Empire of Liberty: El Caballero de la Libertad

Excerpt from Hernán Álvarez’s “Los Grandes Americanos”, University of Bogotá Press, 2009.

Chapter VII: Francisco de Miranda

Francisco de Miranda stands alongside George Washington, Guy Carleton, Thomas Jefferson and Toussaint L’Ouverture among the historical giants of the Enlightenment Revolutions that occurred throughout the late 18th century into the early 19th. An idealist with dreams of liberating and uniting Spanish South America into an independent country, Miranda led a life of adventure and in some way touched all of the revolutions that occurred in the United States, France and, of course, the Spanish Americas.

Born on April 5, 1750 in Caracas, then the leading city of the province of Venezuela (itself part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada) Miranda grew up in a life of wealth and privilege. His mother, Francisca Antonia Rodríguez de Espinoza, came from a wealthy Venezuelan family while his father, Sebastian de Miranda Ravelo built a wealthy merchant empire from scratch. While enjoying all of the luxuries of fine schools and high-class society, Miranda remained frustrated by the fact that he could never achieve access to the highest levels of Caracasan society on two accounts. Firstly, Miranda was born in Venezuela. Under the rigid casta that existed in Spanish colonial society at the time, Miranda’s birthplace meant that he would forever remain a criollo. Being a criollo did not mean that Miranda was doomed to a low class existence (as his wealthy family could attest to) but the upper echelons of society were reserved for peninsulares, those citizens born in Spain itself. Secondly, Miranda’s father was not a peninsulare but was from the Canary Islands. Like the criollos of the New World, Canarians faced discrimination from their fellow Iberian Spaniards. For reasons beyond any of his control, Iberian society locked out the handsome and daring Miranda simply because was a Canarian-descended criollo. To show the importance of familial heritage within the Spanish Empire at this time, records show that Miranda’s father demonstrated “cleanliness of blood” in a bureaucratic test after the local aristocracy challenged his appointment as a militia captain. In 1764 the governor appointed Sebastian de Miranda as “Captain of the Company of the White Canary Islanders”, an honor challenged by two rival aristocrats who even formed their own militia company. Eventually, at great expense, Miranda produced the necessary purity documents which allowed his children to continue their studies, allowed marriage within the church, and attain government appointments but then damage was done. Local society would forever remember the scandal and when Charles III himself confirmed Miranda’s title and social standing the local aristocrats would never forgive the royal challenge.

In addition, archival work in the 1970’s has uncovered that possibility that Miranda and his father may have come from Jewish-origins. Miranda routinely traveled with a genealogical record with the signatures of two attestors. Miranda itself was the name a town in Spain largely populated by Jewish converts at the height of the Spanish Inquisition and his father’s Canarian heritage might act as past indication that his family fled persecution in Spain to the relatively safety of the Canaries as records show many Spanish Jews did in the 15th and 16th centuries. Interestingly, in 1709 evidence shows another Francisco de Miranda as a leader of the Jewish community in Madrid. While it is impossible to prove if Miranda was secretly practicing Jew, a proper Spanish Catholic, or an enlightenment deist, we do know that he spent his entire career fight for religious liberty including rights for Jewish communities around the world. While much of this verges on speculation and conjecture due to happenstance documents as well as records of destroyed documents, if true, it could provide further proof about the Mirandas’ societal discrimination. After all, who among the 18th century Spanish elite residing in Caracas would want to be found carousing with a couple for possible Jewish natives despite their wealth and education? What would the neighbors think?! Who knows how such interaction could impact future appointments? And what if the local bishop found out? Best to let those quirky Mirandas languish off to the side, surely their son wouldn’t grow up to become anyone of importance…

While the discrimination and their heritage threw up barriers to their social advancement, Miranda’s father was insistent that the family improve their social stock in every way they could implement. Business interests garnered the family vast wealth and that wealth allowed the Miranda children access to the best education in Venezuela. It can be argued that Miranda’s enlightenment rhetoric and egalitarian values became impressed into the young man by his Jesuit tutors. The egalitarian streak of the Jesuits and their impact on state education eventually led Charles III to expel them from the Spanish Empire during his reign (a maneuver only undone in the 1790’s during the brief rule of Charles IV’s triumvirate). In 1762, Miranda began attending the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas where he studied Latin, theology, grammar, history, geography, and mathematics. At minimum Miranda received a baccalaureate degree though a single historical mention (from himself mind you) might suggest he attained a doctorate.

