda in Cadiz, Spain

Spain became involved in the American Revolutionary War in order to expand their territories in Louisiana, Florida, force Britain to maintain multiple simultaneous war fronts and seek a recovery of Gibraltar. The Spanish captain general of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, in 1779 attacked the British at Baton Rouge and Natchez, getting free down the Mississippi River basin hostile forces that could threaten its capital, New Orleans.

Spanish forces had begun moving against the British and Miranda was ordered to report to the Regiment of Aragon, which sailed from Cadiz in spring of 1780, under Victoriano de Navia's command. Miranda reported to his chief, General de Cagigal in Havana Cuba. From their headquarters in Cuba, De Cagigal and Miranda participated in the Siege of Fort Pensacola on May 9, 1781, and Miranda was awarded the temporary title of lieutenant colonel during this action. Miranda also contributed to the French success of a naval battle at the Bay of the Chesapeake when he helped the Count de Grasse raise needed funds and supplies.[2]

Miranda remained prominent while in Pensacola, and in August of 1781, Cagigal secretly sent Miranda to Jamaica to arrange for the release of 900 prisoners, see to their immediate needs, and to acquire English ships for the Spanish Navy. Miranda was also asked to perform espionage work while staying with his British hosts. Miranda managed to perform a successful reconnaissance mission and also negotiated an agreement dated November 18, 1781 that regulated the exchange of Spanish prisoners. However, Miranda also entered into a deal with a British merchant, Philip Allwood. Miranda agreed to use the ships he had secured from the British to transport Allwood's goods back to Spain to sell them. Upon his return, Miranda was charged with being a spy and smuggler of British goods.[1]

The order to send Miranda back to Spain pursuant to the judgment of February 5, 1782 the Supreme Inquisition Council failed to be met due to various faults of form and substance in the administrative process that caused the order to be questioned and in part by the unconditional support of the commander Cagigal.

He participated in the Capture of The Bahamas and carried news of the island's fall to his superior Bernardo de Gálvez. Gálvez was angry that the Bahamas expedition had gone ahead without his permission and he imprisoned Cajigal and had Miranda arrested. Miranda was later released, but this experience of Spanish officialdom may have been a factor in his subsequent conversion to the idea of independence for Spain's American colonies.[3]

The efficiency demonstrated by Miranda in the Bahamas will then worth recommending Cajigal for it to be promoted to Colonel and came under the command of General Commander of the Spanish forces in Cuba, Bernardo de Gálvez, as Assistant field in the town of guárico.

At that time the Spaniards were preparing a joint action with the French to invade Jamaica (last British stronghold in the Gulf of Mexico) and the population of Guárico was the ideal place to plan these operations to be close to the island and its position easy access to gather troops and commanders regarded the Miranda right person to plan operations to have a first hand knowledge of the situation of the British in the area.

However, a preemptive attack by the British and the difficulties of the French fleet forced peace between Britain and France that the invasion did not materialize and therefore Miranda remained so Guárico a time in which the Inquisition would be its main issue.

Siege of Pensacola

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 Aragón 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, which saw British West Florida fall into Spanish hands, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Given the failure of the invasion of Jamaica priorities for the Spanish authorities changed and therefore the process of the Inquisition against Miranda they took a new impulse. Eventually Miranda's problems with the Inquisition became complicated and he was sent to Havana to be arrested and sent to Spain. But for various reasons these plans were thwarted, and, fearing the imminence of his arrest, Miranda decided to go to the United States. With the support of Juan Manuel de Cajigal he escaped the surveillance of the Governor of Havana, and, aided by American James Seagrove who arranged the trip, he fled to New Bern, where he landed on July 10, 1783. During his time in the United States, Miranda made a critical study of its military defenses, which demonstrated extensive knowledge of the development of American conflict and circumstances.

There Miranda prepared and fixed a correspondence technique, used for the rest of his journey: he would meet people through the gift or loan of books, and examine the culture and customs of the places through which he passed in a methodical way. Passing through Charleston, Philadelphia, and Boston will be dealing with different characters in American society and walks in the evenings which once had some affairs that Miranda called it inconsequential to reach New York.

