The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | Articles | Latin America/Colonial | Miranda, Francisco de

Email to a friend
Printer friendly

Miranda, Francisco de

by Samuel Grogan

        Francisco de Miranda was born on March 28, 1750 in a town called Caracas.  His father was Don Sebastian Miranda and mother was Doña Francisca Miranda.  His name was originally Sebastián Francisco but dropped the name Sebastián upon his younger brother's death.  As a boy he studied at the Royal University of Caracas where learned Latin, mathematics, living languages, and the art of warfare.  When he was twenty-one years old he left Caracas and set sail on the open sea.  This is also where he started his journal and his journey to Europe.  It is on this journey where he meets a man named Francisco de Arrieta and once they land in Spain they set their sites on Madrid. While in Madrid he studied more and increased his language skills, which would pay off in his future.  His father sent money to Madrid, so Francisco can have a place in the Princess' Regiment.  This would mark the end of his education and the beginning of his military career. (Francisco de Miranda p.1-11)
        Miranda was a captain and got his first taste of warfare when Spain declared war on the Morocco on December 9, 1774.  Miranda was stationed in Africa and had only been in the military for a year when he asked to be transferred to America.  He had placed his arguments in a way that suggested his desire was only to serve his country and not that of any personal interest.  His main intents were to return to his homeland. He was denied his request and stayed in Africa where he saw his first real battles with the Moroccans on December 9, 1774.  This was the first time that Miranda would see the way  people felt in other countries felt towards their foreign subjugators.  The north African conflict ended in 1780, with the signing of the treaty of friendship and commerce.  Miranda received praises for his leadership during the conflict, although he had really had not done that much.  He asked again for transfer in 1775, mentioning all he had done in Africa in efforts to persuade his generals. He was again denied the transfer to America. (Francisco de Miranda p 13-16)
        After asking again and again for a transfer he was finally approved after six years of trying in the year 1780.  He was to be part of Caribbean trip with Spanish solders as part of the final stages of the American revolution.  He was going to be a part of the regiment of Argon which was going to retake Pensacola and the Bahamas from the British.  The battle in Pensacola involved more than 12,146 men and was intended to take the presence of  the armies of North America.  After reaching Cuba, Navia, who was the leader of the regiment transferred Miranda to aide de camp to the governor of Cuba.  After spending two years as the aid the Spanish overcame the British in Pensacola and Miranda rejoined the ranks.  Miranda did have trouble making his way through the ranks of the Spanish military and also had problems with authority.  Miranda was in his thirties now,  was unmarried, and had served the military during his entire twenties.
        Miranda stepped in Havana Cuba in 1783, and left his old life to start a new future.  Miranda thought of himself the same way the people of the United States did at that time.  He had studied the same books, languages, and mainly shared the same resentment toward other countries controlling other countries.   Even when he was serving the Spanish he always keep up with what was going on in the war between the Americans and the British.  Later on in the year of 1783, Miranda embarks on a journey to North Carolina.  He was on free soil for once in his life and fell in love with the thought.  This is where he begins to think more of Venezuela than of his mother country Spain.( Francisco de Miranda p18-22)
        He begins to travel all over the northeast parts of the United States, making friends and seeing the cities of this new country.  In 1784, he makes his way to New York City and it is here where he shows his love for the Republic.  It is also here where he begins to ask questions involving the independence of South America.  He also ask what kind of help they could supply to the Spanish Colonies.  Without the answers he wants to hear, he leaves the United States and journeys to Europe.  This is where he begins his travels all throughout Europe. (