After completing his studies, Miranda left for Spain in 1771 arriving in Cadiz on March 1 and then Madrid on March 28. In Madrid, he furthered his studies including modern European languages like English and French while also conducting genealogical research that he surely sent back to his father to assist in his ongoing struggle to confirm the family’s “legitimacy”. In 1773, Miranda paid his way into a captaincy with the Royal Princess’s Regiment. During his various military campaigns with the regiment Miranda traveled throughout Andalusia and the Spanish enclaves in North Africa. In 1774, Spain and Morocco went to war and Miranda received his first taste of combat at the Siege of Melilla in December 1774. During the North African Campaign Miranda might have seen his first fights but he received numerous complaints ranging from abuse of his authority to misuse of funds and even “reading too much”. Eventually word reached Charles III who personally ordered the young captain returned to Cadiz. A dejected Miranda returned to Spain just in time to depart to North America as Spain entered the American Revolutionary War only a few years after his return from Morocco.  Initially sent from Cadiz to Havana, Miranda joined the Spanish Louisianan forces of Bernado de Gálvez in their siege of Pensacola. Miranda contributed to allied naval victories by helping raise funds and supplies amongst his Venezuelan contacts. For his valor in Pensacola and his aptitude as a military logistician, Spain send Miranda to Jamaica to liaise with the revolutionary navy and assist in coordinating operations between the various Spanish colonies and fledgling American states. In 1780, Miranda met the young revolutionary commodore William Briggs for the first time. Miranda and Briggs, a largely uneducated, but supremely talented, career navy man who ran into a social wall in his climb up the Royal Navy’s ranks, became fast friends. Striking up a lifelong exchange of letters the two young revolutionaries would share some 600 letters over the next 40+ years discussing everything from their personal lives and political careers to such disparate topics as local Caribbean liquors and Briggs’ struggle to understand Spanish grammar. In 1779, the Spanish military sent Miranda to Santo Domingo to defend that key colony from British invasion. In Santo Domingo, Miranda ended the war as well as his service to Spain. Miranda arrived in Santo Domingo and found a bungling Spanish administration so inept it managed to lose a military stronghold to an enemy that was losing the wider war. Miranda’s abilities helped stem the British advance and kept them confined to the environs of Santo Domingo but in order to do so he routinely disobeyed orders and spent far more than he was authorized. His ability to keep the troops supplied and the British bottled up played a key role in Spain’s retention of the colony but set Miranda’s superiors against him for routinely disobeying orders. At the end of the war, despite demonstrating valor and competence at Pensacola, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, Miranda never received a single promotion or official commendation. Indeed, several officers worked hard against Miranda to make him personally liable for the expenses he incurred beyond those authorized to him. Disillusioned, Miranda resigned his commission and traveled to the United States.

Miranda would live intermittently in the United States for much of the next decade. Initially establishing himself in Spanish Town in the newly independent US state of Jamaica, Miranda utilized Commodore Briggs’ recommendation as a way to travel the bulk of the American Main. The next decade took him to Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Quebéc City and Montréal. Over time, Miranda became acquainted with many prominent Americans including George Washington, Henry Knox, Thomas Paine, Guy Carleton, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. At one point Miranda came to know the Livingston family very well including, it appears, a romantic relationship with Chancellor Livingston’s daughter Susan Livingston. Two events occurred during his time in the United States that greatly influenced his future impact on world history. Firstly, Miranda was present in Philadelphia during the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, an event that finally cemented the idea that Spanish America needed liberation and transformation into a new United States of South America or, potentially (according to some fairly ambitious and prophetic writings to Jefferson and Briggs), inclusion into a wider United States of the Americas. Secondly, he came into the employ of the Department of State to act as an American trade representative in Europe. This fancy position largely afforded him the ability, recommendation letters and employment necessary to travel Europe and report on a wide variety of activities to the US government while providing the safety of the various US consular offices. Thus in 1789, Miranda began his legendary European tour.