In this city he met the prominent Livingston family whose members held important political positions and had links to other important families of the city. Apparently Miranda had a romantic relationship with Susan Livingston, daughter of Chancellor Livingston, who is seen as Miranda takes a trip to Boston and in which the young seems to be in love with him from the letters he wrote him.

Looks like Miranda but did not wish to spend more than a simple friendship, which would explain his rather hasty departure from New York. Although Miranda kept the epistolary contact Susan for years, never saw her again, so possibly come to think that a relationship that would lead to marriage was not compatible with their plans and lifestyle. During his time in the United States, Miranda sought to meet and network with important people and so it was personally acquainted with George Washington in Philadelphia, when it came to receiving military control of New York after the end of the war. He also met other distinguished personages as General Henry Knox, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Was also watching certain institutions of the new nation that impressed him as the Library of New Port and Princeton College, Rhode Island College and Cambridge College.

The permanence of Miranda in the United States was only affected by the conflict of interests between France and Spain in this country after the war because the French were not interested in that too will disclose the negative aspects of their involvement in the conflict and the failure of the invasion of Jamaica was one of them. Apparently they had sent reports from Havana to the U.S. government accusing Miranda as a traitor and deserter who were reported by the French to harm him since he was the only person who could disprove the allegation of failure of the invasion of Jamaica as responsibility of Spain. The dissemination of these reports made the situation of Miranda was committed because he could not defend himself without disclosing the details of his espionage mission in Jamaica they were state secrets and therefore in this situation decides to go to England embarking from Boston on December 15, 1784.

In Europe: United Kingdom, Prussia, Turkey and Russia (1785–1790)

Statue of Francisco de Miranda in Fitzroy Street, London.

December 15, 1784 Miranda left the port of Boston in the merchant frigate Neptuno at five p.m. for London and after a trip that required about 56 days arrived in England on February 10, 1785.

In London, Miranda was discreetly guarded by Spaniards to the suspicion of betrayal that fell on him. The reports highlight both drafted dealings with Miranda kept people suspected of conspiring against Spain as people considered eminent scholars of his time.

Around the same time came to the court of England, first secretary of the U.S. embassy, Colonel William Stephens Smith, whom Miranda knew of his stay in New York. Smith would marry the following year, on June 12 of 1786. with Nabby Abigail Adams, daughter of ambassador John Adams, who later became the second president of the United States, and Abigail Smith.

Miranda and Colonel Smith decided to travel to Prussia to attend military exercises prepared by King Frederick II of Prussia. Bernardo del Campo, Ambassador of Spain in the British capital since 1783, gave Miranda a letter of introduction to the Minister of Spain in Berlin, while James Penman, English businessman whom Miranda had befriended in Charleston, he was responsible for keep your papers while she was on travel.

However, the Spanish ambassador friendly conceals his Miranda intrigue to make trip to Calais, and there can be arrested and handed over to Spain. The farce, which also assigned a role to the wife and daughter of the Spanish vice-consul in London on the pretext of leaving England to join the young in a monastery, fell apart because the Venezuelan and his friend went on 10 August 1785 a Dutch port (Hellevoetsluis) and not the city in northern France.

Passed through regions of present Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, moving to Greek and Italian lands, where he remained for over a year, and visit the court of Catherine II(Catherine the Great), moved at that time from Moscow to Kiev, (current Ukraine). In Hungary was in the palace of Prince Nicholas Esterházy Hungarian (1765-1833), who was sympathetic to his ideas, and apart from welcome him kindly sent it to one of their gigs with a letter of recommendation to meet the famous musician Joseph Haydn, who lived and worked in the court of the Hungarian aristocrat.

After passing through Constantinople, Turkish capital with whom the Spaniards had diplomatic relations since 1783, was forced to pass a health quarantine in Kherson, and Prince Potemkin introduced to Catherine in Kiev on February 13, 1787. Catherine showed enough interest by American affairs and governance.

