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Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez, known as Francisco de Miranda (Caracas, March 28, 1750-San Fernando, Cádiz, July 14, 1816), was a Spanish and Venezuelan politician, military officer, diplomat, writer, humanist and ideologue. .

He participated in the Independence of the United States, in the French Revolution and later in the Independence of Venezuela, being the leader of the “Patriot Side” and ruler of the First Republic of Venezuela, as Plenipotentiary Dictator and Supreme Head of the States of Venezuela .

He stood out in politics as a defender of the independence and sovereignty of nations in the international arena. He militated with the Girondins in France, was a signer of the Act of the Declaration of Independence of Venezuela and promoter and leader of the Patriotic Society. He creator of the geopolitical project of the Gran Colombia that Simón Bolívar would try to carry out after the liberation of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela in 1826, aspiring to unify them into a single nation.

Military in the ranks of the Spanish and French armies, he reached the ranks of colonel and marshal, respectively. In addition, he obtained the rank of colonel in the Russian army, granted by Catherine II the Great, and was the first commander in chief of the Venezuelan armies, holding the title of generalissimo. His military career includes his participation in: the siege of Melilla (1774) and the attack on Algiers (1775) in North Africa, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Venezuelan War of Independence . Among his military deeds, his performance in the site of Melilla, the battle of Pensacola and the battle of Valmy stand out.

His name is engraved on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. His portrait is part of the “Gallery of the Characters in the Palace of Versailles”; his statue stands in front of that of General Kellerman in the Campo de Valmy, France.

His youth

Francisco de Miranda’s origins were relatively humble. His father was Spanish, from Tenerife, it was suspected that he was a Guanche mestizo, something that he tried to clean up all his life. Having reached a certain economic comfort, he tried to prove in court that his origins were “pure” in order to obtain social privileges.

In Caracas he established himself as a merchant and married the Caracas-born Francisca Antonia Rodríguez de Espinosa, also of Canarian origin. The firstborn of nine children of the marriage, Sebastián Francisco de Miranda, was born on March 28, 1750.

On January 10, 1762, Miranda began his studies at the University of Caracas and for two years studied Latin, the beginnings of Nebrija’s Grammar and Ripalda’s Catechism. From 1764 to 1766, Miranda studied in the Senior Class of the same University. Finally, he took the Arts course at the University of Caracas studying Logic, Physics and Metaphysics and obtained a bachelor’s degree that allowed access to Theology. , Jurisprudence or Medicine.

With little more than 20 years, he decides to go to Spain. He embarked on January 25, 1771, from the port of La Guaira to serve in the Spanish Army. He disembarked at the Port of Cádiz on March 1, 1771, to continue his journey from Cádiz to Madrid.

After a thorough preparation and the payment of 85,000 reales de vellón, he obtained a Captain’s Patent according to the corresponding administrative procedure, which was granted on January 7, 1773 by notarial deed.

After being granted the patent, the now Captain Francisco de Miranda was assigned to the Infantry Regiment of the Princess, commanded by Field Marshal Juan Manuel de Cajigal y Monserrat, a Creole born in Havana, with whom he would establish a great friendship.

From 1773 to 1780, Miranda was intermittently assigned to the military posts in Madrid, Granada, Melilla and Cádiz. He faced disciplinary problems within the Army and continued to cultivate himself intellectually with books that inevitably caused the Inquisition to start monitoring his activities.

At this time, his first military feat took place during the siege of Melilla, from December 9, 1774 to March 19, 1775, in which the Spanish forces managed to repel those of the Sultan of Morocco Sidi Muhammed ben Abdallah. In July 1775, Miranda was sent with the Spanish troops destined to attack Algiers in a military action that failed and from which he miraculously escaped but wounded in the legs.

He was assigned to the Cadiz garrison. There Count O’Reilly imposes an arrest on him for lack of uniformity and shortly afterwards his situation became even more complicated in Madrid due to his problems with the Inquisition. After the intervention of the inspector general and his former commander Cajigal, the king himself arranged for him to be transferred to the Aragón Battalion in Cádiz as an Aide-de-camp under Cajigal’s orders.