Over the course of the next three years, Miranda traveled through Britain, France, Amsterdam, the Germanies, the Italies, Ottoman Empire, Hapsburg Dominions and Russia. While in Europe Miranda would meet Joseph Haydn, allegedly became one of Catherine the Great’s consorts, and quietly lobbied European governments to support Spanish American Independence.

*

Excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The History of the Order of Freedom”, unpublished internal work, 1913

While external records demonstrate that Francisco de Miranda began befriending Order members as early as his 1779 liaison position with Commodore Briggs, he only comes into the official Order record on May 12, 1788. In that meeting Briggs proposed using the ring technology to make Miranda an employee of the State Department with the quiet instructions of furthering the cause of liberty and sending critical intelligence back to the United States. This interesting proposal mirrored the common occurrence where Order members took powerful diplomatic postings purely to further ambitions of the Order (Madison’s influence on Napoleon to prevent a devastating War of the Third Coalition comes to mind). Perhaps most interestingly, the Order did not make Miranda a member. Instead, an extensive debate seems to show that the Order believed him to be sufficiently loyal to the cause of American independence (both North and South American) that the rings could be used to control his actions. A consensus also emerged that Miranda could at minimum lay influential groundwork to the Order’s cause in Europe, possibly push independence movements in Spanish America that the Order could co-opt or, if the stars aligned, become a powerful leader of several U.S. Spanish states.

The minutes reflect that Miranda had a long leash in Europe. When evidence of his affair with Catherine the Great became known the Order members snickered at the relationship rather than engage in any real debate as to its impact on his missions. When Benedict Arnold raised the point that Miranda had failed to produce a single trade deal of note in eight months during 1790 the members jumped to his defense citing the mounds of letters and information the reliable envoy had sent back. Indeed, outside of France, Britain, Spain and the Dutch Republic, no other U.S. diplomat provided such insight to the government and the Order as Miranda did on Russia, Prussia, Italy, Bavaria, Austria, the Ottomans, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and Saxony.

Due to his ambiguous role and his personal ignorance of the Order’s mission, it should be no surprise that Miranda tendered his resignation in 1791 to join with the French Revolutionaries. Of course, we know that Miranda’s importance to the Order hardly diminished just because his job titled changed.

In many ways Miranda, unbeknownst to himself, became the first Knight of Liberty. As early as the Philadelphia Convention when the members of the Order simultaneously debated a new constitution for the United States and a charter for the Order the issue of assistance entered the discussion. After the Revolutionary War all of the Order members were both older and famous. No longer could William Briggs anonymously walk into a Caribbean tavern and whip up revolutionary fervor with the rings and free spending alone. Any such action now would draw far too much scrutiny. Furthermore, the Order members began to discover that their plans required heavy lifting and individuals on-site to actually see a plan through. It was easy enough to get an Order member appointed to a major diplomatic post where they could then directly influence political decisions but asking internationally famous men like Thomas Jefferson to coordinate a bribe or James Madison to teleport into the rafters and eavesdrop on Napoleon was another proposition altogether. The inherent secrecy of the Order and the realities of the era led to some humorous instances. For example, just before William Eaton’s company took Derne it became clear that some of his mercenaries would proceed no further without payment. Especially at the time, money was no object since the Order could always replicate gold and disperse it for payment and bribes. Doubly lucky for the Order, the nature of the replicator allows for customization of the finished product which meant the original members could make payment in the currencies of Spain, Britain. France and many other countries. Logistically though, someone still needed to transport the gold from one location to the other. This led to a situation where John Adams teleported directly into the Libyan Desert with a chest of gold francs, quietly paid some of the mercenaries without the American officers learning, and teleported out before he could be discovered. Eaton forever attributed the surprise chest to Briggs’ formidable logistical capabilities and luckily for us the mercenaries believed the mission blessed by God and history remained ignorant of a former president’s afternoon sweating just outside of Derne.

