« AnteriorContinuar »
character and condition of the people, concerned in the enterprize. In the modern (much less in the Spanish) sense of the term, the United States were never colonial, and the moment they discovered a disposition in the mother country to reduce them to this condition, to restrict their commerce in a harsh, jealous manner, they began, at once, a war of petitions, resolutions and town meetings, which ended, as all such things must do with a people of their character and of that of the mother country, in a conflict of a very different description; it was, in substance a war for commercial freedom, but in that circumstance may be discerned the germ and principle of all their rights. The anglo-Americans would not have endured for one brief month the insults, vexations and oppressions, to which the Spanish Americans have submitted for three hundred years. Their revolution, therefore, can serve as a model for other similar undertakings, only for the single consideration, that it led to a dismemberment. At least, it is quite evident, that the example of this portion of the continent exercised, during the last century, no sort of influence on the southern, where, the greatest part of the time, a discouraging apathy and hopeless lethargy prevailed. Even if there were discontents,* disaffection,
* There is a curious proof of the notice Miranda and his cause attracted in England, even at an early period, in the political Herald and Review for the year 1785.
"The flame kindled in North America," says the writer in that work, "as was foreseen, has made its way into the American dominions of Spain. That jealousy, which confined the appointments of government in Spanish America to native Spaniards, and established other distinctions between these and their descendants on the other side the Atlantic, has been a two edged sword and cut two ways. If it has hitherto preserved the sovereignty of Spain in those parts, it has sown the seeds of a deep resentment among the people. Conferences are held, combinations are formed in secret among a race of men whom we shall distinguish by the appellation of Spanish Provincials. The example of North America is the great subject of discourse and the grand object of imitation. In London, we are well assured, there is, at this moment, a Spanish American of great consequence and possessed of the confidence of his fellow-citizens, who aspires to the glory of being the deliverer of his country."
and occasionally obscure plots, briefly and easily stifled with the blood of a few unfortunate victims, the people, at large, neither sought for liberty, nor possessed any accurate notions respecting their situation.
But the position of the Spanish colonies on the main early attracted the attention of some European statesmen, actuated, probably, by any other motive than a desire to fashion them into republics. The object was either political or commercial, though, we think it likely, the revolution of the United States and the part, one of the leading powers of Europe acted on that occasion, may have suggested the magnificent project of accomplishing the independence of Spanish America. The British ministry seriously entered upon this business in the year 1790, at the time of the dif ficulties with Spain, respecting Nootka Sound. No government was better acquainted with the difficulty of subduing rebellious colonists, or would be less grieved, that a similar calamity, from which they themselves still suffered both loss and mortification, should befall Spain. It is possible that General Miranda, who has figured in so many revolutions, may have been the author of the scheme, though the British government, from the experience they possessed, needed very little prompting in regard to that matter. Several of the Jesuits, expelled from the Spanish settlements and who had sought refuge in Italy, were invited to London by Mr. Pitt, both to give information, and take a part in the operation. Though an accommodation was shortly after effected with Spain, assurances were given to Miranda and the Jesuits, of whom the Spaniard, Don Pablo Gusman was one, that the liberation of South America would still be kept in view by the ministry.