Missions in North America and the West Indies.

Spain became involved in the American War of Independence. Bernardo de Gálvez attacked the British in Baton Rouge and Natchez in 1779, freeing the lower Mississippi River basin from hostile forces that could threaten his capital, New Orleans.
To reinforce the Spanish contingent, an expeditionary fleet was organized in Cádiz at the beginning of 1780 under the command of the squad leader D. José Solano y Bote, in which Miranda participated as a member of the Cajigal infantry troops. The fleet left Cádiz on April 28, 1780 and arrived in Havana on August 4, 1780.

In 1781 an attack on Pensacola in Florida was prepared in a joint action involving the Spanish forces from Louisiana and the expeditionary fleet. Miranda traveled with the Cajigal forces that left Havana on April 9, 1781 to participate in the Battle of Pensacola, a military action that culminated on May 8, 1781 with the victory of the Spanish forces. Miranda was promoted to lieutenant colonel for his work in planning and surveying the land.

Miranda’s interest in scientific works led him to be branded as heterodox, the Inquisition claims him on November 11, 1778 for crimes of propositions, possession of prohibited books and obscene paintings. The order to send Miranda back to Spain, in compliance with the ruling of February 5, 1782 of the Supreme Inquisitorial Council, was not carried out due to various errors of substance and form in the administrative process that made the order questionable. , and also in part due to the unconditional support of Commander Cajigal.

While the king was able to review the case, Cajigal entrusted Miranda with the mission of accompanying him in the attack on the Bahama Islands, in which the English capitulation was achieved on May 8, 1782 in favor of Spain in negotiations led by Miranda. and in which he also obtained the cession of all the islands. The efficiency shown by Miranda in the Bahamas then earned him the recommendation of Cajigal to be promoted to colonel and he came under the command of the general commander of the Spanish forces. in Cuba, Bernardo de Gálvez, as field assistant in the town of Guárico, on the island of Hispaniola.

At that time the Spanish were preparing a joint action with the French to invade Jamaica (the last English stronghold in the Gulf of Mexico). The commanders considered Miranda the ideal person to plan the operations because he had first-hand knowledge of the situation of the English in the area. However, a preventive attack by the English and the difficulties of the French fleet, which forced peace Between England and France, they prevented the invasion from taking place, and therefore Miranda remained for a time in Guárico, in which the Inquisition would be his main problem.

In United States

As the invasion of Jamaica did not materialize, the priorities for the Spanish authorities changed and consequently the process of the Inquisition against Miranda took on a new impetus. Over time, Miranda’s problems with the Inquisition became complicated and he was sent to Havana to be arrested and sent to Spain, but due to various circumstances these plans were frustrated and, given the imminence of his arrest, he decided to go to the United States. . Thanks to the support of Cajigal he manages to escape.

He disembarked on July 10, 1783, his war of independence already over, and in a stage of reconstruction in which he was debating the political form to adopt between federalism or confederation. During the time he was in the United States, Miranda conducted a critical study of its military defenses in which he demonstrated extensive knowledge of the development of the North American conflict and its circumstances.

He passes through Charleston, Philadelphia and Boston and is dealing with various figures of American society in evenings and walks. During the time he was in the United States, Miranda met George Washington in Philadelphia He also met other characters such as General Henry Knox or Samuel Adams. In addition, he was made aware of certain institutions in the new nation that impressed him favorably, such as the New Port Library, Princeton College, Rhode Island College, or Cambridge College.

Miranda’s permanence in the United States was affected by the conflict of interests between France and Spain in this country after the war, since the French were not interested in the negative aspects of their intervention in the conflict being publicized too much, and the failure of the invasion of Jamaica was one of them. Reports had apparently been sent from Havana to the US government accusing Miranda of being a traitor and a deserter, reports that were released by the French to harm him, since he was the only person who could deny the accusation of the failure of the invasion of Cuba. Jamaica as a responsibility of Spain. The dissemination of these reports made Miranda’s situation compromised, since he could not defend himself without disclosing the details of his espionage mission in Jamaica, which were a state secret, and therefore, given this situation, he decides to go to England.