The effectiveness of the rings also seems mixed when the bearer is not the speaker. While it is impossible to scientifically quantify how the rings work, we do know that if I were using them in a conversation with someone who only speaks Chinese and operating through a translator, I might at best have a thirty percent chance of successfully achieving my persuasive goals where if I was the bearer and spoke Chinese I would have an eighty to over ninety percent chance of success depending on the goals. This forces Order members to rely on our own skills or place the technology into the hands of trusted (or heavily monitored) individuals. As many of the initial order members spoke French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin and Greek this ensured that successful communication between themselves and the intelligentsia of Europe and the Americas would be little issue. After the Franco-American War when American influence came into contact with the Muslim and Indian worlds, language barriers proved a real impediment to furthering the Order’s mission. Hamilton’s long-term historical deployment to India and Briggs’ deployment to North Africa helped significantly but even these men found themselves getting their way through bribes more than speech. A lasting solution was needed and the Order’s work with Miranda heavily influenced the new concept of “Liberty Knights”; knowing or unknowing individuals who could assist the Order’s mission in various creative capacities tailored to the needs of the Order members themselves.

*

Excerpt from Hernán Álvarez’s “Los Grandes Americanos”, University of Bogotá Press, 2009

In 1791, Miranda began taking an active role in the ongoing French Revolution. An officer within Charles Francois Dumouriez’s Army of the North, Miranda captured Antwerp, failed to take Maastricht, and was arrested by the revolutionaries when Dumouriez betrayed the republic in favor of the Austrian camp. Truly a rarity in many aspects of his life, Miranda was one of the few revolutionary prisoners found innocent. Undeterred by quibbling things like due process, Jean-Paul Marat made it his personal mission to bring Miranda to justice. Arrested again in 1793 and would remain in La Force prison for a year and a half. He would literally wait until January 1795, expecting imminent notice of his own execution, until the surprising word of his release came down. Only then, ironically after his release, did Miranda decide that the revolution had gone too far and began conspiring with moderates to overthrow the Directorie. At one point his name was even floated as a possible dictator, an honor eventually bestowed on Napoleon Bonaparte. Getting wind of his plots, the Directorie ordered his arrest. A second arrest was only stymied in 1797 when Miranda was commissioned as an officer (and translator/guide) in Louis Lazare Hoche’s army invading Spain. Miranda served a key role with Hoche’s army not only for his varied experience but also due to his knowledge of Spanish institutions. Perhaps Miranda’s greatest single contribution to the cause of Spanish American independence was his successful push to partition the Spanish Americas between the reborn Kingdom of Castile and the new Aragonese Republic. Allegedly done to promote self-rule and Republican systems in places like homeland, correspondence between himself and trusted allies like Briggs and Hamilton reveals the maneuver was done in full knowledge that it would never be accepted by the South Americans. Miranda hoped that when forced to choose between Aragonese traitors under the rule of the hated Godoy or the weak Castilian rump state firmly under the thumb of the French the Americans would finally opt for independence. These secret intentions revealed to us moderns, it makes much more sense that Miranda would depart France in 1801 for Venezuela.

