Colombeia: Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda’s Archives

Documentary heritage submitted by Venezuela and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2007.

© Joaquín Torres
Francisco de Miranda's Archives

Francisco de Miranda’s passion for freedom governed his life. Since 1790 he tenaciously promoted Latin America’s independence. He presented his project before the British Empire, traveled to revolutionary France seeking cooperation for his undertaking and promoted his project among politicians of the burgeoning American democracy. Simultaneously, he wrote constitutions, prepared invasion plans, wrote proclamations, promoted meetings, and raised funds; all for one purpose: the independence of the territories of Latin America.

The proposed documents contain a vast amount of varied and very interesting information concerning an era of worldwide transcendental change. The documentary series corresponds to the final years of the XVIII century and beginning of the XIX, directly related to different events of great historical meaning for humankind, such as: the Spanish war against the Moors of the Alauita Sultanate of Morocco; the process of independence of the United States and the decisive Franco-Spanish participation in the conflict; the political life of Tsarist Russia in the era of the Empress Catherine the Great; the French Revolution and the international war conflicts derived from it; and, last but not least, the initial struggle towards independence of Spanish–American colonies. Don Francisco de Miranda actively participated in each one of the above mentioned events.

  • Captain of the Infantry Regiment of the Princess, Madrid 1772.
  • Captain of the Spanish Army Regiment for the Defence of Melilla (1774-1775) against the Sultan of Morocco.
  • Captain of the Regiment of Aragon and Aide-de-camp to General Juan Manuel Cajigal (1781) to strengthen the capture of Pensacola during the United States war of Independence. Because of such outstanding participation in the siege and surrender of Pensacola he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Spanish army (May 1781). In 1782 he participated in the Spanish naval expedition that attempted to conquer the British Bahamas.
  • In 1787 he becomes a close acquaintance of the Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia who authorized him to wear the uniform of the Russian army and protected him from the tenacious pursuit of Spanish espionage.
  • In 1792 he was appointed Field Marshal of the revolutionary French army owing to his successes in military endeavours; he accepted the responsibility with the intention of further promoting the ideal of Latin-American independence. Soon after, in recognition for his heroic conduct during the battle of Valmy (1792), he was distinguished with the rank of Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the French Republic. At Valmy, a monument (a statue) honours the memory of Don Francisco de Miranda.
  • Also, in 1792, he was appointed Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the North, second in command after French General Charles Dumouriez, in defence of the French revolution during the war against the Prussian-Austrian coalition.
  • In 1811, he was appointed Land and Sea Commander-in-Chief of the Venezuelan Confederation and led the initial independence campaigns against the Spanish rule.

Don Francisco de Miranda was one of the most important chronicle writers of his time. With a very acute sense of posterity and of the historic relevance of written records, he committed himself to preserving the traces of an era that he perceived as one of profound world changes. He witnessed the death of the Ancien Régime in France. Miranda was born and raised under the influence of the Enlightenment; he experienced intensely the Baroque era and the birth of Romanticism, the prevailing philosophy during the consolidation years of Spanish-America, as well as that of Greece. An officer of Spanish Armies during the Spanish-Moroccan war and the siege of Pensacola, in American Florida during the American war of independence; he played a key role as Commander-in-Chief of the French Armies of the North, under General Charles Dumouriez.
Francisco de Miranda kept a wide variety of relevant documents and records which illustrated his efforts to attract world attention to his cause of independence for Spanish America from the Spanish Crown: his valuable contribution to Republican France, his activities and strategic contacts made in numerous European countries and his subsequent trips to the United States of America sought to set the ground work for international awareness and opinion favourable to the initiative of independence for Spanish America.

He organized and saved personal and official letters, complete judicial records, notes, and even music scores of a revolutionary and military nature which today constitute the fundamental primary sources to understanding these processes of world importance, among them, one of the most decisive during the last centuries: the French Revolution. Miranda’s notable participation in this historic endeavour granted him the honour of being the only American whose name was inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
A restless traveler, he kept detailed records and compiled a vast amount of information making his archives one of the world’s most important libraries for the study of the era of Enlightenment. He traveled all over Europe, Asia Minor and the Atlantic coast of the United States. The result of which was a vast account of acute personal observations on different topics and an interesting compilation of documents and personal letters to and from important personalities of the time.

One of his very personal traits was his charisma and natural magnetism. He possessed a profound knowledge of the humanities, as a fluent reader and translator of Latin and classic (ancient) Greek. This fact has been clearly established through letters written by various personalities of the time who described him, in the United States of America, as a philosopher, a wise man, whose friendship was comparable to a treasure worth keeping.
His solid education was also made evident owing to his vast personal library, now non-existent (his widow sold it during the first quarter of the nineteenth century), kept in his London home (27 Grafton Way); now a property own by the Venezuelan State.

Miranda spoke several languages fluently, English, French and Italian among them and obviously Spanish. In his epistolary work, in his travel diaries, he described nations and their cultures, the characters and personalities he dealt with, the geography (orography, hydrographic, landscape and live stock). He also made interesting, profound and very deep comments of a historic nature. It is fascinating to note that very few elements escaped his inquisitive mind; for instance, he wrote descriptions of the works of art, mainly paintings and sculptures, at the palace of Louvre, that today could very well be used to edit a magnificent book for the museum. Among his many documents he kept an original score of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, published during the Revolution.

Summarizing, Don Francisco de Miranda was the precursor of the independence of Venezuela and Spanish-America, owing to his presence in three continents, Africa, Europe and America; he was named “The First Universal Criollo”. His strategic continental ideology is evident in the abundant amount of personal letters compiled in the sixty-three (63) volumes that constitute his archives, now in the hands of the National Academy of History in Venezuela.
The archives of the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda have been recognized as one of the most authentic documentary sources on the development of the emancipation process of Spanish America.

In claiming he was a universal man, one must take into consideration his travels to North America and Euro-Asia (1783-1789), where he propagated and strengthened his political ideas. An avid and illustrated traveler comparable only to Humboldt —he created an image of the world from his aggregate observations and experiences— Miranda’s writings constitute a detailed record of events which illustrate the American and European lifestyle of the time. High level politics, cultural events, the manners of the social groups he belonged to, can all be appreciated. There are several accounts regarding the economic and commercial life of such societies.
The public disclosure of Miranda’s archive would be of great use as a valuable source of information to researchers of all nationalities, which have made the study of day to day life a branch of contemporary historiography. This is one of the most important sets of documents for the study of three historical processes transcendental for humankind. Francisco de Miranda’s sole purpose was to keep them, so as to provide the documentary source of ulterior studies.

  • Year of submission: 2007
  • Year of inscription: 2007
  • Country: Venezuela
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