The attempts to abduct Miranda by the diplomatic representatives of Spain failed as the Russian Ambassador in London, Semyon Vorontsov, declared on August 4, 1789 to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Francis Osborne, 5th Duke of Leeds, that Sebastian (Francisco) de Miranda, although a Spanish subject, was a member of the Russian diplomatic mission in London at the service of H. R. H. Empress Catherine II of Russia. His letter to Catherine II is a good example of the lecherous manners of some of the eighteenth-century courtesans. In Russia, he used the surname Meeroff and he left several children who later emigrated to the United States and Argentina and are currently well known academicians.{Meeroff, M. Cambio de Modelo Medico. De la Medicina Biológica a la Medicina Bioantropologica. Fundamentacion Científica. Del Cano (Editor). Teoría y práctica de la Medicina Antropológica. Buenos Aires,Argentina: Sociedad Argentina de Medicina Antropológica. 2004: 16-39}

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

Later on, after fighting for Revolutionary France, Miranda made his home in London, where he had two children, Leandro (1803 – Paris, 1886) and Francisco (1806 – Cerinza, Colombia, 1831),[4][5] with his housekeeper, Sarah Andrews, whom he later married. He was friends with the brother of Margaret Bulkley who was living as 'James Barry', Miranda helped to keep her secret so that she could become a doctor.[6] "Miranda was an ardent feminist, named women as his literary executors, and published an impassioned plea for female education a year before Mary Wollstonecraft published her famous Vindication of the Rights of Women."[7] During these earlier times in London he also met Colonel William S. Smith, secretary to John Adams's American Legation.

Miranda during the French Revolutionary period

In 1792, Miranda participated in the Battle of Valmy, one of the most important battles of the French Revolutionary Wars.

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 1792 campaign in the Low Countries.

Miranda failed to take Maastricht in February 1793 and 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 and his lawyer Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde conducted his defence with such calm eloquence that he was declared innocent. However, Marat denounced Chauveau-Lagarde as a liberator of the guilty. Even so, the campaign of Marat and the 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. The art theorist Quatremère de Quincy was among those who campaigned for his release during this time.[8] 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 Inca Empire, and would have a bicameral legislature. He conceived the name Colombia for this empire, after the explorer Christopher Columbus.

William Stephens Smith
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Map and borders of the envisioned nation of "Colombia" according to the Constitutional Project written by Miranda in 1798, compared to the Bolívar attempt to create it in the Congress of Panama in 1826.

With informal British help, Miranda led an attempted invasion of the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1804. 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 (both would later be tried, but acquitted, for helping organize Miranda's expedition).[9] 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 Neutrality Act of 1794. In New York Miranda privately began organizing a filibustering expedition to liberate Venezuela. Among the 200 volunteers who served under him in this revolt was including Smith's son William Steuben and David G. Burnet who would later serve as interim president of the Republic of Texas after its secession from Mexico in 1836. Miranda hired a ship of 20 guns from Ogden, which he rebaptized Leander in honor of his oldest son, and set sail to Venezuela on 2 February 1806.

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 after a botched landing attempt in Ocumare de la Costa resulted in two Spanish garda costas, Argos and Celoso, capturing two of Miranda's vessels, Bacchus and Bee. Sixty men were prisoners and put on trial in Puerto Cabello, and ten were sentenced to death. Only the Leander escaped escorted by the packet ship HMS Lilly to the British islands of Grenada and Barbados, where Miranda met with Admiral Alexander Cochrane. As Spain was then at war with Britain, Cochrane and the governor of Trinidad agreed to provide some support for a second attempt to invade Venezuela.

The Leander left Port of Spain on 24 July, together with HMS Express, HMS Attentive, HMS Prevost, and HMS Lilly, carrying General Miranda and some 220 officers and men. General Miranda decided to land in La Vela de Coro and the squadron anchored there on 1 August. The next day the frigate HMS Bacchante joined them; she stayed some three days. On 3 August 60 Trinidadian volunteers, under the Count de Rouveray, 60 men under Colonel Dowie, and 30 seamen and marines from HMS Lilly, under Lieutenant Beddingfelt landed. This force cleared the beach of Spanish forces and captured a batter of four 9 and 12-pounder guns; the attackers had four men severely wounded, all from HMS Lilly. Shortly thereafter boats from HMS Bacchante landed American volunteers and seamen and marines. The Spanish retreated, which enabled this force to capture two forts mounting 14 guns. General Miranda then marched on Santa Ana de Coro, which he captured but found no support from the city residents. However, on 8 August a Spanish force of almost 2000 men arrived. They captured a master of transport and 14 seamen who were getting water, unbeknownst to Lieutenant Donald Campbell. HMS Lilly landed 20 men on the morning of 10 August; this landing party killed a dozen Spaniards, but was able to rescue only one of the captive seamen. Colonel Downie and 50 men were sent, but the colonel judged the enemy force too strong and withdrew. When another 400 men came from Maracaibo, General Miranda realized that his force was too small to achieve anything further to hold Coro for long. On August 13, Miranda ordered his force to set sail again. HMS Lilly and her squadron then carried him and his men safely to Aruba.[10]