*

Excerpt from Dr. Henry Story’s “Histories of the States of the Americas”, University of Chicago Press, 1962

First sighted on Columbus’ third voyage to the New World on August 1, 1498, Venezuela was initially christened Isla de García as Columbus must not have realized the geography of his discovery. On a later voyage led by Alfonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci the duo sighted Lake Maracaibo and the way the natives constructed their homes on piles above the water. Reminded of Venice, the explorers named the land Little Venice, or, Venezuela. Pearls and the ever present lust for precious metals drove initial settlement and exploration of the region but the vast mineral despots never presented themselves (ironic since petroleum was discovered in the region as early as 1500) and by the 1520’s the rich oyster beds were tapped out. Local economies switched so that slave raiding to fuel the labor needs in Panama and the Caribbean became dominant. The subsequently hostile native population combined with the lack of mineral wealth to keep Venezuela on the periphery of Spain’s empire. Caracas would only be founded in 1567 and much of Venezuela would remain untouched by the conquistadors. Franciscan and Capuchin missionaries were the ones who led the Hispanization of the region during the 1600’s and 1700’s. Even then vast swathes of the Llanos and Orinoco watershed remained unexplored into the early 19th century. In the end, agricultural products (namely cocoa in the 17th century) became the economic foundation of the region. The immense profits that cocoa brought finally attracted Spanish investment including widespread immigration from Canary Islanders. This was the era where African slavery became widespread in Venezuela.

This isolation meant the provinces of Venezuela enjoyed widespread autonomy. Traditionally ruled from neighboring regions (Santo Domingo in 1526 and Santa Fé de Bogotá in 1550), Venezuela became the eastern frontier of the newly created Viceroyalty of New Granda in 1718 and continued to enjoy autonomy. Venezuela always enjoyed a rebellious streak. It became a center of smuggling in the 18th century as Dutch and British merchants brought African slaves to sell in exchange for cocoa to take back to Europe. To curb these trades the Crown gave a Basque Corporation, the Caracas Company, exclusive trading rights to Venezuela. The Company was successful in squashing smuggling but the local plantation owners hated the company and the many Basque governors the Crown sent to the region. A 1749 rebellion by a coca-growing Canary Islander lasted for about a year until troops from Santo Domingo and Spain brought it to a violent close. To bring the streaky frontier closer to the imperial fold, Charles III upgraded Venezuela to a Captaincy-General in 1777. In 1786, the Audienca de Venezuela was created granting the region judicial and administrative authorities. Despite these changes the vast history of Venezuela to the 19th century makes it obvious why this peripheral territory found itself as the hub of revolution against the Crown.

*

Excerpt from Hernán Álvarez’s “Los Grandes Americanos”, University of Bogotá Press, 2009

In Caracas, Miranda found confusion. Arriving several years after the de facto partition of Spain and only about five months after the de jure partition which included the partition of the colonies, no one seemed to know what was going on. Word of the Treaty of Zaragoza reached the New World throughout 1801, arriving in the Spanish Caribbean in May, Venezuela in late May, Mexico in June, New Granada in July, Buenos Aires in August, Chile in mid-September and distant Lima in mid-October. Word of the treaty wouldn’t reach the Philippines (long administered from Mexico but now ceded to France) until January 1802. Thus when Miranda arrived in August, the news of the partition was still working its way through southern South America and remained very fresh in everyone’s minds. Complicating matters was the reality that in July, the Crown Prince Ferdinand who had escaped to Mexico City declared himself and his intention to claim the Spanish throne from exile. On July 8, 1801 the Archbishop of Mexico crowned Ferdinand as the rightful King of Spain. Immediately Ferdinand sent out envoys to the remaining colonies urging them to support his cause. This conflicted with the envoys sent out by Castile and Aragon at the same time urging the colonies loyalty. Castilian envoys sought to maintain the status quo albeit in New Spain and for Charles III of Castile (the recently demoted Charles IV of Spain). Aragonese envoys sent out confused orders that sought to create local democratic councils to replace the old crown appointees while also leaving the exploitative mercantile institutions. Further confusion took hold in the Spanish lands on the right bank of the River Plate that suddenly found themselves subjects of Portugal.

