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June 24, 2024 31 mins

Francisco de Miranda participated in the struggle for independence in the United States, the French revolution and the emancipation of Latin America. Part one covers his early life and his connection to the American Revolution.


  • "Francisco de Miranda." Historic World Leaders, edited by Anne Commire, Gale, 1994. Gale In Context: U.S. History, Accessed 5 June 2024.
  • "Lessons from a liberal swashbuckler; Bello." The Economist, vol. 420, no. 8999, 23 July 2016, p. 28(US). Gale OneFile: Business, Accessed 5 June 2024.
  • “Unveiling Memories: Spain and the Hispanic Contribution to U.S. Independence.”
  • Alejandro E. Gómez, “The ‘Pardo Question’”, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Matériaux de séminaires, mis en ligne le 08 juin 2008, consulté le 11 juin 2024. URL :
  • Bolufer, Mónica. “A Latin American Casanova? Sex, Gender, Enlightenment and Revolution in the Life and Writings of Francisco de Miranda.” Gender & History, Vol.34 No.1 March 2022, pp. 22–41.
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Francisco de Miranda". Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 Mar. 2024, Accessed 5 June 2024.
  • Cook, Sue. “Francisco de Miranda - the Venezuelan revolutionary with a Yorkshire wife.” BBC Radio 4.
  • Miller, Gary. "Miranda, Francisco de (1750–1816)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, edited by Jay Kinsbruner and Erick D. Langer, 2nd ed., vol. 4, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008, pp. 620-622. Gale In Context: World History, Accessed 5 June 2024.
  • Navas, Claudia Isabel. “Francisco de Miranda and the United States.” Library of Congress Hispanic Division. 10/11/2017.
  • Racine, Karen. “Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution.” Scholarly Resources Inc. 2003.
  • Robertson, William Spence. “Francisco de Miranda and the revolutionizing of Spanish America.” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the year 1907. Government Printing Office. 1908.
  • Sutton, Mallory. “Treaty of Aranjuez (1779).” George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
  • Teaching History. “Spain in the American Revolution.”

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio. Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy V.
Wilson and I'm Holly Frye. Back when I went to
Philadelphia to see that Marie Lawrence exhibits, I spend some

time just walking around that part of the city. One
of my favorite things to do walking around exploring part
of a city. So that exhibition was at the Barnes Foundation,
which is on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And if you've never
been to Philadelphia, the Parkway is this broad, tree lined
boulevard that runs about a mile from City Hall to

the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it goes diagonally across
the grid like it's just its own thing. There are
all kinds of museums and educational and cultural institutions alongside
of it, and there's also just a ton of public art.
The Association of Public Art has a tour called Along

the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that includes thirty works of art
just in that one mile. Uh, and I think all
of those thirty we're not talking about art in the museums.
These are statues and things outside. One of these, which
is in front of the Franklin Institute is a statue
of Francisco de Miranda, and he looks very dashing and determined,

and the tail of his coat is kind of billowing around,
and there's a plaque that reads Caracas, Venezuela, seventeen fifty
Cadiz la Caraca Prison, eighteen sixteen, Great soldier of freedom
who participated in the three greatest political upheavals of his time,
the struggle for independence in the United States, the French Revolution,

and the emancipation of Latin America. And so I obviously
was like, who's that guy. This is not somebody I'm
familiar with U. And so he became one of several
ideas for future episodes that I jotted down on that
day that included Natalie Clifford Barney. She already became a
two part episode over Valentine's Day. This one also turned

into a two parter because it turns out some of
the things that Francisco de Miranda was connected to are
things we have not explained that much on the show before,
so two parts on him starting today. Francisco de Miranda
was born in Caracas, which is the capital of Venezuela.

