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2: Francisco de Miranda

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The Fourteenth of July, which for the French is the glorious anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, is also by coincidence the anniversary of the death (157 years ago)(1) of that great Champion of Liberty, the Venezuelan patriot Francisco de Miranda. His name is carved among those of the most illustrious Generals of the French Revolution—Lafayette, Dumouriez, Kellerman, Luckner, Chambonnier et al—on the Arc de TRíomphe in Paris.

For many years before Bolívar's ascendancy, Francisco de Miranda had, against tremendous odds, been spreading the Gospel of Liberty for the emancipation of South America throughout the Old World.

His stormy life was full of adventure. As a Colonel in the Armies of the Spanish king, and as Chief-of-Staff to General Cagigal, Acting Governor of Cuba, Miranda helped capture Pensacola in Florida from the British. Later, while visiting the recently liberated Thirteen American Colonies, he was introduced to Generals Washington, Hamilton, Knox and Lafayette. There he tried in vain to gain help; for, the new American nation, having just shaken off the bonds of British oppression, had many problems of its own, and was unprepared to come to his assistance.

Undaunted by this failure, the young patriot returned to the continent, and, while visiting Russia, he became the favorite of Empress Catherine II. But Russia was a long way from his beloved Venezuela, and Miranda was soon back in London, a confidant of the Prime Minister, William Pitt, whose help he tried to enlist in his plans for liberating Spanish America. However, England, like the rest of Europe, was concerned with the unstable conditions on the Continent, due to the upheaval caused by the French Revolution, and refused to become involved in Miranda's venture.

But the indomitable tenacity of this Apostle of Freedom was not shaken by this new reverse. Attracted by the French clarion call for Liberty, he crossed the Channel and enlisted in the service of that noble cause. The French received him with open arms and appointed him a Lieutenant-General in the French Armies, Second in Command to General Dumouriez. During the temporary absence of Dumouriez, Miranda found himself Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the North, and, as such, took by assault the fortified city of Antwerp in the Low Countries.

After spending a few years in France, and because of the unstable conditions in that country, Miranda realized that he was farther than ever from his dream of liberation. He decided to again try his luck in the United States. While visiting Washington, he was entertained at a dinner at the White House by President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison.

It was following this visit that the first North American blood was shed in an abortive attempt to liberate Venezuela. While in New York, Miranda had organized an expedition comprising a hastily assembled rabble of adventurers who invaded Venezuela at Coro. Because of their meager numbers they were ingloriously routed by an overwhelming Spanish Army.

But defeat did not dampen Miranda's spirits. He returned to England, where, after years of struggle, he succeeded in securing the help. of the British Government. It was then 1808, and the victorious armies of Napoleon, after parading the Imperial Eagle over a prostrate Europe, had invaded Spain. A humiliated England, even though she had the world's most powerful navy, seemed powerless to cope with the invincible land forces of the Emperor on the Continent.

It was at this juncture that the British Government decided to adopt Miranda's plan for liberating the Spanish American colonies. Accordingly, an expedition was prepared under the Supreme Command of Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley,(2) and after much delay was finally ready to sail for South America from the port of Cork.

However, through a strange twist of fate, this expedition never carried out its original mission. Because of a sudden change in the chaotic conditions in the Iberian Peninsula, this army under Wellesley was ordered instead to proceed to Portugal. It was here that the British general began his series of victories over the French, which culminated in the total defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Could it be that Miranda was indirectly responsible for this remarkable change in the History of the World?

The sudden diversion of the Wellesley forces from Venezuela to Portugal did not deter Miranda. Notwithstanding this great disappointment, he continued, with unflagging zeal, to preach and fight for the freedom of his beloved native land.

Less fortunate than Bolívar, Miranda did not live to see his dream of liberation realized. He was captured by the Spaniards at La Guayra, and died at the age of sixty-six in a Spanish dungeon at Cadiz, on July 14, 1816 just eight years before Ayacucho, the battle that liberated the South American continent, and only twenty-seven years after the fall of the Bastille.

Miranda(3) was a martyr in the cause of Liberty. His memory lives forever in the hearts of the liberated countries of Spanish America, and a grateful France has engraved his name among the immortals in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

1. Miranda died in 1816.

2. Sir Arthur Wellesley was created Duke of Wellington in recognition of his great successes in the War (1808-1814).

3. Miranda designed the present flag, adopted by Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador as their national emblem. Among the many anecdotes regarding the colors of the flag, it is said that Miranda added to the gold and scarlet of the Spanish flag a blue stripe, the color adopted by Washington for the Order of the Cincinnati. Miranda was also responsible for giving the name of Colombia to part of the territories then comprising Tierra Firme in homage to the discoverer of America.

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