In Europe: from England to Russia

On December 15, 1784, Miranda left the port of Boston for London, and arrived in England on February 10, 1785. In London, Miranda was discreetly watched by the Spaniards as he was suspected of treason. The reports they wrote highlight both the dealings that Miranda had with people suspected of conspiring against Spain and with characters considered eminent sages of his time.

Around the same time, Colonel William Stephens Smith, whom Miranda knew from his stay in New York, arrived at the court of England. Miranda and Colonel Smith decided to travel to Prussia to witness the military maneuvers prepared by King Frederick II the Great. Bernardo del Campo, the Spanish ambassador to the British capital since 1783, provided Miranda with a letter of introduction to the Spanish minister in Berlin, while James Penman, an English businessman with whom Miranda had befriended in Charleston, took charge of keep your papers for you while you’re away. However, the kindness of the Spanish ambassador conceals his intrigue to get Miranda to travel to Calais and there he can be arrested and handed over to Spain. The farce, which also assigned a role to the wife and daughter of the Spanish vice-consul in London under the pretext of leaving England to enter the young woman in a monastery, fell apart because the Venezuelan and his friend went on August 10, 1785 to a Dutch port and not to the city in northern France.

Miranda in the French Revolution

In 1791, Miranda took an active part in the French Revolution. In 1792, Miranda participated in the Battle of Valmy, one of the most important episodes of the French Revolutionary Wars. In Paris, he befriended the Girondins Jacques Pierre Brissot and Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve. He briefly served as a general in a section of the French Revolutionary Army (then called “The Convention”) that fought in the 1792 campaign to stop the advancing Prussian army. Miranda reached the rank of Marshal of France under the command of Charles François Dumouriez. During the campaign he participated in the battles of Argonne, Wargemoulin, Antwerp, Liège, Tongres, Paliemberg and Valmy, where he became second in command of the northern army, from which he would separate due to great differences with Dumouriez after having withdrawn his troops in Maastricht.

During Robespierre’s reign of terror, Miranda was arrested several times by the Jacobins, including at La Conciergerie in Paris, most of whose inmates were guillotined. Put on trial in the Revolutionary Court for alleged negligence in the defense of Maastricht, he was defended by Claude Chaveau-Lagarde -a distinguished lawyer who will defend, at his own risk and without the same success, Queen Marie Antoinette of Austria-, being threatened with be deported after a measure of the Directory of the Monarchy and the Girondins. However, he was acquitted of the charges in 1795 and moved to England in 1798.

South America (1806–1812)

On November 9, 1804, Miranda landed in New York from the United Kingdom. There, he stayed a little over a year and maintained contact with prominent personalities. On February 2, 1806, with the political approval and financial support of the United States and the British, Miranda left in the Leander, a corvette that he renamed with the English name of his son, to Haiti, where he would be joined by two schooners. and the Emperor ship. His intention was to later disembark in Venezuela, obtain the support of the population and begin the definitive struggle for independence.

The corvette arrived at the island of Hispaniola on February 20. The expedition stayed there for six weeks and managed to charter the schooners Bacchus and Bee, with which they also headed for the mainland. After failing to land at Ocumare de la Costa, where he engaged in combat with the royalist naval forces commanded by Antonio Tiscar, he took refuge in Trinidad, where he arrived with a single ship, the corvette Leander. The royalist fleet escorted the two schooners to Puerto Cabello along with 58 prisoners who were locked up in the Castillo de San Felipe. In retaliation, 10 prisoners, mostly Americans accused of piracy, were hanged and quartered in the main square of Puerto Cabello on July 21, 1806. The rest would suffer imprisonment for more than ten years. The British Governor of Trinidad, Sir Thomas Picton, provided Miranda with ships and supplies. With an expedition now increased to 11 ships and 300 landing men, he reached the shores of Coro on August 1, 1806. At dawn on the 3rd, while the ships were unloading their artillery, Miranda and his men rushed to Earth. That same day, at the top of the Fortín de la Vela, the tricolor Venezuelan flag was hoisted for the first time. However, finding no popular support, he re-embarked ten days later for Aruba and after some time in the British Caribbean islands he headed for England.