Miranda 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

Venezuela achieved de facto independence on Maundy Thursday April 19, 1810, when the Supreme Junta of Caracas was established and the colonial administrators 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. In 1811 a delegation from the Supreme Junta, among them Bolívar, and a crowd of common people enthusiastically received Miranda in La Guaira. In Caracas he agitated for the provisional government to declare independence from Spain under rule of Joseph Bonaparte. 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.

Reception of Miranda in La Guaira, Johann Moritz Rugendas. A delegation from the Supreme Junta of Caracas, among them Bolívar, and a crowd of common people enthusiastically receive Miranda. (19th century. Collection of the Fundación John Boulton, Caracas, Venezuela.)

The following year Miranda and the young Republic's fortunes turned. Republican forces failed to subdue areas of Venezuela (provinces of Coro, Maracaibo and Guyana) 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 April 19, 1810 as well, so the earthquake fell on its second anniversary in the liturgical calendar. This was interpreted by many as a sign from Providence. Since the earthquake occurred on Maundy Thursday, while the Venezuelan War of Independence was raging, it was explained by royalist authorities as divine punishment for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. The archbishop of Caracas, Narciso Coll y Prat, referred to the event as "the terrifying but well-deserved earthquake" which "confirms in our days the prophecies revealed by God to men about the ancient impious and proud cities: Babylon, Jerusalem and the Tower of Babel". Many, including those in the Republican army, and the majority of the clergy, 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.

Miranda en La Carraca, Arturo Michelena's depiction of Miranda's last days, imprisoned in Cádiz, Spain. (Venezuela, 1896: Oil on canvas – 196.6 x 245.5 cm. Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela.)

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.[11] In these dire circumstances Miranda was given broad political powers by his government. The colonel Bolívar lost control of San Felipe Castle of Puerto Cabello along with its ammunition stores on 30 June 1812. Deciding that the situation was lost, Bolívar effectively abandoned his post and retreated to his estate in San Mateo. By mid-July Monteverde had taken Valencia and Miranda also saw the republican cause as lost and started negotiations with royalists that finalized an armistice on July 25, 1812 signed in San Mateo a capitulation with Monteverde. Then Colonel Bolívar and other revolutionary officers claimed his actions as treasonous. In one of Bolívar's most morally dubious acts, Bolívar and others arrested and handed Miranda over to the Spanish Royal Army in La Guaira port.[12] For his apparent services to the royalist cause, Monteverde granted Bolívar a passport, and Bolívar left for Curaçao on 27 August.[13] Miranda 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 offenses. 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."[14] Ironically, it was by handing over Miranda to the Spanish that Bolívar assured himself a passport from the Spanish authorities (passports which, nevertheless, had been guaranteed to all republicans who requested them by the terms of the armistice), which allowed him to leave Venezuela unmolested and Miranda thought the situation as hopeless.[15]

Miranda never saw freedom again. His case was still being processed, when he died in a prison cell at the Penal de las Cuatro Torres at the Arsenal de la Carraca, outside Cádiz, aged 66. 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.[16][17]

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.


Similarly to some others in the history of American Independence (George Washington, Benito Juárez, José de San Martín, Bernardo O'Higgins and Simón Bolívar), Miranda was a Freemason. In London, he founded the lodge "The Great American Reunion".

Epitaph of Francisco de Miranda in the Pantheon

Legacy and honours

Miranda has been honoured in a number of ways, including in the naming of a Venezuelan state, Miranda (created in 1889), a Venezuelan port, Puerto Miranda, and a number of Venezuelan municipalities named "Miranda" or "Francisco de Miranda".

A Caracas airbase and a Caracas park are named for him.

The Order of Francisco de Miranda was established in the 1930s.

In 2006 Venezuela's Flag Day was moved to August 3, in honor of Miranda's 1806 disembarkation at La Vela de Coro.

