1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Miranda, Francesco

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MIRANDA, FRANCESCO (c. 1754–1816), Spanish-American soldier and adventurer, was born at Caracas, Venezuela, about 1754. He entered the army, and served with the French in the American War of Independence. The success of that war inspired him with a belief that the independence of Spanish America would increase its prosperity. He began to scheme a revolution, but was discovered and had only just time to escape to the United States. Thence he went to England, where he was introduced to Pitt, but chiefly lived with the leading members of the opposition—Fox, Sheridan and Romilly. Finding no help, he travelled through Austria and Turkey to Russia, where he was warmly received, but was dismissed with rich presents, at the demand of the Spanish ambassador, backed up by France. The news of the dispute between England and Spain about Nootka Sound in 1790 recalled him to England, where he saw a good deal of Pitt, but the peaceful arrangement of the dispute again destroyed his hopes. In April 1792 he went to Paris, with introductions to Pétion and the leading Girondists, hoping for aid in South America. France had too much to do to help others; but Miranda’s friends sent him to the front as general of brigade. He distinguished himself under Dumouriez, was entrusted in February 1793 with the siege of Maestricht, and commanded the left wing of the French army at the disastrous battle of Neerwinden. Although he had given notice of Dumouriez’s treachery, he was put on his trial on the 12th of May, unanimously acquitted, but again imprisoned, and not released till after the 9th Thermidor. He was sentenced to be deported after the struggle of Vendémiaire, yet he continued in Paris till the coup d’état of Fructidor caused him to take refuge in England. He now found Pitt and Dundas ready to listen, but, as neither of them would or could give him substantial help, he went to the United States, where President Adams only gave him fair words. Addington might have done something for him but for the peace of Amiens in 1802. Though in no way amnestied, he returned to Paris, but was expelled by the First Consul, who was eager to be on good terms with Spain. Disappointed in England and the United States, he decided to make an attempt at his own expense. Aided by two American citizens, Colonel W. S. Smith and Mr S. G. Ogden, he equipped the “Leander,” in 1806, and with the help of the English admiral Sir A. Cochrane made a landing near Caracas, and proclaimed the Colombian republic. He had some success, but a false report of peace between France and England caused the English admiral to withdraw his support. At last, in 1810, the events in Spain which brought about the Peninsular War had divided the authorities in Spanish America, some of whom declared for Joseph Bonaparte, others for Ferdinand VII., others for Charles IV., and Miranda again landed, and got a large party together who declared a republic both in Venezuela and New Granada or Colombia. But Miranda’s desire—that all the South American colonies should form a federal republic—awoke the selfishness of provincial administrations, and the cause was believed to be hateful to heaven owing to a great earthquake on the 26th of March 1812. The count of Monte Verde, the Bourbon governor, had little difficulty in defeating Miranda, and on the 26th of July the general capitulated on condition that he should be deported to the United States. The condition was not observed; Miranda was moved from dungeon to dungeon, and died on the 14th of July 1816 at Cadiz.

There are allusions to Miranda’s early life in nearly all memoirs of the time, but they are not generally very accurate. For his trial see Buchez et Roux, Histoire parlementaire, xxvii. 26–70. For his later life see J. Biggs, History of Miranda’s Attempt in South America (London, 1809); and Veggasi, Revolucion de la Colombia. Prof William S. Robertson has recently devoted considerable research in the Spanish archives and elsewhere to Miranda, his monograph on F. de M. and the revolutionizing of Spanish America being awarded a prize of the American Historical Association in 1908. See also Marqués de Rojas, El General Miranda (Paris, 1884), and his Miranda dans la révolution française (Carácas, 1889); and R. Becerra, Ensayo historico documentado de la vida de Don F. de M. (Carácas, 1896).