On April 19, 1810, Venezuela began its independence process, so Simón Bolívar and Andrés Bello persuaded Miranda, on a diplomatic mission in London, to return to his homeland. Miranda was received with honors at the Port of La Guaira. In Caracas he was given the rank of army general and founded the Patriotic Society, which would become the main promoter of the break with Spain. Later he is elected deputy in the province of Caracas, to the constituent congress of 1811. On July 5, 1811, he had the honor of signing the Act of the Declaration of Independence of Venezuela. Later, before the advance of the Spanish troops under the command of Domingo Monteverde in 1812, he assumed the presidency with discretionary powers, after being named dictator on April 23 by the Executive Triumvirate with the rank of generalissimo.

The royalist forces counterattacked, but Miranda was unable to go on the offensive due to the constant desertions that occurred in his troops, a situation aggravated by the Venezuela Earthquake of 1812 (March 12) that affected populated centers under the control of the patriots, in addition to the unpopularity of the cause of independence in Venezuelan society. Miranda tried to resist the royalist attack but the fall of the Puerto Cabello square (under the command of Simón Bolívar), the rebellion of the Barlovento slaves, as well as the growing number of Spanish armies that attacked him (Monteverde from Valencia and Yáñez from Dungeon), made it impossible for him to resist.

Fearing a brutal and desperate defeat, in correspondence with the Decree of April 23, 1812, which had granted him the position of plenipotentiary dictator and supreme chief, with the rank of generalissimo, Miranda signs the capitulation of the patriot army, on July 25, 1812, in the city of San Mateo, a fact that would generate confusion and be interpreted as a betrayal, so before embarking in the port of La Guaira and heading abroad to continue the fight, a group of officers led by Bolívar seized to Miranda, and Colonel José Mires locked him up in Fort San Carlos on July 31. Apparently, Bolívar’s intention would have been to shoot him for considering that the pact of San Mateo was an act of treason, but finally, following various advice, Miranda was imprisoned under Colonel Manuel María de las Casas, military commander of the port, who in The secret was passed over to the Spanish side, handing over Miranda to Domingo de Monteverde, along with the other refugees who had not managed to set sail (Simón Bolívar was unaware of the betrayal of Manuel María de las Casas, and he then went to Caracas, already in the hands of the where, thanks to the intercession of some friends on the enemy side, he obtained a passport from Domingo de Monteverde, who is said to have stated verbatim “Colonel Bolívar’s request must be satisfied, as a reward for the service rendered to the King of Spain with the delivery of Miranda”, time after leaving Venezuela, Bolívar would return to restart the war).

The prison of the 4 towers of La Carraca

From the port of La Guaira, Miranda was transported to Castillo San Felipe in Puerto Cabello, where in early 1813 he wrote a memorial to the Royal Court of Caracas from his cell demanding compliance with the capitulation of San Mateo. On June 4, 1813, he was transferred to the fortress of El Morro, located in Puerto Rico, and from there to Spain, where he was imprisoned in the dungeon of the Cuatro Torres prison in the Carraca arsenal in San Fernando de Cádiz.

Since time immemorial, the inmate population has been a workforce in the arsenals and galleys, either as rabble to row, to bail out water in the dry docks of the arsenals or for the construction of the arsenals. To house this type of population, a Presidio was built in La Carraca.

Las Cuatro Torres was a project drawn up by Juan Cevada, approved on June 24, 1763. It was made with masonry, like the rest of the Arsenal buildings. It ends in 1765, having a capacity for about 2,000 prisoners. The towers would serve as accommodation for the foremen and for the offices. It was located on an islet, between the San Fernando and Culebra pipes, very close to the Santa Lucía battery.

Without a doubt, the most illustrious prisoner in the history of the Four Towers prison was Francisco de Miranda. There he remained four years locked up in the Carraca, and there he died in 1816, after a long agony due to apoplexy, at the age of 66 on July 14, 1816. He was buried in a mass grave in the Arsenal cemetery in the carrack.