It was into this world that Miranda set foot in in the fall of 1801. Technically a province of Aragon, Venezuela was now a mishmash of quasi-independent local councils while several crown appointees (including the Viceroy of New Granada in distant Bogotá) declared their intention to support Ferdinand. This divided the locals into several factions, some supporting the crown in exile and some supporting Republican ideology (though almost no one sought to actually keep the colonies within Aragon or declare for Castile). The prevailing ideologies could be broken down as such:

– Republican: centrist independent

– Republican: federalist independent

– Republican: federalist Americanist

– Republican: Aragonese

– Royalist: Castilian

– Royalist: Ferdinandist

Most Venezuelans (and most peninsulares, criollos, and mestizos throughout Spanish America) fell into the centrist Republican and ferdinandist categories. Very few locals supported Charles III (seen as an imprisoned French puppet which to be fair he actually was) and even fewer supported Aragonese republicanism (also seen as French puppets). A smattering of criollos supported federal republicanism either with the intention of turning Spanish America into a new Latin United States (this was Miranda’s position for many years) or Americanist republicanism which harbored the hope that newly independent countries could join the United States as new states.

When Miranda landed in Caracas he found a city that mildly trended republican-centrist. The idea of an independent Venezuela with Caracas at its center and trading with the Spains, America, France, Britain and other liberated Spanish colonies intrigued many wealthy criollos happy to throw off peninsulare control. These criollos also happened to control the city council (cabildo). The peninsulares were largely hapless as France just smashed their source of wealth and influence. Smart peninsulares threw their support behind Ferdinand and his hopes of a 19th century trans-Atlantic Reconquista but many peninsulares found themselves in awkward positions. For example, a prominent judge in Havana declared his support for Ferdinand’s regime only for a royal notice to arrive from Madrid that his Spanish property was liable to be confiscated.  The judge slunk back to Spain three days later preferring to maintain his property from confiscation rather than hold an appointed position on largely Ferdinandist Cuba. Still, many peninsulares had wealth and position that still counted for a lot in the confusion. As Ferdinand’s ultimate goal was to return to Spain he heavily recruited these prominent peninsulares to stay in his government-in-exile so he would have a power base to return to. Ferdinand also knew he needed the support of the criollos across Spanish America if he hoped to even retain his new power base. Appointments opened up to local criollos, the cabildos were strengthened, and trade restrictions relaxed. In many ways Ferdinand began the inadvertent process of opening up the long restricted Spanish New World and encouraging the local governments that would one day break away from Spanish rule.

Upon his arrival to Caracas, Miranda found a largely independent criollo cabildo that had declared in favor of Ferdinand. The royalist governor though was among those who opted to leave the Americas in order to preserve his position back in Iberia. In December of 1801, Ferdinand made the fateful decision to appoint a new governor selected from the peninsulare population of Mexico City (thus strengthening his position there at the expense of Venezuelan support) which enraged the local criollos in Caracas. A sudden revolt ousted the governor shortly after his arrival in February 1802 and the citizens, led by Miranda, petitioned Ferdinand to appoint a local criollo to act as his governor. Fearing a move would spark revolts elsewhere Ferdinand refused the petition and instructed the cabildo to accept the governor “or else”. Threats were a bridge too far for the beggar king across the water. On April 10, 1802 the cabildo of Caracas convened a Congress and on June 22 issued a formal declaration of independence. Problems immediately began.

Coro district and the provinces of Maracaibo and Guyana all refused to be governed by Caracas and opted to stay loyal to Ferdinand. Furthermore, dissension amongst the leadership paralyzed the nascent republic until 1803 when Miranda became firmly entrenched as the rebellion’s leader [1]. Lastly the criollo elite failed miserably to mobilize popular support for their revolution as much of the non-white population saw no reason to back one set of white oppressors over the other. That was until 1804 when Ferdinand mustered a royalist army from Mexico to land in Venezuela and pacify Caracas.