And at the time was considered a part of the
Viceroyalty of New Granada. His parents were Francisca Antonio Rodriguez
de Espinoza and Sebastian de Moranda Iravello. Most sources give
Francisco's date of birth as March twenty eighth or twenty ninth,
seventeen fifty, and he was baptized on April fifth of
that year. This family was well off. Francisco's father was

a successful linen merchant who owned other businesses as well,
and Sebastian seems to have been respected by the Spanish
authorities in Caracas, but he also ran into disputes with
some of the local elite. Generally speaking, in Spain's colonies
in the Americas, people from the Iberian Peninsula or Peninsulares

had a higher social standing than creolos, or people born
in the colony, and while there were a lot of
inner marriages between people of Spanish, African and indigenous descent,
there was also a focus on the idea of blood
purity in Spanish society. In more recent years, historians have
argued that earlier descriptions of all this as a very

strict and layered caste system aren't really accurate that there
was some more fluidity, with people of different ancestries able
to have some social mobility depending on their circumstances. Regardless,
questions of race and status affected the Miranda family directly. Sebastian,
who was from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, became captain

of a militia unit, and after he retired from that position,
continued to wear his uniform. All of this angered the
local Bosque aristocracy. Even his retirement seems to have been
something he did to try to appease them. Someone eventually
alleged that he had African ancestry, and only people with
so called pure blood, meaning they had no African, Indigenous,

Jewish or Muslim ancestry, could do things like attain government
positions or attend university. Sebastian's efforts to document that he
was of pure blood went on for years and ultimately
involved King Carlos the Third. The King's confirmation of Sebastian's
blood purity did not resolve the hostility that he was

getting from the Basque elite. Though most likely Francisco and
at least five siblings were educated at home when they
were young, at the age of twelve, Francisco enrolled at
the Academy of Santa Rosa and then in seventeen sixty
five entered the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas. He
was awarded a bachelor's degree three years later, although there

are some questions about whether he actually finished all of
his studies before being awarded that degree. From there, Francisco
de Miranda wanted to join the army, with something he
decided to do in Spain rather than Venezuela because of
his father's whole ordeal around that issue of blood purity
and the social issues surrounding it. Francisco left in seventeen

seventy one carrying various letters of support and money to
purchase a commission. After arriving in Spain, he became a
captain in the Princess's own infantry, and in addition to
his military service, he continued to study things like mathematics, languages,
and humanities. He started to develop a reputation for being
well educated and well read, and for curating an extensive

personal library. That's something that would continue for the rest
of his life. He did not really have a reputation
for being a good soldier or officer, though he was
originally stationed in various parts of Northern Africa and Andalusia
on the Iberian Peninsula, but he kept trying to get
a transfer because he found this boring. He also had

a pretty high opinion of himself. He was definitely intelligent.
He seems to have had a real knack for learning languages,
but beyond that, he just thought he was better than
other people and that he naturally deserved his choice of assignments.
Of course, that did not leave a favorable impression on
his commanding officers, not generally how things work in most militaries.

They wanted him to follow orders and not try to
pick and choose what he wanted to do. But things
became a little less boring for him in seventeen seventy
four when Moroccan forces backed by the British, attacked Maleia
on the North African coast. This led to a two
month siege and Miranda's first real experience in combat in

terms of his overall military service. This siege was not
that long, but as it was going on, he started
to get a sense of how Spanish colonialism was affecting
people's lives in the areas being colonized, beyond his own
experience among people of similar standing to his own family
in Venezuela. After this siege ended in a victory for Spain,

Miranda visited Gibraltar, which was under British control, and he
started meeting and forming connections with British people living there,
and also hearing about the ongoing unrest that was happening
in Britain's colonies in the Americas. His personal study also
started to include the works of Enlightenment thinkers who really

criticized various aspects of Europe's colonial empires. This included works
like Istuar Philosophique did du Zindi, which was attributed to
Abe Gillom Thomas right now and this is somebody that
Miranda later met and became friends with. This was an
early work of world history that examined the impact of

European colonization on the rest of the world, and it
included criticisms of the institution of slavery and the use
of religion to subject colonized people's and nation's own citizens.
He also read and absorbed the works of writers like
Voltaire and Rousseau, writers who argued against tyranny and corruption,
and for liberty and freedom. Many of these writers were

strident critics of the Spanish Inquisition, which banned their writings,
and because of this, the Inquisition started keeping tabs on
Francisco to Miranda. Miranda spent so much time focused on
this self study that he was disciplined for reading too much,
as well as for insubordination. Some of this was probably
the product of his growing focus on these Enlightenment ideals,

but he also just seems to have been all over
the place. As a military officer, he was accused of
ignoring behavior that should have led to discipline in some cases,
but also using severe beatings as a form of discipline
in others. He also had a lot of romantic and
sexual relationships. That's something else that would continue throughout his life.