One of the Bolivarian Missions, Mission Miranda, is named for him.

Miranda's life was portrayed in the Venezuelan film Francisco de Miranda (2006), as well as in the unrelated film Miranda Returns (2007).

Miranda's name is engraved in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and his portrait is in the Palace of Versailles.

Pensacola, FL has a square named after him.

There are statutes of Miranda in Cadiz (Spain), Caracas, Havana, London, Philadelphia, Patras (Greece), São Paulo (Brazil), St. Petersburg (Russia), and Valmy (France).

The house where Miranda lived in London, 27 Grafton Street (now 58 Grafton Way),[18] Bloomsbury has a blue plaque that bears his name.[19]

Monument to Francisco de Miranda - National Pantheon, Caracas, Venezuela


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 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.
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Racine, Karen. Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution Scholarly Resources Inc, Wilmington, DE, 2003
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Thorning, Joseph F. Miranda: World Citizen. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, FL, 1952
  3. Chávez p.209
  4. Edsel González, Carlos. "Miranda Andrews, Francisco", Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela. Caracas: Fundacíon Polar, 1997. ISBN 980-6397-37-1
  5. Fundación Polar. "Miranda Andrews, Leandro", Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela. Caracas: Fundacíon Polar, 1997. ISBN 980-6397-37-1
  6. du Preez, Hercules Michael (January 2008). "Dr. James Barry:The early years revealed". South African Medical Journal. Health & Medical Publishing Group. 98 (1): 52–54.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Text. Pdf.
  7. de Pauw, Linda Grant (1998), "Nineteenth-century warfare", in de Pauw, Linda Grant (ed.), Battle cries and lullabies: women in war from prehistory to the present, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, p. 146, ISBN 9780806131009.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. See David Gilks, "Art and politics during the ‘First’ Directory: artists’ petitions and the quarrel over the confiscation of works of art from Italy in 1796 " French history 26(2012), pp. 53-78.
  9. Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 31, May 1860
  10. Marshall, John (1828). Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted... (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown). Supplement, Part 2, pp. 404-6.
  11. Parra-Pérez, Caracciolo. Historia de la Primera República de Venezuela (Caracas: Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de la Historia,1959), 357–365.
  12. Masur (1969), 98-102; and Lynch, Bolívar: A Life, 60-63.
  14. Trend J.B. Bolivar, 85, quoting contemporary English Colonel Belford Wilson and adding that many republican officers were in fact "imprisoned or shot."
  15. Incorrectly, according to some observers. Trend, J.B. Bolivar and the Independence of Spanish America (New York: Macmillan Co, 1946), 80–83.
  16. Branch, Hilary Dunsterville. Venezuela:The Bradt Travel Guide, 3rd ed. (Chalfont St Peter: Bradt Publications, 1999), 62. ISBN 1-898323-89-5
  17. Dydyńsky, Krzysztof. Venezuela, 2nd ed. (Hawthorn:Lonely Planet Publications, 1998), 129. ISBN 0-86442-514-7
  18. Andrés Bello, Scholarship and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, Ivan Jaksic, Cambridge Latin American Studies, 2006, ISBN 9780521027595, p33 [1]
  19. "Francisco de Miranda Blue Plaque". Retrieved May 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Bogotá bust of Francisco de Miranda

Further reading

  • Chavez, Thomas E. Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift. University of New Mexico Press, 2003.
  • Chirinos, Juan Carlos. Miranda, el nómada sentimental. Editorial Norma, Caracas, 2006.
  • Harvey, Robert. "Liberators: Latin America`s Struggle For Independence, 1810-1830". John Murray, London (2000). ISBN 0-7195-5566-3
  • 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.
  • Racine, Karen. Francisco De Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution. Wilmington, Del: SR Books, 2003. ISBN 0842029095
  • Robertson, 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 Printing Office, 1908. 189–539.
  • Robertson, William S. Life of Miranda, 2 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929.
  • Smith, Denis, "General Miranda's Wars: Turmoil and Revolt in Spanish America, 1750-1816," Toronto, Bev Editions (e-book), 2013.
  • 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 978-5010012489, Edit. Progreso, URSS, 380 pages. Russian Version : unabridged, (1986).

External links