It took several years but the reality of the situation by 1804 was the Ferdinand was simply not a good ruler. Initially his fiery temper and foibles as part of the brief Triumvirate were dismissed as youthful passion, except they never dissipated. The failings of Charles IV (before his demotion to Charles III), the perils of the exile, and the stresses of a terrible family life and possibly royal inbreeding all combined to make Ferdinand a king prone to anger, cruelty and poor decisions. For years the “king over the water” stood as a symbol of hope to Spaniards around the world. By 1805, it was widespread knowledge that there would be no fairytale ending to this story. No tale of redemption and restoration. Ferdinand was a damp squib.

This meant the future of Spanish America, indeed perhaps Spain itself, lie beyond the Bourbon monarchy. This was a radical notion not because it was a new notion but because the Spanish monarchy was so entrenched in the day life of the empire. Royal laws, appointments and centuries old mercantile systems stood at the foundation of the entire empire. The church and state were deeply interconnected, which impacted the ability of people to marry, divorce, obtain education, even change jobs in certain situations. Removing the king meant reforming the laws, cutting out appointments, upending the economic systems, potentially upending the casta system, and reforming the role of the church within the state. Yet, the deep seeded nature of the required reforms meant only men with broad visions would suffice in creating a new society; men like Miranda. It also meant that, despite Ferdinand’s failings, many powerbrokers remained ardently royalist because they benefited and believed in such an entrenched system.

The minute Ferdinand’s royalist force landed in Venezuela the game changed. Constructed largely of peninsulare and Mexican criollo officers and comprised of Mexican and Cuban soldiers, the army notably lacked Venezuelans or even South Americans. There was method to Ferdinand’s madness. Firstly, the nearby soldiers in royalist New Granada were preoccupied fighting similar revolts further south in the Rio de la Plata and Chile. Secondly, Ferdinand wanted to send this force on a (short) overseas expedition to test their mettle in a similar operation to what they would see in an overseas attack on Spain. A decent idea in principle, it was hardly a good idea in practice. For the royalist Venezuelans, at least Miranda and the Caracas cabildo were Venezuelans. And for the invaders, Venezuela was not Spain. A land of harsh climes, the Mexicans and Cubans of Ferdinand’s army had no motivation to go kill their cousins on the flooded llanos in defense of a king they increasing disliked themselves. Desertion was rampant amongst the royalists and many Venezuelan towns opted to declare for the new republic. It seems that victory should have been an almost easy affair for Miranda and his entourage. It turns out that Miranda was in charge of the one force capable of losing to this demoralized and disorganized enemy. Refusing the budge on a breakdown of the casta system, countless mestizos and pardos (mixed-race individuals) in the interior sided with the royalists as the devil they knew against the hierarchical criollos. Secondly, a poor command structure allowed the invading royalists to win a battle they should have lost, thus establishing a toehold in the country. At the disastrous Battle of Maracay the royalist army defeated the ragtag Republican army and marched on Caracas. Miranda fled to Jamaica along with several other prominent Republican leaders. The ironic part of the entire event was that on February 8, 1805 an insurrection of notable criollos in Mexico City, assisted by several prominent peninsulares and the Viceroy of New Spain, forced Ferdinand to sign a power-limiting constitution. By creating a new Cortes in Mexico City while guaranteeing local powers for the provinces and ensuring that locals would have access to certain avenues of power, Ferdinand essentially gave in to the petition of Caracas. All was not lost though, by waging war on Chile, La Plata, and Venezuela the crown prince showed his true colors. Over time his actions, though limited, would only strengthen the Republican cause at the expense of the flagging royalists. For the time being, Miranda and his allies ported in Spanish Town while Ferdinand took a limited and temporary control over the entirety of Spanish America. Neither man could know that by the end of the decade their roles would be reversed.

—————- Author’s Notes —————–

[1]: The text doesn’t say this but Miranda has some behind the scenes help from the Order in achieving his position.

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