He chronicled these relationships in detail in his diaries, describing
a range of experiences with sex workers and servants, and
longer term, more intellectual relationships with women that he thought
of as educated or witty or respectable. For the most part,
his diaries tend to treat these higher status women with
more discretion and care than his more casual encounters. A

number of biographies of Miranda have characterized him as merely
a womanizer and a philanderer, but over the course of
his life, he also seemed to recognize how the treatment
of women in many societies was unjust, and he saw,
at least to some extent, the kinds of sexual double
standards that meant that he and his romantic partners were
viewed differently for having the same relationship. He advocated for

women to have legal rights and protections, and it's likely
that he was personally acquainted with Mary Wolstoncraft during the
years of the French Revolution. Yeah, it seems more like
he was a philanderer and an advocate for women, right.
He's one of those dudes that people might say today
he just loved women in a lot of ways. Also,

like a lot of the things that people characterized him
for negatively in the nineteenth century seemed to have been
viewed not as critically in the eighteenth century because of
changing mores around sex and relationships. Anyway, to move back
to the timeline, by seventeen seventy six, Miranda thought his

military career in and around Spain had kind of come
to a dead end, and he had also heard that
the unrest in Britain's colonies had evolved into a full
fledged revolution. This time he did get the transfer that
he had wanted, and we will get to that after
a sponsor break. If you're like me, you probably know

that France provided significant assistance to the Continental Army during
the Revolutionary War, including money, troops, ammunition supplies, and naval support.
My American history classes in school got into things like
Benjamin Franklin's mission to France to negotiate an alliance and
France's key role in the Battle of Yorktown in seventeen

eighty one. Of course, in more recent years than I
was in high school, the Marquis de Lafayette became one
of the most memorable characters in the musical Hamilton, with
the Conte de Rochambau getting a couple of name drops
in that show as well. And then Lynn Manuel Miranda
also wrote a Ben Franklin song alluding to that time

in Paris, and that was performed by the Decembrists that
came out later on a lot of stuff about France
and the Revolutionary War, I did not get a similar
story about the assistance that was provided by Spain. One
reason for Spain's support of the Revolution in North America
is that Spain was allied with France and France had

allied with the Revolution. France and Spain were each ruled
by monarchs from the House of Bourbon, and in the
eighteenth century they signed three separate but similar defensive agreements
known as the pac de Femie. The seventeen sixty one
agreement was signed during the Seven Years War, which is
of course a whole separate topic, but broadly speaking, it

didn't work out all that well for either nation. Spain's
support didn't make a huge difference to France, and Spain
lost two of its key ports, Havana and Manila, to
the British during the war. When the war ended, Spain
was able to regain this territory under the Treaty of
Paris in seventeen sixty three, but to do so it
had to seede Florida to Britain. Spain wanted Florida back,

as well as to retake Gibraltar on the southern coast
of Spain and Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, both of
which were under British control. Spain had also gained territory
in North America that was the formerly French territory of Louisiana,
which Spain gained from France under the secretly signed Treaty

of Fontainebleau in seventeen sixty two. So Spain had an
interest in protecting this territory from British expansion and possibly
expanding it themselves. So with all that mind, on April twelfth,
seventeen seventy nine, France and Spain signed the Treaty of
arn Juez, in which Spain agreed to provide military support
to France while France agreed to support Spain's efforts to

retake Gibraltar, Minorca, and Florida. Spain declared war on Great
Britain on June twenty first, seventeen seventy nine. Spain did
not formally become an ally of the United States, though,
among other things, Spain did not want its involvement in
this revolution to encourage revolutionary activity in its own colonies

in the Americas, so a lot of Spain's involvement in
the Revolutionary War was a little bit less outwardly obvious
than something like the French involvement at the Siege of Yorktown. Instead,
Spain did things like opening all its ports to the
United States ships, and engaging the British Navy around places
like Gibraltar and Minorca, kind of tying up the Navy

