Letters from Venezuelan General Francisco de Miranda regarding Latin American Revolution, 1805-1806
During a trip to the United States Venezuelan General Francisco de Miranda worked to launch a revolution in Venezuela that he expected would spread throughout South America. He made a series of high-level contacts, as indicated in the letters below. The American public saw South American revolutionaries as “fellow republicans.” At least three American ships, numerous American guns, and about 200 recruits participated in Miranda’s failed attempt at Revolution.
Sent from Washington, December 11, 1805 to Colonel William Stephens Smith
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I have received your letters on the 1st and 6th of this month, and your commodores of the 5th: The business you and him mention is on the Tapis at this present moment, and will be concluded, I hope in the course of this week. Not a moment is lost and the appearances look very favourable.–Have a little patience and you shall soon hear the result. I hope you will act on your side with as much activity, &c &c. My best compliments to the worthy admiral and to major A. They both shall hear from me as soon as the thing is decided; write me here at Stelle’s hotel, and that will be sufficient, if the direction is Mr. Molini.
Sent from Washington, December 14, 1805 to Colonel William Stephens Smith
I saw yesterday for the second time, both the gentlemen, and after talking fully on the subject, I think I brought the business to a conclusion. Yet Mr. M. upon hearing my determination of quitting the city tomorrow for New York, appeared surprised, and persuaded me not to leave it before Tuesday next, the 17th, when he expected me to dine with him, and have a little more conversation I suppose. On consideration, I thought that a stay three days longer, might show calm and patience on my part, which would give to this step all the dignity I intended, though I am persuaded that no more will be obtained, than what is already imparted. Their tacit approbation and good wishes are evidently for us, and they do not see any difficulty that may prevent the citizens of the U. States in attending personally or sending supplies for this object, provided the publick laws should not be openly violated. Your demand of permission or leave of absence is considered and impracticable, and Mr. M think it easier to take the risk upon yourself at once; however, we shall consider this subject with much reflection when we shall meet at New York. On the 18th, early, I shall certainly leave this for Philadelphia, from whence I will write to you again, and without much delay proceed to New York. In the meantime, I request you to have every thing ready for departure before the last of December, and I beg of you to show to our worthy commodore as much as is necessary of this letter, not thinking prudent in me at this moment and on so delicate a subject to write any more; do the same with the major, and repeat to both my sincere friendship and permanent esteem. When we meet, you and they shall hear more on this subject, in the meantime act with much caution and great activity.
Sent from New York, January 22, 1806 to President Thomas Jefferson
I have the honour to send you enclosed the natural and civil history of Chili, of which we conversed at Washington; You will perhaps find more interesting facts and greater knowledge in this little volume than in those which have before been published on the same subject concerning this beautiful country. If ever the happy prediction which you have pronounced on the future destiny of our dear Columbia, is to be accomplished in our day, may Providence grant that it may be under your auspices, and by the generous efforts of her own children. We shall then in some sort behold the arrival of that age, the return of which the Roman bard invoked in favor of the human race:
“That last great age foretold by sacred rhymes,
Renews its finished course; Saturnian times,
Roll round again, and mighty years began,
From this first orb, in radiant circles ran.”
With the highest consideration, and profound respect, I am, Mr. President, your very humble servant,
Francisco de Miranda
Sent from New York, January 22, 1806 to Secretary of State James Madison,
On the point of leaving the U. States allow me to address a few words to you to thank you for the attention that you were pleased to show me during my stay at Washington. The important concerns, which I then had the honour to communicate to you, I doubt will not remain a profound secret until the final result of that delicate affair; I have acted upon that supposition here, by conforming in every thing to the intentions of government, which I hope to have apprehended and observed with exactness and discretion. The enclosed letter contains a book which I have promised to the president of the U. States and which I pray you to transmit to him. Have the goodness to present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Madison, and to believe me with the highest consideration and esteem, sir,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Francisco de Miranda
James Biggs, The History of Don Francisco de Miranda’s Attempt to Effect a Revolution in South America, in a Series of Letters (Boston: Oliver and Munroe, 1808), 272-75.