In 1792 the republican rulers in France, who spared no continent in their projects for fraternity and emancipation, entered, with zeal and vivacity, into an engagement to accomplish the same object we have just mentioned, though urged to undertake the enterprize by different motives. The proposition was originally communicated by Brissot to Dumourier (commanding the French armies in the Neth
erlands, with whom Miranda was serving) in the following terms; Spain is ripe for liberty, her government is resuming its preparations. We must, therefore, undertake our own to naturalize liberty there. This revolution should be commenced both in European and American Spain. The fate of this last revolution depends on a single man ; you revere and esteem him; it is Miranda. He will soon bring to reason the turbulent whites in the colonies, and will become the idol of the men of colour. How easy to excite a rebellion in Spain and Spanish America. How easy, with twelve thousand troops of the line, now at St. Domingo, and with ten or fifteen thousand brave mulattoes, to invade the Spanish colonies. The name of Miranda is worth an army." This enterprize was also abandoned on account of the discouraging views presented by Miranda, himself, and the pressure of other affairs. In 1797 the aid of Great Britain was, a second time, invoked for the accomplishment of this great work and, as it would appear, in quite a grave and imposing manner; proposals being formally made by a number of emissaries from Mexico and other Spanish provinces, assembled at Paris, the substance of which is contained in the following abstract:
"The first article states, that the Hispano-American colonies, having, for the most part, resolved to proclaim their independence, were induced to address themselves to the government of Great Britain, in the confidence, she would not refuse them that assistance, which Spain, herself, in the midst of peace had not declined extending to the British colonies in America ;
"The second article stipulates the sum of thirty millions sterling, which South America would pay to Great Britain for the assistance required;
"The third article states, the amount of the British force which was deemed requisite ;
"The fourth article it is proper to present in the words of the document itself. A defensive alliance formed between Great Britain, the United States and South America is so recommended by the nature of things, by the geographical situation of the three countries, by the productions, wants, character, habits and manners
of the three nations, that it is impossible, it should not long continue, especially if care is used to consolidate it by an analogy in the political form of the three governments; that is to say, by the enjoyment of civil liberty, wisely conceived; we may even say with confidence, it is the only hope that remains for liberty, audaciously insulted by the detestable maxims, avowed by the French republic, and the only mode of restraining the destroying and desolating ambition of the French system.'
"The fifth relates to a treaty of commerce between Great Britain and South America.
"The sixth stipulates the opening of the navigation between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by the isthmus of Panama, as well as by the lake of Nicaraguay and the guaranty of its freedom to the British nation.
"The seventh concerns the arrangement of the commerce between the different parts of South America itself, proposed to be left on its present footing, till a meeting of deputies from the different provinces of the continent can arrange the terms of their union.
"The eighth points to some project to be devised of a connexion between the bank of England and those of Lima and Mexico for the purposes of mutual support, and of giving England the advantage of that command of the precious metals, which the country, supplying them, might have it in its power to yield.
"The ninth and tenth articles relate to the project of alliance between South America and the United States. The principal points are the ceding to the United States of the Floridas, the Mississippi being proposed as the most advisable boundary between the two nations, and the stipulation of a small military force from the anglo-Americans to aid in the establishment of the independence.
"The eleventh, respecting the islands, states the plan of resigning all those, which belonged to the Spaniards, excepting only Cuba, the possession of which is rendered necessary by the situation of the Havana, commanding the passage from the Gulph of Mexico."
General Miranda, having, at the request of the individuals, embarked in this business, repaired to London, had several conferences with Mr. Pitt in relation to the terms, we have extracted, and there is reason to suppose, the ministry were
At least, disposed to enter, without delay, into the scheme. the following parts of letters from Miranda (if dependence can be placed on them) furnish some evidence of this fact, and also of a proposed cooperation on the part of the United States. They were written in April and October 1798, and are addressed to Alexander Hamilton.
"This will be delivered to you, my dear and respectable friend, by my countryman Don, the bearer of despatches of the greatest importance for the President of the United States. It appears that the moment of our emancipation is arriving, and that the establishment of liberty on the whole American continent is confided to our care by Providence. The only danger, I foresee, is the introduction of French principles, that poison liberty in its cradle, and will in the end destroy your own."- -Again-" Your wishes are in some degree fulfilled, since it is here agreed, that the English troops shall not be employed in the land operations; the naval force will be English, while the troops, employed on shore, will be American. Every arrangement is made, and we only wait for the decision of your President to depart instantly."
The following letter from General Hamilton purports to be an answer to the first of Miranda, just recited; we cannot answer for its genuineness,
HAMILTON TO MIRANDA.
"New-York, August 22, 1798. "Sir—I have lately received by duplicates, your letter of the 6 of April, with a postscript of the 9th of June. The gentleman, you mention in it, has not made his appearance to me, nor do I know of his arrival in this country; so that I can only divine the object from the hints in your letter.
"The sentiments I entertain in regard to that object, have been long since in your knowledge, but I could personally have no participation in it, unless patronized by the government of this country. It was my wish, that matters had been referred for a cooperation in the course of this fall, on the part of this country; but that can now scarce be the case. The winter, however, may mature the project, and an effectual cooperation by the United States may take place. In this case, I shall be happy in my official station to be an instrument of so good a work.