somewhere other than the colonies. Spain also provided things like weapons, gunpowder,
fabric for military uniforms and boots, and a lot of
that made its way into the United States through Mexico
or Cuba. And there was also money. Spain provided financial
assistance to France for its efforts in the war, and

funneled loans to the United States through France and through
a fictitious Caribbean trading enterprise called Rodrique hortalezm Company. This
included critical financial support for the siege of Yorktown and
alone to pay soldiers in the Continental Army toward the
end of the war. According to the memoirs of Rochambeau's
treasurer Claude Blanchard, this loan involved so many silver coins

that they broke through the floor of the house where
they were being stored. Spain also fought against the British
in and around territory that it had previously lost to
Britain in North America. In seventeen eighty eighty vessels set
sail from Spain, carrying about twelve thousand men to be
part of doing this. One of those men was Francisco

de Miranda. Shortly after they arrived in Havana, he was
assigned to act as aide de camp to General Juan
Manuel de Cahigal in Montserrat, who was acting governor of Cuba.
Miranda's transfer to Cahigal's service may have been a byproduct
of his ongoing issues with military life. He really does
seem to have had clear ideas about how things should

be done and a very high opinion of his own abilities,
and his commanding officer seems to have wanted him out
of his hair. But Miranda and Cahigal worked well together.
Cahigal gave him some freedom to make his own decisions
or figure out for himself how to carry out his orders,
so there was just less headbutting and accusations of insubordination.

Cahigal eventually secured a promotion from Miranda to lieutenant colonel
and later recommended him to be promoted to colonel. Cahigal
also praised Miranda's work to Bernando de Galvez, governor of
Louisiana and field marshal of Spain's forces in North America.
Galvez had started smuggling supplies to the American rebels before

Spain had declared war on England, and he planned a
military campaign that would give the Spanish control of all
the ports around the Gulf of Mexico and up into
the Mississippi River, including defending New Orleans and capturing Baton, Rouge, Natchez,
and Mobile from Britain. The culmination of this effort was

the capture of Pensacola, which was then the capital of
the British territory of West Florida. All of this forced
the British to spread out their resources to fight on
an additional southern front, and it cut off Britain's access
to support and supply lines around the Gulf of Mexico.
Many of the men who had originally sailed from Spain

had sickened or died from tropical diseases, so they reinforced
their numbers with men from Louisiana, Mexico, and Cuba, including
enslaved and freed black men. After waiting out hurricane season,
this multi racial army departed from Cuba to the mainland
in February of seventeen eighty one, joining up with Galvaz's force.

They arrived at the Barrier Islands outside Pensacola Bay on
March ninth. After one of the ships ran aground, they
regrouped and made their way into the bay on March eighteenth.
The battles to capture Pensacola went on for about eight
weeks before a Spanish shell hit the powder Magazine on
May eighth, which destroyed Fort George and forced the British

to surrender. Since Miranda was fluent in both English and Spanish,
he was one of the people who helped negotiate surrender terms.
Spain officially took control of Pensacola on May tenth. This
was about four months before the Siege of Yorktown, which
was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War.

There were still skirmishes on land after Yorktown, though, and
the British Navy continued to fight the naval forces of
other European powers at sea, including France, the Netherlands in Spain,
but this is usually seen as something of an ending
in the war. The Revolutionary War formally ended two years
later under the Treaty of Paris in seventeen eighty three,

and Britain also signed separate peace treaties with France and
Spain known as the Treaties of Versailles. Under these treaties,
Spain regained control of East and West Florida and Minorca,
as well as Sacramento. Of course, Spain eventually returned Louisiana
to France under another secret agreement in eighteen hundred, and
the US purchased much of it in eighteen oh three. Today,

the loss of Pensacola is seen as a turning point
in the war, after which Britain thought it might not
be possible to win it. In addition to cutting off
Britain from the Gulf of Mexico, Galvez's campaign also meant
that Britain had lost a colony in this war that
was not actually one of the colonies that had rebelled

