- Miranda, Francisco de
- (1750–1816)A Venezuelan revolutionary known as “the Precursor” of Spanish-American independence who took part in three great political events: The American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the South American wars of emancipation from Spanish rule. Miranda was born in Caracas on March 28, 1750. His father, an immigrant from the Canary Islands, was a successful businessman. The colonial Miranda encountered prejudice from higher-status Iberian-born elites, who under the Spanish Bourbons enjoyed political and social privileges in Spain’s overseas empire. After attending university, Miranda sailed to Spain to purchase a commission in the Spanish Army, with whom he served in North Africa. In 1780, after a treaty with France brought Spain into the American Revolution, Miranda sailed to Cuba in a Spanish expedition that cooperated with the French in attacking English colonies in the West Indies. Accused of misuse of funds in 1783, he fled to the United States, where he met many of the leaders of the American Revolution, including George Washington.Encouraged by the American Revolution, Miranda advocated Spanish-American independence. In 1785, he returned to Europe and under the relentless surveillance of Spanish agents traveled widely in an attempt to solicit funds. Many European leaders and aristocrats became Miranda’s patrons, including the Empress Catherine the Great, whom Miranda visited in Russia in February 1787. In France in 1792, Miranda joined the French Revolution and in September became a lieutenant general in the French Army, fighting with Charles-François Dumouriez’s forces, known as the Army of the North, which battled Prussians and Austrians near the Belgian border. Consequently, Miranda’s name was inscribed in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Maximilien Robespierre and the radical Jacobins distrusted Miranda, whose alignment with the revolution’s moderate republican Girondist faction led to his imprisonment during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror. Disillusioned with the French Revolution, Miranda left France in January 1798 for Britain, where for years he unsuccessfully urged Prime Ministers William Pitt and Henry Addington to fund an invasion for Spanish-American liberation.Returning to the United States in 1805, Miranda privately raised a volunteer force of approximately 180 men to attack Venezuela. In February 1806, Miranda’s mercenary soldiers left New York on board the Leander. For more than a month Miranda and his men took shelter in Haiti, which in January 1804 had become the world’s first independent black republic. While there, Miranda chartered two additional U.S. schooners. Prepared for the arrival of the three vessels near Puerto Cabello in April 1806, Spanish colonial military leaders defeated Miranda and forced him to flee to the island of Aruba. On his second attempt in August 1806, Miranda captured the town of Coro, but the townspeople failed to join his uprising against the Spanish crown. Defeated again, Miranda sailed to London.In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte installed his elder brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne after obtaining the abdication of Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII. With French forces occupying Spain, a junta was created in Venezuela that claimed to rule on behalf of the deposed monarch, Ferdinand VII. Two years later, Miranda returned to Venezuela, which formally declared independence from Spain on July 5, 1811. Spanish loyalist forces under General Juan Domingo Monteverde, however, were too strong for Miranda and his supporters. In July 1812, Miranda signed an armistice with Monteverde and prepared to leave Venezuela. Seized by Spanish loyalists, Miranda was shipped back to Spain. He died in the prison of La Carraca in Cádiz on July 14, 1816. Venezuela won independence in federation with Colombia and Ecuador in 1821, breaking away to form a separate country in 1830.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Harvey, Robert. Liberators: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence, 1810–1830 . Woodstock: Overlook Press, 2000;Nicholson, Irene. The Liberators: A Study of Independence Movements in Spanish America . New York: Praeger, 1969;Polanco Alcántara, Tomás. Francisco de Miranda: Ulises, Don Juan o Don Quijote? Caracas: Editorial Ex Libris, 1997;Racine, Karen. Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution . Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2003.DAVID M. CARLETTA
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.