        He traveled throughout Europe and stopped in Russia where he spent two years trying to talk the Empress Catherine the Great to invest 20,000 rubles in his liberation plans.  She did not give him 20,000 rubles but did give him one thousand and men to help him.  He continued traveling through Europe talking about his planes of liberations to different leaders, such as Joseph II of Italy.  He then travels to France in 1792, and on September the eleventh he joins the Army of North in Argonne.  Miranda helps France, from the invasion of the Brunswick troops.  After this Miranda gets a high ranking but this would not last for long.  He disagrees with military plans of his general and refuses to take part in the next military exploits.  Miranda is put in jail in France for the next years and stays there until 1795 when he is finally released.  He then takes refuge in England where he finds some encouragement for his projects. (Latin American World Encyclopedia p. 67-68)
        While Miranda is in England he became friends with William Pitt.  Between the years of 1802 and 1805, Miranda developed his plans for the future constitution.  In the year 1805 he returned to the United States because he was unable to get the support he wanted from the British.  In the United States he was again unable to get the support he needed but was able to get two hundred men from the suburbs of New York to help with his cause. In the year 1806, he sailed to Venezuela but encountered much more opposition than he ever had imagined form the Spanish military leaders.  The Spanish were fully ready for his arrival off the Venezuelan coast.  His first attempt was to land a little west of Puerto Cabello but this was a total disaster.  Of the one hundred and fifty men and three ships he lost two ships and sixty men on this first try.   Miranda upon his defeat retreated to Barbados. (Latin American World Encyclopedia p.68)
        This first defeat would not stop Miranda and on August 1806, Miranda returned to Venezuela with ten ships and five hundred men.  He and his men landed just north of the city of Coro.  This time the resistance fled inland and Miranda was able to make it into the city where he tried convincing the local leaders to join the side of the rebellion against the crown.  After finding no support from the locals he and his men were attacked by local military.  Miranda and his men fled to Trinidad and later returned back to England late in the year of 1807.  Although his first two attempts were unsuccessful he would see the results of his attempts in the coming years.  (Latin American World Encyclopedia p. 68)
        In the years following his attempts a revolution started up with the same people who had fought against him in the years earlier.  In 1810, he returned to help in the support of those who wanted to be separate from Spain.  He was appointed commander in chief by Simon Bolivar.   He was now in charge of leading Venezuela to independence.  On the fifth of July 1811, independence was declared.
        This independence would be short-lived .  Miranda later tried to convince the patriot leaders of the Venezuelan Congress to form a new centralized government and allow him to be the new leader, but this did not work.  In 1812, a man named Juan Domingo Montverde won numerous battles for the royalist and led an attack against Miranda and his followers.  Juan and the royalist forces were to much for Miranda and his men.  Miranda surrendered to Montverde on July the twenty-fifth 1812, ending the first republic of Venezuela.  Many patriotic leaders to the republic including Bolivar, suspected Miranda actions as being close to treason.  It was even Bolivar who did not allow Miranda to leave the country when his was defeated.  The royalists arrested Miranda and he was sent to prison in Spain.  During the forth year of his imprisonment he died in 1816. His death was slow, and was caused because of numerous health problems. (Encyclopedia of World Biography p. 52)
        Francisco de Miranda was a brilliant man who tried his hardest to make others in the world see and believe what he did.  Miranda was caught in between two different worlds.  He was most comfortable in London, and had a great life for himself there, although America was in his heart.  Daniel Florencio O'Leary, who was Bolívar's trusted aid de camp, said after the death of Miranda that "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.  When the nineteenth century arrived and demanded action, Miranda had been away from home for too long to be as effective as an American commander.  He fought as a European would, according to European rules of battle and for European brands of universal truth" (Francisco de Miranda).  Although Francisco de Miranda would not live to see the independence of Venezuela it would happen and he was one of the main reasons it did.  He had lived and fought in four different continents and died in the one country he most disliked at the end of his life.  He will always be remembered as a hero in Venezuela and in all the countries controlled by Spain during that time.

"Americas- Latin America-Francisco Miranda."

Racine, Karen, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution.

"Francisco de Miranda".  The Encyclopedia of World Biography.

"Francisco de Miranda".  The Latin American World Encyclopedia.