against it. Without Spain's contributions of money, funds, and supplies,
and its military efforts along the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere,
the Revolutionary War probably would have gone on for a
whole lot longer. As a side note, Bernardo de Galvez
is the namesake of Galveston, Texas, as well as other
places in Texas and Louisiana. He was only one of

eight people in history to have been given honorary US citizenship.
That happened in twenty fourteen under Public Law number one
one three DASH two two nine, which described this as
an extraordinary honor and called him quote hero of the
Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of
the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong

military support to the war effort. We will get back
to Miranda after another sponsor break. After the capture of Pensacola,
Spanish forces took the opportunity to resupply, some of it

by looting and commandeering, but also by making actual purchases.
Francisco to Miranda bought at least twenty four books in
English to add to his personal library. He also purchased
at least three enslaved African peace Some historians have interpreted
this as an attempt at benevolence, basically trying to ensure

these people's safety and provide them with a better life
than they might have had otherwise. But he also later
sold these people to someone else, and at one point
also accepted an enslaved person that someone gave him as
a gift. In reality, Miranda had grown up in a
slave society, his father had enslaved at least seven people
during his youth, and he just doesn't seem to have

been thinking about the issue very deeply at this point.
Although Miranda later became connected to vocal abolitionists, the abolition
of slavery was never really a focal point in his
revolutionary ideas, and at first this was probably still a
byproduct of just not putting a lot of thought into it,
but later after the Haitian Revolution, it was also out

of fear of sparking another similar uprising among enslaved Africans
in the places that he wanted to live. He did
advocate for the rights of free black people in a
lot of contexts, but he just really does not seem
to have considered what things like freedom and liberation could
mean in the context of societies that were so deeply

connected to the enslavement of African and indigenous peoples, or
like really what it would take to achieve those ideals
in that context. In August of seventeen eighty one, General
Juan Manuel de Cahigau sent Miranda to Jamaica to negotiate
a prisoner exchange and to make discrete inquiries about whether
Spain might be able to purchase British ships and supplies. There,

Miranda successfully negotiated for the release of nine hundred prisoners
and arranged for their transport back to Cuba. Although he
had a history of rubbing his own military superiors the
wrong way, he was also described as extremely charming, and
he convinced the British governor in Jamaica to give him
free reign to go wherever he wanted. So, on top

of making those requested discrete inquiries, he also took detailed
notes about the British presence on Jamaica, including the fortifications, troops,
and ships to deliver back to the Spanish. He also
wanted to take the opportunity to continue to improve his English,
so he bought some more English language books for his library,

and he piled around with various English officials in Jamaica.
While he had made those inquiries discreetly, he wasn't really
as discreete when it came to talking about what was
happening with Spain's forces in the Caribbean and the Gulf
of Mexico. It might seem a little weird that he
was either intentionally or by accident, revealing Spanish secrets to

the British while fighting against the British and the Revolutionary War.
At this point, Miranda was also starting to think about
bringing a revolution to Spanish America, and in that war,
Britain could be a potential ally. When Miranda returned to
Havana after either intentionally working as a double agent or

just being a little too loose lipped, he was immediately
questioned about all of those meetings with the British, as
well as other various intrigues that he had gotten into,
like trying to secure some naval vessels for Kahigal, claiming
they would be sailing under a flag of truce as
a prisoner war transport while really intending to add them
to the fleet. He also might have done a little

light smuggling. Galvez, who had never thought as highly of
Miranda as Khigal did, ordered his arrest and a formal investigation.
Kahigal got him released, and soon after, in August of
seventeen eighty two, Miranda fled from Havana. After spending some
time in hiding, he traveled to the United States aboard
an American ship called the Prudent in seventeen eighty three.

By that point, the Spanish government considered him to be
a conspirator against the crowned Kahigal was caught up in
Miranda's intrigues as well, and was eventually forced to go
to Spain to try to clear his own name. This
doesn't really seem to have tarnished his relationship with Miranda,
though much later, in April of eighteen hundred, it would

be Kahigal who wrote to Miranda to inform him that
King Carlos the Third had cleared him of all of
these charges. Miranda's ship landed in newbern, North Carolina in
June of seventeen eighty three, just a few months before
the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War, and
he spent the next year and a half traveling through
the newly independent United States. He kept a detailed diary

of his travels, covering everything from the names of the
notable people he meant, to the social and religious customs
of different areas, to the governments and systems people were
in the process of establishing. Some of this seemed pretty
strange to him, like in some areas that he passed through.
He was criticized for doing things like playing music on Sunday.

