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History

Francisco de Miranda – The Precursor

Francisco de Miranda is the most glamorous and dashing figure in the wars for independence. He was also destined to play the role of the precursor to the wars for independence in Latin America, rather than the great leader. This outline looks at the dramatic life of Miranda. He was truly a revolutionary of the Atlantic world, having fought in North Africa, the American Revolution, the French revolutionary armies, and in the wars for independence in the Caribbean. Miranda’s life and work foreshadowed the generation of revolutionary leaders in Latin America who would lead the wars for independence. He became the early mentor of the most famous of these liberators—Simón Bolívar.

Now that we have looked at the seeds of rebellion in Spanish America and the sparks that light the fires of upheaval, we turn in the next series of outlines to wars for independence and the major revolutionary figures.

A. Francisco de Miranda is the most glamorous and dashing figure in the wars for independence.

    1. He was destined to play the role of the precursor to the wars for independence in Latin America, rather than the great leader.
    2. Miranda’s life and work foreshadowed the generation of revolutionary leaders in Latin America who would lead the wars for independence.
    3. He became the early mentor of the most famous of these liberators—Simón Bolívar.
    4. This outline looks at the dramatic life of Miranda, from his birth in Venezuela in 1750 to his death in a Spanish prison in 1816.

B. Born in Caracas in 1750, Miranda’s father was Spanish and his mother, a member of the Caracas elite.

    1. Never fully accepted by the local elite because of his father’s humble origins in the Canary Islands, Miranda was probably driven throughout his life by a desire to prove himself to those who had not accepted him as a young man in Caracas.
    2. In 1771, he left for Spain and a long exile from Spanish America.

C. During the 1770s, Miranda fought in the Spanish army in North Africa, then in Cuba.

    1. His father’s money secured him an appointment as a captain in the Spanish army in 1773.
    2. In 1780, Miranda shipped out to the Caribbean; he fought in Florida and the Bahamas.
    3. In 1783 and 1784, he traveled throughout the young United States, meeting all the major revolutionary leaders and visiting all the major battlefields.

At the end of 1784, Miranda headed from Boston to Europe, where he would spend most of the next 20 years.

A. From 1785–1789, he traveled across Europe, meeting and consorting with an incredible array of political and intellectual figures.

    1. For his detractors, these were years of debauchery and excess, while for his supporters, the European tour was brilliant preparation for the cosmopolitan revolutionary.
    2. He began his European tour in England, where he met and cultivated relationships with every conceivable person of importance.

B. In the early 1790s, Miranda became a general in the French revolutionary army.

    1. On two occasions, he was arrested and nearly executed as an enemy of the revolution.
    2. As he became disillusioned with the violent excesses of the revolution, he turned again to the cause of Spanish American independence.
    3. Miranda’s home in London became a focal point of activity for Latin American exiles, including some of the greatest figures in the revolutions in the coming decades.

In the first years of the 19th century, Francisco de Miranda was about to embark on the final stage of his life—the invasion of South America and the struggle to achieve its independence from Spain.

A. In 1804–1805, Miranda appeared to have finally realized his dream of mounting a foreign-supported expedition to liberate Venezuela.

B. With money from English and American supporters, Miranda outfitted ships and hired mercenaries in New York City.

    1. The first expedition in 1806 failed miserably on the Venezuelan coast.
    2. When Miranda finally landed his forces on the Venezuelan coast and marched inland, he found that the locals had been warned and had fled.

C. Miranda returned to London in late 1807 via Trinidad to avoid problems in the United States.

    1. Despite the failure of his first effort at “liberating” Spanish America, his cause was buoyed by the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and Portugal.
    2. Miranda would have to wait two more years before his luck would once again change.
    3. The course of events took a decided turn in 1810, when a delegation arrived in London headed by one of Miranda’s great admirers—the young Venezuelan Simón Bolívar.

Return to The Age of Revolution in the Americas

About elpidiovaldes

Human, All Too Human.

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