A lot of Protestants in North America saw the Sabbath
as a day of content templative rest, while the Sabbath
and Catholic Venezuela had been more festive in celebratory. He
was particularly fascinated by the Quaker communities that he visited
in Pennsylvania and how different their religious and cultural practices
were than anything he'd really experienced elsewhere. He was also

particularly impressed with how often he saw elected leaders and
other elites meeting, conversing, and sharing meals with more common people.
That was something that seemed more egalitarian to him than
the more hierarchical ways that things had worked in Venezuela
or Spain. During this tour, Miranda met seemingly every major

figure of the American Revolution and had lengthy conversations with
them about the revolution, the war, and the government they
were establishing. He met George Washington for dinner in Philadelphia,
and after meeting Alexander Hamilton, started a regular correspondence with
him that would last for the rest of Hamilton's life.
In Boston, he met Samuel Adams and Henry Knox, and

at some point he also met poet Phyllis Wheatley. It's
likely that Miranda had been thinking about the idea of
starting a revolution in Spanish America for some time before this,
but he wrote that in New York he quote formed
a project for the liberty and independence of the entire
Spanish American continent. In April of seventeen eighty four, Miranda

received word that he had been sentenced for deserting the
Spanish military, including being fined and stripped of his commission.
He was also sentenced to exile, although at that point
he hadn't been in Spanish territory for almost a year.
That meant, though, that he couldn't legally return. On December fifteenth,
seventeen eighty four, he set sail for London, and we're

going to get into that part of the story next time. Uh,
before we move on to next time Tomorrow, the next day,
whatever day you're listening, I have listener mail. Hooray. This
listener mail is from Jennifer, who wrote, after we did
a six impossible episodes about etiquette manuals, Jennifer said, High,

Holly and Tracy, I started listening to your podcast. A
few years ago when my sister and her family were
staying here with me and my parents. My mom, my sister,
and I love to cross ditch, and we began gathering
around the living room table to work on our projects
and listen to podcasts. Recently, while listening to the Etiquette
Manual episode, my mother and I both thought of Mark Twain.

My dad is obsessed with his work, so it's been
a major part of our lives growing up. He wrote
a short piece in Letters from the Earth called from
an unfinished burlesque of Books on Etiquette, which made fun
of several poorly written etiquette manuals in common circulation at
the time. The second section at of fire is my
personal favorite. If you've never read it, we highly recommend it.

It is still hilarious all these years later. It includes
several of the elements you described in actual etiquette manuals,
such as example texts and scenarios, but all with Twain's
particular deadpan exaggeration added. As pet tax, I've included pictures
of Delilah, our five year old gray kitty. She hates

getting her picture taken, so I apologize for the if
equality and Cleo the bengal belonging to one of our
close friends who came by on a visit a few
weeks ago. Thank you so much for all of the
joy you bring to our lives. Kindest regards, Jennifer. Thank
you so much, Jennifer for this email. Number one. I
have not heard of this work by Mark Twain. I
am definitely going to look into it, but I have

not as of now. We have a picture a black
kitty cat, all four paws up in the air and
the front pause curled over, so sweet, so cute. Next picture, yes,
this bengal is very eager to It looks like jump

on top of a washing machine or a dryer, which is,
you know, super appropriate thing for cats to do, jump
up on top of things. But then also we've got
some pictures of under a piece of furniture, including the
flash from the camera or just the light for the

camera causing glowing cat eyes. I love all of these pictures.
I love learning that there was a satire by Mark
Twain about the etiquette manuals. That sounds great. So thank
you so much for sending this email. If you would
like to write to us about this or any other
podcast for History podcast at iHeartRadio dot com and we're

on social media kind of at Miston History on most
of the places, and you can subscribe to our show
on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you like to get
your podcasts. Stuff you miss in History Class is a
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